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30 days of minimalism

The after effects of six months of thirty days before thirty were rather enlightening, if I had to sum it up in one word.  Enlightening; because I learnt even more about myself as I planned one of the milestones of my adult life.  My wedding.  Thirty days of deprivation and addition was the build-up to my thirtieth birthday, the aftermath was the build-up to my character.  You see, I don’t think that anything can quite prepare you for a day that has had much weight added to it by everyone other than the bride and groom.  I mean, when one decides to commit to one person ‘til death does one part, it is a big deal.  But the act of getting married should be as natural and relaxed as a butterfly on a gentle breeze.  Yet, it isn’t.  The mother of the bride wants three pairs of shoes (for the bride, on the day), the gran of the groom has great ideas but is just a little out dated on pricing and purchasing, the groom wants an elephant cake, and the bride just wants world peace.  It gets hairy, like at a beauty spa hairy.  From an angle that you don’t want to see hair from.

Being the bride, only the most important person at the wedding (other than the groom, of course) there were a few times when I wanted to scream: “Are you sure you want to be complaining and tantrum-ing when it’s not even your big day?”  And yet, there I quietly sat gnawing on my tongue whilst soothing and pulling the divas in for hugs.

So I did learn that the strength within Perrin is far mightier than her imagination.  I thought not eating meat for 30 days made me a little cooked in the head. Nay, it was the mother of the bride who nearly did my head in.  I suspected that 30days of meditation would put me on the same plain as the meditative greats – one times day of matrimony and I could easily be called a saint for smiling the entire time and not punching a bridesmaid, whiny guest, bossy aunt in the face, with my bouquet tambourine.

Yes, the six months leading up to my thirtieth was preparative for me, because I was so immature when it came to getting married (you see, I’d never actually gotten married before so how does one really know) that I really did need all the mental and physical stamina I could muster.

The fact that I abruptly stopped doing all forms of meditation, art and meat free-ness once I’d hit the dirty decade, didn’t bother me too much, I had a December wedding to plan.  Luckily I did keep up the exercise and I did mentally chide myself every time I ate meat – but that doesn’t really count.  But something did infiltrate my very being and I’m convinced (with hindsight) that something in me was practicing 30 days of minimalism during the month leading up to our wedding.  I suspect this because I detested the idea of anyone going bankrupt in order to pay for one day in my life.  I digress, but I understood my mom’s point of view and everyone else in the “It’s the most important day of your life and it has to be perfect for you” camp.  I understood it, and detested it too because sometimes it felt more like “It’s the most important day of your life and it has to be perfect for me.”  This sucked a bit.  And the more I experienced, the more I understood how it all worked.  You see, people don’t get married to show each other that they are committed to, and love each other.  People get married for everyone else’s sake.  For granny who can’t bear the idea of a couple living together out of wedlock, for aunty who really still likes the ex-girlfriend and is convinced that he still will get back together with her, for brothers who still think their little sister is a kid, for father who hopes that he did right by his son and really taught him how to be a man, for friends who feel like their group needs to progress to the next level as a whole, and so the list goes on.  And as we got closer to our ‘big day’ I grew calmer in all this new-found knowledge.  But Baby, unfortunately, Baby got more irritated with the interferences, which made it even harder for me to stay calm (the movies always portray an edgy bride; you can only imagine what a testosterone laden edgy bridegroom is like).  But back to my actual point at hand – the minimalism.

You see, with all the heated, loaded conversations, the more I tried to explain that I desired simple, minimal table décor, dress and accessories, the more my mom suggested three pairs of shoes, two wedding cakes (so that we could all have our own way), and tons of cut flowers (because you can’t only have live lollipop trees on the tables) the more I realised that the idea of minimalism needs to be trained at a mass institute.

With all that in mind, I feel that thirty days of anything must be darn easy in comparison and so, I have decided to continue in that line of thinking and continue with an endless supply of thirty days.   I think that my first achievement will be thirty days of true minimalism.  Here, I will endeavour to not let food go to waste, not even the crusts from the bread.  Water must be considered too, along with rethinking how to reuse my bath water for our washing.  No more bag lady for me (truly I walk into the office and people call me bag lady due to the fact that I have a laptop rucksack, portfolio bag, handbag, and lunch bag on my person).

