Saturday, October 11, 2008

prayer for the ones we love

One morning this week, an elderly neighbour was murdered on his farm in, to use the now commonplace South African phrase, "a hail of bullets".

The killers fled across country and, I believe, set a fire in the veld on one of the only windless days we've had for weeks. A column of dense black smoke like that from burning tyres or petrol rose as I drove to town that morning. I recall thinking how totally unwarranted this seemed since nothing remains in our winter weary veld to burn so ugly and black. Farmers raced from all sides to fight what became huge fire across acres of precious grazing, effectively reducing the manhunt.

With visibility down to nothing, a head-on collision on the only access road to the farms on that route killed two people and caused a three hour delay that backed up trucks and traffic from the Bethlehem intersection all the way to the Sterkfontein turn off.

My father was stuck on one side of the back-up trying to get around the mountain to help fight the fire, I on the other trying to get back to the farm so my mother would not be alone. What came to me was a fierce pride in the men who came from every direction bringing their fire teams and bakkies and water pumps. Actual, real men who work hard and stand their ground and yes, wear khaki and have sun burnt arms and no smooth moves. I'd rather have a real man like this at my shoulder any day than one who can glide and tiptoe his way around a slippery stock exchange floor.

Eventually, a figure in a fireproof suit, welding gloves and goggles, waved me through the metal of car wreckage.

By the end of that day, after the smoke and the blood and the screaming, the fire was stopped, the dead were carried off. Somewhere, the people who love them felt around the ragged holes of lives most terribly altered. Familiar stars crept out above the now quiet mountain. I called my cats home a little earlier than usual.

And because this is Africa, and because we are farmers, and because none of this is new, we somehow absorb it. So when dawn comes, we throw up a prayer for the ones we love and rise and let the dogs in and put the kettle on for tea and go to the veranda and scan the sky and go forward into another day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

fire and rain

Wind and fire and yet no rain ... the best part of my life I've been around farmers whose eyes search for rain unconsciously, even when they're occupied elsewhere and even in their sleep, their inner man hunts the sky and listens for changes in the wind.

We've had weeks of demon wind howling through towering dust devils and firestorms laid by arson. Everywhere is loss and blood chilling horror that fire wreaks on animal and plant life in the platteland, and that we forget so blithely when hiding in cities.

This could be hell.

Of a morning I find myself on my stoep with tea, eyes doing that farmer's skysearch, all senses prickling. Come, rain.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

people get ready

So much has happened in the last few weeks.

The Polar Bear swim was a great success in spite of the local rag basically ignoring it. Actually, I think the editor does a grand job given her ... well anyone with such an unfortunate ... well, anyway. People swam in the murky town pool and lived to tell the tale; ate curry and drank beers; bought jumble and showed up. Those who supported it were all lovely and will be thanked in heaven. The SPCA lives to breathe another day. Just.

My brother - fierce as a wolf; ineffable as a shooting star - was pronounced an Ozstraylyn Citzyn. He did it in just two years (takes longer if you live in a nice place like Sydney. Cleverer than they look, those Oztraylyns). But what years. This is a man who walked off the plane and started work and didn’t stop till he did what he went there to do. Hard yards in the worst of outbacky places, surrounded by the ugliest, stoopidest, reddest rednecks ever to swagger God’s green earth (I saw them and it's all true). Hope Oztraylya appreciates what they get when the crème de la crème of South Africa’s bloodstock goes to live in their big red flat country.

A local boy fell and died on a ledge below Thukela falls in the berg. I’ve been there on a day when the mist was too thick to see my feet. He fell on a fresh clear morning with views forever. Some things cannot be understood.

Caspioni (Princeling has mysteriously acquired an Italian accent) has a friend. Lulu. Soft grey with wild cat markings. After a week she’s learning to purr and to luxuriate and be cuddled after terrible months in the cold clutches of a cage at the SPCA.

Saw three Mountain Reed Buck silhouetted like a bronze at the top of Oliviershoek. The baboon tribe reappeared on the road after being gone for ages. Sixteen Guinea Fowl came to the lawn fresh out of winter hiding. I know Winter is vanquished because this week the Dairy Farmer again began his evening ritual of clanking the lid of the old aluminium milk can on the veranda where he keeps crushed mielies for the birds. This only happens in Spring and Summer and Autumn.

And tomorrow is a total solar eclipse. The notion is riveting. I smell change.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

just swim really really fast

Being very brave about winter but still find myself counting the weeks in my head when stripping off at bath time. Speaking of stripping and water ... our SPCA is on the verge of collapse for lack of funds.

The solution: the annual Polar Bear Swim on July 26th!

How obvious.

Having volunteered to rouse public interest, discovered that people flee like roaches at the mention. Can’t help thinking something more inviting (a hot toddy drinking competition?) would elicit more excitement.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I promise this is not going to become one of those blogs people have about their ugly, stupid pets. Just wanted you to see how much Prince Caspioni has grown. But not that easy to take photos of a kitten when it's eyes are open, apparently.

So this is him with his two best friends, Footone and Footwo. Where they go, he goes. He likes to make holes in them. Making holes in everything with his mighty clawpower is Caspioni's new fave thang. Princeling, Footone and Footwo playfight and race each other round the house skidding on rugs and afterwards they sleep tangled together at the bottom of the bed under the downy feathers of ducks like the ones Caspioni dreams of one day making holes in. That sleeping-in-a-box thing when he was a baby? SO over.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

hyena laughter

Came across the most hilarious blog.

Loved the couples therapy post and her Other Writing I Have Written stuff.

Can't tell you about it - you'll either scream with mad laughter or you'll think it's ditsy girlie kakalaka.

I love it. Laughed like a hyena til my stomach ached.

Go here :

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the it of itness

Massive frost in the night turned into the most glorious morning and became a day so beautiful - still, cloudless, blue, sunny ... the Free State winters I remember and dreamed about when I lived in NastyTown.

In blue pyjamas I sat on my front step, a block of sandstone. I looked at the mountain and she looked back. I put my nose into the steam of morning tea.

This is it, the very It of Itness.