Mandoza Moment


I was sad when I heard about kwaito star, Mandoza’s death this week.  My thoughts have drifted back constantly for the last few days to the day I met him. The Muse has hauled me out of bed to try and capture my recollections as fuzzy and elusive as they are.

It was a brief meeting – as I remember it- a hot summer’s day in Soweto.

I was volunteering for the Reach for a Dream Foundation that works with children who have life-threatening illnesses. The idea is that there is a lot of power in dreams so the Foundations tries to make these brave ones’ dreams come true to help them to fight their illness and bring them joy.

Many of the details are gone, dissolved in the mists of time, and yet they hover in multi-coloured snippets and sound bites in my mind.

Gomolemo was about eight or nine if my memory serves me correctly.

His dream was to have a birthday party. He had never had one before.

Everyone associated with Children’s’ Oncology Ward at Baragwanath Hospital got swept up in the excitement of the planned b’day celebration. Patients and staff alike offered suggestions to make the day memorable and I remember us all trying to keep the focus on the guest of honour : young Gomolemo.

I can’t remember whether Gomolemo specifically requested his presence or whether the other young people decided it was a good idea.  All I know is, Mandoza was invited.

He was late in arriving – that much I do know.  He made an entrance.  Like a star! With razzmatazz, sun glasses, an impressive entourage and lots of gifts.  A huge stuffed cat – either a tiger or a leopard  was one of the offerings (one I found a bit strange!) and bright takkies with colourful trimmings.

As I write this, my soul is filled again with the sound of his music- a pulsating back-track to the festivities. Excited children running around and all the feasting and fun complete with balloons and colour. I sense lots of blue balloons, green grass and the austere concrete patches at the back of the ward as I try to recall it all.

As a regular visitor I was so used to the children, their stories and their amazing spirits that I was quite taken aback when Mandoza suddenly left and was found a little while later crying in the car.  He was overwhelmed with sadness and had to be coaxed out.

I remember this so clearly because one of the administrators, Aida, teased me and asked what I had done to the star to make him cry?  It became an anecdote I have loved to tell: the day I made Mandoza cry.

And now, some eleven years later, social media brings me the news of his death at the age of 38.  I am amazed and bewildered because I can’t believe how young he must have been at Gomolemo’s party.  He seemed so big, so powerful like his music (and yet, so vulnerable too). That’s celebrity for you right there, I suppose!

My heart goes out to his loved ones and I am so glad to read that people consider him and his music to have been a uniting force in our beloved country.

Most of all I hope that there were people and moments – small personal dreams – that helped him in his battle against cancer and that Gomolemo was glad to see him when he arrived Home.


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Behind the scenes


A couple of weeks ago I went to Cape Town with my daughter to the Artscape Theatre.

Backstage nogal.

She has been working at a High School for the last couple of years teaching drama and producing plays for competitions. I have followed her efforts from afar and went to see each of the productions at least once.

This year I went twice and the second time I really got to see her in action.

We travelled to the school in my little red Jimney and even stopped at a popular fast food joint which will remain unnamed!  I only mention this because I realized afterwards that it was an adult version of a ritual she and I shared when we still lived in Johannesburg.  We would sneak away, buy take-aways and sit at the Emmerentia Dam in the car scoffing the guilty treat – just the two of us.

I was amazed when the bus that was to take Marguerite and her cast to the theatre arrived and children appeared from nowhere (well actually from inside the school!). They proceeded to pack the trailer with all their props.  She stood and watched. I was gobsmacked. It was like magic. No cajoling or irritation – just one, two , three and the trailer was packed and the children filed into the bus.

Same thing when we got to the theatre- they unpacked without being told. Everyone seemed to know exactly what to do.  Marguerite put down a bag and a few of the young people proceeded to touch up the props with spray paint. Let me just interrupt myself here to say I happened to witness the creation of said props. As I did the previous year.  In fact, it has become something of tradition for me to help with the costumes and props – even if it is just to provide the space for the operation! Or give moral support in times of stress.

Our shed here at Witvoets Kloof became a factory for the production of little green men one year–well toy soldiers actually. Very effective they turned out to be.

