My playlist lately

Fairy lights

I’ve listened everything to death.


Each and every one of my favourite albums has lost its lustre. Songs that used to make me spin around spontaneously while doing mundane tasks around the house now get nothing more than an eye roll out of me. Ballads that used to reduce me to a weeping mess now leave me feeling nothing more than *meh*.

It’s depressing. Like realising your once passionate love affair has fizzled. Like waking up on the last day of your holiday and knowing there won’t be another one for a while. Bittersweet, I guess you’d call it.

But the truth is, not having any songs that really turn your insides upside down and/or set your feet on fire is infinitely worse than losing a lover or knowing something good is about to end.

Because, simply put, along with comfort food and driving really fast with the windows rolled down so your overthinking disappears into a swirl of crazy hair for a little while, music is an essential healing agent. Also a party starter, a mood lifter, an aphrodisiac (could there be anything sexier than live blues?)… and life is really boring without it.

When I realised my music collection and I had hit a bit of a dry patch, I decided that the best way to rekindle the spark would be to practice a bit of musical promiscuity. Nothing like a bit of distance to make the heart grow fonder, or what?

So, I’ve been delving into friends’ music collections (a mix CD Jana lent me really put me back on track, as I blasted it through my car’s speakers on repeat for over a week) and listening to a lot of music online, mostly on Grooveshark, but also sampling playlists on 8tracks every now and then.

And I’m happy to announce that I’ve come up with a brand new list of songs to listen to death. They range from good old folky ballads to epic electronica, melancholic surf songs and even a bit of straightforward indie rock.

Here are my 10 favourites right now:

1. All for you by ISO (they’re a local band from Pretoria!!)

2. King and lionheart by Of Monsters and Men (sweet female vocal folk)

3. Dress up in you by Belle and Sebastian (this song makes me irrationally happy)

4. Outro by M83 (totally epic – should be listened to at top volume while driving a winding coastal road at sunset)

5. Like the dawn by The Oh Hellos (I just love the lines “at last, at last
bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh, at last… and you will surely be the death of me but how could I have known?”)

6. Fake Empire by The National (gosh, this band really knows how to make music that fills one with nostalgia for no particular reason. I love this song and this line: “tip toe through our shiny city with our diamond slippers on”)

7. Depth over distance by Ben Howard (a man with a talent for tugging at those heartstrings you thought had withered a long, long time ago)

8. Heroes by David Bowie (if you’ve seen The Perks of Being a Wallflower you may recognise it as ‘the tunnel song.’ It was also reworked and used in Moulin Rouge’s famous Elephant Love medley. I have big love for this song)

9. Santa Monica Dream by Angus and Julia Stone (“Goodbye to my Santa Monica dream / Fifteen kids in the backyard drinking wine / You tell me stories of the sea / And the ones you left behind” – you get the gist)

10. End transmission by AFI (Okay, I actually rediscovered this one in my own collection. I love the Bonnie and Clyde theme, I love Davey Havock’s famous “Oh”s and I listen to it really loudly when I’m driving at night)

So, there you have it. What have you been listening to lately? 

Cape Town’s best second-hand bookshops

There’s something magical about second hand book stores, isn’t there? It’s like a whole bunch of parallel universes came together and converged on a single, usually quite pokey and dusty, point on some unremarkable street corner.

Apart from all the stories held together by each tome’s spine, it’s like hundreds more cling to the covers, sometimes leaving traces of the homes and hands that have cherished them in cryptic messages – names, dates, congratulations – on the title page.

It’s a serendipitous sort of art, second-hand book shopping, and one which should be practiced with the utmost patience and ample time to spare if you want the correct volumes to find their way to you.

So, whether you’re well-versed in the whole process, or maybe just started grappling with the idea, we thought it good to compile a list of our favourite Cape Town spots to look for previously loved books.

Tommy’s Books, Long Street

Squeezed in between bars, clubs, designer clothes shops and restaurants, you will find one of Cape Town’s most famous and well-loved sites: Tommy’s Book Exchange. Established in 1969, this quintessential dark and dusty book store is stuffed with treasures that will woo even the most snobbish bibliophile’s heart. Sadly, in the past year or so, Tommy’s has shrunk to less than half its former size and now shares the space with a variety of curios from across the continent.

Address: 130 Long Street, Cape Town CBD
Tel: 021 424 7675
Business hours: 08:30 – 17:00 (Monday – Friday), 08:30 – 14:00 (Saturdays), Closed on Sundays

Proseworthy Collectable Books, Long Street Antique Arcade

If rare items are what you’re after, popping in at this small store on the Wale Street side of Long Street’s famous antique market is definitely worth your while. I once picked up a volume of Sir Richard Francis Burton’s legendary translation of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights for only R75. A real bargain!

Address: 127 Long Street, Cape Town, CBD
Tel: 021 423 3810
Business hours: 9:00 – 4:30 (Monday to Friday), 09:00 – 14:00 (Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Cathedral Books & Bric-a-brac, St George’s Cathedral 

Located on the premises of St. George’s Cathedral, just around the corner from the main entrance, this tiny shop is a marvellous scratch patch of incredible items from yesteryear. Apart from a healthy selection of second-hand books, you will also find anything from old cameras to records to porcelain dolls and everything in between.

Address: 1 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town CBD
Tel: 021 424 7360
Business hours: 11:00 – 13:00 (Tuesday to Friday), 09:00 – 12:30 (Sundays) Closed Mondays and Saturdays

Mabu Vinyl, just off Kloof Street

Name sound familiar? This little shop just off Kloof Street gained world fame last year when it was featured in the acclaimed documentary Searching for Sugarman, as the very place where owner, Sugar, started his huge search for Sixto Rodriguez. While the overwhelming number of records is certainly the main attraction, Mabu also houses an intriguing collection of second-hand books as well as CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes and videos.

Address: 2 Rheede Street, Gardens
Tel: 021-423-7635
Business hours: 09:00 – 19:00 (Monday – Friday), 09:00 – 18:00 (Saturday), 11:00 – 18:00 (Sundays)

St. Georges Mall book stalls x2

There are two fantastic temporary book stalls located along St. George’s Mall pedestrian walkway. The larger of the two can be found in the section between Castle and Strand Streets, behind the Adderley Street Woolworths. This one has a wide variety of genres, including an impressive array of esoteric and religious reading. Their classics section also yields some gems at times. Unless its raining cats and dogs, you will find the tables set up and ready to sell from about 09:00 till about 16:30.

The smaller can be found between Shortmarket and Long Market Streets, just behind the St Georges FNB. While it may not have as many books on display as its competition just down the road, you are bound to find something rare and wonderful with every visit. Their selection of Africana and South African writing is quite impressive and (here’s a little secret), they are definitely the cheapest second-hand book option in the whole of Cape Town. You will find them there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, weather-permitting.

CAFDA Book Shop, Regent Road, Sea Point

CAFDA is a registered child protection Agency, which works to reunify families in the disadvantaged communities surrounding Cape Town. One of the ways in which they raise funds is through selling second hand books. The CAFDA Book Shop in Sea Point is large and airy and very well organized. While you’re likely to pick up the latest light reading chick lit, you’re just as likely to find some rare volume of Shakespeare’s collected works. There is also a CAFDA book shop in Cavendish Square.

Address: 18 Regent Road, Sea Point
Tel: 021 434 6149
Business hours: 09:00 – 17:00 (Mondays to Fridays), 08:30 – 13:00 (Saturdays)

The Book Shoppe, Tokai

Like CAFDA, the Book Shoppe in Tokai has steered clear of the stereotypical dim and dusty feel. Instead it’s flooded with light and there’s lots of space to move around. Here you will find practically new second-hand books and only very well preserved older volumes.

Address: Tokai Junction Centre, Corner of Tokai and Main roads
Tel: 021 713 1528

On the outskirts:

Bikini Beach Books, Gordon’s Bay 

Just a warning! If you aren’t fond of chaos, best drive on by. However, if the challenge of finding something super special among the many crooked stacks and towering shelves appeals, you will probably be rewarded handsomely!

Address: 41 Beach Road, Gordon’s Bay
Business hours: 09:00 – 21:00

Pringle Bay Books, Pringle Bay

Located in the attic above the Country Shop, Pringle Bay Books has a well curated and carefully selected collection of second-hand books for sale. Their selection of natural science, fauna and flaura and history is worth a good pore over, but if you’re more of a fiction fan, there’s more than enough of that too.

Address: Peak Road, Pringle Bay
Tel: 082 899 7195

Oupa se Boeke, Kleinmond

If you’ve taken up Exclusive Books’ 101 Books to Read Before You Die challenge, this unassuming book store in the middle of a coastal town is set on making the task easier for you. You will find copies of the list put up here and there in the shop, and there’s a whole shelf dedicated to the volumes mentioned. Apart from this, you will also find an impressive array of historical fiction, poetry and Afrikaans literature.

Address: 2nd Street, just round the corner from Pudding & Pie bakery

Bounty Books, Napier 

So, the chances that you will end up in the tiny town of Napier by chance, are pretty much zero. However, if your travels take you through there for some reason – maybe on an outing to the Southern tip of Africa or so – keep your eyes peeled for the bright orange building next to the main road. Here you are bound to make the most incredible finds and pay next to nothing.

Tel: 072 642 3357

*Originally published on News24 Travel

Quote: The girl who reads


My friend, Meg, posted this article called “You should date an illiterate girl” by Charles Warnke on Facebook the other day. Sensing the sarcasm in the title, I thought I’d give it a quick squiz and soon found myself completely consumed.

In the first part of the essay, Warnke describes a mundane life that never really comes to much. A life with a girl who doesn’t read. A perfectly comfortable life.

In the second part of the essay he explains *why*, despite the boredom and monotony, it’s so much better to date a girl who doesn’t read than dating one who does. Do it, he says, “because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell.”

Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled… A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much.

Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Little prince quote

Sometimes I think I’ve made myself too familiar with stories. Like other people who read I’ve immersed myself in words and plots and syntax and, as Warnke says I’ve “spun out the account of [my] life and it is bursting with meaning. [I] insist that [my] narratives are rich, [my] supporting cast colourful, and [my] typeface bold.”

And sometimes I wish I was a girl who didn’t read, so that I didn’t always have to try and figure out the plot with all its intricacies beforehand.

Maybe if I’d never fallen in love with ‘story’ I could have lived an easy life in shades of faded pastel spilling carelessly over flimsy pencil sketch outlines, instead of this one that’s always bursting with Amazon green, Kalahari red, flamingo pink, just-before-dawn purple sky, that electric blue you sometimes see in lightning – all burgeoning within stark black curves and contours. This terrifying and wonderful, hilarious and heart-breaking life, a constant contrast… never a dull moment.

But would I want to? Sometimes for a moment I think yes. But deep in my bones, I know it’s an absolute no.

What is ‘home’ really?

Sunset Nadia Krige

A couple of weeks ago I posted a quote from Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel” essay – probably one of the most intelligent pieces of travel writing ever.

And today, in one of those divine little coincidences (because I would probably not have bothered watching it if I hadn’t read that essay) I came across this amazingly profound TED talk by the very same man.

Somehow Iyer managed to cover and connect a whole range of topics I’ve been mulling over in my mind for a long time now with such ease, humour and simplicity.

Ah, you know, topics like travel and home, being in-between and feeling ‘out,’ yet fitting in with others who are other kinds of in-between, stillness as opposed to movement and movement in stillness…

I keep joking about having a quarter life crisis – that I’m generally just unsure and restless, yet at the same time also kind of excited about this weird feeling of metamorphosis.

Watching this made me even more excited… like maybe I’ve been thinking relevant thoughts after all (some of the time at least). Like maybe I’m not too far off with the things I’ve been pursuing… or at least trying to. Like maybe I will eventually be able to come up with some sort of suitable response to the whirlpool in my head – maybe not as profound as Pico’s (maybe that also comes with age and practice and experience), but a response nonetheless.

The talk is stuffed with quotable gems, but these are a few of my favourites:

“And their whole life will be spent taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained glass whole. Home for them is really a work in progress. It’s like a project onto which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections. And for more and more of us home really has less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul.” (About our super mobile generation)

“There is one great problem with movement and that is that it’s really hard to get your bearings when you’re in mid-air… I began to think that, really, movement is only as good as the sense of stillness that you can bring to it to put it into perspective.”

“I do think it’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about… and find a home.”

“Movement is a fantastic privilege and allows us to do so much that our grandparents could never have dreamed of doing, but movement, ultimately only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home, in the end, is of course not just a place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.”

Oh, and I also really liked this description of the night sky:

“A great overturned saltshaker of stars”

Check the video out for yourself below:

You are tired (I think)


I came across this ee cummings poem today. Strange how in all the years of dabbling in literature, studying poetry and prose in all its wonderful forms I have never, ever read it before. It really struck a chord with me, because I guess I am just a little tired too at the moment of the always puzzle of living and doing and of things that break, and – just tired.

So, here you go. Maybe you can identify with it too:

ee cummings

P.S. I’m totally okay, guys! Don’t worry about my state of mind 🙂 Just going through a bit of a Quarter Life Crisis, that’s all…

I woke up with this song in my head

beach house

So after being battered by dreams of huge waves constantly crashing down on my head all night, I was so relieved when I woke up with a rather soothing song in my head this morning.

At first I couldn’t quite place the band to which the melody belongs and, for one magical moment, thought I may have become a musical prodigy overnight.

However, after washing my face and sipping some coffee I suddenly remembered a snatch of the lyrics (in no particular order): “Black and white horse, you run before us.”

Then it all started coming together.

It’s a song by Beach House called Zebra, and even though I’ve only heard it once or twice, it seems to have made quite an impression on me.

Give it a listen. It’s pretty, and like I said, quite soothing.

You children of space, you restless in rest

social weavers in the northern cape. Nadia Krige/gypsified

Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls.

For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever-distant and alone…

Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.

Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

But these things are not yet to be.

In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields…

Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet: On Houses

Quirky quote: Saunter, don’t hike

Kogelberg biosphere reserve (Nadia Krige/Gypsified)

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

– John Muir

(Just a note: I originally spotted this quote on Year In The Wild’s Facebook page. Check it out for incredible photographs and stories from South Africa’s wild places)

Beautiful bearded music

Scrolling through my Google Reader this morning I came upon a post on See Hear Say that caught my eye. Mostly, I guess, because there was a picture of a curly-haired man peeping over the body of a guitar and below it a YouTube video, showing that he did, in fact, also have a beard. And looked a bit like a young Cat Stevens. I swooned.

And then I pressed play and  swooned even more as I watched him sing a beautiful song using only his voice, mouth and body for musical accompaniment. As See Hear Say’s Laura points out: “i don’t understand a word he’s singing but this is so beautiful i could cry.”

Well, the man’s name is Alaa Wardi and he’s pretty much a genius when it comes to recording, editing, producing and releasing soul-soaring songs, using nothing much more than his voice, body, a small selection of instruments and a computer. Amazing!

alaa wardi2

I checked out his website, and this is what he says:

“For me, that’s more than enough reason to keep doing what I do till I die, and I hope for more people to share with me what their souls have to say. I’m honored to be your soul mate… my listener friends.

Now here’s what you think you need to know!!: My name is Alaa Wardi, I’m 25, I’m Iranian, Born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Studied music and sound engineering in Amman, Jordan, and currently living in Riyadh.

My religions point of view is none of you all’s concern ;)”

A charmer, methinks.

So, with no further ado, Alaa Wardi’s Ma3gool for your listening pleasure.

And the good news is… THERE’s MORE!! Check out the rest of his songs on YouTube.

Pics from ansam & Design Taxi