Linkin Park crawling to SA!

Finally, Linkin Park is coming to South Africa and I couldn’t be happier! I fell in love with the hard rock back in the day when I was still a bustling teen whose music taste gathered anything from Linkin Park’s nu metal and Blink 182’s pop punk to Destiny’s Child’s pop R&B and Beastie Boys’ hip hop. But Linkin Park’s raw rock, rap metal and powerful lyrics was my firm favourite. Chester’s voice was my go-to and I hoped that one day I’d see them live. Linkin Park has always been on my music bucket list and finally they’ve made the move to tour Africa. After a decade of adoration, Linkin Park is stopping by in Jozi and Cape Town in November 2012.

7 November – Cape Town

10 November – Johannesburg

 

Go to http://www.computicket.com/ for tickets

Here’s some Linkin Park favourites. Hard to pick.

 

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Happy Birthday Madiba

Thunderous

Deafening icon

A boxer’s gloves

A saint’s heart

A fighter’s rage for freedom

Making colours washed

And carrying hope

under chain

under history’s turmoil

confusion

and schemes

 A strong heart

And hope that this will be his legacy

A forever design

Struggle in life, life for struggle

After climbing a great hill, one will find many more hills to climb

 

And he climbed

Flag on the hill of colours

sweeping moments where people shook their heads

prayed

ran away

only to find that the flag kept waving

 It always seems impossible until its done.

And it wasn’t ridiculous

The brawl for recognition and humanity

Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.

And may the rays flicker

Burn

Smoulder

 When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.

So we carry on with beginnings

With no end in sight

So we can keep

An inheritance of abandon

And promise

 Qunu’s father

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

And we get up

And again

And again

Empire strikes back

Arcade Empire,Pretoria’s colossal live gig hang-out, is back and better than ever with its grand re-opening on 20 July. It’s bigger and better. Mastered with cool kids, local bands making great music and DJ’s dropping bass, The Empire is sure to bring about a new age in Pretoria’s rather subdued night life. For me, it’s a favourite. Hatfield can keep its drunken high-schoolers and okes and Centurion can keep its zef. While Jozi  boasts Gauteng’s grand spots, Arcade is the coolest. Also, we don’t have Avastar (cue vomit). Arcade’s new venue will be kicking and will definitely attract more with the always impressive weekend line-ups, pizza and drink specials. The atmosphere is either laid-back or insane.

20 July, Grand Re-opening featuring Wrestlerish (local boys and Arcade regulars),  Taxi Violence, Isochronous, Van Coke Kartel and  Moejoe vs Minx.

Entrance is FREE.

New digs: 265 The Highway Street, Equestria, Pretoria East  (-25.767651,  28.326498)

These are some of the tracks from each artist that I love to see live:

Wrestlerish:

 

Taxi Violence

 

Isochronus

 

Van Coke

 

 

 

turn on ‘invincible’ switch

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson

There’s a crick in my neck on my 23rd birthday.It’s today. It’s as if Age slapped me awake saying “This is how it all starts and feels, buddy.” There is a downcast feeling of birthday-ing after you’ve revelled in your teens and drunk-up 21st. But today, it’s a little great to wake up being older, wiser, happier and ‘in my prime’ so to say. I wouldn’t say I’ve got boring. Or have planned on having babies like so many girls my age. I think I will live in a complete ‘me’ state until I can. I still see myself as a kid, a flip file with a whole lot of plastic sleeves yet to carry the memories, trips, old and new friends, love, satisfaction, disappointment and laughter. Right now, its commonplace for me to start paying bills, buy myself stuff, and make sure I plan out a budget; chit-chat about Zuma’s ANC, the damn petrol price and wrinkle cream.

Actually, last night a bunch of my friends got together and the wrinkle cream debate came up. How early is too early? Is it too early? Never thought I’d be thinking about it. The thought’s disappeared now. Anyway, I think it’s a considerable crossroads now. When you’re 23, you’re not young. Certain social spots are drenched with soaked up high-schoolers whose vocabulary consists of “wasted” and “OMG”. I used to be like that. Then again, 23 is not old. You can get in any ‘older’ club now but you still breathe youth. No bald spots. No wrinkles. No grey touts. I’m a kid though. Cartoons. Rock. Free entrance. Cheap food. Cheap booze. Cheap calls. While I live in luck for the moment, with good friends, the best family, a great job and straight teeth, I am exultant to be looking ahead and enthralled at what Age might bring me. When the unexpected might turn up.

Yesterday builds tomorrow and while I pine for more, I know that something lies ahead of me now. Passion and upgraded thoughts of voyages to everything and nothing, meeting people who are characters in thought but real in talk, in experiences. I am happy to meet the future me. I’m considering busting out Fun’s “We Are Young” or Alphaville’s “Forever Young”.

Today is the youngest I’ll be again. While you’re reading this, it’s the oldest you’ve ever been. When we were young, our minds were turned on Invincible. Don’t grow up and switch that attitude off. It’s the wisest manner to uphold every day you’re alive. Here’s to my twenties.

I don’t believe in luck

I don’t believe in luck or fate or destiny. I believe in choices mostly. I believe I’m still alive at 87 because I chose to eat right after 50 and stop smoking. I also go for a walk everyday to keep my legs going for as long as they can. I’m not supposed to be here still because of some incredible providence that is laid out for me. I’m old. Hell, I’m almost dead… so people should stop saying that I’m still around for a reason. I’ve loved before. I’ve hated. I’ve made mistakes, taken risks, accomplished what I could. Now, I’m stuck in Open Glen Retirement Village, watching sport or soapies, reading the paper and scrutinising headlines. I play Scrabble, Bingo, Suduko and do some crosswords. At night I lie in bed with some strong tea and watch the news, flick through to some fanatical reality show where people in plastic cry far too much and read a few pages in my Bible. I’ve had my Bible since I was 14. My ma gave it to me. Now, its crumbling, the pages thin and yellow. The words: still beating to today’s flaws and hopelessness. Avant-garde  wisdom that’s resilient but vanishing in today’s mind. Stupid kids. Anna bought me a new Bible about ten years ago but I lost it somewhere.

