It’s okay

It’s okay 

to be messy

to daydream

to not have perfect hair and nails

and a perfect clean house. 

It’s okay

to swear

to get head-blisteringly angry

to not like what they like

to listen to loud music

to be silly

or quiet. 

That’s where it happens. Life. 

It’s not okay

to lie

because you’re scared. 


Why do we read?


I have spent a large portion of my life reading. Thousands of hours, probably. If you go by that Malcolm Gladwell-popularised ten thousand hours rule, then I should be a pretty successful reader.

I was blessed to have a mom and dad who read to me regularly as a child, and I remember my absolute enthrallment in the stories they read, and my frustration at not being able to make out the ciphers on the page. I recall so clearly my intense excitement at being able to make sense of the letters and words. My first full-length ‘proper’ book was a Secret Seven volume… which aptly I read when I was seven! And once I’d mastered that, I was off…. I couldn’t be stopped. Trips to the library were overwhelming, delicious. I can still remember that musty, inky, library smell and the clack of the due date stamp. There was so much out there: characters to meet, people to see, historical eras and other cultures to experience. I couldn’t get enough. I’d literally reach over into the boot of my mom’s hatchback car to grab my chosen books out of the library basket on the way home, because I couldn’t wait for the five minute car trip before we got home!

I read everything. Horse books (I used to be obsessed with ponies, even though I didn’t have one, sob), even Sweet Valley, Enid Blyton times a million. I very nearly convinced my parents to send me to boarding school because of Mallory Towers books. My favourite author as a child was Rumer Godden. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and its sequel, which are about Japanese dolls which come alive, were my favourites, and as a result I was obsessed with dolls houses and Japan. Also A Little Princess and Little Women, of course. And Anne of Green Gables. I loved anything old-timey basically, which has endured in my interest in history and my love of Jane Austen and Victorian novels.

In later primary school, I got on to fantasy books, and my favourite series was C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, also Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. And lots of other works of which I’ve subsequently forgotten the titles.

But it’s all stayed with me – it’s all a part of me. When I read Anne Frank’s Diary at the age of about 10 or 11, I wept and wept and wept. I felt she was a true kindred spirit when she wrote,  “If I read a book that impresses me, I have to take myself firmly by the hand, before I mix with other people; otherwise they would think my mind rather queer”.

I read way beyond my age group, inspired by my book-loving parents. My mom got me to read contemporary novels by the likes of Anita Brookner and Joyce Carol Oates, while my dad set me a classics reading list, starting with Jane Austen and graduating to Tolstoy and Henry James. (We also had to discuss them afterwards – I love you, Dad!) I read War and Peace when I was sixteen, although I don’t think that’s boast-worthy as I probably remember about two scenes and it took me half the year. (Parts are super-boring. Anna Karenina is better.) I just re-read Austen’s Persuasion and I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand half of what I read when I was thirteen! But hey, it was all really good training.

By reading so much, was I hiding though? Was I a recluse. Well, no. I was actually a happy and sociable little girl, other than a few instances of bullying at school because, well, I was (am) a little strange. Haters gonna hate, whatevs. But I was actually pretty strong, and imaginative and creative, and excelled in English and drama and music and art, and had friends.

I was and am an introvert, and reading is still a safe place for me, that proverbial retreat into another world. Sometimes it’s a comforting and energy-recharging other world, and sometimes it’s a disturbing, mind-broadening one. Sometimes I worry that it is a hiding place. But you know what, people do much more inane things to chill out than reading. (Some of them understandable, TV/Netflix can be a good way of switching off your brain, especially if you think too much!) And I’m pretty sure the gains have outweighed the losses.

In a terribly old-fashioned, non-academic way (have I mentioned I’m doing my PhD in English?), I believe that reading makes you a more compassionate, empathetic person. How are you to empathise with others if you have no knowlege of lives other than your own and your immediate circle, maybe? Writing is so human and personal, perhaps more than any of the other arts. 

This is not to say that if you don’t read frequently you suck or are inferior, which is is what I find some bibliophiles loudly proclaming. My husband, who is a musician, and who does read, but not as voraciously as me, feels the same intense attraction to music, for instance. Some people have also not been exposed to a reading culture, but I’m glad I was given that opportunity to develop a deep love for books.

Also, reading makes you a better writer.

