Darling you’ve got to let me know, should I stay or should I go?

Some of us are riding out the uncertainty. Some of us, packing for Perth.

Some of us are desperate to leave, but being economic prisoners, we can’t.

Some feel like we should leave (it’s only a matter of time we’re told), but we don’t want to.

There are those who bash the country from afar, swapping crime stories at braais with their mukkers, saying phew we’re lucky we got out, the country is going to hell in a hand basket.

Shame we say, you have to clean your own house and look after your kids 24/7. And shame, you have to hack on the Tube everyday and the sun never shines.

Ag, you might have a clean house but you’re barricaded inside it, you remind us.

We write about our love for this country, you lambaste us. You’re like frogs who don’t realise you’re in boiling water you say. Oh, you might be safe, but are you happy is our comeback.

Don’t you miss it, we ask. The beaches, the bush, the skies, the gees, the winefarms, the warmth, the spirit, the connections, the diversity, the entrepreneurial opportunities, your families?

How do you cope with it, you counter. The instability, the political shitstorms, the crime, the escalating cost of living, the loadshedding?

Perhaps your Facebook feed of cuzzies hanging together on weekends, sunkissed with bruised shins, gives you a pining so visceral it takes your breath away. Perhaps you feel just a gentle pang of nostalgia that’s eclipsed by excitement for an upcoming weekend in Croatia or the relief of living without high walls.

Perhaps you left for an adventure. Maybe you were pushed out by a trauma.

For every South African who kisses the tarmac or presses their face into the red dirt when they move back home, there is one who is thriving overseas and has never looked back.

For every patriotic story on #I’mStaying there’s another on #IAmStayingOverseas, swearing allegiance to an adopted country.

I emigrated twice and both times I came back. South Africa never really loved me (like Trevor Noah, I was born a crime), but I loved her, regardless.

I kak about the future, but I can’t bear the thought of leaving. With every year that passes, my roots here sink deeper, but goddam it’s a beautiful thing to walk through the world without looking over your shoulder, and I miss that. We may move to give that to our children one day.

South Africa is immensely beautiful, immensely troubled. Whether we stick by her or leave her shores, perhaps we should be mindful of what a privilege choice is, because those most affected by the country’s travails have precious few.

This country’s stories, like ours, are many and varied, complex and singular.

There’s no right or wrong; there are zero guarantees.

There is always the push and the pull.

Choosing is never easy.

Let’s have each other’s backs.

Plant geek

It could be my husband’s farming genes that rubbed off on me, or perhaps it was a decade of living in smoggy, congested cities that did it, but a few years ago I planted a veggie garden. At the time I knew nothing about growing and googled things like:

What does a garlic plant look like?
How do you grow something from seed?
Do pineapples grow on trees? 

I was, in a word, botanically illiterate. 

Just as my baby fig tree was getting it’s first leaves and the kale seedlings were pushing through, the fierce Cape Town drought hit and, without a wellpoint or borehole, my fledgling plants withered and died within weeks, which broke my heart. But I learnt a whole lot about composting and mulching and propagating, and fell totally in love with growing things.

My garden became my happy place. 

Now, it’s not the sort of garden that’ll be featured in House & Garden any time soon. You know the ones— sweeping, ornamental, dramatic, breathtaking in their beauty.

Out here in the deep south we get lashed by the south easter which rids the air of every trace of moisture—plants have to fight to stay upright and things are a little parched.

Our garden, a compact space where we experiment and often fail, needs to be robust and resilient. What we stick in the ground can’t be too thirsty or fiddly & fussy. Delicate roses will wilt. Pansies and petunias—far too naff.

In these parts, it’s the hardy succulents and fynbos that thrive.    

Writers are often encouraged to write about the things they’re scared to write about. That’s where the meaty stuff lies; the fears and frailties that make us human. When we peel back the layers and show our true selves, it gives others permission to do the same and we can all breathe a little easier. We realise we’re all in it together and are, as Ram Dass so beautifully put it, ‘just walking each other home.’

The meaty stuff is the important stuff, but so too is the light and the frivolous, and these days, whenever I sit down to write, it’s plants I want to write about. They are just so very beautiful.

I can’t wait to tell you about how we transformed our dull lawn into a characterful higgledy piggledy patch of fynbos and aloes, about why I love the grubby mess that is composting, and why I’m nuts about succulents.

Meantime it’s a brand new decade. Happy New Year! May 2020 be planty, abundant, packed with growth, with as much sunshine as there is rain.

Bees love the brilliant blue flowers of the borage plant. This was our first borage plant and it self-seeded like crazy (they’re so rampant they’re known as ‘spatial bullies’). They’re also great companion plants for cabbages and strawberries (my three attempts at growing strawberries have failed dismally). It’s the sweetest thing, the way these two branches kind of leant in and the flowers intertwined.
Sam in our wild and unruly gooseberry bush (also a bit of a bully, as it’s thrust itself on our lemon tree in the back and is inching it’s way into our fig tree). Having made a few jars of gooseberry jam from our homegrown berries, I now consider myself a homesteader.