Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 1)

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle

“She’s young – if I remember correctly, she’s twenty-five or six. My mother’s sister’s child, which makes her my niece-I-never-knew. But she wants to visit and I’d like to get to know her. Sooo…Gertruida…if it’s alright with you, I’d like her to book into the guest house.” Fanny beams at the older woman, knowing what the answer will be.

Katie’s letter arrived a little earlier in the day and by now everybody in Rolbos knows about the young woman’s intended visit.

“Of course, Fanny. I hear it’s her first visit to South Africa?”

“Well…first visit to Africa, in fact. Never been out of England. She’s a bit naive, I think – in her letter she asked a thousand questions about climate and clothing. She wanted to know how we live and whether we still have wild animals around. But…she’s wildly excited and so keen to come.”

Katie Malone has had a sheltered life in Framlingham, Suffolk. Here she attended the much-acclaimed Thomas Mills High School before she wrote her first novel. Set in Framlingham Castle the storyline involves the bravery of Mary Tudor in her defiance of Lady Jane Grey. Because she had woven fact and fiction in such a clever way that she wept the readers along in the story of war, love and hope, she became a bit of an overnight sensation – much to her own surprise.

“Well, if she wants a quiet place to write the sequel to her bestseller, she’s certainly made a wise choice. Nothing ever happens here – does it?” Boggel cynical smile isn’t lost on his audience: Bianca’s visit is all too fresh in their minds. “But it’ll be interesting to have her around. Maybe she’d be interested in a few of our stores – !Ka is a wonderful story-teller as well. I remember the first time you met the little Bushman, Fanny.”

“Oh, we have enough stories to tell her, that’s for sure. Remember the Himba man? Still, I think she’s got her own story in her head and now needs a bit of peace and quiet to write it down. I’m sure we can supply that…”

***

Most people will look at Katie without noticing her. At five-foot-five, the trim, bespectacled figure tends to melt away n the background. Although her face is, if you looked carefully, well-proportioned, Katie doesn’t care much for cosmetics. Her auburn hair is mostly swept back in a bun, making her appear much older that she is. As for dressing up…well, she just isn’t into the latest fashion at all.

The man at the Immigration desk takes her passport before studying her face.

“Purpose of your visit?”

Katie smiles nervously. “I-I want to write. A book, see? I’m a writer.”

“So you come from England to write in Cape Town?” The voice is disinterested, bored…but the sharp intake of breath suggests otherwise. It’s been a long shift and so far he hasn’t seen any suitable candidates so far. This one…? Maybe…

“Yes…. No… I’m on my way to some family. I’ll write there.”

“Where is the family?”

“Oh, Rolbos. It’s apparently near Upington. I’m catching a flight to Upington and they’ll get me there.”

He stamps the passport before watching her make her way to the exit. Then he takes out his cellphone to call Abdul Masbieker.

“Hey, it’s me. Check that woman coming through the exit now. Lone traveller, young, harmless. Short. One suitcase. Brown hair in a bun. She’s got a connecting flight to Upington, so she won’t have anybody waiting for her here.”

Smiling happily, he calls the next passenger.

***

The little cafeteria at Upington Airport is rather busy today. Some government officials  are waiting for the flight back to Cape Town, and they’re using their expense accounts to order steaks, chips and several bottles of beer.  They’re in a foul mood.

“What are we going to tell the minister? We can’t admit our land-reform policy isn’t working. That farm we inspected is a mess – even I could see that.”

“Eish, no, we can’t do that. We’ll have to be a bit creative, I think. We can always state that ten families live there….”

“Yeah? In those shacks? There’s no sanitation, no electricity. And did you see what they did to the original house?”

“You worry too much. It depends on your point of view.  We’ll report that they are self-sufficient. That’s all they want to hear, anyway.”

***

Two tables away, Gertruida shakes her head. The question of the redistribution of land is a thorny one; but the way the government is doing it is simply making matters worse.

