Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

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The Privilege of Water

I am sitting on the couch with wet hair dripping onto my shoulders after the longest shower to wash sea salt and sand off my body after a vigorous swim in the Indian Ocean.

It’s the final day of a week-long holiday for us. We were invited by my family to join them for a week at timeshare in Umhlanga, and mostly it has been a break from the devastating reality of the drought in Cape Town. We left our animals and house in the care of a house sitter who had to negotiate our makeshift grey water storage in the bathtub for toilet flushing, a courtyard full of plants clinging to life with only dishwater to sustain them and boxes of bought water for human and animal consumption.

We left Cape Town but took the paranoia and panic with us, and it has slowly crept up the scale again today, as we think about our return home tomorrow. Never before have I considered so deeply my privilege. I have had a week of proper escape from my real life. There are working taps on pathways for holidaymakers to wash their sandy feet. There are working fresh water showers on the beach. Our resort towels may be exchanged for fresh ones whenever we want to, and if we leave shower towels on the floor that means we want fresh ones. Drinks are served with tons of ice. Lawns around us are watered. I heard the forgotten sound of sprinklers watering the plants on the promenade.

Whenever anyone finds out that we are from Cape Town they start talking about the drought. Holiday makers from inland (Jozi and Pretoria mainly) tell stories of friends and family who visited Cape Town in December and who were shocked by the severity of the drought. Cape Town’s status as a ‘premier destination’ has taken a huge knock, and the general opinion is that huge events like the cycle tour should be cancelled because of the strain they place on water usage. My Jozi friends are part of water collection drives, and I am moved when I get whatsapp updates about water being sent to animal shelters.

I am turning my head to what I return to tomorrow. I haven’t been online much, but every time I have stuck my nose onto Facebum I have seen friends posting about water fights at Newlands, shelves at shops being empty, hand sanitiser and wet wipes being sold out, and tips for further reducing consumption. I am frightened, and it is the fear of both what we have done, what we have ignored, and how we honestly believed it could never happen.

 

Powerful Nostalgia

I spent last weekend in Jozi, running around and celebrating my niece’s 4th birthday and my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary, and showering twice a day. On the morning of my departure I had to go through a big cardboard box that had been lying in my brother’s storeroom since my mother’s passing. I needed to try and find copies of my university certificate, otherwise I would never have gone through the daunting task.

My brother left me with strict instructions. Take, leave stuff to do with him, bomb the rest. I picked up a letter at random. It was a letter to me from my mother during my first week at UCT, Feb 1983. I held the thin blue airmail paper between my fingers. I looked at her curly writing. I started to read. I stopped. This was never going to work. I tossed the letter into my suitcase. Next I held up a yellowed, musty smelling piece of newspaper – the classifieds. Two sentences underneath the headline CHORITZ announced my birth. Next was a photograph of my grandfather and my father and his sister; both small children in home made Tarzanesque swimming costumes.

A love letter from my boyfriend who was on the border. At least a hundred letters from a Cape Town friend writing to me in Joburg after we met at Habonim camp. A review of the first play I was in after graduating in 1987. A script of The Dibbuk, a play we performed at the beginning of my second year at UCT, when I met my long time bestie Rudy Nadler-Nir – we have been friends for 34 years now. Two photostats (at least I found them) of my university certificate. (No idea where the original is).

Photos of me as a child in swimming costume and hat on a Seapoint beach. My brother and I with swollen mumps cheeks. 

Me and a friend in a school toilet, smoking. Me smoking in lots of university and after photos. The boy I lost my virginity to. Pictures in tents, on hikes, at school, on stage, with friends, at matric dances. Pictures of The Harbour Cafe, where I was the bouncer. Me in costume, often in costume.

I dumped everything I could into the suitcase. I was feeling lightheaded and upside down.

With every spare moment this week, since being back home, I have gone through the stuff. Reading the letters, looking at pictures of nothing but veld taken out of a car window and searching for the where, when, how of it, and sharing one or two with the people who are still in my life. I am still feeling funny. In a way sad, and in a way relieved. I don’t know why.

 

Noah of Cape Town, A prophecy of Drought

In 2003 Graham Weir and I sat down to turn an idea for a story into a fully fledged, futuristic accapella musical, set in Cape Town in the near future. It took us two years to finish the writing and get something of Noah of Cape Town onto stage. This took the form of a cantata version as part of Artscape’s New Writing Programme. In the cantata in 2005, Noah of Cape Town was set in 2012. It described Cape Town as an arid landscape where water was so scarce what little of it had to be guarded by the military. Politicians were involved in hideous water scandals and the city had ground to a halt. There was an illegal black market for water. When we started fleshing the thing out once Simon Cooper had agreed to produce the full version we shifted the timeline and set it in 2020 because 2012 was too close.

