Category: friends and enemas


I was thirty-five when I tied the proverbial knot and so had attended many marriages and yet this one continues to stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Not simply because it was my marriage, which no doubt adds its own weight of bias, but I imagine regardless of whose ceremony I was attending that day, I would have still been blown away.

Purple-haired, black suited, I waited nervously for my bride to arrive.

Upon receiving word that she had arrived, I grabbed my djembe drum, sat centre stage and began a simple drumming beat.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP SLAP BOOM

drumpre

The beat and rhythm resonates out from the front where I am sitting and emanates through the amphitheatre shaped room and suddenly everyone’s attention is on me.

Then Gavin, whose drums we are using, joins me and establishes a base beat that is informed by my rhythm and which will give direction and form to everyone else.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP BOOM BOOM

drumhands

Suddenly three more drums come to play as my three best men, sitting together in the front row, join in to this beat which is now starting to build.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP SLAP BOOM

drumdunc

My younger sister who is one of my best friends and two other women who are spread around the room take up the beat. Eight drums playing in unison. Singing together. Daring each other on.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP BOOM BOOM

drumtblur

One more. And then another. Two from the back row. One from the edge of the left hand side. Another from somewhere near the front. The beat has become like a hungry beast that is slowly striding around all areas of the room, picking up pace and strength and rhythm. Suddenly there are 18 drums in total pounding out this ever present beat.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP SLAP BOOM

The anticipation is growing. The emotion is overwhelming. We all know the moment is soon. The drums tell us so. Any moment now my beautiful bride is going to burst in from the back of the room and slowly make her way down the aisle to me.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP BOOM BOOM

drummike

But time passes, and the beat is allowed to grow. To surge and move and create and invite. Every single person in the chapel is now completely caught up in this sound, this music, this invitation. Call to marriage.

SLAPP SLAP BOOM

SLAP SLAP BOOM

I am struggling to hold back the emotion. The day itself brings enough of its own, but now with this wild beast of percussive engagement pounding at my heart, my mind, my emotions, it feels like everything is about to let loose. And still the rhythm grows.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP BOOM BOOM

drumwide

Was it two minutes or maybe ten? It is hard to tell any more. All that I know is the beat has taken us all prisoner and is holding us in its mesmerising grasp, readying us for that moment which is imminent. The moment that surely must be about to happen.

SLAP SLAP BOOM

SLAP SLAP BOOM

And she arrives.

valarrive

Those without drums rise to their feet, but the drum beast is not finished yet. Surging in rhythm as the father walks her down to the front, towards me. And then says his final goodbye. The beautiful Valerie has made her entrance, and my blown awayness has a new source, and her being next to me has sucked all of the power out of the beat of the drums.

SLAP BOOM

The moment has arrived.

beatoni know people may think i’m biased, but that remains by far the best opening to any wedding i have ever been a part of and it is great to be reminded of it as we head towards our 6th anniversary – 11 July – which incidentally we will be spending celebrating the marriage of two of our good friends MJ and Ash and so i thought i would get this gem out a little earlier as that weekend there will be a huge focus on them.

[Marriage takes a lot of work and i have been privileged to share a whole bunch of different thoughts, ideas and stories from a number of different friends of ours who are in good marriages, and you can see a lot of those over here]

elephant

i have a good friend called Megan Furniss and we like to make things up.

a lot!

Megan was responsible for pretty much bringing Improv to Cape Town in the form of TheatreSports [now Improguise: Players of TheatreSports] which quickly became Cape Town’s longest running and much loved show. And best kept secret, it seems at some times, although at the moment we are doing some highly experimental and completely fun shows [different formats every week] at the Galloway Theatre just outside of the Waterfront in town. Mondays at 7.30pm – you should come watch! Especially if you haven’t for a while. We also just recently did our first ever Duet two player show of Improvment and it was SO MUCH FUN we are both [i think] looking forward to the next one…

ImpromptuBrettMegan

Megan also has a huge love/hate [or maybe love/frustrate might be a more accurate term] relationship with South Africa and is one of the most proudly South African person i know who is not me, [when it comes to the good stuff] , and one of the most outspoken, incensed, head-shaking, finger-wagging, hair-pulling-out person when it comes to the bad and the ugly.

i, on the other hand [which actually looks remarkably familiar to the first hand] love Improv and the opportunity to be creative in the moment and the freedom of having no script and especially the quick-thinking word-play aspects of it and i have a full-on committed loving relationship with South Africa as can be witnessed here. Just try telling me i am not African. It is in my blood, pale though it be.

Megan and i also have strong thoughts, emotions and feelings towards race-related elephants, i mean issues in our land. i have dedicated a large section of my blog to creating space for conversations around the topic of race and for the most part [as i am not expert] inviting others to share their stories, thoughts and ideas to help us find ways to move forward more productively in South Africa and beyond. Megan has done a lot of Corporate Improv work with middle to senior management of companies and noticed a huge need for conversations of race which are the aforementioned elephant in the room.

