Friday, September 28, 2012


The chard seems to have grown inches in a few days. The question is, will I be able to leave it alone to make those long, gorgeous stalks, or will I nibble away at the edges like a rabbit, or a roof rat.

I don't think we have roof rats. Le chat noir is on guard. Roof rats he would slay, chop-chop. But he will have nothing to do with squirrels. He thinks they are bad juju. Must be something in his past.

I am training myself to be a better eye witness. I scrutinize the plants with an intense scrute and then the next day I scrutinize them again to see if anything has changed. A missing leaf? A cut stalk? The squirrel changes things. Dig, dig, digdigdigdig.

I am a terrible eye witness. I know. I've had two policeman, armed to the teeth, padded in bullet proof vests, sitting on my parents' solid couch in my father's study looking at me with undisguised contempt as I tried to answer their questions about two burglary suspects. It was very embarrassing, and very sobering. I was the one who had a feeling that something odd was happening next door - and it was - but could I tell the cops what the two young people were wearing? No. I had not the first idea. I just knew they were going to do something.

And so I train myself. On the roof, looking at the Swiss chard. It helps that it stays in one place. I practise on the street,  noting baseball caps and colours of dresses, and what jackets could be dropped in a hurry, and what is underneath. Like the man stealing plants at Kirstenbosch; when he noticed me noticing him, he took off the jacket and left smartly. It's not the clothes I see. It's the way someone walks, the way their head moves, or the look in their shoulders. Those things are interesting.

It's like tasting wine. I have the wrong language for it. Vince and I crack each other up with our wine tasting notes. He's pretty good. But all I can do is describe wine in terms of music. I taste notes. I don't taste or smell cherries and black pepper. I taste high and low, and lyrical and brassy and it's a string section with a little trombone action thrown in. Major key.

Well, it is Friday.

I never promised all sense, all the time.

I deliver my book's manuscript on Monday. My kind editor has given me a few day's breathing room beyond that for pictures, which is wonderful. The last six months have charged past.

I can tell you how they felt, but don't ask me what they were wearing.
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