Tuesday, 30 September 2014

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 6

Simon Thambisa woke with a start. Someone was watching him. He sat up slowly. At the foot of his bed sat the scruffy boy, cross-legged, with his big feet on Simon's comforter, no less!

"What are you doing?"

The boy's eyes were wide and round. Little owl-eyes in a narrow ferret face. Really, not an attractive child!

"Mama Pearl said I must watch you, learn from you. She says you are the greatest man in the world."

Simon's mouth dropped open."She did?"

The boy nodded solemnly, and his eyes got impossibly wider.
"Yes. She said if I become a man like you, she will be proud. I like Mama Pearl. A lot."

"Yes, so do I." Simon found himself replying.

"I will do anything, anything to make her proud."

"Me too."

The boy sighed. "She wants me to go to school. She told me this morning. Why can't women be proud of us without we got to do stuff we don't want to, like go to school?"

"I know..I know...Women, they are terrible."

"But wonderful too."

"Yes," agreed on Simon with a heartfelt sigh, "That too."

They sat in bewildered silence contemplating the mystery of women, and the chaos and trouble they brought into a reasonable man's life.

"Well," said Simon, after a while, "We must band together. Help each other, or these women will make fools of us."

The boy nodded vigorously. "Yes, Sir! That is a good plan!" He hesitated, "But Mr. Simon? I think maybe we be fools already."

Just then there was a knock on Simon's door.

"Come in!"

Pearl shyly peeked around the door. "Sir? It's time for breakfast...I thought as it is Sunday, Sir, we could take the children to Church? And after, I would pack a picnic lunch? We could go to Lion's Park?"

"Church? I don't go to church! On Sundays I do inventory, and the books...I don't have time in my life for church and Parks. I am a businessman, Miss Chabalala."

Pearl's eyes acquired a flinty cast. "Of course Sir. I am only a maid, Sir, and I don't decide what businessmen do with their time. It was only a suggestion, Sir. Come, Isaiah, leave Mr. Thambisa alone. He is a busy man."

The boy, (Isaiah) jumped up and followed Pearl's indignant skirt out of the room.

Simon Thambisa lay back and stared at his ceiling.

Enough was enough.
This is where he would draw the line. He was a man, this was his house, his life.
He would decide.

Manuela Cardiga


Sunday, 28 September 2014

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 5

Simon Thambisa came to on his couch with a damp cloth on his forehead, and a worried looking Pearl bending over him. "Simon..." He pushed himself up and she fell back. "Sir...Are you well?"

"Yes...a dizzy spell... A dream..."

Behind Pearl a tiny face peeked. Simon gasped. "Oh! Not a dream..."


"The children, these children..."

"Oh Sim... Sir, they were so hungry! I have never seen people eat so much!"

Simon felt faint again. Locusts! She had invited a swarm of locusts into his house.
"Miss Chabalala, this is just not done." he began, even as Pearl lay a gentle hand on his forehead.

"Sir, you feel a little warm. You may be coming down with the flu. I am making you some hot tea and putting you to bed."

"Miss Chabalala, the children-"

"Now Sir, don't you worry, I will look after the children. You must worry about yourself, about getting well."

She was helping him up off the couch, wedging her slight shoulder under him, guiding him out of the lounge and into his bedroom.

She sat him down and untied his shoes. Simon lay back dazed, silenced; unmade by the tender concern in her touch, her eyes, her voice.

"Miss Chabalala about the children..."

Pearl stopped at the door and turned "Sir...Even now, ill as you are, your first thoughts are for these little orphaned ones," her eyes glimmered with tears, "I cannot tell you how I admire you, Sir. You are a great man."


Halfway through the night, Simon heard a fearful cry, a soft weeping, then a gentle voice. He rose and walked on bare feet down the corridor. In the lounge, on his beloved Italian leather couch, was the boy, fast asleep under a blanket (and an unlovely sight indeed!) with his mouth agape and his over-sized feet jutting out.

Simon followed the murmurs and stood outside Pearl's door.  He hesitated then pushed the door open. Pearl sat on the side of the bed, cradling the child. Rocking her, humming a little song, making strangely comforting nonsense sounds.

Simon Thambisa felt a wave of envy (or was it jealousy?) overtake his mighty frame. He wanted to be small, frail, and afraid if that would make Pearl Chabalala hold him that way.

Soon the child was asleep, and Pearl gently eased her down onto the bed, tucked the comforter tenderly around the tiny face. She stood and took Simon's hand and silently led him into the kitchen.

She set the kettle to boil and prepared the teapot. "I am sorry we woke you, Sir, and you so ill, but Thali is so afraid." She set the mugs on the table and poured in the tea. "Bad things happen to little ones on the streets, you see."

Simon bowed his head in shame over his steaming tea."I am much better now, yes, much better...And the little one is safe here, always. Tell her that, tell them both. Tell them they can stay."

