Today has me thinking about the women in my life. Other than two significant men—my husband and father—my life is a rich tapestry of relationships with women. There’s my mother of course, that strong thread of gold woven throughout my life. My sister’s thread appeared often in the earlier parts of the tapestry—sometimes slightly dark and knotty. Now it appears less often, but has transformed into the warm, welcoming colours of familiarity and friendship. My daughters’ threads are light and lovely—the colour of sky, sea and hope. They intertwine playfully with the vibrant swirls of my nieces’ threads. Continue reading
Now this admission is going to be rather heart-breaking for my father, who hand-picked this name for me. As a boy, my dad spent most of his holidays with an English family on the Isles of Scilly, just off the Cornish coast. My Dutch grand-father decided he wanted his son to learn to speak English and, given that he had business dealings with the bulb-growers on the Islands, Scilly was the perfect place to send his twelve year old son. Continue reading
Three and a half years ago God gave me a promise. Now I’m not one of those people who hear clearly from God on a daily basis. For me it’s always a lot hazier than that. I might hear a sermon on a specific verse and read the same verse in a book later that day; I take that as God speaking to me. I might get a sudden sense of clarity in a situation, or a particular feeling of peace surrounding a struggle. Sometimes, like John Wesley, ‘my heart is strangely warmed’. Continue reading
To begin with I am White when the very word ‘African’ implies Black. Even Americans who have added the word African to their identity, seem to have a greater claim on the continent of my birth than I do. To complicate matters, I am the child of European immigrants, always suspended between two cultures and two continents, never fully belonging to either. Continue reading
This past weekend I did something rather terrifying. No, I didn’t go bungee jumping … or cage diving with sharks. Not the ‘Tower of Terror’ at Gold Reef City, either. No, definitely not sky diving. Okay, these guesses aren’t leading anywhere, so let me just tell you. This weekend I ran a Writing Workshop for 13 people. Was that a slight huff I heard? Not terrifying at all, you say? Continue reading
Rome never slumbers. The early morning clatter of chariot wheels and the rhythmic march of passing soldiers wake me before dawn. I long to rise and watch them, to recall what makes ours the greatest empire on earth, but pain pins me to my sleeping pallet. The gods have taken everything from me, even these simple pleasures. My wife … dead. My sons … indifferent. My rightful status stripped from me, humiliatingly, by the Emperor. Curse them all! Gods and people alike.
Soon one of my few remaining slaves will come to dress and feed me. Even in his eyes I will read scorn. To him I am an old, dying man. He will not see what I once was—a Roman prefect, power-wielder and judge, bestower of life and death. Continue reading
The hiss of my name draws me from a restless dream. Momentarily, relief surges through me; the gnarled hands pushing up from the soil to grasp at my brother’s ankles are not real. ‘Just a dream, just a dream’, my heart pounds loudly.
“Martha!” I hear the fear in my sister’s voice.
I stumble from the sleeping palette, remembering how Mary had coaxed me to leave Lazarus’ side in the night. “I will watch him for a few hours,” she had said. “He seems slightly better.” Because I was exhausted from two constant days and nights of standing vigil, I had agreed. And it was true that Lazarus no longer thrashed around in pain, even though his body still burned with fire.
Now I drop to my knees by his side. My fingers graze his forehead; its scorching heat shocks me. Only then, in the candlelight’s flicker, do I notice that Lazarus’ eyes are open. Yet, it is not my gaze he holds; his glazed eyes already seem to roam worlds far beyond our own. Continue reading
Officer, it pains me to say this but I’m not exactly sure when or where I lost Joy. I can see the disbelief (and judgement) in your eyes, but let me say for the record that she’s always had an annoying tendency of hiding away for a few days at a time, usually when things get too clamorous or busy in my world. Inevitably, I find her again – usually in the garden, under the Tipuana tree, her small face lifted to the wind’s caress. But I’m worried because there hasn’t been a sign of her for some time now. Continue reading
This is the question on everyone’s lips since we returned from our trip to Australia and New Zealand. It’s a valid enough enquiry, given the statistics showing that over a million South Africans have done just that.
It is also one laden with emotion. Emigration divides families and friends physically, but in many ways, also emotionally. There’s a sense that the pioneers taking the plunge are ‘braver’ or ‘wiser’ than those that stay behind. For me, the most difficult emotion I wrestle with is the idea that I am doing my children a disservice by choosing to stay in South Africa. Continue reading
My grandparents would arrive to spend our December holidays with us, laden with Christmas specialities. My favourite was probably the chocolate letters. I’d get a ‘J’, while Yvonne got a ‘Y’. I always had the sneaking suspicion that there was more chocolate in a Y than a J. But I figured a “W” would even trump a “Y” on chocolate content – it was the only time I ever wished my mother had called me Wilhelmina! There would be other delicious things too, things that tasted of almond, cinnamon and warm, foreign spices – banketstaaf, pepernoten and stollen. Continue reading