Black Magic Woman

Writing helps me to make sense of life; for me it is the breathing space between question and answer. I know that there isn’t always meaning – some things just are, they don’t necessarily happen for a reason. But it seems a pity not to search for it. I read for the same reason, to understand through the words of someone else. I’ve just finished reading Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending and I made a note of one of the passages – nothing earth shattering just a reflection on how the main character spends his time.

The less time there remains in your life, the less you want to waste it. That’s logical, isn’t it? Though how you use the saved-up hours … well, that’s another thing you wouldn’t have predicted in youth. For instance, I spend a lot of time clearing things up – and I’m not even a messy person. But it’s one of the modest satisfactions of age. I aim for tidiness; I recycle; I clean and decorate my flat to keep up its value.

I don’t know why this particular passage stood out, perhaps I identified – I too spend a lot of time tidying up.

Earlier this week, when I was RSVPing to a wedding invite, I was asked to include the name of my favourite song. I scratched my head for a while but I couldn’t for the life of me think of any one particular song that is my favourite. Then out of the blue it came to me, Black Magic Woman, a song from my childhood and with the song came memories of how sometimes the DJ, Ronny Walland, would let us youngsters (we called ourselves the “central dorks”) help carry his equipment into disco venues so that we could get in without paying the entrance fee. Ronny would always play Black Magic Woman and, somehow, it became my song. And it always reminds me of a time when being feisty, frivolous and fearless was perfectly acceptable. I hadn’t thought of the song for ages but there it was, in my mind and it continued to go round and round in there.  A few days later I woke up at 2 am, unable to get back to sleep. I got the fire going, made a pot of tea and settled down to listen to the Rock Professor (Chris Prior) Show and blow me down if he didn’t include Black Magic Woman on his playlist. That’s when I started to write this post.

I remember the Santana version but he played Fleetwood Mac’s earlier version, which was lovely. A little bit further into the podcast he played Santana’s Europa (earth’s cry heaven’s smile) and suddenly it dawned on me that all my music memories of childhood stop at the age of 15, which is when I left Port Elizabeth.

Of course, when you are sitting in front of a fire, drinking tea, listening to the Prof and musing about your childhood in the early hours of the morning, it’s the perfect time to do some online research (our wifi is free between 10pm and 5am). So, I came across an ideas.ted.com article: 4 lessons from the longest-running study on happiness written by researcher and psychiatrist Robert Waldinger. While I was quite pleased to see that middle age was defined as ages 50–65 in the study, the lessons were pretty predictable: a happy childhood has very, very long-lasting effects; learning how to cope well with stress has a lifelong payoff; and time with others protects us from the bruises of life’s ups and downs.

However, what did interest me, other than being able to still call myself middle-aged as opposed to old, was that people with difficult childhoods can make up for them in midlife. The way they do this is by engaging in what psychologists call “generativity” or an interest in establishing and guiding the next generation. And generativity is not dependent on being a parent; it can also be exhibited in situations where people mentor children / young adults.

I’m fortunate to have had a very happy childhood despite my parents being somewhat emotionally undemonstrative and rather remote. There was not a lot of physical affection or even praise but I was cared for, felt safe and was happy in my own little world. Until the age of 15 that is, when I was uprooted from my friends and my stomping ground of Port Elizabeth and moved to Durban. I can trace a lot of my foibles back to that event and now, even my memories associated with music.

This brings me to another study on the issue of happiness. Recently, I listened to a ted talk given by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, founder of behavioural economics and prominent psychologist. Basically he argues that there is confusion between experience and memory, which are fundamentally different – our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. It’s the difference between “being happy IN your life” (experience), and “being happy ABOUT or WITH your life” (memory). He demonstrates this difference with an anecdote of someone who listened to a symphony for 20 minutes, totally immersed in its beauty.  At the end, he heard an awful screech.  The listener angrily said the sound “ruined the whole experience.”  Kahneman points out that it hadn’t; it had only ruined the memory of the experience.  The listener had 20 minutes of beautiful music, but the memory was all he had kept and it was ruined.

