Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Jozi (Page 1 of 2)

Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.

 

 

Just one of those paradoxical observations

Hands_older-and-younger_SMALLA tiny hand holds tightly to mine as I lift my 2 year old niece up onto the low wall in front of our house. The minute she feels safe she starts wriggling out of my grip and I have to hold her little wrists, my big fingers encircling them completely, because, “We can’t sit on the wall and not hold on.”

This love we (Big Friendly and I) have for this person is unique and delicious, and agonising. She has come with her parents to visit from Jozi, where they live, and it is always too short seeing her, how ever long it is. It is the paradox of love that makes us the perfect uncle and aunt when they visit us, or we visit them, or we go on holiday together. Heaven, right here on family earth. And it is a paradox that prevents us from uprooting our lives and going to Jozi to live with her, where we would not be these people there. Our hearts remain torn, and she is growing too fast, and we spoil her rotten, because we don’t see her enough. We squeeze her too tightly, and kiss her too often, and say “careful, don’t run” because our own hearts are in our mouths.

I love watching her turn to look at me and laugh. I love her dancing and singing (she is very, very clever). I love her slang, picked up fluidly from her father, and her kindness from her mother. I love her memory, and vocabulary and her powerful manipulative ways. I love that she trusts us, and wants to please us, and can sleep, and wake up to us. I love that she spent the day saying “I love dogs”, because we do, and we say so. I love that she is so funny, and finds me so funny too. I love that sometimes she cannot bring herself to say sorry, or please, or thank you, and sometimes it springs from her lips with ease.

And it is a paradox, of a kind, that people say what wonderful parents we would have made, with a sad tone; too late now. And I have to remind them that I didn’t want to have children in the first place, even though I probably might have been a rather good mom. The one thing doesn’t necessarily go with the other. But when I see this person, and imagine her as mine, in some way, like us belonging to a tribe, she is my daughter, and I her mother, and all mothers, even the one I never had.

This is the final post in our series of tandem blog posts. I think they have been truly fabulous and special. Please read the next one, with the same title here.

Dave Luis: https://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/just-one-of-those-paradoxical-observations/comment-page-1/#comment-1760

 

My Heart of longing, place and being

Every time I come to Jozi I have a small internal tug-o-war. I love this city of my birth and growth, almost as much as I am deeply rattled by it. I have written about this before.

I love my family and friends here, and it is a different love from my close and loved ones in Cape Town. I can’t explain why, but it is.

I love the winter here; the clear, dry, frosty mornings and the ridiculously warm and sunny days, where the sun sets (and rises) too early. Don’t get me wrong; I love Cape Town winters equally, where I worship the wet and green, and light fires and make sure my windscreen wipers work.

I love the energy that people talk about here in Jozi, and the suburban relaxing that happens on the weekends. I love driving past my own haunts, and saying the names of the streets in Yeoville out loud. Kenmere, Dunbar, Fortesque, Cavendish.

It is also true that I wish there were more street lights; Orange Grove is scary and dark at night, and the Uber driver who took us to visit our friend seemed nervous about stopping outside his house. I am left deeply uncomfortable by a new style of begging here, where street beggars kneel or lie in the road in between cars at robots, taking it to a whole new extreme. I am shocked by how flippant the response to crime here can be, with friends being carjacked, and aquaintances having their phones stolen off them in mid-conversation.

I hate seeing buildings that I remember in complete shambles or ruins. I miss an accessible Hilbrow even though downtown is unrecognisably regenerating. I sometimes feel like Joburg is Cape Town in reverse.

I am drawn to and repelled by this place for totally different reasons from being drawn to and repelled by Cape Town. Every time I come up here I want to live here again but can’t wait to get back home, I want to do things here, and then remember that I do them at home, I am tugged.

And now it is our magnificent little niece who draws us here with the most powerful heart magnet. Sometimes the love for the small people of our family, who are all away from us, and not in Cape Town, pull our hearts out of our chests and drag us up country, away from our first loves, our furry animal babies, who we pine for and panic about every time we are away from them.

Like I said. Tug-o-war.

Jewish

Most of you know, I’m jewish by accident of birth, and proximity to and love of family (to whom it may or may not mean a little or lot more), but personally, I can take it or leave it. Mostly I am not proud of the special antics of visible Jewish behaviour and am definitely the other side of Zionism (which is a whole ‘nother story and can be found on this blog in better and more serious detail here and here).

I am often in mood swings with the Jewish stuff; I love making and eating kneidlach, which I do generally very well. I have some fond memories of Jewish occasions and traditions, kept in a bastardised kind of way by my grand parents, and I love Kletzmer music with a deep and abiding soul connection. I will speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism in the same way as I do with racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia – I despise discrimination and hate those that practice it. But the truth is, I am often embarrassed by the way Jews behave!