Every year we trawl the Hospice Shops in our various towns in search of just the right outfit for each child. She carries a book with her with their measurements and shows me pictures that they send her by WhatsApp of the clothes and shoes they have found for their role. Her standard reply: “Lovely , bring them all and we will choose together “ or something to that effect. She seems to know exactly what we are looking for. She has picture of what each character must look like.

At the theatre we have two proper dressing rooms complete with a security system with a code that has to be punched in and remembered! Check the age gap – they all (Marguerite included) whip out their phones and tap the numbers in whilst I laboriously scratch around in my handbag in search of a pen and paper.

Inside there are mirrors with lights, lockers and a rail to hang costumes on , even a shower– the whole toot.

At a certain time we need to be at the back entrance to the stage ready for our “technical run –through”.  Here I giggle because my daughter utters the following in a no nonsense voice :

“ Julle is 14h45 hier. En ek praat nie van ‘Ek haat vir Juffrou tyd nie’ – 14h45!! Het julle dit?”

That little inter-change gives me a glimpse of what has gone before, I suppose, but all I see now is absolute confidence, grace and focus.

The run- through is another eye-opener.  They all know exactly what to do and when to do it. The cues flow and the young people responsible for the lights and sound manage to sort it all out in the small slot of time allotted to them. Never having been there before!

Just before I leave them to become a member of the audience, they do their warm-up exercises and again I cannot believe how professional, and dare I say, strict and purposeful my daughter appears to be.  She lovingly calls her cast : “ my kiddies” or ”the kiddies”, but now she treats them like actors- professional performers and it shows in the end result.  I am humbled and amazed , thinking back to my days of teaching.  My beautiful child seems to exude an authority and natural discipline I struggled to elicit at the best of times.

As they all obediently practice their sounds I am reminded of the film “As it is in Heaven” and the workshops Marguerite’s father used to run.  It feels to me, for a brief brief moment, that he is there, in the dressing room with us. As proud of her as I am!

When the time comes, I watch all the performances – theirs and two other school’s efforts. I experience the joy and disappointment of awards received or missed.

My mother heart is thrilled when she receives recognition for the text which she wrote with the children’s input. I am thrilled when one of the judges remark on their level of discipline and the obvious hard work that has gone into producing the play. This he deduced from their ability to do scene changes perfectly in the dark!

Afterwards I think of so many things: little things that touch my soul and bring me back to this experience for days until now. These things that call me to write.

I think of the references she builds into her texts that honour moments in her life: her darling father’s early death and my affectionate nickname for her (“Droomkind”). I realize with awe that whilst she will always be my child, my daughter , born of my womb, the child I dreamed of and longed for, she is truly an adult.  An admirable human being who gives of herself so fully that I can only stand in awe of it all.

I love that she is teaching her pupils to trawl the Hospice Shops in search of costumes and clothes, that she builds a tiny piece of herself , of us, into her plays , her life.

I am grateful that I have seen her like this: purposeful, powerful and loving…oh so loving.  Filled with her ancestors’  love of the youth and teaching, but so much more too.

A beautiful Being inside and out.

A woman born on Woman’s Day!

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Far from home

I have been missing my mother for the past week or so. Probably because of Mother’s Day.

I wrote this story many years ago in her honour.


I made this collage of my favourite pictures of her when I was mourning her death in 2005

For Hester

Ruby glided out of the Light bubble where she had been resting in search of her friends. Spirals and pulses of brilliant ruby red light shot from her as she vibrated with excitement. True to her name her Light body, a mass of light tendrils in the shape of a lotus flower with a succulent jewel like centre glowed brilliantly.

She slid down the maze of beams, pausing only to merge briefly with those she knew. As they met their colours joined, mixed and became one – a new hue. Briefly they danced forming a beautiful unique new vortex of bright colour . Then they parted ways and wafted on – each in their own direction. She acknowledged the few Elders she saw along the way. When she saw their distinctive delicate pure white beams, she shot a pulse of her purest,deepest Light from her centre to theirs, as was the custom.

