From Parkhurst to Kalk Bay, a non sequitur

We had barely taken our seats at Coobs in Parkhurst last night when a seeming explosion rent the air, as if from the street two feet from the patio where we were sitting. Moments later the sky opened up, torrential, rinsing rain emptied the sky, the wind grasped the trees lining the sidewalk and shook them.

Meanwhile dinner was served, platters of confit duck legs and pan fried duck breast with Asian salad for both of us, which, accompanied by a bottle of Vergenoegd Merlot, were pronounced delicious.

Think of it as a gift from Nora, our friend in Vancouver, who had generously sent Rob some money – going to the trouble of sending the cheque in Rands, nogal.

On a completely unrelated topic, here are some photos from Kalk Bay, the quaint little fishing village that hugs the coast on the railway line from Cape Town to Simonstown.

Don’t ask what’s the connection – there isn’t one. In South Africa these days – think Cabinet reshuffles, the musical chairs that a rogue President plays with his minions – there’s no rhyme or reason for anything. Might as well get on with photography.




O, Pretoria!

These days I work, not in downtown Toronto, but in Pretoria, Gauteng – administrative capital of South Africa, a small city with Boer Republic roots and an African feel, a place of substantial Anglo-Dutch architecture from the nineteenth century commingled with brutalist Afrikaner buildings from the 1970s, and the litter, taxi mayhem and crumbling sidewalks of Maputo or (who knows, since I haven’t been there) Nairobi.

I go there, most days, by Gautrain, the gleaming Bombardier-built high-speed commuter train that links Johannesburg with Pretoria and the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Most days, since I try to travel outside of rush hour, the train is half empty; sometimes, however, especially late afternoon, it is crammed with office workers, students, travellers and of course the ubiquitous (in South Africa) security guards.

The whole experience is strange and familiar, simultaneously – first world and third world shaken and stirred in some Afro-European cocktail, with all kinds of ingredients – edgy, clamorous, a clash of poverty and wealth, modernity and marginalisation, that makes you want to look away, and look back again.

I’ve decided to do some looking, so here is a photograph, snapped (that is the word) on my iPhone, on the train one morning to bustling Pretoria. More will follow, mostly likely from the Leica.

Gautrain # 1

Canada Day

Canada Day, Pelee Island

No, the old dude in the old coupe is not me – d’you think I’ve just won the lottery? Canada may be a Fair Country, but they don’t just hand out the lottery money to anyone. I’ve got wads and wads of unpaid tickets to prove there is bias.

No, the old dude is just an old dude, in an old car – the car is pretty cool though, huh? – riding along in the Canada Day Parade on Pelee Island, on the first day of July 2012, four years ago. July 2012 was my first Canada Day in Canada, as a newly minted landed immigrant, or permanent resident – of more general interest is the fact that Pelee Island, where Rob and I marked that most memorable of occasions, is the southernmost point in Canada, and a lekker place to chill out for the long weekend, after you’ve made the leisurely trip across Lake Erie on the ferry from Kingsville.

The old guy could as well be me, though, if you look at this symbolically: the smile on the dial, the thumbs-up, the flag overhead, because tomorrow will be my first Canada Day as a new Canadian – a pukka Canadian citizen, with a passport and all, and a citizenship certificate. So tomorrow will be kind of special, well deserving of an open-topped sports coupe and a parade, not to mention a barbecue and loads of good vino. I am open to offers.

I find myself thinking, as I ponder all this, how much has changed in my life over the past four years, how quickly the four years have passed, and yet how long ago it all seems. I am, as I wrote recently, at home in my new country, and daily more appreciative of its quiet virtues – its peacefulness, its tolerance, its unassuming decency, which are all the more remarkable (to paraphrase Barack Obama in Parliament yesterday) for being unremarked-upon and ordinary.

My heart turns also at a moment like this to my home country, the country of my birth and land of my growing-up and much of my history, with a grievous sense, I have to confess, of how angry it is, and conflicted, a feeling of real hurt at how much it still gnaws and tears at the people – friends, family, colleagues, and citizens – who live there. This is not a moment for Pollyanna-ish optimism, but – and I have to remind myself of this – it is not a moment for despair, either, and certainly not a time to give up. A luta continua, as we used to say, and must go on saying.

Who knows, our own lives and careers may well take us back there; I would be glad to be able to pay back once more, and make a contribution. But tomorrow – Canada Day – our plan is to relax and celebrate, with other Canadians.




A picture of sanity

Given the madness in Britain (I have subtracted the word ‘Great’ as it is no longer applicable) and the lunacy in Trumpistan, not to mention some irregular goings on in my own Beloved Country, I give you an image of sanity from my new, adopted home, here in Canada: Farm near Rice Lake, Ontario.

Farm, near Rice Lake