So, what happens? I fall in love with, and marry, a perfectly un-Jewish gentile (his 6ft4 frame stands like a lamp post amongst my very Jewish family of bedside cabinets), who is delighted, entertained and fascinated by all things Jewish. Big Friendly has three ‘yarmies’. He asked for and received a Channukiya for a wedding gift. He indulges in an Afrikaans-ised Yiddish that is as hilarious as it is corrupt. He loves Shabbash (Shabbat, with our friends the Noodles). He geshvitzes and shloofs. He gets toegedreidt (instead of tsudreit (sp)) and he loves all Jewish references in movies and books. Go figure.

When my cousin decided to come to Jozi from Australia to hold a rolling four day barmitzvah for her son I realised that is was going to be a series of firsts for Brenton. And it was brilliant.

Day 1 was a drive through a sleepy public-holiday-Jozi city centre to get to the Lion’s Shul. All Jozi Jews of a certain age remember this shul near the old Alhambra Theatre because of the two lion statues on either side of the doors. It was Big Friendly’s first time at any shul. He was a little unnerved that men and women would sit separately and so I sent him in with my brother, and I went upstairs to the opposite balcony so that we could at least see each other and pull faces. The shul is cute, old and gorgeous, with lots to look at. Imagine Big Friendly’s total surprise when some of the men, with giant prayer shawls in place, hauled two little leather strapped boxes out of bags and started putting them on heads and arms. His eyes nearly popped out of his skull.

After the service, and his horror at the kids pelting the barmy boy with sweets (Big Friendly’s second fave things, next to chocolates), his amazement at the Brocha spread, and his fascination at how, throughout the service everyone kept up a constant chatter, he asked me why one of the men was a ninja. He felt very sorry that this guy, the ninja, had been asked to leave for a section of the service. He in fact was a Cohen, who had to leave so the family could get preference for coming up to the bimah (you try and explain that!).

That night, at the party, I watched Big Friendly as the barmy boy was hoisted high above heads on a chair and shaken about in celebration. I watched as the look of confusion spread when he took in the barmy singer, singing along to the remix track of “Simeltov u Mazeltov” and his amazement at the food and the Jewish love of it.

Then there was the Friday night supper. Brenton loves the Kiddush wine. I had to give him my glass as well. He still laughs every time he hears that there will be benching, and he forgets every time that it means grace after meals.

Then there was the actual service and main reading at the Glenhazel shul on the Saturday morning. It was a long one, in a giant, modern shul. I don’t remember why, but Brenton absolutely loved it. Maybe because he got given another special yarmie. My fave moment was when a wooden walking stick suddenly went horizontal among the seated men, and I watched as ancient Hymie tried to poke my cousin with it; he needed help to go to the bathroom.

Saturday lunch in an old Joburg garden was when Big Friendly attached to Frank the French bulldog. And when we drank pink gin and watched kids versus adults play the most vicious, dangerous and hard-core game of soccer.

It was intense.

Being home is a lot less Jewish.

Heather Mac I love you.

Today is my birthday. There is a cup cake surrounded by silver hearts outside my door. I am lying in bed, in my boet and sister-in-law’s place in Jozi, surrounded by double the stuff I brought with, to pack and take home. Big Friendly is the coffee maker. And I am generally delighted.

Last night though, last night was a celebration. One of those accidentally serendipitous, magical bests. Heather Mac, Mark Harris and Amber Parr (Heather’s glorious daughter) just happened to be in Jozi, performing a gig at Old Mutual Theatre on The Square as a fundraiser for Assitej. I invited a small posse of Jozi friends and family to join us to watch and listen, and it was truly, totally amazing.

Heather is an exquisite and deeply moving performer, with a heart voice connection and a presence on stage that literally brings me to sudden tears, and that is how I stay, from first note to last. Mark Harris is delicious on stage as guitar man and Amber Parr is the most generous and gorgeous back up singer to her mom. It also helped that the best sound guy in SA, Heather’s brother John Mac was there to do the best ever sound. It was an awesome gig and a total treat to have been in Jozi to witness it. I thank my closest, who I dragged there, but who loved it as much as I did. My only wish was that more people had known about it. Assitej deserve the money, and I know for sure Heather has many, many old fans (just like me and my friends) from and in Jozi, who will hear about this gig today and literally kick themselves for not knowing about it sooner.

I am lucky. I have access to Heather and get to see her a lot more in Slaap Stad. And I will always be there. Crying along. Thank you, my great friend and inspiration, Leather Sac.

True Life Drama

It is Saturday evening and Big Friendly and I, and my brother and sister-in-law are at their home in Jozi. It has been a crazy four days of family; a rolling function with close family who came here from Sydney to celebrate a barmy. We have eaten, talked, drank, socialised, met and re-met, chased children, hugged, squeezed, driven, sat and listened, been proud, loved family, shared things, laughed, reminisced, re-enacted scenes from the past and basically spread the love.

This afternoon a crazy game of football took place in an old, huge Jozi garden, between some of the adults and all of the kids, as the rest of us looked on and criticised and cheered. The sky started turning grey and the first rumbles of thunder began. The air was charged and we sat drinking pink gins, and I could see the movie shot.

And in a pure moment of art imitating life, I was a character in this beautiful, electrically lit people and family filled space in the world and it was magnificent.

 

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