“90% of the farms government now gave to ‘previously disadvantaged’ people, have been run into the ground. I’m quite surprised that CNN or BBC haven’t reported it.”

“Do you really think anybody in Europe or America is interested?” Fanny shrugs and smiles sadly. “We’re in Africa, Gertruida. Africa. This is where Mugabe rules, xenophobia happens and corruption paves the way to the future. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, we’re the family member they don’t want to hear – or talk about. We live in a country where women and children are raped, farmers are murdered and crime has affected virtually every family.”

“You’re right, Fanny. Look at the international interest in the Mystery Girl they found in Greece. It’s all over the news…but I’ll bet not a single paper in the UK or USA reported on the Dieplsloot murders. It’s sad, to say the least.”

They get up to stand at the window when the flight from Cape Town is announced. They’re still standing there after the government officials have finished their meal and gone to the boarding gate.

“She wasn’t on the plane…”

“No, Fanny. She wasn’t. Something is wrong.”

Loki Rothman is a talented, Cape Town-based musical artist.

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MacArthur Park

17nati.1.583Richard Harris, long-dead and almost-forgotten, sang this song by Jimmy Webb in the late sixties. Well, almost sang it, as the high notes at the end were sung by one Tony Burrowes, later of Edison Lighthouse fame. (Remember Love Grows where my Rosemary Goes?)   MacArthur Park was voted at various times as the best – and the worst –song ever written.

MacArthur Park is  park in downtown Los Angeles, formerly known a West Lake Park, before they decided to honour the general with his name on a patch of land that used to be lovely. Like the cake in the song, the park melted away to become something less attractive, but that only happened long after the song became a hit.

And that is the point:

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark 

all the sweet, green icing flowing down

someone left the cake out in the rain I don’t think that I can take it

’cause it took so long to bake it

and I’ll never have that recipe again, “oh no” (“again”, 3rd chorus)

And 40-odd years later, people still argue about these lines. Did Webb really hide in a shed as the love of his life got married in the park and the rain streamed down on the wedding cake? Or was it a winter’s day and the rain melted the snow on the green trees? Or was his innocence melting away during that first, unforgettable, exploration of love?

We’ll never know for sure. Maybe the third verse says something, after all:

I will take my life into my hands and I will use it,

I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it

I will have the things that I desire, and my passion flow like rivers through the sky

and after all the love’s of my life,

oh after all the love’s of my life,

I’ll be thinking of you and wondering why.

In those words, we all discover the true meaning of the MacArthur Park hidden in everybody. It’s all about decisions and loss. It’s about taking charge of your life and realising that the picture on the packet bears little resemblance to the product you have purchased. It tells the story of emptiness and how intentions and passion do not always provide sufficient sustenance for the journey to happiness.

Then the chorus of again, again, again, the words that rose to the pitch Harris never mastered. Some say it makes the song fake – but maybe it reflects something else: that life is a composite of many parts and many voices. To be complete, you have to realise the notes you’ll never sing.

So, while the cake stands melting in the winter rain, life goes on. And if that beautiful park has in the meantime become a dirty and dangerous place: it is the memory of the melody that endures. Nothing we live through, is permanent, after all. Parks, melodies, recipes – they all melt away in time. 

But the memory of beauty, those last lingering notes completing the song, will forever be part of the music of you life.

This is MacArthur Park. It is in you mind, in your soul – and it will hum a haunting tune that you’ll never fully understand, no matter how hard you try to explain your walk through the once-lush surroundings of your past.

The trick is to enjoy the shade and the sun and the beauty while it lasts – not regret its absence after the rain (as it must) melts away the joy and hope of anticipation. MacArthur’s Park will, in the end, remain only as pretty as we remember it to be. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

The challenge: use hues to convey the message.

The ocean isn’t just ‘blue’.
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Sunsets aren’t just ‘red’.

pienk maanPeople aren’t just ‘black’ or ‘white’

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And the past isn’t always simply ‘grey’.

29The message?

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Hue makes us see the wonder of Life. Hues command us to look, look again, and contemplate the miracles around us. It whispers the pain of Love, Hope and Joy – past, present and future.