She connected telepathically to the sound of the angels singing and surfed the sound wave to her destination.

In the distance she saw a glowing tower/dome – the temple of Light.  It was already full when she reached it. The emerald columns seemed almost solid – the light was so powerful. Flitting her way through the rainbow throng she found her space close to the pure white altar floating in the centre of the Sacred Hall. The sight of the shimmering garnet, emerald and rose crystals beaming around the temple bed made her bow. Her Light dipped in reverence sending a wave of red stars rippling towards first the floor and then the ceiling of the temple. She was gripped by an almost overpowering urge to merge with the crystal beams.

Ruby watched as the Elders’ column like shafts of pure light leaned forward, brushing the new arrivals with their white light.  Touching each part of them gently, dissolving the murkiness they had brought back. Until their own Light shone brightly again. One by one they spiralled up, pulsing ,dipping and dancing as they discovered their freedom from matter. Became part of the multi-coloured congregation once again.

Delighted by the joy and happiness she felt as their vibrations reached her, she swayed in unison. Her being swelled and grew with each new integration. .

“Here again? “Violet joked, “Don’t you ever get tired of it? Come, there’s something I want to tell you. Come on, Ruby… you won’t believe what I have to tell you.”

Her friend had caught her unawares. It was only when she felt Violet’s pulse right next to her, insistent, that she opened herself to her friend’s message.

Reluctantly Ruby trailed after Violet.

“What is it, Violet? “she transmitted, careful not to show her irritation at being called away from her favourite occupation.

“You’re going. It’s your turn. Can you believe it , you lucky ray? “

“No, can’t be. I’m not ready . How’d you know? You sure? Don’t joke about things like that,” Ruby signalled, feeling the flashes of joy shoot out of her.

Violet darted and circled catching the bright red stars. She played with them, forming a ring around her own Light. She sparkled with glee.

“Well, I just happened to intercept a thought form on it’s way between Archangel Gabriel and Lord Kathumi.  Your ceremony is next. I’m sure, girlfriend. Ruby of the Fifth Ray, they said. So you better get ready.  Be sure you know what you want this time round. Have you asked Blue Seven  if he’s going with you?“ Violet formed a question mark as she wove in and out of her companion’s field.

Ruby tried to contain the spirals of brightly coloured sparks pulsing and bursting from her core.  “No, he’s doing the Forgiveness circuit.  I was thinking of a fun one this time. Maybe Creativity – that’s cool, don’t you agree?  Haven’t done it in eons. Oh well, I’ll just do it the Moment. When the Creator asks,  I’ll just say whatever is in me then.”

At the ceremony she hovered, waiting reverently for the Elders to send out their beams. Ready to attach as soon as this happened. The Hall of Life was even bigger than she remembered. She was glad her friends were there.  The dome was a pearly, irridescent white. The whole space sparkled with Light. Every Being wore their very best Light.  The Love and Presence of the Creator was so strong here. Even stronger than in the Healing Temple. She knew when they opened the Book of Life, kept in the crystal chest on the elevated rotating beam, she would feel herself expand into nothingness.

But first, the River of Forgetfulness. Her mentor had explained it to her.

“Forgetting is part of the process .  So we can experience things for the first time. What we have already learnt, remains part of us though. And, dear One , we all carry Home with us in our deepest core. When you truly need it, it will come to your aid. We are always a thought away even though you may not consciously remember that it is so.” Lord Kathumi’s words danced in her as she drifted in the water light, playfully twisting and turning as she had been instructed to ensure all parts of her were cleansed.

Emerging from the fluid blue band of light she felt the Elders and her friends form a circle of love around her. She felt their pulsing as her own.  After a brief pause, she surrendered into the Love. Saw the tunnel open and readied herself …


Great speed and a rush of stars against blackness as she sped through space accelerating and expanding until she was no longer.


Gradually a faint light seeped into her consciousness. A dim and pinkish-orange colour. She felt a strange sensation. A heaviness and restrictedness that was unfamiliar. There was a strange thumping sound that came to her as if from far.

DOEF doef DOEF  doef .

