Virginia Woolf and Witnesses Rubbish Day

So, I am Virginia Woolf today!

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There we are all full of good cheer. Luckily though there was rather a lot of traffic in the street this morning and Jehovah’s Witnesses, so the siren songs promising only despair had to be packed in for giggles and some wise words about my grey hair, which one only really sees when taking a profile photograph while dressed like Virginia Woolf sitting on the pavement in the morning.

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Hello Jehovah’s Witness folk! “Interesting photo op”, they said to me while backing away slowly without giving me a copy of The Watchtower.

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”These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.”
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

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Road Trip Rubbish Day in The Valley

Rubbish Day this week is a little different. Well, it’s a lot different. For starters, it didn’t take place at home. I took my rubbish on the road to the home of my very dear friend and brave genius, photographer and artivist, Germaine De Larch and equally talented writer and journalist, Ang Lloyd. Ang and Germaine live in a suburb of Johannesburg called Bez Valley. And this is where Rubbish Day becomes even more different, because Bez Valley has an extraordinary history and one particularly dear to me as my mother was born in a house not two streets from Ang and Germaine’s. So today is a little bit of rubbish, a little bit of history, a mystery, a snake, a dead dog, a ghost house, and a whole lot of heartbreak and ache.

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Before gold was discovered in Johannesburg (which wasn’t then Johannesburg) the area around the Witwatersrand was sparsely populated, mainly by the farming descendants of the Boers who had left the Cape of Good Hope in the 1830s and 1840s with their ox wagons, their organs, their bibles, their faith, and their biltong, to settle beyond the control of the British, whose penchant for tea over coffee, for all things British over Afrikaaner, for the abolition of slavery over servitude, for their Johhny-come-lately insistence that they could run The Cape better than their Afrikaaner countrymen who had been doing it since 1652, had become impossible to live with. It is difficult for me to imagine this journey and its hardships when I drive the N1 from Cape Town to Johannesburg. 1500km is a long time in a car. It is very long. There are huge mountain ranges to cross, and then miles of semi-desert where once dinosaurs roamed, and where even before that an inland sea covered the landscape. There are parts of the trip so flat and dusty that you can see for days. There is a town in The Freestate called Woestalleen. It means terribly alone, savagely alone. Every time I read the road signs to it, my heart hurts a little at the prospect of being that kind of alone. But I digress. So, the Transvaal was populated by these savagely tough Boers. They set up farms, they started a new life beyond the British, beyond the Orange River and then beyond the Vaal River.

But then in 1886, gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in ‘die ou Transvaal’ and the world descended upon this isolated farming community. Miners from the Australian gold rush left their homes behind, Cornish tin miners arrived, unfortunates who had lost out to De Beers in Kimberley and never found their diamond passports to prosperity, some of those who had found riches, Irish immigrants. The world came to this incredibly rich reef with gold stars in their eyes.

This must have come as somewhat of a shock to the Bezuidenhout family who owned one of the largest farms in the area. Their farm was in the valley between two old ridges. There was a river, a dam. There was the red red soil, the red dust. When the gold fields were proclaimed by Oom Paul Kruger, the president of the Transvaal Republic, the Bezuidenhout family lost part of the original farm but I don’t imagine they minded terribly. They must have been doing a roaring trade with all the new folk in town. It became a fun day out for the people of this new gold rush city, to take an ox cart to the Bezuidenhout farm and spend the day picnicking alongside the dam.

As Johannesburg grew, the Bezuidenhout family auctioned off portions of their land and a new working-class suburb was born. In 1903 the Bezuidenhout family built themselves a rather grand home and settled down to life in the new suburb of Bezuidenhout Valley. Bez Valley.

And now, after that rather long preamble, and with 111 years separating the two stories I can get back to Rubbish Day. More specifically, Rubbish Day outside of that grand house built by Afrikaaner pioneer farmers a long time ago. This is Morf Lodge today. It is an abandoned ruin in a secret garden. The gate is welded shut, the windows are almost all broken, there are no doors. It is a haunting and haunted space. It is so beautiful it gives me goosebumps.