My daughter Gemma visits once a week with my grandson Grant who turns five next week. My son Henry is in Australia. I wonder why people always go there when things turn to shit. I wouldn’t pick that desert.

“Lyle, what you think about the conference?” It was Alice pointing at the news man. It was some piece on the government spending millions on a conference for the environment. They were going to discuss ‘going green’. They were also going to this conference on their twenty jets. Irony. Alice looked a little disheartened about this because she loved her plants. Had little cactus plants in her room. She was the one who would plant little trees once a month. The Village let her have the happiness.

“It’s a little sad…” I told her. Alice nodded and frowned at the TV set, squinting through her thick glasses.

“You know, July hasn’t had a tree yet,” she remarked, “we’ll get one tomorrow. Come to the store with me, Lyle?”

My name isn’t Lyle by the way. It’s Paul. Lyle was Alice’s husband who she forgot about. Lyle came over a few times a week but visits less now that Alice’s condition has worsened. She has forgotten her past like it was scrubbed away with disinfectant. She thought I was Lyle. She clearly was losing it. Real Lyle was angry the first time Alice called me his name. One day, Lyle just shrugged it off and put his hand on my shoulder, pulling me away from the small group that were playing poker.

“Be Lyle. Don’t cross what she says,” Real Lyle told me.

 

I accepted.

 

“I’ll go with you Alice.”

Alice smiled softly.

Janice, the half-deaf woman who knitted a jersey a day, chuckled nearby.

“Paul, you’re a saint.”

I gave Janice a look. A look that said she must shut it. She ignored me and rolled up her blue wool with a grin. Alice looked up at Janice a little perplexed, wondering who the Paul character in the room was.

“Alice, what tree do you think we should get?” I asked, trying to diffuse Janice’s stupidity.

“Pineapple.”

“I don’t think the store-“

“Apple then. I miss green apples. And red.”

“Alright, we might need to ask Fran for permission.”

“Fran needs to make room for apples.”

“We get an apple at lunch everyday.”

“Lyle, you remember the day we met?”

I stopped and looked at Janice’s smile disappear.

“Yes, I-“

“Back in Athlone Street? There was an apple tree!”

I nodded, smiling at Alice’s naïve delight.

“Guess I’ve always had a soft spot for apples then! Apple pie, apple crust, apple lollipops!”

“Sounds great,Alice…”

“So we’ll get an apple tree,” she whispered to me, grabbing my hand and stroking it softly like she had known my hand lines for a lifetime, “then it’ll be like when we were young.”

I hated it. Real Lyle asked me. Janice and Fran and everyone else let it go.

Alice came in six months ago. She thought we’ve been together for over fifty years.

 

Even though Alice wanted a room with me, Real Lyle had told me to tell her that it’s The Village’s rules that everyone needs their own room. Alice complied. Sometimes, around once a month, Alice knew me as Paul. Then her mind went and I was Lyle. I was her only love, the man who could play her Elvis and remember days with her trying to surf. Sometimes, I had to remember Real Lyle’s history. Sometimes I missed being Paul.

I retired to my own room as much as I could. Also when Gemma came around, I made  Alice didn’t see. That would surely muddle everything.

Gemma came on Saturday mornings and she usually brought snacks, a movie and some gifts. Last week she brought me a Sinatra album with the hits and some nougat because that was my favourite. I told Gemma about my week and she spoke about hers, her work deadlines, driving Grant to school and working through her divorce. I told her about Alice sometimes and she teared up sometimes and told me how horrible it was. Gem told me she was glad she wasn’t me. Then she left.

It was like she came to visit this weird and wonderful world only to leave an hour or two later. Sometimes Grant would come and watch some cricket with me. Then he’d try and sing his songs at school and show me his drawings. Sometimes he drew me with a walking stick even though I can walk perfectly. I can walk briskly, too. Grant explained it to me one day like I was the child, “Every old person has a stick.”

I liked the visits but felt too sad when they left. I cried because Gem seemed to have a life now, away from me helping her out. I cried because Grant was handsome and clever. I cried because Henry still thought of me and also called twice a week. I cried because I was in this old-age bubble where Life was in limbo. What can I do now? Be Alice’s counterfeit lover? The Village Saint? The man who takes morning walks and watches TV most of the day? Sometimes I wonder why I was here. Why didn’t I buy a great beach cottage and old Ferrari? Because, that’s impractical. I have a beat-up bakkie and a small room with a single bed, small TV set and microwave. Practical.

 

That night, after spending my day hoping Gem would come keep me company and then getting a call from her apologising because Grant was sick with flu, I was beat. I turned on the news and saw the eco thing on TV again. Then I remembered going with Alice to get a tree tomorrow. Then I forgot about asking Fran if we could. Fran was our caretaker – middle-aged, desperate thing that treated us like her own. Fran was around 40 and I’ve never seen her with a man or with family. I think we were all she had, really.

After the weather, I would usually read the paper’s cartoons and the sport columns I liked. I was bored with puzzles and games now. Instead, after the weatherman told lies about sunny weather, the TV broke to a shiny man in a shinier suit with puffy hair and a groomed moustache. It looked like it was from the 70’s but that’s what today is like. The kids wear old gear as if they invented it and play songs that were done around three decades ago. The music today. I give up. Anyway, this shiny man was in front of this big audience who were clapping on cue, like preset robot things. They even smiled on cue.

“After our season break, the Lotto Draw is back!”

There were coloured balls with numbers on dancing around in those see-through machines.

“Have you got your lucky ticket out? Are you ready for your life to be changed? Are you ready to win 20 million? Your time is now!”

