With their punk rocker hairdo and distinctive white eye ring, these are the noisiest birds in my garden. Surprisingly they are the most skittish compared to the garrulous white eyes, the southern boubou and the sunbirds who don’t take flight if I approach. Patience and a tripod required :-)
Fish Hoek is a much loved seaside village famous for its family-friendly beach, lifesavers, early morning swimmers and trek net fishermen. It’s often referred to as the largest retirement village in the world. It’s a great place to be at daybreak, especially in high season before that holidaymakers arrive with everything bar the kitchen sink.
Occasionally we all need to turn things down a notch or two. To take time out to smell the flowers as it were. Or in this case, to switch to super slow shutter speeds to catch the Kalk Bay harbour sentinels flashing simultaneously.
It isn’t as easy as it might look as the lighthouses aren’t synchronised, but in doing so, I also managed to capture my first ever “misty wave action” effect :-)
Sunday morning and Woodstock is filled with sights and sounds as I walk the narrow streets searching for street art. It’s easy to find because it’s everywhere, depicting anything from South Africa’s dark past, to more colourful themes.Sometimes there is a message, often one of hope. Other times, a reminder of how far we have come as a nation and as individuals.Or something profound and complex in its simplicity.Other times the message is quite surprising: A suburb also sadly tainted by drugs and crime and hardship and litter, Woodstock is the last place I expect to be reminded about the dwindling numbers of South Africa’s national bird.Friendly locals pause on their way to church, happy to direct me to yet another piece where artists from all over the world have left their mark on Woodstock’s walls.Children play games on patches of bald earth while their mothers toil their way through a piles of washing. Others are content to do very little.And among all of this colour and activity, nature makes its own art, like these grasses clinging to life through an old grille.
Situated between the Table Bay docks and the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, Woodstock is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicity that has had a long history of being run down, teeming with drugs, crime and litter, and while none of this will disappear overnight (oh that litter!), the last decade has seen a dramatic facelift with innovative businesses and trendy eateries converting and revamping abandoned buildings and warehouses.
Almost every conceivable space is covered. You’ll find works of varying quality on most street corners and adorning even the simplest of homes.
And although Woodstock is high density living among the surrounding industry, it’s dotted with loads of Victorian semi-detached houses with a feel for yesteryear. Many have been beautifully restored, while the neglected look of others is adorned with colourful pieces or art from scraps of wood.
An additional treat is the omnipresent and iconic slab of mountain Cape Town is famous for as a backdrop.
Living and working in the southernmost suburbs of Cape Town, my forays into the city centre are rare. When I do head that way, more often than not, I’m focused on staying alive (dodging the ubiquitous ‘law unto themselves” minibus taxis) and avoiding pedestrians, traffic jams, busloads of tourists et al. Taking in whatever else is going on in my own beautiful city is seldom an option :-)
Saturday mornings though, I recently discovered, are the perfect time to slip into the inner city and take in the sights and sounds that are normally hidden by congestion and the weekday pandemonic hustle and bustle of what is probably the prettiest major African city. In fact, the streets were practically deserted when I attended a photographic workshop a few blocks up from Parliament this weekend.
Equipment-wise, I was unprepared. My camera was at home charging, but I followed the urge to set off on foot with my cellphone and I was pleasantly surprised at what could be found traversing a few blocks around a single street – in this case Harrington Street.
Graffiti is prolific and exceptionally good in Cape Town and I’ve been itching to photograph some for a while, so I was delighted to stumble across some really good pieces in the immediate area that weren’t obscured by people and traffic.
Given that xenophobia has recently reared its ugly head again, it was a meaningful coincidence that this piece was the first I stumbled upon. We could all learn something from taking a good look at this beautiful graphic depiction by Boa Mistura, a Madrid-based art collective.
What would Cape Town be without a quote from Madiba?
I love how dozens of buttons fill in this key.
Architecturally along Harrington Street, the old blends with and the new with several buildings dating back to the start of the 20th century. Next door to a historic double story, New York Bagels served a delicious Saturday special for only R20 – a bagel filled with salmon trout and scrambled egg. That, as we say in these parts, is for “mahala“*. And did I mention it was absolutely delicious?
