Coincidence continued

With me, when I speak of coincidence, it’s in the realm of my daily diet of written and video content. My previous AMAZING COINCIDENCE was in the crossover between a Whatsapp video and a Youtube video.

This coincidence is slightly more complex. In fact, it was a double coincidence. Two overlaps from one source all in the space of about four days. The time frame is important I think, as that’s what makes coincidences stand out. If these quirky little ‘bookmarks’ happened with plenty of time in between, we wouldn’t notice them. I’m sure there is some mathematical expression of coincidence out there, but for now, I want to get to my story!

I have just finished reading a book by Julian Barnes called ‘The Sense of an Ending’, a truly unique and wonderful book. Funnily, taking the book out from the library was an accident. I thought Julian Barnes was the guy who wrote ‘The Magus’ and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’. It was John Fowles who wrote those. One of the themes of the book is history and how it gets recorded and later still, how it is perceived (and misperceived). Well, I got the authors bit of history wrong but I’m really glad I did. Finding books you apparently need to read at exactly the right time is a ‘quirky’ topic for another post.

Back to the coincidence/s – from this same source. The narrator of the story, Anthony Webster, describes at one point how his love-interest’s mom roasts a chicken. Veronica’s mom has this thing she does when preparing it, which in all my years of cooking, I have never ever heard of …

Actually, I’m lying. I HAVE heard of it, for the FIRST TIME EVER about a day before reading that passage. It was on Nate, the foul-mouthed, Black Metal, Australian chef’s cooking channel (the Great Youtube Crossover – you see?!) The episode was on ‘How to Roast a Chook’ where the studded Nate shows us just how.

So Nate, in Australia (2021) and Veronica’s mom in Kent(70’s) – take their chickens, get hold of the upper layer of skin and without tearing it, separate it from the flesh and shove garlic and herbs into the little ‘pockets’ that kind of form there if done carefully. Not really my thing but hey – there was coincidence number one!

So to coincidence number two … Youtube is kind of involved here but not completely. I have a Youtube channel for viewing things of interest – music for instance. Over time I’ve created a music playlist of songs that just somehow pop into in my head. When he saw what I was doing (I’d shared it to Facebook), a friend of mines’ husband told me that he was doing something similar. He was making a playlist of all the bands he would pay to see/have seen! The criteria for his playlist- 100 artists, one song per band. He based it on LP’s he’s had over the years. Quite a journey he reckoned. One of the bands he selected was The Moody Blues …

I have not thought of The Moody Blues in decades. I would say about four days after our Facebook Messenger discussion, Anthony Webster, our hero from the Julian Barnes book, finds himself – still in the 70’s – listening and dancing to The Moody Blues from his collection of LP’s. That reminds me. I must go and give them a listen!

Let’s get going – 2021!

I’ve been busy learning how to do watercolour painting and to that end I’ve created a separate little WordPress blog which I update every two weeks or so. In the meanwhile I’ve been reading as usual – and have decided to keep my blog quietly ticking over by letting my reviews on Goodreads trickle through to here – until I am up to date. Apart from line-editing and proofreading, which I also do from time to time, this has been the only writing that I have had a chance to do in the last two years or so. It’s quite challenging I must say!

This story has a mythical quality to it. The characters are larger than life and in the case of the character of Maru, have far-reaching motives to actions – prompted by older knowledge, intuitions and good old personal gain.

Maru, by Bessie Head, appears to be a simple tale of a girl who comes to the city, innocent and pure of spirit. She is to be the teacher in a village in Botswana. Something very complex awaits her. Although she is the source of the problems, she is unaware of the depth of the conflict that spreads to the hearts and minds of the people and society that surround her.

In a sense she could be any one of the many sparks that create change and evolution. She is also the embodiment of perceived and perfect love, and how that affects the actions of mere mortals.

Choose to Muse

The News

It broke through the surface

Burst into view

It turned

Gleamed

As the light caught its side

People marveled at its girth

Tried to see the detail

Argued,

As it turned

And dove back

out of sight.

The surface rippled

It was gone.

Coincidence

‘Coincidence – the fact of corresponding in nature or in time of occurrence.’