I switched the TV off. Last time I played was five years ago because Gemma had played and told me to. Gemma was getting separated then and had an optimistic mindset about entering competitions. Gemma got three numbers and won a small amount. I didn’t get one. I don’t believe in luck. Choices. Winning the lottery? That’s a little silly. No one just picks out numbers because they’re lucky. It happens. Like comets and making an impossible basketball shot. It just happens.

 

Ten years ago, Anna died. Her heart just gave out. When she entered a room, everyone smiled. When she was with you, she was electric and nothing else mattered. I mattered. With Anna, nothing worried me, nothing made me sad and I was afraid of nothing.

It was ten years ago and Anna fell over in the grocery store. I got the call that ended my inclusive happiness. When Alice brought up the apples yesterday, I tried to get the image of Anna out of my head.

 

Fifty years ago, Anna sat on the picnic blanket on my lawn having just made us sandwiches. She didn’t know this but I was going to propose. It was the easiest decision but one that made me anxious and sweaty and edgy – so much so that Anna fixed her sharp blue eyes on me when I sat on the blanket, offering a cut sandwich. No crust.

“You’re different…”

“Work has been a little crazy of late,” I said, biting into my sandwich. The ring was in my top right pocket. It felt heavier and hot, burning my skin.

“Well, there’s lunch here and now we can relax.”

“Anna, what’s your greatest desire?”

Anna chuckled at me and bit into a sandwich, scrutinising me, looking at my blazer. She knew. I’m sure she knew.

“Right here with you…except its warmer, there’s hot toffee apples and good wine.”

I picked up the bottle that stuck out of her old basket. Cheap.

“This will do. Any wine will do with you.”

About ten minutes later, after kissing Anna far too much, I grabbed both her hands, kissed her forehead and felt trapped in the best moment. I looked down at her and asked her to marry me. She kissed me back, nodding, unable to grab a hold of secure words. She was happy.

“With cheap wine and all…”

She smelled like vanilla and strawberry juice. She chewed too loudly. In the mornings, she need her coffee. She hated her hair standing up and hated putting on make-up. She was grouchy on Sunday nights when she knew Monday was coming. She hated cupcakes but made them for me. She loved wine. She liked orange lollipops and the green jelly babies. She couldn’t dance. She was mine. She had amazing morning breath. She had a great way of telling white lies to make people feel better. She could also swear like a sailor watching sport.

 

And then she just died one day.

It just happens.

 

Alice knew her plants like I knew about cricket. She knew what could brighten her room. The plant place didn’t have anything apple so Alice cried a little while I tried to calm her down. I told her we can get anything else but she didn’t want to.

“I wanted the apples, Lyle.”

“We’ll go to the diner and get some apple crust.”

It kind of cheered her up for a while but she was tearing up again when we approached the diner. We settled for buying Alice a small cactus she would keep in her room.

“Lyle, do you remember when we used to go here Fridays?”

“Yes. I remember.”

“You always had the cheese burger. I had the spaghetti.”

We found a table and I could see from Alice’s small smile, that she had memories of the booth that suddenly came to her like a knife got stuck in her temple.

The diner stank of cheese and chocolate. I imagined younger Alice slurping spaghetti and a younger Real Lyle biting into his greasy burger. Alice sure kept the weirder memories. She probably thought she was forty years younger now.

“What’ll be?” asked the twenty-something blonde waitress.

“Lyle’ll have the cheese burger. I’ll have the spaghetti.”

The blonde shook her head, bored, “No spaghetti. We have some noodles.”

Alice stared at her.

“You sure no spaghetti?” I asked, as Alice’s face drowned in confusion.

The waitress shook her head, “Noodles or lasagna. That’s our pasta menu.”

“Alice?”

Alice shook her head in silence, staring at the waitress’ features. Blondie looked at me for an answer.

“She’ll have the lasagne…beef if you have?”
Blondie nodded and left as soon as she could.

“Lyle, what happened to the spaghetti?”

“Things change. Menus change.”

Alice slammed her fist on the table, and then ran her palm over her mouth, her eyes tearing up again.

“Careful Alice! things-“

“This isn’t the diner…”

“This is the diner. We’ve come here all these years…remember?”

Alice stared at me like I was hiding a birthday present. Like I was a stranger. Like I was a foreigner. Like I was a terrorist. I could feel the clogs in her head doing overtime. Or sparking in failure.

“No, you’re not Lyle…”

Blondie brought the order and walked briskly back to the kitchen to avoid Alice.

“Lyle has darker hair. Lyle and I had spaghetti and burgers at this place-“

“This place.”

“This. This isn’t it.”

“Alice, it’s the place. They just don’t have spaghetti. Here’s your lasagna.”

Alice looked at her plate, shoved it to my side and shook her head, looking around the diner, startled, looked around the near-empty diner, its jukebox, pay phone, Blondie and the open kitchen that steamed away.

”Take me to Lyle…”

I took her hand and led her out. Blondie cursed behind us. Alice started crying again.

 

They thought I was at the library. My mother even said, “Learn hard, Alice.”
Instead, I couldn’t focus on anything and let myself stroll around town. It was hot out anyway and I needed time to think properly. I needed to know if there was any use in learning anyway when I wanted to travel. London in summer. Scotland in winter. Anywhere but here. Anywhere but a place where everyone knew about me, what was happening and where I’d work one day. Dad wanted me in the fabric shop, taking orders down and getting the payments down right. I knew my way around but realised that this wasn’t what I desired. And from books and magazines, I’ve learnt there’s a universe to explore and I have no need to be trapped inside this iron bubble, scrutinised by society for being me. Independence is an attitude not meant for young ladies. Independence is for the young boy, the soldier in waiting, the boy who plays in mud while the girl cooks, cleans and wears skirts over the knee.