This distinction is well worth bearing in mind when (a) making choices to be happier in the future and (b) creating the narrative of our lives. He made me think of all the times I’ve let one negative experience cloud the positive. And my mother who will now not go into her garden, despite all the years of pleasure it has given her, because her chair sank into a molehill and she slid off, unhurt, onto the lawn and couldn’t get up. Fortunately we were there to help her up almost immediately but she has allowed her memory to be dominated by the negative.

The psychologist, Paul Rozin, an expert on disgust, observed that a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

However, according to Kahneman, we do control one variable that can make us happier and that is the allocation of our time. “One way to improve life is simply by tilting the balance toward more affectively good activities,” he said.

Virginia Woolf clearly knew this already; she writes:

Every day includes much more non-being than being. This is always so. One walks, eats, sees things, deals with what has to be done; the broken vacuum cleaner; ordering dinner; washing; cooking dinner. When it is a bad day the proportion of non-being is much larger.

I like that – less time tidying and more time doing pleasurable stuff. Why didn’t I think of that!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growin’ in the Wind (Autumn 2017)

When I moved from subtropical Durban (where I lived for most of my adult life) to the temperate climes of Nottingham Road, I began to experience and appreciate, for the first time, the cyclical nature of seasons. Durban has 2 seasons – summer and winter and the changes from one to the other are not as palpable as they are here. I love the in-between seasons, especially now in mid-autumn as summer has her last hurrah while winter waits in the wings.

Typically autumn in the garden is a time for slowing up. Yes, there is a bit of a rush to get winter veggies in before it’s too late – end of April seems to be the cut-off point for planting the following; cabbage, cauli, broccoli, pak choi, mizuna, tatsoi, parsnips, turnips and onions. And the spring veggies like broad beans, peas and garlic also have to go in and get a head start before the first frost, which is usually at the beginning of May. But other than that it’s a case of getting beds ready for spring by composting and mulching and generally tidying up.

This autumn however, I have the added pressure of a visit to my garden organised by a group called the Midlands Barter Markets. The visit, on the 29th April, has been advertised as a Food Garden visit but I’m guessing that the rest of the garden will be included. So, as you can imagine I’ve been quite a busy little bee trying to get it all presentable. If you are in the area, do come and visit, it’s not exclusively for members of this group and I could do with some moral support!

John, a friend who delivers our firewood, helped Peter collect offcuts from the local timber yard which Kho then made into these wonderful, rather wonky new strawberry beds in the orchard.

Buddy investigates

Our 2 raised beds in the allotment have produced an abundance of mixed lettuce and salad greens, as well as chillies, spinach and basil. This year, our basil, grown from heirloom seeds, has been fantastic. We have a plentiful supply of homemade basil pesto, basil infused olive oil (with added homegrown chilli and garlic) as well as frozen cubes of basil. And it is still going strong. The chillies, which Peter propagated from seed, have also done exceptionally well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this giant kale just keeps on going

purple sprouting broccoli is delicious raw in salads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the granadilla vine is dripping with fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

the leonotis leonurus is starting to flower, a sure sign of autumn

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

If I Ruled the World

There are certain times in our lives when we reach a crossroads, more often than not precipitated by having to deal with hard reality. And there’s nothing quite like the hard reality of death to cause the ground beneath our feet to tilt and for us stumble head first into the BIG issues. 15 years ago I faced my own mortality when I developed peritonitis after an operation. That same year I had a front row seat at my father’s death and the 20 year old son of a close family friend died. I wrote about this in Windmills of your Mind  so suffice to say that it was a life-changing experience. Facing death tends to focus one’s attention on issues like the meaning of life and one’s purpose in the grand scheme of thing. I had, over the years, developed an ability to block out the negative – a keep calm and carry on sort of approach. But the deaths of loved ones and becoming aware of my own mortality made me realise that I wanted to live a more meaningful life, to be more engaged and not simply go through the motions.

Not long after our family’s annus horribilis, I attended a course based on the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book opened my eyes to the possibility of living a more creative life. Prior to this I often felt that I was doing and being what I thought I should because I didn’t have the confidence to express what I wanted. There have been other books and authors who have helped along the way but Julia Cameron got the ball rolling and helped me to start putting into motion a plan that would eventually lead me here, doing what I love and feeling fairly fulfilled (not fully fulfilled because I still procrastinate terribly, drink too much and blob out in front of the telly!).

