Archive | December, 2013

Things we found in the China Shop in Knysna

26 Dec

China Shop Happy bag

I love China Shops. They are an excellent metaphor for the state of consumerism, an outlet for mountains of cheap facsimiles of useful things. They look functional, but break almost immediately.  They are a physical representation of what somebody thinks we want, and they are hideously wasteful. But somebody will buy them because they are there on the shelf, and they have some sort of symbolic exchange value. Barthes would have a field day.

This cap, for instance, came with a price tag of R180: Continue reading


We need this road sign

24 Dec

Several Harleys have just driven down the quiet road on which our B&B is sited. They reminded me, yet again, that there is one very important road sign missing from our regularity arsenal. This one.No doosesa


Meet Doris

22 Dec

Last night, as I stepped out of the bedroom of our B&B in Knysna to get to the bathroom, I was greeted by the sight of this:

Doris the scorpion

My travel companion and I were mildly alarmed. Though I know that large pincers and a small tail signify a non-dangerous species, the thought of something that makes sounds when it scuttles was not conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep.

I have since named her Doris. No particular reason other than that she’s a Doris. (Even if she is a he, that’s her name.)

Naturally, I tweeted about the encounter.

Scorpion tweet

Thanks to Nechama Brodie (whose dad lives in Knysna; back in 1997 I did one of his tantric sex courses in a town called Mooinooi, but that’s another story), I quickly established that Doris was most probably Opistacanthus capensis, which is the most common scorpion in Knysna. Importantly, it’s “very docile indeed”. So we were able to sleep after all.

This morning I discussed Doris with the B&B owner, who used to run a hunting lodge in Namibia. I’m hoping my pleas for Doris were heard, and that she won’t get squashed. I hate killing things unnecessarily, even if you can hear them when they walk.

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An Anniversary and a Link to the Past

6 Dec

Madiba’s face on our notes takes on a new meaning now, doesn’t it?

Madiba note

Today, December 6, is the anniversary of the day I returned the car that inspired the creation of this blog last year. This time last year, I drove my Range Rover Evoque back to Land Rover’s offices and left it there.

I still don’t own a car. I very nearly bought a Subaru XV this year, but panicked at the last moment and decided against it. I’ve had friends try to persuade me to buy a Fiat 500. I’ve borrowed Fords and Citroens and loved them very much. There’s still that car blog I need to get around to launching. If you’re wondering, I use my grandmother’s C Class when I need to. It has less than 14,000km on the clock despite being more than four years old.

Do I miss the Range Rover? Yes, of course. I miss having the freedom to drive up mountains. I miss the thumping sound system. I miss the space for transporting easels and artworks. But sometimes it’s necessary to part company from the objects you love in order to open up space in your life for other things.

Instead of cars, I spent much of today thinking about Nelson Mandela – as I imagine most of the world has done too. I watched the tributes on the TV as I lay in the dentist’s chair, and fired off emails and texts to clients and colleagues as we tried to navigate the challenges of running campaigns when the world in which they were planned has been turned upside down.

There was a link between the Evoque and today, though, one that goes beyond an anniversary. On the way back from the dentist, I thought about how I could try to emulate Madiba in small ways. I thought about the campaign that triggered this blog, where I was going to hand out money to beggars at intersections in an effort to compensate for the luxurious car I was fortunate enough to drive for free.

I passed Madiba on to this beggar, who is usually found at Hyde Park Corner. While I waited, he told me that he is from Orange Farm and has two kids. Unlike most of the beggars I’ve met on the streets of Joburg, who are Zimbabwean, he’s South African.

Beggar 1

Around the corner from where I live, I gave another note bearing the image of Madiba to this regular:

Beggar 2

I see him often, and he waves and wheedles and who can blame him? Today he scored. Tomorrow my heart my harden again, and I’ll do my best to make him invisible. But today – today I wanted to pass Madiba on.

On (not) getting lost

4 Dec

I am incredibly, remarkably, amazingly, magnificently good at getting lost. Give me two alternative routes and chances are I will take the wrong one.


Until now. Because finally, after years of willing the universe to make it so, I have a GPS to play with. The TomTom I’ve been loaned is so wonderful at not getting me lost that I am completely in love with it.

I love the way it sticks with the minimum of fuss to the windscreen.

I love the perky little drumbeat when it starts up.

I love the way it doesn’t get the address totally wrong, the way Google Maps does.

I love the way it just works.

The TomTom came in handy during my trip to Cape Town. It got me to from the airport to an address Green Point no problem. I used it to give me a sense of where I was in the world when I took the scenic route to visit David Bullard in Somerset West through Camps Bay, Hout Bay and Constantia instead of the more traditional route to the N2.

David examining his vines

David examining his vines

It also got me back from the Lalela Project to the airport with the minimum of fuss. The woman who recites the directions to me pronounces Hout Bay to rhyme with Oat, which is correct, and Newlands and New-Lands, which is strange, but she turned what could have been a disaster into something completely stress-free, and I am very grateful for that.

Next trip for the TomTom will be Knysna just before Christmas.

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