And even though I was spoilt by rocking up to my wedding in a limo, courtesy of my brother who wanted to surprise me in a big way, and even though we had plenty cut flowers, cake and food that ashamedly went to waste after the fact, I know that some part of my being will one day be capable of achieving minimalism even though I loved every single minute of my sort of over the top wedding day.  I loved it because I too got sucked into the excess and hand wrapped tissues and tied them with bows for the ladies in the front rows, I also bought in to the craze by purchasing fifty rolls of ribbon which means I will have to wrap every single birthday present I give with my wedding colours, and we have enough sequins fabric (that I don’t really know how we will re-use) but I’ll be damned if I let it go to waste.  Perhaps I will have a “thirty days of using all the stuff I horded”, right after I celebrate “thirty days of minimalism” again.  But I will only start that when I get back from my honeymoon because packing lightly for an unknown beach destination is a hard thing to do when one has so many scarves and sun hats in one’s possession.

It’s an odd world, out there.

A new sort of understanding has begun within me. I am not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that I am practicing the art of meditation and stillness daily (you can read about that journey here) or perhaps it has to do with the fact that I have started following the readings of Scott Dinsmore. Scott started the movement Live your Legend which you can read up on here: http://liveyourlegend.net/  Very basically (I do not presume to sum up another’s teachings in a couple of sentences – I only wish to put into context the impression that his work has left on me) Scott teaches people to find their passion and then make a living off that passion. He speaks of how we need to be creative and courageous to take the leap into working at our passions. He also suggests that we surround ourselves with the people who are already living their passions. The reason for this is because we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with (so best you choose your five people wisely).

His writings got me thinking about the people that I spend the most time with. That answer was easy – Baby, my work colleagues, family and my friends. The problem came about when I thought about those people and whether or not they enjoy what they do for a living.

To be perfectly honest, I can say that none of my work colleagues seem too enthralled with the way they spend their time in this corporate events industry – where budgets are minimal and clients don’t know what they want or how they want it except they that they wanted it yesterday. My family and friends are mixed cases and require some unpacking. For example, my one friend (and this friend could possibly stand proxy for most of my friends) hates her job, always complaining about it, always developing a new illness because of it, and is always on the edge of a break down because she has no apparent control over it. Another friend loves the fact that she helps people maintain and retain their vision. As an optometrist, some of her days are filled with annoying patients (with personalities like the first friend I mentioned), and other days, she has easy-going patients. The point is she is invigorated by what she does on a daily basis.

Now my first brother is a chartered accountant and financial director of a foundry. His job is highly stressful due to the nature of the iron industry and the fact that he manages many people. The welfare of the company rests on his shoulders and he is often weary from working intense hours. He is extremely good at what he does, he provides for his wife, is an upstanding citizen and member of his church, a salt of the Earth kind of man, but his general unhappiness is obvious. My other brother is different in that he qualified as a catering executive, moved to work in hotel kitchens in Dubai, once there, he started to coach swimming classes, he came back to South Africa, journeyed to India, returned a Yogi, embraced personal training classes, became interested in keeping bees, and is now a grounds-keeper who makes gardens beautiful. I’ve noticed, with all his ‘upping and downing,’ people find my brother unreliable. Unreliable because just as he seems to settle, he thinks of something else that he wants to do, and then goes for it. Unsteady, because he only ever commits to something at the very last minute (understandably so because he only knows where he will be once he finds himself there). Sure he gets stressed about things, but he is pretty happy with the way he spends his time.

Then there are a couple of people who have interesting careers that I don’t personally know, but would still like to discuss them. I have only crossed their paths by chance and now that I am exploring this notion of passion, am I able to understand what it is that I have learned from them. The first, is a man of music. No ordinary musician is he. He travels around giving workshops that send patrons on a journey of sounds. Many view him as ‘hippie’ and odd. A leader of a bunch of people sitting in a circle with their eyes closed while he plays a multitude of strange instruments (including his vocal chords). I heard (upon telling my second brother about the amazing sound journey that I went on with this muso) that about twenty years ago, this musician had been playing on a stage, and preaching his unique way, only to be misunderstood and sort of ignored by the audience. Imagine how hard he has been working all these years? To be fine-tuning one’s craft for such a long time and not even really get into the ‘mainstream’ must take a hell of a lot of stamina. And yet, there was Chris Tokalon http://www.soundman.co.za/, traveling the world just so that he could show others his way and fine tune his methods.