And it tells us never to take those that colour our lives for granted….

Daily Prompt: Community Service. What Service?

7092044Your entire community — however you define that; your hometown, your neighborhood, your family, your colleagues — is guaranteed to read your blog tomorrow. Write the post you’d like them all to see.

To you, my community, my hometown, my people, my very roots:

I feel a bit like John, when he wrote to the communities in Revelations…

How shall I address thee? My friends? You are certainly not! My fellow space-occupiers? Maybe, because I refuse to be associated with you as fellow-journeymen (and -women) any longer.

Yes I’m angry. Very. You have disappointed me in so many ways. Caused disillusion. Festered…hate.

Let’s kick off with your fascination with gossip. Do you have any idea what that caused? How much damage you do by spreading false and twisted confabulations, sniggering behind your hands and pointing fingers in the most unobtrusive ways? Do you, in your quiet moments (if there are any) consider Truth to be sacred?

Oh, and you good, God-fearing Christian. church-going folk: do you know why I refuse to attend your services any longer? Where is your Love, your kindness, your compassion? Why have you become obsessed with finances and numbers, forgetting the helping hand to the downtrodden, the weak, the widow and the addicted? Aren’t you supposed to show at least a bit of compassion? Or – heaven help us – at least some caring? Is there any use in preparing well-worded sermons for Sunday; but for the rest of the week God must please visit other towns, because it is hugely uncomfortable to accommodate Him in your everyday lives?

And what about the shebeens, those upstanding entrepreneurs, who make fortunes by serving alcohol to all ages? The drug lords, going about freely with the full knowledge of our policemen? Maybe it’s not their fault, after all – where are the parents? Do they know where their children are at night? Care what they do? Instill in them a sense of respect, responsibility, ambition to dream about a better future?

Oh, and Mister Schoolmaster? I simply abhor your students ambling aimlessly through town with the pants hanging low enough to entertain all and sundry with the exquisite view of the boxers barely covering the bums. That, of course from behind. From the front, the future leader of big business, the leaders of tomorrow, must have his shirt hanging out over the sagging pants. You want me to be impressed by the education you’re offering? Well, I’m not.

Then there’s the question of punctuality. Read the word carefully and then look it up in Webster’s. Or Google it. Punctuality…the art of respecting other peoples concept of when you said you’d be there, or finish the job. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver…

Sure, you have good attributes too. The traffic cop at the 40 km/h (downhill) zone with his camera is a real bonus. I can really see you are extremely keen to curtail criminal offences in town. And yes, how quick you are to ask…you’re good with that. I’m trying to remember when you gave something back – can you?

So, dear community: I’m prepared to take a hard, long look at myself. I’m maybe cynical. What about you?

So why, do you ask, don’t I move somewhere else?

I can’t. I’m here. I’m a person.

I’m not without my faults. I’m obstinate. I live my own life and I don’t go about making life difficult for anybody. I’ll stay, whether you mind or not.

But please. Please! Allow me the privilege t live in harmony with you. I promise not to speed down that hill, sell drugs to kids or gossip. What’s more, I’ll take the pastor seriously when he preaches about love.

So, when you all read this blog tomorrow: let bygones be bygones. Lets start afresh…

Daily Prompt: Childlike

His name, translated from Himba, is Ugly Face. He’s a happy, naughty, lively child, living in the kraal with his family. The question, of course, is: does he have a future?

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Or is he better off than the children in the bigger cities, where video games teach them to kill the ‘enemy’ and then press the reset button? His playground is the veld…his responsibility? The goats he has to tend to.

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Sometimes, in my cynical moments (which aren’t rare) I think he’s better off.

Writing Challenge: History – The Wrong Turn

criminal-lawThe Challenge: Show us how history is something we are part of, not some external event taking place in a palace, office, or war zone far away.