Athlone street was quiet at midday, the sprinkler was buzzing down at Mr. Cathe’s little cottage and Mer, the little girl who shouted for no reasons, was outside on her garden bench playing with a yo-yo that stuck. She looked forlorn but I decided against befriending her. I wanted to walk and not play saviour of the children and doting mother-like hen. I had enough of it.

“The thing’s dead.” Came a voice across the road. The young man was under the apple tree, picking some apples like we were in another time. By his feet was a brown sack. He smiled at me and picked another apple, smelling it, staring and rubbing the surface before biting into the side.

“What did you say?” I was supposed to walk on but the man intrigued. I didn’t know his face. I knew everyone’s face.
”Her yo-yo. String is broken so she’s been moaning for an hour.”

 

I looked at Mer who had our attention on me now. I waved at her and she waved back but still looked like she was about to stab someone.

“You should go over and-“

“Who are you?” I asked. He was chewing loudly and smiled again.

“Who are you?”

“Alice…”

“I’m Lyle. Got here yesterday.”

“From where exactly?”

“You’re snoopy.”

“You’re hiding something?”
Lyle laughed and picked up the sack, threw it over his shoulder and walked over to me with a smug look.

“We just moved from Kerton. Folks got a job so. Want an apple?”

“No. I have to go.” I turned away and he grabbed my arm, not forceful but something he shouldn’t have done. He was slim, his dark hair too long, falling over his eyes a little. His skin was tanned with freckles. He smiled again and I waited for him to say something important for me to stay but all he said was that I should stay, that I needed an apple.

“I don’t want your apples.”

He picked one out for me, a small one that shined as the sun hit it.

“You got something against fruit?”
I took it to shut him up, bit into it and nodded at him, “Nice…”

Lyle looked satisfied I took one. He still had my arm and let go.

“Won’t you help me pick apples?”

I laughed. What a complete weird stranger. Dimwit stranger. But something in my chest told me to let go of what my head was saying. My head said I should just go and leave him be. But that walk down Athlone was my time. It was supposed to be for a reason. I followed him to the tree.

 

“And then Lyle and I sat around the tree, eating apples and talking about Paris.”Alice told me as we walked up Athlone Street.

“Paris?”

“We pretended we were on a farm in France,” she laughed, “under the apple tree. Then Lyle just started talking French. It wasn’t really French but it seemed like it.”

“And then you two were together?”

“We spent about two hours under the tree. After that, I saw him everyday. Everyday for decades. Lyle and I always spoke about the apple tree on Athlone and Lyle always said ‘Apples have magic, Alice. It was all just magic.’”

It was pleasant memory. I remember Anne and I meeting at a friend’s party and I had to speak to her. I spilled a drink on her skirt, she was laughing and the rest was history. It might seem stupid now and it was a small memory but no one ever forgets how they met their true love. You will never forget.Alice didn’t.

“That’s a great story…”

Alice looked at her feet on the tar. Athlone wasn’t as perfect as Alice painted it. Barely any trees. No benches like that Mer girl sat on. The grass was stained with winter’s yellow, leaves floating over the street, plastic bags on the lawns, a line of unordered garbage bins on the street ready for pick up. I could see from Alice’s complete sullen expression that Athlone wasn’t supposed to look like this. But that’s what happened. Life happened and your picture perfect memories swabbed in happiness and cleanliness, colour and health, die away to modern-day filth. The world isn’t lucky enough to be trapped in a moment. There was this chill in the air; the silence grew so my ears felt like it was ringing. Alice was looking at her feet, watching the way they stepped.

And then, as if the world wanted us to both look up, we did. And we stopped in front of the apple tree.

 

 

Iðunn, the goddess, would give out apples to the gods and they would attain eternal youthfulness, smiling, rejoicing in their energy and wit and enjoying moments that were full of drinking, love and happiness. I wonder if the sparkle of youth ever died. I wonder if everything around them stayed as youthful as they did?

 

There in Athlone, the apple tree stood metres away from Alice and I; lush, youthful, bright as if someone had painted the fruit in a sharp red and shine.  Alice grabbed my arm in silence. The picture didn’t fit in the picture. This was a tree that came from another time. While Athlone stood desolate and stagnant, washed of jovial air, the apples shone and I squinted.

“This isn’t real.”

Alice smiled, staring, “Apples, they have magic.”

Out of nowhere, a young man walked to the tree. He was wearing faded trousers, a simple blue shirt. He was barefoot, neat, his hair gelled to the back. He was slim and tall, smiling at Alice and I.

“Like my tree?”

Alice grabbed my arm tighter this time.

The man picked an apple and bit into it, “Been amazing for years. I don’t even water it a lot, you know! Juiciest apples I’ve ever had. Want one?” He stretched out his hand with the one he took a bite out of.

“No, no. My friend and I are just passing,” I said.

I was about to step forward but Alice pulled me to a stop, smiling at the man.

He was peculiar. Young people wore black things nowadays and lots of metal and neon.

“Lyle…?”Alice whispered. She looked at me instantly and laughed, “It’s Lyle.”

I was so glad Anne didn’t lose her memories. It’s the saddest. The dementia. The blind hope. Child.

The man looked confused.

“Sorry, my friend and I were just leaving-“

“I’m Lyle, yes…” The man interrupted.

“Excuse me?”

Alice nodded and let me go, walking to the man, “Yes, you’re Lyle.”

The man frowned at Alice.

“How do you know me?” the man asked.

Alice was in front of him now. I looked around. Athlone was still working. Some leaves blew. There was a modern-day car, a beat-up Ford, parked across the road. Athlone was dead, it was chilly, the sky miserable, the houses locked up and fenced up except the house with the apples.

I looked back, “Alice? Who is this?”

Alice took the man’s hand, “I’m Alice…”

The man smiled immediately. He looked at Alice’s hand and stroked it, wondering if this was real. I wondered.

