Tag Archives: Kwa-Zulu Natal

SHONGWENI FARMERS’ MARKET


 

Over the years on my visits to  my Durban Family (eldest daughter Helen & family) I’ve been taken to the nearby Shongweni Farmers’ Market. It was a scant 5 kms down the hill, sited on a rough, grassy hillside, inevitably wet and muddy, packed with people and their excited dogs. For some reason, Durbanites  saw the Market as a great Saturday morning venue to exercise their dogs, and the ensuing tangle of dog leads, frantic barking and  occasional dog fight were  part of the fun. All this amongst families, toddlers, pushchairs,  shopping baskets, vendors unloading their products, lost kids and runaway dogs. Happy family mayhem. I loved it.

Then – oh no! the market moved. The land lease expired, and another venue had to be found. Which it was, close to the nearby Shongweni Dam.  This, however, is 12 kms from Helen’s house, so I was heaved briskly out of  bed at 0530 on Saturday morning  and told departure was in 25 minutes. Apparently the parking situation, plus the  inevitable traffic tailback on a skinny country road, has to be avoided at all costs. Fair enough.

And so it was I stood at 0630 on a damp, drizzly hillside, peering at rows of  corrugated iron roofs, and neat  cement walkways. Clearly no more mud at the new, bigger, smarter market. To my relief, plenty of families, toddlers, and dogs in evidence :

I must admit the new market is orderly, clean, vast,  and offers a huge variety of merchandise. For example – huge mushrooms, being sold by an elegant vendor. Note the funky guineafowl table covering.

I do love the colourful Zulu beadwork, but it’s a hell of a price nowadays. I cherish my antique strings of beads bought for virtually nothing, twenty years ago. The baskets are not beaded, as you might suppose. They are made from thin wire. Originally weavers used to gather scraps of electric cable left behind by Telkom or Eskom. They would strip off the external plastic covering to get at the 4/5/6 strands of fine wire within, which would be colour coded. Whether the baskets are still made this way I don’t know, but it may partly account for the enormous amount of  of telephone cable  theft ….   Roll on the introduction of fibre optic cable!  The downside will be less – or no – beautiful woven baskets.

There’s food of course. What would a country market be without food?  Locally made cheeses; locally grown coffee; and the ethnic bakers – Greek, German and of course, Indian, this being Kwa-Zulu Natal  which has one of the biggest Indian populations outside of the Indian continent.  I had my heart set on samoosas and a few Pakora*but alas! the market was so big I never managed to find my way back to the Indian food stalls.

I couldn’t take pics of the foodstalls due to the crush around them. But  I’m including a bad pic of the man selling pesto. Unfortunately his colourful pots of pesto didn’t come out well in the pic, but you can clearly see the smart new roofing. Which was welcome on such a drizzly, misty morning.

Me & my cellphone  will never win any prizes for photography.  But I did catch one pic of these fun dog biscuits!

I enjoyed my visit, and would love to go back another time. But the old country atmosphere has gone. The new version may well be out in the country, but now its much more organised and businesslike.On the plus side,  the public loos are a great deal better.  Ah well. Things change. But luckily the  vendor’s smiles stay the same.   Howzit, Barry!

 

*deep fried potato cake – beyond delicious finger food and death by cholesterol, but when you eat one you really don’t care. Actually, stopping at one requires superhuman willpower.

 

 

 

 

 

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SHORT-SHORT # 3 : A LESSON IN LIVING & DYING


 Here is another short flash fiction piece, at under 500 words.

 

Lifting-moving-placing; pausing; lifting-moving-placing; pausing;  with exquisite care Karen is doing her walking meditation. Each step a slow, attentive ballet.  Her careful feet make a crisp crunch on the dry winter grass.  Her nostrils register the dusty smell. Her ears pick up the wind in the gum tree plantation at the bottom of the hill.  Otherwise its quiet, really quiet.  No voices, cars, music; just the muted sounds of the countryside at the hermitage in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Karen reaches the end of her allotted ten paces, stands momentarily, before slowly engaging with the process of turning her body, 360 degrees, so that she can embark on the return journey, ten deliberate steps in the reverse direction.  Her eyes involuntarily fall on the ground to her right.  What is that on the ground? She looks at the dark form on the grass. It takes a second or two for the image from her retina to register in her brain.

It’s a dead bird.  Her gaze take in the thin, stiff  legs, the curled claws, the buff chest feathers, the black head and tail, the white marking around the eye, the slightly opened beak. She looks steadily.  It’s the first dead bird she’s ever seen. If you live in central Joburg you don’t come across dead birds.  Apart from squashed pigeons on the road, but they’re usually a mashed smear of feathers ground into the tarmac. They don’t count.

She tentatively nudges the tiny corpse with the toe of her takkie.  It’s so light! Suddenly a torrent of little black ants boil out of the beak, onto the grass, running in frantic random patterns.  She draws back, startled.  Until now the dead bird has been impersonal, a little feathery husk, but now …. all those ants ?  Her heartbeat quickens, her palms are sweaty, she can’t take her eyes off the rigid scrap of feathers surrounded by the swarm of little black ants.

Those frail  leathery legs, those curled claws – they remind her of something; no, of someone. Her mind skitters to the Joburg Gen, visiting her Gran just before she died. Gran’s arms were frail and leathery, Gran’s fingers were little curly claws, Gran …. blood roars in her ears,  her breath catches, her throat spasms, red-hot tears leak out of her eyes.  She takes in a gasping lungful of air, then another, then another, but still the sobs build in her chest. She holds her ribs, gasps, wails, bends over, stands up, clutches her arms around herself, wails, throws her head back , scrunches her eyes closed, but still the tears stream down her hot cheeks.   She never cried at the hospital, or at the  funeral, but she’s crying now, alone, under the midday sun in a clear blue sky, mourning her Gran, and understanding the flavour of impermanence, death and dying, way beyond the Teacher’s dry lecturing. This fleeting world – like bubbles in a stream.   The words echo in her mind, sink into her heart.

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Filed under FLASH FICTION