Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oh, sleep

We landed mid-morning at Cape Town International, caught a shuttle to Constantia, were fed a lunch of thin ham and sweet orange melon under the tree, with pink bubbly to wash it down, and then I passed out and slept for four hours straight. Vince said it was the deepest I'd slept since he could remember. He hears my breathing.

He woke me at 7pm. I didn't know where I was, thought it might be Monday.We started a braai fire in what we call the Mickey Mouse braai - it's small, but fierce. Its smoke went straight up into the warm and windless evening, the perfume of jasmine and roses thick in the green garden.

We had supper on the patio, the corgis at our feet. Frogs started to croak. A slight chill rose off the stream in the poplars and nudged the heat off the day.

It had been a hop across the cold Atlantic, and a long slide down Africa, vast continent. Home.

When this trip was planned I was rather dismayed at the timing - too soon after our move! But as it turned out, I was more than ready to leave. After the initial culture shock, I like Harlem. And I love the bones of the apartment - its tall ceilings, the extra space. I have become more used to the darker interior days, the vanishing sunlight.

But I haven't had an uninterrupted sleep or peaceful morning in six weeks.

Noise. Chairs being pulled out above, footsteps back and forth. A child running and yelling below, dishes being taken out of a cupboard, a mother talking, fans working - ordinary things, for the most part. But there is no insulation between the old wooden floors and every sound is transported and magnified. We tiptoe around barefoot as we hear our own floorboards creak. In fourteen years in New York I've never experienced anything like it, despite having lived only in old, wooden-floored buildings in this city. I have slept though construction, through Flatbush Avenue traffic, through New York's sirened nights.  But now I am undone.We have bought a white noise machine for the bedroom and Vincent sleeps with ear plugs.

It is beautiful house but it is a deeply restless place.

If you are sleeping  in a quiet place tonight, in a silence unmolested by unexpected and unpredictable human sounds, luxuriate in it.

It is one of the best things there is. And now we have it.

Because if you ask me what I am looking forward to the most in Cape Town, apart from seeing my parents and Tipsy, my first bite of boerewors right off the braai, chasing the corgis around the lawn, a gin and tonic on the evening patio, looking up at the mountain, walking on the mountain...

...ahead of it all?

Peace. Silence. Sleeping right through. The black night of Constantia. The click frogs in the greenbelt. A cricket. Perhaps an owl.

The silence inbetween so thick you can hear it.


  1. Marie,
    I sympathize with your noise problem and hardwood floors. I too suffer from noise and sleep with earplugs. Thankfully my neighbor above takes off his shoes in his apartment.

    To help muffle the noise I've bought area rugs with rubber padding underneath.

    My sympathies,

  2. Being a light sleeper, I understand and thankfully we live in a quite neighborhood and are surrounded one 2 sides by shallow woods, but woods non the less. I hope you relish each moment for all it is worth.
    The picture you shared is so lush and deep, gosh I can't imagine not being relaxed and "at home" here.

  3. You and Vince deserve this peaceful time after your hectic few weeks just gone. ENJOY,

  4. There is nothing worse than not being able to sleep and being disturbed by noise. I sleep with the fan on in my room so most of the noise gets blocked out...thankfully!

  5. My god, what a picture, another world. I sit huddled over my keyboard as winds howl outside.

    Look at that garden! Enjoy, sleep well.

    xo J

  6. Lovely garden and what a lovely way to celebrate you first night home. Our bedroom is at the front of our house near the street which thankfully is relatively quiet except in the summer.

  7. Well in that case I wish you many peaceful, relaxing sleeps while you are home. My husband and I have a similar problem in our London flat and both sleep with earplugs, but I think over time I've become acustomed to noise. When it's quiet it kinda spooks me.
    Claire xx

  8. Welcome back. There are baby (adolescent) owls at Kirstenbosch. I saw 2 on the pathway at dusk last week.

  9. Welcome home! It was so nice to yesterday (Sunday) get an extra dose of you from Rapport's My Tyd magazine.

  10. Blissful...savour : )
    (sleeping right through - want)

  11. welcome back to Cape Town ~ nothing like some "home" time no matter ones age!!

  12. Beautifully written Marie. Enjoy your family, the braais, the corgis etc. but especially getting some good sleep. There is construction by our place. A metal plate temporarily on the roadway and every time a car drives over it in the middle of the night it makes a loud noise and wakes me up. Oh for the bliss of a dark night with only the sound of crickets!

  13. Apartments should have very strict soundproofing requirements, but no one asked me! I've never had a quiet apartment in my adult life.


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