The other case makes my heart feel sad because after searching online and actually attending the Mystery Ghost Bus Tour that Mark Rose-Christie offered, I noticed the attitudes with which he was received. Online reactions came over superior, hoity-toity and downright negative. Patrons on the tour insulted, laughed and played tricks on him. I understand why he had such bad reactions, culture likes to compare. Why not compare him to his English counterparts who have castles and dungeons to illustrate the ghouls? But if you gave him half a chance, you would understand that in our South African context, this man is doing what he does, and owning it with his dramatic appearance, props and acts. I enjoyed his tour and found it offered just enough scare and just enough information to be a good night out. I suppose that is what Scott is talking about when he speaks of having courage to stick to your passion in spite of the popularity of your ‘act’.

I implore you to look from the angle of ‘pursuing one’s passion’ next time you want to judge, doubt, chirp and disrespect those ‘oddballs’ who seem to be playing according to a different tune. Admire them instead, let them inspire you because ultimately I’m not sure which scenario is more odd: doing something that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold but makes you happy, or doing the same thing every day that you despise.

Encouraging people to pursue their passion = Ha’pea-ness

More than just a bunch of moments.

My life seems to be governed by a bunch of moments. Sometimes the moments flow quickly into each other and sometimes there is a waiting period before the next one arrives.  Whether it be from one event to another, from party to party, meeting to meeting, meal to meal, the significance can fall by the way side and it simply becomes from one end to another.  Unfortunately, I find myself wondering aimlessly once A to B has occurred, and the next B to C is nowhere in sight.  You see, it’s the in between moments that render me, well, daft. I feel purposeless and unsure of my place when there isn’t ‘a something’ to anticipate.

Now, everyone knows you cannot live for the next week-end / holiday / pay raise / grandchild / whatever, and so my mission for this year is to learn to appreciate the in between.  My goal is to make something more of the interim – not to create more drama in my life, simply to acknowledge everything (and the everytime) that makes up my life.

It was when I was I was recently chatting to baby’s younger brother, Davey, that I stumbled on a potential action plan.  You see,  Davey is an exceptionally talented graphic designer, potjie chef, and a striving minimalist, so he rates highly in my book.  He explained the method that effectively banished cigarettes from his life.  This method was nothing other than that of mind trickery, if you will.  He practiced installations of 30 days of deprivation.  The first 30 days he practised the art of not shaving.  While his beard grew bushy, I am sure he learned tolerance for that itch.  The second 30 was meat free and the third set of 30 was smoke free.  He has mostly maintained his cleaner habit even though he now religiously shaves and eats plenty of meat – the point he proved to himself is that he could do without.

His method was extremely personal but it got me thinking that perhaps this could be my method too.  My chance to enjoy my in betweens could start with a challenge of deprivation or even take on good habits in a challenge of provision.  What if I was to challenge myself to 6 types of deprivation or provision before my 30th birthday in July? They say you can’t change too much too soon so I think that the only way to handle such a large assignment would be to treat these installations as one long in between moment.  As if, by denying it any sort of identity (for example, the Great-Pre-Thirties-Mind-Control-If-You-Will-Challenge) I will numb the fact that I am doing something outrageous and I will just get on with it.  Furthermore, if I do set these challenges for myself, I will also learn to appreciate the me that I am, even in the seemingly aimless in between moments.

I began to strategise and came up with a plan:

 ·        In January, I decided to take on a good habit – to exercise for thirty minutes every single day.  Now for some people, this practice is not out of the ordinary or even that big a deal.  For me, who considers a walk from the parking lot to the shops as a way of getting my heart rate up, this would be a (ahem) hefty challenge.  January came and went and even though I didn’t stick to 30 days straight, I was blessed with a new sense of energy and purpose.