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The story of how this house has come to be more memory than substance, more mould than mortar is devastating. In he late 1980s the de Carvahlo family bought the house and lived there happily until one night in 1994, the elderly de Carvahlo seniors were attacked at knifepoint by burglars looking for their own brand of gold rush. Following this night the de Carvahlo son, Tino, visited his parents’ house one last time to grab a few essentials. He popped toothbrushes, a change of clothes, perhaps a pair of shoes into a small bag to take to the hospital rooms where his parents were in a critical but stable condition, he closed the doors, he locked them and he never went back.

Over the years vandals have broken into the house, stolen the brass light fixtures, rummaged through cupboards of clothes, boxes of children’s games and newspapers. Anything deemed not of value was left on the wooden floors. The house is a time capsule falling into ruin. Scratch that, it has fallen into ruin. In the early 2000s, an artist was allowed by Tino (who still lives a few doors down from his childhood home) into the house. You can view some of the images here</a

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And now, if you thought we were done. If you thought you had had enough heartbreak and ‘oh, wow! The rubbish lady is talking a LOT today’, brace yourselves because we drove around and walked around a little more. Bez Valley is a strange suburb these days. It has the lovely old working class houses and semis with Oregon floors and pressed steel ceilings, but it has also got a fair amount of ghetto to it. It has the old municipal swimming pool reserved for whites only/ net blankes, it’s depths marked diep kant/ deep end, vlakkant/ shallow end. It is surrounded by barbed wire fencing but it is a bright, clear blue and my decidedly white friend swims in it daily with decidedly black companions. It is a good place. People walk down the streets, they chat to each other. Tino of the ‘ghost house’ stands on the street corner in the evenings to ward off more wannabe vandals. It is – there is just no other word for it – cool. The incumbent, Ang, wrote a cool blog about her cool suburb. Read why she chooses “ghetto” over lager any day of the week. She’s cool too, by the way.

Now, a little bit of ghetto means a whole lot of rubbish on the streets. If you can’t find a bin, you can always find a sidewalk.

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Germaine and I were being a little goofy here. We were standing looking over the wall into the Apartheid swimming pool. We were standing in a pile of rubbish to do it. I was feigning dying Victorian swan. It smelt a little. Rubbish does. But then we noticed a little maggotty writhing – after we’d giggled at the F**k Bush graffiti. Imagine being motivated-enough-by-political-issues vandal to swear at the ex-US president in spray paint – and we took a closer look at the thing in the yellow blanket. It was somebody’s family pet, wrapped up and laid to rest. Now, not only had we found dreams laid waste, we had a body! A whole life festering on the pavement. I was, at this stage, rather sad that my tranquilliser prescription ran out two years ago. But I had not even nearly scratched the surface of creepy.

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Just around the corner from the swimming pool is a small bridge over a concreted sloot. A manhole cover on the road has been missing for quite some time and a yellow bollard has been in place to warn drivers. Recently, however, a local resident, tired of the dumping in the streets, has put together a warning display that is frankly terrifying. I had wanted to see the spot since Ang wrote about it here. Subsequent to her publishing her article friends have suggested it is an art project. I assure you, it feels far more sinister than that. It is quite genuinely like standing and staring at somebody’s psychosis splattered over the pavement. There are pregnancy scan pictures, random photographs, a notepad with an ‘I love you heart’ on a page and bible verses on others, there are chip packets, there is a weird little voodoo hidey-hole made from Palm fronds, there is an animal skin defleshed and drying on a coil of barbed wire- Hannibal Lecter’s washing line. It is shudderingly, wrap-your-arms-around-yourself, look-over-your-shoulder creepy.

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It is not right, folks. Something about this is decidedly not right.

