Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Melinda Ferguson


I was talking to my friend Melinda Ferguson yesterday. Both of us had had a challenging week; a week filled with grief and despair, measured with the absolute knowledge that there were so many worse off than either of us. It is a balancing act that defies the laws of nature. How do you manage the personal, political, global and local when you have no idea what is really going on?

We were talking about the feeling of how charity has a ‘drop in the ocean’ effect when Melinda came up with the most simple, practical and obvious idea. Imagine if anyone who could would eWallet a destitute person R350 a month? The same amount that the government will be paying. Imagine if we kept it personal, took out the NGO, the middleman, the administrator? Each person who can, sends R350 to someone who has nothing, every month for the next while. keeping them alive. With no fanfare or rigmarole or publicity. If you can, you do it.

Right now R350 is a sacrifice for me. But it is simple. I must read one tarot (and R50 more) for it to happen. I know of someone in the Transkei who has nothing. I will send her the money, every month.

Who is in this? Who wants to do it? If you think this can work then let’s spread the word. If you have good ideas about how to spread the word, then do it, go for it. If you can afford more, give more. You decide.

If you want to talk about this more, leave comments. If you want to add to the idea, the conversation, let’s do it. I have a feeling that now is the time, and the place. If you don’t personally know of anyone, ask me, ask someone who works for you (who I assume you are still paying). Caryn Gootkin from Souper Troupers knows of many homeless people that could use R350 a month and who may not be able to access government funding. If you want recognition for contributing, I will publicise your effort.  My fantasy is that everyone who usually gives randomly and generously will be able to harness their donation into a specific, realisable, simple thing.

Edit. Please let me know, privately or publicly, if you do this, so we can get a sense of our reach. I have just done mine.

Bits and Pieces

One of the really cool things I did from 30 March to 5 April, all while in lockdown, was an online memoir style writing course with my long time friend and brilliant writer Melinda Ferguson. It was pretty intense, and took us all to some real pain spots. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; some of the stuff we wrote about was hilarious, if not seriously bleak and dark.

I now have a small body of work created in that time and I thought it might be fun to share some of it here. It’s not like it’s destined for anywhere else, and I love this blog space, even though it is weathered and a bit neglected.

I thought I would start with this fun exercise, where we wrote about lockdown diaries day 10, and then day 100.

Corona diaries Day 10

It is only because I am lying on the floor on my Pilates mat that I notice it. Corona Zoom Pilates has become a thing, and my mat, usually squeezed between my cupboard and the wall and used for emergencies (I don’t know what kind, I haven’t actually needed a Pilates mat in an emergency), is now always in the lounge.

Linus, my boy dog, dog of my heart, IBD sufferer, Hobbit hairy foot, stinky breath, spatchcock lying down boy, is lying near me, waiting to see what I am going to do next. That’s how it has been in the house since lockdown. The dogs don’t trust me anymore. Anyway, I am staring at Linus’s body and I see that he has a weird, scaly, flaky, lumpy growth on his elbow. It is huge, and gross. What the fuck has happened, and how did I not notice this before? Well, that part is easy. Linus’s fur hides a universe of weird things.

I jump up, banging my knee on the furniture I have moved so I can paint the skirting boards, and go and take a closer look. The Game of Thrones scale disease has found its way onto Linus’s elbow (do dogs have elbows?).

I am hysterical. I call the vet. It takes an age for someone to answer. “Look, look, I know this isn’t an emergency emergency, but Linus has a sci-fi growth, fungus, goitre thing going on! I need to bring him in!”

She tells me to take photos and WhatsApp George (I am deeply in love with George. Have been for two generations of dogs and three generations of cats).

I squeeze Linus between my knees and photograph the flaking abomination. I send the pictures to George and wait.

George the saviour, the calm and thorough, the dog whisperer, messages back. “Common in dogs who have spent the summer lying on cool cement floors. Put Bactroban on. For 4 days. Then once or twice a week.”

And then…

Corona Diaries day 100

Friday 3 July (this is fiction! I am changing names to protect the real people)

We meet secretly at the top of the road. It is freezing. Only 7am and still dark in the middle of Cape Town winter. The dogs, now completely used to never leaving the house, are silhouetted by the stoep light as they wait for me, ears pricked.

Fikkie from the corner house and I have gone into business, desperado style. I have two packets to bring him today, and he has a small wad of cash for me.

Marion appears on her stoep with her cup of coffee and gives us the stank eye. She is religious and doesn’t approve of our little arrangement. Also, she is the unofficial street compliance officer and Fikkie and I really don’t want her to call the police. Really.

I smile at Marion and wave. Fikkie follows suit. I turn my back to her, and hand Fikkie the Checkers packets stuffed with the leaves, ready to be oven dried, cleaned, shredded and rolled.

It was an accident, I swear. On day 10 of lockdown I had found some fruit and vegetable seeds and planted what I had thought was cabbage and coriander. Instead the healthiest tobacco plants had speed grown and flourished – I have had all the time in the world to care for them – and I had approached Fikkie, a Woodstock hanger abouter, on WhatsApp to ask if he could help me. He had jumped at the chance.

So now I grow the stuff in my back courtyard, and he processes it, home grown style. Luckily he has a stash of rizla paper, stockpiled in the early days of cigarette banning.

Now we sell Fikkie’s Entjies, five a pack, loosely bound with elastic bands, totally organic and without harmful chemicals, to the neighbourhood. We can’t keep up with the demand.

Today I’ll be able to order much needed dog food.

I got that festival feeling

This is a picture of me, taken by Jonathan Taylor, at the Grahamstown festival in 1990, twenty one years ago. I am sitting on the Village Green, helping Melinda Ferguson and Chevvy sell their stuff. I can’t remember if I also had stuff to sell.