The course was run by a lovely woman, Iona, who also did readings based on the idea of colour mirrors – The system of “Colour Mirrors uses potent and powerful coloured oils and essences to help you understand your life, your patterns of behaviour and your relationships. Colour can bring clarity into every aspect of your life: relationships, jobs, careers, healing, health issues, energy blocks, gifts and potential, spiritual connection and personal growth”. I went for a session with her (because I thought I should!) but I was sceptical about the process and dismissed it as all too new agey for me. Recently however, when I was moving personal stuff into my sanctuary, I came across a copy of Iona’s notes (and yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’ve hung onto it, despite my cynicism). Among other observations, she writes that I have a strong feeling for the community and that this is my life purpose. She also comments that I had to learn to trust myself which I now, with hindsight, see as quite pertinent.

Let me take a step back here – I got married when I was 20 years old to Peter, who was 10 years my senior. He had the most intriguing way of seeing the world and introduced me to wonderful, exciting and tough life experiences. I had always known that I wanted to live a different life, I just wasn’t able to articulate what that meant other than in terms of what I didn’t want, which a life of domesticity and convention. Peter offered a different life but it was his life that I stepped into and I’ve always believed that, because I was so young, I never quite developed fully as an individual with my own ideas. I’m just grateful that Peter was such a generous and enlightened mentor.

When I moved to the farm 7 years ago I was ready to start living on my terms, I just had to find them. I stepped out of my comfort zone and basically started to trust myself. I admit it all became a little “me, me, me” but that was what I needed to become my own person. It was a few years before I got involved with the Curry’s Post Educational Trust and, at first, I again questioned whether this was something that I wanted to do or something that I thought I ought to do. Was it white guilt; did I feel an obligation to give back because of my privilege? I was reluctant to commit to something unless it was what I really wanted to do. As callous as it may sound, I don’t want to do good just because I think I should.

What I’ve come to realise though is that I get a similar sort of satisfaction from being involved in community work as I did from being a mother. As the media master of self help, Dr Phil, once said, “No one does anything unless they get something out of it” or words to that effect. Although I don’t enjoy the fundraising side of my work for the Trust (meeting deadlines, writing proposals and reports and keeping records – ugh, I hate admin), it is hugely satisfying when a budget is approved. But what I find most fulfilling is helping others grow and writing this post has been an eye-opener for me because it’s dawned on me that I’ve come full circle. Instead of heading off in other directions in my quest to be my own person, I’ve come back to my roots as it were and I realise that I’ve always followed my interests, I just wasn’t paying attention.

I started my working life as a pre-primary school teacher, became a volunteer teacher at a rural primary school in Zululand, worked for a non-profit educational organisation as a resource centre co-ordinator, was principal of an educare centre, and developed training outreach programmes for teachers and community-based organisations. I wrote about this in  Gimme Hope Joanna. Education and community outreach have always been important to me.

With all that said, I’ve finally come to the point of this post! I’m going to create a regular post called If I Ruled The World for stories about the Trust, the school, the outreach programme and anything else related to education and community development. Sometimes you just have to put stuff out there in the hope that it does actually make a difference. Thanks for reading.

If I ruled the world
Every day would be the first day of spring
Every heart would have a new song to sing
And we’d sing of the joy every morning would bring

If I ruled the world
Every man would be as free as a bird
Every voice would be a voice to be heard
Take my word we would treasure each day that occurred

My world would be a beautiful place
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams
My world would wear a smile on its face
Like the man in the moon has when the moon beams

If I ruled the world
Every man would say the world was his friend
There’d be happiness that no man could end
No my friend, not if I ruled the world
Every head would be held up high
There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Game of Love

I’ve been plagued by a bout of writer’s block and have decided to do a catch-up in the hope that it gets my creative juices flowing again – this really is “a little bit of this, a little bit of that”. Since my last post in February, autumn has nudged summer out of the door and has begun moving in, boots and all. It feels like summer really just swung by the Midlands, tantalizing us with the odd glimpse of sunshine here and there before buggering off to the north. I’ll have the last laugh though because I’m going to America in June and hopefully I’ll meet up with summer there, properly.

