Category Archives: Graphing Auto Bio

The Rogue

The conversation went like this:

“But, when you were in your twenties, surely you had people following and emulating you?

“No, I was a rogue. I travelled, I went my own way, didn’t ask blessings, didn’t ask for endorsement.”

“But surely people looked up to you? Admiring what you did, and how you did it?”

“I don’t think so. I wasn’t trying to be admired. I was on a very wayward mission that greatly differed from any norm I was exposed to. I was a rogue”

“So you didn’t have followers who thought what you did was great and exciting?”

 

“No. I was a rogue.”

Right. And now I’ll have to explain, considering that I am such a well-adjusted individual, because it doesn’t seem to fit. Firstly, if you look up the word – rogue – in the dictionary, you come up with things like ‘deceitful, mischievous or anomalous’. These are qualities that one perhaps does not want to have attributed to oneself, (unless of course they were to overshadow more arresting concepts like ‘downright criminal’). So generally, by leading definition, a rogue is something negative and undesirable.

Talk about a rogue trader, and we mean someone who has gone loose making unauthorized financial transactions without heeding to caution or informing his employer. This rogue is not adhering to protocol, and may cost the outfit hard cash, with his unpredictable willingness to take risks. Unpredictable, undesirable. A rogue elephant on the other hand has separated from his clan, and is moving around alone; a vicious and solitary animal, fending for himself, becoming bad-tempered due to lack of sex and social preening. The rogue wave is an undesirable force of nature – it will loom up over you on an unexpected moment and swamp you and your boat, reducing it all to smithereens. You don’t want a rogue wave, neither. The rogue trooper is a dangerous one, too. A cartoon character by Gerry Finlay-Day and Dave Gibbons, the Rogue Trooper, is a genetically modified soldier who can withstand even the most deadly toxins. He is a deserter, operating alone or with three sidekicks, having gone AWOL.

So, why would I want to be associated with roguish-ness?

To me, the word has other connotations. My connotations, admittedly more flimsy and notional, are also reflected in some of the definitions: ‘unprincipled’ I like; or ‘solitary’, ‘rascal’ and ‘tramp’. Maybe ‘vagabond’ covers my bases. I think if I had lived in the United States in the 19th century I would have been one of those “tourists” who attached themselves to the chassis of trains, drinking soup out of my boot on dry days and hanging around with people who sang songs about “little streams of alcohol, hens laying soft boiled eggs and police dogs with rubber teeth”.

Well, back to ‘unprincipled’ and ‘solitary’ then. Groucho Marx once said “if you don’t like my principles, I have others!” In my twenties I harboured a fervent desire to reinvent the world and the way it could be lived in. And I firmly believed that it was my duty to inspect and endorse what the world was offering me – a tender representative of a new generation.

Technically, I was just a kid. Adolescents don’t know it, but they are often in a period of ‘sustained moratorium’ (James Marcia, 1966) and in the throes of what the great developmental psychologist Erik Erikson calls ‘fidelity and diversity’. This development is designed to culminate in a willingness to participate in the ‘motor’ of the nation. Moratorium takes place in late adolescence (approx.. between 18 and 23 yrs of age) and is signified by the adolescent searching for a conflict upon which to base his commitments in life, in order to reach “identity achievement”. The conflict supplies the turning point, is the moment of fidelity that a youth embraces when accepting the values of his society. But, if the youth is less willing to make that commitment to society, then the moratorium gets prolonged, until a suitable conflict sparks that fidelity. If certain lessons were not learned during earlier stages, some adolescents will find themselves searching for one worthy of commitment. During this sustained moratorium a whole lot of conflicts are possibly ignored, while the search for the one ‘in shining armour’ goes on. I reckon I was there.