And that is where I’m anxious. Sometimes I feel like all the books I’ve read are sitting in my brain, urging me to do something with all the stories I’ve lived through and all the ideas and emotions they’ve percolated in my mind. Like all my reading is a kind of capital that I’ve inherited, or earned, and now I need to spend it – I need to do something with it.

And doing my PhD is part of that, but I feel like there’s something more that needs to be done. Yes, some reading is pure entertainment and I have no problem with that. I am completely unsnobby when it comes to books and one of my favourite escapist reads is anything by Marian Keyes. She writes really well. Also The Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones to you HB0-watchers!). Genre fiction, don’t knock it.


I feel, in a deeply Romantic way, as if literature has given me a gift, beyond words. And it’s time I contribute to that vast library that thrilled me as a child, and can still make me breathless with wonder.




Living in the grotto: the ups and downs of living in a basement flat


No, despite the picture, this is not another boring post about the London Underground. It’s about our basement flat. I’ll definitely put some pictures up soon, but we’re still trying to sort out stuff here (put up pictures, do some pretty cool diy decor projects for which my husband’s enthusiasm is surprisingly high… etc.) So I’m too vain to show our pozzie in its current unfinished state. We live below ground, below street level, in a rented basement flat in Camden Town. Maybe you’re considering moving into a basement apartment too, and there are some pros and cons to this… so here goes.

The Downs:

1. We have no windows – therefore minor light and air issues. Please don’t all scream at once, it’s not that bad and it’s not a health and safety risk. I know that most basement flats do, in fact, have at least one window (as do most dwellings, obvs), but we have a big glass door in the front, which has a latch on it (and we have a gate with a padlock at the top of our stairs, so it’s safe to leave it open on the latch when we’re home). The door lets in a lot of light (probably more than a window). And we have an extractor fan in the bathroom and an airvent in the windowless bedroom. And a fire escape at the back leading out of our large storage area (which also lets in some air if we leave the door open). I know I’m supposed to be saying what’s bad about this situation, and obviously it isn’t ideal, but think about it – how often do you actually open your curtains (or even your window) in your bedroom, and how great is your view actually? (If you live in a city like London, I mean. If you live on a farm or have a sea view, I don’t want to know and also can I come stay with you?) But yes, we have no windows.

In terms of ventilation, we also have a fan, which helps a lot. When we first moved in here, there was a pretty weird smell, as we don’t think the previous tenant used to leave the door open a lot (in fact, we asked the landlord to install the latch). But with some good ventilation and thorough cleaning (my husband, Chris, is a cleaning machine, much better than me – I get over it), it’s now fine.

2. The ceilings are quite low. I can touch the ceiling and I am 5’4. Don’t live in a basement flat if you are tall, unless you enjoy feeling like Gandalf in Bilbo’s Bag End. (Although Bag End had windows)

3. The dust: Maybe it’s because of the low ceilings, but it does get dusty quite easily. Fortunately Chris loooves vacuuming (hint hint). 

That’s about it for the negative side, although we’ve only lived here for three weeks so I might discover some more issues. I know some people in basement flats have a problem with noise from above, but we are below a shop, so it’s only noisy when the shop dudes open up at around 7am and let the elephants out their cage for their morning dance.

The Ups:

1. Location and price: We would not be able to live in this location if we weren’t renting a basement flat. Our flat is really reasonably priced for this area, particularly for this road, simply because it is a basement flat. We were quite set on living in Camden Town or hereabouts, for a number of reasons 1) Chris is a professional musician. There are like a million music venues around here. We live next door to a pretty famous one. 2) Super easy transport links. Like, 15 mins to Kings Cross. Half an hour to my university in Mile End. 3) Regent’s Park – we live literally two minutes from the park. I’ll do a post on how much I love our ‘back garden’ soon. 4) Vibey, interesting, always busy, amazing shops and markets, cool restaurants and bars. There is nothing wrong with living in quieter, more suburban areas, and I definitely see the appeal (dogs, gardens, space, quietness), but since we’re not sure how long we’re going to be in London, we really wanted to live in the city, and experience something completely different from South Africa, and from South-West London, where we stayed in 2007/2008.

We were told categorically by a number of estate agents that we simply “would never” find a flat in our budget in Camden. But we did. Because no windows, but we did. And our road is simply the best one in Camden Town. I won’t tell you where it is exactly in case you are creepy, but it is so lovely, and surprisingly quiet at night given that we live five minutes from the station. #Winning. (In case you think I am bragging, just remember – no windows).

2. Cosiness: It will be interesting to see how this plays out in summer, but at the moment, our flat is really warm and we only have to put the heating on about half an hour a day.

3. Romantic factor: We can hear the Tubes runnng underground at night! It’s lovely and different and quite soothing actually. And it’s like we live in a secret grotto. People are genuinely surprised when they see us descend the stairs (like ‘people actually live here?’) Sidenote: The other day there was a queue outside the music venue next door that snaked past our gate. As I stood next to my gate opening the padlock, someone said indignantly “hey, there’s a queue!” (Londoners and queues!), but very soon mumbled something and turned away when they realised I was, you know, trying to get into my home!

My tips for living in a basement flat? Embrace it. For instance, we bought a duvet cover with the underground map on it (also good for planing your journey in the morning) – it’s best to have a sense of humour about living underground like a mole. And we’ve tried to make the flat as bright and light as possible. I’ll post a pic of our fairylights and lantern arrangements soon. Don’t discount the humble basement flat. Living in the grotto may not be for everyone but it suits us just fine.

On angry feminists and privilege

We interrupt this blog of randomness to bring you something a little more serious. It’s about feminism. And tone-policing. Just going to put down a few thoughts, as others have said it better already, but this needs to be said.

So I just found out (not being in South Africa and not really following SA news lately) that a few days ago a South African Twitterstorm erupted (I’m not active on Twitter largely because I couldn’t handle the vitriol people exchange on that platform). Anyway, the controversy was around a journalist and activist, Michelle Solomon (who incidentally studied journalism at my liberal best-university-in-the-world alma mater, Rhodes). Solomon was harassed/ mocked/ scorned on Twitter by a largely disgraced writer, David Bullard (He wrote a racist column a few years ago and was fired from his newspaper – so, ja, not the most politically correct guy. To put it mildly. There are other adjectives.) Solomon is, by her own brave admission, a rape survivor, and Bullard accused her of making up her rape claim (because she never reported it) and also insinuated that it wasn’t really rape because she was drunk at the time. Twitter was largely like: WTF? Obviously this is hurtful and insensitive. Solomon wrote all about Bullard’s callous tweets here. She does a good job of summarising what happened, and how she feels about it, and what it means in terms of rape apologism and victim-blaming. It’s all really outrageous and horrible and I can’t imagine how insulted and angry she, and other rape survivors, must feel about these kind of comments. I really feel for her and support her and other activists who are trying to challenge rape culture, especially in South Africa, which is a pretty sexist environment. And then they have to deal with the smug and smarmy likes of misogynist, mansplaining, so-called satirists such as Bullard.

Not to take away from the crux of the matter at all, but there have been additional interesting thoughts coming out of this debate, about feminism, and “angry feminists” and tone-policing. A lot of people seemed to dismiss Solomon’s issues because she’s not super tactful and sweet about them. Laura Shortridge said it really well in this column, and a blogger, Sian Ferguson, expanded on this issue really thoughtfully in this post. I seriously suggest you read both of these after reading Solomon’s piece. They’re basically about how sometimes we avoid or ignore truth-tellers and activists (especially when they’re women) because we don’t like their bolshy tone or angry style. Go read them though – it’s more nuanced than that.

I must admit that both these articles made me think a little more about my own feminism. And that’s a good thing. I’m definitely a feminist (and not a ‘feminist, BUT….’ ). I like Caitlin Moran’s definition of feminism:

“a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?

If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist”.

BUT (Okay, there is a ‘but’ but not that kind of ‘but’). BUT upon reading both the columns, I realised that sometimes I’m also guilty of disregarding people’s ideas when I don’t their like their tone. I tend to gravitate towards ‘nice’, ‘sweet’, ‘attractive’, funny, middle-class, likeable feminists like Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling or Caitlin Moran, actually. I watched a video of Michelle Solomon on Women24 and I did not instantly like her. I am a smiley, gentle person, and she was quite aggressive towards the reporter, even sarcastic. It made me uncomfortable, I’ll admit. But that shouldn’t matter. As Ferguson points out in her blog, that says way more about me and my privilege and my distance from rape and gender-based harassment, and the understandable anger and emotion these issues provoke, than it does about Solomon. So I need to be aware of this. And I need to not disregard people because I wouldn’t want to be friends with them. Or I need to get more (justifiably) angry feminist friends. Or both.

As for David Bullard…. I can’t believe someone would choose to spend their time fighting online with a rape survivor over the minutiae of her traumatic rape – that is really low. And if we are somehow creating a culture which allows people like this to think these types of opinions are clever or funny, then that also needs to change.

ps. In reading around this issue, I found this really well-written article on the ever-useful Buzzfeed, which is sort of a crash-course, or reminder, of what rape culture consists of.

Things about London: Transport edition


I’ve lived in London before (in 2007 I was here on a working holiday visa). So although I only moved here in November, it’s not like I’m new completely wide-eyed and naïve. I know London. If London can be known.

But some of the things about London I’d forgotten, some of them I understand in a different (more mature?) light, some of them I’d never experienced.

So I’ll be sharing some pretty random (and probably not very philosophical or profound) things I’ve thought about London lately.

First up: getting around… I’m Talkin’ about Transport. Oh yeah.

The Tube is a pleasure and a pain: Yes, it’s quite mundane to harp on about public transport, but in South Africa public transport, while improving (and I used to take the train from Stellenbosch to Cape Town occasionally) is not nearly as ubiquitous as in Europe, and in London particularly, with its really widespread network. Also although obviously I took the Tube countless times when I lived here before, I never had a regular Tube commute for work. The job I had for most of 2007 was an easy bus ride away. There’s something different about joining in the morning rush. I work three days a week (yes, only 20 hours, if you’re reading this, UK Border Authority) in Chelsea, and we’ve just moved to Camden, so it’s about a 25 minute Tube trip and a bit of a walk. If I wake up five minutes earlier I can maybe, maybe get a seat and avoid having someone’s backpack/ face in my face. It’s also cold and dark though, so that extra five minutes versus Tube-crush is a bit of a dilemma.

I really like my personal space. (Is this a stupid thing to say? Are there really people who are like, ‘Personal space, pssh! Whatevs!’) Tubes are not conducive to this, anyway. Also my back gets sore from standing in contorted positions, holding on to the railing so I don’t crash into the person in front of me. And from keeping myself very still so I don’t touch them in any way. Eeew, humans.

I think commuting in such circumstances can either make you frustrated and irritable, and therefore rude, or you could become more considerate of others. After all, there aren’t a lot of other situations in which you have to be that aware of how your behaviour, understanding of spatial awareness and body language affects those around you.

So what’s the rudest thing you can do on a Tube? (Besides fart or eat a tuna-and-egg sandwich) I actually think, for starters, it’s not allowing people off the train first. I mean, just calm down. Being in a rush does not give you licence to be an arsehole. Secondly, trying to squash on to a train which is already packed (and I mean, like, uncomfortably that-girl’s-hipster-bun-might-get-caught-in-the-doors packed). Don’t be that guy who makes a bad situation worse. There’s comes a point when even little-old-you is just physically not going to fit in the train. It’s like trying to put one more pair of socks in a bulging suitcase. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Sidebar: I almost vomited on a train near the end of last year. I had a bad, streaming cold, I was travelling to work (I’d just started so I didn’t want to call in sick), it was unseasonably humid (or that could have been my fever), there was no ventilation and the train was sickeningly slow and wobbly. I seriously almost… Does this ever happen? Would everyone hate you, or would they feel sorry for you? All I’m saying is, if you feel crappy on the Tube, it could be worse.

Oh right, the ‘pleasure’ part. Well, you get where you want to go. You don’t have to drive (I hate driving). Also I get a student Oyster, so I have 30% off all travel. Wheee!

So much walking. I walk at least 30 minutes a day, and not for fun. Never mind the walking we do in the weekend. Or my running. (Running, what running? asks my new running shoes. I try though, at least a few times a week. One to two is a few, right?) This past weekend we walked South Kensington and Hyde Park flat. My newish (cheapish) boots are already looking like they’ll need resoling some time.

The plus side of this? Not putting on weight, despite Crème eggs and Maltesers being so delicious. And Pringles being really cheap. Also, it’s been said so often, but walking is a great way to experience a city. My favourite thing about my walk to work in Chelsea? The beautiful ‘high-end’ décor shops with their incredible window displays. Also people-watching some pretty swish Chelsea types, looking like they’re straight off the set of that faux-reality show. It’s an education, for sure. 