As autumn ushers in chilly mornings and evenings and glorious Van Gogh skies, the light begins to change. Everything looks sharper, clearer and more vivid. There is also an added sense of urgency – get those winter beds ready NOW is my constant refrain. I have to admit my summer harvest was not terribly impressive. Tomatoes, cucumbers and squash all got mould, shrivelled up and died – I think it was too much mist and drizzle and not enough sun. However we have had a plentiful supply of salad greens, lovely Italian basil, Swiss chard, green beans and beetroot. And our potato crop has been the best yet.

I’m rather partial to a dish that combines both green beans and potatoes, a match made in heaven. This recipe was torn out of a 1995 Fair Lady magazine with the caption A South African in Florida. Maybe you should give it a try Alex!

Farm-style Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 rashers streaky bacon (it says rindless but I haven’t seen bacon with the rind on for yonks)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 500 g green beans, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • Chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Simmer bacon in water with garlic, chilli, onion and potatoes for 10 minutes. Add beans and cook for about 12 minutes, until beans are just tender. Add butter, parsley, salt and pepper and lightly break up the potato with a fork so that it binds the mixture. QED.

In April last year, out of the blue I developed a gammy shoulder. At first it hurt like hell, especially if I inadvertently jerked my arm, and then it just became frozen. I decided to leave it to heal itself and it has – a year later my frozen shoulder has defrosted. Of course I’m delighted, having a frozen shoulder is very inconvenient and I’m now able to accomplish tasks that I had to do one-handed before, like undoing my bra strap and washing my hair. It has also allowed me to resume my morning yoga routine, which is great as I’m trying to get into shape for my forthcoming trip.

I have also taken up meditating again, after a long break. When you start, 20 minutes meditating seems like an eternity in contrast to how quickly the same time flies when you’re trying to get ready to face the day. I always seem to run out of time in the morning, even if I wake up at sparrow’s fart.

I can’t wait to see the kids. I’ll be staying with Kiera and James in their lovely new house in Maryland and plan to take a trip down to Miami to see Alex in his fancy-schmancy apartment, Mint in Brickell.

At the beginning of this year, I volunteered to help organise the library at the school instead of teaching preschoolers. Some time ago, another trustee raised funds to establish a library; books were donated and book shelves were put up in a disused classroom. Unfortunately though, no-one had the time to make it happen. So Thandi and I have been spending one afternoon a week sorting through books, arranging them on shelves and cataloguing them. I haven’t fathomed out a procedure for loaning them out yet so if anyone has any bright ideas, they will be most gratefully received. I plan to open the library one day a week to the Curry’s Post Primary School learners, as well as local high school kids and adults in the afternoon. I hope to train some of the older kids to become library monitors so that they can run it when I’m not there (I’ve learnt that it’s no use asking teachers to take on additional duties).

The Trust has agreed to install a couple of computers with internet access for members of the community to use as a mini Community Business Centre as well as for learners to do internet searches. I want to create a friendly atmosphere and have included jigsaw puzzles, Lego and other games. In time I would love to see the library functioning as a Community Resource Centre, hosting a range of workshops for learners and adults, such as music, art, permaculture, cooking etc.

And now:

We also ran our second successful science and maths workshop at the beginning of this month. 13 schools in our circuit (Lions River) attended as well as 5 schools from Mpofana circuit which we unfortunately cannot include in our immediate plans to loan out science and maths kits. They enjoyed the workshop nonetheless and were inspired to try and raise their own funds to buy apparatus. It breaks my heart really to think of all the kids missing out on these learning experiences. Just before the workshop, the N3 Toll Concession informed me that they had approved funding for the mobile kits so there was great excitement all round.

getting to grips with chemistry sets

So, what with my garden, a little bit of bridge now and then, the library and the science & maths project I’m going to be kept well occupied. Ah yes, this is exactly what I thought retiring in the country would be like!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Simple Life 5

Picking up where I left off in December, I have recently discovered the simple pleasure of having a me space.