“I knew you’d come.”

Alice nodded, looked back at me and smiled. Lyle took her other hand and laughed.

“Les pommes ont magic…” the man whispered but it carried to my ears as if he was shouting.

Alice laughed, “Paris! Let’s go to Paris!”

“Laissez-nous aller…”

 

Gem came next week. She was more relaxed this time around and she brought a packet of things to eat. I loved that because sometimes the home didn’t cater sweet things.

“I’m finally a little carefree this week. Took a long weekend so we could go to that new lodge outside town tomorrow.” Gem was making me tea while I was looking through the newspaper she got me.

Gem looked up, “Dad, you’re quiet…had any friends over?Alice?”

“Aliceisn’t here anymore.”

“No?” Gem looked up with a worried face. Say that in the home and it brought up things like death.

“No, no, no, she’s alive. I think she’s alive.”

“Think? Where did she go, Dad?”

I shrugged, “Lyle took her.”

Gem stirred my tea, “You mean they moved out? Didn’t she have a soft spot for you?”

“We went out a few days ago to buy plants. We just bought a cactus. Anyway, we stopped to eat and then Alice and I walked down Athlone-“

“Athlone’s dangerous now, Dad. You can’t go that side of town.”

“Well, it was quiet. And there was this apple tree fromAlice’s story.”

“Alice’s story?”

“About how she met Lyle when she was young. They met in Athlone by the tree. Anyway, we stopped walking cause the tree was there. Gem, it was bright and fresh. And there was a young man there and Alice recognised him and called him Lyle.”

Gem passed me my tea and sipped hers, “You mean her son? She has a son?”

I shook my head, “It was Real Lyle. It was Lyle by the tree. It was Lyle like he was when Alice met him forever ago!”

“Dad, Lyle is as old as you are now.”

“No! It was Real Lyle I couldn’t believe it either but there were apples and they held hands and it was magic. You don’t know what it was like. They walked off, with the sack of apples and I felt I had to let her go.Alice had to let go.”

Gem stared at me for a while and looked at her watch.

“You don’t believe me.”

“Dad, I got to go. I have to get food done. I’ll leave the packet in here for you and I’ll see you on Monday? Then we can chat for long.” She kissed my forehead and I let her go. I dug in my packet, taking out biscuits, full-cream milk and a pie.

I read the label: apple crust.

I opened it, cut a slice and put the rest in my little fridge.

The fresh apple pieces were in toffee, a caramel and cream with nuts.

Alice met Lyle again by the apples and she ran away.

I took a bite and there was a knock at the door.

An old woman walked in with a walking stick. Her face was bright, smiling, her eyes a dark blue. Never saw her before.

“Can I help?”

The woman laughed, “Oh, I must be wrong. I thought this was my room.”

“Are you new here? What room you looking for?”

“Number three.”

“This is thirteen.”

The woman looked embarrassed and smiled at me, her white, cropped hair moving quickly to see my plate of pie, my small TV set, some crayon drawings and tea.

“Well, I’ll leave you be. I must’ve seen the 3 on the door and just got excited.”

“Want some apple pie?”

“Well, isn’t that nice.”

I opened my fridge, cut her some and put the kettle on again. She sat down on my other chair, bending slowly and putting her walking stick on my dresser. She wore a red skirt and white jersey. Her eyes were too bright, too big, too youthful. Her gaze was familiar.

“You new.”

“Well, you know when your kids start looking after you and just don’t want to anymore, they find something for you.”

“I know the feeling.”

“And when I came here, The Village told me this was the right place and something told me it was. It seems nice. It’s like I’m supposed to be here”

No one is meant to be somewhere. Maybe Alice was. When people told me it was Anne’s “time to go”, I fell silent with anger. I don’t believe in all that. I also don’t think someone is meant to be somewhere at some time in their lives. Delusional.

“I’ll cut myself another, would you like one?” I asked.

“Oh no, this will be alright. One’s enough for me. I’m not the biggest apple fan. Hot toffee apples are great but won’t invest in more than one slice of pie.”

Toffee apples. Hot, sticky toffee apples.

I took a bite into the apple, cinnamon, the oozing cream and small nut.

“I didn’t get your name?”

“It’s Anne.”

“I’m Paul.”

 

I don’t believe in luck.

 

Grahamstown

 The stench

Of youth,

the rebel

cut-price specials

Beer buckets, cider rings and sour tongues

Bar floods, no toilet paper, wooden-floor dances

table confessions, smelly smiles,

bang on the weekend

 

 Mullet

Cig

Beroxide

Lilac

The street is messy with rage

And delirious youthlings

Bleeding purple and carelessness

Crackling and punch fogs

Between Friar’s queues,

Rat deck conversations

Pirates leftovers

Monastery’s cavernous hypnotism

Late-night Simba snacks and Coke

First year virtue

Oldie poise

3am post-drinks with the boy you’ve always seen

We meet all the people we’ve seen

Waving in Pick n’ Pay

Wimpy’s consolable grease

Sugar

1ply

Noodles

Ready-made chicken

thin-based

 

