Your upbringing really shows during a global crisis

A little part of me is secretly jealous of those who attend parties and go out to clubs and large gatherings while COVID-19 still attacks our communities. It must be so mentally liberating to not care about members of society more vulnerable than yourself – to not be bothered about the cashier at Checkers that has to touch everything you picked off the shelves, who fears for the safety of her ageing parents that she cares for, the Uber driver who has pre-existing health complications yet drives you around risking his life because he needs the income to survive, or to have heard of infected nurses and doctors who have died or become severely ill trying to treat and comfort those who die alone in our crowded hospitals, and still NOT FEEL A THING.

It must be wonderful, not having to acknowledge that you are part of the reason that there are people whose bodies cannot fight off this virus who will DIE because a party was more important to you than somebody’s life. It must be an amazing feeling that it’s just other people that have had to bury their parents without getting to say goodbye or giving them a proper funeral, and not lucky you.

COVID-19 has really shown us the parts of society that have always been taught that their lives are more important than the lives of others, that there are people who live among us who would easily sacrifice their elderly family members to have a little bit of fun, that there is a culture of selfishness, greed and entitlement that runs through our society.

To argue that you don’t believe that the virus is serious enough to put your life on hold for is a lie you tell yourself so that you don’t have to accept any responsibility for what is going on. To quote a low death rate means that you refuse to acknowledge the thousands of people who have died from a largely preventable condition, including hospital workers who have had no choice but to put their lives at risk to try to save those that people like you have willingly infected with your reckless behaviour. It means that full hospitals and staff shortages in hospitals mean nothing to you, because you will most likely not be that person who dies waiting for treatment at an Eastern Cape government hospital because there isn’t a bed available for you.

Yes, it is a difficult time for everybody and we are all looking for some means to escape, but wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands regularly should not be incredibly difficult tasks for someone brought up with a decent level of discipline and consideration for others. There are people in this country who have not seen their own parents since the beginning of this year and won’t be spending Christmas with their families, only to keep them safe.

Not just COVID-19, but many of the problems with our society can be eradicated by individuals making an effort to care about others. People need to cultivate more kindness and selflessness and inspire these values in their children. Imagine if South African drivers were calmer and more considerate on the road rather than aggressive and indifferent to traffic laws? How many lives would be saved? Imagine if the corrupt politicians who squandered our COVID relief funds felt some sympathy towards those left jobless and starving through the pandemic? Millions of people could have been housed and fed. It is unfortunate that people like these look at kindness as weakness, and this alone, is a sickness that our society needs to rid itself of.

Being willing to sacrifice small comforts and privileges for the wellbeing of society is a sign of maturity, strength and courage. Moaning about having your rights taken away when being asked to wear a mask or stay at home indicates a spoilt child. None of these measures is 100 % effective, however they significantly reduce the spread of infection. Taking any precaution we can in order to protect those around us is the least we can do in our present situation, to show some humanity in a crisis that has taken lives and livelihoods away from many of our people.


The Jo’burg wilderness

You know what’s the most suburban Jo’burg thing I have ever experienced?

One day, someone who lives in my area spotted part of a snake exposed from underneath a bush, on a pavement on our road. They took a photo and posted it on the neighbourhood WhatsApp group to alert the others of this potential danger. Snakes are not very common in Johannesburg suburbs, so this was quite a thrill for all.

The whole group proceeded to come alive with our local couch herpetologists debating for more than an hour about the species of the snake, how dangerous it supposedly is, what sort of habitat it prefers, how we should approach it, etc. It was quite impressive how they gathered this from the pattern on its tail in the photo.

Eventually, one brave citizen decided to step up and go have a look, to make sure it hadn’t escaped into some unsuspecting person’s garden, thereby putting everyone’s lives at risk.

Tension rose on the WhatsApp group, as we waited in anticipation for a closer look at our mystery visitor. Finally, another photo! The wild animal pulled out of the bushes by the tail! Behold – a wooden Chinese dragon wall ornament…

Needless to say, the silence on the group was deafening for the rest of the day, but it was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on Central Road.

I love this photo of myself

I don’t like taking many photos of myself and generally shy away from posting photos of only myself even on my own social media. Except this one.

This photo is different. I didn’t know at the time that Vish had taken a photo of me while checking messages on his phone, until he showed it to me the next day.

There we were, after dinner at Beluga in Cape Town, sitting outside the restaurant in the chilly weather during a power outage. I’d had a few whiskey cocktails and was quite drunk as we sat in the dark enjoying our limited time together. A waitress had covered my shoulders with that red fleece blanket. It was a simple, perfect moment in my memory.

I love this photo because it wasn’t planned or staged. I love this photo because it showed me that, that contentment on my face is just how I look when I look at Vish.


It’s so difficult – the pain, the longing

I miss his quizzical looks

His deep voice, his toothy grin

His hands, when they tickle me till I kickbox him

And his embraces, so large but tender


As I count down the days till our next meeting

The distance feeling like light years apart

What I miss most of all is his sweet scent

As I nuzzle my face towards his heart


Oh how technology has superbly failed me!

For why isn’t smell textable?

He could save and send his daily fragrance

His own special blend of heavenly scents


As I cuddle with my phone in bed

His comforting smell lingers and persists

He’ll meet me in my dreams ahead

Where being together is all that exists







Fallen: Part 2

If you have not read (or can’t remember) my very first post on this blog, titled “Fallen“, you should do so now before continuing any further into this one.

I’m not a regular member of the band anymore. I very occasionally play a party gig and spend most of my musical hours these days teaching piano, learning Indian classical music and experimenting with fusing the different styles that I have been exposed to. So I can’t really remember the last time I’ve had to play Lauren Wood’s Fallen from the movie Pretty Woman, the song that managed to invoke in me such intense yearning to have those lyrics come alive in my life. I desperately wanted to have a romance with her sultry voice as the backdrop to my story, if only for it to enable my full appreciation of the beauty of that piece of music. Not being able to relate always gave me a sense of something missing whenever I listened to it.

A few years have passed now and I hardly think about the songs I used to play. Once in a while at the piano, the chords of Fallen might casually escape as my fingers fiddle around the keys. This happened last weekend when my boyfriend came home to visit one afternoon and we sat at the piano so I could play some of my favourite pieces for him while we chatted in between – something I have never been able to do since I always have a full house. It was so special having our own little space at the piano and enjoying this time to ourselves, where I could play music of different styles and tell stories about them. Where I was free to even sing for him as we escaped from the outside world into our own little bubble of happiness. For just that moment we were living inside a Jack Johnson song.

After playing some Chopin, a jazz standard and a Carnatic piece, we talked and laughed as my fingers unintentionally started to play… Cma7-Am9-Dm7-G13-Cma7. A few seconds later my brain realised what that was – the chords I used to play when Paul from the band sang Fallen. The excitement suddenly started to hit me when I realised that I was not just listening to Fallen (like I had imagined four years ago) but PLAYING it with the man I love sitting beside me! The only thing that could have been more perfect was if I sang it for him…

BAD IDEA. The very thought of the lyrics…

“I can’t believe it

You’re a dream coming true

I can’t believe how I have…

Fallen for you”

…made me burst into tears! I hadn’t even got one word out! Well there went my delicate movie scene moment…

Luckily for me John is used to my emotional outbursts and didn’t think this was abnormal in the slightest. He quietly held me in his characteristic “squishy” hug and wiped my tears as he understood that what I was feeling was deeper than anything I could play or sing for him. I feel that my “Fallen” story now has a better ending than I originally imagined and I have a content smile as I finish this post finally knowing how that tiny sequence in my life was meant to end.






“It’s complicated” – my relationship status with jacarandas

c Pikkie Wolmarans - Pixoto

Jacarandas in Pretoria, South Africa. © Pikkie Wolmarans, 2015 (Pixoto) 

That time of year has arrived, when Gauteng experiences its first rains after the Winter. The weather has been warming up beautifully and people are suddenly cheerful and wearing bright colours to the office again, like they should in Africa. One of the most striking announcements that Spring has arrived is the sudden appearance of purple blossoms in the jacaranda trees that line countless streets all over the province. Driving home from work through my neighbourhood becomes such a magical experience as you watch the pink-orange of the sunset filter through the endless purple fairyland surrounding you. What a glorious end to the day.

But there is always an element of discomfort when I allow myself to admire these trees, that prevents me from loving them as much as I would like to – their deceptive beauty trying to make you forget that they are aliens in this land. The colonialists of the plant kingdom, that thrive on our resources, enjoying a generous water supply while the indigenous flora give up hope against such a strong competitor.

But then the next day I drive back home from work through my little wonderland and the cycle of thoughts begins all over again…

Gaudeamus Igitur

Something about the song Gaudeamus Igitur just makes me want to cry. Whenever I have to play it, I try not to think too much about what I’m playing and why I’m playing it to avoid any awkward tearful pianist situations. I’m just trying to figure out why it makes me so emotional. I have had three university graduations so far and I don’t think the ceremony would have been complete without a rendition of this song. I think it makes you reflect on all of the pain and suffering that you’ve just been through, and that you’ve finally succeeded when you never thought you would even survive, and then all these years of agony are finally released in tears of such enormous relief! Although, you don’t ever let anyone see any actual tears, especially if your mascara is not waterproof, which is the difficult part. Gaudeamus tells you that you can finally go out into the world and function as a free and normal adult human being! What an amazingly fascinating concept for a student.

My last graduation (my MSc, last June) was my most emotional by far, probably because it was my most intensely soul-destroying degree and I actually managed a distinction by some miracle of God, so even the National Anthem made me fall apart (which it does sometimes, but that’s a story for another post…).

Searching for a chord

While writing or arranging music at the piano, there’s always the moment that I have an idea of a beautiful chord in my head that I know would fit just right at a specific part of a melody or phrase. As I search the keyboard for this elusive chord, I try out different combinations of notes, different inversions, and finally – I hit the perfect sound, the sound I’ve been looking for, the sound that makes everything right. And for that moment in time, all the pieces fit together and everything makes sense.

Just for that instant, life is as perfect as it gets.

My incredibly normal life

Last night I was sitting at Hurricane Kim car wash, reading The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry, and drinking coffee. It was wonderful! My post-thesis life is really wonderful. The time I get to spend doing things that I would only dream about while writing my thesis – normal people things. I don’t even remember when I last washed my car before last night. And reading books for fun – wow! Even washing dishes and mopping floors are suddenly tasks that are so amazingly mindless and stress-free once you remove the student-guilt and procrastination that used to go along with them.

I’ve finally tried out that new vegan cottage pie recipe, and sewn a runner for the table in our entrance hall. I play with the dog and the cat as long as I want to. I practise music EVERYDAY – something I haven’t managed since high school. And one of the best parts is winding down in the evenings and sleeping before 11 pm every night. Am I getting old? Maybe. Am I tired of drinking Play and writing like a zombie the entire night, then going to work on two hours of sleep? Definitely!

I also waved goodbye to heartburn, anxiety attacks, and back and joint aches last year. My skin has cleared up and I’ve lost weight. So here’s to my renewed appreciation for the mundane, and the health and happiness it has brought back into my life!

Cube Psychology

A favourite pastime during tea at work is to secretly psychoanalyse everyone with my next-door office neighbour. She has a small puzzle on her desk, with wooden pieces that need to be arranged to form a cube. This little cube has made our task much more interesting.

The pieces look similar to tetris blocks, but in 3D. It’s fascinating to observe everyone’s reactions to the puzzle, and being a department full of scientists, everyone has a reaction. It is difficult to walk into her office and not pick up a piece of the puzzle and play around with it, or break up the existing cube and try to re-make it. Or to build random structures, like some sort of avant garde art. And there’s more than one way to arrange the blocks into a cube, the best way being with alternating colours.


Psychoanalysis tool of the modern geologist

There are those who cannot concentrate on their actual jobs until they’ve figured it out, (easily distracted, serial procrastinators, perseverance, curious minds?). An engineer from another department took it home one night to complete it (maybe previous category, maybe stage-fright). Another took a look at it and went to a downstairs colleague’s office to work on a Rubik’s cube instead (too clever for us, huh?).

The most interesting people are those who watch others playing around with it but hold themselves back from trying. Possible theories: 1. fear of failure, 2. not believing in themselves, 3. not wanting to seem more stupid than others if they didn’t get it right the first time, 4. wanting to act like grown ups and not like the rest of us.

Then we also get the tower building types (there’s no point trying so I’d rather just stack them up and admire my art), the cube breakers (is it home time yet?) and those who can only build it when they’re stressed out about other stuff (work well under pressure).