·        In February, I decided to tackle my neglected spirit and meditate every single day. Child’s pose, hanging upside down, lying in the bath, it doesn’t matter, so long as some sort of mental quietness engulfs me, it’s all good. (you’ll be pleased to know that I am achieving my 30 days, even though it is bringing up a huge anger issue that I wasn’t aware of).

·        In March, I will have to release my creativity in a manner that is out of my comfort zone.  Sketching, drawing, painting and sculpting etc.  Every single day, come hell or high water, a creation needs to be unleashed in a big way, regardless of my insecurities of it being ‘good enough.’

·        April, I will up the ante with deprivation, meat free all the way.

·        May is reserved for the toughest challenge – wheat free.  This extends from white breads, sauces, Italian breads, crumbed anything, seed loaves, biscuits, French loaves, baked experiments, did I mention the breads? One of the aspects of this challenge that I am excited about is the joy of finding an alternative baking outlet.  A very dear friend, Jess who is also Davey’s girlfriend, showed me how to make cupcakes from beetroot and while they might look like baked faces of old men, they sure don’t taste like the faces of old men.  For other alternative recipes, follow Jess’ blog here: http://www.intolerantkitchen.com/index.html

·        June is reserved for a large once-off challenge.  I will have to perform one task that scares me to smithereens.  I’m still undecided because pathetically, I’m petrified of everything.

 And so, I have started a series of moments that will be on-going during the course of my life’s other moments.  And, if I accomplish this mind trickery (if you will), then the result will be that I won’t focus too heavily on the challenges and I won’t mind the emptiness too much either because there won’t really be any.

Toss It!

To some this is a rude retort, an expressive outlet of frustration.  In this blog, however, it is to unlock sanity (not that cussing doesn’t sometimes ensure that the offender feels better after an outburst). In this context, it is meant as an inspiration and neither rude nor offensive.  Here, I endorse ‘dispose of’, ‘chuck it out’, ‘bin it’!

I endorse this, because I have had the realisation that I cannot continue in the manner that I do, do.  You see, one of my psychological issues is that I am particularly clingy.  I simply cannot throw anything away.  A chunk of wood for instance, cannot be chucked just in case I happen to learn impressive carving skills and am able to craft that hunk into a fancy foot stool or something equally unnecessary.  This extends to empty wood glue containers (you never know when you’ll need that nozzle shape again), buckled chipboard, palettes, old bread boards, used bubble wrap, chicken mesh wire, etc.

Where do I find said items, you ask? Well it doesn’t really matter.  I take things (with permission)  from my friend’s “to-go” piles next to their dustbins, I scavenge the left over-anythings from gigs, the side of the road, and my mom’s house.  I do not have one power tool to my name, but  one day I feel I would like to create all my furniture from scrap.  Never mind the fact that I will then need to re-repurpose my current furniture.

My wardrobe also takes up a helluva lot of space.  Not because I’m a fashionista, but because I still have t-shirts, skirts, belts and shorts from my youth.  Impressive that a ‘bordering-on-30-year-old’ can still wear clothes from her mid-teens?  Only slightly.  But maybe not so impressive is the fact that a ‘bordering-on-30-year-old’ is still rocking up in the atrocities and fashion crimes of the entire 90s era.  I’m experiencing true enlightenment here, bear with me.

Other clothing that I hoard includes items that I cannot actually fit into any more and perhaps it’s because I hang onto a time when I didn’t have to suck-it-in/lie down/safety pin myself into certain lower sizes.  Let’s face it, these hips have never lied and the chances of them shrinking at this stage of my life are absolutely impossible.

Socks and jerseys with holes also stay safe just in case my slumbering darner awakes.  I don’t yet even know the ins and outs of darning and to be fair there is a very blurred space in my head when I think of the borders between sewing, crocheting and darning.

This “maybe one day I will…” mentality extends to my urge to be an up-cycling ambassador.  If I could transform my stuff into working and pretty goodies, then I would be one happy, green camper.  The problem is that it takes me a lengthy amount of time to conceptualise a ‘new-old item’ from an ‘old-old item’.

Only once in a very blue moon do I take the metal scraps from the bottom of a fridge and transform them into a mounted filing system (as pictured below).

From fridge to filling system

It is also rare when I actually use the kept empty coffee jars and create a magnificent gift holder (like the jar that became a honey and rum tobacco container for my brother  – as pictured).

