Grief is Sneaky

As many of you will know from my previous post, I am packing up The Cave after living there for almost ten years to move back to my folks because Dad is ill, although coping very well – something for which we’re all very grateful.

In the clean-up, I came across a postcard that Charlie sent me for my birthday one year, while he was sailing in Alaska. It read “Hello there, from the other side of the planet. Happy birthday. I hope you get a jam-filled cake.”  I read it, smiled, reminisced for a moment, and then placed it in a bag with other papers for recycling. After all, it’d been years since our paths split. He got married last year on October 8th Shannon, the blonde American who swept him off his feet in just three days of meeting him. He felt bad, but ‘the heart wants what the heart wants’. When I happened upon the wedding photos on her Insta (it wasn’t difficult to track her down), I finally summoned the will to delete our entire chat history of almost two years, along with his number. I felt an inexplicable numbness, a tiny tinge of horror, and a pinch of relief. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the feelings I was having, weren’t ‘it’.

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Inspiration to Travel Down Memory Lane

Last night I was reading The Brain Bleacher, the final short story in the second Sticky Fingers anthology by JT Lawrence, with whom I was at school with for a short time before moving to Mossel Bay.

I was chatting with Charlie after I’d finished the book, and said to him that one day I will write like that – as in short stories, because while I know I have a writing gift, I do not possess the mad skills to weave a tale in a limited amount of words that grabs you from the word go.  JTL just has it.

One quote in the story above really resonated with me: “While a memory is a mental snapshot of a moment, it carries with it layers of emotion and texture and scent.


It reminded me of quite a few mental snapshots and something my colleague, Carla and I discussed when we spent a girls’ night away at a local lodge about three years ago one November weekend.  She said when she looks back in time,  she doesn’t necessary remember the things that were around her at a time, but she does remember the smell of the air, or the warmth of the sun on her skin, or the song in the breeze; most importantly she remembers how she felt in that moment. Thinking about that outing, I remember being stretched out on a long wooden deck chair, with a book listening to the trickle of the stream nearby.  While I don’t remember the title of the book, I remember the feel of the parchment between my fingers and the smell of the ink.  I remember feeling completely content, even if only for a few fleeting moments.

Another memory that popped into my mind was our visits to Mossel Bay when I was a child.  The Bean and I would catch the train from Johannesburg and travel to visit my matriarchal grandparents and all the aunts, uncles and cousins.  The one olfactory memory I have of these journeys is pulling into the station and smelling the oceanic saltiness in the air – a world removed from the Johannesburg smog that enveloped us during our time in that concrete jungle.  I remember loving the feel of the sea sand between my toes and being bribed out of the freezing cold water with what was probably an even colder ice-cream cone.

I recalled other memories too – and with focus on the emotions, texture and scent, I was transported back to those moments in time, and it felt as if I was there again.

In one, I felt the gooseflesh rise at the receipt of a gentle touch in a tender moment, even though my heart was racing with uncertainty and angst and flaming desire at the same time.

In another, I felt the dread and horrific realization induced by the smell of burnt chicken (I won’t live it down either, I promise!)

In another I was warmed by the soft heat of a gas heater with the fairy-tale lights of a Cape Town Waterfront Christmas display to illuminate my friend, Andrew’s face as we caught up five years’ worth of news over a chocolate-berry-spiced red wine and lekker South African fare.  I also remember the indigestion that followed shortly after seeing the bill.

In another I remember sitting against the trunk of a tree, after a particularly trying parkrun.  My hair was plastered to my forehead with glue-au-de-perspiration and my breathing was laboured, so much so I’m sure I could have given The Big Bad Wolf a run for his money (bacon, anyone?). A woman approached me asking about Herbalife (yes, I was branded for the walk – not my finest advertising moment) and we got chatting.  Eighteen months later, that woman, Harriet, is one of my closest friends.  I haven’t been able to do our routed parkrun since though because of my bum knee.

