20 February


















The thing about diaries, or journals, if you like: they are not crack-a-jack shows; there is not a thrill a minute. And on the face of it, I have very little new to report on my sojourn in Darling.

Some years ago, having drinks as usual with my psychiatrist friend at Don Pedro, I told him how I was totally engrossed in a well-known author’s journals (in the New Yorker) even to the extent that I was interested in the breakfast cereal he had in the mornings.

“It’s because you live alone,” my learned friend explained. I had no reply and somehow I felt guilty living, as I did, on my own. Now, years later, I am now writing journal (I would have called them Darling Journals but for the alliterative ‘D’s.)  It is not as exciting as, say, a war journal, or the journal of a racing driver. In fact, very little happens here. But out of the ordinary, there is always the possibility that something poetic might be born. That is unfortunately not original but is what the philosopher Martin Versveld wrote, and which I read when I was about 21. It is a little unassuming book called ‘Klip en Klei’ – which, while the other academics wrote on Kant and Nietzsche, he based on his philosophy of the ordinary – the building of his house in the Cederberg Mountains (hence the title) This little ‘unassuming little book’ eventually won the Academia Prize.  I no longer have the little gem, but he wrote something like ‘This is poetry in the making of beds, the doing of washing.”  He had reverted to the original meaning of poetos in Greek, if I remember correctly, which is ‘to make’. Those words stand out, even today, and recall somewhat sheepishly how I thought up impossibly grand plots for stories that would never see the light of day.  Oh, yes, he beat all those learned theses with his little book on how to build a house in the Cederberg.  And he philosophised about the nature of a table, how it should have patina, knots, and wine stains, whereas he expected his plane to be precise. And so we can begin to philosophise on the nature of things, how sometimes we need to see patina and at other times, things need to be absolutely precise:  not only a plane but also an aircraft, also a spacecraft intended to land on the moon.  This conflict between, Let’ call it art, or the immaterial and the sciences, the precise, is of course nothing new and only comes in different guises.

But I digress. I wanted to write a little more on how the sounds of Darling inform me of where I find myself.

Where I was fortunate enough to live before, in Higgovale, a leafy suburb, I encountered mostly utility vehicles so large they barely had space to negotiate the narrow roads, sometimes even coming to a halt if another utility vehicle approached. But this was where the wealthy lived, the CEOs of Blue Chip companies, and their wives drove these massive utility vehicles to tea parties – never having been on a mountain road.

So this morning, I make another audio discovery in Darling.

I really wanted to sleep in, as I watched Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder fight till 2 am. It was while in this dreamlike state in the early morning that I realized that the deep-throated roars I heard were of trucks … trucks and tractors and lorries; this was essentially a farming town, not a leafy suburb for stockbrokers and CEOs. The men, these men of Darling usually wearing short pants as if they have just taken a break from hand-harvesting the wheatfields, have sturdy legs, the women are stout. They are all connected to the earth, depending on caprices of nature for their living, knowing how to be in harmony, somehow, with a force greater than themselves, unlike the stock-brokers and blue-chip CEOs.

Despite all of that, I have to say, I miss the beauties of Van Hunks, in Kloof Street where my friends and I used to go and watch rugby. These young women would strut onto the terrace of the restaurant, so confident of their good looks and their youthfulness, the one prettier than the next.

But here, in Darling, there are compensation. The people of the town, especially the people of colour, almost without fail greet you in the streets.