Monday, 28 May 2012


What is home? What constitutes that feeling of complete groundedness and belonging?

Home is not a place. It's not where you lay your head. It's a feeling. There isn't a city or town in this country I don't feel at home in. There was a time I hated Johannesburg. And I learned to love it. I fell in love overnight.

The morning after the night before saw me participate in the Men's Health Urbanathlon back in 2010. It was a 13km run/obstacle course that took us through Sandton. It was a perfect morning. Clear skies, bright sunshine, I think the temperature must've gotten up to 28 by 8am.

I headed back to my guest house in Illovo, and after a long, drawn-out soak in the tub and a hot, steamy shower to rinse off after, I was drying myself when I thought I heard someone moving furniture across the wooden floors in the room above mine. Turns out it was thunder.

Moments later, rain was pelting down, lightning was crashing all around, car alarms were going off, dogs were barking. The thunderstorm lasted about 25 minutes. The whole time, I stood there, naked but for the towel around my waist, door still wide open onto the lush garden just beyond the rough-hewn stone pathway, gushes of water off the roof, hitting the still-warm ground creating a magical bed of steam enveloping the agapanthus and clivia. And then it was gone. Silence. No traffic noise, no dogs, no alarms, no thunder, no rain. Just the soft trickles of water finding their way back into the earth. The air was clean. There was peace. It was majestic.

Durban became home for me in much the same way Joburg did. It was almost an overnight experience as a result of a culmination of events. And that's when it hit me: home is that feeling. It's the culmination of events the result of which will always be greater than the sum of its parts.

Cape Town is my home. Always has been. But that true feeling of belonging, of collective memory, of shared moments lost to time but eternally satisfying, that true sense of foundation, of grounding doesn't come from a physical location.

It's that moment her hand seeks yours out and finds it. That moment just after your lips part after a kiss goodbye. That hug that says "everything is going to be alright". It's being in the same crowded room, apart and not even having to look at each other to know what's going on in the other's head. It can happen anywhere. It is by no means tied down to a place.

That's when you know you're home.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Midlands Meander

I posted recently about Byron and Adél's wedding. I flew up to Durban, stayed over on Saturday, drove about two hours to Granny Mouse's Country House (en route to Balgowan) along the N3 and back to Durban that night around 10pm. It was a truly whirlwind tour, with my flight back to Cape Town scheduled for 6am Monday morning, and incredibly tiring.

But there were some incredible memories and inspirations to be drawn from the trip. The flight, the excitement of adventuring through Durban - my last visit there having been for the Currie Cup final back in 2010, the occasion of which yielded a revelation that changed my life - the drive through the breathtaking Midlands Meander, the peace resting in the valley in which Granny Mouse's is located, and the realisation that no matter how awesome the journey, it means very little when no-one is there to share it with you.

It was about an hour out of Durban on the N3, headed towards Pietermaritzburg, when I passed a troupe of Vervet Monkeys. Seen by many as pests, and certainly on a trip to Sedgefield years back, I can attest to their mischievousness and general destructive behaviour, I found myself slowing down, wanting to point out to whoever it was in the car with me that there were monkeys at the side of the road. I live in the city. Seeing wildlife along the roadside is something I will never tire of. Hell, I still get excited to see squirrels in my garden.

There was no-one else in the car with me. I felt somewhat sad, knowing that Loved One would've enjoyed the drive, would've enjoyed the adventure, that many stops would be made and tons of pictures taken.

You see, we often forget that the destination is only a small part of the purpose of a journey. While my destination held awesome wonderment in store for me, I still longed for a driving partner. It was only a little two-hour jaunt, but it was a little two-hour jaunt that took me through some incredible valleys, past the quaint town of Hilton, past a troupe of monkeys, alongside a noisy gaggle of Harley Davidson motorcyclists, and saw me being overtaken in a flurry of high-pitched noise and flashes of red and black by some or other gang of Ducati-mounted demons.

For the most part, I found myself reaching over to the passenger seat with my left hand, and finding none to meet it. Words are useless when road noise is whirring through the thin doors of a rented Getz, but the feeling of another hand meeting yours, soft and smooth, is comforting.

When fingers interlock, there is the most amazing sense of calm that betakes one. Solid ground, as my best friend describes it. It augments every experience. Even just walking down a street, sitting in a restaurant, lying on a couch quietly watching crappy TV... suddenly, the mundane becomes sublime.

With the simple application of another human's hand in yours.

Things I Have Left Behind

This isn't one of those deep, introspective pieces on the things I have left behind me as part of my emotional and physical growth and ageing process. No, contrary to my very together appearance, I am rather forgetful - particularly when leaving a place I've spent the night (or a few nights) in that happens not to be my own home.