"Oh, Sim- I mean Sir! You don't know what this will mean to them! I thought you would let them stay a week until we could get them to an Orphanage, but this...Oh, Sir!" Tears were running down Pearl's cheeks. "Sir, you are giving them a home, a family."

Simon Thambisa made incoherent sounds deep in his throat.

Pearl took his hand, pressed it to her forehead."I love you, Sir, respectfully, forgive me, Sir..." And Pearl cried and cried, tears of joy that somehow wounded Simon's heart deeper than cutting knives.

Manuela Cardiga




Stop looking for God
In outer space,
On the bright trace
Of the Milky Way.

Stop looking
For miracles
In some
Vague Grace
You may get
When you place
A coin on a plate.

Start looking for God
In every face;
Start making miracles
In the inner space
Your arms can reach,
The hollow place
That can be filled
With the trembling
Form of a soul in need.

Stop demanding,
And start
Answering prayers;
Be the
Through which
God manifests
His Grace.


Saturday, 27 September 2014



A man killed his wife,
His trouble and strife,
And for that
He should get life?

Not a chance!
Just one glance
At Defence Exhibit A
A picture reported
To portray
The alleged Victim
At the time
Of the attack
And his Honour

"For 30 years
You were married

"Why! The crime
Is more than explained!
You cannot be blamed.
The woman was
Patently insane
To think
You'd sustain
The marriage
Once her tits lost
Their upright carriage."

"For better or for worse
Does NOT include
A figure grown coarse!
(unless it's
You own,
Of course!)"

"These women
Must learn
To go quietly
And not think
To demand
Their just
Or namely,
Their cut
Of the loot!"

"That is a hoot!
If she's had half
A brain she's
Have signed
Her rights away
And there
Would have been
No need
For the knife
That ended
Her stupid life."

Manuela Cardiga

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 4

Strange how easily Simon Thambisa fell into the comfortable and comforting rhythms of life with Pearl Chabalala...

Mornings he woke to his usual shower, followed by a plate of good creamy porridge and a steaming mug of tea, served with a sunny smile. Then at lunchtime, Pearl would materialize at the Polite Pawn Shop carrying a covered tray with his lunch.

After work, would be dinner and unraveling the day’s doings over his mug of sweet tea. Then after dinner she would get up, move quietly around the kitchen, tidying up, and say goodnight. Simon would sit at his kitchen table nursing his tea, with nothing to do.

The house was impeccably clean. His clothes were washed, pressed, and neatly put away. Simon would get up, go to his lounge, sit on his couch, and play with the TV remote control, switching channels, feeling paradoxically lonelier than he had ever felt before.


Simon Thambisa hummed contentedly as he arranged a row of watches in a display case. A thunderous roar issued from Gideon's stomach.

"My Boss! I am so hungry!"

"Go eat Gideon, I will call you if I need you."

Gideon got up and moved to the back room where Simon had set up a hot-plate, a micro-wave oven, and a mini-bar fridge, leaving him in the delicious solitude of the Polite Pawn Shop. Simon Thambisa's contentment was soon disturbed by the tinkling of the door-bell.

It was Pearl Chabalala with the tray of delights she called lunch. She set it on the counter, and instead of singing out a cheery "Have a good-lunch Sir!" and bouncing happily away, she carefully folded her hands on the counter and turned those huge eyes up at him.

"What is it Miss Chabalala? Is there a problem, do you need anything?"

"No, Sir, I am coming to you, asking for your help on behalf of someone else, Sir. Someone most worthy."

Simon cringed. "Is this going to cost me money, Miss Chabalala?"

"Oh no, Sir! Not a cent."

"Go on, Miss Chabalala," he smiled gallantly, "Anything I can do to help the worthy..."

"Oh, Sir! I knew it! It's Mr. Ratsika, Sir. From upstairs? Nº 4C?"

Simon frowned "Mr. Ratsika? He is a good young man, very quiet, pays his rent on time. Is he in trouble?"

"Well, Sir, you see, Mr. Ratsika is a very talented violinist. Very. He won the first prize at the conservatory in Cape Town and everything!" Her lustrous eyes shone, "But now, here in Johannesburg, he cannot get an orchestra job, because he does not have his own violin, you see. It is very, very expensive, Sir, and he is working in a shoe store, and there is a big audition in a month's time for the Johannesburg Orchestra and he could win the job, Sir, but he can't because he does not have a violin and I though...Sir, you have a violin, Sir, right here on the wall gathering dust while one of the most talented young violinists in Africa lives in your building, Sir, and I thought: it is Fate! And I knew, if I had the courage to ask, Sir, you would help, because that is how you are. So kind, so generous, with such a big heart."

