I was out in the evening, and up early in the morning, as I observed in my last post, chasing the light in the Drakensberg, hoping for something dramatic. What the ‘berg gave me instead was a picture of calm, of light peaceably moving over a silent landscape, as the slow world turned. In the end, I quite like these images. Advertisements
Ok, so you’ve meandered through the Natal Midlands, you’ve stopped off for a coffee, or a glass of wine at Ardington Winery, you’ve pulled over to take photos of hills, of valleys, of dairy cows contentedly doing whatever it is that dairy cows do on an August morning or afternoon, and then you turn down a winding dirt road, and swing off into a driveway, and there – across a placid pond and beneath the bucolic hills in the distance – what do you find? You find the wildest, craziest, most lunatically imaginative art at Ardmore Ceramics. Now, if you […]
You reach Lindsay Scott’s Hillfold Pottery in Lidgetton in the Natal Midlands by following a dirt road into the hills, climbing through forest, then turning off down a narrow rutted track that makes you wonder why, oh why, do you no longer have the Landy, until suddenly the woodland opens and you are in a sunny clearing where a low bungalow awaits, and the studio beckons. The man himself was there, reserved but gracious, and while he might have been of few words the work spoke volumes. We bought a piece for ourselves, and one or two smaller pieces for […]
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 […]
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.
Sunday in Jo’burg. The weather unsettled. Breezy, cool, the sky laden with clouds. In another ten days, Rob arrives from Toronto. The house has been found, the movers booked, tomorrow I will go look at a car. Piece by piece, the architecture of this new-old phase of our lives is constructed. To brighten the weekend, here are some more images of Havana’s old cars, this time in colour.
Your upcoming post this weekend will feature the cars of Havana – cars which are not just cars, but markers and expressions of a society, an economy, a particular history. This Chevy truck is not a car, obviously – but deserves a place, perhaps, as a kind of precursor or foreword. No matter how glamorous, how retro, the car in Havana – like the truck, the motorcycle with sidecar, the crazy coco-taxi – is a workhorse. Keep an eye on your inbox.
Cuba’s history, of course – by which I mean only its modern history, which we can date back to the first Spanish warships, sailing off the island in the late 1400s – long predates the Revolution. As Richard Gott explains, in his dry but absorbing Cuba, A New History (published in 2004) there has always been trouble: privateers, conquistadores, slavery, wars and coups, poverty and excess, rebellions and the mafia pock-mark the narrative like bullet-holes in a wall. Visiting Havana, in this sense, means descending into an archeological dig. At the surface is the Revolution, with its heroic moment, followed by […]
Once more to Havana…. So far, I’ve tried not to fall into the trap that the English novelist George Eliot described more than a hundred years ago: seeing other people’s misery as ‘picturesque.’ I’ve described, and shown, the Hotel Inglaterra, posted images of the magnificent Grand Theatre and other architectural triumphs, monuments and renovations, and avoided overt comment on – well, on the dark side of Havana. By which I mean, not its flawed grandeur, or its magnificent decay, but its political system. In a word: communism. Because one of the things you can’t help noticing is the drab, dreary, official lexicon of […]
You stand in the grand lobby – gilded, ornate – waiting for the lift-doors to open. Off to your right, behind the wrought-iron grille, a pair of well-heeled diners sip at their coffee, eyeing the menu, while an unctuous waiter in starched shirt glides by. At any moment the lift will arrive and Bogart will step out, a laughing Bacall or Bergman on his arm…. You don’t go to the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana for its service (we left without eating, even though we were starving) but for the elegance, the ambience, the colours and scent of the corrupt and gorgeous neo-colonialism of pre-revolutionary Havana. There is […]