I tweeted a few of them under #thingsihaveleftbehind but I thought it might be an interesting list to look at again. So, here it is...

1X 3/4 bottle cologne, Joburg
1X exfoliating facecloth, Joburg
1X exfoliating facecloth, Durban
2X pair of socks, Port Elizabeth
1X full bottle shower gel, Durban
1X pair underwear, Port Elizabeth
1X tub matte hair wax, Joburg
1X heart, San Francisco

Monday, 21 May 2012

God Among Men

I'm dedicating this blog post to my grandfather, Pa. Jack Eley. At 84, still a legend.

I know what you might be thinking; two blog posts in one day? Isn't that against blogging rules? Well, seeing as this post ties in with my previous post, I hope I'll be forgiven.

I'm privileged to have a grandfather. Not many people do, and I've had him for as long as any adult human being can hope to have a grandfather. That is to say, long enough for him to see me become a man. And I pray every day that I am the kind of man that makes him proud.

You see, he isn't only a grandfather by nominative designation. He's grand in every sense of the word. I was telling my best friend the other day that he is the best man I know. The very definition of tall, dark and handsome. A strikingly good-looking man, Pa is wise. His wisdom often masked by his dry wit sharper than any words the sharpest among us could spend hours thinking up. He just spat them out. A never-ending string of witticisms.

 Once, while in the bathroom on one of our many holidays to Kleinkrans outside Wilderness (Pa and Granny owned a house there), Bruce and I asked him to hurry up so we could go to the beach. He remarked from behind the locked door: "then hand me the scissors". "Why?" came the inquisitive reply from Bruce. "So I can cut off."

Pa taught me how to play chess. I learnt from him patience, and the importance of measuring my words. Pa is a retired Shepherd in the New Apostolic Church. And while his preaching over the altar was often hard to swallow, I don't recall Pa ever causing offence. All of Pa's decisions were deeply considered decisions.

He'd always known I love animals. We'd spend hours in his perfectly manicured garden in Garlandale looking for chameleons, learning which plants were edible, how and when to prune, which flowers prefer which feed, and how you could increase your fruit yield by nailing iron nails into the trunk of your fruit trees. For one birthday, he gave me an ancient book called The Manual of Zoology. For others, they were books about gardening, flower varieties and other interesting topics.

When things seem to be falling apart around him, Pa is a centre of calm. He is peace personified. Always ready with advice, but only if asked for his opinion. Pa would never impose. He loves sport, and has impeccable taste in music.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years back. Granny got hold of every piece of literature she could about beating cancer through diet. I'm convinced she cooked him healthy. He beat cancer. Read that again. A man in his 70s beat cancer. He had a heart attack. He survived. Spent the minimum amount of time in hospital. He's suffered a stroke before. He nailed it. I'd begun thinking my Pa was Chuck Norris.

Now, as he lies struggling on a hospital bed in Pretoria, frustrated by his current condition after Tuesday's major stroke that has him paralysed on his left side, possibly for good, unable to speak, possibly for good, banging with his right hand against the bed-rails, defiant against weakness and failure as ever, he remains my superhero.

Beat it Pa. Beat it in its stupid face.

The Happening

The frailty of the human body was once again laid bare to me this week, as was the immense power of the human spirit.

On Tuesday, my maternal grandfather - known to me as "Pa", and to Bean as "Pa Ping" - suffered a major stroke. His recovery thus far has been little short of miraculous. While on holiday in Johannesburg with my folks, he went to lie down and three hours later when someone went to check on him, they discovered he was lying rather awkwardly and immediately rushed him to hospital. I got the call from my mom on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, after much prodding for information from my side, she told me he would be paralysed on his left side for good. I took the news, swallowed it, and moved right along.

On Thursday, about 20 minutes before I was scheduled to go on air, I got a BBM message from her saying "Please call me, boy". Naturally, I felt the sickening rise of bile to my throat, the giddying light-headedness, and the ghastly anticipation that this would be that call. Thankfully, it was not.

But it was bad news.

Mom: Pa's not going to recover
Me: OK
Mom: His organs are failing
Me: OK
Mom: His pacemaker's keeping him alive
Me: OK
Mom: OK
*hangs up*

I cried.

After the show, my brother (I call him Bruce) called.

Bruce: When are we going?
Me: I'm on my way home now
Bruce: What time are we flying
Me: I don't know
Bruce: We have to get there
Me: I know
Bruce: So are you going to buy tickets? I don't have money.
Me: We'll get there

We flew out on Thursday night, drove through to Pretoria and arrived there at around 02h30. We spent three visiting sessions with Pa on Friday.