From coffee to pretty packaging

The fact of the matter is that I collect junk at a faster rate than I transform it.

Deep down inside I’ve always known the answer to my problem, but for the time being I will present one final case for pro-hoarding.

Every time I do bring myself to trash an item, the very next day I find myself in the situation when I need that same blasted what’sit.

Anyway, the bits and bobs that make up my fantastic cabinet of clutter, have actually started to bother me and this mentally outweighs any of my reasons for keeping the junk.

It became so clear to me the other day (and I’m not the first person to say something like this):

“What if I never came across another awesome skirt that I could customise with a beautiful piece of lace (from my mom’s cabinet of clutter) because I could not let my now tattered skirt, that was awesome-of-yesteryear, go?”

 

And it was this dropped penny that caused me to finally gather up:

  • the two dilapidated couches on the patio (dilapidated because I had ripped off the fabric and taken off the arms, lost momentum and left the single-seaters to rot in the rain)
  • the clothes I had not worn for more than a year
  • all my skew-soled shoes
  • the semi working egg whisk
  • the wonky can opener
  • the computer keys
  • the milligrams of all my hand creams
  • the left over candle wax (clearly I was never going to melt it down and make one huge candle)

I threw away what needed to be thrown and I gave away what someone less fortunate would use.

The point is, I released myself from an annoying (mostly for baby because he also tries to live in this house with me) and insecure habit.

I tossed it!

Being free from unnecessary clutter beat the anxiety and that is where I found some Ohm.

The name’s Cake Anderson.

 This last push towards the end of the corporate eventing year is always a long drawn out and tough one. It goes without saying, you work so hard and you pull so many rabbits out of a bevy of fascinators and yet you still don’t seem to reap any rewards. You dance on the verge of trading in your soul because deadlines threaten to gobble you up. You feel out of control and you can’t see any value in the slog because the final products are not quite done yet, hence the push.

By the time last weekend came (the first weekend I had had in a long time). I needed to realign my inner Zen and to make a significant impact on the timeline of my life. I was craving instant gratification. And so, I pulled out our new pie tins because I was about to show the world what action and reaction looked like.

I was about to make my version of a great vegetarian pie. Watch out pastry chefs of the world, you with your reputations of how you defy gravity and such when you bake a gooey substance and it transforms into a light and airy tart/pastry/puff/etc. The point is: how hard could it be? I was dedicated and I was seeking finite results, forget a need for a seemingly never ending vision, I was about an hour away from being a part of greatness.

So I started to mix the ingredients together (technically I didn’t have a recipe as I had not thought that through, I simply took the instructions that the pie tin manufacturers had generously placed on their packaging). Once the mixture was clinging to me right up to my elbow, I remembered how my granny had rolled her mixtures with a rolling pin and on a plastic sheet. I looked for something that vaguely resembled a rolling pin but then got caught up in a tussle with the mixture. I was adamant not to let this get the better of me, and I definitely would not let the mixture in on the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing yet. Yet.

I managed to eke out the goop into the pie tins, squished it with a floured thumb, and then generously filled my base with some cut up stir fry veg. I then contemplated how to cover the mound of veg, as mixture-veg ratio seemed a little off kilter. I proceeded to spoon out some of the veg and then squished in the dough without it lifting back off with pieces of veg clinging to it.

When I finally got the tins into the oven (which I had remembered to pre-heat) I was mighty cuffed, so they didn’t look that nice but I bet they would taste great – just like pure vegetable wholesomeness. As time passed, and after looking into the oven many a time, something was not sitting right with my baked delights. They seemed more biscuit-y as opposed to pastry-ish. As if I had made millionaire’s shortbread but instead of the chocolate and caramel, I had placed vegetables which, by this stage had dehydrated beyond recognition. At the taste test, I realised that the pies tasted like a sweet biscuit that had somehow lost its identifying sweetness. I ate one wholeheartedly just to show baby that he was missing out on my pâtissière skills. I oohed and aahed over my tasteless dry-crunch, but baby was having none of it, he was going to call in for a take away.

The remainder of the pies stayed in their tins for the rest of the week end, untouched by everyone including the cats, and that really is saying something.

