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Louis Greenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My trip to Cape Town in photos

Todzilla (TZ) on his first ever plane trip, travelling like a veteran. Though I was a little wary of flying with him alone to meet B after her workshop, he’s sleeping with Puppy in his lap.

Cape Town drivers filling my rear-view mirror. Not so long ago I bought into the myth that Cape Town drivers are slow and over-cautious. They cram my mirror in the rain, they cram my mirror in the dry, they cram my mirror on precipitious winding passes and on the flats.

A lame-born springbok sleeping on a blanket on front of the fire in the reception room of our guest house. Also pedigreed ducks in toffee and white, black and red, green-purple flashes on yellow-billed teals. A white goat munching on agapanthus leaves. Guinea fowl skittering hautily across the lawns.

Changing TZ’s nappy in front of the fire on a plush carpet, satellite music on in the background. Already scraps and crumbs littering our dog-free holiday cottage.

Thursday morning dawning too late and wet, the lights across Hout Bay dissolving out of the mist.

TZ’s first ever time at the seashore. The wind is ripping foam off the water and the gulls and crows hover suspended in the air. TZ laughs into the wind, the mountains etched behind him.

B crossly taking off her sodden boots on the beach. TZ and me wet and freezing and happy with the shock of an unexpected wave.

A cheesecake decorated with glitter and rose petals matching Sarah Lotz’s fairyland forest cabin. Champagne flutes with strawberries floating in them. A hissing fire. A friendly dog. Sarah and Helen and Lauren and Maire and Colleen and the faeries toasting success and starts and valedictions.

Sarah and TZ on the back of huge, dark, warm Donatello in the rain. (The flash of this one spooked Donatello, but Sarah calmly reined him in and forgave my city-slicking ignorance.)

A luminous rainbow stretching from end to end on the Ou Kaapse Weg back to our cottage. I could see where the rainbow ended on both sides: just there, not too far away.

Pasta and bottle sauce and cheese and shiraz for dinner again.

B screaming in terror and pushing against the bedroom door. Then me pushing too, screaming too. Someone with a butcher knife pushing back. TZ up in his cot, crying loud. When you’re out walking in the bush and you are attacked by a lion, you must make yourself as big and scary as possible.

Four Hout Bay police officers taking statements at 2 in the morning. The female officer smiling at TZ.

All of us in the same bed, reading Meg’s Eggs together at 3:30 a.m. The bedroom door is locked.

My wedding ring. Brushed white and yellow gold outside and burnished, bevelled gold inside. Engraved with my wife’s name and our wedding date. It’s gone now, along with my wallet, driver’s licence and cards, and B’s cellphone. And the camera. All the pictures now are virtual.

Friday morning dawning too early, dark and wet. The lights across at Hout Bay dissolve into the mist.

The office of the Hout Bay police station victim support consellor. TZ investigating the shower where a plastic tub of clean clothes and a child-sized soap caddy wait.

A pen-drawn diagram of a Gary Zukav visualisation technique the consellor recommends.

TZ in a dapple of sun holding a bright, back-lit pink umbrella against the drizzle on a wooden walkway at Boulders Beach. Penguins waddle all over, the exhibitionists ignored and the shy ones hunted out by toddlers and zoom lenses.

TZ eating ice cream out of a scuffed red plastic bowl at Cape to Cuba in Kalk Bay, not looking up as a yellow and grey metro train thunders past outside the window. The supremely decadent interior drips even more, I imagine, empty, by the light of a winter’s mid-afternoon.

TZ sliding down the green plastic slide at the cottages, into a sodden sandpit as the rain starts again.

The three of us in bed together at 7:30 p.m. B and me whispering to each other over the sleeping little one. How are you doing? we mouth. TZ refused to go into the cottage’s bedroom at night. For him, the potential for horror is in the bedroom, his parents waking him, screaming, pushing on the bedroom door, not what comes from outside.

Saying goodbye to the lame, curious and jittery springbok.

A tiny milkshake at Melissa’s The Food Shop in Stellenbosch. Though we didn’t ask for it, they have brought us the kiddies version in some sort of shot glass. TZ sucks it up in one sip. It costs R22.

My mother at her graduation in 1956, looking like a Greek goddess. She was beautiful. I ask my sister if I can take that one home, and my old report cards she kept, some of my father looking happy.

TZ dancing and roughhousing with the cousins he has met for the first time, D in a big cardboard box, pretending he is an aeroplane. TZ screaming with laughter. TZ crying when we must leave for the airport.

TZ playing peekaboo with the new toy his aunt has given him. It’s a lemur. He dubs it Cow. He laughs a little too loud. A sullen Frenchman in the check-in queue behind us raises his voice on his cellphone.

On the bus from the plane to OR Tambo airport arrivals, a polite old French man gives up his seat for B and TZ. His wife looks on affectionately.

Our parking ticket is gone in the robbery. The ACSA technical help guy waives the lost ticket fee, smiles and wishes us a good night. Welcome back to Johannesburg.

This morning B flinches a little as she cuts a watermelon with our butcher knife. It’s quite hard to cut a watermelon with a butcher knife, I suppose, she says.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    May 31st, 2009 @20:18 #
     
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    I was waiting for the photos to download in between the captions. Now I understand why they won't be. I am sorrier than I can say that your wonderful Cape Town trip ended like this. No one should ever have to go through that - especially not a two-year-old child. I wish the three of you all the best in getting over it. Be kind to each other and give it time. So, so sorry about your wedding ring. Some things really are irreplaceable.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    May 31st, 2009 @20:26 #
     
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    God Louis, I'm so sorry. It's horrific that you and your fantastic wonderful family had to go through that. I'm very shaken and upset reading this.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 31st, 2009 @21:15 #
     
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    And I am in tears. You're a wonderful family, something like this should never have happened to you. Shouldn't happen to anyone. Thank God you're all (physically) unharmed. And Louis, you have a family in CT too. If anything like this ever happens again, call. I would have taken you all in at 2 in the morning, so would Sarah, so would any of us. We would have tucked you up safe for that second night when your little mannikin was so traumatised.

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  • <a href="http://www.readerswarehouse.co.za" rel="nofollow">Thomas</a>
    Thomas
    May 31st, 2009 @21:35 #
     
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    also sorry to hear about this Louis.

    I am sure everyone here would be. Glad you all made it out alive and unharmed as Helen said.

    All the best in recovering

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 31st, 2009 @21:56 #
     
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    Christ Louis, how harrowing. And Christ, Louis, what a superbly executed piece of creative writing. Christ.

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  • ar
    ar
    May 31st, 2009 @22:00 #
     
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    I stared at this post for a full five minutes, zoned out and trying hard not to register it, willing it to be something my eyes had perversely invented. Cannot get used to this, no matter how hard I try. So sorry this had to happen to you and your family, Louis. Thinking of you.

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  • ar
    ar
    May 31st, 2009 @22:04 #
     
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    And what Ben said, too.

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  • <a href="http://liesljobson.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    Liesl
    June 1st, 2009 @01:03 #
     
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    Such strong embodied writing, Louis. Oh that the pen were mightier than the sword when a butchers' knife is being flailed.

    Thanks for sharing your photos. The images are so fine.

    So sorry. So very sorry.

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  • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    June 1st, 2009 @09:01 #
     
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    Oh, Louis, I am so sorry. Like Helen says you and your family really are such wonderful and kind people and it's horrendous and desperately unfair that you had to go through this. I know we are all thinking of you x

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    June 1st, 2009 @09:25 #
     
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    Dear god, I'm staring at my screen in utter horror. Thank goodness you and your family are all alright.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    June 1st, 2009 @09:45 #
     
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    I was too shocked on first reading to appreciate the rest of the writing. It's amazing, Louis. Polaroid snapshots that develop in your imagination.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    June 1st, 2009 @10:16 #
     
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    Thanks, everyone. Apart from that, er, one incident, the trip was really great. TZ travelled like a hero, so there are many more minibreaks ahead.

    So many people apologised on behalf of Cape Town. Joburgers don't bother doing that.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    June 1st, 2009 @10:46 #
     
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    Lauren has hit the nail on the head (as has everyone else). I'm almost inclined to say: "I'm glad something good has come of it." Wishing you and your family well.

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  • <a href="http://bentrovato.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben Trovato</a>
    Ben Trovato
    June 1st, 2009 @11:45 #
     
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    Jeez, Louis. That was you? I came home late with my sonar out of whack and must have got the wrong house. Thought YOU were the intruder.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    June 1st, 2009 @12:25 #
     
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    Really sorry that this happened to you. Hope you have all recovered and are safe and sound. Was v nice to meet you and B and TZ - he has a brilliant sense of humour.

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  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    June 1st, 2009 @12:58 #
     
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    So sorry to hear this, Louis, and thank you for posting your vivid impressions, the good and bad. Will be in touch soon.

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  • <a href="http://novelofdoom.wordpress.com/" rel="nofollow">Vanessa</a>
    Vanessa
    June 1st, 2009 @14:06 #
     
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    I'm so sorry - and stunned by how vididly you created a thousand pictures in fewer words.

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  • <a href="http://novelofdoom.wordpress.com/" rel="nofollow">Vanessa</a>
    Vanessa
    June 1st, 2009 @14:09 #
     
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    I mean vividly - not my fault everything is all blurry now :-(

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    June 1st, 2009 @14:20 #
     
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    What Ben, Lauren, Liesl et al said about the writing, too. One of the great bittersweets of life in the here and now is how well local authors (fiction and non-fiction) write about trauma (thinking of Sarah Nuttall, Liz McGregor, Sindiwe Magona, Tracey Farren and many more). The list is an impressive one, but Louis, this is extraordinary, really takes the biscuit. Or the cheesecake. Sending you all love.

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  • Maire
    Maire
    June 3rd, 2009 @00:27 #
     
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    Hello Louis

    So sorry, I thought I had commented here, but I must have forgotten to click send. I was so very sad for you and your lovely family when I read what had happened to you. It was such a delight meeting you all, such a relaxed happy afternoon. I hope that you have recovered a little from the shock. Can't bear to think of that happy little boy being so upset. One small bright memory that surfaces is of TZ supplying the final word in this sentence: 'Sam I am green eggs and ...? Mud!'

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