She stopped breathless and gazed up at him, and under her admiring eyes, Simon Thambisa heard himself saying "Yes, of course! I will help, I insist!" He moved to the wall took down the violin and the bow and handed it to Pearl. "Wait, there is a case in the back, and a stand for the music..."

"Sir!" Peal's' eyes were stars, her smile the sun. Simon Thambisa watch her leave with a 22.000 Rand violin under her arm with a song in his heart and a smile on his lips.


Three weeks later he opened the door to his house and walked in to find Pearl standing in the hallway with two children. A ragged boy about 10 years old, and a little scrawny girl that could not be more than 4 or 5.

"Mr. Thambisa, Sir, I am so glad you are here! I found these children sleeping in a doorway, and I thought, we have so much room, Sir, and you being such a good man, you would want me to bring them home."

Simon Thambisa fainted.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 3

Simon Thambisa spent the day flustered, unsettled. His mind was not on his work. He kept wondering what SHE was doing, thinking...

Was she touching his things? Sitting on his couch? Horror overcame him. Had she found the secret stash of Black Beauty magazines he kept on the high shelf of his cupboard?

Simon Thambisa was in a tizzy.
He had to go, there was a strange woman loose in his house! But he couldn't. Perversely this was turning out to be one of his busiest days yet. People coming in for appraisals, others to pawn, a few to outright sell; and most to buy.

Suddenly he had an influx of affluent customers gleefully exclaiming over his goods as "charming", "vintage", "retro", and "kitch-chic". Fashionable-looking painfully thin ladies were pawing through his rack of second-hand clothes with shrieks of delight.

Buying at his Polite Pawn Shop had suddenly acquired artsy status. Here he was, itching to close, even as his cash register merrily tinkled every few minutes.

He was run ragged, and Gideon's face gleamed with sweat.
"My Boss...This was a strange day!"

Simon strangled a hysterical giggle. Strange? It was downright bizarre...
"Yes, yes. Strange...Very strange. Good night Gideon, see you tomorrow."

Simon Thambisa approached his own home with trepidation. What on God's good earth would he find?
He stood before his own door and hesitated, he held his keys in one hand and pressed the buzzer.
Ringing the bell to his own house! It was outrageous, but he'd rather announce his presence than walk in on some female ritual he could only vaguely envision as disturbing and hugely embarrassing.

He slid the key into the lock and opened the door. It smelled all wrong. His house smelled wrong. Not BAD, he decided, not at all. Just...Wrong.

It felt wrong too. A flood of welcoming light spilled out to pool around his feet, the scent of something delicious cooking beckoned him in. He had always walked in to a cool silence that had seemed to devour even the sound of his footsteps, now he noticed dozens of tiny sounds.

"Sir, welcome home." Pearl Chabalala stood in his hallway with that smile on her face. That smile that made him light-headed. She looked very different, he noticed.

Her eyes were no longer puffy and small; in fact, they were rather unusually large, almond-shaped, and lustrous. She was wearing a neat, modest dress, and sensible shoes. She looked a very proper sensible woman indeed.

She led him into the kitchen where she had set the table for his dinner. Somehow she had transformed the whole place by simply cooking a meal that wasn't his staple pap with a tin of something on the side.

A stew bubbled seductively on the stove, and the kitchen smelled of chocolate cake. Chocolate cake?
Simon Thambisa walked to his grocery cupboard and opened the door.

He nearly fainted in horror. She had gone insane, berserk, she was sick! A compulsive buyer...
She must have spent all he'd given her. There was enough food here to last an army for a year!

Feeling faint Simon Thambisa sank into his chair. Immediately Pearl moved to the fridge and set before him a dewy glass of orange juice. Humming she dished up a large plate of glossy beef stew, rich with chunks of potato, yams, and green beans. She stood anxiously by his side waiting for him to taste it.

"I didn't know what you liked? So I thought...All men like a good stew."
Simon spooned up a mouthful. It was delicious. Delightful.
He was starving!

Groaning, he spooned up another, and another mouthful, while Pearl happily smiled.
Suddenly he stopped. "Miss Chabalala, why are you not eating?"

"I...I didn't know if..."

"Sit! I hate to eat alone!" He said it to be polite, and suddenly discovered it was true.

Simon Thambisa found himself telling her about the strange day, the bizarre ladies wanting to buy old clothes, the whole fantastical dizzy rush of it came pouring out of him in between the mouthfuls of that magical stew. And the best part was that she was laughing, leaning forward, eyes shining with excitement, asking questions, nodding vigorously as he answered.

Pearl Chabalala got up to clear the table and set before him a steaming tea-pot, and a round sticky messy-looking chocolaty-smelling cake. She cut and served him a fat wedge of cake, and poured him a large mug of tea, and did herself similar honours.

Oh, the tea was just perfect...As was the cake. Not too sweet, not too dry, with the slightest hint of brandy...