Come Saturday I was adamant to beat this baking thing. I was not about to let a minor slip up get me down, I was determined to show the world I could control this controllable.

My next mission was to bake a chocolate cake, yes a full-on cake with icing and sprinkles and such. I was not too perturbed about taking ownership for something that was packaged in a step-by-step box and all you really had to do was mix all the elements together and then bake it and then mix some more things together and then pour the new contents over the baked good and then tah-dah, bob literally is your uncle. I was in the process of folding the mixture which seemed to be extremely toffee-like in texture. I had absolutely given up on using my hand wound egg beater, and was practically using my fist to stir. Real upper body workout material this.

Luckily my mom rocked up and had a go and it all seemed to get better. The baking part seemed ok as the cake rose and didn’t look like a flop – I sensed imminent glory – finally. We took it out of the oven and left it to stand for a while. After tipping it out of the mould onto a cooling rack, it seemed to sit for a minute and was then taken over by a tremor and literally quaked into four rugged pieces. Luckily, baby had a suggestion that stemmed from his building industry – cement the cracks with the piece of sticky cake that had somehow been left behind in the silicon cake mould, genius I tell you. I had wondered what we were going to do with that extra piece that hadn’t directly come from the bottom but had somehow come from inside the cake. My mom had stepped back by this stage, something to do with too many cooks and broth which I didn’t quite appreciate because it seemed a bit of a jinx in light of yesterday’s savoury dish that had come out sweet and I didn’t particularly want todays sweet to be savoury. [Later our suspicions were confirmed, just one speck of the sponge and we knew it was on the slightly salty side].

Anyway, I pasted the cake together and then proceeded to pour the fondant my mom had mixed, over my patch work. Fondant cools fast I tell you and further more, it kind of fills up the negative spaces of a cake. So after the majority of the fondant disappeared somewhere into the sub surface well of the cake, I sprinkled the gold goodies on the top and marvelled.

It didn’t look too bad but I was not sure I wanted to eat any of it just yet, perhaps I would take it to work as incentive for fellow colleagues to help push towards the end of 2012. If you get the fondant blob then that sugar rush might kick you into 2013, alternatively the now confirmed slightly-salty-cake part might impact your new year’s resolutions – to never eat cake again.

By Sunday, the cake was packed away and ready for the following morning to take to work, and I was slightly depro at my culinary disappointments. In one last attempt to boost my self-esteem, baby suggested that I cook a meal that I actually had confidence in and did know how to make (since even before I met him) – a chicken and veg stir-fry. That’s it, I thought, get back on that wooden spoon and show that big hob in the sky that I can cook. Sheer liberation, those carrots were getting the julienne of their lifetime. I owned it and for a split second I took my eyes off the road, you know, a little bit of kitchen cruise control and I chopped the knife blade right off itself. I was feeling like the time had come to bow out gracefully and leave the adventures in the kitchen to baby – he really does make magic when, without even a poof of smoke, a stunning rib eye and tsasiki is served.

Needless to say, once all my ingredients were simmering, the mysticism continued. Somehow, the stove-wok-chicken combination seemed to spark some sort of chemistry. My tried and tested chicken and veg stir-fry crisped to a blackened coal substance. I wailed with incredulity and baby moseyed into the kitchen to see what this last bit of commotion was about. He chuckled as I showed him my charred dish. All he offered me (not so much a shoulder to cry on, but words that I later interpreted as a double entendre): “Yep, that’s my Cake Anderson.”

Sure, baby meant that I should not give up my day job in the corporate events, and I guess that you can’t take your corporate frustrations out on the delicate ecosphere that is the kitchen.

But this was not the last of my attempts.

As I type this, funnily listening to American alternative rock band, Cake’s version of I Will Survive, I know the making of an awesome persona. I envision a continuous stream of pastries, marbles and puds, for everyone, but most of all, I envision a Great Cake Anderson.

Ha’pea-ness.

It’s-a not so bad, it’s-a nice place…. shadupyourface!

My time spent in London seemed long and tedious.  I saw some awesome things I had never seen before, but it was without.  It was supposed to be the time of my life, the time I would forever look back on and marvel at my freedom/creativity/agility (and I’m not even that agile).