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“Snake can smell where you live stinky dumper” 😳

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The river is the snake that will “eat you slowly”. Or maybe the snake is a snake. I’m not really sure, to be honest.

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I drove home from my epic Rubbish Day outing alternately sobbing, giggling and shuddering. I drove home slowly looking for the house down whose steps my mother walked in her wedding day photographs. She is long dead as is my father, and there is nobody who can tell me the actual street address. I look for that house every time I visit Germaine. I drove on Sylvia’s Pass and remembered when my dad had a car accident there in his red Honda Ballade, past the old Radium Beer Hall, past my old high school’s lych gate, past the school my dad’s friend “Boysie” went to. So many ghosts; so many abandoned places. So much time, like water, slipping through the palms of memory. It was an extraordinary day!

Have a wonderful week, all. I will be silly again in a colander hat next week!

All photographs taken on my iPad mini are copyright GermaineDeLarch Images. She’s a biscuit 😀

‘It’s hard to dance with a devil on your back’ Rubbish Day

Life has been a bit fraught, lovely people, and I have been hiding from it a little bit. When I say hiding, I mean that this morning I dressed up as Erika The Red, Viking shield maiden with a colander on my bewigged head. I am just not going to have a chance to edit dear, loopy Erika before other business calls. So, as a cop out today’s post is an older one.

It was Isadora Duncan Rubbish Day from early Spring. It was less difficult to dance then and it still makes me giggle, so here you go.

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Have a wonderful week!

‘The Day an Avocado Drove Us Dotty’ Rubbish Day

The boychild woke up this morning with one thing on his mind. Avocados. He needed, yes needed, an avocado before school. More accurately, he needed its pip for school, for Natural Science. For today! This meant that we needed to be ready faster than normal, on a morning that we had woken later than normal, because we had not slept as well as normal, because the midnight storm had made our Chinese-crested Powder Puff jump in and out of our bedroom window with much clattering of silverware and crystal ball displays, which is entirely normal. As you can imagine, by the time I was ready to take out the rubbish, I felt a little…well…dotty. Then Dotty led to Dorothy and Dorothy went to Oz and the next thing you know, I was skipping in the street, disturbing the peace with my very own Chinese-crested Powder Puff Toto.

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There is definitely no place like our home!

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Toto, of the cupboard-ransacking, cereal-eating, housebreaking-in ways.

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We are a menace to society, I tell you. Well, we are at least a menace to our neighbourhood.

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Follow the middle-class brick road…follow, follow, follow, follow….

Back-to-school Parade Day Rubbish Day

Today the charming, funny, entirely wonderful boy-child went back to school and I’m not going to lie, Internet, I am beside myself with joy. Working from home with wildlings is not easy. To celebrate this day of high-fiving boyish reunions and parental giddiness, I donned a party frock (it’s creased because, frankly, it’s all I’ve been able to do to keep up with the constant picking up of scattered yoghurt tubs this past 6 weeks), I put on a party fascinator (we’re all out of party hats. December does that to one’s supply), I ribboned up, and marched to the parade-beat of my own drummer.

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And imagine my excitement at discovering that today there was even a “crowd” in the street with whom to celebrate!

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Happy Wednesday everybody. May it never rain on your parade (unless you live in Jo’burg and your lawn is as crispy as mine)

All Things Must End Rubbish Day

So, the summer holidays are nearly over. We are limping, dragging ourselves bodily towards back-to-school day. I love my children with the chest-popping, growling, big Love but it is time for them to spend some time more than a metre away from me. It is time!

This is the way the holiday ends. This is the way the holiday ends. Not with a bang but a whimper (apologies to Mr Eliot)

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This morning’s Rubbish Day photos were taken by the madly talented, extremely wonderful friend, Germaine DeLarch. She came for tea and we forced her out into the road with only an iPad and a vision of our discontent and dustbins. Thank you 🙂

‘It’s a silly season and I’m exhausted’ Rubbish Day

It was my birthday yesterday. It’s Christmas in a week. The children are on holiday. The bloodhound and/or the boychild keep waking me before 5. I am exhausted. I was too exhausted even to deal with rubbish on my own this morning. I recruited a special helper.

