Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Winter Solstice

I often wonder whether there are things in the world that we all feel exactly the same about. I know it couldn’t possibly be true that everyone had the same response to things, especially since our lived experience all over the planet is so diverse, but I have these poetic notions that there are things that bind all humans; even if it is simply that we share in the wonder of new life, the sadness of sudden or even lingering death, and an innate aversion to suffering. I don’t let myself think about that too hard, because of the holes; those that I know do not share these things, or at least act like they do not feel them, or have unlearned the feelings.

But I have this feeling once a year, on our winter solstice (based on absolutely no fact, or reason) that we are all a bit crazy on winter solstice and that we connect to something dark and old, a bit dangerous, a bit unstable, and very natural. It is both an unsettling feeling and a comforting one; that we share this short day and dark night with each other, and that, symbolically, we start moving towards the light now, even in tiny increments.

This year I hope it has to do with our whole country, I am able to visualise our country being in this nadir of dark unsettledness, and now crawling towards something lighter, easier, healthier.

I guess this is simply a visualisation exercise, but how cool if we shared it.

(PS. I was on set yesterday, acting and having the best time of my life, so maybe that is why I am all blissed out and full of thoughts for positive change.)

The Rat

I should have known the particular “Megan!” that Big Friendly shouted, early yesterday morning, before the sun was even up. I should have recognised the tone, but I was still half asleep, so I wasn’t fast enough when he shouted “close the door!” and I jumped up, too late and a thing crawled in and under the spare bedroom door.

Thus began the stand off between us, the thing, the cats and terrified dogs, that is a rat/mouse in the house. The last time it happened, Chassie had caught a mouse and it was screaming for help as he squeezed it in his jaws. It was a Saturday night and it took Big Friendly two hours to catch it after forcing Chassie to release it, then building a fort, blockages and various other obstacles. I was pretty useless. I was used as look-out and pet body guard. The tension between Big Friendly and useless me was big.

Yesterday’s drama was a bit of a repeat. Big Friendly had to create barriers, and take out most of the stuff that was moveable in the spare room. I took the terrified dogs for a long walk. When we came back the rat/mouse/thing was stuck under the small, but very heavy old cupboard in the spare room. There was no way we were going to manage this operation on our own.

Enter Facebum and our fabulous Woodstock group. I searched for pest control and was immediately reminded of Sebastian Seelig from Pest Free SA. I buy GR5 from him, a strong, environmentally friendly, multi-purpose household cleaner. I saw on Facebum that he also does ‘extermination’ and pests. I called him, desperate.

Sebastian came, and the first thing he asked was, “do you want …?” And we knew exactly what he meant. We said, “please do the other thing, release it somewhere.” and he said “sure.”

And between him and Big Friendly they caught the small rat/giant mouse and got it into a cardboard box, and Sebastian drove it away, and we all saw on Facebum later that he released it at Paarden Island. I don’t know if these guys are territorial. I hope we haven’t started a rodent gang war.

Some of the chat on my thread on Facebum was the best. Apparently rodents don’t like damp cotton balls covered in cinnamon or peppermint. Apparently this makes them run away. We didn’t try that, but I’ll bear it in mind.

But Big Friendly and I have spoken, and we want to save our relationship. These rodent encounters are too stressful. And we have 2 and a half cats (Jonesie the part time cat is actually probably a rodent exterminator specialist, since many a front door mat has had to be thrown away with blood and guts soaked fur or feathered dead thing mashed into it). I mean what are they there for, these cats of ours? We need to let them sing (or kill) for their supper. They eat enough Royal Canin Feline Senior Consult Stage 1 anyway.

There is a construction site down the road, that has basically been a dump since we have lived here. All the feral cats, various rodent life and any other scavenging, desperate thing are being moved out. Some are going to find their way here. And next time we are taking the dogs for a very long walk and leaving the thing to the cats. We will deal with the bloodbath after the war.

Period Pain

I am reading South African writing at the moment and have just finished Kopano Matlwa‘s Period Pain.

I can’t remember being that unsettled by a book, ever, really. It takes the form of secret journal posts, some confessional, some describing events, some reflecting back on the past, and some even prayers and admonitions to god by a black, female medical doctor.

It is in turns hilarious, gross, shocking, unbearably sad, jarring, ugly, beautiful and mad. It is our country in one person, and one person who barely survives our country.

Conflicting and fluctuating attitudes about religion, education, family, xenophobia, white mistrust, and what it is like to be a woman are all turned over, examined, shaken about, discarded, picked up again and examined for wounds.

It is a devastating read, made more bleak because every word could be true and these things happen to people here every day.

And yet the writing is mad, quirky, urgent, poetic, totally original and compelling. I haven’t ever read anything like it.

It is a must read book. Must.

Virtue Signalling

A couple of months ago my friend K introduced me to the concept of virtue signalling while we were chatting about politics. It was a new one to add to our growing lexicon of complicated ideas, but it is one that I was particularly drawn to.

Virtue signalling is when you announce the goodness in you loudly; like a white ally, crying white tears and making the issue about your identifying pain. I have been totally guilty of virtue signalling. It is part of the process of acknowledging white privilege and the systemic racism we are part of.

When I think back to the huge deal I made about starting to learn isiXhosa I recognise that I was doing a lot of virtue signalling. I had to be called on it (before there was a definition for it). It was a hard lesson. My virtue signalling goes back a long, long way to my varsity days during the crazy early 80s and the mad and dangerous state of emergency, violence, and real revolution that was starting to play out. Going to Crossroads or Lavender Hill for a UDF meeting was not living in Crossroads or Lavender Hill. Protesting along Rhodes Drive with almost 90% white UCT students was not quite the same as #feesmustfall. My history of (privileged) activism cannot be used as retrospective virtue signalling to gain cred, or political points. I am still learning what virtue signalling is, and what means to be a true ally, and what calling out bullshit in others is. I don’t always get it right. I keep trying.

Virtue signalling is at its worst on social media, where it is easy to have knee jerk responses to things, to have solidarity to half truths and fake news, and where you can signal your ‘virtue’ by ‘liking’ or ‘hearting’ or ‘cry-face-ing’ a thing, with no further action needed. It is also so easy to offend people on Facebook and Twitter (I sure have had a week of it), and I am still trying to decide whether it is useful to offend people, or not.

One of the most ugly and opportunistic and reprehensible spin offs of virtue signalling is crisis advertising, where companies advertise how they are helping in a crisis situation. Take the Knysna fires, for example. Banks and supermarkets and restaurant chains (I am certain with the best Capitalist intentions) seem to have taken advantage of the chance to put their names on the helping hand basket for pure PR purposes. Of course their help is desperately needed, but I do gulp when I hear about this help in paid for ads on the radio. Do you see the irony there? We have to work hard to tell the difference here, but it leaves a really bitter taste in my mouth.

I want to work hard to recognise my own virtue signalling. It is a dangerous distraction from the real work that needs to happen. Who is with me? What do you think? Is this post virtue signalling?

 

The Woman Next Door

I have broken a reading dry spell by devouring The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso in just under a week.

This extraordinary novel is set in a terribly familiar Cape Town, but its angle on the issues of land restitution, racism, culture and aging are so original and thought provoking I will never think about these things in the old way again.

The protagonists are two old ladies, next door neighbours, who live in a sheltered, gated community in Constantia. They hate each other vehemently, but are forced, by circumstances both beyond and in their control to negotiate a relationship.

Through their backstories we get to know each of them and their secrets, lies, and special shames, and then they are brought forward and thrown together, exposing their relationship to a post-Apartheid Cape Town that challenges them in different ways.

I think that there is something so brave in choosing two eighty year olds to be the leads in a story. It is a high risk that pays off though. I was drawn into Hortensia’s stuck ways, and grumpy oldness from the beginning. Marion was also deeply familiar to me, with her broken Jewish background and dysfunctional family.

Mostly, what hooked me and kept me attached to every page, paragraph, sentence and word was Omotoso’s writing. It is beautiful, simple, direct, haunting, deliberate, light, clever, funny and achingly moving.

It is a book that will stay with me for a long time, and I will turn the words and ideas, about loss, and love, and being a stranger, over and over in my mind and heart.

The unsubtle Art of Derailing

I don’t mind a bit of trolling or name calling here, on my blog. It goes with the territory, and it means that my words are reaching an audience who don’t just agree with everything I say and think and write. I am happy for the traction and discussion and, at times, even happy for the feeling of support when others come to my defence.

What I absolutely hate, and it is a huge thing on social media, is when people highjack a post or thread or even post comments on my blog posts that totally derail the conversation.

A case in point has been my last two posts about the fires in Knysna. Most people have shared and commented and been active in the discussion. There have been those that disagreed and who took umbrage at me ‘making it about race’. Those people have been easy to engage with, even when I have been a bit harsh.

The derailers are people who go off on a complete tangent, dragging you into an invisible part of the conversation, insist that you do, or don’t do, something, call you names and accuse you of shopping at Pick ‘n Pay. Out of the blue. And I spend time with these people. I try to explain. I get all hot under the collar and my spelling and grammar go unchecked.

The worst part of this is that I am guilty of it too. Facebum and Twitter never show my ‘audience of friends and followers’ my actual mood when I do, say and write things. I have just pissed someone off so badly they told me to ‘get a life’, because I derailed their good news parking story. I pissed them off so badly they unfriended me. I am sorry. They are right. And so am I.

So, this blog post is a moan in session of its own navel gazing bullshit. And it is also an apology to Craig Freimond.

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