It was rhythmic and predictable. One loud, one soft. Over and over again – never-ending. Filling the space around her. It was all encompassing, yet it seemed muffled by layers of fluid.

The fluid grew thicker and began to take a shape around her. In fascination she felt the hull grow and morph into shapes. Four main appendages each ending in a host of finer tendrils.

Later Ruby heard a new DOEF doef . This one closer . So close that it seemed to be in her. It played along with the main sound – mostly in sync.

Then other sounds joined, mainly two different kinds. One soft, gentle and near. The other came from a distance . It was deep and loud.

When the loud sound was particularly harsh, the fluid would contract . Waves would slosh around her and she would feel something she didn’t know. It was like excitement, but harder and somehow not right. Gentle Sound would come then. Slowly, the churning would stop and the fluid would come to rest – be peaceful again.

It seemed to Ruby that Gentle Sound was around more. Loud Sound much less.

As the new smaller bumps formed around the top of her, she could distinguish different tones in Gentle Sound and Loud Sound. The sounds flowed like the fluid around her. Up and down, soft and loud. Sometimes long and smooth and rhythmic and at other times short and abrupt. Stopping and starting.

The pod always responded …peaceful and soothing or upsetting and rough.

Loud Sound:“ I don’t have time for this. Can’t you see I’m busy? You’re the one who wanted this. I’m still studying. We should have waited.”

Gentle Sound: “ I didn’t do it on purpose. It must be God’s will.”

Loud Sound : “ Ok, ok don’t get upset. It ‘ll be alright.  Not long now.“

Gentle Sound : “ I ‘m terrified. It ‘s just… there’s no way out now.“

Ruby felt the pressure around her as Gentle Sound spoke. It was in her too now. This unknown strange excitement with the hard edge. It was growing stronger all the time.

When it was almost too much to bear, Ruby felt a pulling and a pushing that turned her upside down. The sides of the pod closed in on her and she felt herself propelled downwards. Scrambling she tried to right herself, to crawl back to the safety of the DOEF doef sound.

But it was too strong and now Gentle Sound was no longer gentle and soft. An eeiry, twisting sound.

Mmmmm. Eina. Oeh . Eina .

Silence punctured by other short sounds. Again the twisty sounds gripping her and tossing, pinching and squeezing her. Down towards something she sensed she wouldn’t like.

The vice around her and the torturous sounds. Over and over again the drawing down.. Scrambling back. Sounds from afar urging and pushing her and Gentle Sound.  Pushing them both.

As if from nowhere came the message: Let go, Ruby. Surrender. Let it happen. It’s the only way.

“ There’s the head now. One more push. Good. At last . It’s a girl. You have a little girl.”

Gentle Sound: “ Let me hold her. Where is she? I want to hold my baby.”

Through the harsh light and cold air she felt herself carried and placed in warmth.  A softness that felt like Home. She could still hear the DOEF doef sound very faintly beneath her. She felt the wetness on her skin and the soft stroking of the One on whom she lay.

Then she was lifted up and she heard her mother say : “She’s all red. So tiny and perfect. Ohhhh….I can see God in her eyes”.

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To err is human- to forgive Divine!


Last night I happened to be tuned into RSG and learnt that President Jacob Zuma would be addressing the nation on the ruling of the Constitutional Court .

Dare I admit that there was a small part of me that hoped against hope that for some inexplicable reason the man would resign!! An even bigger part of me begged all that is true and good and sane to make this happen. Somehow!

I thought the speech was quite well-written. If anyone else had delivered it, it might even have worked to spin the situation.

Unfortunately all I felt as I listened, was rage. Pure and simple.

My ears rang with his maniacal laugh . There were flashes in my brain of his derisive and disrespectful conduct in parliament.

I admit he managed to deliver this speech with far less mispronunciation of words than usual. Thankfully it contained no numbers for him to mangle.

When he dared to tell us that we should be proud of the constitution and of how things went down I raced to the bedroom for my blood pressure pills!! Only kidding – my blood pressure is fine. It just felt as if my top would blow!.