***

His name is not important – he wouldn’t want you to know him if you should meet him in the street – but he is a man, a grown adult of 40-odd years, and he wants a second chance. Or maybe it’s the fifth or fiftieth chance he is begging for. The number isn’t important; what counts is the desire to be somebody again.

My path crossed his by chance. The circumstances are not important – but it resulted in us having a serious conversation. He is a street artist, a sign-writer, a dreamer, a rebel and has spent many years in jail. Now he is a loner, a reject, an outcast, a hermit.

“Will you help me fix my life?”

The question caught me off-guard, but the plea in his eyes was so obvious that I agreed.

His life started wrong. His mother died (‘I was two – I can’t even remember her face’) and his father had no time for him. His grandmother was a ‘walker’. (In Afrikaans he describes her as a ‘Loper’ – a word with more than one meaning), who travelled from town to town, earning money in the only way she knew. The result was a string of fatherless children, who had to survive in any way possible. At the age of four, his father was ‘sold’ to a rich man as a little slave to play with the only child in the household. When he was sixteen, he escaped to seek his fortune in the bigger towns and cities of the Western Cape.

After his mother died, my new acquaintance became a conglomerate of many personalities. He didn’t like school, but was fascinated by the church, where he became an altar boy. This did not prevent him from stealing at all, and so he had a Jeckyll and Hyde existence – a pious criminal.

His rebellious nature prodded him towards life as a gang member, he joined the youths who protested against Apartheid…and he dreamt of becoming the President of the country one day. After being arrested for assault, he spent twelve years in jail.

***

Why am I writing this? To be part of a writing challenge? No…a thousand times no!

The object of sharing a bit of this man’s history, is that we are quick to judge. We look at a lined face and expect to find cruel eyes staring back. We look at the history and not at the heart. The words in court documents – history – condemning the wrong turns in a person’s life, end up directing our aversion, forcing people to stay the way they were.

A kind word and some understanding may very well be the answer to the many social ills we are so acutely aware of in South Africa – and the world out there as well. Must we continue to crucify everybody on the cross of the past? Or must we forgive, seven times seventy and even more, and get on with living in harmony?

Am I saying everybody deserves a second chance? Maybe. I also know there are many exceptions and that a naive approach is completely illogical. But…and this is important: let us not be so judgemental. Sit down with an outcast, a rebel, a wrong-doer. Listen. Look at the eyes. Hear the heart.

And then, sometimes and certainly rarely, you’ll find an individual with the genuine desire to take – maybe for the first time in his or her life – the right turn.

Me? I’m taking a chance. I’ll have regular meetings with him, listen to his story and try to offer advice. He’s an intelligent man, making me believe that by simply telling his story, knowing he is being listened to, will already have a healing effect. I know the risk of disappointment is there. But, at least, I’ll be able to say I tried.

Look around you. The man delivering a parcel. The beggar at the traffic light. The woman with the few notes clutched in an anxious hand, staring at the shelves in the supermarket. The youth outside the liquor store…

See the hopelessness in the eyes.

And then decide whether it isn’t time for you, too, to get one sad and rejected little starfish back in the ocean?

Just one.

Operation ROAR – The Epilogue

s1“I hear the operation was a success,” Gertruida says, because she always knows everything. “Virginia can see again. And, as a result of Huisgenoot picking up on the story, she’s become quite a celebrity. Look, here’s a photo of her after the facelift, as well.”

Servaas tries to pretend he’s not interested, but curiosity forces him the glance at the magazine in Gertruida’s hands.

“Sexy, isn’t she?” Gertruida smiles at the old man. He’s been such fun to be with lately, she’d almost swear there has to be a love-interest somewhere. But…who?  Well, she decides, maybe he’s got to that age when such matters are no longer so important.

Arf-arf?” Vrede  wants to know whether Daisy will ever visit Rolbos again. Boggel, not quite getting the message, hands him a piece of biltong. Vrede lies down with a satisfied harrumph; he’ll finish the titbit before trying again.