Melinda and I had driven my father’s Toyota Cressida down to Grahamstown from Jozi with her mobiles, the sets, props and cozzies for two shows, and our other stuff piled in. We were performing the anarchic sequel to Live Technology (created by Melinda and Peter Hayes) called Dead Technology (by Melinda and I) and a little miracle of a co-production with artist Margaret Roestorf, called Live Art Exhibition. It was in a carpeted sunny room at the Monument that is now the Fringe office! It was exactly that; a live performance of Margaret’s and our writing in a room filled with her paintings.

I absolutely loved that festival. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard. At the last moment Melinda and I had a fight with the person whose cousin we were going to be staying at and our accommodation fell through. Chevvy reluctantly agreed to us staying with him in his commune and we lay on a concrete floor in our sleeping bags for a week. There was no hot water. Everyone else in the house were traders, not performers, and were very stoned and loud. Melinda and I would pack bags with our various costumes and leave them in the boot of the car while we went to the market in between shows.

But our shows were fantastic, and we were passionate and obsessed. And we jauled like there was no tomorrow. Most late, late nights we would end up rolling around on the stinky carpet in front of the fire at The Settlers Hotel opposite The Monument. Or we would dance and scream at the late-night ‘club’ in a side street I can’t remember. Most nights we stayed up as late (or early) as we could because we couldn’t face that concrete floor. We smoked millions of cigarettes and hung out with all the performers and critics and musos and even traders (there was cross pollination in those days). Late night cabarets and music and even movies were always full and only the start of the night’s jaul.

Sunlight and the Village Green was recovery and thaw out time, while we collected an audience, sold craft and ate that same Hare Krishna food. We had just discovered it. There were outrageous reggae buskers. There was flaming Ian Fraser, dissing everyone at his sold out comedy slag-offs. There was weird rock at the Graham Hotel, and venues the size of tissue boxes. There were house parties where people were so trippy they literally floated.

Now I’m getting ready to make this pilgrimage again and I must confess to wishing some of the stuff could “be like it was.” I know I’m romanticising. There was the festival in 1993 when I performed The Rhino Woman when I was so, so alone and sad the whole time. There was the time in 1994 (the only time I was ever part of a completely sold out show with added performances) when I was miserable and angry the whole festival. In 1995 I was involved with Journey, directed by Peter Hayes; the only time I was part of the main festival. It was a wild one, dangerous and crazy, the year James Phillips had his accident. I was in love with about ten musos that festival (including Brendon Jury) and I was secretly involved with someone and so was my best friend.

There were festivals where I performed TheatreSports, festivals where I directed beautiful, completely unattended work, festivals when I knew that the work could have been better, when I could have been stronger, festivals where I performed my own bizarre creations. In 1997 (I think) I did The Return of The Rhino Woman, and I was so, so happy; and drunk every night of the festival, with my ‘technical manager’, my friend Justin, who I had roped in to help me.

I must confess, The Long Table is fun, but it’s a different kind of hanging out that’s done there. Somewhere in the 21 years that I have taken to become this person, who is this age, everything has changed. I just am hoping that this festival, where my own fest identity will be completely different because I am going solely to see work and write about it, I will get that feeling. It’s the slightly mad, almost dangerous, a little out of control, manic magic creative electricity. Bring it on.

Hooked and Sitting Man – Two great reasons to be in Kalk Bay

It started with a beautiful drive from hot, sunny town straight into a wall of mist on Boyes Drive to get to Kalk Bay Books. Of course Big Friendly and I overshot the traffic by an hour and we got to Kalk Bay early enough to have cappuccinos in The Annex, a gorgeous restaurant behind Kalk Bay Books. Melinda Ferguson was also already there. It was the launch of her second book, Hooked, that we were attending. Melinda is one of my oldest and dearest friends so there was much love to go around. I am deeply proud of her and how she has actively and consciously made her life beautiful and meaningful. The bookshop was packed to the rafters and Melinda spoke straight from the hip and heart. She was entertaining, frank, outrageous in the most charming way, and she was patient with the many recovering and not so recovering addicts who had a million questions.

Armed with my very own, signed copy of Hooked, we marched down the road to what felt like home! The Kalk Bay Theatre. Man, I love that place. Honestly, I stomped up those stairs into the warm, loving embrace of some of my favourite people in my favourite spot. Now, I absolutely have been a bit theatre-phobic the last while, but I was amped for this show The Sitting Man, written, directed and performed by James Cairns. I saw and loved James in Brother Number, at the Kalk Bay Theatre a coupla years ago.

The Sitting Man is a fantastic one man show. With only a chair on stage to fill the brief of the title, James, by performing a series of characters who are linked by action, slides into a world of South Africans that are immediately identifiable, hilarious and tragic. He is so good at them it almost feels like he is channeling this weird bunch. His accents are spot on. His hands! They change subtly with every character. His face! Now, James has a distinct face, plus his head is totally clean shaven, but every character looked different. He is so adept at playing these human creations of his that he fills them with a rich emotional context, even though we spend so little time with each of them. The story, about a parcel that needs to get taken from Jo’burg to Cape Town, is a teeny bit convoluted, and there is a big, fat loose end that prompted Big Friendly to exclaim “It can’t be over! What happened? What was inside the parcel?” But it is a wonderful vehicle for stringing together these fringe, loser, weirdo men. My favourites were first, the drunk pool player, whose perfect Sotho accent was classic, second, the daggahead, a reminder of more than one smoker from my youth, and then, the poor farmer. James is brilliant, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I was sad when it was done! The Sitting Man has a three week run before James switches over to his other one man show Dirt. Do. Not. Miss. This.

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