Session 1 - ICU
It's 11h00 and Pa is lying on his back, hooked up to machines that monitor blood pressure, heart rate, other vitals, but most importantly, cranial activity. The pacemaker inserted as a result of his heart attack not too long ago is keeping him alive. The pulse is so strong, I can see it in his neck. His eyes open. The makings of a smile accompany the firm, vice-like grip from his weathered right hand completely enveloping mine. He moves his eyes towards me as I tell him Bean wanted me to pull his nose for her (He makes a sound that sounds a bit like "ping" when she does, hence the name she's given him). He's weak and in ICU, but his grip remains as strong as the hands that toiled all those years in the garden, and held me aloft at birth. The nurse remarks that his progress has been incredible. "We thought we'd lose him overnight".

Session 2 - General Ward
It's 14h15 and Pa has been moved out of ICU. He's not out of danger, but I take this as a good sign. He's vocalising grunts and moans, and begins rhythmically beating against his bed. I'm convinced he's trying to communicate via morse code, but I don't recognise the rhythm. I curse quietly at myself for not remembering what I had learnt in Cub Scouts. He's so strong he nearly topples the drip that's connected to his right arm after yanking on the tube. He's frustrated and angry. Bruce breaks down in my arms. I comfort him with my arms, his heavy sobs into my chest punctuated by me telling him how proud we should be of Pa for fighting like this. He's so much stronger than we give him credit for. For Bruce, the pain is seeing Pa helpless. For me, it's a sign Pa hasn't given up. Granny affirms our belief that she can cure anything. "Just let them release you to me, Jack. I will fix you."

Session 3 - General Ward
It's 19h15 and the whole family is there. Me, Bruce, Dadonator, Mom, Brian (mom's brother), Robyn (mom's sister), Ollie (Robyn's hubby), Cherné (Robyn's daughter) and Ryan (Robyn's son). Pa has become immensely frustrated. I have a feeling he doesn't want us seeing him like this. He's pointing, murmuring, but we don't know whether or not he'll ever speak again. The only time he's calm is when we pray, which we've been doing all day. Cherné remains silent, tears rolling down her perfect cheeks. Ryan awkwardly shifts on his feet, Ollie rescues him by taking him to the hospital kiosk at the entrance. Robyn's in tears, my mom is broken, Brian remains stoic, Dadonator keeps saying things that don't quite fit, Bruce is in between sobs, and I'm against the wall, on the outside while remaining indoors, looking into a situation I am inextricable connected to, but removing myself from emotionally. I've had my cry. That's not what Pa needs now. What Pa needs isn't tears. What Pa needs is something to fight for. Looking at the love in this family, he has.

I was satisfied that I had said my goodbyes were he to take a turn for the worse, but mostly I was hugely encouraged by his progress. Myself, Dadonator and Bruce drove back to Cape Town on Saturday.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cavendish Kitchen

So, last week I was asked to be a celebrity chef. Barring the obvious stumbling blocks of my not considering myself a celebrity and the glaring fact that I am grossly untrained in the ways of cheffery (that is a word, right?) I accepted because isn't it any on-air presenter's dream to have an awesome cooking show? Well, it is mine, anyway.

Wednesday, May 16th 2012 was the date set for the Cavendish Kitchen launch (find it on Twitter as #CavendishKitchen) where us "celebs" would get drawn alongside a restaurant whose signature dish we would spend an hour entertaining crowds making at the CTICC over the weekend of the 24th-27th in Cape Town. Mine takes place between 12h00 and 13h00 on Saturday 26th of May, and I'll be cooking with Col' Cacchio - yeah, I know. You can actually taste my excitement. Well, I can, anyway...

Well, people of the interwebs, it appears I need your help once more. See, if I win this here little cook-off, that's R5000 for my preferred charity, which is, as you all know, the Woodside Special Care Centre - a home for severely mentally and physically handicapped children.

Here's how you can help: tweet @goodfoodSA and keep hounding them that I should win (don't forget the #CavendishKitchen tag) and also click this Facebook page (, like it, and vote for me there. I know together we can do this, interwebs folk!

It's 5k for some kids at an organisation that can make five thousand rands stretch further than Pravin Gordhan could ever wish to stretch them.

Ready, steady, cook!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What Love Looks Like

There can be no mistaking the look of love.

This weekend has been a stark reminder of that. One of my best friends in the whole world, Byron Drew, tied the knot with Adél Colyn at possibly one of the coolest weddings I have ever attended. The ceremony and subsequent full-day celebration was the perfect combination of formal, relaxed and downright awesome.