A scramble on the donkey streets

The Mail pokes around town

All Stars trudge through debates

Campus is bright

Hippies, jocks, learners, profs, the philosophy major

The law man in tie

The girl barefoot

rugby shorts

The cameras, video camera, recorders, poking around

Pens ready for a comment

Hanging heads in class

scribble

On the hill

Below

Beaver meat and serenades

Pool crashing and soccer games

Great Field’s purple dialect

Talks of camaraderie

A scrum

A plastic bottle with shameful wine

Beach weekends

Sand and messy starts

Sparksgo off

The break of a window

High Street’s delirious

Boys begging for cents

Wiping windows down in muck

Cathedral swollen

Specials on the side

Stalls of beads and paper

The ice

The fest faces at long tables

the deserted middle

The swelter

Overalls musings

Viv discretion and

VC rap

Tape around the mouths

A march to decision

laissez-faire

A bubble of iniquitous pride

a valley of demure adolescence

a bar sopping in stories

Lift

Wine is completely deceptive. I have an uncontrollable urge to crawl up in the foetal position and howl out loud for my mother. Instead, I grabbed greasy things in the kitchen, combed my hair with my claws and brushed my teeth. This last part was hard. Sticking a brush down my throat gave me memories of tequila, flasks full of foamy beer and that dirty man who licked his lips at me last night. I was unemployed and last night while I called in my thirteenth thousand order of fried chicken and chips, I realised how unpromising my existence was. I feared that I’d be doomed to slurping the bottom of greasy buckets to cure excessive depression. And unemployment. So after I slurped grease off my fingers, I called my friend Ally. I needed a pillar and someone who’d threaten me if I ordered dessert.

Ally was a mistake. Ally was married, has a kid and I’m pretty sure she is managing to cook, clean and be sparkly without any help at all. She is also employed and healthy. Ally hates fried chicken.

So when Ally trudges to my place, fake smiling through my little kitchenette littered with pizza boxes, tissues and empty bottles, I feel a little self-conscious but fight it away. Ally sits on my couch and looks at me from behind her blonde aptness.

“You’re a mess, Wendy.”

I didn’t expect absolute sympathy from her. Perhaps I needed that.

“I smell like poultry.”

“I have a dentist appointment, and then I got to go to the chemist. I’m also a little tired with Eric teething. Kevin and I have to see Eric’s friend’s mother at eight.”

“Exhausting…”

Ally shook her head, “You know why I’m telling you this?”

“Because you want me to feel guilty?”

“Because I’m going to stay with you until you come to your senses.”

Ally’s baby bag was strapped around her still and she dug in it, retrieving a bottle of golden tequila and a French loaf. Refined. I didn’t get it. Ally was supposed to come with her tablets, blankets and coffee and reprimand me for being a disappointment. Now, she’s giving me the devil juice and carbs?

“You’re not supposed to-“

“Take a swig.” Ally commanded as she pushed her baby bag away. The thousands of grinning duckies on the bag looked more sinister than they should. From that moment, Ally and I spoke about everything. I told her about my life: the grease; the lifespan of limbo; the lack of wallet weight and the incredible dividing line between my happy happy teenage years and old-age contentment. Ally brought the tequila for a reason. She was trapped and sullen at how fast she’s grown up and even though she loves Kevin and Eric, she feels like she should travel more, dance more, drink more, meet other people and drive aroundBrazilwith a desire to kiss any man she pleases.

Then it was a blunt blur. The loaf and tequila energised us and the city waited like a gaping manhole; willing and eager to devour us.

There was a man with a foul moustache who offered us shots of green. There was a cop who gave us slips but let us off. There was a lady who might have been a man. The dance floor was buzzing and the toilet bowl was out third friend for the night. There was the thin man who licked his lips at me. The lights pounding; my legs pounding; my temples pounding.

 

I woke up with a note from Ally plastered to my forehead.

‘Had to go. Speak later.’

And there I was back to greasy living.

 

There was a moment as a child when I knew I’d be something one day. I entered myself into the speaking contest at school despite me being a coward in front of the class. I spoke when spoken to back then and everyone laughed at the fact that I would be saying a speech for a plastic trophy. Before the big day, I was memorising the words and all the research I’ve done through twenty encyclopaedias.

What was there to say about giraffes?

When I told my mom I’d like to say my speech on giraffes, she hesitated but left me to my own devices. Growing up, I collected stuffed giraffes and drew pictures on my cupboard. Then, I worked through the obsession. The speaking day was set for me to impress and mom told me always write and say things that I love.

Did you know a giraffe can eat up to 75 pounds a day?
Did you know their heart is 2 feet long and weighs about 25 pounds?

Their heart beats up to 170 times/minute.

And their tongue is black.

I had people mesmerised and told the world how if animals were politicians, the world would have peace, love and everyone would be happy. I had gold. I knew that this was my calling. I could write and speak and manipulate. I could go green and spread nature love.

 

There is always a time when we feel appreciated and recognised and ‘meant to be living in this world’. When I woke up with Ally’s words on my head, I nearly cried. Because nothing will ever change. Childhood is the longest period where you will remain innocent, happy and optimistic. Mostly, you’ll stay true to your heart.

 

After brushing and shaping my hair into some sort of form, I headed out to the place I was meant to be. Nowhere.

I packed a brush, a ten rand note and my bank card which is worth less than my note. I packed a photograph of my parents, Ally and Gran.

My eyes were cold and scratchy. I pushed my key under the door and waved goodbye to my front door. For now.

There was nothing in my way to Nowhere. A Neverland where I could be nine again. I wanted that.

Except, the lift wouldn’t open once I got in.

 

********

”Nuts!” a voice behind me muffled. I turned to see 34 B with his eyes closed as if he was praying for divine intervention. Who says nuts? Curse words can live in 2012. 34 B was in suit, probably off to work or a date with his fiancé.

The buttons in the lift didn’t light up when I slammed them countless times. 34 B was checking his watch and sighing far too heavily – making sure I heard him. Oh, this was my fault.

“What’s the emergency number?” I said out loud. 34 B pointed. I pushed the buttons before dialling. Nothing. A beep on the other end.

The elevator playlist died and the neon lights dimmed.

Divine intervention.

34 B laughed a little. He was a tall man, cleanly shaven and smelled good. He was a walking commercial for perfection and self-importance. I know about 34 B because he walks to work everyday like some eco saviour. He prompted the recycling system downstairs in the flat’s entrance and he always seemed like he was a mysterious do-gooder. An opposite.

“My phone is dead.” 34 B muffled and sat cross-legged on the floor, closing his eyes softly. Maybe he was hungover, too?