Well, for me, it may have been a bit extreme: it was the reinvention of hot water. I had to build up a sense of decency from scratch according to my own findings and I despised anybody who innocently and brainlessly sold out to the old-money nation without sniffing the bills. Any qualities, virtues and rules of thumb handed to me were immediately subjected to inspection with the care, caution and suspicion of a quality check administered to a consignment of radios being delivered by a host of monkeys. Why? You may ask. Well, I was raised by parents who were aghast at the atrocities of war and the scrupulousness of lying politicians. People who believed that true values can never be marketed and therefore only found under beautiful rocks, by poets.

However that all may be, the financial world never really interested me, and politics only later. Some roguishness is just expedience – an excuse. I wanted adventure, undiluted, and without a credit card to keep ‘behind my hand’. Then it’s not real any more, you see. Indeed, I may have been a little exaggerated. I may have taken the concept rather far. Yes, reinventing principles that suited me was a handy expedient to see the world. I didn’t want to be “contaminated by the beaugoisie”. What drove me to all corners of the globe on a shoestring was indefatigable curiosity for all people, their ways, their sounds and their sunsets. I wanted to see it all – from the dismally addicted and the posh and problematic, to the old granny mumbling about her pet ostrich.  I had the strength of youth and conviction to throw caution to the wind, the luxury of not having to fulfil the responsibilities that come with weighted heritage. I was free to see, to do, move. Nobody owned me, nobody held my contract, the world’s authorities numbly recorded a passing shadow when looking up from their desks, and accredited it to the stealth of a swallow in the wild skies which were the home of my finest musings.

The adventures were superb. Convincing Mozambican border patrol of my right of passage into Tanzania in Swahili, approaching the decaying Portuguese villas on the island of Ibo from the bow of a diesel trawler, hitch hiking and getting a lifts with everything from a donkey cart to a microlight aircraft, throwing up in Death Valley. All these and more were the welcome adventures which dot the 20 or so years I spent On the Road, in the spirit of Jack Kerouac. In all those years I clocked some 45000 kilometres travel without own transport. And many more beyond that. Being a rogue was in fact so enjoyable, I wasn’t sure at the time if I would be returning to a cultivated existence.

Some roguishness is just common sense. Why believe the sell-by date on an unopened packet of yoghurt? Just because it says so?? Who teaches us to believe in little printed numbers? Yoghurt stays good forever! Why leave home on a journey at 10 am when you can leave at six, and watch the land of the sleeping in peace? Why say goodbye to your bobbing pumpkins when you know there’s a woman with a bucket in that house over there? Why cry for dishwashing detergent when you can use a piece of coal from last night’s fire to rub that pan? It’s not roguish, it’s just the common sense of unconventionality.

Of course things change. And then they want you back. The government wants your taxes, the nation that spawned you wants its compensation for stamping your birth certificate. But more importantly, one’s own growth takes a new turn. The ‘Identity phase’ of young adulthood fades out and is replaced by Erikson’s fidelity stage: intimacy versus isolation. Rogues do not come in pairs, you see. Being a rogue does not inspire credibility. Society welcomes collaboration, the ability to compromise your personal values to include those of others. This is the mark of civilisation, of the health of the functioning community in cooperation, where we broaden the playing field, drink alcohol for merriment and display our wit, our feathers and the aptitude endowed upon us by the generations of smart ones who went before us. We are not solitary, but will find the group that we are destined to nourish. Most importantly, children need adult parents.

I knew a colony of die-hard hippies once, living in “Phantom Valley” in the hills just north of Knysna (say: Nize-nah), along the wild and lush southern coast of South Africa. Most of them were in their early twenties, and had had at least 2 kids with any given member of the group. They baked cupcakes for a living, sold crystals on strips of leather thong and did sparkly light installations at hippy festivals. Their ‘spot’ in the hills was a huddle of shacks in dismal state of neglect amongst the glorious wild Knysna forests. The children of the colony ran dirty-cheeked and barefooted like wild animals through muck and dirt, sleeping when they felt like it, on the dog’s rug. The colony parents laughed, played guitar or something, and agreed with one another on issues like the energy in the cosmos.