Tables were decorated in a Bohemian theme, the company was great, the food exemplary and the love abundant. Exchanging their vows, I'll never forget Adél's face as she tried to restrain her tears, eyes locked with Byron's throughout the ceremony, in a mixture of admiration, love, respect and complete trust.

Later, during the speeches, a couple married for a touch over 30 years didn't catch me staring at them with admiration. The glances they shared mirrored the look Adél and Byron shared. It was inspiring stuff. My conversation with the experienced wife later that evening centred around this principle: The reasons we fall in love, are not the reasons we stay in love. I struggled to grasp the concept until I had mulled over and rationalised the concept of the evolution of love. Love evolves. But the looks remain.

It's the moment eyes meet, even fleetingly, even inappropriately, even when a lingering look is nigh impossible, that takes one's breath away. In that instant, you're lost to the world, but undeniably home. We romanticise those moments where "my eyes met yours from across the room" and until that happens, you will doubt it could exist.

Yet, it does. The moment the eyes meet, and a glance is maintained just long enough for those watching to feel a pang of jealousy that they're not being allowed into the conversation the two of you are obviously having without using words, made more beautiful by the blinked affirmation of both pairs of eyes, the too-long exhalation of breath after, the awkward shifting in one's seat, betrayed by the look of smug satisfaction that in that moment, the world belonged to just the two of you, and that in that world, you were safe from everything else.

This past weekend was a whirlwind of such looks and the realisation of the evolution of love. From one couple still young in love, but maturing in the understanding of their emotion, to a newly-wed couple yet to discover even more things to love about themselves and each other, to a couple actively working on their love even after 30 years together - the look between two lovers is unmistakable.

That's what love looks like.

Friday, 11 May 2012

South Africa's Stain

To say racism is a uniquely South African malaise would be a lie.

I've experienced racism in many forms, particularly growing up. One of my favourite childhood memories among many that involved Dadonator piling us into the car for impromptu road-trips saw us arrive in a small town somewhere along South Africa's back-roads.

It might have been Standerton, but I could be horribly mistaken, and wouldn't want to give Standerton a bad name. We arrived in the town rather late that night, in either a Ford Sierra or a Sapphire (I could tell you which if I knew how old I was at the time, but I don't remember). My dad, Dadonator - with his fair skin, sandy hair and green eyes - went through the front entrance of a hotel to sort out overnight accommodation (we were the adventuring type of family, not one for reservations, but more on that in another post). After paying for the room, my dad proceeded to bring my mom and I in, brother on his arm, asleep. Upon seeing my raven-haired mom, and my mocha-coloured me, The Inn-Keeper hurriedly ushered us back out of the front entrance and into our car.

Now, initially, this had gotten my pre-teen blood boiling, despite having had very little understanding of the recently abolished Apartheid system and the light breezes of change yet to come. But then I remembered, on the same trip, my mom being sent into cafés and taverns in the Transkei and Ciskei to ask for directions because my dad feared his pigmentation would not be met with favourably. The Inn-Keeper then leant in through the driver's window of the Sierra/Sapphire and whispered to Dadonator "pull the car around back, I'll let you in there".

It was somewhat of an adventure. A breakfast buffet was sent up to our room, so as not to disturb the other guests with our brownness upon a chance sighting, despite us checking out of the hotel just before the sun rose. We all have anecdotal stories of our country in her former veil. And yes, the division sown by the regime of the time did much to strengthen our already entrenched, deeply divided and fractured racial and cultural partiality.

The deep racism we bear is not the result of Apartheid. Apartheid just made it worse. Why is it that we South Africans hate each other so much? We encounter it daily. It's as simple as a colleague questioning my African-ness. As simple as brown people from the western coastal regions of South Africa asking why the darker portions of the population traversed the Fish River in the first place. It comes to the fore in our comments about refugees, or letting the word k****r slip forth from our mouths and fingers.

Let me just briefly express how much I hate that word. Not for its racial connotations. Not for its supposed similarity to calling an African-American person a negro, nigger or coloured. But because of its original meaning. Its Arabic root. Unbeliever. Denier of God. Infidel. Hider of the truth. Maker of iniquity. Those preceding N-words and the C-word strangely roll off my tongue easily, particularly when I'm rapping along to Jay-Z or Dr Dre. But I can't bring myself to calling another human being a k****r. See? I can't even type it, I'm so ashamed of its existence.