But it was long, and it was tedious.  Parts of it quite frankly sucked.

You see, leading up to my sojourn, my family and I had experienced some hard-core, life-altering, perception-modifying occurrences.  We were feeling jaded with our lives we seemed to be forced to live in South Africa. We were angry with our government, the state of our roads, the amount of non South Africans living here (the list really did go on and on).  So it was with anticipation that I journeyed to London to search out the perfect lifestyle that would parallel mine, only it would be better because it would be in the bustling city of London.

And off I went.  And so set in my misery.

Firstly, with that romantic notion of hustle and bustle came a heck of a lot of noise.  Not once (not even when I visited an old Anglican church) did I find some sort of peace.  If it was not a human voice (in any language you could think of), then it was massive machinery revamping some other man made thing.  Trains had speaker systems that blurted instructions I never could comprehend.  Noise from headphones from passer’s by offended my ears. A panorama of reverb from road, rail, water and AIR traffic continuously ensconced me.  Kids screamed at birds/squirrels/ each other. It was exhausting.

Another disturbing discovery was that I continually had the feeling that the ground was about to fall from beneath me.  It was macarb because my childhood was on the East Rand which was built on rickety mining tunnels and mine blasts went off every four hours.  Sometimes the windows shuddered so hard you thought they couldn’t possibly bounce back.  And yet, there I was, questioning the stability of the English ground. It was as if I had a seventh sense for the tubes that ran under the city.  It was as if I could feel the shakes and shudders of trains even when I was six floors up.  Edginess indeed.

Theatre in London was also NOT ALL THAT. From the ticketing to the venue to the performance – triple disappointment my friends.  I had to stand in a long queue in order to talk to someone who would phone another vendor, wait in a telephonic queue, and then negotiate my ticket where I had to agree to a seat that I was not really sure of.
Then, onto the theatre where the King’ mezzanine must have been for a play-play king because surely no one would want to sit at such an awkward angle, barely on the fabric of their chair, in order to view a tired performance.

The food seemed bland in comparison to even my mom’s overcooked meals.  My taste buds barely came into fruition during my period there, I think they died of boredom.  Only at the airport on my way home did I realise that our delicious Cadbury’s tasted a hellava more coco-nutty there, than in SA.  Sad state of affairs when a country demands change to a grand recipe.

What you must understand, I was not hanging out in dodgy London, and yet, the only friendly people I met were three Irish men at Heathrow (also on my way home).  The trio were a hoot because they purchased their pints at the bar and then brought them to the coffee shop to be merry with the ‘serious’ coffee drinkers.  Boy, did they cause a stir, it was lovely.

Other than my friend (originally from SA) and her immediate friends, too many people wore an air of anger and impatience.  I realised that Londoners were feeling depro at the state of the economy and due to the Olympics coming to an end.  I heard mutterings that the only way to cheer London up would be for Wills and Kate to conceive, but I mean really.  On the escalators, I saw ladies push other ladies out of the way.  I think I even saw a lady push a man out of her way.  I heard a bus driver sarcastically chirp a tourist for wasting his time.  Surely, anyone in the tourism industry would value a foreigner’s investment into their country and their public transport system, who indirectly paid their wages?  I cringed when an entire carriage of people sighed and moaned because the conductor announced that the train was running four minutes late.  It was obvious that people’s journeys were interrupted but I was unsure as to why people had such a negative response to something that was what it was – the train was stuck and there was no genie that could pop up and fix it.  It required a bit of time, and time, was clearly not what anyone had to spare for the laborers who ensured the system worked 99% of the time.  Talk of ungrateful!

I, on the other hand, started to feel extremely grateful for:

  • The vast and calming spaces we have here in SA.  Even the ever-growing Midrand allows one some sort of space to stretch the intercostal muscles in a big breath.
  • The comfortable theatres with magnificent sight-lines.  Where seats with ‘limited view’ do not exist. Where the stages provide an ample canvas from which our incredibly talented South African actors can flourish.
  • For Pieter Toerien and his endless time and effort that he pours into our culture, and how his efforts are already part of the fibre of SA.
  • The happiness with which South Africans greet each other everyday, where such a simple greeting can acknowledge another’s existence – “I see you and you are worthy.”

If we look from a loving perspective, speak with respect, and react peacefully, it isn’t so bad and it is a nice place.

I love SA!  It has the capability to bring me great ha’pea-ness.

ART – a busy mind’s ritalin

The countdown to my sojourn to London has accelerated.  In 15 days time I will be heading out to conquer a city that is rather different to the one I was brought up in.  For one, I am looking forward to feeling safe whilst walking along the sidewalk or through the parks.  You see, bad things sometimes happen to good people and unfortunately here in Johannesburg, some of us have become a little bit set in an “us and them” mentality.  Them being people who hurt others and are therefore feared.  The other thing about London I’m excited to explore is English architecture, which is older than that of Johannesburg.  I’ve heard that their newer designs are also phenomenal.

Not that Johannesburg doesn’t have marvelous structures, old and new.  Expeditions throughout Jozi have left me breathless – in a good way. A recent Johannesburg-ian  find of mine is the new Wits Art Museum.  It is situated on University Corner, Corner Bertha (extension of Jan Smuts Avenue) and Jorissen Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.  The exterior is pristine with darkly glossed tiles and ceiling to floor windows that draw you in.  The gallery has been created by merging three separate buildings.  This conjoined vessel makes for a pleasant canvas on which each piece is allowed to breathe.  The play of light (natural and artificial) is as much a talking point as the works are.  There are a couple of strategically placed ottomans that invite one to contemplate art, life (although some will argue that art is the meaning of life but anyway) and anything else that might be troubling you.  I type this with conviction as we landed on the Wits Art Museum’s doorstep with trouble on our minds.

We had been ‘on edge’ for a full month due to the fact that my partner’s uncle had been tragically murdered at a store in one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.  In one month our base point for emotional stability had reached rock bottom.  We were weary and insecure.  Being out of our comfort zones seemed to be risky and all strangers had become a threat.  Our nervousness had not deteriorated on this particular afternoon.  We had first attempted to visit the Kingston Frost Park in the heart of Brixton.

Now some people might think that milling around Brixton is probably not a good idea with regards to safety.  Others would see Brixton as a town that is being reclaimed by its residents.  The people of Brixton have become vocal in how they want their town to be run, they are attempting to stamp out crime and vandalism and decay.  It was onto this string of hope that I was clinging and had initiated this experience.

Upon arrival at the Kingston Frost Park, we started the hunt for the community-made wall mosaic.  My partner’s nervousness immediately escalated one, because of our preconceived notions surrounding Brixton and two, because of the sheer amount of people that were present.  In an attempt to break the stereotypical barrier, and trying to overcome our own recent experience with the murder of a close family member, I explained to him that there was no need to be on edge, that in fact we were the outsiders and that the members of this community were probably more wary of us than us of them.

It was too much, too soon, and he was not convinced.  I urged him down the well-kept path, past a beautifully maintained succulent patch, and towards the general, relaxed masses.  The point that made me realise that I had to turn back was when two young boys bolted towards us.  In hindsight, they were young mischievous boys who were going to run up behind their friend (who was walking ahead of us) and give her a fright.  The fright, instead, was placed upon us.  I guided my stumbling and rambling partner (who is actually a hulk of a man) back to the car and just drove and drove until we pulled up to the just-over-a-month-old Wits Art Museum.  I was so anxious that my strong man was hurting and clearly had so much to work through with regards to the trauma of his uncle’s death.  I suggested that we just pop into the gallery in an attempt to quiet our souls.

And the Wits Art Museum did just that.

The curators quietly introduced themselves to us and recommended the best route around the gallery.  We quietly ambled, taking in the magnificent works.

Just a short time in the gallery made a world of difference to our dispositions.  It was one of those gifts that helps you get through a trying minute, and as long as you can survive a minute at a time, you’re going to be ok.

No flash photography is allowed in the gallery, but you are allowed to take pictures.  I have a couple of my favorites to share with you.

Some of the works pictured here are from:

Gerhard Marx, Michael MacGarry, David Goldblatt and Jackson Hlungwane.

For more information http://www.wits.ac.za/witsartmuseum/15930/home.html

Visit the Wits Art Museum, it might just be exactly what your busy mind needs.

Art = Ha’pea-ness

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