And so, without further ado, our rules for the silly season:

1. If it is shiny and garish, wear it.

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2. If it stands still, decorate it with something shiny and garish. (Don’t bother counting your grey hairs; you’ll be earning more over the next month.)

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3. If it’s not still, dance with it.

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Twice!

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4. If it’s a Barbie undress it and cover it it in plasters; lose all the tiny shoes and cry about that often.

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5. Cling to your sense of humour like it is the last good thing on Earth.

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6. Keep twirling, even when you get dizzy.

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Happy week to each and everyone.

This is Sparta Rubbish Day

So, I am still online gaming up a storm. I am now fully accepting of what this says about me. It says I am a giant, pasty nerd and I have no social life because I have two children and two jobs and 25 villages to run. That embarrassing admission out the way, I can now tell you that I am a Spartan. Yes, people. I am a Spartan.

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I do not, however, leave small children out in the cold night to die or beat young boys to within an inch of their lives. (Both kids were home today – school holidays – and survived a Spartan strut in the street with me.) It does mean that I have a new clan in my war game. We mean business. In that spray-painted on abs kind of way.

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Please note the unmolested small children ignoring their mad mother with as much determination as the rubbish guys.

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But later this morning, the children are going to granny’s for the night. And as I said to my charming husband 23thorns, tonight, TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL!

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Not really. We are going to the local Greek. Or should we perhaps go Turkish?

The Flintstones’ Rubbish Day

Last week Thursday we had an apocalyptic hail storm in Johannesburg. Since then 23Thorns, the two apples of our eyes and I have been living in the Dark Ages. The really dark, no-electricity, dark ages. We have power for, on average, about 8 hours a day. It is annoying beyond speech. The delightful folk at Eskom now tell us that cable thieves are causing the havoc. I want to beat both the cable thieves and the malfunctioning pylons with a giraffe bone.

And so it is, I present to you The Flintstones’ Rubbish Day. Welcome to our new, very ancient world. We have gone feral, I’m afraid.

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Please feel free to drop in for dinner. The stove and microwave are on the blink but, ever crafty, we have made a plan.

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Giraffe is on the menu and unless you work for Eskom, I promise we won’t bite.

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Happy Wednesday everybody. May yours be filled with light and laughter.

Dirty Dancing and Fruitcake Rubbish Day

Today is a special double bill rubbish day. It is the fault of my charming husband, 23Thorns, and his new-found obsession with watermelon. Watermelon is a good summer fruit and I enjoy a slice or two myself but 23 has gone watermelon wild. I am sent off on late afternoon watermelon shopping sprees as he honestly cannot be without one for more than a few hours. Breakfast. Lunch. Supper. He is just all about the watermelons, so today I am a watermelon.

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This watermelon frenzy of 23Thorns’ and my subsequent pink and green number have had the unfortunate side-effect of taking me back to the days of my youth. You see, I cannot say the word ‘watermelon’ without going all Dirty Dancing on you, because Baby carried a watermelon. She carried a watermelon! If you are either too young or too old to remember the wistful teenage longing all teenage girls felt who wanted to be Baby to Patrick Swayze’s Johnny, I’m afraid this next little bit is going to be a bit weird. More than usual. But I know that Baby wore denim shorts. I know that nobody put her in the corner. I know that she carried a watermelon. I know that Johnny taught her that lifty move in a dam. I know Dirty Dancing. Now too do the neighbours (with dirty dustbin standing in for Johnny).

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“I carried a watermelon”

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Now sing it with me…”Now I had the time of my li-i-ife”.

Happy Wednesday!