The R24 West at 9pm

I was driving home from the airport at around 9pm recently, after being out of town. On the main highway from the airport I saw an array of red tail lights – cars that had come to a halt. A traffic jam at 9pm at night? Come on. I was looking forward to getting home as rapidly as possible. I quickly got that feeling that this was bad. Really bad. Enough time in traffic gives one a 6th sense about these things. As I approached, I saw some sort of steam rising. The incident had happened across the middle two of the four lanes, and the cars were edging around the sides of it. The steam turned out to be a fireman hosing down a motorcycle. The bike was smashed to oblivion. No sign of the bike rider, but I didn’t need to see a body to know that he or she was dead.

I had that sobering moment you sometimes get when passing scenes like this, where you know the other drivers around you are feeling the exact same emotion. A sort of sickness in your stomach and a horrible, dark gratitude that it wasn’t you. Not yet, anyway.

As I drove away from the scene I couldn’t shake it from my mind. Later that night some loved one was going to be getting a phone call or a knock at the door which would change their life. Some poor soul out there that didn’t know what was coming. One life lying dead on a highway and another soon to be devastated.

Life is a fragile little bird in your hands. Seemingly secure. Easily lost. The R24 West at 9pm that night reminded me of this.

Saturday Morning

Waking up to the sound of birds
Not the alarm
The slow arrival of light
Edging its way in
Thinking about coffee
Checking the baby is ok
Fast asleep
One dog in its bed
One in mine
Wife turned away from me
Softly breathing miles away
Me sipping coffee
Always tastes better first thing

Everything is ok with the world
On a Saturday morning

There is magic in the open road

There is something mystical and beautiful about driving the open road. I don’t know why the idea and act of it has always held such appeal to me.

Perhaps living in Johannesburg the stop-start cramped up mesh of traffic makes you just yearn for the release of just driving freely. Perhaps it’s just the fact that we’re forced to sit away from a screen for a time being and actually confront our thoughts. Perhaps it panders to this fantasy that I think we all have somewhere in us of having nowhere to be and nothing to owe. A law unto yourself. The freedom to roam the roads free of responsibility, deadlines, problem or emails, from dusty petrol stations to small towns forgotten by time and care. Days forged by the sound of tyres on gravel, the aching lower back, the changes of landscape from one hour to the next, mountains dreaming in the distance, wiping the sweat off your brow as you get back into the car from the heat, cold beers in empty hotel bars. At times stopping in the middle of nowhere and after the loudness of the road noise to be confronted with an absolute silence so desolate that it is somehow comforting. A silence broken only by the breeze on the farmlands, the distant bird and the clicking of the car engine. Realising that in the current age a search for minimalism and simplicity is perhaps one of the most noble pursuits.

There is magic in the open road.

Day After Day

There’s an elderly beggar

at the same traffic light each day

as I drive home

he’s there no matter what

always a bright smile on his face

as he passes your window

I give him what I can

feel guilty when I can’t

but he smiles anyway

the other day I went through slightly later

instead of walking between cars

he was sitting

on the curb

looking hopelessly off into the distance

that’s the real him I thought

his expression captured the destitute life he must lead

getting up in some shack

miles away

to come beg at a traffic light in Killarney

until it’s too dark

or too quiet

or too something

and then go back to the shack

probably paying most of the day’s earnings for transport

and so his existence trudges on

and on

day after day

people standing in a line at Woodmead

thirty metres long

in the growing cold and receding light

to get on a taxi for a commute

likely to take 2 hours

back into the poverty of their home and neighbourhood

only to get up at 4am to do it again

and again

day after day

I stare out my window each day at this

at these lives

dead, expressionless faces

trapped in a cycle they can’t escape from

and I wonder

is this some sort of triumph

of human hope and resilience

or a failure

at not pulling a trigger and blowing their own brains out?

The Bench

Some afternoons after work I’d walk

down to the promenade walkway

and walk 2 miles up the shore and back again

Strangely I preferred the windy afternoons

they somehow blew the monotony of the working day away

and made me feel alive again


There was an old man who always sat on the same bench

as I walked past

Some days I’d catch him getting there

some days I’d catch him leaving

Most times I’d just see him sitting there

on his own

looking out over the sea


I felt I knew what he was thinking

Sometimes he’d be staring down

at his old wrinkled hands or looking at passers by

A few times I saw him petting dogs smiling

so I knew he was kind type

I liked him for that


And then one day he wasn’t there

Ever again

As I walked back to my apartment

a couple of blocks back

I would sometimes think

We’re all just alone

sitting on a bench

waiting to disappear