Since Kiera and Alex had already left home when we moved to the farm, their bedrooms here never really had the chance to fully become theirs. Unlike their bedrooms in our Durban family home which were very much geared to their individual tastes. Because they only visit here, there is no longer a need for them to have a bedroom of their own. Kiera’s beautiful cobalt blue bedroom under the thatch roof upstairs was the first to undergo a name change when it became the guest room. Alex’s room, downstairs, took longer to transform as he would visit us more frequently but since he left for America, I decided the time had come to make better use of his room.

I have spent the past couple of weeks reorganising it and turning it into a sanctuary for me; a place where I can retreat, close the door and be undisturbed. It’s a small room but I’ve managed to squeeze in a rather large bookcase and all my paraphernalia, gathered from the four corners of the house. It has taken on a sort of nest or pod–like feel as I’m literally surrounded by all my favourite things. This is where I go to write, read, edit photos, listen to music, daydream, plan (on my trusty flip chart) and meditate – cocooned in books and pictures. And for some reason, just having this space has inspired me to declutter, be better organised and more focussed on things that I enjoy doing – wish I had done this sooner.

I haven’t posted pictures of my garden for a while, so here goes.

moss-collage

We’ve had masses of rain recently and the garden is so lush and green and mossy.

green-garden

afternoon light in our sitting room

afternoon light in our sitting room

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Synchronicity

In December last year I wrote a post (Happy Together) about the online permaculture course that I had just completed. At the end of the course we were challenged to take what we had learned, do something with it and post it on the course’s Facebook page. I decided to focus on the permaculture principle “Integrate rather than Segregate” and I shared my response to the challenge (which was about volunteering at a local farm school) on my blog. What I didn’t mention in my post was that the challenge was called the 10/10/100 Challenge; the reason being that  “Participants [were] challenged to bring their course experience into the world with something of value within 10 days of the course, 10 hours of work and no more than $100 of the participants currency (or relative value)”.

After reading my blog a very generous person, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted me out of the blue to say that he wished to donate R10,000 to the Educational Trust that I sit on to “bring some happiness” to the children of the Curry’s Post Primary School.  I was quite overwhelmed by this act of kindness and it took several days for it to sink in – that someone would respond in such a positive way to my blog was mind-blowing and hugely gratifying.

It took a while for the dust to settle before I saw the “meaningful coincidence” between the amount donated and the title of the challenge, namely that 10 x 10 x 100 = 10,000. Now, how’s that for synchronicity? Carl Jung first explained synchronicity as events that are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related. Jung related these meaningful coincidences to the “collective unconscious”.  I’ve always liked the idea that we’re more connected to each other than we think.

At a Trust meeting earlier this week, I was given full discretion in deciding how to spend the money and after much consideration I’ve decided to use it to help start a school marimba band! I reckon that should bring a lot of happiness, not only to the children of Curry’s Post but also the community and I hope our anonymous benefactor (who I know has a love of music) will approve. Siyabonga kakhulu.

P.S. I know nothing about marimba bands and any advice on the matter would be gratefully received.

let's get this party started - impromptu performance at end of year school party

let’s get this party started – impromptu performance at the end-of-year school party

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

L’Enfant

I prefer to steer clear of confrontation. When Peter and I were younger, our social circle included academics, activists, unionists and ngo workers and there were many times when heated political debates raged around our dining room table. I used to find it quite disconcerting how intense people could become defending one position or another and since I seldom got a word in edgeways in those days (I am an introvert after all!), more often than not I would retreat into the kitchen to feed the firebrands so that, for a short time while mouths were full of food, peace could be be restored.

And now we have Trump. His regime has certainly brought out some very strong opinions and insults are flying left, right and centre (so to speak). I find it quite disturbing that someone in a democratic leadership position in this day and age should be so antagonistic and divisive. It seems to bring us all into such a negative, hateful space. My last post, Imagine, was written from a place of extreme grumpiness in reaction to stuff I was reading about Trump on Facebook. After I wrote it, I thought of when I was a child and my mother would tell me to ignore my brother when he was teasing me. “Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that he’s getting to you,” she would advise. Perhaps this is a better way to deal with armchair, social media pontificators.

