Sunday, 22 September 2013

Close your eyes and sing

When did it become a sin to waste time?  Oh wait, why is it wasting time even? We live in Africa, the place of no time unless dictated by the sun.  The place where there is no rush to get anywhere, where it is the journey not the destination that matters.  So just when did we forget this mantra?  When did we stop taking time to just be, just exist in a moment?  To not feel compelled to check a text in that brief pause between actions, to have this restlessness in our own space with our own selves?

On the flight back from London this week I got the window seat. I always choose aisle but I wasn't fighting with the nice lady who upgraded me.  And it did me some good.  For some reason my reading light wouldn't turn on so I couldn't engage in my ritual, frantic reading of articles on the night take-off and for a moment in quite some time, I was forced to sit and look at the clouds.   To do nothing.  To exhale.   And it almost got a tear out of me.  It took me straight back to growing up in our indulgent acre-big garden, lying on my back with my little sister, the grass making our dresses damp, giggling about silly things and nothing really in particular.  An idyllic cliche, making shapes out of clouds.  Bliss.

Where did that go?  Now I find  myself condoning crazed behavior; justifying popping to the loo at work if I make a fitting on the way, updating spreadsheets quickly as I scratch for my boarding pass in my handbag, having black coffee because anything else takes too much time.   When did I stop taking lunch breaks, watching the planes take off against the skies, brewing a good pot and letting my house smell of fresh aromas just cause?  I took Monday off to make a long weekend of Heritage Day and find myself already planning the wording of the odd mail for Monday morning which will undoubtedly ease the guilt a little.

My dad told me the heart-warming story of the American traveller in Africa the other day.  I'll probably get the nitty gritties wrong but basically the typical American traveller books a trip to Africa and like most of us, plans his trip back to back, minute to minute of where to go, what to do, and what to tick off his "must see" list.  Much like our insta-spamming, instagramming generation.  Just make sure you do it all, who cares how you remember it, how you felt.

The American asks some local men to help him travel across the country, guiding him to his desired destinations and helping him port his luggage.  After three days of relentless traveling, the men sit down and won't go a step further.  When the American asks another man what is going on, the man says: "They are just waiting for their souls to catch up with them."

When did I become that person who inhales my food rather than tastes it? Who sighs at grannies counting out their change at the counter? The restless idler behind the person who dare take more than the appropriate two seconds to accelerate once the light turns green, the frazzled Joburgers I loathed when I first moved to the city?

So this weekend I vow to watch senseless, uninformative series; walk in the garden without plucking out the weeds; and watch the sun go down with a gin in my hand and my love's palm clutched in my other.  I vow to let my soul catch up with me a little.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Mind the Gap

London.  I forgot how these streets are like self-proclaimed catwalks.  Sprees of ready-to-wear fashion at your fingertips and some all-not-to-ready-to-ever-be-worn ensembles strutting down the pavements.  Stages where you can flaunt your wears and promote your identity, not matter what that may be.

This city is a cradle of trends, some genuinely original and some contrived in their frenzy to regurgitate the trends or beat them.  And ironically they just fall into another stereotype right? Mohicans with studded leather battle against twinsets and pearls (no doubt a flourish from Miss Middleton's influence).  Some perfectly groomed and others seemingly dressed in what could only be the results of tragic jumble sales in the suburbs... surely?  Who pioneered these wars between such fashion tribes I wonder? Estranged fashion identities merely cohabiting together.
It's practically balmy by London standards (I'm wrapped up in a sweater and biker) and there is all too much more than appropriate lily-white flesh on display.  That's what I love about this place.  Where back home the average sub-60 kg girl blushes over her under-toned underarm, these girls couldn't care less if their love-handles submerge their tube, waisted skirts, spilling out from beneath their crop tops .   Positively unbecoming, positively refreshing.
I forgot what a rush this place gives me and I wonder if there is at all a quiet place where you can read a book  unless locked in a toilet cubicle... Oh wait there is public transport of course.  How could I forget those tube rides?  Me, all of 5 ft 2 nestled into a complete stranger's 5oclock armpit, our arms entwined as we awkwardly grip the railings above our heads.  Ironic how invaded personal space can be here in a nation that all too often remains impersonal with each other.  Sometimes I feel like I missed the memo banning communication on the underground, like someone switched it onto mute.   Usually the only banter comes after the 7pm runs when the local pubs have loosened the white collars and stiff upper lips and we all forget the ban on conversation.

This city boasts creativity unabridged and raw.  And there ARE those who defy the gods of the catwalks and their deemed rightful trends.  These are the unique whose fashion fancies seem unrestrained.  Here some rockabilies, there some prims in pretentious hats... They all embrace this lawless existence of style where anything goes and nobody knows.


I know whether or not to believe the myth that they dress like this in the hope of being spotted, snapped and liked but my optimism yields me to think they are just dressing as they do for the sake of it, for the sake of being and for expression's sake alone and that not doing so is just not an option.  Whatever it may be it makes me all too conscious of my boring ensemble based on practical travel-packing and  it offers a breeding ground for bloggers and style hunters.  They thrive on the array of material at their fingertips.  Snap, snap, snapping away.  Guilty.

Whatever form, there is this unmistakeable, unstoppable energy that makes my heart-beat quicken and my being yearn for this city and all it has to offer.   Hello London, I've missed you.