“Someone will come.”

He nodded at me and looked at me as if he was waiting for something.

“You can sit,” he said.

Uncanny behaviour from do-gooder. 34 B’s never sat in lifts.

“I’m alright.”

He just smiled and fiddled with his watch, undoing the clasp and taking it off. I noticed it was one of those Mickey Mouse watches where Mickey’s arms danced around in a circle. He memorised the time and put it in his pocket.

“I’m Peter…”

“I’m Wendy.”

 

Peter almost scoffed. I pushed the button again. We made fun of 34 B. Mrs. Darling downstairs asked me if he worked for the government. I told her he could be a spy. She believed my tale and word got around. The young couple next door to me asked if he was some sort of big shot lawyer person. I told them he could be serial killer. He could pull it off couldn’t he? Not a hair out of place and hygienic looking. He might scrub off blood for a living.

“Where you headed?” Peter asked, eyeing my backpack.

“Just out. Where are you going?”

“To quit my job.”

“Why?”

Peter shrugged. Maybe he was down and out. Maybe other people needed a change, too. Maybe he wants to afford more than a Mickey Mouse watch.

 

“What do you do?” I asked, scared he’d pull a knife on me now.
Peter looked at me, “You’re running away aren’t you?”

I frowned at his response. He also didn’t answer my question. Oh, Peter at 34 B, how very peculiar and shadowy.

“I’m just going for a walk.”

“There is no need to run away.”

“And you’re quitting your job…”

“Different,” he said, a little irritated.

My throat was dry and head seemed to feel heavier in the lift. I had to sit down. Peter stared at me and I tried to avoid it. I tried to distract myself with a 5 cent piece on the floor. I tried my phone again but the signal was still down.

“Wendy, have you ever wanted to go back?”

“What?”

“To your past?”

Who hasn’t? I want to go back and risk everything for everything. I want to seeIndia. I want to write a book. I want to save the giraffes. I want to write about nature and fantasies far away. I want to be in love.

“No.”

Peter’s eyes dance a little at my response, “All you have to do is believe you can.”

I smiled. Dear me, he was insane.

Stay polite and he won’t kill you.

“I’m quitting because I want to fly.”

“Fly where?”

Why was I talking to 34B?

Peter looked at the top of the lift, a little lost in thought. Maybe he wanted to seeIndia, too.

“I don’t really know. All I need is a little bit of faith and trust, you know? I’ve always wanted to see snow.”

“You’ve never seen snow?”

Peter shook his head, smiling.

I looked up at the lights that were flickering. I wonder if someone would hear me if I screamed. Could I scream when I felt hurt, sore and trapped? Could I scream if 34 B was here? I think I could. I could scream away my adult problems. I could scream away this feeling.

Divine intervention.

“Forget them, Wendy.”

“What?”

“You don’t have to worry about the things in your life anymore…”

“You’re a little strange aren’t you?”

I had to say it.

Peter laughed heavily and folded his legs like a 12-year-old, curious, naughty, eccentric fun.

“I just want to live a little. And you should, too. I want to be a boy again. Back then, I could play. I could pretend to be a bad guy, a policeman, a pirate, a Power Ranger…” Peter retrieved his watch and looked at the time, “now I’m worrying about work when I’m going to quit anyway.”

“At least you have a job.”

“What do you want to do?”

Everything.

“Not drink too much.”

“You’re suffering?”

“Long night. Wine and beer.”

“What do you want to do?” he asked me again. I knew what he wanted. Some sort of grand idea.

“My unfulfilled ambition is to write a great novel about my adventures.”

“What adventures?”

“Exactly…”

“You’ll have them,” he said simply. It seemed like he knew it perfectly. Like it was a simple mathematical equation. Like he knew my hopes.

 

 

Gran said the same thing to me before she passed. We used to play Scrabble over mucky coffee and talk about her past boyfriends, before Pa and her got married. Gran was a wild thing in her day: an experimental hippie, groupie, off-beat musician and painter. She was a nurse, studied English literature and would work at the old raceway selling tickets. She would go out every night, put a record on and create a miraculous adventure. All this, she said, was part of being young and free. I’m pretty sure some of her stories were counterfeit but I didn’t care. I needed to live like that. After meeting Pa, Gran said she “came to her senses” and became what her mother wanted her to be: a society-driven saint, dutiful wife and loving mother. She didn’t regret marrying Pa or becoming a mother or even spending the next thirty five years as a secretary at some law firm. She was happy. But, before Pa, Gran was happiest, untamed and in her element. This was relived over Scrabble.

I didn’t quite get it then. Gran liked knitting and baking – normal ‘gran’ things – but reminisced about something contradictory and exultant. After she won Scrabble (she always won), she always followed one of her memories with “Oh, you’ll go through it one day, Wendy. You’re young.”

I didn’t go through it.

 

Peter opened his briefcase and took out bank statement, bills and notices. There was a traffic fine with a red stamp throbbing at the top. He was showing me how he didn’t care about adult things anymore. How he didn’t care about paying things anymore because when you’re a child, you just don’t need all of that ruining your day. He tore them up in half and smiled wider as he went along. I just watched and kept my mouth shut, half-wishing I could just do that. I already had a throbbing red bill somewhere in my post box.

“What do you want to do?” It’s a question he asked me.

Peter looked at his shoes, so perfectly polished I was sure he could see his reflection.

“I don’t know. Just go on an awfully long adventure. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” He tore up his last letter and his face drained of sparkle, like he was just hit by a sudden soul-drenching thought.

“Wendy? I know what we need to do.”

“I’m not going to tear anything up, Peter…”

“Close your eyes and take my hand.”

My cell was dead and the lights stopped flickering as the lift went dark. We both looked up and being stuck got a little more real. Inside, things got a little more unreal. Who was 34 B?