Around the corner I found the interestingly decorated Ons Plek (Our Place), Cape Town’s only residential Child and Youth Care Centre specialising in developmental and therapeutic services for girls who have lived, worked or begged on the streets of the Mother City. The mural is the work of Faith47.
And finally, the decorative landmark home of yumminess, Charly’s Bakery. I’m looking forward to many more Saturday mornings of being a tourist in my own city.
*South African slang meaning for free, gratis or for nothing.
Kommetjie’s Slangkop Lighthouse is one of those iconic Cape Town landmarks that is photographed to death, but I still return time and again hoping for something exceptional. This time it was a spectacular autumn sunrise I had in mind. Instead, a low bank of mist and muggy skies over the ocean greeted me. As consolation though, I saw formations of migrating birds and my very first pied kingfisher ever, who kindly hung around the Kom just long enough for me to stop my car in a cul-de-sac and grab my camera. Such is life :-)
“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” Author unknown
Losing pets is awful and painful, but saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things I have had to do and the void he has left behind is cavernous. He was only 8 and still a puppy at heart, but life and a monstrous tumour had other ideas for this remarkable little mutt. Two weeks on I am still struggling to make sense of things.
After a fortnight of appointments and seeing five veterinarians in total, it became clear I would have to say goodbye sooner than I imagined. Following a battery of tests and physical examinations, the specialist vet suggested a costly MRI scan. My GP, who I have known for 20 years, advised against it saying I should spend the money spoiling him and building his strength for his last days, but I’m glad I followed my heart and did all of the aforementioned, because doing the MRI showed us exactly what we were dealing with and allowed me to make informed decisions.
The vets were stunned by what they saw: A 15cm mass extending from the right side of Leo’s neck into his intracranial compartment was pressing on his brain and around the right optic nerve. The young vet who showed me the results on the monitor was amazed Leo was still walking. It was a blessing though that there was no invasion of the brain.
Our own vet, Sheena, was shocked when she read the report and more so when she saw him again. The deterioration was rapid. He was losing weight as well as the sight in his right eye. Overnight the colour of his iris had changed from his trademark beautiful light green to amber and seemed to be ulcerating. By now his tongue had “died’ on the right side – a shrivelling which made it hard for him to eat his food normally and although he was still managing to get food down eventually and otherwise interacting normally with me, it was hard to believe I was doing him any kindness by keeping him alive or that he wasn’t in immense pain. Being a pitbull, it was even harder to judge but he pawed frantically at his temporal bone all the time and painkillers may or may not have solved that for him. The vets warned that a stroke or seizure was very probable as the tumour spread relentlessly. Working full time I would never have been able to monitor him around the clock and would never have forgiven myself if I came home and found him dead or maimed. It was a hard place to be.
In a touching acknowledgement of how much part of the family Leo was to me, my boss quietly drew a line through my Leave Form and deemed it “Compassionate Leave”, something generally reserved for human relatives. Such was Leo’s reputation.
I know now that this pup that never grew up was on loan to me, sent with the purpose of demonstrating unconditional love. No matter how I reprimanded him for chasing birds, wrecking the garden or for pulling me on walks, he would always come back with his tongue lolling and tail wagging ready to love and be loved. He was a precious and special gift and I was lucky to be his Mom.
Bon voyage little man, you were so very loved. Until we meet again. xxx
It’s little wonder his weekend concert at Kirstenbosch was sold out weeks ago. At 61, Johnny Clegg, icon of the South African music industry, still makes the hair on my arms rise when he performs songs that were instrumental in bringing South African Afro-pop and Mbaqanga* music to the world stage.
It’s powerful stuff that makes my heart beat and my hips sway in tandem to the rhythm of Africa and I’m reminded as I stand photographing this legend performing to a crowd of 5000 Capetonians of just how far we have come as a country since the dark days of apartheid when Clegg and collaborators such as Sipho Mchunu (below) transcended racial and cultural divides with traditional song and dance. Clegg’s Jaluka and Savuka became household names in those gloomy years.
* a style of South African music with rural Zulu roots.