SMOKE: Blow, Wind, Blow
Originally published: 8 November 2005
Monday in Cape Town was a bright, sunny summer's day, filled with the happy gurgles of children preparing for school, the sounds of someone drilling pavement somewhere in the suburbs and the excited murmuring from the tree in the back of my garden as the birds shared trade secrets about how to agitate dogs and not get caught.
Sounds idyllic, right? If you love summer, sun, birds and children, that is.
I'm like the Selfish Giant - the dude whose garden stayed winter all year round and who chased the kiddies away. The lilting sounds of summer are guaranteed to throw me into a spiral of uncontrollable depression, as opposed to lifting my spirits after the dark, cold winter.
But I understand that I'm not like most folks, who prefer summer. What I don't understand is how anybody can tolerate wind.
I might have been alright when I woke up yesterday and sensed the sunny day outside - some days I 'get' what summer's all about and can feel reasonably chirpy on occasion.
But as soon as I opened the door to let the dog out I was hit full in the face by a hot wind, which signalled the arrival of the windy season in Cape Town. That's where I draw the line.
Monday was so typical of a summer's day in Cape Town. When I was a kid and living in Uitenhage and Pretoria our family would make the long drive down to Cape Town every December to spend a week on a religious retreat, and that week was always sunny and windy - just like yesterday.
The retreat was out in the leafy, wealthy suburb of Constantia and as part of the activities organised for the children (the adults spent days locked up behind closed doors discussing morbid dogma and convoluted theology) we would go to some lady's house to swim in her enormous pool.
We'd walk there in a long line of sinful children and it would take about an hour to get there along the winding, dappled roads of Constantia.
I hated that walk. It was always windy and even though the sun was shining it was cold, simply because the wind had a chill factor and the suburb itself is so leafy with wealth very little sun penetrates on a summer's afternoon.
We'd also make one obligatory visit to the beach during our week in Cape Town and I think it was those experiences that got me loathing the beach so much.
The wind would whip the sand against my legs, up my shorts and into my crack - in the first five minutes alone. I'd have to eat crunchy sand-sandwiches, drink sandy cooldrink that was warm and flat, get the skin flayed off my legs and ribs by whipped particles of stinging sand and have sand in every nook and cranny for the next week.
I would have loved the beach were it not for the wind. Or the sun, for that matter. Mind you, the beach can actually just piss off altogether. Thankfully it usually does.
However - I'm not a total anti-wind freak. I just can't stand mediocre, in-between wind, is all - if it's a gale force wind you're talking about in the middle of a storm then I'm in seventh heaven.
I'll never forget my first gale force wind in the Cape Town CBD. I was fresh out of varsity and working at the Nico Malan (now Artscape) on the foreshore, and had to get there from my smelly hovel in Gardens using a combination of taxis and walking.
Sometimes I would walk from the Nico Malan to Cape Town Central Station and walk through the concourse, just to escape from a rainy day.
This particular day was sunny, but the wind was a howling gale.
Every year the newspapers publish a photo of someone holding onto a pole in the wind or cars being blown over, and that year I could well have been the dude they photographed. I wasn't, of course. But I could have been.
I stepped out of the Nico Malan in the late afternoon and was hit by a howling wind. I very soon realised I couldn't do my normal route. So I headed for the station.
Crossing a square of municipal land the wind suddenly changed direction and instead of blowing against me it gave me a huge shove in the back and ripped the sunglasses off my face, hurling them at least 50 metres through the air.
The bizarre thing was that there was a businessman tacking towards me against the wind, bent almost at right angles - and he simply stuck up a hand and plucked my shades from out of the sky.
It was brilliant. They flew at him faster than a cricket cut shot and his reaction time was milliseconds, yet he caught those sunglasses with an expressionless face and no sign of surprise nor emotion, as though catching sunglasses in gales was something he did most days.
I tried to shout my thanks at him but words were useless - you couldn't hear a thing above the scream of the wind. But I was leaning backwards and he was leaning forwards as I yelled at him, both trying to maintain our balance against the wind - when it suddenly changed direction again, and we both fell over as our support mechanism was ripped away from us.
I've always imagined what that little tableau must have looked like from high up in those municipal skyscrapers above us which looked down on that square - it was like a scene out of The Matrix.
Extreme wind and weather is fine - I love it, in fact. If I could do that storm-chasing thing, getting in the eyes of hurricanes and the like, I would. Savage nature frightens and appalls me, but I also find it immensely exhilarating.
But iffy, irritating, gusty wind in summer just makes me feel dry and crotchety, and when you're still nursing the hangover from two days ago - which just won't go away - it's something akin to how I imagine hell.
'Cos I went a little crazy
All Smoked Out,
And I sat upon a high chair
And I'm smokin' like a diesel
Way out here
And if you'll blow wind blow
Wherever you may go
Put on your overcoat
Take me away
Blow, wind, blow
Tom Waits, Blow Wind Blow, Frank's Wild Years, 1987