The things I collect #BlogVember

My blog posts have been kind of few and far between over the past months… I’m not sure why that is. Probably life and how busy it tends to get. And also the fact that I don’t always feel like sitting down in front of a computer screen to write at night, after I’d been doing just that all day.

But, I want to write, dammit! I want to tell stories and paint pictures with words and express my emotions accurately in prose… and I’ve come to realise that if I don’t exercise a measure of discipline, grab every opportunity to practice my art, it’s never going to grow.

So, I’ve decided to take on a little challenge. It’s called #BlogVember and when my lovely colleague, Aneeqah told me she was going to attempt it I just knew it was something I had to try too.

Dreamed up by two local bloggers, Cupcake Mummy and Love, Kids and Other Things the challenge is basically to do a post every day throughout November. Each day has a different topic, which makes it fun and easy to plan at least.

Now, I’m the WORST at challenges. Sometimes I give up before I even begin, but I’m going to put my heart into this one. So wish me luck!

Here are the topics for the month, starting with today’s: What do you collect?  

blogvember

Looking round my flat right now, I can pin point at least four different collections, of which the most obvious is…

BOOKS!

Bargain books from Napier. So stoked to have found these. And only R25 each #roadtripper

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Especially second-hand books. There are few things I love more in this life than trawling stalls and shops and bazaar tables in the hope of finding something truly wonderful. The older and more used, the better!

The fact that I seldom end up leaving one of these little missions disappointed means that shelf space has officially run out, now spilling over onto tables, the floor, my bed, the bathroom… forcing me to curb my enthusiasm somewhat lately. Or try at least.

But of course there are the kinds of books I simply can’t resist: anything about India, stories set in the Middle East, South America or Africa, fairy tales, travelogues, beautiful old poetry collections and the occasional classic.

My all-time favourite finds? Definitely Richard F. Burton’s Tales from the Arabian Nights found in a pokey little shop in the Antique Market off Long Street as well as Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts that I picked up for something ridiculous like R3 at the library sale in Kloof Street.

What’s missing? So many! While my shelves are groaning, my library is far from complete! But if I had to choose one book I’d love to lay my hands on right now, it would probably be a beautifully bound collection of Pablo Neruda’s poems – either his Elemental Odes or his Love poems. Actually what am I saying? I want both! I want all Neruda’s poems!

RECORDS

Good vibes on a sunny day #vscocam

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After years and years of wanting one, I finally invested in a record player recently and while the majority of the vinyls in my possession are really my parents,’ I’m slowly building up a collection of my own.

ELEPHANTS

A colourful new Addo ellie for my herd. Thanks @imarkrige & @tamara_jayd 🙂

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It started when – knowing how fascinated I am by these strange and intuitive creatures – my cousin, Tanee, sent me a beautiful bejeweled wooden elephant from Holland (of all places) while she was au pairing there for a year. Soon after, I attended a junk swap and gained a little family to join it. Most recently, Imar and Tamara brought me a colourful, chubby ceramic one from Addo Elephant National Park. I even have a swanky silver ellie doorstop!

SUCCULENTS

I don’t know if it’s quite PC to say you collect living things, but hey. I’m going to go with it. Like with second-hand books, I can’t resist a nursery, or even better, a roadside succulent sale. I currently have about 17 succulents in varying shapes and sizes and just love the way they add a beautiful burst of life to my flat.

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

Books

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.

Bookworm: Babylon’s Ark by Lawrence Anthony

Babylon's Ark by Lawrence Anthony

What I said in the “What I’m reading right now” section

Babylon’s Ark is a spellbinding account of the super human effort to rescue desperate animals from disaster amid wide-spread chaos of a very human war. From the pen, heart and mind of Lawrence Anthony (the same man who wrote Elephant Whisperer) the book tells the story of Anthony’s spur of the moment decision to attend to the starving and suffering animals of the Baghdad Zoo shortly after the US invasion in 2003 and Saddam’s fall. Up against a string of almost impossible challenges such as looters, low food & medicine supplies, water shortages, no electricity, angry beasts and difficult humans, the South African, his team of two Kuwaitis and a number of local Iraqis show endearing, heart-rending, soul lifting determination to save lives of the forgotten and helpless. Totally intriguing! Loving every word, sentence and page so far.

Well, I finished it a couple of weeks ago and can safely say it was one of the most incredible, mind altering books I’ve ever read. Although the focus of the story was the incredible rescue of the Baghdad Zoo, it turned out to be more of a study about the way in which we treat our precious natural resources… and the terrible consequences.

Lawrence Anthony, who sadly and unexpectedly passed away during the time I was reading the book, was a story-teller extraordinaire with a heart for, not only animals and nature, but the sacredness of life in general.

Can’t wait to get my hands on his brand new, posthumously-published The Last Rhinos.

I recommend this to anyone who has felt a fluttering of compassion for any form of life, especially the vulnerable and voiceless. Also anyone who just enjoys a good, evocatively told story.