Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: Cape Town (Page 1 of 83)

Deeply Personal reflections on The Jewish Literature Festival

I came home early; undone, dismantled and teary. I would have been stronger, held it together better if I had seen it coming but I never do. And I should have trusted my instincts.

When I was invited to participate in the first festival last year (by the amazing, driven, talented and deeply caring Caryn Gootkin – of Souper Troopers) I said an outright no. I still bear the keloid scars of my personal horror story at one Limmud once, and I know that these spaces are a deeply challenging one for me. So, what changed my mind this year? Did I bring this onto myself?

There are probably a few reasons why I agreed. The first and main one was a general softening in me towards the Jewish community of Cape Town after the way From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was received here. It was a great success. Our play was understood, appreciated and enjoyed. The second was that I had agreed to be in conversation with someone, who then wanted to do their own thing, and I think the inclusion of me in the programme as a speaker in my own right was an afterthought. I knew. My body told me that this was true and I didn’t listen. And the third was, ever since Tali’s Wedding Diary I have been getting genuinely kind recognition from many Jewish Capetonians (and South Africans) for my tiny cameo in it. I thought I may have developed a little traction. And also, I always want to share my knowledge. I love talking about the stuff I do.

I Ubered to the festival. Shafiek was nervous as he stopped to let me out. Suspicious glances from the guards outside the Jewish museum gate turned to recognition once I climbed out and waved him on. I got my presenter’s pack, dashed inside and joined a packed and rapt audience in a warm seminar room for Stephen Sidley’s talk on Science, Jazz and Stories. Then, in the same space I listened to Lisa Chait in conversation with my old friend and hero Mark Gevisser. Then I went downstairs to find out where the Book Lounge venue was for me to present my interactive ‘workshop’ on scriptwriting.

Baffled by the poor woman on a microphone who was struggling to read to an audience in the main outside thoroughfare, I made my way to the info table to find out where the venue was. That was it. I was going to be running my session there, in that main thoroughfare. At lunch time. It is fair to say I lost my shit. A main organiser tried to tell me that the space was perfect. A volunteer was dismantled. A woman was trying to run a mindfulness session while people ate their lunch wraps and ordered coffee.

Phillip Todres (and a few others) saw me at my hysterical worst and jumped in to help me. At last my venue was changed to a boardroom that had been reserved for the slightly bigger kids. I cleaned up the room, removed tomato saucy plates and sweet wrappers, piled paper and pencils into heaps on the table and then ran my interactive workshop. For 6 people. Husband and son of an organiser, my cousin, two teenage girls and a man who wasn’t sure he was in the right place.

It was clear that Henry, the man, had been sent by the gods. He needed my workshop and I needed him. The other five were sweet and kind and cooperative, and I do hope they got something out of it, but I don’t know.

I wanted to stay and listen to Gus Silber. I wanted to hear Sugar Segerman (whose wife kicked in to high gear to help me while I sobbed). But my roast vegetable wrap got lodged in my throat and I couldn’t swallow. Alan Glass tried to lighten my burden with jokes but I couldn’t. I came home with my tail firmly between my legs.

Did I bring this onto myself? Am I delusional and hysterical when I believe I need better consideration? Why is this struggle with this particular community always so fraught for me?

And then there is the self loathing. I was the only one who made a fuss. Who refused to do it there. I watched others suffer, but they pushed through with greater fortitude than I, a performer who should have been able to, was even prepared to try.

 

 

SA life #snapshot

I had such a beautiful uplifting and heartwarming night last night at the second opening of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. Honestly, I could not be prouder of this work that has evolved and grown into something I am so aligned with; magical theatre and storytelling with a human message.

It was with a bittersweet heartache that I woke up, ready to get back to my home, partner, animals, other pressing work and Cape winter storms, knowing I was leaving this show, and Chantal, in Jozi, as well as my hometown and city that I long for, love and hate in equal measure. The only way to describe my feelings for both of these cities is in the SASL sign for ‘it’s complicated – a frowning face with wormlike fingers moving from out to in front of the signer’s face.

Lucky, my Uber driver, was chatty and we spoke about how ridiculous the SA banking system is. He needs a loan to buy his own car, but the bank won’t give him one because his previous loan is paid up; something he did way before the time, even paying penalties for early payment. How will someone like him get ahead, he asked.

