In the heat of the night

Airbonre fire fighters



Temperatures  at the foot of Africa reaching 46 degrees Celsius, 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Heatwave weather and  the Cape peninsula mountains burning. Runaway  veld fires fanned by gale-force hot winds. The firefighters exhausted and  working through the night, helicopters overhead  dousing flames with buckets of sea water. Volunteer wildlife rescues services  taking  tortoises and porcupines off the mountains, snake handlers helping. Homes evacuated, cityfolk offering beds and  shelter.


Home alone this week because the housemate is in the Karoo and I am making  salads for myself with  tall glasses of lime and soda. A jug of iced water at hand as I work. Too damn hot.


At 2am or 3am I wake up breathless from heat, unable to sleep. No smoke or fires out here as yet, but the  landscape looks scorched and charred. We are all waiting for rain and the  dogs lie panting and  I refill their water bowls several times an evening.


Reflecting on landscape and the delusional projections of the explorer or exile, the tension between belonging and unbelonging, what we fail to notice in the familiar. Reading post-colonial Australian  writers, revisiting Patrick White’s Voss, David Malouf, Judith Wright, Tim Winton.


David Malouf


“I knew that the world around you is only uninteresting if you can’t see what is really going on. The place you come from is always the most exotic place you’ll ever encounter because it is the only place where you recognise how many secrets and mysteries there are in people’s lives”



These nights never seem to go to plan

Mid-week and a decreasing pile of work on my desk. The  cheering prospect of fresh fish for supper.

Gauzy butterfly light at dawn, giving way to dense cloud and humidity. Outside the trees pendulous, dark, heavy. The leached yellow of the catalpas, their long seed pods clattering. Indian bean tree, as it is known elsewhere. The myrtle – Australian brush cherry – starry with blossom. Dishevelled sequence of late summer becoming autumn. All night I have been dreaming about a train journey along the coast, small bays and inlets washed with light, scintillating, a dazzle of atomised porous light. From Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, the murderous brother beholding his dead sister: “Cover her face, mine eyes dazzle.” Watching out for something or somebody I could not name, the child in me leaning out of the train window into the sea winds, watching the light as if it was a crystal ball to scry. Years ago a friend gave me a handblown oval of glass and as I raised it in one hand I saw in that convex mirrored surface the reflection of a woman who was not myself, dark-haired with heavy eyebrows and slightly protruding eyes, saying something in a foreign language.


What did I do? I carefully averted my eyes and placed the glass ball on a high mantel between two carved teak bookends and a framed painting of poplar trees on the bank of a river in Normandy. Another landscape scoured with light, poplars like pencilled feathers and the river smooth as an oil slick. You don’t have to embark on every adventure you’re invited to join.


Thinking about making an adapted Yotam Ottolenghi Turkish salad to accompany grilled fish. Oven-roasted courgettes ( zucchini), chunks of eggplant(!), red bell pepper, chopped  ripe plum tomatoes, a handful of juicy pomegranate seeds, rocket, flat-leaf parsley, coriander, a yoghurt dressing flavoured with a hint of cumin, plenty of fresh mint, crushed garlic and lemon juice. Yum, yum.


In the background, Sam Smith singing Stay with Me. Heard so many times before that it sets off a drifting but not unpleasant boredom in me. Like Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. What’s prevalent in the zeitgeist.


An article on the helpfulness of anxiety. As opposed to thinking of anxiety as debilitating, it might be worth considering the value of anxiety as a social check or brace:

MacKuen found that when people’s views…were challenged, they tended to become either anxious or angry. No surprise there. But here’s the interesting part: those who became anxious showed a greater tendency to seek out more information about the policies in question, a greater interest in learning more about both sides of the issue, and – perhaps most surprisingly – an increased willingness to explore new solutions to the problem. The angry folks, by contrast, were less interested in informing themselves, and when they did seek out more information, they tended to just look for things that were in line with their initial views.