I had known these strange feral beings from earlier years in Cape Town, and passing through the area, thought it amusing to stop by. When I pulled up in a borrowed 4×4 Toyota pick-up truck I was greeted with carefree glee yet careful disdain: I was driving, after all, and had a mobile phone. This meant I had obviously sold out to the banker-world, and had become a plaything of established society. They always knew I was going to go that way. It started way back, on that first journey into Mozambique. I had had a camera, a map and travellers checks. Now a phone! What is the world coming to!? I did not stay long. Their ranks wanted the company of those who would agree without posing alternative realities. This is the paradox which is the die-hard hippy: posing as free-thinking, open-minded and tolerant, they sing to the full moon, worship the tides, star-signs and oversized Alpaca jerseys. But the truth is, they are as conservative as the Bible Belt, and are still lingering forever in sustained moratorium.

But, did I have followers in my time? Did people look up at me? I certainly had admirers of my uncompromising sense of adventure and resourcefulness. But the roguish antics of a late adolescent does not inspire a following. Operating outside the normal or desirable controls of established society is unpredictable and unreliable, remember. I recall the reserved expressions of parents, asking me where mine were. The rogue must leave the wandering, beggarly way of the solitary animal to reach cognitive closure on the issues that were tested. This amounts to adulthood, and needs to be presented to ones kind. The unprincipled actions will gradually take recognisable shape, resembling something said before by people smarter, more influential and with greater perseverance. Just like the Swaythling milk bottle opening first recorded by Fisher and Hinde in 1949, in which UK sparrows collectively  learned to pick open the foil lids of milk bottles, as a hemisphere-wide sparrow epiphany, we will find that our ideas are never so unique, and nor our struggle. Which unites us once again.

Today I know that much of the lie my parents suspected the world of is true. Luckily, we have determined young journalists (the likes of Naomi ‘Shock Doctrine’ Klein) who go for an education and expose such things. They didn’t need to go AWOL first, or anything. It pays to be alert and be well-behaved to one’s sponsors. And to admit that we mostly don’t notice social inequality or cultural vicissitudes unless we muster some enthusiasm beyond the 8 o’clock news. More reading and less teevee. Mostly, the “system” will be having us working so hard nine-to-five, we won’t have time to think about good and bad as more basic fundamental qualities. But precisely these qualities represented the starting notion with which I attempted to enter adulthood the first time. I perceived that formulating a unique approach and discovery of sustainable values in life was my right and duty. And that, to me, amounts to first going forth, being unpredictable, unprincipled, scorned as a scoundrel by modern social standards, a tramp, maybe even a barefoot hussy at times, a fire maker, and a hitchhiker in America, Europe, Asia, and mostly up the endless African single lane highways. But now I have settled down and, like Groucho Marx, have other principles.

Amber Nowak Delft May 2012

The Belt

From the first time I took a ride from a bicycle rikshaw cabby in India I was hooked. I was exhilarated beyond measure by the casual way the driver weaved his way at top speed through the hideously disorganized and misshapen traffic configurations of New Delhi, deftly swerving in and out behind mini-trucks and ox-wagons driven by five-year-old, dread-locked and sooty-faced peasant children. I did not know fear; sometimes I turned right around, and faced backwards, into the mob of advancing rikshaws. They also were driven by furiously cycling cabbies, like my own. I could stare straight into their souls: behind their wild and concentrated eyes, their skin glistening with oil, their simple cotton shirts flapping in the wind on the frame of their thin bodies; hard at work negotiating the tiny, changing spaces they were able to claim in front of their wheels, at breakneck speed, without mercy, successfully, year after year, a whole life long.

The delicious peril I knew in those Pahar Ganj streets was one of complete faith, accepting total deliverance to a skilled cabby who took chances at a moment’s notice, with the calm and keen eye of a B52 gunner.

Now I cycle (on my own bike) through the organized and regimented streets of a northern European Social Welfare State Democracy, where the hedges are trimmed with a municipal toenail clipper. And here we pay our taxes for immaculately asphalted streets, with their multi-coloured bike lanes and yield signs, and count-down precision-time-indicating stop lights, (which give you the exact status of your wait, by means of a string of little white pin-lights, in a circle, counting down the seconds before you may advance). But, no matter the price of precision, the peril is greater, more aggravating and life-threatening than anything I have ever experienced anywhere, ever before.

And so, on the Monday, I brought my kids home from school; another day for them in the Institution for the Young. (It is not a church, they only teach you to believe in the written word of science, so it’s okay.) I cycle home, and midst cycling, throw my eldest a key, so he can let himself in. I am going to the bakery, to get… bread. Indicate, a glance over the shoulder, take that turn, and check myself: my bike, my space, check for intruders, and here they come: three young teenage girls, shiny plastic black jacket, furry hoodie; lipstick, loop earrings. High-heeled boots, with the tassels. Her friends, a version of the same: Adidas jacket, retro patent leather kitbag, with orange and red lines on it; latest fashion. I am thinking ‘where do they get the money?’, when they swerve, three in a row, without any fuss, without slowing, without looking, right in front of my front wheel, cut me off, and make a right into the next road. I am recovering, half on a pavement where an old lady is tottering around with a mal-nutritioned, spindly little grey cur; and a young mother with two small, pasty-faced children, tottering just like the granny.

“Hey!!!” I yell. “You stupid bitches!!! Where’d do learn to cycle like idiots?? What hole did you just crawl out of to share your disease with?? Or are you just fucking inconsiderate???!!”

They are looking over their shoulder despite their coolness, the eyes narrowing a little, but amused. They do not care, after all: no one else exists.

“Come back here, and I will totally give you a lesson in road-use, because your style amounts to horse-bollocks! Stupid fuckin’, semi-retarded bitches! Come over here, and I’ll tell you!!”

I go to the baker. I reluctantly buy a loaf of bread with a texture of a cleaning sponge, which needs a PLU number of thirty digits before the salesperson can ring up one fifty. Now I have had my dosage of raw and savage frustration, picked clean to the bloody bone. And I still have to cook; prepare a meal and take my little son to his Judo-lessons.

Toward end of the afternoon in between saving children from see-thru leeches hauled from the underside of their new raft which miraculously stick to their necks in spite of high pitch screaming and jolts from jumping around; manage to provide a wholesome, balanced meal of vegetables and grains in various colours and textures, and my kids won’t touch it. They prefer pasta, they say, with a pureed tomato sauce. No bits, please. Salad, maybe.

We go to the Judo hall, way down past where they are giving the derelict, poverty-stricken neighbourhoods of the poorly-adjusted a face-lift. With a bit of city-funding the abject conditions behind those walls, the forced circumcisions on kitchen tables, the oppressed wives and confused men-children will all not be even less visible, or even suspected.

We cycle into oncoming traffic, as the bike path is still a construction site, my young son’s surfer hair blowing in the wind, as he sings his way to Judo.

The Judo hall is in the black neighbourhoods, so I lock my bike. It’s a jungle out here. Inside the entrance hall is the lady with the thin mouth. She glares out from behind her little spectacles, forcing herself to smile at all the little hateful children. She is sort of dangerous-looking. I am not going to pick a fight with her; I will show myself from my competent side; I will show the ability to put things in perspective; understand the limitations of given discourse; embrace differences.

My son changes into his wonderful Judo suit and I take a seat in the practice hall, switching off my phone as I go. I had to take my shoes off, too – this is a no-shoes area, it is strict; the website said so, and the sign on the door says it, too. The place fills up with parents, eager to watch their little saplings do the rumpus on the mat. I get cross-legged on the bench and prepare to absorb the wonderful teachings of the Master Judoka, in his white-and-red-striped Judo belt. He is a rough- and lovable looking man of about sixty, who stands square on bare feet, hands open at the ready. He talks to kids. He doesn’t spare them if they are up to shit and don’t know how to act normal. He had been doing this for more than forty years and everybody gets it.