I could reminisce like this for hours, and I think each day I shall get in my time machine and take myself back to at least one happy (or funny) memory – where I can relieve the sensation, feel the grain, and inhale the fragrance of times gone by.  And sure, sometimes it’s necessary to revisit the sad and bad memories, to remind oneself how far you’ve come, but for the most part, I want to simply revisit the happy times, filled with laughter, hope, friendship, family and most importantly the love that surrounds all those things.

So, here’s to joyous recollections, all inspired by a single line, from an incredible book.

Cheers to you JTL!  I aspire to be an author like you.  You are a creative genius and an absolute legend.

A Tribute to my Best Friend, on her Birthday

I have got to write something every day – it is the only way to keep the writing muscles fit.  So today, I asked two colleagues to each give me a random word that popped into their heads.  The first word was “happiness” and the other, more cryptic this time, “labels”.  I haven’t got that much imaginative oomph to write about labels, so happiness it is…

I’ve knownElizabethfor over 11 years already. 

You Want Me to What?

It feels like just yesterday that I was at a friend’s twenty-first when Elizabeth, dressed in a Victorian Wedding Gown (it was a fancy dress party) dragged me out of the arms of a gorgeous man to help her do up her bra, which she was sure had come undone.  At the time I only knew her from seeing her at her place of work.  Oh, and the bra – it wasn’t undone.  Little did I know that it would be this little incident that would lead to a wonderful friendship.  It was an evening of happiness and celebration, and throughout our friendship, these two key elements continue to be our foundation.

As I sit here at my desk typing this, I am smiling and laughing to myself as I remember many happy times I’ve shared with her.

Have More Wine

I fondly remember a Sunday morning when both she and I were without parents for the weekend.  I don’t remember what exactly I did the Saturday evening, but do remember the phone ringing at Sparrow’s Fart the Sunday morning with Elizabeth barking out the instruction, “Get dressed and come to my house,” into my very hung-over head.  Knowing that arguing would be futile, I simply complied – cursing the bastard that had been in the bottles the night before…probably good ol’ José ‘n Jack.

When I finally arrived, hair still damp en a marching band playing some really crap tune in my head, I heard the music coming from inside the house.  Oh Brother, I thought, it is going to be a seriously long day. I rang the doorbell and Elizabeth opened the door.  She didn’t unlock the safety gate; she handed me a glass of liqueur.  I was to drink it immediately, otherwise I wasn’t going to be allowed to go inside.  Oh well, I’m already hung-over, what harm can it do?  The gate was opened and into the Lion’s Den I went.  Or maybe Leopard’s Den would be more apt, considering that Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, was playing so loudly, the walls were almost shaking.  “Here, have some wine,” she said handing me a glass of Cab Sav, as she danced at the sink, while washing the dishes.  I couldn’t help wonder, W.T.F?! because she is always the voice of reason…the composed one…the adult – after all, she is seven years older than I am.  I remember Def Leppard’s Vault album playing the entire day and us drinking lots of wine.  Every time we said something that effectively we shouldn’t, like my telling her about Paul (see my entry dated 2010/05/17, titled Have You Ever Been in Love) , she would simply say, “have more wine.”  It has become a standing joke amongst us when life deals us crap to simply have more wine.

Pink Elephants


Pink Elephants are things that we know we shouldn’t have done, but we did anyway – and enjoyed them too! 

A group of about 6 of us went out one night for drinks at a local beach-side café.  One of Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend’s mates, Stuart, was here for a couple of days so he joined us.  Now, before I go any further, you need to know that Elizabeth has certain rules about romance – you don’t date your brother’s friends, your friends don’t date your brother and you don’t date your ex-boyfriends’ friends. 