***

If you asked Gertruida what she thought of Operation ROAR, she’ll smile and say it was a huge success. The Carte Blanche program was a hit, Virginia is now the International Ambassador for ClearView ©, the artificial lense makers, and for some reason, Servaas hasn’t worn his black suit for weeks now. She’ll even point out that Vrede is a very happy dog these days.  In fact: even though ROAR didn’t even remotely work out the way they had planned, it certainly proved to be one of their better ideas.

She’ll tell you: Life  does that all the time. The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft astray – and each of us continue to be surprised at the wonderful ways our lives unfold. Sometimes we have to face bitter disappointment – but that gets balanced by those remarkable moments when we stand in awe of unexpected beauty. Faith, she says, is the key. That, and patience. Wait long enough, believe solidly enough, and the dark skies get lit up by the most magnificent sunrise.

***

And so, the Rolbossers while away the days in Boggel’s Place, where they’ll marvel at the past and hope for the future. The little town is slipping back into the sleepy, comfortable way of life again.

Author’s Note:

For a while I’ll be busy writing away at something completely different. The Rolbos posts will be less frequent, and loyal readers may want to explore the 500+ stories in Rolbos –  or even look at the books available at Amazon, Kobo, Kalahari etc. Check out the sidebar for info. I also have a limited supply of signed 65 Shades of Guilt printed books for those that are interested.

Thank you for living in Rolbos. Take the small town’s message with you wherever you go, and be kind to those you meet on your journey through life. Gertruida says we can start an avalanche of goodwill by simply reaching out to those around us – and if we stop taking ourselves so seriously…

Operation ROAR (# 5)

Credit: fabulousfaces.com

Credit: fabulousfaces.com

“Goodnight, you sweet man.” Rita pats Servaas’s shoulder as she steers the unsteady Eddie towards the door.

Boggel’s Place has been unusually loud tonight. The TV crew and the townsfolk had an impromptu karaoke competition, which Mevrou won with her rendition of Een aand op die trein na Pretoria. Now, with happy smiles and tired eyes, the patrons excuse themselves – one after the other – to go home and surrender to a well-deserved bit of rest.

Virginia is the happiest of them all. Gertruida had asked Vetfaan to fetch his new torch – and after they finally found the eyes between the mass of wrinkles, showed the others what a cataract looks like. Because she knows everything, Gertruida explained that a simple operation will restore sight. The Carte Blanche team immediately said they’d follow her progress and that hers would be the perfect feel-good story for their Christmas program. And yes, of course they’d cover all her costs. Rita immediately contacted Dr Peter Upil, the world-famous eye surgeon, who agreed to do the surgery.

“It’s almost a complete miracle, Almost…” Virginia mumbles as she slips in between the white sheets of the new bed in the guest house.

***

Servaas settles on the couch in his little lounge. He’s just had a shower, splashed on some Old Spice, and dressed in his best pyjamas. He has a feeling that he’ll get a visitor as soon as the town settles down, and he’s going to be ready for her. Oh yes! Hoo boy! Those lingering looks and secret little winks and smiles – yes, tonight…! He’s left a single candle at the door to show he’s awake, available, and ready… He’s left the radio on, too, as a sign that he’s awake. The soft sounds of music will carry all the way to the street…calling, beckoning…yes…even pleading.

The sad thing about getting older is that fatigue gets you before alcohol makes you silly – or lust gets the upper hand. Servaas has had quite a bit to drink tonight, and, despite the anticipation, slips into a happy slumber, dreaming of nubile bodies and whispered words of passion…

And then, suddenly…

It is dark. Pitch, black, blind, dark. The candle has burnt out. A soft finger on his lips.

Shhhh…

And then a blindfold, gently, soft, accompanied by a throaty giggle. A hand on his chest, warm breath in his neck. Buttons get undone: the top one…the next……the next. Warm fingers entangle themselves, gently, softly, in the soft fuzzy hair on his chest.

“I was hoping…” He wants to say more, but the finger returns to his lips followed by another shhhh.

