Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

The House in Cape Town, 1974


Somewhere along De Waal Drive, at the foot of Table Mountain, is a
stopping point which allows you to walk up the lower slope of the mountain.
Julia Schweitzer (not her real name) and I had walked this road up onto
the grassy slopes of the lower part of the Table a number of times but, one
day, on a whim, I led her up a track to the right where we had never been
and found a house which couldn’t, can’t, be seen from the road, completely
shielded as it is by the close screen of pine trees filling the property.

We came to a gate which was open, and in front of us lay the house,
nestled with its back against the side of the mountain and facing out
over the vast Cape Flats which lead all the way to Stellenbosch. The
house appeared to have been dropped among the trees, so close to the
walls did they stand. The house itself looked quite unlike anything
favoured by the original Dutch settlers of the Cape, or the Mediterranean
style preferred by the English colonialists who followed them which is
best exemplified in the predominance of the Mediterranean architecture of
he University of Cape Town, further around the foot of the mountain on the
same De Waal Drive.

The house was essentially Cubist in style with its walls filled with windows,
many running floor to ceiling. The house had been clearly built in an earlier
era, before the advent of large panel float glass introduced by Pilkington
and others in the nineteen sixties. So the windows were sectioned into foot
by foot panels, supported by angle iron. The house was very slab sided and,
to the best of my recollection, had a flat roof. It was large, not to say,
extensive. Cubist in shape it may have been, but its colouring was drab.
The exterior palette had been chosen to match the greens and browns of the
surrounds. The effect was to blend in to the point of almost invisibility.

A rather aged woman in house clothes, with greying silver hair, glistening
in the dappled late afternoon sun, streaking low through the surrounding
trees, pulled back tight to her head, was gardening in front of the house.
The garden was more a kitchen garden than showpiece, it too blending in
with the surrounding scrub so characteristic of the area.

We, Julia and I, stood in the open gateway spellbound by our discovery,
silent. The woman, sensing our presence, bent up from her work.
Straightening her back with one hand, and pushing a stray grey hair from
above her ear with her wrist, her hands being covered in kitchen gloves,
she turned to look in our direction.

“Come in.” Her voice hailed us in a warm, welcoming
manner across the silence of the trees and the thirty or
forty feet that separated us. A distinct yet undefinable
accent layered through the English. Not South African.

Julia and I scrunched along the stone chip driveway
up to her. And we introduced ourselves, we to her, she to us.

“Let’s go in and have a drink,” she said. “Then I can show
you round the house. You’d like that wouldn’t you?”

We beamed warmly back at her, and followed her round the side of the
house to the kitchen door. Inside, she poured the each of three of us a glass
of wine on a butcher’s block table situated in the centre of the tall ceilinged
kitchen. Then she took us on a tour of the house. As she did so, she told us
the story of how she and husband had come to come to South Africa.

The house had not aged well. Its builders were clearly unfamiliar with the
suitability of the materials being called for by the proud specifying couple
to the climate of the Cape and of its salt laden South Easters. The metal
frames on the windows were flowering, bulging profusely with rust.
Everywhere, fittings and hangings, once pristine, were now prematurely
aged and showing every signs of despairing decay. The atmosphere seemed
more mausoleum than lively household, more archeology than architecture.
A sad remnant of once obvious pride.

Only the artist’s studio, with its abundance of windows, floor to ceiling,
seemed to hold anything like present life. Huge canvases stacked in every
direction hid their faces from us, their subject matter, style, colour,
composition unknown, unknowable; a series of frames and stretchers,
like some newly arrived exhibition, ready for hanging. None that I could
see were hung on the walls and the lady, despite her obvious kindness,
did not offer to display them.

“We came here in 1937,” she told us. “And built this house.”

He was an artist of established reputation in Europe. They foresaw the
terror and horror that the Nazis were about to wreak across the entire face
of Europe and decided to relocate to South Africa. And here they had
remained.

Malcolm D B Munro
Saturday 2 June, 2012

Filed under: poetry

Music in the Poem


Making the lines rhyme
So that the stanzas sing
Having the words beat
So that they ring.

Giving the poem coherence
By choosing a theme
If you can read it
Don’t worry about what it means.

Topic or historical
Either way universal
A poem that lasts and lasts
Lasts eternal.

Poetry for people
To give you the reader pleasure
A jewel, a flower, a butterfly, an incandescent bird
Hold close to  your heart for you to treasure.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 20 April, 2016

Filed under: poetry

The Old Master


The old master
Looks into the gilded mirror
And meets the stare of his sad grey eyes
He counts the furrowed lines etched across his glum face
He hold his ancient palette
With its centuries old paint
The horsehair brush he holds in his left hand
He has painted two hundred and thirty three pictures
In the service of the Prince
All dull and lifeless as the people they portray
Yet he has been acclaimed across half of Europe
God, those painters must be as dull as he
And he paints his masterpiece at seventy two
He has long left the Prince on account of old age
Steps back from the mirror to add a dab of colour
To the canvas behind and back to the mirror
And knows as he paints
That this is by far the best thing he has ever made.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 20 April, 2016

Filed under: Culture, poetry

The Nighttime Chorus in the Garden


It has been raining hard in our part of the world
So hard and so much in fact that it made the international news
Two feet in some parts said the International New York Times
So hard that even my brother sent an email to ask if we’ll all right
Though how you respond to an email when you are under water
I don’t know.

Maybe iPhones are waterproof
I haven’t tried
I’m sure some reader knows.

Anyhow, here we are with a nighttime chorus of frogs
Under a full moon
What I found myself wondering is, where all these frogs come from
And where they go during the weeks and months when we don’t have rain?
And, no, I’m not going to search on the Internet
That’s silly. Just to find out every single thing that you don’t know.

Ignorance is bliss, so they say
And I’m content not to know
Knowing that, when next time it rains, we’ll hear the chorus again.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 20 April, 2016

 

 

Filed under: poetry

The Witch in the Cauldron


The witch in the cauldron
Boiling away
She forgot to put in the carrots
It’s not really her day.

She has to get the potion right
To make her spell
Animal, vegetable, mineral
Or it won’t work too well.

The children gather round laughing
That is their way
They’re all hoping that in the pot
She’ll stay.

For when she comes at night
Bad stories to tell
Frightens them with nightmares
To catch them and take them faraway to sell

If in the pot she doesn’t drow
They’ll pull her out and say she fell
Then they’ll push her down the hill
Where she’ll stumble and tumble to the bottom of the well.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 20 April, 2016

Filed under: poetry

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