I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs: how dare you talk about pride or presume to tell us anything…

I didn’t though .

I didn’t want to frighten the dogs or my love, but the anger I felt was huge. HUGE!

As he proceeded to talk and talk and deny all responsibility and at the same time utter the phrase :” I unreservedly apologize” I almost wept from pure frustration. I mean really. If he did nothing wrong, “just followed a different route” what is he apologizing for ?

Most of the apologies I have made in my life have been preceded by an admission of guilt or at the very least an acknowledgement of the other person’s point of view. Surely…admitting one is wrong is part of the process?

Then there was the fact that, try as I might, I simply did not believe a single word he said. Not one. He might as well have been reciting Dr Zeus’s Cat in the Hat! It was all gobble-dee-gook.

I, who have had to forgive some pretty big things in my life (even if I say so myself) felt absolutely no compassion or inclination to believe, never mind forgive!!

I ask myself: was I alone in my reaction? Judging from the newspaper headlines this morning it would appear not. In fact, my reaction seems to be pretty standard – at least in some circles.

I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like being ashamed of my country’s leader.

How on earth could he (and his advisors!) have chosen April Fool’s Day to talk about all of this?? Or is the joke still on us?

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The more things change, the more they stay the same

Me in germany

I am in my father’s house. In the room where I woke up crying “ I want my mommy” after my mother died on the operating table during what was supposed to be a routine procedure. No warning. No goodbye.

This house and this place, Stellenbosch, evoke a myriad of diverse memories  and feelings for me.  Some of them wonderful and moving. Others not so much. Downright grim some of them are.

We visited my maternal grandmother here when I was a child. Later as a student I strode back to my res with an armful of inca lilies from her garden in Rowan  Street.  A young man almost feel off his bicycle at the sight. A random cameo I have always treasured as a fond memory of my life as a student here.

Our visits when I was a child are linked in my mind to the sound of doves. Today as I woke up, I was surprised to hear birds.

This house, this place has changed so much. As places do. My father’s house is now surrounded by monstrous blocks of student accommodation. Modern boxes filled with noise and aggravation for the unfortunate neighbours.

Arriving here yesterday I had to negotiate parked cars blocking half the road with the other half obscured by two chatting students and another on a skateboard with music blaring from his person. My father’s yard was strewn with rubbish thrown over the fence without a thought.

My father is surely earning himself the reputation of neighbor from hell.  He is in a constant state of battle and spends  a great deal of his time writing letters of protest to all and sundry. Or phoning those supposedly in charge of this lot. Only to hear the parents can’t believe their children are so callous and inconsiderate!

For the umpteenth time I tell my father it is futile. Not a battle he can win.

He pretends to listen and returns to his windmill jousting  as soon as I am otherwise occupied.

I am phoning people to try and find homes for his precious papers, books and equipment – a lifetime of academic work and knowledge. Trying to support him to simplify  his life. So that he can move to a  place where he will have peace and quiet. Something my brothers and I have been urging him to do for years now – to no avail. Now at the age of ninety his time is running out and he knows it.

Last night we talked about many things: writing and death and what needs to be done.  He tells me earnestly of his desire to leave a legacy.  I understand and realize  my youngest brother, Jacques, is so right about how important his stuff is to him and why. I want to wail after a day of trying to help –  that this will never work. No solution will be good enough or right unless it is his idea. Executed his way!

And then I realize the more things change ,  the more they stay the same. The birds still sing in Stellenbosch.

My father already has a legacy.

We are his legacy. My two brothers and me. He will live on in us. In our propensity to fight battles we cannot win, our love of books, our love for him and one another.



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The persistent pernickety pursuit of perfection

Picture of Nature's perfection taken by recent Fynbos Retreat guest, Sheryl

Picture of Nature’s perfection taken by recent Fynbos Retreat guest, Sheryl

I have often blithely referred to my desire to do things perfectly as :”The greatest form of self-abuse”. Do you think my knowing that or saying it to all who will give me the time of day, has cured me? No such luck!

I suffer greatly from the persistent pernickety pursuit of perfection.

This, despite the fact that I have a rather entertaining anecdote from my far-flung youth that should have put a permanent end to my self-torture. Or, at the very least, put it into perspective so that I can remind myself that to want to do things perfectly is just not on!

Whilst working in the civil service in communications I stumbled on a whole batch of beautiful Christmas cards in a safe. Many boxes of them. They were made of a very high quality corrugated cardboard with a gilt edge and our country’s emblem embossed in gold on the front!

You get the idea…perfect, they were!

Except for one small detail – we had been going through a series of changes of leadership. We jokingly said that our ministers were being changed the way some people change under pants – frequently! With the result that the leaf inside was obsolete as it wished the reader a Merry Christmas from a long since despatched minister and his dutiful spouse.

What to do, what to do? I mean, what a waste. These beautiful cards just useless –laying there. What happened next, I have often said, is something my friends really should help me with. I got a bright idea! Nowadays when I recall what followed, I always say: please if I ever say again I have a bright idea, do me a favour: just bang my head against the wall until it goes away, because it is going to mean work – lots of work…

So I look at the lovely, white cards and I think: why don’t I take the dated leaflet out and replace it with one that I have designed on the computer. Ooh, I could make different ones! One for birthdays, or for congratulations when babies are born or, or, or. It could all be linked to our new corporate culture of excellence in communication.

Cor blimey! What fun. So I convince the head of the organization (whose personal assistant I happen to be)that it would be a wonderful idea to use these cards for internal communication. We could send one to each employee on their birthday or their baby’s birthday or sommer – for whatever reason!. Lekker man lekker.
So I beaver away and I design and I print and all is more than well. Until I send out a first batch and find to my absolute dismay that there is a spelling error right slap bang in the middle of my painstakingly created masterpiece.

My joy drains faster than water from a bath as I wail plaintively : why, why? I tried so hard.

My wise boss smiles and says: “Didn’t you know, Perdita, that the Persians build a mistake into every single carpet they weave on purpose because they believe to be perfect is sacrilegious – only God is perfect”.

Now here’s the thing – I truly believe we are all little bits of God in flesh containers …so.. that means we are perfect just the way we are. Warts and all! To strive to do things well (ahmm..perfectly) is quite frankly – really not necessary at all!

It’s that old, old thing. Of being and doing.

So let me look at the perfect starry sky above Witvoets Kloof and go to sleep before the day begins with it’s striving and doing in the sure and sound knowledge that we are all truly perfect.

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If not me, then who?



Biker Chick

Biker Chick

As sometimes happens, I have this concept, this phrase, this thing sloshing around in me.

It is time to try and get it down.To write!

I have been tired again. Understatement of the year! We chose to spend this winter expanding one of the cottage’s at Fynbos Retreat instead of resting. What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time.

In my sheer exhaustion, I kept on thinking if I don’t have compassion with myself, who will? I found myself weepy and tearful about events long past and supposedly forgotten. Some of them might even have been classified as regrets. That is, if I actually believed in such things. I don’t…having decided long ago that there is no point.

It was the weirdest feeling. The events would start to come up – surface. Before I could properly recall the circumstances and even the people involved, I would hear this little voice saying: “If I don’t have compassion for the girl, the woman, the person I was then, who will?”

It was fascinating too, to wonder about this thing that happens when I am tired. How I am automatically sad. As if there is a deep well of sadness somewhere in me (dare I say in us, especially in women!). It lies hidden and calm until my defences are low and then there it is!

Interesting that I no longer feel the need to analyse the event or the feeling even, but just know with absolute soft and gentle clarity that the Perdita I was then, was doing the very best she could. At that given moment in time with the resources she had and the knowledge- with who she was then.

This phrase, this concept calls me to smile and accept the various versions of me that have existed in all the different phases and circumstances of my life to date. To forgive and tenderly embrace myself with the very same empathy and compassion I try to give others.

I have been many people along the road. All these people had their reasons and motivations for doing the things they did. In the early morning light as I write this I love them all, forgive them all and welcome them all as facets of the diamond that is me today.

I know for sure, whatever they did or said or were…it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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