Simon Thambisa decided that the day and the dinner were both too wonderfully strange and odd for questioning.

Tomorrow he'd think about all this.
Tomorrow he'd think about what to do with Pearl Chabalala and get back his normal life.

Manuela Cardiga

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Regarding African Heritage, here is something I want to say.

I think I will upset and offend many people, but it is what is in my heart and mind.

I have been to the United States many times over the years, and have American friends and family. Some are white, some black. The Black Americans speak of themselves as Africans. As having an "African Culture". It horrifies me.

I am African, as much as most white or black Americans are Americans. I am the fourth woman of my line born in Africa, my daughter is the first born out of Africa in 130 years.

I am African in every sense. I have realised that since I came to Europe, and started moving in what was supposedly "my" European Culture. 

I am African, and I am proud of it; proud of the dignity and the politeness, and the kindness of African Culture.

I am proud of the respect we show to each other and ourselves, I am proud of our joy, our dance, our music, our art; our talent, our ability. Mostly I am proud of our ambition.

I am proud that our children want to improve themselves, reach the world, excel. I am proud that it is easy to pick out black Africans from the midst of European and American-born and raised black people. Africans distinguish themselves by their posture, their pride, their dignity and self-respect.

I see no similarity between the Black American Culture and African Culture. None. 

The Black Americans have sadly embraced a vision of themselves that was imposed on them. They take pride in speaking badly, in taking on a low posture. Their youth dress and talk like delinquents and prostitutes, they call each other "motherfucker" and "whore". They call each other "nigga". They speak the language of their oppressors, they speak the language of slavers, they are wearing manacles of their own devising. Worse...Our African children see this way of speaking, dressing, the attitude presented in movies, TV and music videos as "cool" and to be emulated.

This is to be pitied, not copied. 
Cling tight to your own values. 
Be proud of your African Culture. 
Be what you are. See others for what they are.
You need bow down before no-one in this world.
No one can equal you in dignity, in worth.
Be proud.
Be African.
Black, White or any shade.
Be yourselves.
I am.

Now, you can throw your stones...

Manuela Cardiga

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 2

Simon closed the cash register with a resolute snap and turned away from Gideon's disbelieving gaze.
Here was a pretty outcome! He, Simon Thambisa had just disbursed 18.000 Rand for a woman he did not know. Money he would never get back…

Now what?

The woman - Pearl, her name was Pearl! - stood looking lost and frightened in the midst of Simon’s treasures.

“Miss Chabalala, you are free. You can go.”

“I have no-where to go.” The voice was soft, low - and indeed Jonas Katana was a worthless liar, for it was smooth and cultured.

“Mr. Gideon will take you to the bus,” Simon shuddered inwardly at the added expense, “I will buy you a ticket home. You can go home, to your family.”

“I have no home to go to, and I have a debt to you. I will repay you, work it off. As Mr. Katana said, I am strong and healthy. I will be your maid.”

“I don’t want a maid!”

The woman -Pearl! - folded her hands primly before her. “Sir, I am an honourable woman. I repay my debts. You have saved me, Sir. Saved my life, rescued me.”

“Rescued?” Simon Thambisa was astounded. He could not believe his rash and impulsive- and ruinously expensive - act could be construed as a “rescue”. “Rescues” were heroic and dashing, and cost nothing except courage.

“Yes Sir. I will work for you, Sir. Be maid to your wife, or your mother.”

“I don’t have a wife!” Simon had spent years dodging the attentions of several acquisitive and greedy potentially expensive Ladies with their eyes on his considerable assets. The idea of a wife was enough to send him into a panic. “No wife! No women in my life.”

“Sir, then you surely need a maid.” Her tone was respectful but firm and brooked no argument. Simon could not believe this was the same down-trodden, terrified woman of half an hour ago. The woman who had cringed under Jonas Katala’s fists was suddenly deciding on his life.

Gideon snickered behind her, his lustrous face wreathed in a huge grin.

And that was that.

Simon Thambisa led Pearl Chabalala upstairs to his Refuge, his Man-Cave. At the door, it seemed his hands refused to work, he fumbled at the key-hole, dropped his keys, had trouble turning the door-knob with sweaty palms. 

Finally, the door was open, and he stepped back to let a woman - a woman! - into his house and his life for the very first time.

He led her to the kitchen, watched her carefully set her suitcase down, and start opening cupboards, softly humming in approval at the carefully stacked pots and pans, the gleaming piles of dishes.

Pear opened the grocery cupboard and frowned, as she ran her eyes over the sparse contents: a packet of cornflour, tea, a few tins of tuna and sausages, a packet of Marie Biscuits, an old tin of Five Roses tea, and a bag of sugar.

“Mr. Simon, there is no food.”

Simon Thambisa felt himself blush. “I wasn’t expecting visitors, Miss Chabalala.”

“I am not a visitor Sir, I am your maid. And this is not adequate food for a working man. I will need money for groceries Sir.”

Money! She wanted money! Simon choked on a sharp retort. He reached into his pocket and drew out his wallet. He pulled out a wad of money without counting it and handed it to her. With any luck, she would take it and run, vanish from his life. Pearl accepted it with a graceful bow.

“Where will I sleep, Sir?”

Sleep? Simon stared down at her horrified. Sleep? There was no bed in the house but his.

He cleared his throat, “This way Miss Chabalala.” He led her down the corridor to the end room, the furthest from his, with another bedroom and a bathroom in between. He opened the door to the empty room. It was clean and dust-free. There was a chair in a corner and a built-in cupboard. That was all.

“I will ask Mr. Gideon to bring up a bed from the store-room, and a mattress. There should be sheets and blankets in the linen cupboard…”

“Thank you, Sir, this is very fine.”

Simon stood in the doorway, without knowing what to do or say.

“I must go back to the Shop.”

“Yes Sir, and I will shop for dinner, set things to rights.”

“Oh!” Simon fumbled at his key-chain, “you will need the key. Here, be sure to lock up tight. I have a spare set at the shop…”

“Thank you, Sir. You will not regret your kindness to me, Sir, I swear it.”

She smiled a sweet sunny smile that transformed her face and did something odd to Simon’s insides.
He tramped down the stairs with an answering silly smile wreathing his face.

Simon Thambisa - confirmed bachelor, and a miser to boot  - had just given a strange woman money, the keys to his house, and unequivocal entry into his Spartan life...

Manuela Cardiga


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 1


Simon Thambisa was a wealthy man by any standards, but he lived like a pauper. He lived in a three-bedroom flat above his shop, yet he owned the entire building.

His flat was scrupulously clean, yet stripped to the absolute bare essentials. In the one-bedroom - his - there was a bed, queen-sized, for Simon was a large man who liked his sleep. The built-in cupboard sheltered his meager and well-worn collection of workday clothes. Simon had no weekend clothes because Simon had no week-ends. He was a busy businessman.

Simon’s kitchen was well provided with utensils, but poor in ingredients for tasty meals; in his lounge was his one concession to the superfluous: a wide three-person couch in front of a large HD liquid-screen top-of-the-line TV. His house was very much like Simon, and Simon's life: efficient, utilitarian, uninspired, and uninspiring. It was, none the less secure and totally predictable, and Simon liked it that way. It was a good, profitable life.

That morning Simon Thambisa shaved, showered, brushed his teeth, and had his tea unaware that all was about to change in his narrow, colorless, comfortless life.

At a quarter past seven on the dot, Simon was outside the shop doors of his main business: the Polite Pawn Shop. Gideon - his sole employee- was waiting for him already, stamping his feet and happily blowing out clouds of steam into the icy Johannesburg winter morning.

“Morning my Boss!” he cried cheerfully. If Simon was big, Gideon was bigger, with hands like hams and a big round cannon-ball head atop a broad bull-neck. He was strong and fast on his feet, and his perpetual cheer irritated Simon mightily.

What did Gideon have to be cheerful about? He was a poor man, living in a poor house. He had a well-paid job with Simon, it was true, but it was a high-risk profession. And the good salary did not go far when you had to feed and house a wife, two children, an old mother, and a clutch of no less than eight (EIGHT!) vociferous single sisters.

Still, Gideon was a cheerful man, and Simon sometimes resentfully suspected he might be a happy man.

He grunted a greeting and stooped to unlock the steel-mesh retractable doors. Gideon stepped up to help, and together, they pushed them back, and Simon unlocked the glass shop doors.

He sighed with contentment. All around him, hanging from the walls gleamed the mellow wood of stringed musical instruments, the morning sun struck gilded fire from a saxophone, and silver sparks from the trim of a polished ebony oboe. An upright piano presided over one wall, with a pretty green-glass shaded antique lamp over it, and pictures; pictures everywhere.

Oils, water-colors…Even one or two acrylics from the more desperate moments of an up-and-coming young Hillbrow artist which had already doubled in value; and stood to be worth even more when the artist had his first showing at an elegant international art-gallery in Rosebank next month. His very first showing, however, would forever be right here, at Simon Thambisa’s Polite Pawnshop.

The bell trilled announcing the morning’s first customer, a sharp-faced young man in his early twenties, beautifully dressed in an Italian suit, narrow hand-made shoes, and with a paper-thin gold watch on his wrist; accompanied by a short sly-looking man in a leather jacket. Within seconds, Simon evaluated the entire outfit. It must have cost him quite a few thousand…

He nodded caution at Gideon who quietly took up a stance behind them, slightly to one side. If these were honest customers it would not do to scare them away.

“I have a pearl to pawn,” the man said, no greetings, no introduction.