Long story short: Megan and i are looking to combine our love of Improv with our heart for South Africa and start making more of a practical difference. We have designed a three hour workshop that looks to use Improv exercises and story-telling aspects to help create a safe space where people can begin the conversations of race that feel so necessary in so many areas of the work-place. And we are hoping to start running them from July when i return to South Africa. 

If you would like to know more and think this is something your work should invest in, you can get hold of Megan at megan@improvision.co.za or myself at brettfish@hotmail.com.

Let’s be honest – a 3 hour workshop is not going to solve the race problems in your workplace… but being the unspoken, unacknowledged, awkward elephant in the room [as it still sadly is in so many places] it is going to be a great way of kickstarting some of the conversations and movement that needs to follow… Help us help you…

race

mary

10 things vegetarians are sick of hearing / your vegetarian friends want you to know

I became a vegetarian on my ninth birthday. This usually elicits shock and the assumption that I am vegetarian because of my family / culture / religious beliefs. But, no – I was just a child who was interested in where my food came from and when I knew the facts eating meat (read meat, fish, poultry) didn’t make sense to me, even at nine.

Having been a vegetarian for so long the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that you cannot convince someone to change what they eat. It is a personal journey and people will either get there or they won’t. So I will not be doing that. Instead, I’d like to use this opportunity to appeal to my meat-eating friend to think before they say any of the following things to the next vegetarian they meat…I mean meet.

1. Why are you vegetarian?

Firstly, you probably know the answer before you even ask. But I’m not saying don’t ask – I love sharing my beliefs about food with people who are genuinely interested and like many others who have written his week I strongly encourage people to educate themselves about all the food they are eating (meat and otherwise). What I am saying is please don’t ask if your plan is just to argue with me about the answer I give you.

This happens to me all the time…so much so that my first response to this question is usually “do you really want to know or are you just making polite conversation?” Most people think they really want to know. So I explain. And then the “debate” starts, or I get accused of trying to make someone feel guilty, or told that the conversation is “not cool” while people are eating meat. But, um, you asked??

I’m going to start ranting soon so enough said on that point.

2. But how do you get your protein / isn’t that really unhealthy / don’t you have a poor immune system?

Again, do your own research. But I can honestly say I don’t know any vegans or vegetarians who struggle to get enough protein in my diet. We have been brain washed into thinking that protein only comes from meat, when in actual fact it is one of the least healthy sources of protein. I heard a dietician describe it like this once – I have spent my career (of over 20 years) treating patients with cholesterol, gout, kidney problems, etc, conditions that we know are associated with a high-meat diet. But I have never treated a vegetarian or vegan for protein deficiency. Pretty interesting if you ask me.

3. Do you eat fish? And chicken? No meat at all??

Fish = still an animal (and that would make me a Pescetarian)

Chicken = also an animal

Yes, I really meant no meat at all.

4. But BACON

I have a pet-hate of the recent bacon craze that appears to have spread throughout the world. Firstly, pigs are really intelligent, affectionate animals (just youtube search “clever pig” if you don’t believe me) who know when they are being taken to slaughter. They literally scream when they are being killed. Secondly, even if that doesn’t bother you and you make the decision to continue eating pig products, what you are doing by supporting the “bacon-with-everything craze” is celebrating and glorifying the fact that an animal has died so that you can eat it. It is excessive, insensitive and barbaric.

5. Ja, but you eat eggs and cheese – what about the poor chickens and dairy cows

Don’t make your guilt my guilt. By being vegetarian I am not proclaiming that I am perfect and superior to all others. I have a real conflict with the fact that I still eat eggs and cheese and going vegan is something I think about daily. It is something I am trying to rearrange my life towards. But at least I’m doing something.

6. But our bodies are designed to eat meat, and paleo, and banting and stuff

No, they aren’t. Watch this TED talk for some pretty convincing arguments from an Archeological Scientist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8

7. Vegetarian food is boring

Again, not true and a pretty strange comment coming from a non-vegetarian. Have a look at the wide range of veggie cookbooks out there. I will happily share recipes with anyone who is interested.

8. You don’t know what you’re missing out on

Yes, I do. I get this from my dad all the time – even all these years later he still seems to think I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat. (Although after all these years I probably don’t). I don’t miss or crave meat at all anymore but some vegetarians do and this kind of statement is not very encouraging to them. (For any new struggling vegetarians reading this – it gets easier, I promise!)

9. Sorry for eating this meat in front of you

I think different vegetarians have differing opinions on this, but I personally am not bothered by the sight of someone eating meat. My philosophy is very much – it’s a personal decision – so as long as I don’t have to pay for it or eat it myself you are not offending me. I love enjoying meals with my friends and take pride in the fact that I can braai better than many of the men I know.

10. Yes this dish is vegetarian.

It might seem shocking but I have been told a number of times by friends and family that a dish is meat-free, only to take a bite and taste immediately that there is definitely meat inside. The explanation is usually “Oh well I just used some for flavor”. Please don’t. Just be honest – I’ll be happy bringing my own dish or eating the side dishes.