In comes the mother of that little girl. The only little girl in the group; the cute one with the very curly blonde hair in a plait, and here comes her mom. She sways along in her tights and miniskirt, pushing Chanel sunglasses up onto her head. She is puncturing the training mat with her high heels as she waffles along. Long blond hair, like her daughter. She comes and sits at the end, next to me, and starts text-messaging someone. The Judo trainer comes over, and stands next to her at the end, looking at the lesson casually, and then launches into conversation with her. No me – her. She is glamorous, her long hair flowing, time has been taken to groom that look; it has a touch of wildness, she is not House-and-Town groomed, she is a bit of a vixen, with large, speaking blue eyes. He doesn’t look at her much, but starts rambling about how the competitions are set up, and what he expects of this group, who have migrated from their school Judo trainer, who did a shyte job, according to him. She is hum-humming along with him, looking interested. I am thinking: ‘How come does she just come in here with her fucking shoes on!?! Has she no respect!? What the fuck is this?? A free-for-all? And the phone! Turn off your life, man! Show ability!’

He is still talking to her, not to me. He is the boss around here, and he is not telling her to take her fucking shoes off. I suppose they are real leather, and new, and so stylish that she would look like a fish-wife if she were to take them off. We would see her disgusting toes; the one part of her body she will conceal from the world forever. Well, I am a secret beauty, I think; so THERE. I don’t have to prove it every mother-fucking day. I’ll lie in my grave, and they will all nod and say to each other: ‘yes, she was a true beauty. She didn’t have to show it every day.’ That’s what they will say. ‘The rest didn’t amount to much, but boy was she a looker.’

The end of the lesson approaches, and Madame is beginning to sway out. The entrance hall is getting a bit cramped, so I leave too, to GET MY SHOES. The entrance hall is filling up with the students for the next Judo class. They are all much older; teenagers; boys and girls. I am scrunched up against the wall so that the door can open, one shoe half on; the other in my hand. I can’t go anywhere, and I am wondering when this bunch of bored, oversized mothers who have been able to hide their bodies during the lesson so well, will finally move out of the way, since they are just waiting, and have their shoes on. In come the girls. Black plastic shiny jacket with the fur hoodie; loop earrings and lipstick. High-heeled boots with tassels, etc. They will have to get changed. And I will be in time to see their belts before my son is ready to go.

Here they come, forth from the girls’ changing rooms, tightening their belts and laughing with one another. Barefoot. Brown belt; black belt, brown belt; in their crisp white Judo suits. It is the girls from the bikes, the stupid bitches who can’t cycle; who are too cool to slow down. They look at me; I look at them. Haha. This is weird. ‘What the fuck!’ says the one to the other ‘Marco has his brown belt!’ I slip outta there, quick.

End.

My friend Gavin and the legacy of Rockey Street

“…we surfed freakland & yet we never slid into that morass of free peoples mediocrity…” says my friend Gavin to me now, February 2010.

Gavin is an old buddy; an ancient buddy. I met Gav somewhere in South Africa, and we hung out in Yeoville in the nineties, on Rockey Street, in Johannesburg. Rockey street, with all its mayhem, all its flotsam and jetsam, it’s street junks and goths and its Lizard Lounges and tatoo parlours; Rockey Street, that changed the direction of its one-way traffic flow on a yearly basis. Rockey Street’s Ba Pita – the Israeli hummous-and-pita joint, with colourful  Kenyan kikois hanging from the ceilings, and waitresses walking on 10-inch thick thigh-high boots, displaying twenty-two visible piercings, shredded black pantyhose and nipple-revealing red tank tops. You parked your car only where you could see it, and paid a twelve year old Angolan war refugee 5 bucks to guard it from the drug peddlar scene across the road, in the night, who stood in the light of the corner café trying to talk passers-by into buying a cup of glue. The nights were hot, seething, long, and exhilirating.

This was the scene in which I met Gavin. Later we travelled together, hitchhiked across South Africa in trucks; drinking the drunken driver’s Brandy while singing “Me and Bobby McGee” to keep him awake, til the sun came up. Gavin took photos, drummed on his djembé, and today still walks the Joburg life. If it is the same; I doubt it. I know that Rockey Street had its hundreth transformation and is now a vile and dangerous place where no white face darkens any doorstep of any relic of the past. The ‘scene’ moved successfully to Melville’s 2nd Avenue, and never came back. Now you hang out at ‘Full Stop’ for breakfast, and the ‘Question Mark’ for drinks, later. To see and be seen under the heavenly lilac hues of the towering Jacaranda trees.

Where exactly Gav hangs out now, I don’t know, because I haven’t been there in so long. But I reckon he didn’t stop, either; he’s still evolving. It is a pity friends are so remote in this enormous world. Digital information technology helps to bridge some gaps, and occasionally, when one is not too blasé about the ease of a social interface like FaceBook, then some real information may even come across. About how somebody is REALLY FEELING. Wow. Those are precious moments. The thing is, you may not even want that all the time. Mediocrity has its place, and gives interaction the dynamic it needs to facilitate more valuable exchange. And in this way, Gavin’s remoteness becomes slightly arbitrary.

I have moved on and graze a different pasture. Rotterdam is my oyster of social irresponsibility now, where I observe delinquency behind the curtain of a mature democracy. Oh, Rotterdam, I hope I will get to know you like I once knew and loved Johannesburg. And my friend Gavin – can come and take a look. [ACN]

Rotterdam by Night

Walking the Streets of Rotterdam in late December 2009,

The night is dark and so very cold tonight as I shuffle along Rotterdam’s spinal cord – the Westersingel. I am heading for Rotterdam’s central station, and it’s way past 10 pm. My side of the street seems asleep, in the darkness. All of sudden a door bursts open at the top of some steep steps, and two wayward women laugh and talk as they come trampling down into the cold, and careen across the empty street to the iced-over ‘gracht’, where they’ve spotted somebody to ask for a light.

I change over to the other side of the road – by crossing a modern promenade with sculptures, over a bridge, a carriageway, and the tram tracks, to reach the far pavement. The shop fronts are lit up; and I want to see inside. I am invisible in my big navy blue overcoat, an observer tonight. I walk past a designer café with an avant-garde interior, with ‘bare essentials’ in a minimalistic retro-style.

The next place is older and less concerned with appearances: a traditional “bruin café”, as they are called here. Behind small panes of dirty glass, and probably geraniums, a host of people mingle in dim light on large leather chairs and rickety bar stools, in and amongst dusty musical instruments and piles of newspapers; everything is brown, also the beer. Young and old are deep in conversation. Their underwear sticks out when leaning forward to get the peanuts; the air should be smoky, only it is not. I go right up to the window pane, press my nose against the glass, and peer in, looking straight into their life. And, with my face still 5 centimetres from the glass I move on, along the window front to the next establishment, only to come face to face with a man staring straight back into mine, his face almost bursting with excitement. I start back, to then focus on a face making inaudible sound: we are separated by the thick glass in front of a Chinese Restaurant – and he is on the inside, pre-occupied with his caller, as he presses a tiny cell phone up against his enormous pink head. He had probably excused himself to take the call, and now stares straight into my face, with all his exuberance. Chinese Restaurant indeed: you could see all the sweet and sour pork in the texture of his skin.

However it may be; the observation is made without judgement, and I am coming to realise that it is possible to see and not judge. I almost can’t stop myself from seeing everything lately, all the pockmarks of civilisation, all the heritage in people’s features, the struggle and the Lonely and the Rum. And with it the realisation that at least part of me belongs right here where I am.

