Tuesday 28 December 2010

Last Year's Words

In these days that end the old year, many people I speak to talk of how difficult or stressful 2010 has been. They have all experienced endings: deaths of loved ones, both human and furry; divorces or relationship endings; ending bad habits or moving from a house they've lived in for thirty years or a job they thought they'd never leave.

As sad and heartrending as many of these endings are, endings are simply a way for the old to make way for the new.

As the great poet T S Eliot says:

"These things have served their purpose: let them be.
So with your own, and pray they be forgiven
By others, as I pray you to forgive
Both bad and good. Last season's fruit is eaten
And the full-fed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from."
                from “Little Gidding” (Quartet No 4)

I wish you a new year of more beginnings than endings; beginnings that are sung in a fresh and hopeful voice. May 2011 be a year of peace and love for both ourselves and our world.

Free Image from ClipArt

Sunday 19 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a PURRFECT Christmas!

Picasso I am not, but occasionally I feel the urge to turn my hand to art. I enjoy it more than my writing, probably because I know I'm not very good, and so I just draw for the fun of it. I don't try to be original. My art is usually a mish-mash of simple drawings or paintings that catch my eye (this painting was inspired by a long-ago drawing I saw on the web somewhere, but I can't remember where!). When I write I agonise over every word; I seek perfection. When I draw or paint I happily splash away and don't care a bit if a line is skew or the perspective off. 

HRH Theodora insisted I draw a Christmas Cat, so the watercolour feline above is my wish for you and yours during this festive season: may you all have a Christmas that is simple, sloppy and a little bit of a surprise.

Merry Christmas!

Friday 10 December 2010

Real Men Aren't Violent

When blogging friend Damaria Senne put the call out for guest posts on the Shukumisa website to highlight the 16 Days Activism Against Gender Violence, my mouth volunteered before my head thought about it. As the deadline crept closer and closer and inspiration still failed to descend, I said to Damaria that my "problem" is that (thank heavens) I'm surrounded by wonderful men. How could I write about something I hadn't experienced? Damaria came back with an important statement. 'Write about your good men,' she said, 'to show that there are good men in this world. The 16 days is not about demonising men; it's about helping women.'

And so I wrote about the real men in my life. You can read the article by clicking HERE or reading it below:


Who are the most important men in a woman’s life? Father, lovers, husband and sons. No matter what the culture, in the best of myths, the males in the family stand ready to protect and guard the well-being of the female family members.

In reality, it happens too often that these same men are the ones who are the cause of violence against women.  It always shocks me when I read about the so-called “honour killings”, where men—in the sacred name of their God—are allowed to (let’s be brutally honest) legally murder their women for ridiculous reasons such as falling in love with a man of a different religion, or choosing to wear sexy clothes. What’s honourable about violence against women? Nothing!

I’ve been blessed with a life surrounded by men who truly know the meaning of honour.  Never have any of the men I love as family or friends lifted a hand in violence to me.

My husband is a highly intelligent and highly educated man. He is sensitive and caring, but strong and protective at the same time. There is a moment that stands out in my memory as being unforgettable; it forged my love for him in steel.

Left: My husband, Beric, preparing for SWC 2010

Recently married, my big mouth (again) got me into trouble. This time with a very large, very aggressive and very angry man in a bakkie. This Izuzu-man cut the corner, nearly taking me with him. Because I’ve never experienced violence from men, I felt safe enough to call him a few choice words…and then I got the fright of my life when he slammed on brakes, scrambled over the hood and made straight for me with fists waving.

And my husband, my cry-in-sad-movies husband who practically faints at the sight of blood, pushed me aside, stepped in between me and the oncoming maniac, looked a long way up at him and said “Leave my wife alone!” The man, as bullies tend to do when faced with a greater inner strength, slunk back to his vehicle, swearing fluently.

But, I can hear you say, the privilege of your husband’s education is what’s given him the edge. Poverty, lack of education and domestic violence are the breeding ground of gender violence.

Not so.

My father left school in Std 6. That was the year he finally stopped hiding in the cupboard his mother had shoved him and his siblings into to protect them from their violent, alcoholic father.  Eventually, my Dad could no longer bear to hear the sounds of domestic violence against his mother. He sprang out of the cupboard, overcame his drunken father and warned him never to raise a hand to any of them again. That was the same day he left school and went out to work so that his mother and siblings could have food to eat and money to finish their education.
Left: My Dad (IB Heinemann) in working gear, 1968

Without education for himself, my Dad’s life was physical. He was a brilliant sportsman and he gained respect as a rough, tough mining man, willing to lead the most dangerous rescue attempts or bring the gold up from the deepest, most difficult gullies.

Do you still say violence against women is bred in poverty and lack of education? How then do you explain that, in the eight-three years of his life, no matter how angry any of his womenfolk have made him (and, believe me, we’ve tested him many times, like when he caught me smoking…, uh, something that wasn’t quite legal) my Dad has never, and I mean never, raised a hand in anger towards any of us?

These men I am privileged to love have two things in common: faith and honour.  Their sacred gods take different shapes; my father is a traditional Christian, while my intellectual husband is a Gnostic. But their honour springs from the same inner strength, the kind that gives their womenfolk the freedom to be everything we can or want to be.

Now that’s what I call real men.

Not all women are as privileged or as blessed as I am. Every day, women from all religions and all walks of life are being subjected to horrifying acts of violence; sometimes in the name of religion; at other times, out of the sheer brutality of weak men who resort to violence to “prove” their masculinity.

I hope that the example of these two special men can inspire other men to rise above the need to use violence as a tool of oppression against women.  And I hope that women the world over come to know that we must not follow the example of weak men: violence is never an answer to violence; gentleness and love are the only legacies worth striving for.


Judy Croome is a writer based in Johannesburg.  Learn more about Judy at www.judycroome.blogspot.com.


Monday 6 December 2010

Meeting Nathaniel

This is why I love living in the new South Africa.  As I drove to our local store (called Pick & Pay) I saw a gorgeous example of the national pride that was so prevalent during the Soccer World Cup 2010:
Nathaniel's home is in Mphumalanga, as can be seen from the MP numberplate

He also has a makarapa (soccer hat), which he doesn't wear when driving because it affects his steering.
The badge Nathaniel is wearing shows that he is a member of the well-respected Zionist Christian Church, which has one of the largest congregations in South Africa

Despite the cuddly evidence to the contrary, Nathaniel assured me he was a staunch supporter of Bafana Bafana (our Soccer Team) and the Amabokkebokke (Springbokke Rugby Team)

Traffic in Johannesburg can get busy; Nathaniel can make himself heard

Africa is a place of vast distances and transport can be a problem.
Nathaniel displays his pride in his own vehicle

Here's wishing Nathaniel many happy travels on his beautiful bicycle!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Bush Snacks

Food is one of life's great pleasures. In the African bush, though, it's not so much a pleasure as hard work. Many years ago we saw a python with its recent kill of impala. It was awe-inspiring watching this snake devour its much larger prey. But, out of respect for the python's hard work, we didn't take photos as the noise of the shutter opening would have scared the python into regurgitating its hard-won meal, and it may have been weeks before it had another successful hunt.

On our recent trip to the Pilansberg Game Reserve we didn't see anything quite as unusual, but we did get to see some interesting bush snacks.

Leopard Tortoise : This little fellow had a feast on a pile of calcified dung it found. Because their camouflage is so clever, these tortoises are not easy to spot. We were lucky enough to have twenty minutes in his (or her) company.

Tucking in with gusto (notice the little pink tongue)

Holding the food steady
Taking a big bite
We were also lucky enough to see a Pied Kingfisher catch its morning snack.
A successful dive. The fish, stunned by being slapped against the branch, was almost as big as the bird itself.
Swallowing food whole isn't a good idea...unless you're a kingfisher!

We were too late to see the actual lions, but this is the remains of a day old zebra kill. You can clearly see the ribs picked clean by the vultures and other scavengers.

This fellow grubbing around for food is not a rare sight; warthogs are common enough in most game reserves. However, this old man had such an impressive set of tusks, I had to include a photo of him.

The bush holds so many pleasures - from the susurration of the warm wind through the dry pale grass to the raucous "go-way, go-way" cry of the grey loeries - that it's hard to say what draws me back time and time again. Perhaps it's because I never know what we'll see next. Or perhaps it's simply that, in the bush, primal and serene, time stands still and the soul is restored.

All photos by Beric or Judy Croome