The full, amazing premier of Noah of Cape Town took place in August of 2009, almost 9 years ago. As I write this we are 3 months away from Day Zero. The day our taps will be switched off and we will have to queue for 25l of water. The Cape Town we warned about in a fantastic, futuristic, dystopian ‘what if?’ has arrived.

We didn’t pull the theme out of thin air. We were worried about Cape Town and water scarcity. We saw what was happening with the migration of people to the city, refugees from the North, the expansion of Cape Town, the corruption of politicians and officials. We knew there was going to be a water crisis. And we knew this in 2003.

We cannot have been the only ones.

 

How to say it

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, Chantal Stanfield’s one-woman piece that I directed has just been extended for a week at The Baxter. Nothing could give me more ‘naches’ or joyful pride. This joy is brought home by me not having to beg, coerce or Chinese bangle (is that horribly un PC now?) anyone into going to see it. Crowds (mostly my abandoned tribe) of people have been flocking to see it, and have been doing the word of mouth thing that is more powerful than any advertising.

Although my job of directing and even ‘getting in’ to a new space is long over, I find myself drawn to the show every couple of nights, mainly to check in with Chantal because I know how lonely a one-woman show can be, but also to witness first hand the audience response to the work.

One of the benefits of directing work like this is that someone else is able to put across more subtly, kindly and persuasively, some of the strong opinions I have about being Jewish. Also, because Chantal tackles the subject from the outside looking in, she is able to make light of her observations, and it is this that the audience loves. Non Jewish audiences find the show a hilarious learning curve, while Jewish audiences are given an opportunity to laugh at themselves and see themselves a little more critically through an outsider’s eyes.

All of this in  great, true life, storytelling tradition. I am beyond delighted that this work is being so well received, thanks in part to Daphne Khun who began the journey with Chantal, and then to Nicolette Moses, who fought hard to have us at The Baxter.

You have one more week SlaapStad. Get your tickets now.

Drought


In the last couple of days I have received whatsapps and emails and Facebum messages asking me to write my objections to a water levy for us Capetonians, based on the value of our houses, and the rates and taxes we pay. Aside from the fact that Woodstock has had rate hikes only commensurate with the hideousness of most new developments in it, I remain committed to the idea of a water levy, asking people who OWN their houses to pay more for the privilege of running water.

I have made my disgust known with our local government’s handling of the water crisis. Every single element of this utter disaster can be laid squarely at their feet. The looming water crisis in the Western Cape has been known for decades, and government’s cavalier ignoring of the warning signs is virtually criminal. Their usual Jonny come lately, blame everybody else, punishing, threatening style has never been more obvious. They have blamed the citizens of the city, national government, the weather, influx of people to the province; you name it they blame it.

This local government has wasted money on ads where our corrupt mayor whines about showering in a bucket, without any of the irony that that is how the majority of people have been washing for their entire lives.

The depth of this crisis is only now starting to be uncovered, with discoveries that most of our bottled water comes from our severely depleted dams, farming using at least 80% of our scarce resources, and the knee jerk building of temporary desalination plants as effective as wearing protection after having sex.

I wake up every day in a slight panic about water, and Day Zero. It is not a joke. Every time I flush I am reminded of the hideous and inappropriate colonial fuckery we inherited from a water abundant thinking British system. Flushing waste into drinking water is like using DDT on our food. Sickening. Yes, this system is 100% terrible for our particular condition, yet no long term plans for different systems are even being considered.

But, water in South Africa still remains inconceivably cheap. And it is mostly those who can afford it who have the greatest access. By that I mean taps with running water, flushing loos, boreholes, washing machines, dishwashers. In properties owned by people.

So, simply, if you own your property you should pay more for the privilege of having water. Stop complaining about that part of the problem. Suck it up. And, instead of behaving like your corrupt and immature local government, be part of the solution, even if it is paying an extra R150 a month, at the most. Take a deep breath and think about who you are, and where you are, and how you live.

PS. Also, avoid the Water Shedding Cape Town groups on Facebum, unless you want daily access to the worst trolls, haters, blamers and idiots.

Thoughts on going into this year

I know I want to reinvent this blog. It is a kind of new year’s resolution without the fanatical resolve. I am already in the not fanatical stage. Maybe it’s because meganshead is 11 years old this month. That’s long for a blog I think.

Anyway.

What do we want to share in a blog? It has to be something longer than a Facebum status update, or a new, double length tweet. It has to be something that readers will come here for. Especially. Deliberately. On purpose.

Do people still read blogposts? I do, but very rarely. I usually get directed there by an announcement on social media.

I have decided that today I won’t announce this on social media and then see whether anyone swings by to look at it.

Please leave comments with thoughts. Love ya, mean it, bye.

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