Since moving to the country I’ve also learned that:

It’s possible to entertain contradictory ideas – to see what it feels like to inhabit them. When different ideas seem incompatible, don’t rush to reconcile them or choose between them if the choice isn’t obvious. Be hospitable to them as you would to different guests at a party.

Barbara Ann Kipfer

However, I do find it difficult not to bridle at the extreme conservatism of Trump and his supporters. I also believe that:

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Protest by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850–October 30, 1919), from her 1914 book Poems of Problems written at the peak of the Women’s Suffrage movement and just as WWI was about to erupt. Hear Amanda Palmer read the poem here

I am so proud, and envious, of my daughter and her husband for joining in the Women’s March in Washington, DC. I would love to have been there, to experience the coming together of so many people, united despite their diversity. I think it exceeded even their wildest dreams – more than 500,000 people in DC, more than 3 million people worldwide.

This, to me, is what democracy is all about – the right to protest, to make one’s voice heard. It is such a fundamental right that I can’t understand why some of us who have it, disparage it.

I remember protesting against the apartheid regime when I was a student at the University of Natal, lead by Fr Michael Lapsley (the university chaplain) before he was expelled from the country. He later became a member of the ANC and a chaplain to the organisation in exile. In 1990, three months after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, he was sent a letter bomb by the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB), a covert death squad of the apartheid security forces. He lost both hands and the sight in one eye in the blast, and was seriously burnt. (The CCB was also responsible for the assassination in 1989 of David Webster, a colleague of Peter’s and a friend.) While protesters remained on the campus we were safe but anyone who marched beyond the gates was arrested and held in detention without trial.

That was the late 70’s. In 1985 the first State of Emergency was imposed in South Africa, the year that Kiera was born. By then Peter had left academia to establish a rural development non government organisation (ngo) based on the University of Natal campus and I was working for the Career Information Centre, an ngo based in the Ecumenical Centre alongside anti-apartheid organisations such as Diakonia, Black Sash, Legal Resource Centre and End Conscription Campaign. The day that the State of Emergency was declared casspirs actually rolled down St Andrews Street, parked in front of the Ecumenical Centre and the army took over the building. It was quite scary at the time – a lot of activists were rounded up and taken away. Eventually we were allowed back in and work resumed.

When Kiera was 3 years old, I left CIC to run the Educare and Training Centre at Natal University. By then things were really hotting up politically, with KwaZulu-Natal being a particularly violent province as ANC and Inkhatha Freedom Party supporters frequently clashed with each other. I remember one incident when I really feared for my life. The second State of Emergency had been imposed and I had been asked to take a foreign TV news crew to visit Groutville, a township just north of Durban and the home of Albert Luthuli. We got there fairly late in the afternoon and already I was twitchy because apart from there being a State of Emergency curfew, it really was not safe to be out after dark as Groutville had been the scene of some very bloody clashes. At the time we were working with the Groutville Development Committee to establish and support educare centre / crèches in the area and I had been asked to introduce the news team to community leaders so that they could be interviewed. It took ages for the interviews to take place, the cameras were rolling as the sun was setting and all I could see in the distance, through the haze of smoke as evening fires were being lit, were the casspirs moving in. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Finally I managed to persuade the news crew that it really was not safe for us to be there and we got out in, what I felt, was the nick of time. That evening, after a few drinks around our dining room table with the crew and adrenalin pumping, I decided that the life of a foreign correspondent in conflict areas was for me. I never did, of course, follow that path but The Year of Living Dangerously became my favourite movie for a long time after.

By the late 80’s and early 90’s the country had reached boiling point.

One afternoon, the police gave chase to a group of UN students who had gone on a march in protest against the State of Emergency. Despite being on university property, the police open fire with teargas. In panic the students scattered in all directions, some of them in the direction of the Educare Centre. No problem to the police, they simply fired teargas into the playground. Fortunately, we had been warned that the police were chasing the students towards us and we were busy shepherding all the children indoors when this happened. It was pandemonium and very frightening for all concerned.

But one didn’t give up; no matter how bad things were, the activists kept going, civil society kept mobilising and, in the end, the apartheid regime was brought down. Protest is not an end in itself, it is the catalyst for change – I’m keeping fingers crossed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments