My daily routine is hectic. My work is not a half-day job, despite how people perceive teaching: I leave home before 7am and I rarely return before 4.30. As a rule I have homework and I often have weekend and evening functions to attend. I also have two daughters in primary school with their own hectic schedules, homework and social lives. I run a house and I support two pets. I do not have a partner to share any major decision making. In short, I need therapy.
Luckily, I am afforded some time out regularly when my children stay with their other parent. This is often taken up with marking (the work of an English teacher is never, never done) or simply catching up on rest and chores. I do, however, generally try to make good therapeutic use of my time off. I am not the kind of woman who takes pleasure in so-called retail therapy. I generally get very grumpy at the shops. I blame my mom and my older sister. When I was a difficult teenager going through my “goth” phase, shopping became a nightmare because I didn’t like the floral prints they were trying to pick out for me, and they refused to buy me anything black. Besides that, I’m generally broke and have to watch the budget closely (sadly school teachers, even at private schools, are still expected to eke out an existence from peanuts), so shopping is not as pleasing as it might be when you can just buy whatever you want. On top of that, the manipulation of advertising and the constant encouragement to spend what you don’t have on what you don’t need all makes me feel a little ill.
What does rejuvenate me is simple things. I love pottering in my garden and making things grow. Today I painted an old bench bright red. Painting is instant therapy – you can see the results of your actions immediately, it’s easy to do and it’s very hard not to practise mindfulness while you paint – you’ll probably make a big mess if your mind strays too much. I love recycling too, so a project like this just makes me feel revived.
I also find comfort in art. Last weekend I went to not one, but two exhibition openings (a great place to score free wine!). A Cog in the Wheel, A Spanner in the Works is an exhibition by artists Yuill Damaso, John Vlismas (yes, he’s not just funny) and the enigmatic P.A.C-man. I’m not an art critic, and I don’t know how to write about art, suffice it to say that I love art of all sorts. I really like Yuill’s work – and the fact that he uses rust as a medium and makes bold political statements in his art appeal to me. Many of his Mandela works are on display in this exhibition (including the controversial “Night Watch”), as well as a number of rusty flags. And Yiull himself in interesting and inspiring. I met him once through my sister in a crazy Woody-Allanesqe afternoon in Braamfontein where he had a studio. He sports a Dali-like moustache and rides around town on a scooter covered in mirror ball mirrors.
I knew John Vlismas was funny – I remember his early gigs at Wings Beat Bar in Braamfontein and have followed his career since those early 90s days. I howled as he entertained the staff at my school earlier this year – a much toned-down version of his stand up (I think he was concerned he might offend his child’s future head mistress). I didn’t realise that Vlismas was a talented artist though. His work is interesting – looking at human faces and figures from unusual and distorted perspectives. I like it.
Pac-man is just plain controversial. This series is reminiscent of the Sex Pistols – lots of stuff-the-queen discourse, inherently highlighting the artist’s dissatisfaction and frustration with governments around the world, and particularly local politicians like the “African National Circus”. I guess he’s gone with the pseudonym to avoid death threats, like Damaso has has to endure. I highly recommend this exhibition – at Yiull Damaso Artists’ Studio, 56 Buckingham Avenue, Craighall Park (behind the Corner Cafe) which runs until Saturday 9 November.
I also went to the opening of A Photographic Reflection of Jozi at the Parkview Scout Hall. There were some wonderful, surprising shots. On the whole it left me wanting to go on another Joburg adventure with my camera. I appreciated the goodie bag, donated by people who make people smell good. Two exhibitions in one night: entertaining and inspiring.
Another escape from the craziness of my normal daily routine is to meet my best friend at Second Cup – a little restaurant at Weltevreden Farm in John Voster Road (closest corner, JG Strijdom – for real! The fact that the names of Apartheid presidents still adorn streets is a warning bell).
The West Rand is tricky turf for me. I lived there for all my formative years, and still have many wonderful friends there. But, to make generalisations, it is still inherently conservative in nature; in my mind the newer developments along Hendrick Potgieter Road (between Constantia Kloof and Krugersdorp) make up the Bible Belt where people have not embraced the New South Africa. A number of people here home school their children – and not because they’re hippies teaching their kids about mother earth and how not to buy into corporate consumerism. I’m very aware that I’m being judgemental and I’m not altogether comfortable with this. I also don’t want my West Rand friends to think that I cast them in the same light as the people I’m talking about here – my West Rand folk are amongst some of the most evolved, alternative and progressive people I know. I think they’ll understand.
Anyway, Second Cup appears to be a preferred venue for home schooled children to take art and craft lessons. But despite whatever that makes me feel, it is an incredibly calming environment. A couple of hours there (eating delicious food, drinking awesome chia tea or real hot chocolate, having DMCs with my best friend) feel like a whole day out of the rat race. It is possible to sit inside the restaurant, although I’ve never taken that option there. We like to sit outside in amongst the trees. In winter they provide a little blanket to prevent freezing. Guinea fowl, chickens, their babies and a beautiful cat patrol the gardens constantly.
There are also a number of interesting shops. I like to stroll around the indigenous nursery and browse at the crafty goods in Chez Poulette. There’s a second hand bookstore, a scrap-booking workshop/store, hairdresser, florist, and many more. But as I said, shopping isn’t what makes me happy.
These small things make up my therapy – little snippets of pleasure in a world which can sometimes feel like quite a daunting place. My peace lies in finding beauty in simple things. Oh, and in regular visits to my psychotherapist.