Wednesday, 31 December 2014

True hope begins where it seems all hope must end. Happy New Year.

(Basically, it ain't over till the fat Lady sings)


Monday morning found Pearl and Simon sitting next to each other in Doctor de Bruin's waiting room. Simon sat, then stirred uncomfortably. The chair was too small. Tiny, really. Besides him Pearl was dead still, her hands clasped primly over her handbag, chin up, staring into nothing. At least it looked like it. Directly opposite her was a large poster for Family Planning advocating vasectomies. Simon winced and instinctively cupped his hands on his lap. After a while Simon nudged her. "Pearl? Are you alright?"

Pearl turned her head with that same far-away distant look in her eyes. "Yes, Simon. I am."

"Oh. Because you are so silent." Simon added timidly, "And usually, you know, you have quite a lot to say."

"I need to think. I have been talking so much lately, I haven't been listening to myself."

"Oh!" Simon is struck dumb by this reply. He looks around the waiting room. There is another row of chairs opposite them, all too small. Or at least, too small for him, but quite cheerfully coloured. The whole place was cheerful. In one corner a pile of toys was being pawed by three toddlers and opposite Simon a very unprepossessing five-year-old was entertaining himself by blowing bubbles of snot out of his nose.

The boy's mother sat next to him reading something in a discrete fabric cover. Probably one of those sexy books women were reading on the sly nowadays, Simon nodded wisely to himself. Erotica...Now women were reading about sex too. What was the world coming to? He sighed and stirred again, glanced at the silent Pearl.

He wanted to reach out, take her hand; but he was afraid to break the fragile accord they had been sharing the last two days. Somehow the Nazi, Rat-shit, they had all faded into the background. The focus of their concern had been Thali.

Simon had wanted to explore possibilities, name the phantoms flitting through his mind: cancer, TB, anaemia, leukaemia, diphtheria; and a million possible congenital defects of the heart, lungs, liver...Simon had spent an agonising afternoon googling all the terrible blood disorders that can assail children.

Pearl had refused to discuss Thali's possible illness. "Let us face enemies only when we can name them. To worry before is energy wasted twice over."

And now Pearl sat in a silent reverie, obviously doing exactly that. He was about to nudge her when he noticed Snot-nose was staring at him, a damp well-chewed finger stuck in the corner of his mouth.

"Are you a giant?" Snotty asked.

Simon stirred again. His butt was getting numb. A peculiar sensation, and one he had never experienced before. "No, I am not a giant."

"You look like a giant." Snotty replied, with an accusing tone, in a surprisingly deep voice.

"Well, I am not."

"Are you strong." the sweet child asked, "Or just big and fat?"

Simon was outraged "Do I look fat to you?"

"You look mighty big. And you have a bulge in your middle, like mom did when she was expecting Xoli."

Simon sat up as straight as he could in the tiny chair and sucked in his offending incipient paunch. "That is muscle. I am just sitting bent over, see? So it looks soft, but it's really not fat at all."

The sweet child looked him over scornfully. "You look fat, and OLD, and ugly too."

Simon gasped in outrage and was about to reply when Pearl took his hand.

"Simon." Simon savoured the warmth of her hand resting on his. It felt astonishingly light and completely right.

"I...I have been foolish. I have no excuse except that...I am thirty-two years old, unmarried. I have spent my life looking after old people. My mother, my grandmother and grandfather, my aunt. I was the plain one who stayed behind in the kraal when all the others left to live their lives."

Simon opened his mouth to reply and Pearl stilled him with a gesture. "I was used to that. It was alright. I had my books, my studies, my lovely old ones, I had a full life. Then my father came back after my mother died. He had no use for me. He took a younger wife. A woman who painted her lips, and her nails purple, and had a blond wig. I become an embarrassment, he wanted me out."

Pearl's eyes filled with unshed tears. "So, he sold me to Jonas' father. And you know how THAT turned out. And then there you were, like an angel, saving me, and I loved you straight away."

Simon opened his mouth again, and Pearl laid cool fingers over his lips. "And you opened up a new life and a new world for me. I was so happy taking care of you, then the children too. Then all these people started making such a fuss of me...Me, Pearl Chabalala, plain Pearl whom nobody loved, but was very useful. They were seeing me, looking at me, seeing a woman: desirable, admirable, lovable..And...oh Simon, I loved that! Because you see, for the first time, I was seeing me too, and liking me."

Simon said softly: " I think you very desirable, and most admirable...and very lovable."

Pearl looked up at him and smiled."As I do you. I apologise Simon. I have been silly. I have been wanting to be a girl, like I never was, instead of a woman. Now it makes no sense to play games. I love you Simon, and my heart tells me a time of terrible storms comes, and we must stand together with no misunderstanding between us, we must stand together in trust and strength and know we are honest and can count on each other, no matter what happens."

Simon was about to reply when a skinny man in a white uniform and fat red-rimmed glasses put his head around the door and called: "Mr and Mrs Chabalala?" Pearl jumped to her feet, but Simon had some trouble extracting his bottom from the narrow chair.

"I am Pearl Chabalala, and this is Mr SImon Thambisa. We are not married."

"Yet..." Added Simon, and took Pearl's hand.

The thin man looked a bit startled at that and led them to Dr de Bruins's office. He announced them, then stood back and gestured them in.

Dr. de Bruin stood up to greet them with his gentle smile. He shook Simon's hand firmly and invited them to sit down. There were two brown folders on his desk. Dr. de Bruin opened one, took a deep breath and said: "Miss Chabalala, Mr Thambisa, I have the children's blood-work and the news are not what I would like. Isaiah is well, so I won't discuss him further. Thalie..." Simon squeezed Pearl's hand and took a deep breath.

Dr. de Bruin took off his glasses and rubbed a tired hand over his eyes.

"Thali is HIV positive, and she also has Aids."

Simon felt like a mite ground down by a giant's foot. Every particle of air in his body rushed out in a moan. "She is what?"

"Let's not beat around the bush. Mr Thambisa, the viral count is very high. Thali is dying."



Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Excerpt from my new Novel, "GODDESS OF WAR"

Excerpt from my new Novel, "GODDESS OF WAR"

Dinner. The long table gleams with crystal and silver, shards of shattered light spilling from the coloured facets of jewels draped around long throats.

Hilly and Vinny are seventeen, and it is time for them to be seen. Hilly looks at the women seated around the dinner table, with their bare shoulders and wide eyes. She sees what they are. Breeders, pedigreed wombs. Beautiful, with the slender anxiety of over-bred fillies. She sees Vinny being petted and fêted by the women, sees the vacuous admiration of the effete young men, and the covert lust in the older men's eyes. They are on display, the two of them. In two months they go to Town, to London for the Season. This is dress rehearsal, and for Vinny it is a triumph.

Hilly knows she will not triumph. She has nought of beauty, nor charm; and her intelligence, her inescapable, demanding, unsettling presence will not be what the Ton will be looking for in a Debutant. A Coming-Out Season is, after all - she thinks - a display of women-flesh for sale.

She picks up the draped linen napkin lying on her lap and dabs delicately at her lips to hide a sneer of contempt. Hilly has decided she will not be wed. Her person will not be desirable, but her inheritance will. She is the only child of a very wealthy, frugal father, and there is no entail on the Rutherford Estate. She is a rich catch for a provident man. She must make sure she is not asked for, she must be such a thing as no-man would consider, not even the poorest most debt-ridden, desperate younger son. She must be polite, display her razor mind to its best advantage; her ferocious castrating wit will be her shield.

She will start laying down the pattern of her life. Hilly will be the eccentric adventurous wealthy spinster, free as other women are not free; freed by her very undesirability from any possibility of doubt as to her virtue, freed to do as she pleases. She will start tonight.

Next to her they have seated a retired Colonel. Retired, she judged, but not too old to look for a young, fertile wife. He senses her regard, and turns on her pale, protuberant eyes. “My dear, we bore you, I am sure, with all this talk of Regimental politics and war...”

“Not at all. I am fascinated.” Her voice is her best asset. Clear, warm, beautiful.

The man smiles, even as the man he had been talking to exclaims: “Surely, Davenger, you don't claim we could have used the artillery to better effect! We have to deploy it, after all, and we did run that old desert fox to earth!”

Vinny's father cries “Indeed! We, with our good British hounds, ran him down, tore him apart! What else could you want, Davenger? Victory was ours!”

“It was too expensive a victory, Lucan. We lost too many men to bring down what amounted to little more than a band of bandits.”

“A fox...” Hilly says softly, “A fox, had it the wits, could bring down the Master of the Hunt.”

Her dinner companion leans in, “Indeed, my dear! And how would you go about it, being the fox?”

“I would wave the red flag of my tail in the face of the hounds. I would do what foxes do: I would run; run, but not too fast. I would let the hunt smell me, glimpse me, hunger for the slaying of me. Then when they were blind and baying with the death-lust, I would lure them to a killing ground.”

“Ahh...A strategist.” Davenger smiles.

“A chit of a girl who should be concerned with cross-stitch, not her elders' conversation at table!”

Hilly turns to the man: “Cross-stitch plays on patterns, Sir. Patterns train the mind to reason and logic. Is that not the essence of strategy?”

Next to her Davenger laughs out loud “She's got you running, Cartley, that she has!”

He sobers and adds “And you are right, my dear, a General willing to lay aside pomp for guile would rather be the fox than the mindless hounds. Hounds will chase a scent off a cliff in the heat of a hunt. You would have been a challenging foe, indeed, my dear Miss Fox!”

“A feminine mind, or sensibility could never make the necessary decisions for military leadership. Which is why men are warriors, and women followers.” Cartley protested.

“I don't agree, Cartley. Some of the most appalling atrocities I have ever seen have been committed by women.”

“In India, maybe, but our English women are not savages! And Indian or English, women are not warriors. Feminine sensibilities...”

“Ah...So tell me, Cartley, the ancient Greeks you so admire - homosexuals most of them – and full of feminine sensibilities, were they not warriors?”

“Davenger! There are Ladies present. You are out of bounds, man!”

Davenger turns to Hilly “Now you see why I never rose higher in the military ranks? My sense of what is strategically opportune does not extend to the dinner table and the social mores.”

Hilary finds herself laughing with this man. He leans in closer yet. “Or to my bed. If either of us was a whit less bright, I would take you to wife. As it is, I am curious to see what you will do with your life, little fox.”

Hilly smiles, “As am I , Sir, as am I!”

MAnuela Cardiga

As Time and tides flow
Blood and memory thins
And no justice,
No outrage screams.

Tell me, my Hero
Do you stand tall?
Do you smile,
Broad and bold?

When you dream
Is there no cold
And dainty hand
Tossed flower torn
From a broken stem?

And does that hand
Not caress
Your memory?
Is there no distress?

Hear you not
The whispers
Of the innocent dead?

Or are you deafened
By the roar
"All Hail the conquering Hero!"

I send you now
A wish to gladden you
As they pin to your chest
The Star of a Saviour;´

I wish for you,
With all the power
The old-mothers wield,
That you to yourself
Be known and true:

Let no gilding light
Bedew your brow,
Let no lie cloud
Your inner sight.

See that hand,
Each night;
See it reach
Petal fingers
Strange and light,
Let it strum fear
From the ill-tuned
Chords of your
Deadened heart.

Dance to that tune,
McBride, dance all night;

I wish for music
In your head
Each night as you lie
On your bed.
Dance, McBride,
Dance with the dead.


Sunday, 28 December 2014


There's a bad man
Out there
Worse and scarier
Than the Bag-Man,
And he got himself
A mean acronym
Scarier than ETA
Or any other
Alphabet soup
Any one
In this world
Has ever seen.

He worse
Than Jason,
He got bigger claws
Than the guy
From Elm street
A bigger bite
Than that guppy Jaws
And he hunts,
Hunts without
Mercy or pause...

No begging
No crying
No asset hiding
Will save you;
He out to get you
He out to skin you
And fillet and bone you;
You caint run,
You caint hide,
This here man
Is on your behind,

So Kow-tow
Bend low
And bow;
Here comes the man
The bad bag-man
The mean man
Here comes
That voodoo
"What ever you do
I got you" man

Run baby RUN
It's that IRS
Bad-ass man!


Friday, 26 December 2014


Next morning saw Simon out of bed at day break. He brushed his teeth, and stalked into the kitchen ready to give Pearl a piece of his mind. She wasn't there. No Pearl.
This was odd. Pearl was ALWAYS there...

Monday or Sunday, rain or shine, the first person out of bed was always Pearl. Pearl was always at her post in the kitchen presiding over a pot of hot tea and a gentling steaming pot of creamy porridge. The table would be set, and there would be Pearl...

No Pearl, no tea, no porridge; instead at the table sat a disconsolate Isaiah with a bowl of cereal and milk.

"Good morning Isaiah. How are you this morning?"

"Good morning Papa Simon, I be fine." Isaiah spooned up the cereal and chewed it up with an expression of suffering.

"What is the matter?"

"I wanted Mama Pearl's hot porridge with honey."

"Oh! But yesterday you were complaining about how you wanted those chocolate rice puffs!"

"I wanted them yesterday. Today I wanted porridge," explained Isaiah reasonably.

"I see."

"I went to Mama Pearl and told her so, and she said it is her day off."

Simon gaped at him. "Her day off?"

Isaiah frowned, "Yes. She said: It is my day off, I am sleeping in."

"Oh!" Simon frowned back. "I hadn't thought of that. She's never taken a day off before. What about Thali?"

"Thali is sleeping in too. I told her to get up and come play and she said "VOETSEK"."

Simon and Isaiah looked at each other. "This is how it begins Papa Simon," Isaiah warned darkly, "This is only the beginning..."

"The beginning of what?"

"The conspiracy. That Rat-shit started putting ideas in Pearl's head. She's dressing up, and getting pretty and happy, and going out dancing and sleeping in late, and not making breakfast; and next thing you know he will ask her to marry him."


"Yep. And she will go and he will give her flowers and kisses and tell her she is wonderful and she will never come back. That," sighed Isaiah gloomily. "It is what happened to a friend of mine."

"Well, that will not happen with Pearl! She is NOT going to go off and be happy. I give you my word, Isaiah! I will soon put an end to that! Now, go get dressed, you and I are going out for an English breakfast."

"Yes, Papa Simon!"


Two hours later Simon and Isaiah walked into a scene of pure feminine self-indulgence. On the big couch were Thali and Pearl curled up in their bathrobes eating chocolate ice cream and watching a Barbie musical.

"Morning Ladies," greeted Simon, and was instantly hushed.

"Shhhhh Papa Simon, this is the good part!" Thali cried.

"Yes, this is where the Prince gets rescued by Barbie and tells her she was right, and he loves her..." added Pearl.

"And he promises to wait for her while she goes launch her singing career!" sighed Thali, "It is so romantic!"

"And after we are watching "Sleepless in Seattle". Channel 21 is having a special Romantic Movie of My Life Day." Smiled Pearl, "And all we are doing today is girl stuff. We are taking the day off, Thali and I."

Simon looked down at Isaiah who sent him a telepathic "told you so!". The two walked into the kitchen to confer in privacy.

"Do you think there will be lunch?" asked Isaiah.

"Somehow I don't think so. But don't worry, I will make us all a tuna omelet. I do a great tuna omelet."

Isaiah looked up at him and winced. "Papa Simon? You cooking?"

"Isaiah, I was an independent man, long before Miss Pearl Chabalala came along I was living alone and doing it most successfully! I can feed this family as well as she can, and I am about to prove it to you!"

Just then the phone rang. Simon walked into the hall and picked up the receiver.


"Good morning," said a male voice on the other side, "May I speak to Miss Chabalala, please?"

"Who is this?" asked Simon quite rudely, "And what do you want."

"Well Sir, I wanted to speak to Miss Chabalala. I am afraid the matter is confidential, so if you would be so kind as to call the Lady to the phone?"

"PEARL!" Screamed Simon, "Phone for you!"

Pearl traipsed in light as you please and took the receiver from him.

"Hello? Yes, this is she?" There was a long pause, then she replied, "Thali too?" Pearl frowned. "Just us two then. Yes, at 11:00 Monday. Please tell the Doctor we will most certainly be there. Thank you for calling. Goodbye, and have a nice weekend."

Pearl slowly replaced the receiver. She was still frowning when she turned to Simon.

"It was the receptionist from the Doctor's office, he said the Doctor wants to discuss some of the results from the children's blood-tests." Her dark eyes were filled with a foreshadowing of fear. "Oh Simon...he said not to bring the children, just us two are to go in, as Thali's care-takers and guardian."

She shivered, "Oh Simon, I think our babies may be ill!"



Wednesday, 24 December 2014


No bells ring,
No angels sing,
It's fucking cold-
My tushie froze,

It's Xmas Eve,
I got a nosebleed,
And some ijit
Is skipping

Now that fat old bastard
Is loaded and bloated
With egg-nog and rum
Singing HO HO HO

He's taking his list
He's checking it twice,
While we poor shits
Stand in the ice.

He's tripping,
And swilling,
And soon
(God willing)
He'll get going;

But still
There's no knowing
What time
We'll be home.

So now the bastard
Is high on his seat
Dribbling on his beard
And cracking his whip;

You'd think after all
These bloody years
He'd get my name right?
He screams,

Prancer snickers,
And nudges Dancer,
But I just sigh
And pull on ahead.

It's cold, my nose
Is sore and red,
It's going to be
A fucking long night...

God's truth,
I'd rather be home
In my bed and let
That bitch Vixen
Take point instead.

Manuela Cardigs

Monday, 22 December 2014


I have no use
For reluctant lovers
Or wishy-washy
In tepid tones
From time-dulled

So if you want
To languish
In shelters
Of caution
And languid
Do suit yourself
But please
This is not for me.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Lembrei-me disto, agora que a coisa assume contornos tão fascinantes para a realidade Nacional...Suspeito que em breve lembraremos essa época passada com o nosso saudosismo caracteristico como "os bons tempos"...

NADAL DE CUECAS - Pondo tudo a nu!

Hoje houve greve de comboio, e eu, que costumo ir com o nariz enfiado num livro ou no lap-top, distrai-me a observar a multidão.

Aí as letras gordas dum jornal me saltam á vista!

Um frisson de alegria percorreu-me- FINALMENTE! 
Um jornalista a sério decidido a expor a verdade nacional!

Pronto, seria um jornalista um pouco disléxico, ou talvez ás portas da morte com Ébola e a utilizar um programa Voice-to-Text para deixar o seu testamento jornalístico á nação… Temos que perdoar uma ou duas calinadas na ortografia a quem demostra tal coragem.

Mas depois verifiquei que o NADAL é um tal tenista decidido a bater bolas publicamente nas cuecas reduzidíssimas produzidas por um outro Tommy qualquercoisa (dedo mindinho???) por quantias avultadas…

Pronto. Mais uma desilusão.

OK! A gente sobrevive. Alias, para ser correcto deveria ser NATAL EM PELOTA, e não NATAL DE CUECAS.

Aí percebi…Estou a fugir á minha responsabilidade cívica.

Eu que ando prá ai sempre de dedo no ar a dizer ás pessoas o que pensar, e a escrever coisas que ninguém quer ler (chiquíssimo) e ainda por cima em Inglês; eu que tenho uma filha Portuguesa, tenho a mesma obrigação e direito de dizer mal!

Pago ou não pago impostos?
Pago sim Senhora!
Por isso aqui vai ela…

Tá mal, tá muito mal verificar que num Portugal onde a maioria dos lares se governa com quantias reduzidas de pilim (não posso responder por outros, mas ganho exactamente 600 €) desapareçam não se sabe bem como nem para onde, milhões e milhões…

Bom, MILHARES DE MILHÕES! Nós plebeus mal remendados (o remediado já lá vai!) nem sequer conseguimos imaginar tais quantias em termos reais, mas que elas há, há. Quer dizer, não há.

Os senhores acostumados á Dolce Vita andam a gritar dum tal Salgado…

Salgado, salgado também não calha mal. Um pastelinho de Chaves, ou um de bacalhau, e ainda por cima nesta época de Natal que se avizinha e se prevê magra, não dá para recusar um Salgadinho bem temperado.

Ai Mar Salgado quanto do teu Sal, são lágrimas dos investidores do nosso Portugal… (olha que a citação até dá um ar intelectual á coisa, não é?)

Adiante! Por coincidência e por obra e graça dum Espirito Santo qualquer, um outro Senhor – também ele com aspirações intelectuais- foi dentro.

Ah pois é bébé!
O Sócrates andou por ai feito finório, em Paris, vejam bem!
Mas a malita de cartão dele tinha mas é “papel”. E muito papel. Agora está em Évora de férias, numa suite privada.

Privado, verdade seja dita, da sociedade dos seus pares e isso é uma crueldade.
O Homem é um animal social, e o rapaz está em solitária, deprivado da companhia dum tal Manelito – moço enxuto e bem constituído com tatuagens e tudo, meigo, carinhoso e com muito afecto para dar, que tudo dava para apanhar pela frente (ou por traz) um rapaz como o nosso Zézinho para relação séria e/ou talvez casar. Em vez duma vida sociocultural normal, o Zé está condenado ao silencio e ao isolamento deprimente… 

Castigo cruel e desumano! Esta situação tem levado imensa gente caridosa, e carinhosa a deslocar-se aos ditos calabouços onde o nosso Zé -feito Edmundo Dantes trancado na Fortaleza de IF- se pranteia e se declama inocente.

Tanta gente a visitar, que se calhar deviam colocar mas é uma daquelas portas giratórias na ditosa suite - quer dizer, cela- não vá o Guarda desenvolver uma tendinite de tanto dar á chave.

Eu no lugar do Zé tinha medo. Muito mesmo. Não fosse o nome do tipo Sócrates. Aposto que todos lhe levam um miminho. Uns docinhos, uns salgadinhos, um bolito Rei… Cuidado ó Zé! Não vá o doce e o Salgado ocultar o sabor da cicuta…

“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, tenho dito.

(outra citação bué de erudita e trés intelectualoid, eu sei, mas não resisti! A culpa é do Zé! Sócrates/Cicuta/Gregos/Troianos… "Temo os gregos e as suas oferendas” calha bem!)

Por isso acautela-te, oh Zé, e fica de bico calado! O que nos leva ao lugar comum final:


Este Inverno quente, este Natal magro vai provar que mesmo o povo em pelota não se importa que fique tudo em águas de bacalhau. Bacalhau com todos, claro. Ou á Lagareiro.

A posta alta bem demolhada passa na garganta mais refinada, tenho dito.


(Ou em pelota, pois até a folha do figo tá caduca. Já viram bem o preço dos figos secos???)

Manuela Cardiga

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Almoed and Biggieboom
Disagree about what colour
The world should be.

PINK cried one,
BLUE the other-
Till along came
Raphael (a brother)
Who said:
Why worry?
The sunset
Paints all colours
across the skies,
As does the sunrise,
So relax and enjoy
The world's surprise.

Almoed screamed,

Cried Biggieboom,

And in one second
They agreed,
A triumph for
Raphael, indeed;

But he, poor bugger,
Couldn't enjoy
His moral victory
Cause they cored him
Like an apple,
And painted his world

They  compromised
And used RED

Manuela Cardiga

Sunday, 14 December 2014


It is hard for those of us born and bred in the far South of our tilting world to understand the terror and glory of Longest Night.

Not until you have been exiled under the northern skies do you begin to glimpse and grasp the roots and reasons for the birth of religions.

We, for whom there is a steady rhythm to the days - sun-rises, and sun-sets of sudden but predictable glory - cannot surely comprehend the slow and frightening progression of what seems to be the wane and eminent demise of the Sun across a darkening sky.

Here, at the height of summer, the sun sets as late as ten o'clock at night. It seems days are endless, a golden blessing of a benevolent god; then as the season wanes, the sun sets earlier and earlier. Darkness strides closer and closer, cold and a whisper of death. Is it so hard to imagine the perception of Winter as evil personified wrestling with the valiant sun across the greying skies?

Not ten thousand years ago, an Ice Age afflicted these climes. The very demon of ice and snow ruled this land. Endless winter, endless nights. I believe this spectre still slumbers in the myths and the consciousness, at the base of every religion that was born in this half of our world.
Sol Invictus, versus Endless Night.

So as the Winter Solstice approaches we light our lamps, and candles against the threat of an endless night. We stand vigil for our champion, our palatine. We pray for rebirth, one more year of light and love and life. The Celts lit vast bonfires, we light trees and faerie lights.

No other night equals the power and the glory and the terror of Longest Night.
Our youngest religions have embraced the rituals as their own: festivals of light, celebrations of birth; but at the root of it lies the threat and the fear of the dark. Endless night comes to embrace us, on whom shall we call, who shall save us?

So we call for salvation, a promise of continuance, the blessing of rebirth.
We wait for the dawn that brings the end of Longest Night; and when morning comes,we trade kisses and gifts, we sing paeans of praise to the Light.

Christ the Reborn, the Resurrected, is an avatar of Sol Invictus; bringing a promise of renewal at the end of our own personal Winter Solstice.

The darkness that falls is not endless, there is an end to night.
Lift high your candles, light the fires for Longest Night.


Saturday, 13 December 2014


The next week was an absolute nightmare for Simon Thambisa; a strangely disjointed time in which he sunk into sullen silence, and Pearl sailed over it with bright indifference. The more he sulked, the calmer and sweeter she was. And she never asked him what was wrong...

Not by a single word did she allude to the Gala or to what had gone so disastrously wrong.

Simon was by turns silent, mordant, and coldly polite. She ignored his attitudes utterly, and responded with warm kindness. In fact, she responded to him in exactly the same way - the same tone - she used on Thali or Isaiah in a huff. Simon realised he had placed himself at the same level as a six or a ten year old in a sulk.

He resolved to sit down and have a talk to Pearl, set his cards on the table. Yes, he was a grown man, with a successful life, what was there to be frightened about?

Simon got up from his desk and walked to Pearl's and Thali's room. He knocked on the door, and opened at the muffled “Come in!”.

He walked into a riotous tornado of femininity. A silky multicoloured heap on the bed hinted at some play at “dress-up”, Pearl standing by the long mirror in the wall-closet suggested something more sinister...

She was wearing a lick of red, and the gold and garnet antique choker he had given her. She was wearing high-heels, and red lipstick. She looked good enough to eat.

“Oh! Hello! I thought...You are going out?”

“Yes, it is Friday night, remember, I spoke to you? I am going to the art opening?”

“Ah yes, yes indeed...And the children?”

“The children will be with Mrs. Markovish, and your dinner is in the oven, Sir. It is all taken care of.”

“Yes, yes, of course.”

Thali interrupted “Does Mama Pearl not look fine?”

“Yes indeed. Yes, she does.”

Thali sighed. “And you are just seeing the outside. She is wearing the prettiest red lace bra...Makes her boobs look extra bouncy, doesn't it?”

“Thali!” cried Pearl, “We don't comment on our underwear in front of gentlemen!”

“We don't?”


“Then why do you wear them?”

Pearl choked and gasped in embarrassment, and Simon manfully wrestled with a vision of Pearl in her lacy red bra.

“I think I will let you ladies finish up...”

Pearl frowned, “What did you want to talk to me about, Sir?”

“Nothing...Nothing important. I am going out too, to a movie. So we will speak tomorrow.”

“Alright, Sir. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Pearl, good night, my Thali.”

“Good night Papa Simon!”


Simon walked to his bedroom to get his coat and wallet. He was determined to spare himself the sight of the Nazi drooling over Pearl. He would go to the movies at the shopping center. See something macho and warlike. Something with no women in it...He walked past the sitting room and a glum Isaiah.

“What is the matter?” he asked.

Isaiah pouted, “I go up to Mrs. Markovish with Thalie. They will spend the evening putting on jewelry and shoes, I will be bored. I am tired of women talking, talking...”

Simon nodded sympathetically. “Well how about you ask Mama Pearl if you can go to the movies with me tonight? We eat a hamburger, hang out? Guy's stuff.”

Isaiah jumped off the couch with a joyful shout and ran to Pearl's bedroom. In an instant he had returned, eyes bright, to match his huge grin. “Mama Pearl said yes, but I have to wear my coat, and you have to make sure the movie is not violent, or for over 10-year-olds.”

“Cool! Let's go!”

He helped Isaiah with his coat and walked out with a skipping happy child, talking a mile a minute and tugging on his coat-sleeve to emphasise every second word.

It helped. It made him focus on something other than Pearl in a lick of red silk, with red lace cupping her breasts...

They had a hamburger, they saw a Jackie Chan movie in which Jackie beat up a whole lot of bad guys without ever drawing blood, and with nary a woman in sight. It was a good evening. He hardly thought about Pearl at all.

They got home at 10:30, and Pearl and Thali were still not there. Simon and Isaiah went to bed.


Simon tossed and turned for what seemed like hours until he heard the slick-sliding click of the key in the lock and the giggly whispers of the two feminine voices. He glanced at the alarm clock's fluorescent screen: 11:45!

He was filled with righteous indignation. It was late. It was very late for Thali. He would have a talk to Pearl about the children's bedtime. He would impose a curfew. On the children of course, and by natural extension, on Pearl.




Dense darkness
Above, below me;
Dense silence
Within, without me.

Sight and sound
Oh laughter of light
Surround me;
I beg: rebirth me.

Awaken, dormant
Unspoken child
Drowned in doubt;
Rescue, breathe me.

Be once again free,
Be the word for me.


Friday, 12 December 2014

We women are trained to suppress our emotional needs, not to be demanding, or inconvenient in our craving for the shows of affection. We must be compliant, understanding; take what is proffered and be content; even if it not enough, or what we want or need.

God forbid we show discontent…
That would mean we are (GASP) selfish.
We are not being sensitive.
We are unconscionable bitches.
Don’t we know the needs of the other comes first?
Not to mentions their concerns.
How dare we think we might somehow deserve a higher standing on the priority list?

So if you are somehow feeling any of the above?

You are not being rational, sensitive to the other’s needs, problems, etc, etc. You are failing your duty as a GOOD WOMAN, and God and life (not to mention your poor blighted misunderstood beloved) will punish you for that heinous sin of being a BAD GREEDY GIRL.

Confessions of a Therapy Junky

When are we so perfectly mirrored in love that you move/ I move and neither one shows more or less affect?

I am weary of uneven bonds that fray because they are so carelessly tied.
I am bored by rational loves that shrink from the elegant flash of fire.
I find that I am withdrawing that part of me more and more.

That part of me that burns and yearns for more than the pedestrian shows of tepid affection I with-hold; the stupidly melodramatic part that wants a love to crack the world.

I will withdraw that, suppress the wanting of the untwined soul, but I will not take the complementary consolation prize either.

I won’t, so I will write them, these things, not live them.
It will, should be enough.
It must.

Confessions of a Therapy Junky


Thursday, 11 December 2014


A break
With Tradition:

1 adds up
To nought,
This kind of love
I never sought.

2 adds up
To less
Than hoped four
(a mathematical

Though Prime
And Even both,
Total value:
Less than a groat.

3 divides
Me from me:
Takes the mind
Lets the woman

Sums and Summaries!
Girls, hie thee
To Nunneries,
If these are
The numbers?
Fakers and shirkers
And fumblers?

A break
With Tradition…

I will send them all
Ladies I’m getting
Myself a Harem!


Friday, 5 December 2014


i want to know
not everything,
just a bit:
a little bit

I want to go
not everywhere,
just there:
that where
where you are
and i care
no more
for you
than you
for me,
or is it i?



Pearl knocked on Mrs Markovich's door washed in tears. That sweet lady gasped in alarm at the sight of her:“Pearl! My dear! What happened?”

Pearl walked into Mrs Markovich's frail arms and sobbed her heart out. Mrs Markovitch wisely said nothing, just rocked her. When the sobs subsided, she led Pearl to the lounge, seated her on the soft embracing Chesterfield and poured her a stiff shot of Scotch.

“I don't drink whiskey,” Pearl snivelled. Mrs Markovitch knocked back her own shot with a wink.

“I do, and what a blessing it is!”

Hesitantly Pearl sipped at the clear golden liquid. It tasted terrible, like medicine, but it spread a comforting glow of warmth through her shivery, bruised heart...

“How did it go, Pearl? And more importantly, how did it go wrong?”

“It was wonderful, wonderful! Everything was beautiful, and like a dream. Everyone was so kind. Mr Rathsik dedicated his Serenade to me, and Mr von Durnst invited us to dine with him, and to go to an art opening next week, and it was all going so perfectly; and then Simon – I mean Mr Thambisa – was screaming at me in the car, about how all he did was drive me there, and I must thank my friends...”

“Ah...” Mrs Markovich sighed, “Jealousy rears its ugly head...” She poured Pearl and herself a refill.

“My dear, Mr Thambisa took you for granted. You were Pearl who cleaned his house, and whom he loved, but he felt no need to do anything about it.”

“Oh no! He doesn't love me...He told me he does not see me as a woman at all.”

“He lied. He thought he had plenty of time to make up his mind, to decide how it was going to be, WHEN it was going to be. He was wrong, so now he is angry at you.”

“At me? Why at ME?”

“Well, he can't be angry at himself, now can he? He can't admit he was stupid, and blind and scared. So it must have been your fault he acted like such a jerk.”

“He apologised yesterday...”

“Of course. They always apologise just before they do or say something even worse. Now he will be sulking, and expecting you to come ask him what is wrong.”

“I want to. I want him to explain.”

“Wrong, Pearl! That is a male's most lethal weapon: playing on a woman's need to talk about it, to understand. So we ask, and they always manage to turn things around so it was basically OUR FAULT they act like trolls on a bender. You shut up, sit tight, make him ask to talk...”

“And that is what I want. I want us to talk, sort this out. I love him Mrs Markovitch.”

“Yes you do, but no you won't. When he comes telling you he wants to talk, tell him it's alright, there is nothing to talk about.”

“I don't understand!”

“Listen Pearl, do you love this man?”


“So you have to start getting it right from the word go. He wants to get you? He has to fight for you. So you go out with Mr. Rathsik and Mr von Durnst, have fun.”

“Mrs. Markovitch! I am not that kind of a woman!”

“Pearl, I am not suggesting you do the funky-monkey with them. Go out to dinner, to the movies, go to the art opening. Mr. Thambisa must realise you are a free woman. He has already seen that you are desirable, you have choices. Make him present himself as an option. Make him fight for you, Pearl.”

“What if he won't?”

“Then he shows you - and himself - that he does not deserve to have a woman like you as his wife.”


“Of course, dear. The man is scrumptious, yes, but if that was all, I'd tell you: Pearl, you have an itch, scratch it! My dear, the man has character, scruples, looks, a kind heart; and best of all he has assets. So he wants you? He marries you.”



Thursday, 4 December 2014


Ninety-nine monkeys
Typing in my head

Who can beat that?

Ninety-nine monkeys
Hitting the keys

Sooner or later,
Something will please.

Ninety-nine monkeys,

And they all rhyme.

And guess what?
I am losing
My fucking




Fios condutores
De dor.


They were cheering
And clapping,
And slapping
My back,

So I wiped the sweat
From my forehead
Smiled and pulled:
One more step
And another
Bowing and waving
Like crazy;

Dizzy with the joy
Of being busy,
Approved of,
And pleasing;
But tired, so tired.

So I thought:
Let me stop
For a drink
And I set down
The burden
I have been
Bowing under.

So I set it down
And stood up
From my stoop
And they drifted

All of them
Just drifted.
Friends and

I guess mules
Are useful
Until they refuse.

Until at long last
They understand
They confuse
The carrot
And the lariat.

I suppose a mule
Is also a fool;
And what,
I ask you, is
The conclusion
And moral


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Man from Gujarat

I am a story teller and not a historian. I am the woman who once sat in the bazaar, and thirsty ears would come to me and say “Tell us a tale of Babylon, a tale of a Broken Heart, tell us a tale of a Dragon and a Maiden torn apart.” And I would weave, weave bright skeins on the loom of dreams; give them a treasure of pleasure to take home: a dream of what life is, could be, should be. A story. I am a storyteller, you see.

So a man came to me and he said: “Tell me a tale, a Tale of Gujarat.”

And so although I come from another land and know not the roads and tastes and tests of Gujarat, I will tell you a story from the loom of dreams; and this is how it begins.

Far far away, in a place I have never been, divided from my heart's land by a single Ocean - and so perhaps not so far, for they do say lands divided by the same ocean often kiss - in this far land was born a man.

He was born as all men are born. He was born a boy. Diffident and quiet, as is usual and suitable to the youngest of seven. He was shy and small and weak, and rather inclined to weep and hide behind his mother's skirts. His father was a good man, a wise man, a councillor of Princes; and though he was humble-slim and lean with abstinence, his shadow was very great indeed.

When he was seven the who would be a man took his first step along his road: his father took the family into a new land. It was his first, but not his last journey. It was only one small step on the Great Road that would one day bring him home.

So he was a boy, a man, a father, a son. All these he was and became: a loving son, tormented by an inheritance of pious guilt; a father before he was a man; a man still uncertain of his will, his strength, of his place in the world. They sent him far from all he had known, this man of Gujarat, on his first great journey, destined also to be the longest.

He set out, leaving wife, son and mother behind, to school his clumsy tongue to an alien discipline. He set out for England. England land of Conquerors. Alien, that cold, grey land: scentless the breeze, cold the rain. The food colourless, tasteless. The people: cool and reserved, strapped as tightly into their castes as his own people to theirs. There was some understanding in him, some sympathy for their ways. Their women moved in cages: as trapped in their corsets as his own women in the tight circle of their traditions. The fates decide your status, you earn you place on the Wheel: there seems to be some concordance on this also. Besides, they are his conquerors, with all the glamour and seductive power of such. He must please them.

He kept to his small tight disciplines as well as he could: he ate no meat, he pared his meagre pleasures down to nothing. He took pleasure in his rigour. It empowered him. It set him apart. He endeavoured to forget burrowing eagerly into his wife’s young body as his Father lay dyeing in other arms. The memory of his avidity was repugnant to him. He will be a good son after all. He can deny his flesh, keep his vow to his dead Father. In this he does not fail. He must not fail.
At long last the exile ends, he returns. He dreams night after night on his narrow berth: his Mother, frail in her silken muslin, stretches out her narrow arms. He weeps. Dark, perfect circles bloom on her shoulder as he weeps. Her thin arms bring him home, forgive him, redeem him.
There is no thin figure on the quay. His brothers, rotund and prosperous, greet him.
She is dead. Long dead. No heart-quake warned him, no mystic breath whispered it to his cringing soul. The very centre of his life is gone.

This is failure, one bitter taste followed by another. Some demon steals his speech. His mind so agile and quick, cannot reach the outside world through the portal of his mouth. Another failure. A stumble-tongued lawyer: a family joke. What can be done? A summons comes. Far, far away a man needs an advocate of his own race.

He will be unique. No other exits in that far bastion of the Empire, none like him.
He sets out bolstered by his reinstatement in his high caste, carrying around him the invisible aura of his uniqueness, his privilege. A new start, a fresh beginning. He will wash away his old sins on a far shore, and come back resplendent, reborn.

He headed to the south of the world, the fabled coast of Africa where his people had been summoned to harvest sweetness and reaped, instead, a bitter crop.
The ship lay down anchor in a busy port: he walks down to the quay, dignified in his grey English suit, his white turban crisply folded.

Three men await him, men of his race, though not of his own people. Muslims.
Portly, glossy with success, they greet him, welcome him with splendid words and graceful gestures to which, he answers with dignified restraint; with splendidly arrogant humility.
The oldest of these men take his arm to lead him past the raucous bustle of the stevedores, calling to each other, reeking of acrid sweat and the sour sweetness of sugar. They heave sacks on to their backs, heft cargo on platforms shouting “Heeeee! Heeee!”; answering the calls of the foremen, their corded muscles rippling with the strain of the ropes, the measured weight of their labour.
They swarm the ship, the quay, black ants punctuated here and there by the termite pallor of stiff-shouldered Englishmen, wincing from the barest brush of alien flesh.

Further on he notices a bull-necked man, whose smoke yellow eyes follow them with the faint derision of the warrior for the merchant-caste. The massive bullet head swivels slowly to follow their progress. Heavy, broad lips draw back from white square teeth. A stream of thick yellow spittle spatters in the dirt at their feet. The man laughs. His naked arms roll with obscene looseness in their sockets, his shoulders shrugging his despite. He laughs and others join him, calling approval, their mockery transparent in their voices.

He sees himself briefly through those eyes, smoke yellow with swallowed rage: a small narrow bodied man, scurrying along on his spindly legs and stiff hips; his shoulders bowed piously.
The man himself towers in massive, slim-hipped splendour, his naked chest sporting glistening pink scars like rosebuds, raised proud against the smooth blackness of his skin.

His companions hurry him along, pouring a constant stream of commentary into his numb ears.
The Zulus…savages…insurrection…hate us….the Impie veterans the worst…Come, come, you will see how we receive you, come, come…

They leave the docks behind and take him into a broad-avenued town with the splendid aura of prosperity. His companions explain, exclaim, complain. People move busily to and fro on the broad pavements, carriages and waggons trundle past. A small boy, pale faced and wan walking hand in hand with a stately black woman in a white dress, stares at him with disturbing dark eyes.

He sees, horrified, a young black girl with jiggling naked breasts laughing merrily and waving her hands gracefully in the air. Her palms flash moist pink, like a glimpse of intimate flesh.
He averts his eyes but sees, again and again, the loose motions of her body.

They lead him to a respectable-looking house, introduce him to an array of eager faces: young, old, thin and generous-fleshed, they are all eager to welcome him, flatter him. Their regard pours healing balm on his wounded pride.

That night on his solitary bed, he dreams the girl, her naked conical breasts juddering above him. In the final moment of his pleasure, she leans down and moans through broad heavy lips, teeth clenched in ecstasy, smoke-yellow eyes glistening; and he tallies in his heart his first hate, his first fear, and so poisons his fresh start.


In the quiet pool of lamplight the Man from Gujarat stoops his shoulders to the book. His pen scratches deep precise furrows on to the page, it pleases him to watch the sluggish flow of the glossy ink, slowly drying on the paper.

His words flow effortlessly through his mind, travelling swiftly to egress through the sharp steel nib. This fluency pleases him. He builds his case, graceful bridges of logic consolidating his arguments over the flowing river of facts. What agility escapes his stumbling tongue is compensated by the grasping leaps of his eager mind.

In the tranquillity of that warm night, any phantom of failure is allayed. He works until the delicious weariness overpowers his limbs and cottons his mind. He lies on his bed and lets the slow waves of sleep lap against him.

He imagines himself - narrow elegance in his dark western suit - gesturing with humble authority; his arguments fluent and impassioned. In his half-dream the English Judge wobbles his pink jowls in awed, though reluctant, approval…

Alas, his fantasy is not to be. He must head west and northward, to the fabled land of gold and gunpowder, there to negotiate a settlement. He will not gloriously expound, but only quibble and squabble, like a merchant or a panderer, over coin.

Still, he will represent his client with dignity. He boards the stagecoach impeccably dressed: hair neat and gleaming with pomade, suit sharply tailored; glasses flashing acuity.

He speaks politely and knowledgeably to his fellow travellers, one of whom had spent some time in Bombay, trading tea; and now trades hotter more intoxicating beverages to the mining camps. At the border to the Republic of the Free State of Orange they changed horses and drivers in the middle of the icy night. The passengers somehow managing to slumber through the stop: the guttural voices, the clinking of metal on metal, the hoarse blowing of the horses as they are backed into the traces. Frigid dawn sees the next stop. The door opens and a broad bearded man climbs in, bringing in the sharp smell of the cold, mingled with the smoky odour of pipe tobacco.

Wat is Dit!

`n Koelie!

Ek sal nie langs `n Koelie sit nie!

The creaking and swaying of the carriage announces the heavy descent of the driver and his companion.

Wat se jy Meneer, Dat ons Koelies is?

Then two faces staring at him in astonished indignation, the scarlet faced fury of the new passenger barely impacting on his consciousness; and the rough hands are grabbing at him. He is tumbling, crashing to cold hardened earth, a-sprawl, gaping at thick-soled, dirt-caked boots.
He is dimly aware of the exclamations of alarm of his fellow passengers, some sort of argument.
The harsh voice of the driver interjecting in some coarse form of English he could barely understand:

No Koelis! No Indianers! This is die Vrei Staat, Engels!

Indians verbode! Forbidden!

Geen bedondered ape!
No monkeys!

The sour sting of vomit rises in his throat. Dirt cakes his teeth, his lips split and bleed as he grimaces in pain and humiliation.
Bandar. Monkey.

All his proud pretentions brought to dust. This dust, soaked with his bile and his blood. He is less than nothing.

Less even than an Untouchable.
He is dust in an unforgiving land shaped by warriors, shaped for warriors.
He is dust.


Crouching on the stirrup runner, he has a sudden vision of himself: Folded stick arms and legs, monkey-head hunched against the cold between his shrugging shoulders. His fingers cramp desperately to his hand-hold on his perch: fear and ice adding tenacity to his grip. Numbed, floating beyond any point of consciousness he ever believed he might survive, he is jarred by the sudden jerk of the carriage coming to a stand-still, nearly shaking him loose from his precarious perch.

He clings, oblivious, until gentle fingers pry him loose, strong hands lifting him into blessed warmth. A lap rug is wrapped around him. In the unfocused haze of his naked eyes, the Boer passenger’s scarlet face looms.

Sies ,man, Koelie…

An awkward silence hangs in the carriage. A palpable miasma, the mingled smells and hot plumes of breath: an unwelcome intimacy. Leaning back, eyes closed, his eyelids glued shut by tears of dust and shame, he sees himself. He sees himself, again and again, fastidiously drawing his garments around himself to avoid the contaminating contact with the unclean.
Unclean. Untouchable. Unthinkable.

He has scorned good men of his own race as impure while seeking the approval of an alien nation.
The stinging rejection of the people of this land burns his pride, scours away his complacency. Their hatred and their their despite, make them brothers. Their justified scorn - he now sees - make them twin targets for his loathing, his anger, his hate.


His arrival in Johannesburg, tottering stiffly from the carriage, wrapped in a blanket and stained with dirt, adds another layer to his suffocating rage.
The curious sidelong glances from his fellow passengers and passers-by, has him fumbling for a handkerchief scrubbing vainly at the shameful map of tears on his cheeks.

Mr Gandhi?
Mr Gandhi!
What has happened to you?

The solicitous kindness in a familiar lilting accent almost has him sobbing in relief.
He is taken away from the sardonic stares of the big men with the fierce beards, the urbane scorn of the Englishmen. He is cocooned in gentle indignation, warm familiar scents, comforted.
His humiliation is complete. Those whom he has secretly scorned as his inferiors, in both status and intellect, have shown themselves far above him in generosity of spirit.

Ah, so, a man from Gujarat comes to the Land of Dreams, and what does he see?
Himself. His unwelcome reflection in foreign eyes.


A man from Gujarat proclaims to have received enlightenment and seeks redress for his people. The press for justice unlocks his stuttering breath, the savage acuity of his mind is freed. He fights, he refuses this image of himself lodged like a festering thorn in his mind. He speaks of love, but in his heart ferments the hot rancid pus of hate.

Hate in his heart, and hate echoes in the world. War comes, and he - the pacifist to be - begs for a gun. He wishes to join the conquering Army, the bold British forces that once took his land. He begs to stand in those ranks, and is refused by reason of his colour.
Why? Why would you fight, man from Gujarat?

And then we see the men he would fight - see crushed, destroyed - are the very men who took from him his vainglorious pride. Boers. Crude, rough men, with no poetry, and no art. Hard men, warriors. Uncouth, yes, but armed with a ferocious drive for freedom, a passion for this land. He sees now how such could be.

This is a broad land, empty and clean of overwhelming masses of suffering humanity. The scents of the breeze are uncluttered by incense or spice, the gilded unfolding landscapes uninterrupted by human life. Here a man is owned by his land. Here a man steps on virgin ground every day of his life. Here a man must make a stand, for he fights not just for his life. He fights for Holy ground.


They take this man from Gujarat who longs for a gun, and give him a stretcher. They bless him not with the perfume of gunpowder, cordite; instead he suffocates in a miasma of blood and urine, pus and fecal matter. He cannot, should not touch such, it breaks the laws of his caste; and yet he must.
His thirsty hatred brought him here, now he must kneel and drink...

He thinks: I will drink the blood and defeat of my enemy, and this will set my heart free of this ugliness in me.

But it was not to be. The might of an Empire is brought to its knees by the desire and passion of a small Nation. The man from Gujarat runs in the battlefield at Spionkop. he pauses before a screaming boy, sobbing as his thin hands press his flesh closed over a gaping wound. He pauses, and cannot tell if it is a Boer or an Englishman. He cannot tell, and so he stops and takes his head in his lap, and comforts him as he would his own small son woken from a nightmare. He holds him until his soul is released, until the boy is no longer there. He closes the pale eyes, strokes back the hair. He gets up. He totters, he falters in his steps. He is overcome by grief, he sees all around him death.

Soon the silence falls. Sobbing silence. Dust and blood, and mud. They take him, the Boers, him and others. Prisoners all. Soldiers and stretcher-bearers, and men who are neither. He is a prisoner.
He bows to his fate, and waits for freedom to come again.

From that field of gore he takes the first seeds of his life's work: the ferocious unbending desire to be free of foreign rule, from men who had always been free. He sees it. He understands this is as it should be. He sees their victory. It can be done. Small Nations can overcome great Empires. Yes it can be done.


He calls for his family and they come. He builds for himself a new life; his children, his wife must bend and adapt to the new shape he has devised. He is as passionately intransigent in his demands on them as he is on himself. He will be a better man. He will be.

Here in this far land his people need him, in this small community he can be a great man; be wise, beloved, admired. He can be the man his father was.

He goes North, to the Transvaal. He devours words, reads of equality, freedom, politics, and policy; reams of words by sunlight and candlelight, he borrows schemes to fit his needs. His and his nascent dreams, for himself and his people.

But still, there is a day when his hate reawakens. There is to be war again, war in Natal. There is a call, the Zulu rise again, assegai in hand to spill blood, and split guts; and though he is far in the Transvaal, his spirits rise. He will strike at that despite he glimpsed in those somber eyes so many, many times. He will go to Natal, and once more beg for a gun, to be allowed to take a warrior's stand.

He goes indeed, but once again it is not as he dreamed. He is again a comforter of the wounded, a companion to the dead. The war is not a war. It is something else. The soldiers strike at women, children, old men. Whips cuts are more frequent than bullet wounds and just as deadly in this moist heat. The violated skin cannot protect the tender inner flesh and the wounds fester.

The man from Gujarat sees a strange and terrible thing. One evening under the stuttering light of a paraffin lamp the back of a black man shows him this thing he would not, could not see.
Under the lamplight the flesh gapes open, and within the parted skin - that shimmering black, dense impenetrable night - he sees all the pulsing layers, the yellow layers of fat and red meat and blood that comprise a man.

He sees all the layers of himself. He sees: This is what I am. The hate I feel for him, is the hate I feel for myself.

In himself, in his many-faceted and fragmented heart he has harboured pride and hate and lust. All that he would find to deride in others is in him, the deep thorn skewering his mind. This is the true enemy. The enemy outside is just a shadow of the enemy inside; and yet the external enemy is so much easier to grapple with...

He finds a place for himself, his wife, his new way of life. He is adamant she must follow him in this. His pride will not abide deviance. She must bow, she must submit. She also must cleanse herself of his sin. She must, if she would remain at his side. And yet, this too is sin, this too is rooted in pride.

How low must I abase myself, how low...
He discovers he takes pride in this also. His humility, his piety is fake coin. Fake, false, all offered up to his monstrous intellectual pride. It is not enough. He must strive, fight, survive his hubris. He must be not a great man, but a good man, as his father was.

He knows it is not in his nature, this intrinsic goodness he so desires. It is a thing to strive for, a constant battle that will last all his life.

And he thinks: By the fruits of thy labour shall ye be known. Evil trees do not grow sweet fruits.
He takes the seeds from the battlefields where he buried his hate, and ploughs them into fertile minds. These are the fruits. He takes the words some angel places in his mouth and spouts them out; calls for change, and the strange thing is, change comes. Ears hear him, the Empire hears. What he asks is but little in the grand scheme, little for the great; but for his people who live with so scant a store of pride, it is much.

Now they call to him: Come home! Come home! Here is another fight! Come home, we fight a foe beyond our might.

And the small man from Gujarat sits under a jacaranda with a wide shadow and asks a question:
How? How can it be done? I have seen what must be. We must fight, yet look! They fought and died. But it can be done. They fought alone. If only...

And he dreams and schemes under the tree, and the soft violet lavender lilac light cradles him.
The great Ocean that divides also unites, he thought. The people of this place refused to bow beneath a foreign hand. We have been bowing, and bowing for centuries. One pitiless master after another. Submit to survive. It has become a habit, this bowing down.

I must break this habit. It is not enough that we survive. We must thrive, be alive. The refusal to bow is in itself a battle won, if we can stand tall in our pride in who we are, we too can take that stand. Win or lose, we fight for our freedom, our children, our Holy land.

From the tree something fell. Swooped and swayed in that kissing breeze, fell to his cupped palm and stayed. A seed. A seed fell down, a seed like a wing, made for the wind.

This, he thought, this I must take home.
And he tucked that seed into his sleeve.

He left. He packed his dreams and his wife and his life. He took the seed of the story of the fierce horsemen with their rough ways, who wooed the very land; and the seed of story of the dark men with poetry in their hearts, and blood on their spears.

He took the seed and he planted it anew, and I suppose like every other story it was not new.

If it gave good fruit, I do not know.
I think he did as he did in a mix of good and ill, as all men do.
I think he did as he did in a mix of ambitious pride, and the agonised desire to be good.
I think he did as he did because it was the answer to the question he had asked.
The jacaranda answered with a seed.

A seed is an order for continuance, and like a good soldier, he did as he was bid.
Like Anthony said of Caesar: ambition blinds like pride; yet in that darkness some goodness may abide.

The best that can be said of any man, can perhaps be said of him: is he did the best he could.

Well then, that is my story about a man from Gujarat.
Whether it be true, lies, fantasy, or a parable of goodness and pride, that you must decide.
I don't know, and I don't care. I am only the woman sitting in a bazaar selling dreams, with jacaranda blossoms tangled in my hair.

Manuela Cardiga
I was thinking to myself this man-woman thing is a lot simpler than it seems.
The defining literary work that unlocks the deep secret to gender dynamics must be Peter Pan.

Think about this: Wendy Darling looks and longs for love. She wants romance and passion and kisses. Peter wants a Mother...

In his short term romances Peter has an Indian Princess, or a bare-chested hussy Mermaid (glamour, adventure and sex). In long term term relationships he has Wendy - forced to be Mother; or Tink being everything else he may need. A contingency plan, so to speak. Poor Tink is Plan B.

The rivalry between Wendy and Tink which results in treachery, death and destruction is in effect, an empty one.

Neither of these women get from Peter what they need.
Its just not in him to give them what they believe the "other women" is taking from her.
He gives them nothing.

He gets to be Peter forever and ever.
He takes from all givers and gives nothing back.
Even his much vaunted ability to fly he gets from Tink.
She gives him wings, and what does she get in return?

Peter Pan the boy who will never be a man is loved by Wendy Darling who just can't for the life of her understand that he will never grow. He can't.

He wants a Mother, and she wants an equal relationship with a grown man.
He's not a grown man. That's it. Mystery solved.
He goes away to Never-land, Wendy goes on with her life and makes a plan.
Now, do you get it?


Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Hilly and Vinny in a dream. Hilly and Vinny in the magic land, walk through the enchanted woods looking for Robin Hood. Robin and Marian had hid in Sherwood, and this was Ireland, but the legend and the dream still stood. Hilly and Vinnie stumbling blind are found - or find – terror.

In the green clearing are two men. Two men from a village or a farm; rough men, wearing home-spun, with rough hands and blurred smiles.

There is something on the ground at their feet. Something soft and supine, brindled fur ruffled by the breeze. They are thin, these men; bone-hard, with caved in cheeks. Something about them alerts Hilly. They smell desperate, dirty, sour. She hangs back a pace, calls out: “Vin!” But Lavinia steps into danger with careless levity.

“Who are you? What are you doing here, on my father's land?”

The men stare, drink in her frail form, the delicate lace-trimmed lawn pinafore; the soft face, the golden curls, the absolute unspoilt gleaming youth of her.

“Yer father's land, is it now, lassie? And who might he be?”

“Lord Lucan.”

“Lucan...Aye...That is the man owns this land. And he fathered ye, did he, now?”

“Yes, I am Lady Lavinia Bingham, and I demand to know what you are doing on my land.” Her gaze dropped, saw the soft pile of death at their feet. “Poachers! My father will have the skin off your backs for that!”

“Will he now, My Lady? Mayhaps, if he gets to be in the know.”

Hilly stepped forward, tugging at Vinny's elbow. “Let's go, Vin, NOW!”

Lavinia shakes her off, raises her chin, stares up at the man with hauteur in her blue eyes.

“I will tell him, of course.”

The second man has edged in behind them, cutting them off. “Lucan's daughter, Sean, and pretty she is. Pretty as my own would be, if she had enough to eat.”

“Aye, all our daughters would be as pretty as she, weren't her father raping this land.”

“Aye...Maybe he needs to know how it feels. How it feels to be a man watchin a daughter weep, an knowin nothing you can do or say will ease their sleep.”

Hilly speaks in her loudest voice “Leave her, leave us. We won't speak of this. Take your meat and go.”

The man turns his head to look at her, noticing her for the first time. At twelve she is as tall as he, taller than most men; coltish and awkward. “By the Virgin! Who might you be?”

“No one, we are no one. You are no one. You are not here, and we haven't seen you.”

“This is a smart one, Sean! Not much of a looker, but clever. A clever lass.”

Vinny has finally sensed the dense hatred, the hot scent of lust rising from the men's flesh. She smells,but does not recognise the nature of the threat. She backs towards Hilly, towards a familiar shelter; presses herself to her side.

"I want me a taste of My Lady, I do...How about you Sean?"

"Could be sweet..."

"Come here now, My Lady, come to Brian O'Shaughnessy."

He reaches and grabs Vinnie, tears her away, and Hilly screams in rage: "Leave her! Leave her!"

The other man grabs Hilly around the waist and she kicks out at him, fills her mouth with his flesh, hears him scream. He tastes of red roast beef, only hotter and sticky-wet. She spits and backs away from him. He fills her vision, moving towards her, arms opened wide. There is a piece of his cheek bit out, and blood pours down his neck, soaking into his dirty collar.

She sees all these things in a flash: each bright, present, all important. He has a short knife in his left hand. A knife. Hilly hears Vinny scream, distant and weak, and shuts her out.

Here there is space for only him: the man with a knife with a piece bit out of him. He is sweating and bleeding, and moving, moving forward. "I'll do you little bitch...I'll do you..."

She can stand and wait, see what he does, react to it; or she can move, anticipate. She charges him, slams into him low and hard, ramming her head into his chest, tumbling him back onto the wet matted ground. She falls on him, gouging at his eyes, and he is screaming, twisting to be free of her, twisting to buck her off. In his desperation, he drops the knife. It is the last mistake of his life.

It is easy, after that, as easy as drowning the kitten. She thrusts the knife into his open screaming mouth, up through his palate, and he just dies.

She wrenches out the blade, totters to her feet. The other man is on Vinny, and she is weeping, He has her pinafore pulled up, her thin legs wide apart, and he is pushing his body at her, and every time he pushes he cries out:" My Lady! My Lady! My Lady!" At every move Vinnie screams, and he pants "My Lady!"

Hilly jumps on him, on to his back. She tears at him trying to get him off Vinny; but he won't stop. He won't stop, and Vinnie is screaming in agony and fear, and so Hilly pulls back his head and cuts the taut muscles of his throat. The blood gushes out like a fountain; his dirty blood falling on her Vinny.

She pulls him away, pushes and kicks at him, slamming her neat button-boots into his face, his head; desperate to erase him, the sight and sound of him pounding at Vinny and moaning "My Lady, My Lady, My Lady."

She draws Vinny to her feet, half carries her through the endless tangle of the trees, until a life-time later – or so it seems – they are on the velvet green lawns, the house looming before them. Sanctuary.

She drags them up the servant's staircase, invisible, she hopes. Hilly opens the door to Vinny's room, and finds Mrs Meadows there. Meadows with her grim smile that shatters into horror at the sight of them, covered in blood and grime.

“What- What has happened?” Hilly shoves her aside, eases Vinny onto the bed, and Meadows sees the torn pinafore, the blood smeared on the inside of the slim thighs.

“My God! Who has done this? My God! She is ruined, ruined!”

“Shut up! Shut up and help her!”

“Yes...Yes! I will call his Lordship...the Doctor...”

“You will call no-one.”

“You don't understand, Hilary, what was done to her...”

“My father has a stud. I understand, but Vinny doesn't. She doesn't know, and we won't tell her.”

“But her father! He must know!”

Hilly rises from where she is kneeling on the bed next to Vinny. “We tell no-one, no-one, do you hear me, Meadows?” She walks round the bed, stands close to the woman, so the woman can feel the heat of her flesh, smell a dead man's blood on her breath. “Nothing happened, it was a bad dream. That is what we tell Vin. A bad dream.”

“But the blood...”

“She is twelve. It is her woman's blood. That is all it is.”

“But she will marry...”

“Nothing happened...Unless, it was your neglect. Your neglect, Meadows, and Lord Lucan's precious girl is raped in the woods. Your neglect.” Hilly smiles, her eyes gleam shallow-grey in the room's dim light. “Who will hire you, Meadows? How will you live? A governess whose charges are raped in the woods...If she is ruined, so are you. Nothing happened.”

Meadows shivers and lowers her gaze, “Yes, My Lady. Nothing happened...”

Hilly's open hand slaps her down into a huddle at the foot of Vinny's bed.

“Don't you call me that, don't you ever call me that again.”

“My La-” Hilly kicks out, hard, catching the woman on a meaty thigh.

“I killed two men today. Two men died, and I liked it. So listen, Meadows, and listen well. I will not repeat myself again. You will be wise, you will be quiet, and you will never address me in that manner again.”

Meadows looks up. “You are not a child, you are not a woman. I don't know what you are.”

Hilary Rutherford cast aside the mask of a child.
“I am a survivor. That is what I am. I am alive.”

"Goddess of War"

Manuela Cardiga

Friday, 28 November 2014


They met Mr. Ratsike in his dressing room. It was crowded with well-wishers and friends, and Mr. Ratsike moved from hand-clasp to hand-clasp with a dazed smile, until he came to Pearl. The man lit up. “Miss Pearl! Did you like it? The Serenade?”

“Oh Mr. Ratsike, I loved it! You were wonderful, wonderful.”

Simon harrumphed and grudgingly offered his hand in congratulations “Very pleasant, yes, Mr. Ratsike. Very.”

Pearl glowed back at Ratsike “It was beautiful. You are a talented composer.”

“Indeed! The Lady is correct, Charles...” The voice was deep and smooth with the faintest hint of a German accent.

It was the famous violinist Karl whatshisname, standing beside them and looking at Pearl with greedy, acquisitive eyes...

“Aren't you going to introduce us?”

Mr. Ratsike nodded proudly: “Mr von Dursten, allow me to present to you my Muse: Miss Pearl Chabalala.”

The man was slim, elegant, with a thick shock of shoulder-length silvery hair and disturbing electric-blue eyes. “Pearl...Ah...Now I understand...Your name, my dearest lady suits you perfectly... “Oh, she doth hang upon the cheek of night like some rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear”. You are indeed the richest of jewels, not carved violently, raw from the earth's womb; but offered up in smooth perfection from the liquid heaving heart of the World's ocean.” 

And the debonair, world-famous, handsome, dashing Karl von Dursten bowed over Pearl's gloved hand, all the while staring at her succulent mouth.

Simon saw red. From the corner of his eye he observed Mr. Ratsike's expression turn from ecstasy to horror.

TWO! Two of them had Pearl (HIS PEARL) in their sights!

Pearl was laughing up at the bloody German as if she were used to such flattery, with the graceful ease of a sophisticated beautiful woman; not a clumsy country girl traded for a handful of Rand at a Pawn Shop in sleazy Hillbrow.

“Mr von Dursten, Sir, you could talk the little birds down from the trees! How can a simple girl resist?”

“Do not resist, I beg you! Say you will dine at my table tonight,” he turned to include Simon and Ratsik, “The three of you are my very special guests!”

“Mr von Dursten...”

“Karl, please, my Pearl, call me Karl...”

“Karl,” Pearl smiled at him, and a dimple flashed in her cheek.


Why had he never noticed before?

“Karl allow me to introduce you to Mr. Simon Thambisa...”

“My patron, Sir!” Interrupted Mr. Ratsike, “and a very great man.”

“Mr. Thambisa, I salute you for your vision. Mr. Ratsike is an extraordinary talent. Africa must invest in its human resources as much as in its minerals. That is a richer mother-load than any other, and one which will never run out. Mr. Ratsike's Serenade is an astonishing blend of classical instrumentation with the purely African sense of tempo, the nuances, the musical phrasing...Intoxicating, innovative. You can be proud of your protegé.”

“I am. Very proud.” Simon smiled tightly.

It was going to be a long, long night.


Later, much, much later, after hours spent staring at Pearl's bare shoulder while she talked animatedly to Karl von Dursten about all sorts of things Simon knew absolutely nothing about. After hours and hours of this torture, made bearable only by the mirrored agony in Mr. Ratsike's face, the dinner was finally over.

“Well then, it is time to go Pearl.” he smiled his anticipated relief.

“Oh no! Surely not so soon.” exclaimed the Nazi, with a sickening smile, “I am having a few friends over for drinks at my Hotel suit, and I would love to have you join me.”

“I am afraid that is not possible.” said Simon firmly, “We have two children waiting for us.”

A pall of disappointment fell over von Dursten face. “Oh! You two have children? I thought...”

“Mr. Thambisa has adopted two abandoned children, Thalie and Isaiah. He is a wonderful man.”

“So...You and Mr. Thambisa...” Karl von Dursten paused delicately.

“No, not at all. Mr. Thambisa is my employer and a most precious friend.”

Sour rage rang through Simon's ears. How could fury make a sound inside one's mind? He wanted to scream, punch, kick, he wanted to shout: “Mine! She's mine!”

Von Dursten was smiling hopefully at Pearl: “Can I call you? I have been invited to a Vernissage, and don't really feel like going alone,” he shrugged charmingly, “I am a stranger here, I know no one, and I am hoping you will be kind and keep me company.”

“That would be lovely. Please, do call.” Pearl was making a date right in front of him. She was going out with this sly and obvious lady-killer. He would seduce her, use her, abandon her, break her heart...

“Goodnight, Mr. Thambisa,” the Nazi smiled, “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

“Likewise, Sir.” Simon snarled.

He stomped off to the car, stretching his long legs into a gallop, forcing Pearl to run after him on her high heels. He opened the Merc's door on the driver's side, forcing her to juggle her little purse and her wrap while she struggled to open the passenger door. Pearl slid in, pulled on her safety belt, turned to him, and smiled.

“Thank you, Simon, for a wonderful night.”

“You thank ME? You should thank Mr. Ratsike or the Nazi. I just drove you here.”

“But...” Pearl folded her hands onto her wrap and fell silent. 

Simon pulled into the garage, brought the car to a screeching, protesting halt, opened the door, and got out. “Are you staying there, Pearl? Staying the night?”

Pearl got out with quiet dignity and replied: “No Sir, Mr. Thambisa. I will go upstairs and get the children. You needn't stay up, Sir. Goodnight.”



Thursday, 27 November 2014


Pretty much,
As we agreed:
I love you,
You love me.

Pretty much
As life decrees,
One walks away,
The other kneels.

Pretty much.
I suppose we
Can't complain
Or explain.

Pretty for a day
Not expected
To be much
Of anything

Pretty it dawned
More than expected
For that time
Of life or year

Only thing is,
It didn't feel
Like much
Of a muchness.

You have to
Pretty much agree
It didnt feel
Like I had
Nearly enough
Of you, or you
Had enough of me.


Sunday, 23 November 2014


I seem to lack
some basic skill
For either
Love or life

It's no damn good
I seem do it
All wrong
Every time

I try (too hard)
I love (too much)
I live (too fast, or just
Not fast enough)

My fingers fumble
My timing sucks
My plans all fall

And yet I seem to be
Too stubborn
Or too stupid
To desist

So I go from beat
To beat on this
Dumb and deaf

And I ask
How long
Can it resist?

I listen for
A hesitation
On the thump-
A hint of failure
In the rhythm
Of the pump;

That tells me
I am getting
To the part
Where any heart
Will stutter-stop
Any faith wear out.



An hour later a spiffy Simon - liberally splashed with his favorite aftershave - waited impatiently in the lounge, flipping channels, waiting for his Pearl to arrive.

He heard the door open and leaped to his feet. A click-click of high heels preceded the vision of Pearl wrapped from head to feet in a cloak of shimmering ostrich feathers. Her smoky eyes were bigger than ever, her mouth lush and gleaming bronze. She looked beautiful. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

"Pear-Pearl..." he gasped, "You look...Very nice."

"Thank you, Simon," a secretive knowing smile folded up the corners of her mouth.

Simon found he was gaping foolishly, and closed his mouth. "Shall we go?"

"Yes, do lets." and Pearl stepped forward and placed an ivory-sheathed hand on his arm. "May I say, Simon-Sir, you look very fine."

Simon was sure he was blushing wildly, and thanked God that his dark complexion saved him from the visible embarrassment of his confusion. "Than-thank you Pearl..."

Her secretive smile deepened somehow. "You smell lovely too. I love that scent. Old Spice, isn't it?"

"Ye- yes..."

"My Grandfather always used it, and it brings back wonderful memories."

Her Grandfather. He smelled like Pearl's Grandfather.

Strike 3.


A somewhat deflated Simon drove them to the Opera House, and - miracle of miracles!- found a parking spot conveniently close to the main entrance.

He jumped out of the car and ran around to gallantly open the door for Pearl. She stepped out onto the curb in a wave of soft feathers and some delicious scent that set his head spinning.
Pearl didn't smell anything like his grandmother. No, not at all!

He offered her his arm, and the two walked up the broad marble steps into a gilded wonderland. The wide lobby was filled with beautifully dressed people, chatting and laughing and sipping at gilded glasses filled with sparkling wine being distributed by elegant men in black.

One such gentleman approached them bearing a silver a tray with two champagne flutes.
"Welcome, Madam, Sir. Would you like some Champagne? If Madam would like to leave her wrap, there is a cloak-room..."

Pearl smiled at the man. "Yes, that would be lovely." and taking her glass in her gloved hand, led Simon through the crowd in the direction the man had indicated.

At the cloak-room counter, a girl (also in black) was taking overcoats and jackets. Pearl handed him her glass, stepped up to the counter, and gracefully shrugged the feather cloak off her shoulders, handing it to the girl in one smooth movement.

Simon Thambisa's eyes nearly popped out of his head. Pearl was a show stopper.

She was wearing a fifties-style strapless gown, the bodice in pleated ivory studded with pearls, The dress itself was black velvet, tight around the waist with a wide skirt that flirted with Pearl's knees at the front, and draped itself into a sultry train sweeping to the ground at the back. Long ivory gloves slithered up Pearl's arms, nearly all the way to her shapely bare shoulders.

Bare shoulders.
Luscious, polished chocolate shoulders, sweeping into a long elegant neck.
Elegantly molded delicious shoulders, shoulders that begged to be kissed and nibbled and...

Simon couldn't take his eyes off her.
"Pearl..." Before he could speak, he heard a voice behind him echo: "PEARL!"

He turned.
Dratted Ratsike.
Ratsike looking elegant and refined in his musician's coat and tails.
Ratsike looking as poleaxed as Simon felt.