I had a tiny epiphany. We have to take a risk. Individuals, groups, corporates, banks, governments, friends, neighbours. We have to help each other. Build trust. Have something to lose and risk anyway. Help someone with their education. Help someone take out a loan instead of saying no. I don’t know how, but I know it is so, so necessary. Let’s do this thing. Let’s help each other.

I was going to write more, but I boarded my flight, felt sad about the homeless and vulnerable in stormy Cape Town, and lost my gees a little bit. Still, one thing I know is that I am going to try and help more, do more, be more.

Edit: I bought a bed for 5 nights for a homeless person from The Haven. It cost R60. It is the easiest thing to do. Go to The Haven and buy one. If you do, let me know.

 

South African Jews for a Free Palestine

It was a no brainer that I would march on Tuesday with many other Capetonians who are horrified by the atrocities committed by the state of Israel and its IDF against Palestinians. I was emotional about being one of the few South African Jews who were there, but committed to holding a section of the SAJFP banner. As we traipsed across the patch of rapidly greening grass to gather in Kaizersgracht Street we walked past these people in these tents and I got hysterical about land again.

People are living in these tents on this patch of land under the shadow of the mountain. I watched as Jesse Duarte and her ANC entourage in their shiny black cars came to march. They drove past these tents. They were our government marching for the rights of Palestinians. It was hard to swallow the irony.

But, back to the march. Please indulge me here for a moment. (I am taking licence because this is my blog, about my stuff). Never before have I had that kind of connection with people, and I am an old and seasoned marcher. Men and women thanked me, hugged me, embraced me and kissed me. Women held me and whispered their gratitude for me, us, our little group. They spoke about how brave we were (I didn’t feel brave) and their eyes glistened with tears.

Before we walked people took photographs of us and the banner. While we walked people made space for us, wanted us to be seen and acknowledged. One of the organisers of our little group was clear that we were not the focus nor the forefront of the march, yet I have never felt more seen or visible.

I felt human and connected with humanity on Tuesday, and yes, I do know that it isn’t about me, wasn’t about me, but I am spurred on to do things to try and make it better for those who are victimised, demonised and brutalised by others; here and elsewhere.

About that Land thing

I eavesdropped on a casual conversation between two white Woodstock residents who were ignoring their dogs’ poo in the park. They were ‘ventilating’ the notion of social and affordable housing in Woodstock and they were kinda whinging about why Woodstock had to ‘get social housing’. ‘Why them, where they live and have recently spent a total and absolute fortune on their newly revamped old Victorians or built from scratch mixed development apartments?’ is what I think they were getting at. And I thought about the people, mainly tenants, who had had to make way for these revamps, and those who had been evicted to make way for the snazzy developments that show only white people in their artists’ impressions. What interested me more than their ignorance and short memories was that they saw absolutely no irony in the fact that Woodstock had been a social housing and affordable option up until they had moved here.

I got home in a prickle. I couldn’t get their voices out of my mind. I also kept seeing the smile on Brett Herron‘s face as he handed keys to a resident of a social house in the, to use his words, Bo-Kaap facaded, development in the arse end of the world, Fisantekraal. He was so proud. Fisantekraal. In the photo of the Bo-Kaap facaded houses Table Mountain looks tiny because it is so far away.

Brett Herron is in charge of transport and housing in the city. Brett Herron lives in Newlands. Brett Herron has explained to Reclaim the City that the only place evictees of Woodstock can be temporarily housed is Wolwerivier (not Blikkiesdorp anymore because it is even more terrible and isolated than Wolwerivier).

People in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town have made it abundantly clear that social or affordable housing schemes are not welcome in their ‘hoods. Their main argument is that it will bring down the value of their property. Well, folks, your property became valuable because poor people were either forced out or were never allowed in. The birth of townships like Imizamo Yethu is a perfect example of poor people having nowhere to live or transport to get to work for the rich in suburbs like Hout Bay.

No apartheid campaign was as successful as the forced removal of communities, and the destruction of homes, history, livelihood, stories, culture, families, livelihoods and access. Nothing deserves our attention more than redressing this. And yet, it gets a band aid, photo opportunity, pretend solution of Fisantekraal. It also provides the worst possible excuse for those who do not want affordable housing anywhere near their unaffordable housing.

What I don’t understand even a little bit is why these rich snobs of the fancy suburbs are even allowed to voice these concerns. Why is there any delay in identifying land, and building on it right now? Why is this not happening in Maiden’s Cove, Sea Point, Constantia, Hout Bay, the CBD, Milnerton, Pinelands, Rondebosch, Claremont (where people were forcibly removed), District Six (where people live in holes in the ground), Simonstown, and on any single tiny patch of land owned by the city of Cape Town?

Every (white) one is hysterical about land expropriation without compensation in theory, but these same people are clinging to a notion that they can spout ‘property values’ and not be racist and complicit in perpetuating the radical spatial and geographic apartheid of this city. And the city of Cape Town is complicit and active in perpetuating this too.

 

 

Water Tariff Middle Finger

This is an open letter to the City of Cape Town and local government.

Dear CoCT and all involved in the design and rollout of the new water tariff hike,

I want you to know that I have just done something radical. I have had my first five minute shower since September. I did not save one drop of grey water to use elsewhere. I know it is immature, but I needed to wash the unbelievably bitter taste out of my mouth and the itchy skin crawls off my bone dry body.

See, I have taken this drought very damn seriously. Our first attempts were haphazard and experimental, but now our water saving is totally on track. Our household has been consistent in using under 50l of water per person per day pretty much from the day the last severe water restrictions were announced. Our bath is filled with grey water for flushing, our pot garden is virtually dead, our stoep is covered in building dust and highway pollution but cannot be washed, our car sees water only when it rains and we have spent a fortune on drinking water for ourselves and our animals.

I must also state up front that I was, against the tide, in support of the scuppered water price hikes that would have seen home owners pay more for water based on the size and value of their property. I was so annoyed that the rich and privileged showed their ignorant and whining voices when this came up, and that it was these voices that won.

As punishment, your new sliding scale targets two kinds of people. 1. Those of us who have taken restrictions seriously. 2. The poor. No matter how I look at it, those who use the least amount of water will pay the highest prices. High users pay less. The more you use the less you pay. Am I missing something here?

In every way you favour the rich and powerful in our city and give the middle finger to the poor. And I am gatvol. Sies. Clean up your act.

Vegan Musings

Yesterday my boet was in town and we went out for lunch. I chose Massimo’s in Hout Bay because I have never been and I know that they have an omni and special vegan menu. I had a most delicious vegan pizza (my only mistake was adding vegan cheese to it; horrible, unmelty coconut oil flavoured lumps) and everyone’s food was good. They even had a selection of vegan wines to choose from. I like that. It was all expensive. Eating out is expensive which is why I don’t do it that often.

It is so important for me that being a vegan isn’t about having to spend more money on food. Eating out is an absolute treat. Buying ingredients is not about buying expensive meat or dairy substitutes. In fact the only thing I don’t resent spending money on is cashew nuts, after discovering how they grow when I was in India.

Although I adore the brilliant sharing of information, recipes and advice on social media, the curse of belonging to Facebum vegan groups is that they can be both judgemental and snobby. This is a problem when vegans are trying to convince the average Joe that being a vegan is both accessible and affordable.

So when I am Facebum invited to a pop-up dining experience at R450 a head, or I read about a vegan high tea that costs the same as my weekly veggie purchase, I get a little antsy. When I read that soy milk is out and almond milk, at double the price is in, I do have a bit of a knee jerk response that omnis who might want to transition would find that off putting.

Big Friendly and I popped into De Waal Park on Saturday. I dragged him because I saw on Facebum that there was a vegan bake sale on and I wanted to support it. I want to support as many vegan initiatives as I can so that they continue to happen. I didn’t tell him that the teeniest crunchie and minute lemon poppyseed square cost R40. The poppyseed cake was ok. Big Friendly didn’t even remember to eat the crunchie I bought for him. It was too small to notice on the kitchen table.

And I am left feeling a little grumbly. This is what I think. Animal based protein is expensive. If a restaurant needs to ‘veganise’ a recipe they are leaving out the most expensive part of it. Vegan dishes cost less to make than omni ones. Soy milk costs only a teeny bit more than cow’s milk. Anything with cheese in should be more expensive, not less expensive than the non cheese version.

We vegans should be able to convince people that veganism is not a pastime for the well-heeled. But we need to demand that it is more affordable.

 

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