“A pearl?" Simon replied crisply, "Well, I can only take it if it has papers, you understand? And I don’t take cultured pearls either.”

The man broke into raucous laughter “This pearl? It’s got papers alright, and it’s not cultured, have no fear.” The sly-looking man snickered.

Simon frowned: “Can I see it? I don’t take on valuables sight unseen.”

The man issued a sharp order to his companion, who rushed out of the shop. The man turned back to Simon. “I am Jonas Katana.” He extended his hand, but Simon folded his own hands over each other on the counter.

“Pleased to meet you.”

“I hope we can do good business together, you were recommended as a man who trades in anything that has commercial value? A very successful trader indeed, I was told.”

“That is true,” Simon agreed, lowering his eyes modestly, “I have had some small success in trading valuables my customers no longer need...”

“Yes, that is what I was told.”

At that moment the sly man returned escorting a woman. Jonas Katana pulled her forward by the arm and pushed her towards the counter.

“Here she is.”

Simon stared at him in bewilderment. “I don’t understand? This lady is the owner of the pearl?”

“This is Pearl. Pearl Chabalala. My fiancé.”

“Pearl?” Simon stared in consternation at the woman. She was in her early thirties, with a round face and small puffy eyes. She was full-figured, dressed in a modest grey coat, and carried a small battered suitcase.

She wore no make-up, no jewelry, and her hair was close-cut. She was a complete contrast to Katana’s sharp-suited looks, in fact, imagining any kind of affectionate bond between them was quite impossible.

“Mr. Katana, I don’t understand what you are proposing, and I don’t want to.”

“Listen…My father paid eighteen thousand rands for this woman. All I am asking for is half. She is strong, healthy, she can work. You can hire her out, turn a pretty profit.”

Simon was speechless with horror. “You are insane. Insane! If you do not wish to marry this woman, take her back to her father, get the money of the lobola back.”

“The bastard lost it at cards. There is no money left.” Jonas Katana shook the arm he was holding roughly.

“My father told me he had arranged for a good fertile wife, an obedient wife; from a good family And he presented me with this sow!” The woman’s eyes filled with tears. “Imagine my shock when I picked this up off the bus last night!”

“Mr. Katana, you cannot trade in people. Please remove yourself.”

Katana slapped the woman. “Worthless rubbish!”

In the front of Simon, in the very middle of the Polite Pawn Shop, he struck a woman. Gideon rumbled, rose on his toes, and stepped forward. Simon gestured him back. His voice was low and cold.
“Do not strike the Lady again, Mr. Katana, or I shall call the Police.”

“Strike? I will kill her! You won’t take her? Maybe I can sell her to Madam Sheila. Not that she will be worth much on the street. Look at this! I thought I’d get more for her as a maid.”

The woman - Pearl, Simon suddenly thought, her name is Pearl - lifted terrified, pleading eyes to his face.

“Wait!” Simon heard himself say, “Wait a moment.”

Katana paused on his way out, his hand closed over the woman’s arm in a vicious grip.

“I’ll take her.”

Manuela Cardiga


REVIEW! MANscapes - A Journey into Light

This review is from: MANscapes (Kindle Edition)
"A Journey into Light" the subtitle of MANscapes most clearly delineates its true theme. Is there a way out of abuse into mature love? It's a story that defines/demonstrates different kinds of love: abusive, passionate, maternal—and, finally—the less exciting, but lovely sustainable love. This is the eternal story: what is love? How it goes wrong. How it comes right.
When MANscapes asks the question “What is love?” It also answers it. Love is…to be discovered/to discover…to see/be seen…to see into/be seen into…to have our beauty seen…we, as works of art…our art as works of us.
Tracing the plot of MANscapes (spoilers? Not really. The story is in the gorgeous writing) we find:

• Art opens Clara and her life—but this opening is disrupted by an abusive marriage. I love the description of how she finds her artistic voice.

• She is finally pushed over the edge, leaves the marriage, get's lucky, and wins enough money to become a woman of independent means. Clara goes to Tahiti—following in Gaugin's footsteps (only, gender reversed).
She lives in a retreat led by a wise woman. She falls for the wrong guy, but it's passionate (and true in its own way).My favorite passage is when love blends with art and talk and creativity and tenderness. The MANscape paintings on sheets are really LOVEscapes with rich associations between body/paint/soul

• Then, back in Lisbon, Clara’s abusive husband dies (does he really commit suicide?) and she comes home to be with her daughter.

• When she returns to Tahiti, her lover has once again sunk into self-destruction. She suffers.

• She learns she is pregnant. She finally emerges from the depths of despair to live again.

• She learns to accept the love of the gentle, tender man she's known all along.

It's a journey towards wholeness. From darkness into the light. A redemption and resurrection story as Clara discovers that love doesn't have to hurt.