“I think I’ll push the button again.” Peter let me. Nothing happened. No sign of life.

“Wendy, I-“

“Listen Peter. I admire your enthusiasm, I really do but thinking you can just run away is stupid.”

“You wanted to run away…with your small bag.”

“For a few hours maybe. But you, you want to be a boy. You’re never going to be a Power Ranger again, Peter.”

“If you start believing in nothing, nothing will happen. If you think you can’t leave your sad life, then you won’t. Never ever.”

I sighed at him, “What the hell does that even mean!”

“It means ‘Close your eyes and take my hand’”

“You live in a fantasy.”

“Perhaps we all should. Real life is scary.”

I remembered Ally. She was happy but she was still yearning for change. I wondered if anyone can be perfectly happy.

I grabbed Peter’s hand. I was soft and warm and childlike. He rubbed his forefinger over my hand like a soft paint brush.

“Close your eyes, Wendy.” His eyes were already closed.

I slowly closed my eyes as the room went darker, softer, elastic.

 

The tree had a new swing and Gran brought me right after school so it was empty. Gran would do her knitting in the park while I played. Ally was not here yet so I had the park to myself. Gran said something about not swinging too high because I’ll fall on my nose and break it!

There it was. The rope tightened and fresh, painted in varnish so it glowed. Oh, it glowed bright!

“Can I have a turn after you?” It was a boy with blonde locks, eyes green and deep and he was holding a plastic sword and the Red Power Ranger who only had one arm.

“I’m going first!” I told him, “I was here first!”

The boy smiled at me, “Go ahead.”

I frowned at him. His shorts were full of caked mud and grass.

I was on the swing and it held me perfectly like the couch at home. It was my couch. I smiled as I pushed myself forward off my feet so the swing could roll.

The boy dropped his things.

“Need me to push you?”

“No!”

The boy smiled, “You can swing. I’ll just help.”

Why was he being so nice?

I didn’t answer, I just stopped and let him push me. It was amazing.

I saw the sun’s purple and red and the sky’s blue. The clouds were behind me and every time I went forward, I put my head back and made my eyes big. I looked at everything. The tree’s autumn leaves and the wide clouds behind me. The boy laughed with me and I was perfectly happy. Perfectly happy.

Gran called me after spectacular moments.

“Wendy, dinner now.”

The boy stopped me and I looked at him in a thankful smile.

The boy gave me his hand and I took it. His hands were dirty and his Mickey Mouse watch was scratched.

“Goodbye…” I said.

“Never say goodbye,” the boy said before I could go, “goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

 

The lift ringed to life and the doors opened to Mrs. Darling looking troubled and confused. Peter and I were still holding hands and the horrible jingles started again.

“Wendy?” Mrs. Darling was with a handyman who obviously fixed the lift, “Were you stuck in there this whole time?”

“Not anymore. Never again.”

 

The world of Karl

The genius/idiocy of Karl Pilkington has been Ricky Gervais’ pet project for a few years and the mindless yet intriguing thoughts of Karl has got to be the most fascinating and funniest goo you can listen to. I have been completely addicted to the podcasts, books, videos and series of everything Karl and I think it should be shared to the world.


The English television personality, actor, author, and former radio producer gained prominence as the producer of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s radio program on XFM. He also appeared on The Ricky Gervais Show, presented ‘An Idiot Abroad’ and made his acting debut on Gervais’ 2012 comedy-drama series Derek. While producing on XFM, Gervais and Stephen Merchant grabbed Karl’s offbeat, quirky commentary which added a different dimension to the show. From Karl’s childhood to life with his wife and people he meets, Karl’s episodes have gained huge popularity and his presence on The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts boosted downloads and gave everyone something to laugh about.

The Ricky Gervais Show: Karl’s Poem

While many say that Karl is a Gervais-Merchant creation, it seems his comedic brilliance is not a set-up even though Gervais rides on successful shows and personalities. Pilkington’s great breakout was presenting An Idiot Abroad – a travel feature show with a difference – the show involved Karl travelling across the globe to investigate the wonders of the world as well as trekking through places on many a person’s bucket list. The thing about Karl is, Gervais and Merchant send him to offbeat places to meet weird and wonderful people that make Karl think twice and uncomfortable. From trying to make Karl bungee-jump to wrestle, there is always a sub-plot and situation where Karl makes himself that comedian that he is. Karl’s reactions to places and cultural differences makes for a good laugh and his commentary is both blunt, amusing and simplistic.

An Idiot Abroad (Dwarf Village):

Karl’s sayings and theories have been posted all over the interweb to enjoy and he continues to be Gervais’ profound project which makes him one of the funniest people today. It’s also because Karl doesn’t know he is funny. He doesn’t get the fame he’s received and chats about what he thinks about (no one thinks about what Karl thinks about). Often made fun of by Gervais and Merchant for his ape-like features and orange-shaped head, Karl has become a joke project but his commentary sits on the cusp of genuis and stupidity. You decide.

 Here’s some Karl:

 “Well…like, when you’re born, you’re a little baby, you’re wrinkly and stuff, when you get older you sort of morph into a baby again…”

 -Xfm 01 December 2001

 “If I was [Noah], I would have gone, “Hang on a minute, I’ve just seen somethin’ that looks a bit like this, let it drown”, have a bit of a clear out, but he was messin’ about savin’ everythin'”

          Podcast Series 1 Episode 5

 “Why didn’t evolution make a giraffe good at carpentry so it could build a ladder?”

 -Xfm 11 June 2005

“I wouldn’t put a date on that pancake day anyway, just av ’em when you want, have it when you want. There’s no big deal. You’ve got to make ’em yourself, it’s not like some place is openin’ to do it. Have em when you want. I don’t know why that’s got a special day on it, sick-of-it”

Karl’s Diary:

 

An Idiot Abroad (Sushi):

 

Karl’s film idea: