3) Backyard Beauty



It feels like a good time to introduce my life-giving, ever-loving parents. Those that know them will agree with this elemental analogy: my Dad is of the ether and my Mom is of the earth. I am the fire connected to both: sometimes blazing, sometimes smoking and sometimes ash. I follow the cycle of bright, blurry and re-birth.


It might not surprise you to learn that my sun sign is Leo. And in these early years I loved the limelight. I was bright and bold. My flame burned strong perhaps unconsciously propelled by the need to live, to counter my staccato start. I glowed in the centre of attention; I clung to it for as long as I could. My roar was loud. My grandfather used to affectionately call me ‘korrelkop’ owing to my strong will and temperament, while my father used to call me foghorn.


I can only describe my childhood as idyllic.


I was brought up on the legends and stories of King Arthur and Hiawatha, Tarzan and Shaka Zulu, Robin Hood and Jesus. A spectrum of views on good and evil, right and wrong, black and white.


I have always occupied the ‘grey’: an all seeing one who sits with a bird’s eye view of all sides and scenarios. A free and fiery thinker ready to connect and concoct, carry and cast aside.


My Dad reminded me the other day that Intrepid Avenue was on the corner of Eagle Crescent. Beyond which lay a rocky mound of wilderness and wildlife. Resident mongoose, lizards and snakes would find their way into our garden while fish eagles would circle the sky, their calls and cries coined the ‘spirit of Africa’.


Our wrap around garden was a world unto its own. In the centre sat our own agapanthus encircled rockery teeming with little creatures and lots of creative play. Within it, a large fallen tree was both a play vehicle and vantage point. It slowly decomposed and disintegrated over the years, morphing into all manner of magic and mystery in our minds. From sticky and stinky to sharp and sappy, each plant had its own personality and purpose. Hues of blues (plumbago, agapanthus and yesterday, today and tomorrow) sat alongside gradients of green (palms, foxtail agave, conifers, cordylines and more) offering evergreen experiences.


It was our island, our fortress, and our frontier. Our imaginations reenacted the tales told. Armed with an heirloom sword, my brother would be a round table knight sometimes a servant to my princess. The wild west came alive with ‘cowboys and Indians’; I was drawn to Pocahontas over the draws of Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp. We used home-made ‘cattys’ to shoot little orange berry 'bullets' of which an endless supply grew on the border trees that stung our skin.


Emptying our pillowcases and filling them with our toys, my brother and I would wear red shorts on our heads and run around the garden pretending to be Father Christmas. A sleeping bag became a sled (or magic carpet) as we pulled each other on the grass.

We climbed trees and gorged on succulent, sweet and staining mulberries; rode bikes up and down our Intrepid Avenue; and ran rockery laps when we hadn’t expelled enough energy.


When it rained, we would close all the doors in the hallway, remove all the glass frames from the walls, and play cricket. Or sit round the generations-old dining table and play a serious, grown-up game of bridge.


Spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs … pick your suit and it becomes your armour and arsenal. It trumps all. How could I pick anything but hearts?