Category: A Writer’s Half Life

Sunday constitutional

I was taking my Sunday constitutional, last weekend, at the Emmarentia Dam, just down the road from where we used to live, and on my way in to the Botanical Gardens, just over the dam wall where there is a little harbour and model lighthouse, I saw yachts – a dozen or two model yachts, racing each other in the autumn sunlight, while their owners/sailors watched from the shoreline, completely rapt and intent, and content to allow me to clamber around taking photographs. Here are five images, taken hand-held with the little Leica, which I hope do something to capture […]

Pomes, unfamous ‘cos unknown

Then there are the poems – pomes, John Lennon called them – which are unfamous by definition, since they never were published, or submitted for publication. This is a conceit, of course – these poems like their published cousins would doubtless be languishing in the same dry obscurity even if they had been published. Still, it’s a nice point to make – you know, I coulda been champion of the world! Here’s one of them. The Journey Some journeys are a metaphor, and this Just past, continues in my mind. It’s true, we’ve travelled down this way before, But love […]

Unfamous Poem

Woodsmoke. Embers. Whisky. Cigar. Good jazz playing, on a really nice system – Class A Marantz amp, Arcam CD player, B&W speakers, fat cables. Don’t get me started. But the sound is warm, detailed, alive – every lick of the snares, grunt of the sax, deep and present, three-dimensional. Not loud, just there. As here as I am. You stare into the fire – the oldest mystery – and see yourself there, in its flickering dance, dissolving. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. What do you do, when your wife is in Chicago, far away in lunatic Trumpistan, visiting her kissing […]

Three poems from Staffrider

I was going through a box of old diaries and papers last night (there are things in there that will go with me to my grave!) and came across a few copies of New Coin, Sesame, Staffrider – small South African literary magazines from the 80s and 90s. I knew there were a few old poems of mine in there somewhere, one that I remembered in outline, and others I had more or less forgotten about (though I doubt you ever forget these things, these words you have struggled over, completely). Here are three that I published in Staffrider, in 1989 […]

Contemplating Havana’s Malecon…

The Vedado end of the eight-or-so kilometre Malecon in Havana has a very different feel to it, from the more grandly built-up and fortified stretch toward the harbour mouth. Crumbling apartment buildings face across the dual carriageway, and the sea that crashes coldly into the rocks seems a metaphor for isolation and banishment. People sit on the battered sea-wall, or stare in vain at the horizon, as if waiting for something – the future? – to appear. Here is a final set of images.

Modernity bypassed…

Another Sunday, another post. Once again, Havana – a few images, this time, a sampling, of some of the marvellous Art Deco and modernist architecture that flowers, unexpectedly, amongst the colonial ruins of old Havana. Their homage to the airplane, the machine, jazz and the cinema, a striving for escape velocity. How ironic, then, to see them stranded. I’ve chosen, on this occasion, to present the photographs in colour – I’ve a feeling they might work as well, or better, in black and white also.

Bosque de La Habana

The Bosque de La Habana tells you something about the city. A patch of shady woodland along the banks of the Rio Almedares, it is crossed at one end by a picturesque stone bridge. Drawn by the bridge, and the shade, and the river below, the open Chevies and Buicks in their bright colours gather, with their cargoes of tourists. But the bridge is crumbling, the grotto is littered, the stream a stinking grey intestine. The drivers pull in, nonetheless, and the assembly of vintage automobiles, and the luxuriant foliage, and the scattered light filtering through the leaves and branches, make it […]

Sitting in Cape Town, thinking of Havana

So I have come to the end of a week in Cape Town – a round of project inception meetings with officials and academics, dinners out with my 85 year old mother or quiet evenings at home watching The Crown on Netflix, calls on FaceTime to my wife in Toronto, and – stealing a few moments here and there – working on my photos from Havana. And so it is, I guess, that we inhabit multiple places, multiple eras. Echoes of ‘radical economic transformation,’ from this week’s State of the Nation address, provide a ghostly, sardonic music to accompany the photos – […]

Habana Vieja: street scenes

There is more to Havana than just Habana Vieja: and there are a lot more images to process and – geez, if I were more pretentious than I like to think I am – ‘curate.’ But before I move on – to art deco suburban architecture, 50s cars and cinemas, the melancholy drama of the Malecon – there is (for now, anyway) a final set of images of the old town to be posted. As with the last post, I’ve done these in colour: much as I love black and white, the way it reveals, caresses, form and texture, you […]

Habana Vieja: looking in

You visit Havana, you don’t want to be just a nosy outsider, a tactless tourist, a peeping voyeur – and yet, the place is so different, both in the world that you see before you and in the things you can’t see, but know or imagine are there, that your senses stand on tiptoe to peer into stairwells, catch glimpses of interiors when the doors or the windows lean open. So I took a few photos, of doors and stairwells – not too many, just a few – which I thought I would share with you. They are, if you like, […]