Sunday, 21 September 2014


in all this
whirling world
dizzily dancing
motes proclaim
your name

call call call
to me invoke
the flame
name the ritual
that makes
us sane
the same


Saturday, 20 September 2014

"Love denied scars us more deeply than any blow from the outside.”

from "MANscapes - Journey into Light"
Manuela Cardiga

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I ask myself
Why time
Is so fickle
Flirty sly.

I ask myself
Why clocks
Skip hours
At savage

With days,
Hours, minutes,
To burgle
Me of time
I spend
With you.

I wonder
If Einstein knew?
Time is slick.
Oh it slips,
Oily pimp
Of happy hours,
Slips away;
Charges hourly rates
For this ecstacy,
This intricate
Ticking of desire.

Pain lets you know you are alive. If you can feel despair, you are capable of joy. The depths of your agony measure your capacity for happiness. We fall so we can rise.

But we live, we fight, we don't give up; because the very next moment may the one magical instant when everything turns around. It may be the moment you are found.

Manuela Cardiga

The rain dances
Blessings down

Oh the blessing rain falls
On this alien ground

I walk bare-headed
My hands extended
To catch drink
Lick the blessing
From my worshipping

Sweet soft
Warm rain
Sings down
Jewels my hair
Kisses my lips
Blesses my day
With peace

I wish
To kick my shoes
To Nevermind
Dance in the
Silky mud
Let my dignity

But the man next to me
Shudders, hides
Behind a cupped
Wire device:
“I hate the rain
I hate the mud,
Look at my feet,
Full of this crud!”

“Too true” squeaks
The Lady with
A rainbow-brolly
“It’s just not jolly,
I hate this rain
It’s such a pain…”

I stand as still as I can
But I just can’t hide:
My feet hop-skip
My shoulders swing
My lips intone
A soundless song

I dance, I dance
And the blessing
The kissing
Rain, will drain
For this one day
The pain of exile

Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review on Amazon for "MANscapes- Journey into Light"

Format:Kindle Edition
Interesting story... somewhat disturbing but at the same time hopeful. I would not recommend this to anyone who likes to avoid the subject of rape in their books. The husband/father was a peculiar and disturbing individual who had a disturbing rape fetish. It made me extremely uncomfortable... which probably was the point!
After 23 yrs of enduring nightly assaults from her husband Clara finally finds the courage to leave. She ends up finding solace in Tahiti where she rediscovers her love for art and finally grows to become a free woman who learns to love.
This author has a talent for writing stories that are unique and full of eccentric and unusual characters. I loved her book Guilty Pleasures for that very reason... it offered something a little different and it was interesting and entertaining. Definitely not like anything I've ever read before. This book was the same experience, just a little darker in content. I will admit that while I was intrigued by the story itself, I did have trouble connecting with the characters. The colorful and artsy descriptions sometimes overwhelmed me.
I know for certain that this will only appeal to a particular audience. So, not really sure who to recommend it too... except those who like to occasionally step outside the box of your more traditional romances. This would be a good choice for a book club. Lots of interesting issues that would make for some colorful debates and discussion. Especially in regards to Clara, our leading lady... very much a victim who finds her way back from dark to light.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

For the MANscapes Blog Tour I got asked if there was anything I wanted to say to the readers?
Here is my answer:

Clara’s story is not unique. There are many Claras out there. Many women are living in the hell of abuse, afraid to walk away because it’s all they know.

Take that first step out of darkness. Once you do, you will be surprised to find the light meets you halfway. Life is not punishment, we all deserve happiness; but it’s not going to fall into your lap. You need to fight for it.

The thing is, once you do act, decide to fight? Something incredible happens: life, the universe –whatever you want to call it – steps into your corner. But you have to choose. The essence of effective living is choice. We choose.

Not all your choices will be right, not everything will work out. But it is YOUR choice, YOUR life. You will no longer be a passive victim things happen to; you will be a survivor, someone who makes things happen, who decides, takes charge and responsibility for her own life.

And remember, the only power anyone has over you, is the power you yield.


Saturday, 13 September 2014


Why is it that I 
Am constantly
On the verge
Of nothing?

Strive as I might,
Fight as I do
I never win

It slips.

The dream
My fingers
Grow numb.

I drop
The baton
I cannot


Sometimes the hardest thing to let go of is pain.

"MANscapes - Journey into Light"

Still remembering Joan. This one is for all you Ladies battling demons and mighty enemies...


Joan alone
Stood between 
The Gods of Life 
And the stark 
Stony bones 
Of unholy war 

Joan alone 
The lustful groans 
Of the Death Angels 
Mingling with 
Bloody dust 
And wounded 

Joan alone, 
Unholy virgin, 
Tore the veil 
Shielding eyes 
Of men 
From sweet 
Yielding flesh 
Flashing steel. 

