When it is hot, the garden smells of the wild curry bush, pungent and spicy. I love the smell but many local people hate it because they want sweet flowery spring fragrances.
When I am not walking in the veld looking at pink and black proteas like feathery wild crowns, I am reading China Mieville, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, and, by way of light relief, a Donna Gillespie novel about a woman seer living in deep Germanic forests at the time of the Roman occupation, yet another historical niovel deeply indebted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. I love reading about people deeply and romantically and irrationally embedded in nature, talking with trees and being warned by eagles and staring at the moon for messages. My secular 21st-century mind shuts down and I become primitive and atavistic and like a child in thrall to fairy tales. All the fault of Grimm and Perrault, whose fairy tales were my childhood reading along with tales from classical Rome and Greece.
And listening to Glenn Gould playing The Goldberg Variations, sublime music from the craziest and yet most lucid pianist of our times. The genius of Gould, crouched on the uncomfortable low chair his father made for him as a child, mumbling and humming and singing the notes to himself, transported, gesturing. If you have never seen ecstacy in creation before, this is it. Bach wrote these variations as a kind of lullaby to help him sleep, but Gould turns them into a vital and energising wake-up call.
Maurice Blanchot translated by the pithy short story writer Lydia Davis:
I have wandered: I have gone from place to place. I have stayed in one place, lived in a single room. I have been poor, then richer, then poorer than many people. As a child I had great passions, and everything I wanted was given to me. My childhood has disappeared, my youth his behind me. It doesn’t matter. I am happy about what has been. I am pleased by what is, and what is to come suits me well enough.
Is my life better than other peoples lives? Perhaps. I have a roof over my head and many do not. I do not have leprosy, I am not blind, I see the world—what extraordinary happiness! I see this day, and outside it there is nothing. Who could take that away from me? And when this day fades, I will fade along with it—a thought, a certainty, that enraptures me.
I have loved people. I have lost them. I went mad when that blow struck me, because it is hell. But there was no witness to my madness, my frenzy was not evident: only my innermost being was mad. Sometimes I became enraged. People would say to me, Why are you so calm? But I was scorched from head to foot; at night I would run through the streets and howl; during the day I would work calmly….