 

Meditating chicken
     Meditating chicken

The other night I stood cooking, with phone in apron pocket, headphones in ears, listening to a podcast. This one was called ‘Entitled Opinions’, hosted by Robert Harrison, Professor of French and Italian at Stanford University. He was interviewing Werner Herzog, see links below, a famous (among other things) German movie maker. With the students asking questions it was a fascinating discussion.

So, later, when the podcast and the cooking were over, I came to enjoy the food in front of my computer and to watch a short Youtube documentary, see below, about the guy. The food, the doccie, all good. Suddenly, for no reason, I decided to check a pending Whatsapp. So I paused the doccie, checked the Whatsapp, resumed the doccie.

Now none of this would be very interesting but for one thing. The crazy coincidence that occurred in that time frame. This pausing, checking and resuming to a certain spot took about two minutes. I know because I checked it.

At the point where I paused the doccie, they were discussing a movie he made, ‘Signs of Life’, about a soldier who ends up on a Greek Island – reasons and plot not pertinent to my more momentous story. Flash to Whatsapp – a funny videoclip where a South African Game Ranger/Conservationist is demonstrating the strange behaviour of a group of owls, see clip below.

Well, if you check the clip you will see how these sensible owls play dead for some period of time in which they perceive themselves to be in danger. When the ranger flips one of them over, the owl is miraculously restored to life. Then he flips the owl back onto his back and it is a dead owl.

I was looking at this and thinking – ‘those owls are in a trance. They hypnotise themselves’. Then I remembered something else. About chickens. If you draw a line on the ground and put a chicken’s head down with its beak lined up with the drawn line, it will go into a trance. I was wondering whether this is a bird thing. Then I decided to pick up where I left off with the food and the Werner Herzog doccie.

I pressed play and about five seconds into the movie about the soldier – I see him and some mates, bored out of their minds, messing about – and they have this chicken, head down on the ground with a line drawn in front of it. I kid you not.

Coincidences are a fascinating mystery – just like the power that birds have to go into this near death trance. Coincidence that these two mysteries cropped up together?


CoincindereMedieval Latin– agree
CoincideEnglish early 17th Century – occupation of same space


Entitled Opinions

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog doccie

Owl Video

Survivors

I was thinking of how to write reviews on Goodreads for three books I had just read – something you are not obliged to do but it is a good exercise. I then realised that they had something in common. Deciding to review them  as a group was the next step and here we are! Without going into detail about the plots or writing styles, the effect of displacement is one of the themes that runs through all three. Of losing families, homes, governments, societies.

‘A Pale view of Hills’, Kazuo Ishiguro; ‘Beasts of No Nation’, Uzodinama Iweala; and ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’, Marina Lewycka, have been read and reviewed and were hot news quite a while ago. They are all written in English by, respectively, Japanese, Nigerian and Ukrainian authors.

‘A Pale View of Hills‘ is set mainly in the eerie memories of a Japanese woman who survived the horrific bombings in Japan at the end of the Second World War. The book drifts between the present – where she is living in England – and her haunted past. There is a twist to the tale which adds another unsettling layer. What cannot be ignored in the book is the shattered worlds of the people left behind after that catastrophic event. The cold, mindless, harsh destruction of entire families, the fabric of their society. Where did it leave the minds of these remaining people? What did they think and feel?

‘Beast of No Nation’  is a depiction of the life of a child soldier in a fictitious country in Africa. In Africa the devastation is a slowed down version of the swift blow dealt Japan. The desperate brutality and futile battles drag on and on. This book is a window on that world.  Told in first person, you experience the boy’s sense of drifting through hell, with no beginning and no end. You feel his helpless breaking away from the simple existence he had before. He’d been forced into this war, one of the many, that had nothing to do with him. War is a churner, spewing out lives and crushing societies.

‘A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine’ This book, set in England, touches on the lives of a handful of people, some who have left and some who are still trying to leave, a part of the world that is in a constant state of flux, Ukraine. Here the typical ‘Russian Bride’ story plays out. Now you may look down your nose at a woman like this and her modus operandi  but she is one of many thousands of women (Ukraine and elsewhere) whose only hope of having some kind of a life other than the scrappy one that awaits them, is to do something this crazy. It is crazy and desperate. Some of these brides flip once they have the passport – dump the husband. Others are trapped by their ‘agents’ in a never-ending spiral of debt. In this book, the Ukrainian bride’s prospects are actually better than some.  At least she had something to go back to.

The topic of war, natural disaster and subsequent displacement raises endless questions about what we should be doing. Throughout history people have been having their lives dismantled, cast into the unknown with only their own society’s norms, (or fragments thereof) as survival kits. Some are too young to even have been assimilated into their own culture, let alone another.

When I bring displacement into the context of my own South African life –  the main destination for African migrants and refugees in Africa – the same applies here as in any country. The refugee or migrant population are perceived to be the ones who do the illegal stuff and menial jobs. There are those more fortunate, who bring money into the country and start a small business in the area they live in. What happens in many cases to these hard-working migrants, is that they get targeted by locals and have their place burnt down. Xenophobia, in post-Apartheid South Africa. They are a threat to the people battling along in the same channels. It a very sad state of affairs. As for the menial work – everyone knows it is better to hire a Malawian or Zimbabwean to do a paint job or some gardening. They are harder workers and honest. They are also desperate.

Look into your own life – if you are reading this you have access to a computer, the internet, and some idle time to read a random blog post. Around you and in your life are people who are displaced from their societies, by age, disablement, broken relationships, by voluntary immigration. It is an amazing thing how we somehow continuously try to adapt and tell the story of mankind.


Information:

‘A Pale view of Hills’, Kazuo Ishiguro – Orange Shortlist 2011  – Sir Kazuo Ishiguro  OBE FRSA FRSL

‘Beasts of No Nation’, Uzodinama Iweala – Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Public Library Young Lions 2006 Fiction Award, and the 2006 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’, Marina Lewycka – Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize; Waverton Good Read Award, 2005/6, short-listed for Orange Prize for fiction, 2005.

Goodreads

 

 

 

My Very First Book

Cover Art – Meghan McKeag

There are ten Flash Fiction tales here for the reader who would like a quick e-book read. Note that pricing varies across platforms but that is to do with cost-structuring, not the contents of the book.

I highly recommend Draft2digital for self-publishing. They are efficient and friendly. The process is easy to understand with a good turnaround time for answering questions.

Point of interest, I am a South African so some of my stories are set here. The stories are tinged with light and dark humour – I’ll leave it at that!

I would love your feedback if you read ‘NOT MUCH HONOUR’

Links to my e-book:

Kindle

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

Rakuten Kobo

Scribd

 

Link to Draft2digital:

Draft2digital

 

I read the news today, oh boy …


The News.
 
Soccer star
In light plane
missing
in mountains
People are chanting
singing
holding vigil
for their hero
Meanwhile…
Innocent people,
beaten up
by  rival political party
In a country
that held such promise
We will strike
We don’t care
if they kill us
We are starving anyway
While…
Scientists are closer
to finding a vaccine
for Alzheimers
Meanwhile…
People starve
as rival religious factions
break buildings
remove hope
and two men
stand by the roadside
selling beautiful
hand-made cloth
to soldiers
While…
Black Panther,
the movie
wins awards
While…
The earth is dying
Say the leading scientist
and a future king
We will all have
self-driven cars
says multi-billionaire.

Some writing about my gran …

My Granny’s Hands.

My Granny’s hands
were soft and big,
square and strong.

Some days
they smelt of pickled onions
which she’d bottle,
in our kitchen with its
steam-covered walls.
Eyes, streaming.

On days when the wind
blew the leaves around,
her hands, busily baking,
would be covered in flour.

When she played the piano
her squat fingers
with blocky fingernails,
just somehow
looked like little piano keys.

They would be
deft and smooth,
As she dealt cards
for our Rummy game,
rhythmically,
with the rain pattering
outside.

On chilly mornings,
Granny’s hands
would tuck
my small, cold feet
into the hem
of her soft,
flannel nightgown,
as I cuddled with her
in bed.

This morning
I studied my hands
as they cradled
their memories
forever tucked,
into creases
and folds.
Sunspots sprinkled
on wrinkling skin.
Blocky fingers
that play guitar.

 

In memory of Rhoda Baker, 1881 – 1960

Greetings Cards, Wall Art and other animals

original.jpgInktober was over and my pens, ink and paper were still lying around. I was doodling away one day when I came up with the idea of doing a postcard for my friend Alison. Alison has many hobbies and skills – writing, blogging, Mahjong-playing and dessert-making, to name a few … Post-crossing is another and at some point she had given me the heads up on the ‘sleeping’, well, comatose market in South African-themed or simply, South African-made postcards. We just don’t seem to do this much – unless you go in for hippos/ wildlife or traditional African themes from the sixties. Perhaps it has something to do with email or our sometimes dodgy post service. I kind of feel that wherever you are in the world, a post/greetings card, once sent, is truly something that you hope will arrive at its destination. Something that enters a postal service anywhere is a pretty vulnerable item – unless you courier it. So postcards or greetings cards in themselves represent a whim, an element of chance and are really such fun when you get one. And sometimes when you receive a particularly scuffed one, you really wonder where it’s been.

My first postcard was themed on Alison’s beloved kitty-kat, Chocolat – and she received it, seeming pretty chuffed with her personalised greeting. She lives across town so this doubled as testing the postal service. Christmas was approaching so I decided to do two Christmas postcards, also featuring a pet in each. These I sent out to 30 people – locally. Almost all of them arrived and family and friends were delighted!  From there on I did a few ‘custom’ Christmas cards, featuring various other friends’ beloved pets. This was fun – I worked from selected pics which they had snapped along the way. Some of the pets I had met, some I hadn’t – so I put together little ‘stories’ against a Christmas / ‘holidays’ backdrop and in one case, as I got going, more of a Valentine’s theme.

 


About my Links:

HelloprettySA

Do yourself a favour. Look around this wonderful site. There is stuff here to make you drool. South African artists and crafters at their BEST.

Postcrossing

Postcrossing is also a lovely hobby and community to join.

Despatches from Timbuktu

Alison’s blog – filled with interesting articles, book reviews – and links to her other sites.


Apprentices on the beach

Me wearing my precious blue gown miserably going to paint ‘colourways’ (when I was a textile designer). Freelancing meant double shifts – and we painted with gouache on board. Drawing done of me by my ex-husband Douw – very much a ‘first tier’ artist and very hilarious and sarcastic …

I have been quiet for a while as I have been busy inking and colouring a children’s book for a private client as well as doing some proofreading for her. On reflection I wonder how it feels to be a ghost writer. You write away but you don’t get any credits and could have been sitting on the beach getting smashed,  suntanning, whatever, for days on end in the time that you were actually writing. Nobody would know! Maybe they don’t even believe you.

These days one has to attach your name to every little thing you do to promote yourself and also to show everyone what a busy, industrious bee you’ve been. However there are some fields where you can’t really do this.

There have been incredible artists that were either illustrators or comic artists pre-computers (and there are still fantastic artists today). But as an inking artist or colourist, you are kind of a ‘second tier’ artist – like the legions of animation, comic inkers and colourists for Disney and Marvel etc. who have come and gone and no one knows who they were. Essential to the entire process – but visible no, that was not really a big part of it. It was the apprenticeship that was the thing.

Another field I was involved in was textile design – there again – it required artistic and creative skill – but this was also a field where your artistry – if you were lucky – got you more work. But you would never become famous. It was a humble craft – much as with many other crafts. My designs are on dresses and other outerwear that have gone out of fashion a long time ago.

I think of the Japanese ceramicists who produce work that is a product of so much skill, years of experience, of sensitivity and taste. Or of the artists that painted on ceramics all down the ages – or who created prints for fabrics. The breathtaking designs and patterning on Churches, temples, mosques all around the world. Who were these people who produced this painstaking and beautiful work?

I think about all these artists, crafters working away quietly and enriching all our lives by making our surroundings beautiful. They help to create fantasy worlds for us in movies, print media and games. Or by decorating bland or ugly spaces and artifacts. They make and have always made our world interesting, fun or inspirational, all of them apprentices slowly becoming masters of their crafts. Lifetimes spent perfecting a skill.

And sometimes when I sit here alone at two in the morning in front of my computer, inking and colouring, I try and picture some other crafter in another era, painting away quietly and imagine us keeping each other company. Together we are enjoying the pleasing shapes and colours we are making. Together we leave our marks on something, somewhere at least, for a brief moment in time.

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