Now both hands explore his chest, the one (left hand?) dipping lower, finding the soft flesh below the ribs. His breath starts to race, but then…then…soft lips find his and he tastes desire, undiluted want, on the moist tongue that probes and explores as if it is a separate, living creature. The chest-hand moves up, moves to his neck, moves to the back of his head – slowly, ever so slowly – and then, with a sigh escaping past the kiss, draws him nearer, crushing lip against lip.

Deep inside Servaas’s mind, an old instinct wakes up. His hands become alive to reach out in the darkness to find a body – oh, so definitely female – writhing passionately against his. Despite the blindfold, he closes his eyes, smells the intoxicating scent of desire, allows himself to slip into the unfamiliar long, slow abyss of of infinite, intimate, mutual pleasure.

Never in his life has he experienced anything like this. She acts as a guide, making him travel forgotten byways and sideways, making him beg, plead, to rush along, but delaying and postponing the inevitable journey towards sweet release. Every one of his moans triggers another shhhh!, making him a helpless sailor on an unsteady ship caught in a raging gale.

And then…oh!…the finality of it all…he enters the almost forgotten lost paradise, the legendary magical little oasis hidden so cleverly amongst the dry dunes of the Kalahari.

Afterwards, as silently as she came, she leaves with only the faintest of rustles of fine silk to linger on in the ecstatic mind of the breathless old man.

***

“Where’s Servaas?” Boggel looks up as Vetfaan strolls in. “He’s usually your first customer.”

“Don’t know. But…it was quite an evening last night. Maybe he’s sleeping in a bit this morning”

“Ja, shame. He’s getting too old for all this galavanting till the small hours of the night.” Vetfaan reaches over to take a beer from the cooler below the counter. “But the TV-crew is packed and ready to go. That Rita woman specifically asked where he is – she wants to tell him something.”

“He’ll be in just now, I’m sure. Give it a few minutes.”

***

Vrede licks Daisy’s wet nose fondly. They’ve just heard Rita telling Virginia that it would be best if she – Virginia – left with them. That way, they can get her to the eye surgeon in Johannesburg the next day, get the surgery done, and film the event in time for the Christmas program.

Grewewl?” Vrede has to know.

Grumphff nyarrap..”  Of course she loves him. He’s the handsomest, kindest, most wonderful male she’s ever met. “Awrl, groumrrr.”  What an absolute stud you are…

Grafarf?”

Harf, arf.” Seriously. And no, she’s never said this to any other male, ever, before.

Poor Vrede. Just like human men do, he actually believes her.

***

A remarkably spry Servaas swaggers in to Boggel’s Place to find everybody there already, saying their goodbyes with the huge smiles of a splendid morning-after. Not quite sure how to conduct himself, Servaas skips over to the counter to fetch a beer. Shall he walk up to Rita boldly? Thank her? Make as if nothing happened? Tell her he loves her? Respect her privacy and ignore her?

He almost upsets his beer when Rita appears at his side.

“You know, Oom Servaas, you remind me so much of my late father. Kind, gentle, lovable…and a bit distant. If you don’t mind, I’d like a photograph of the two of us. I’d like to always remember Rolbos and the memories you people have rekindled.”

“Oh. Um. Yes. Of course. My pleasure.”

She is an extremely good actress, Servaas thinks, to make as if nothing happened. Well, maybe it’s better this way. What a wise woman! And what a pleasure. He closes his eyes to relive the journeys those clever fingers had across his body. Oh my…

“Well, we have to be off.” Rita herds the crew to their vehicle, turns around, and waits for Virginia, who is thanking everybody.

“I’ll never forget last night,” Virginia smiles sadly. ‘It’s been the most wonderful experience of my life. Where’s Servaas?” She glances around as if trying to search the faces.

“Oh? Here.” Servaas steps forward.

“Will you kiss me goodbye? Please? I suspect you are a very passionate, naughty old man.”

When he draws near, she reaches out to find his chest. Her fingers crawl up to his neck, to the back of his head, and then gently forces his lips towards her face.

“And remember, Servaas…shhh….”