We had a great evening, laughing, chatting and just enjoying the sea air, the company, and the drinks.  It was a happy time.  Or was it happy hour?  I can’t remember…

Anyway, when the time eventually came for us to leave, Stuart was adamant that he would take Elizabeth home.  Not really knowing him at all, and worrying aboutElizabeth, I was a real stick in the mud stating, “she came with me, she goes home with me,” and I went and sat in the car.  I waited and waited and as I looked up, there they were, snogging each other’s socks off.  She got in the car, smiling like a Cheshire Cat on seriously giggle twig.  Stunned, I asked, “What.  The.  Hell.  Was that?”  Her simple reply, “Pink Elephants.”

Realizing from my very puzzled expression that I had no clue what she was talking about she explained, “Pink Elephants are things that we know we shouldn’t have done, but we did anyway – and enjoyed them too!”

As I drove to drop her off at home, she became silent, suddenly wracked with guilt that she had kissed her ex-boyfriend’s friend.  I couldn’t help but laugh – after all, life happens.

And quite honestly, if one wishes to get technical and split hairs, she didn’t break her last rule.  She kissed him…she never dated him.

Sunday Spelunking


About an hour’s drive from the town we live in, there are hiking trails out by the old gold mines.  Elizabeth, Liza and I set off early in the morning on an expedition that would leave us all with fond memories, smiles, and sunburn.  We travelled on an old forestry road, stopping often to take photos and enjoy the wonder of God’s creation.  Halfway to our destination,Elizabeth piped up that she was thirsty, so we pulled in at a local pub (shit, we sound like a bunch of alcoholics!) where a very cute barman tended to our needs.  It wasn’t even close to 11 in the morning, yet I was drinking Jack neat on the rocks.  I noticed a small pool at the pub too.  We hit the road and had great fun at the gold mines.  Liza made me a CD for my birthday with a number of photographs on it – some of this day’s photos are on it too.

On our way back home, in a car with no aircon and outside temperatures of over 30 degrees Celcius, I thought it a good idea to stop at the same pub where we’d been during the morning.  What I wanted to say was, “Then I will ask the guy if I can use his pool.”  What came out was, “Then I will ask the guy if I can use his piel.”  For those of you who don’t understand Afrikaans, piel is one of the many terms for penis.  To this day, I still haven’t lived that little faux pas down.

I’m Not Rentable!


Elizabeth, Rachel, Liza and I headed off for a girl’s weekend to the quaint little town of Montagu.  It was just about a month after my ex-boyfriend broke up with me, on Facebook!  I organized us accommodation at a group of cottages on the outskirts of town. 

We just unpacked the car and headed off to town to go and get some supplies for the weekend.  As we got out of the car a group of locals, obviously not used to seeing four, young women at the same place, at the same time, stared at us like we had landed from Mars.  Rachel said, “Ons is seker die enige hubare meisies in die dorp.”  Now again, “We are probably the only eligible girls in town,” is what she said.  What I heard was “huurbare meisies” which means “rentable girls.”  I replied, quite upset, “Your arse man, I’m not rentable!”

I thought Elizabeth was going to collapse the way she was laughing.

When we got back to the cottage, Rachel made a fire – thank goodness, because my survival skills are equal to nought and we played board games and enjoyed one another’s company.  When it came time to turn in, Liza wanted to shower first and through the door we heard her cursing that there was no hot water…she never lit the pilot light on the gas geyser, silly girl!  It was worth a good laugh when she exited the bathroom with her lips slightly blue and her teeth chattering.

The following morning we took a tractor drive up the mountain.  Now, to appreciate this, you all need to understand that Elizabeth does not handle heights well.  A bar stool is to high for her…but being the super friends we are, we let her sit on the edge of the carriage, she got a great view of the ground below.  Needless to say, we weren’t very popular, but it was worth a laugh – it was a bitterly cold, damp day, but something I think all four of us will remember. 

 So Elizabeth, it’s been 11 years of friendship…here’s to the next 11, which start today, on your 39th birthday.  You are a great, true, loyal and loving friend.  A true gift from God, and while we have no blood ties, you are a Sister of my Heart.  Happy, happy birthday! 





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