Sunday, March 30, 2008

this 'n that again

Old habits die hard. So although I reluctantly withdrew from SkyWatch Friday a few weeks ago (because with pressure of time and the huge growth of the group, I felt it was unfair to be a member but not be able to reciprocate visits) I still look out for good sky shots wherever I go. Here are a couple of recent ones.

Street Art Update: A while ago I showed you a log that had been turned into a bikini clad woman by a clever artist.

Well, she has a family now! A man, child and dog have joined her on the grass. You can see more on Port Elizabeth Daily Photo.

On Thursday a new guesthouse opened in town. this is not particularly newsworthy, it happens all the time. But what makes this one special is the history behind it. In the early days of PE, parcels of land were granted by the Colonial Government in Capetown, and subdivided, to be sold off so that the funds raised could be used for special projects. One of the earlier land grants of this type was in 1856, and it was in favour of the Grey Institute, to fund the building of boys and girls public schools.

This is a photo of the original handwritten Land Grant, and the accompanying surveyors drawings of the subdivided plots.

The guesthouse is in Ivy Terrace, and is a delightful stone-built cottage with thick walls and beautiful wooden trim and floors. The new owners have a Title Deed showing that the house was bought by a Mr Bilson in 1858. What makes this really special is that the house has stayed in the Bilson family ever since, until it was sold recently, because Miss Bilson was too old to continue living there alone. You can see her at the opening of the guesthouse, with more pictures of the cottage on Port Elizabeth Daily Photo.

The new owners have restored it very sensitively and furnished it with period furniture and wonderful old items, even the garage has a delightful collection of old tools. If you ever want to stay in this fascinating old place, let me know and I'll give you a contact number!

And the ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHT of my week has been a visit to the PE Opera House yesterday, to see the play Sizwe Banzi is Dead. What an amazing experience!

The play was created 36 years ago by Athol Fugard, along with acclaimed actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona, at the height of Apartheid. It is a protest play, dealing with the alienation of South African blacks, and their loss of individual identity under the Apartheid system. It was naturally banned at the time (freedom of speech was viewed as a Communist plot, and anything remotely anti -Government was outlawed and punishment for breaking those laws was very harsh.) So it played "underground" to black audiences, mostly in church halls in the townships. It has come full circle, and the actors who took such chances to perform the play in those days have returned to give absolutely BRILLIANT performances at the Opera House.

Note the very sparse stage set, this play did not rely on razzle dazzle or music to entertain, but pure brilliance! Also, because it was done at a time when a Police raid could happen at any moment, the props had to be easy to move around, and be seen as everyday objects. (Excuse the horrible photo, cameras were not allowed so I had to sneak a shot with my cellphone before the show started.)

One would wonder how relevant a this play could be 14 years into democracy, and played to mixed audiences. Well, it worked. It was almost a surreal experience, sitting there next to a black man a few years younger than me, both guffawing loudly at the absolute ridiculousness of the laws and human relations and behaviour portrayed on stage.

It was sort of awkward but not..... I am at a loss for words to describe the feeling. There were those of us from the group who perpetrated the injustices (and, lets be just blunt as usual, EVIL treatment) even if we personally were opposed to it. We sat in an anonymous audience, so who was to know who actively supported it and who didn't? It was purely the colour of our skin that could be seen there, "Whites", used in the play with the same derogatory undertones that the term "Blacks" attracted in white circles. So in a way, the sort of generalised loss of identity, and being lumped into a group that is despised or belittled was part of the experience for the whites at the theatre, and it was obviously an eye opener. Because it lasted for an hour, not for years and years, and we walked away unscathed by it, in contrast to those who suffered untold loss in those dark times. There was again the discomfort which I often feel when confronted with what really went on behind the scenes, the regret that I took so much at face value and didn't look beneath the surface to find out what was being censored so vigorously, guilt that I didn't do more to oppose it, the feeling that, by an accident of birth, I live in relative comfort and privilege, while so many around me, no less deserving, live in poverty and trauma, with little chance of ever breaking free from its grip.

But this is where the surreal part of the experience comes in, because you would have thought it would be a real downer to experience all that. But it wasn't. We had deep belly laughs all the way through. I can't speak for how the black people in the audience experienced it, but I can tell you that a real camaraderie developed between me and the stranger sitting next to me. In fact when asides were made in Xhosa, which had half the audience shrieking with laughter while the other half wondered what they had missed, he spontaneously translated for me. I almost got a sense that the feeling was...."now at last we can share the truth with you, see what it was like?" but not in a bitter revengeful way, but in a "wasn't it ridiculous?" way now that we all see each other as individual people and not as nameless members of the Black or White group.

The only words I can apply to the actors and their portrayal of the characters are superlatives, and even the strongest ones I can think of do not do justice to their performance. All I can say is that it was an HONOUR to be in the presence of such brilliance, and I left there awed, humbled, entertained, enlightened, challenged and enriched!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter and other delightful diversions.

Well a belated Happy Easter to all, hope it was a good family time for all of you. The plan, chez Farty, was to go to St Francis for 3 nights a chill out a bit. However, there has been so much chaos around here, with building operations, and a hideous backlog in admin, filing, tax returns etc, and we somehow both got on a roll with sorting out our lives. So two days went by before we finally got motivated to sling a few things into a bag and head for the Port. We decided to take the wee E (our pocket dynamite 3 year old grandson) with us. OK, so any idea of associating time in St Francis with chilling out was immediately rendered out of the question.... but still it was great fun.

We stopped off at the world famous surf spot, Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay, so the little guy could pick up shells on the beach.

He didn't want to know about shells, he was totally focussed on filling his bucket with sand and dumping it in the rock pools, in between flinging pebbles around!

The surf was not up to its usual standard, but even the small waves had that perfect tube that makes this place so popular.

A highlight was spotting two tame mongooses in the carpark. They are normally shy creatures glimpsed fleetingly as they disappear into the bush, so it was a delight to get close to this pair.

At St Francis, we went for a stroll on the harbour wall.....

It always fascinates me to see how kids go about making friends, they seem to lack the social restraints we adults have. In seconds these two met and were running around together, they didn't even speak the same language or know each other's names, but they just got straight on with having fun together.

Little E was so fascinated by all the boats, so we chartered a fishing boat to take us out of the harbour and down to shark point.

The sea was pretty rough (these pictures don't convey what a wild ride it was, taking pictures while holding on tight to a bucking boat was quite a challenge!) At first he was less than impressed, and although he didn't freak out or cry, a little wail of "I want my mommy" did escape his tightly clenched lips......

But when we explained that we were riding on the backs of the waves, like riding a horse, and the white bits were called white horses, he got into it and started to enjoy himself.

The next morning we woke up before the sun and went to watch his first sunrise on the harbour wall (his mom and dad are not mad nocturnal creatures like granny and grandpa!)

He was fascinated to see it pop up over the sea, and gave his mom a delightful description the next day, complete with waving arms and vivid hand gestures to describe how the sun was sleeping, then woke up and peeped over the edge of the sea!

Here he is on the harbour wall, still in his pyjamas and carrying his favourite soft toy, a dog who he calls Swikky!

on the way back we went via the swimming pool, and he was delighted with his reflection in the mirror like water.

Then off to the lighthouse for breakfast and a visit to the penguin rehab centre, and finally home for a good afternoon nap (well, for an exhausted granny and grandpa anyway! He had slept all the way home and kept his mom and dad on their toes.)

Last night we went off to the cricket, which was great fun. You can read more about it on our PE daily Photo blog.

So its been a fun time!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

hehe, time for a rant

Well the powers that be have been spared the tongue-lashings in recent weeks, due to my attention being focussed on things closer to home. However, I can't let the latest monuments to idiocy pass by without comment!

Our occasional supplier of power, Escom is still at it..... it has become a bit like the old politician joke "how can you tell the Escom spokesman is lying?" "Because his lips are moving."
Amidst urgent applications to Government for a 60% increase in electricity tarriffs, to cover costs, we hear that the top brass have voted themselves further outrageously generous 'bonuses', which incredibly, are performance linked. (I can only assume that the link is in inverse proportion to performance!)
At the same time WHILE WE WERE IN THE MIDST OF THE BLACKOUTS, and being told to be patriotic and use less power for the sake of the nation blah blah blah, Escom had the audacity to sign yet another contract with a neighbouring country, guarenteeing them power at a substantially reduced rate. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone, the powers that be in charge of fighting crime (who seem to be under the illusion that this means fighting victims of crime while doing everything possible to make life easier for criminals) have now decided that they want to ban the carrying of 'non lethal weapons'. Included in this definition are all self defence items such as pepper spray, sticks etc.
This is one law I have every intention of breaking flagrantly. We already put our lives and security on the line by going for a simple walk around the neighbourhood, and I am certainly not going to let some fat-cat politician, who has his own army of personal body guards looking after him 24-7, deny me the most basic right of self defence, since no-one else in power is going to do anything about defending the average law abiding citizen!
Luckily, if I do get arrested, you will not need to worry about me, because, in line with their policy of making things as comfortable as possible for criminals, my rights in prison will be well cared for, and I will be having a nice break with a tv in my cell, and all my meals paid for by the law abiding suckers who remain out there.
Where's my pepper spray, I'm off for a stroll!!!!
But before I go, here are the promised photos from the gathering of the clan. Please excuse the horrible quality, too much noise and activity, not enough light, general chaos, but at least family from afar who read this can see a little of the event!

The host, Aubrey, bewildered by the men going mad with cameras on one side, and the reunited sisters trying to catch up on a year's news in 10 minutes on the other!

Even the toddlers were getting in on the act with cameras.

The guests of honour, Connie chatting to my sister Ali, and Dad chatting to nephew Pete.

The morning after..... breakfast on a cold and rainy deck at the guesthouse.

While little Jake didn't mind at all,

Ethan decided the best bet was to snuggle up and sleep off the excitement of the previous night!

After the lunch at the beachfront restaurant, we said our farewells and tackled the 3 hour drive back to PE on VERY full stomachs!
While all this was going on, little Felicity cat stayed home with the big cats, and kept an eye on Fergie to make sure he didn't miss a spot.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I think my feet might be hovering close to terra firma now

Hi, well that was an interesting spell! It is winding down now, and life is taking on a slightly normal tone (if you bear in mind that normal is a very subjective term, which means different things to different people!) Who knows, I might even have time to take notice of what is happening in the world around me and resume regular ranting soon! And I have been missing my regular round of blog visits, but hopefully they will also re-start in the next few days.
Last week I sealed the floor, and, with Max's help, built cupboards and shelves etc. I found a painter to help, and managed to get the new studio and courtyard painted, and also the dining room and study, to cover the layers of paint spatters which have accumulated there over the last few years! Then began the monumental task of moving my art stuff in there, and all the camping gear tools etc which used to live there out of the spare room and into the garage, where we also sorted out the cupboards, and moving furniture around from all over the house. All this took place by navigating around the newly laid tiles in the courtyard, between rushing off to the hardware for more sand, cement, paint etc at regular intervals! My Physiotherapist did well out of the deal!
But here it is...... the new studio ready for the next spate of paintings....

........the dining room is looking reasonably respectable again (not that we have had time to sit at the newly cleared table for a meal, but at least we can if we want to!!)

.....and the study has gone from this.... this.

Just the tiling to finish up now.

My Dad and his partner Connie share a birthday, and the 6th March was a milestone, he turned 90 and she turned 70, so we went to East London for a gathering of the clan to celebrate with them. We spared them the cake with 160 candles (after all Escom has made sure that candles are a sought after commodity!) but had a lovely get together none the less!
My sister and brother in law (Ali and Dave, who still live in Zimbabwe, I TOLD you normal is a subjective term!!) returned from London where they were visiting the adorable Mr Matthew, their newest grandchild, and came down for the weekend. Their son Pete, his wife Jo and their delightful son, the year old Jacob, as well as Jake's new sibling, still in mommies tummy.....(I tell ya these guys may have had to wait for grandchildren but they are making up for lost time!!!!).... all came down from the stunning village of Clarens, where they currently live.

I say currently, because they plan to move to a tiny wild rural village in the mountains of Lesotho, into a house where the first modification they have to make is to enlarge the little structure around the pit toilet so that Pete's tall frame can actually fit in there!...again normal is a flexible concept! But seriously, I admire them, they have chosen to set aside their own personal comfort zone, and live among the poorest of the poor rural people and help teach them sustainable planting methods to sustain their families, and likewise Ali and Dave have chosen to stay in Zim to help make a difference there, not just because they are nuts!

K,J & little Ethan came with us (we had to check out Thandi's performance as a family car, she did very well!) and as if that whole crowd was not big enough, we all had dinner with my step dad and his wife, and my 3 step brothers with their wives and kids. It was a lovely evening, we all had just one night to catch up with each other before scattering back to our various corners of the planet, and we really made the most of it. A huge thanks again to Aubs and Rene for coming up with the idea and hosting the whole thing, for their amazing hospitality which made sure that everyone of the 26 people ranging from the toddler to the 90 year old were happy and comfortable, and providing that WONDERFUL Chinese dinner...mmmmmmmmm. (I bet your neighbours are glad you don't have dinners for 26 people every day!)
I wanted to post some pix of the clan, but they are on Max's camera and he is in a meeting, so I'll do it in the next few days.

On Sunday, it was raining, but Max and I took a stroll before breakfast to the beach. Eastern Beach in East London has a headland where the waves pound against the rocks, and the whole scene was even more lovely with the sun's rays battling to emerge through the dark clouds.
After taking Dad and Connie to a restaurant for lunch, we all said goodbye, and we headed back home.
Yesterday I collected the remaining paintings from the gallery, as the latest exhibition is over, and so it seems a few weeks of coming back down to earth are on the horison, whew.
The tilers are almost finished in the courtyard, and once they are gone, at least we will be able to sort out the plants, and best of all, teach Felicity to go to the loo out there instead of in her stinky sand box!
She has grown so fast, and her weekend alone with the big cats was another milestone, she loves following Fergy around. This is a bit of a worry as he often goes out onto the busy street in front of our house. He is incredibly street wise, we have watched him looking out for cars, and waiting till the road is clear before crossing to the Park. But of course, she will follow blindly, so we have to block the kitty door to the front and keep an eye on her when the door is open.
So there we are, getting back to "NORMAL"!