"My dear Miss Pearl!"

"Good evening Mr. Ratsike. You look very handsome!"

"Thank you, Miss Pearl, you are...You look..."
Ratsike looked like an idiot.
"Mr. Thambisa! Welcome, Sir!" Ratsike was feverishly pumping his hand, a huge grin on his stupid face. "Come with me,. both of you..."

He was leading them along the lobby. From the corner of his eye, Simon could see men staring at Pearl, and women glaring at her dress. He drew himself to his full, impressive height. Without a doubt, Pearl was the most arresting women in sight, and she was with him.


Simon rather enjoyed the concert. He had to admit Ratsike was good. The German man too.

But the best part was sitting in the dark next to Pearl, having her lean close to whisper in his ear, having her gloved fingers touching his arm, and the scent of her filling his head.

Then it ended. The lights were coming up, and Pearl was rising from her seat with her glowing dreaming smile. "Oh Simon-Sir, it was so beautiful! Did you like it?"

"I love it Pearl. I love it, and you."

She tilted her head at him in confusion.

Simon found he was shuffling his feet.
"I loved it too. What I meant to say was, I loved the music too."



Saturday, 22 November 2014


The next afternoon Simon came home early carrying a silvery suit bag, and whistling cheerfully. He was feeling confident; confident and bold. The shop in Rosebank had been everything he'd hoped for. His suit was sharp and -according to the salesman, a very friendly but somewhat twitchy young man called Al- sexy.

Al had exclaimed in horror over Simon's serviceable cotton boxers - “Darling! I wouldn't be caught undressed in THOSE!”- and firmly demanded he buy some silky things in a dark plum colour.

He had bought not only the suit, but a shirt, a thin tie (“NO BOW-TIES! Did you see Javier Bordum at the Oscars in a bow-tie? And that there is a hunk with style!”) sharp narrow shoes and silky cobweb-light socks. And of course, the silk boxers...

He'd made a stop at his barber for a quick clip, and had, besides, a slim volume tucked into the back hip pocket of his jeans. The first salvo in his counterstrike. He was going to be “To die for, darling!” as Al had exclaimed.

He arrived home just as Pearl was preparing to usher the children out of the house and upstairs to Mrs Marcovich.

“Pearl! Children! Hello!”

“Good afternoon, Sir. You are very cheerful today!”

“Indeed, Pearl, indeed! I had a very good day!”

“We did too, Papa Simon,” said Thalie smiling. “Is that your clothes for the ball?”

Simon smiled “Yes indeed, Miss Thalie. A man must look sharp when he is going to be escorting a lovely lady, don't you agree, Isaiah?”

Isaiah winked at him in approval and smiled. “100%, Papa Simon. Sharp, mean, and lean!”

“I don't know about the lean, the way Mama Pearl's been feeding me up these last months, but I will do my best!”

Simon cleared his throat, “I have something for you, my family, so gather around.” 

He reached into his coat pocket and drew out a tiny box he handed to Thalie. “For my Princess!” Thalie opened the box and exclaimed over a pink Swarovski crystal heart on a silver chain. From his other pocket, Simon took a Swiss Army knife that had Isaiah shouting in delight; and then with his best suave smile he added “And I wouldn't want you to feel left out Pearl...” He handed her the slim case that had been burning a hole in the back pocket of his jeans.

"Just a little something to add some sparkle to your outfit for tonight."

Pearl held the case in her hands for one long moment, then turned up her limpid gaze to his face. Her tone was perfectly polite. "Thank you, Sir. As always, you are very thoughtful and very kind."

"Well? Aren't you going to open it?" Asked Simon, surprised.

"Yes, oh, of course..." And Pearl opened the case to reveal a pretty red-gold and garnet antique Victorian choker. 

Thalie, jumping up and down with excitement peered into the case and exclaimed in disappointment.
"Oh no! It won't go! It's the wrong color!"

Simon stared at her "Wrong color?"

"Don't you know ANYTHING about accessorizing Papa Simon? It doesn't go with what Mama Pearl is wearing tonight." and then she added kindly, "But it's very pretty."

Strike two.

"Come along children. Let's leave Papa Simon to get dressed up! Let's go to Mrs. Marcovich's."
Pearl turned at the door with that terrible polite smile.
"I will see you in an hour, Sir."

"Pearl!" Simon cried out, "Wait!"

She paused, hand on the doorknob. "Yes Sir?"

"I don't know why, but I keep doing and saying the wrong things. I wanted to give you that gift. From the heart. And the flowers, Pearl. To thank you..."

"What do you thank me for, Sir?"

"For being in my life." 

There was absolutely no politeness in Pearl's dazzling smile. "It is I who must thank you, Simon. I will see you in an hour."



Friday, 21 November 2014


That evening Simon Thambisa walked into a scene of perfect domestic bliss. In the lounge sat Thalie and Pearl cuddled on the couch doing each other's nails - Pearl's a dark bronze, Thalie's a vivid pink (of course) – while Isaiah lay on the rug in front of the TV reading a book. Delicious scents of something bubbling on the stove mingled with the perfume of the flowers clutched diffidently in his hands.

“Good evening, Pearl, my children.”

“Papa Simon!” Thalie beamed and waved her pink-tipped hands at him. “I can't hug you now, but I will hug you extra, later!”

Simon smiled back “I cannot wait, my Thalie. What are you reading, Isaiah?”

Isaiah looked up at him with a faraway look in his eyes. “Hello! I am well, Papa Simon, how are you?”

Simon grinned “I asked where you were...In book-land?”

Isaiah's eyes lit up. “The doctor said I must read – vitamins for the mind – and Mama Pearl got me some new books. This one is about a doctor who gets kidnapped by pirates, then they sell him, then he escapes, then he starts his own pirate band...”

“Can I read it when you are finished?”

“Yes! And there are more books. You must see!”

“I will, we will look after dinner.” Simon turned to Pearl, sitting silently on the couch with her hands on her knees, fingers spread wide. “How are you today, Pearl? How did the doctor's appointment go?”

“Very well, Sir. The doctor is doing tests, he said Isaiah is very well, but we need to feed up Thalie-”


“And fruit and vegetables!” Pearl added, “He suggests we hold off putting them in school until we get the tests back, see what vaccines they haven't had.”

“Good, good...” Simon smiled at her with a plea in his eyes, “I saw these...” he waved the bouquet of vivid joyful daisies, “And I thought they would brighten the house.”

“They are very pretty, Sir, I am sure the house will like them very much.”

Just then the doorbell rang. Simon cursed under his breath “Ratsike!” and stomped off to answer.
He flung open the door with a brusque “Yes? What is it?” There was a short man at the door carrying a long, narrow box tied with a red ribbon. A short man in a green uniform of some kind. He stared up at Simon with an alarmed look on his triangular foxy face.

“Delivery for Miss Pearl Chabalala.”

“What is it?”

“Flowers, Sir. For Miss Pearl Chabalala.”

“You can give them to me.”

“Are you Miss Chabalala?”

“Do I LOOK like Miss Chabalala?”

“Well, Sir, in my line of work I have seen odder things...”

Pearl stood behind Simon and gently tapped him aside.
“I am Pearl Chabalala.”

The delivery man sighed with relief. “Miss, if you would sign here?”Pearl picked up the pen, careful not to smudge her nails, and signed the delivery slip.

She took the box from him with her luminous smile (and such a smile!) “Thank you very much. Have a good evening.”

“Good evening to you too, Miss, and to you...Sir.”

Simon snapped the door shut behind him without replying.

Pearl carried the box into the kitchen and carefully untied the extravagant ribbon. Nestled inside on a bed of lacy fern was a bouquet of delicate velvet-black orchids and a card. Pearl picked it up.
“Oh! How kind! Mr. Ratsike says he will meet us at the lobby at half-past seven tomorrow night, to show us where we will be sitting.”

Simon ground his teeth together. “Mr. Ratsike is very kind.”

Isaiah and Thalie came into the kitchen. “More flowers!” cried Thalie.

Simon looked at his bright, brave daisies and winced. He HATED Ratsik.
“Where did they come from?” asked Isaiah.

Pearl literally glowed “Mr. Ratsike sent them...Aren't they lovely?”

“Lovely...” Sighed Thalie, “I like Mr. Ratsike.”

“Those are the ugliest flowers I have ever seen,” said Isaiah, “They look like alien monster mouths.”

“Do not!” cried Thalie.

“Children!” Pearl exclaimed, 2Enough! Go wash your hands. It is time for dinner. You too, Mr. Thambisa.”

Simon followed the children to the bathroom. Isaiah drew him aside into the lounge.

“Well? What is the plan, Papa Simon?”

“Plan? What plan, Isaiah?”

“You see it, don't you? It's a plot?”

“A plot?”

“The violin man.”

“Mr. Ratsike?”

“Yes! Let me talk to you man to man, Papa Simon. Rat's Dick is cutting in on your action, he's making a move on your woman, and you have to do something about it.”


Simon tossed and turned all night. Pearl and Rat's Dick.
NO! It could not, MUST not be.
Isaiah was right, he needed a plan.
He needed to romance Pearl, make her see him as a man, an attractive man.

He got out of bed, turned on the light, and opened his cupboard. There was a suit at the back he'd brought six years ago for Gideon's wedding. He'd gotten it at retail, an excellent price...
Suddenly it looked shabby and unfashionable.

He imagined himself in a tuxedo, like Denzel Washington. He looked into the mirror hanging on the inside of his cupboard door, sucked in his gut, and raised an eyebrow. “Simon...Simon Templar...”

And yet...
Simon did a quick internet search and found a man's shop in Rosebank specializing in bespoke suits.
There was a plan...

He was going in guns blazing. He was a personable, attractive man. He would make Pearl see that. He, Simon Thambisa, was a catch. And the love of her life besides. He hoped.

He lifted his chin and smiled at the mirror “Pearl,” he husked, “I have been waiting for you all my life...” 
Too romantic, too lovey-dovey, too dangerous. What if she laughed?

Better be cool, calm and collected. Let Ratsike make a fool of himself.

What if she LIKED that? What if she liked the idea that she reduced a man to a puddle of idiotic shuffling jelly? Mr. Ratsike had always seemed eminently sensible to Simon before. Being cool might be a huge mistake.

Simon threw himself onto his bed and covered his head. Isaiah was right. You had to fight fire with fire...

The thought that taking romantic advice from a 10-year-old might not be a good idea didn't even cross Simon Thambisa's mind.