Today I choose to be happy, even though things are hard and not perfect.

Today I choose to be productive, even though I’d rather put the duvet over my head and ignore the world.

Today I choose to create something of value. 

Today I choose to not be hard on myself. 

Today I choose joy, despite sadness.

Today I choose hope over cynicism, creativity over stagnation, colour over monotony, quirkiness over conformity 

Today is difficult, and tomorrow might be difficult, but I also choose to believe that it will be better. 

A new year: here’s hoping

This is obviously my first post, and while I’ve been at a little bit of a loss about where to start, this is a beginning, and it is relatively near the beginning of a new year, so I thought I’d kick this blog off with something I’ve been thinking about for a while:


This little, potent, four-letter (well, in English) word. On the surface, it’s a positive, sunny-faced, glass-half-full word, full of good vibes. We enter a new year full of HOPE, full of expectations that It Will All Be Better, that Life Will Be Good. And we’ve all inhaled enough pop psychology to know that sparkling expectations/ belief in oneself/ happy thoughts = all your dreams come true. But I’ve found that hope can be slightly uncomfortable, hurtful, even.

Because sometimes hope has let me down. Often, actually. I go into a situation thinking “yay, positive, excited thoughts” and when it doesn’t happen as I want it to (in my annoyingly vivid imagination), I feel 1) Well, this sucks and if I hadn’t hoped for it, I wouldn’t be feeling this sucky and 2) Maybe I just didn’t hope enough, maybe I just didn’t send out the right positive juju.

That kind of hope has let me down. That kind of has barbs of pain hidden behind its smiling exterior. People, this is not a Disney movie. No matter how much you try and put on a brave face, sometimes dreams do not come true. Unicorns do not exist and they don’t fart rainbows either. Sorry to rain on your parade, crap on your sandwich etc. Hope does not always help, at least in the short term.

Perhaps it’s a semantic difference. Hope is commonly defined “as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”. (Interestingly, the usage example first provided is “to give up hope” – as if hope is more likely to be something relinquished than held?) There are two types of hope included in this definition. The first is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had”, a kind of selfish, “It’ll all work out for me, ’cause the universe loves me” type of hope. The second is the sense that “events will turn out for the best”. And this is more esoteric, more detached, and more mature.

Because even if you don’t get that


girl / guy




lucky break

that doesn’t mean it’s not “for the best”. I know this is the last thing you (I) want to hear when the world has melted your dreams like a little kid’s ice-cream on hot tarmac. But there is something about the counter-intuitive, upside nature of God’s Kingdom, that means that even when it doesn’t seem to work out for “the best”, it will, and perhaps even has already. it just might not be “the best” for you. And that sounds a bit hectic.

But to be fair (I think) God is not about making your life more comfortable. God loves us and cares about our feelings, at least that’s what I believe, but his comfort is in a sense that ultimately, everything is in his control, and that his ways are true and right even when they are hard, and that this life on this tough earth is not all there is. It’s not about my dreams necessarily, or even my immediate happiness. Or health. Or financial well-being. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but Christian hope is more about providing a sense that God can deliver and renew hurt souls, and that he can provide the hope of a  future Kingdom where things are right, and where people are not disappointed or betrayed.

I know. It isn’t easy. I’m not sure I can really grasp it or even fully accept it.

Apart from this bigger-picture thinking, there’s another day-to-day way of thinking about it. There’s a sense of: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. To go in to an uncertain situation with a degree of positivity, with a sensitivity to the possibility of goodness and happiness, but with a simultaneous degree of acceptance when it doesn’t work out as you hoped it might.

It sounds a bit weird, and it is, but it’s probably the only mature way to approach life. Go with the flow, think of God’s bigger plan, and don’t let yourself get bitter.

That last part is very hard. And a lot of it is actually about lowering your expectations and being pleasantly surprised (and grateful) if it works out. 

I don’t know. I didn’t mean for this post to come out as preachy and it’s really something I’m struggling with and trying to make sense of. I am very grateful for everything and everyone good I have in my life. I’m going to (try) and embrace 2014 with a smile and lightness, and I’m going to try and struggle with what ‘hope’ means. Because, as muddy and complex and fraught as it all seems: