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Archive for October, 2012

I love this time of year. Everything in nature seems to be conspiring to bring to my attention the fact that another year is coming to a close. I always feel sorry for countries, like America and the UK, who don’t begin their year in January, or end it in December. They begin their school year in September and Christmas holidays are a mere interlude rather than an almost month long fiesta of summer escapades. I need my year to end in December and begin again in January – and everything I do needs to follow that cyclical pattern, in order for me to feel that all is well with the world.

I was awakened from my winter stupor quite recently as I was driving home, the smell of cut grass in my nostrils, and there, set aflame in the last shafts of light, were the translucent wings of thousands of flying termites. At this time of year the streets and grassy verges become a hive of activity as vervet monkeys, pigeons, hadedas and yellow-billed kites gorge themselves on the living bounty offered up by the earth. The monkeys sit in the middle of the road, stuffing handful after handful of ants into their mouths. The birds peck at the grassy knolls where termites nest, and the kites swoop down catching their quarry right out of the air, as they emerge from their winter home.  At night, the street lamps lure them to a blinding end, and within minutes, the road is adorned with a carpet of wings. When I was growing up, we called them as flying ants, and their soft wriggling brown bodies repulsed us as wings fell off, and the mating began, which saw two ants, head to tail, whirring about the place in a manic dance. Our small sausage dog Max, used to snap them right off the wall, munching happily on their creamy inners, which apparently tastes just like peanut butter.

Termite, termite with wings

Flying termite

On that same road, huge jacaranda trees, probably planted by the first European settlers to Durban, stand sentry. Long, gnarled branches stretch out over the road and purple blossoms, caught by the wind, migrate south to create a velvet blanket across pavements and lanes. Driving under the massive canopies, as the wind showers my car with purple rain, fills me with pure joy, a childlike glee at how lucky I am, to experience such wonder. A bit of folklore around these parts is that if, by the time the Jacaranda tree blooms, school children and university students haven’t started studying for end of year exams, they are doomed to fail.  I can, without hesitation, reveal to you that this is untrue…but I’ll be sure to tell my children the same thing when the time comes, especially if they possess my dreamy qualities, most non-conducive to studying.

Jacaranda in bloom

These sights and sounds transport me back to school days and immediately envelop me in a sense of excitement. Because nothing was as exciting as realising that school was limping to a close and that we would be free to roam the streets on our bikes, free to escape into the park to spend hours exploring the branches of the “tangly tree”.   Once exams were over and lessons had been exhausted, they’d keep us on for another week or two at school but we’d while away the hours making Christmas decorations out of macaroni, practicing self-defence, or playing rounders on the field for hours. All, undoubtedly, my best memories of school.

So even though it is only nearing the end of October, I am beginning to feel that this incredibly hard year is drawing to a close and that good times lie ahead; a new start is on the horizon and it is all so reassuringly familiar.

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