Archives for posts with tag: Cape Town
With appreciation to Val Ghose for use of the photograph. Original image to view on Wikimedia Commons.

With appreciation to Val Ghose for the image. Original on Wikimedia Commons.

They are tall
and have green eye-lids.
See how they blink 
at the sun.

trees


Being amongst trees makes my soul so happy. There are a number of woods where I live in London and I consider it my commute to work to walk through them when I have time set aside for writing. Below the Cape Town’s world renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, is a piece of land known as the Arboretum. As the name suggests, it is filled with trees. In the periods when I had my own transport and was a working gal in Cape Town, I took up tramping through the incline of the Arboretum as a Sunday ritual. For a long time I have turned to trees for solace.

The trees that really call me out of myself are the tall, old ones. They are such majestic beings.

When my father wasn’t well, one of my aunts sent me a postcard with a two wonderful lines about trees from a poem by an Irish poet. I propped the postcard up on my makeshift nature table/ altar amongst my treasured stones, pinecones and loved leaves. I tracked down the whole poem online and wrote it out. As it goes with such meanders, in the years that have passed and all my moves, I have mislaid the scrap of paper. But I often repeat the two remembered lines, “Those tall truths that tap and trap the sun”.

At this difficult time, I started to carry a call around with me, “May the peace of the tall, wise trees be with you.” Every time I saw a tree, I asked for perspective and wisdom. After all, some trees in our cities and suburbs have seen many more decades than we have. Many people have walked under their branches. They have shaded many incarnations of the road and pavement. Those tall truths have seen storms, sunshine, rain, troubles and peace.

Trees are incredible.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill 
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

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We ate at Träumerei.

Maybe I ordered a quiche

And he had melted cheese.

Forget this not, my heart:

We lunched at Träumerei.

There shining in brightness

on the table –  a glass

of water,

four peppermints and the bill.

2012

It is from this poem that my first volume derives its title. In this prosaic moment, in which two people finish a meal at a restaurant, there is also a numinous communion. The objects and the moment between the diners are frozen in time like a still life, or a memento mori. I find it most intriguing that at least eight years passed from the moment of the meal to the poem’s creation. Because I know you’re wondering, the other diner is my Dad. When I was in my late teens and early twenties he would treat me once a month, near his payday, for lunch in Cape Town’s city centre. In the weeks leading up to meal, he would bring home menus from prospective cafés. Pouring over the meal options and discussing the ambience was almost as important as the day itself.

The moment in this poem is based on a vague memory of a meal we had at an Austrian restaurant, Träumerei, which used to operate on St George’s Mall. (At one time it had a sibling restaurant in Franschhoek, a wine route town renowned for its cuisine.) In my memory it is a bright, sunny Cape Town day and we are sitting on the white painted balcony overlooking the mall, a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare. It’s that moment of repose between the end of the meal, the paying of the bill and continuing with the hustle of the afternoon.

My Dad worked as a humble council clerk for the city council. Seldom did he seem to have money for practicalities like shoe repairs, a new suit or the ‘phone bill. In fact, once he spent the household bill money on tickets for all five of us to see a visiting Russian Cossack dance troupe. My mother was not pleased when they cut off the water. But my Dad had a rich poetic spirit, and he found the pennies for lunchtime dates, Saturday coffees and the regular offerings of a single rose or carnation for my mother.

My Dad passed away on the 5th May 2009 after a battle with colon cancer and it is to his memory I dedicate “Shining in Brightness.”

Shining in Brightness my first volume of poetry presents 20 poems selected from twelve years’ worth of writing and two accompanying, explanatory essays. You can preview and purchase it here (via blurb.co.uk)

I tweet regularly about my current food yens – muesli, coffee and London dining – and occasional attempts at improving my German. I’m on Twitter as @BeadedQuill

The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)

I have a personal Thursday pleasure and it is to choose my PCF picture of the week over a strong black coffee. The ten I have chosen to date are a visual log of the last two months of my London journey. “The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)” is my picture from 19 July 2012.

The public send in comments via an online option called Art Detective and it is my duty to log these comment. As I do so, I click over to the image referenced in the message. Each week I enter a parallel world of a people’s art and social history. The Your Paintings archive has brought together the outer world of the UK’s paintings and the inner worlds of artists, institutions and lived lives, and put them in front of me on a screen.

I came across “The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)” by Peter Snow after logging an email about another of his works, “The Passing World” (1985).  Snow’s image caught my attention because the Public Catalogue Foundation’s offices are in Covent Garden, on Maiden Lane. The kitchenette windows look out onto similar rooftops and the back windows of rented office spaces. On a grey day, a wintery day, I can imagine that this is how these rooftops are shaded in similar dull shades, murky greens and weary browns.

My view from the computer is of arched windows across the road with three neat, potted round-headed topiaries on a sill. The colouring on this side is different, too: white, those green, topiary balls and bricks of a softer, warmer, baked biscuit hue. Heard though unseen, below bustles a street of restaurants and bars; in the morning string-armed delivery men unpack crates of alcohol, at lunch business commences. I think of as green and yellow/ gold as the colours of below. Firstly because the awnings of London’s oldest restaurant, Rules, are themed in these shades and the door to the PCF offices is green. Secondly, because the South African shop is down the street; the combination of ‘green and gold’ calls on an embedded memory of school-lesson patriotism.

“The Gullies” took me back to my high school art history classes in the early 1990s, in Cape Town. In those days Mr Cain still lit up the theory room wall with images from a slide projector. Those slides opened up the worlds for me. When I saw these Covent Garden gullies I remembered Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie – Woogie” (1942-43, oil on canvas, 50- 50 cm, New York, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)). One of Mondrian’s last paintings, it captures his bird’s eye view, we were told, of the hustle-bustle and jazz-fuelled streets of 1940s New York. He was in a great city, but far from home. He looked down on his new urban landscape, as a voyeur of the urban maze.

Gan Gan was my London Granny, she was born in 1917 and raised in the city between the two World Wars. “My Fair Lady” was her favourite musical. In one of my last memories of her more lucid, we are sitting on the edge of my parents’ bed watching it. She was in her 80s; I about 12. This was 17 years before I came to London, when England was still as once upon a time as Eliza Doolittle, Dick Whittington, the bluebells and nostalgia in Gan Gan’s quarterly copies of This England magazine. England was a place of purple, blue, grey and rain. It was “The Cries of London” on decorative plates along her staircase wall. It smelled like Eau de Cologne 4711, tasted like milky tea with honey and Tennis Biscuits. (Coconutty Tennis Biscuits are not quintessentially English, but in Gan Gan’s kitchen at tea time they become so.) London’s song was “Knees up Mother Brown” and the pop of a large biscuit tin opening.

In July I was not so well, but remained hopeful and “The Gullies” maps out a grisly, possibly-paved-with-gold London for me. I love “The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)” for the free-running it gives my imaginary London and my recent real experience. There’s something very rich in it, and it sparks a leaping of parkour proportions in my creative brain. Not unlike the crazy time I have spent in this remarkable city.

2012

My first volume of poetry, SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS is available for preview and purchase at blurb.co.uk

Follow my London adventures, North-South musings and hunt for good biscuits on Twitter. I’m @BeadedQuill

In respect of copyright, I have not reproduced Peter Snow’s lovely images with this piece. If you click on the painting titles above, you will be taken to the Your Painting’s website where these images are archived. “Your Paintings is a website which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.”