Archive | May, 2013

A story about money, La Mer and tears

27 May

This is a story about money, expensive face cream, and tears.  I am writing about this because I spent a fat chunk of this afternoon sobbing about it – think burst water mains – and I need to process it, and words for the consumption of an audience are the only way I know.

On Friday, this delivery arrived at my grandmother’s house:

La Mer

It contained a pen and a little tub of La Mer, first promised to me by a woman’s magazine 6 months ago. I was excited because I thought they’d forgotten, and because La Mer is La Mer, and I’d never dream of buying it. I seldom spend much money on myself these days, for various reasons.

When I tweeted that photo and expressed my delight, I didn’t expect this response:

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Things I learned in Cape Town

27 May

Kalk Bay view

“Granny’s been taken into ICU in Sandton Clinic. I don’t think she’s going to make it, so I’m flying up.” The man on the phone is surprisingly calm about this. He’s older, in his mid sixties perhaps, corporate. He exudes that kind of pleasant, rather placid air of entitlement that the well-heeled possess. I’m surprised he’s sitting in Economy class, at the back of the plane, with me.

It is a Sunday afternoon. Soon, this British Airways 737-400 will take off and fly me back from Cape Town to Johannesburg, where I will return to a more familiar version of myself.  Because, of course, I am a Joburger, born and bred. This means I am driven, obsessed with work, in a constant state of delirious anxiety and defined, despite my best intentions, by what I do and do not own.

But every now and then, I have to leave this city to rediscover myself.

Me in Cape Town

This weekend, I travelled to Cape Town. There, I learned these things:

That I can stop thinking about work, if I try.

That I don’t have to be surgically attached to my laptop. (For one thing, travelling without a laptop makes going through security so much easier.)

That I don’t have to be Productive every single second of the day to be a worthwhile human being.

That despite my crustiness and my cynicism, I am still capable of allowing myself to be vulnerable.

That being a good person matters more than anything. “Only connect,” as EM Forster once so famously wrote, though I’ve known that for a long time; this trip simply reminded me of that, again.

But having money is nice, and if I want to make a difference to the world and the people around me, I have to acquire more of the freedom that comes with having it.  (The irony.)

On the plane, I transition from the chilled Cape Town version of myself back to the Joburg me. First, I draw sketches for a painting. Then I write the outline for this post. Then I map out a strategy for a client I am seeing tomorrow afternoon. Just before we start descending to Joburg, I drift off to sleep, the engines roaring in my ears.

I wake up just in time for rubber to connect with tarmac. Seatbelts click, passengers position themselves in the queue and reach for the overhead lockers. The man next to me makes a phonecall. “Is the black Range Rover ready for me?” he asks.  “I’ll be there in six or seven minutes.” He files off the plane. I hope he makes it in time. I wonder what he will do once he gets there,  if he will weep, if what he shows on the outside will hint at what lies beneath.

Home of Hope

15 May

Tonight I attended an art auction, GIBS Project Art. It’s to raise funds for a charity I know well: Home of Hope. I donated part of the proceeds from my art to Mam Khanyi and her girls with my solo exhibition last year. Funny to think how hard I was working on my art this time last year; this year I’ve virtually abandoned it.

Mam Khanyi at my solo exhibition launch

I saw her for the first time in many months this evening. “Mam Khanyi, it’s me, Sarah!” I said. I always say my name when greeting people – I’m terrible with names myself, so it’s safer to assume nobody remembers me.

I asked her how things were going.

“We are struggling,” she said. “I want to cry.”  Continue reading

A Sunday bubble and evening ennui

5 May

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A wintry Sunday evening in Joburg. Mellow sun and the work-harder dove seep below the horizon into grey dusk and the desultory barking of bored dogs. Derek Watts will be on TV in an hour, and Carte Blanche will depress us all as we hold on to what remains of our personal time before it’s back to the grind of traffic and office and traffic again.

I have work to do, of course. There is always work to do on Sundays. I haven’t had a Sunday where I have had some sort of work to do in years. Even when I was in Australia, I had client updates and emails and writing and uploading photos and and and. There’s always something, and even if there isn’t, I will find something Productive to fill that time and distract me from the gaping chasm I know lies there in the shadows beyond.

Sundays mean guilt and obligation. When I was procrastinating over my PhD, Sundays would trigger anxiety attacks, especially if my ex-husband and I had been away. On the drive back, we’d always end up fighting because I’d be miserable and antsy and completely ruin the weekend vibe.

This time I’m feeling guilty because I spent time at the Winter Sculpture Fair instead of working. It was lovely, and I enjoyed every minute of my time at the Mastercard Gourmet Theatre, but now I feel bad because I should have been working, that I can’t extend the bubble of contentment that formed around me into the night.

Heads at Nirox

I’d heard, vaguely, of the Nirox Sculpture Park before I got the invitation, and now that I have discovered it, I am entranced. Lush stretches of lawn and bright still lakes provide a soft backdrop to the sculpture in one of the loveliest places anywhere near Johannesburg. It is the anti-Montecasino.

At one point, in the distance, I saw a herd of horses cantering along the path. I’m not sure whether they were real or I imagined them, but they were wonderful, and the memory remains even as I haul out my to do list and sigh, knowing that there is always, always more work to be done.

Yipeee and other doucheplates

4 May

Whenever I write about personalized number plates, now better known as doucheplates, I preface it with a disclaimer: that once upon a time, I too had a doucheplate. My black Fiat Stilo sported MARMITE GP. I wanted to look cool because my boss at the time said I came across as too boring, and when my Toyota Corolla was turned into a Tazz by a drunk middle manager in a Mercedes-Benz, I grabbed the opportunity to reconfigure my image. Back when I had my doucheplate, there were few blogs devoted to them. But that has changed.

This is the doucheplate I spotted this morning at Hobart Grove in Bryanston:


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