Joan alone 
Burst the mould 
Drained hearts cold 
Joan alone 
Was too bold 
Joan alone must die. 

So the English 
And the French 
Made common cause: 
Burnt the witch, 
Raised high 
The eldricht fire,
Least another angel 
Should so aspire. 

A warning: 
Think, girl, 
Stay home, 
And Joan alone 
Must die.



Sweet Heloise
To sing
Though thorns
Pierce our naked
Souls, on our
Barefoot march

Fierce voices
To ring
Our knees
From falling
And stubbornly
Stumbling up
To the calling
Ringing bells
Oh Ringing

So we will
And chant
And dance
On our way


Friday, 12 September 2014

Thursday, 11 September 2014


It's become
Such a comfort
Being a boring poet,
Though I'm not
REALLY a poet,
You know.

I have this friend
Who thought I might be?
So I humoured him
Could be worse
I suppose,
He could have thought
I'd make a singer?
Now that
Would be a stinger!
I have a voice
Like a whore
With a tit
In a wringer...

And a compulsion
To rhyme
You've noticed that?
I rhyme

Someone told me
I am an inducement
To crime.
Premeditated murder.
At the very least
Though any lawyer
Up to speed
On the current creed
"the victim deserved it"
Would get the killer off
Just plead
Justifiable murder.
I'm trying to figure
a way to work in
to rhyme with murder
or even "interred her"

I think i'm gonna stop
Before the guy
Next to me
Turning green
Tries to drop
A brick on me
But really
I'm too boring
To be alluring
as a victim
of foul play
So it's alive i'll stay..

I have.
I did.
I'm finished,
I stopped.
The end

OH! I nearly forgot
I'm a bit of a talker?
Could be worse!
I could be
A gropper!


Sunday, 7 September 2014


Someone I love said to me: “It’s no use, as much as we strive for happiness, we can never achieve it. We are a flawed creation, a flawed design. So why bother? We are destined to fail…”

I cannot refute it, my dear, we are flawed indeed. But are we destined to fail? Why?
I remember a haiku by a great Portuguese poet David Mourão Ferreira:

We have five senses
Two and a half
Sets of wings
How then can we fly?

David was a great man and a great poet, but still, I think he was as wrong as my friend.
Only when we give up do we fail.
Only when we give up that one invisible wing -delicate and fragile as dragonfly’s-that helps us soar: our intuition, our inner eye, that miraculous sixth sense.

Only then do we limp, blundering blindly and hopelessly into the frightful unknown.
So we are two and a half parts angel wings, one part iridescent dragonfly.
So what?

I’ll admit it makes for a lopsided flight, perhaps not the most graceful, but so beautifully hopeful.
How lovely, how enchanting we are, we things of many parts: fire and flight and flaws.

Ultimately all creations are flawed, works in progress, I suppose.
We do not stand alone in this.
Do you know it was scientifically proved by engineers that bees can’t fly?
It’s supposed to be physically impossible.
The design is all wrong.
Nothing works.

Except the part where they do fly.
So tell me, my dear, what holds them up?
Hope? Belief? Desire?
Dreams of dancing on lilies?

Has to be something.
I think it’s magic, or love.
Maybe it’s both, or they are the same thing.

Design flaws are in the eye of the beholder, so we can waste our time cataloguing flaws and adding up reasons why we can’t fly; or we can unfurl our gorgeous mismatched wings and dance off and harvest sweetness.
The choice is ours.

Manuela Cardiga

Saturday, 6 September 2014


I am tired
Bitterly tired
Of the taste of humiliation
As a sandwich spread
On my daily bread.

Oh kow-tow
Bow low!
All you know!

Poverty forbids
Excess of ability
Or diligence
To achieve
Or believe
That you can/should
Or would be more
Than a smear
Of shit
On the sole
Of those of
Higher social mould
And infinitely superior
Moral code.


Friday, 5 September 2014


i want to give up.
just stop.

drop off the edge
of wakefulness
into endless

i want to shrink
back into myself

i want to stop

the needing
is too painful,
and i too silly
for scheming,
too tired
for deceiving,
and much
too old
for believing.

i am waiting
for the penny
to drop,
for the truth
to be revealed.

i am curious to see
how this time,
fool that i am,
i am (once again)

what will be the ruse
used to confuse
and abuse

i want to stop
before that penny

i want to stop



We shuffle
On numb feet
To the tum-tum beat
Of the zombie drum;

To the sweet hum
Of that old song
Of the Voodoo man
Who done us wrong;

We are old
And not so spry,
So the rules
Of sudden passion
No longer apply...

I won't sigh
Or swoon,
You won't
Sweep me
Off my feet,
But maybe
In the sweet
Slick aftermath
Of love,
The moment
We once missed
Will arrive;
We will taste
The salt
On each others

We taste
The salt
And come