Now, we look at ourselves and say "that's not me! I'd never say that, even in anger". Watch your racist self when you hear a black reporter or politician pronouncing the word "ceremony" as ce-REM-ony or "circumstances" as cir-CUM-stances. And yet, when Victor Matfield rapes the English language five ways till Sunday, we look at him, fawn and say "shame, he's trying. It's his second-language". English is, for the large part, the second-language of most South Africans. Wait, what's that? "But reporters, anchors and politicians have a responsibility to speak correctly. It's their job". Yes, it's Victor's job too. This isn't about Victor. This is about our reaction to just hearing someone's voice on the other end of the telephone line and thinking "oh, God" with a sigh.

We judge far too easily. And it's that deep-seated, entrenched racism that's holding us back. We are all South Africans. Different, sure. With common threads? Maybe, but sometimes they're tenuous at best.

We forget that the world looks to us with pride that we were able to negotiate a complete regime change without a civil war. Was there bloodshed? Of course! A mass exodus of panicked South Africans packing for Perth? Yes! Did we go to war? Were those stocks of tinned food put to good use? Has the country truly gone to the dogs?

I hope you answer that last question with a resounding "No" and are able to look at yourself and say "I am a racist. But I'm going to change that". Our racism is an inherent disease, and no amount of national discourse, embargoing of words, censorship of tongues or hugs and handshakes and pledges of unity is going to change that.

Make the change in yourself. Then teach your kids. Because it breaks my heart when I hear my daughter say "you know my best friend Tshepiso at school, the black girl?" She's four. Come on, South Africa, we're better than that.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Cape Town

This is an insider's perspective of an outsider's experience.

To quote Holy Scripture, I have somewhat against you, Cape Town. You are the city of my birth. The city of my growth. The city I love. But you have disappointed me.

No, not anyone in particular. Just your general you-ness. I had always thought Cape Town was the Friendly City. Having spent an inordinate amount of time in Port Elizabeth, and countless trips to Durban and Johannesburg, I find this to be somewhat of a misnomer. In fact, there are entire countries far friendlier than Cape Town's purported platonicism (here's looking at you, New Zealand).

From the lack of courtesy when we drive, the lack of engagement when queuing at a till, the inconsideration of stopping our cars right at the line when turning right so that when the light turns amber, no-one but us can continue on beyond the intersection, the way we rant on and on about the Gautengers during festive seasons, to the welcoming of guests and outsiders into our spaces, be it at work or at home... we're not exactly the friendliest bunch.

Now, I know I'm going to get plenty of backlash for saying so, in fact, I welcome it. But I feel that Capetonians are some of the most superficial, shallow and cliquey people I know. I think it was Hayibo that said it best upon the release of the hit sci-fi movie "District 9", when describing why the aliens decided to arrive in Johannesburg: "Durbanites would've been too busy putting Sharks stickers on the space craft, and Capetonians wouldn't have bothered with the aliens until it was cool enough to be seen with them" (I'm paraphrasing here).

It's this La Cosa Nostra crap that irritates me. This our thing. We other outsiders. It's us and them. We're helluva friendly to each other. We're even friendly in front of outside people. But we seem to struggle to make them feel welcome.

Nowhere is this more evident than the recent AFCON debacle. I am in no way picking sides, nor do I intend to argue for either government, local government, SAFA, the organising committee or even the tourism people who say visitors will be missing out on Cape Town's natural beauty come AFCON 2013. Let's face it, Cape Town would attract and welcome visitors anyway, AFCON of te not.

But again, it's this "this is the way we do things around here (and we'll be damned if we're forced to change)" thing that gets to me. It's an excuse I hear time and again. "This is the way we do things here". What bollocks. If "this is the way we do things here" then the Mongols would never have conquered Asia, we wouldn't still be using Latin in the modern world, hell, we might not even be cooking our food.

Cape Town, you are the city I love. I have lived nowhere else for longer than a few months. And you will hate me after this post. Why? Because your cage has been rattled. And being open and honest about ourselves sadly "isn't the way we do things around here".

It's time to buck the trend, mi amigos. Competing within the borders of this fantastic, phenomenal and promising country can only hold us back. Who cares if our traffic lights work all the time (unlike up north)? Who cares if really bad traffic means we're on the road for all of 30 minutes? We should care that our service delivery and education may be above par, but really, Cape Town... did you do that? Yourself? Or the people we voted in to ensure our City works. Stop claiming the hard work and sacrifice of others as your own before happily waving the fruits of said hard work and sacrifice in the face of others as if you've earned it.

It is entitlement, plain and simple. We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful, vibrant and eclectic cities on earth. The least we can do is share.

Let's make sure when we invite someone in, we make them feel at home.