I walk on to the station, reading poetry on the street tiles, and being literally dwarfed by the immense bank buildings, now covered in flickering Christmas lighting. I pass Moroccan boys who think they are men; and, mind they don’t spit on your shoe, but if they do, they will say they’re sorry, because they truly didn’t mean it. I see a handful of policemen and women doing a ‘caution frisking’; their subject is up against the wall of a Döner Kebab joint, standing star-shaped while the police patiently pad down their trouserlegs; and the crowd looks on, spitting.

Next door is a high-brow Chinese establishment, catering to top-notch Chinese businessmen (yes! I didn’t know they existed; I thought they all sold 3-Euro patent-leather moneybags on the Thursday market, the world over). This brand of Chinese corporate high-rollers dine on exquisite dumplings and sweet and sour duck at spacious tables, while they talk business with an occasional glance at the pavement, where low-life Rastafarians do the limp-stride past the window, and the little Chinese Tattoo-shop owners shuffle along, and sultry dark-skinned Mamas with hair extensions and patent leather high-heeled boots promenade through the cold, pushing prams while punching in text-messages, their bright lipstick shimmering in the streetlamps.

But the Chinese family business appears to be alive and well –  see them strolling in for dinner at dusk, with all members in tow: a luxuriously dressed and modern Chinese family: wives toting babes, sisters and grandmothers in fine suits of black and lace, with flowing collars and fine jewellery. Running in front with her scooter is the three-year old daughter, her lush carpet of jet-black hair spilling out over an immaculate suit of red felted wool, complete with lapels till far over the shoulder, and with large white pompoms bouncing on her white leather boots. There she goes, skipping into the restaurant she knows so well.

A few yards further there are more officers on duty. They are in a friendly discussion with an elderly person who is using his motorised perambulator to display soup packets, peppermints and chewing gum, and he will make a sandwich for you, on demand. The cops are kind and tolerable, and are telling him he needs a licence for this sort of vending. It is true that the last time I ever saw someone trying to pull a stunt like this was in South Africa.

On the station platform there are some twenty-something college girls, coming home from a late lesson at the academy, and they now stand discussing their cultural identity. “How could he have just called me “black” like that?” –the one pitch-black Surinamese-of-African-decent Beauty says in contempt to the other. Her friend is hardly listening, but is hunched over, furiously typing in a text message to somebody. Oh yes, I now realise I just heard the signal myself: and I whip out my own phone to read my very own text-message. Now I am typing away swiftly with my thumb, jogging my feet against the cold. On my other side a Dutch couple are in conversation, a generation away. She is complaining about something inexorably boring and he is enduring it, but now they are both distracted by me, and watch me as I type this message. To them, I am a product of this age of exponentially accelerating technology; to me it is just default nurturing. So now, for that train. I wonder, will the homeless guy with the guitar be there again? Any Rastafarians in three-colour jogging suits? Just spare me any young children who ought to be in bed, and then the night is my oyster. [ACN]

WHAT’S WITH YOUR ACCENT ??

cape-town

An autobiographical piece

A native speaker of any language usually has a cultural homeland: a place where he or she associates the deepest and fondest memories of childhood and rhyme.

Such a place exists for me, though it is now just a memory, for it was never mine to keep. For one, the place itself, and the notion of family life, adorned with images of mothers holding freshly baked cakes and Christmas trees and suchlike are disassociated from one another in my case due to cirumstance. This is no more regrettable than being just a fact, and it sets the stage for the curious relationship I have with my native language English, and the accent which eventually developed on account of it all.

An English accent among many. To begin with, one result of the meanderings my family undertook in my youth, is that my accent is near to untraceable. A mish-mash; going all over the place. A tramp of an accent I carry, lithe, like an eel, moving around, escaping the listener. It’s a bother at times, because people like a clear message, as in: “I am a chocolate ice-cream kind of girl”, or: “I like pink dresses, and it is really pink dresses that I like.” Well, with me, if people are at all familiar with the various nesting places of the English language on our planet, they end up confused, not knowing if their spade is a spade or perhaps one of those other tools in the shed. Continue reading WHAT’S WITH YOUR ACCENT ??