[For a number of other great stories relating to people choosing to go vegetarian, click here]

My Facebook friend S’thabiso gives this topic a little bit of a different spin as she addresses:

5 questions you ask guaranteed to break the peace with any ‘black’ vegetarian‏

s'thabiso

If you have prior to reading this asked any of the below please kindly proceed to the nearest tree and hug it tightly and ask Zeus to advocate on your behalf for mother nature to forgive you – repeat this three times whiles doing a hippie dance around the chosen tree two times clockwise while walking backwards to erase the stupidity of it all.
(1) “You a vegetarian? Are you really vegetarian? So you don’t eat meat? I don’t believe you.”

I said vegetarian the first time no matter how many other times you ask this question in variations the answer will still remain. I.e: why should your believing my lifestyle choice matter – I find this question personally irritating like how on earth do you expect me to prove my statement? Why should I have to prove this again? I don’t dispute your claim to eating meat. You know what, just follow me around all day ok?’

(2) “You kidding right? You got to be joking right?’ I have never met a ‘black’ vegan before. So unusual.”

Uhmm really I have a whole phone book filled with them you would be surprised how many of us are not somewhere out in the woods playing with unicorns. We are your neighbors/friends/colleagues/family members and yes we exist right here on planet earth amongst you.

(3) “So what do you eat?”

This is my favorite most hated question, as if all ‘blacks’ eat is meat? They ask this as if meat is all we HAVE to eat like how all ‘blacks’ MUST hate the DA.

(4) “were you raised vegetarian from birth?”

This question at face value seems all good and well, until you kind of realise by the 15th inquiry this question is thrown out there as a tool to show you – “hey you just like me” no matter that you been vegetarian/vegan for 9 years, “you too once ate bacon” – trust me had I been given a choice to baby talk my request to be raised vegetarian to my parents I would have done it just after the umbilical cord was cut.

(4) “why you trying be white?”/ “were you adopted?”

Cause white people don’t eat meat? Question is why are you trying to be white and eating meat yes we see you there at ocean basket with the plate of Salmon.

(5) “why you still fat?”

Oh right cause all meat eaters are skinny yes? Any diet regiment one chooses to follow must be healthy and well balanced. Being a vegetarian is not a lose weight get skinny gimmick it’s a full-time conscious life choice which includes ensuring a healthy balanced daily food intake. My genes and jeans have nothing to do with it.

Do us all a favor the next time you come across vegetarian Bheki or Gugu please resist the urge to be ignorant and ask any infuriatingly stupid questions above, we do not mind answering your question of the differences between vegetarians and vegans though.

NB: Dear fellow ‘black’ community we are not brainwashed nor need saving please be more like my white friends they don’t ask me silly questions they just respect my decision and make sure I have a proper stand alone meal at the next dinner at they house and not be resigned to your side plate salads as a main meal.

Peace and Color be with you all the days of your life.

[For a range of stories from different people relating to different aspects of vegetarianism, click here]

Imagine waking up one morning and going online and seeing a semi-naked-sprawled-out-on-the-bed-alongside-your-Improv-friend picture of yourself circling the internet…

Cause for panic, right? You’d think so, unless the picture was this one:

ImpromptuBrettMegan

Which i woke up to a week or so ago and was like ‘Holy Crapamole, what’s my wife going to think?’

Fortunately tbV was awake and laughing at it in the other room and so we just jumped on the banned wagon and helped spread it around.

WE GOT YOU, BABE

The purpose of the poster i had previously been aware of and that was the oncoming event [which started last night] of a week of Imprompt2 shows where FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, the incredible Megan Furniss [who imported Improv to Cape Town and began TheatreSports, now Improguise, Cape Town’s longest running show and apparently best kept secret] is going to do a night of two person Improv with a different person every night from Tues to Saturday.

The shows are each going to be slightly longer than that last sentence, at 55 minutes, and will be played with the incredible Anne Hirsch, Ryan Jales, Carolyn Lewis and finished off by Tandi Buchan. aka this beautiful bunch:

Imp

55 minutes on stage doing Improv with no other backup, no members waiting on the side of the stage to jump in and save, no muso to provide background music or the base for a song, and two settings of light: mostly on and mostly off. This is Improv almost at its dangerous best [it’s absolute dangerous best would be last year when Megan performed a one-woman Improv show].

Was i nervous? Absolutely. But more that i would be too similiar characters throughout the show [didn’t happen] or that the 5 people we had booked by late afternoon would be it [wasn’t – we had a delightful audience] but for the show itself i was excited anticipationary, adrenalin-filled and just so ready to Go Go Go!

THE SHOW

Let’s get this right out there. You had to be there. And so if you weren’t, whatever words follow are largely just for me and possibly to help you become really sad that you missed it and that besides our generous loving invested audience, no-one else will ever see what happened ever again. But i can try give you a glimpse…

We literally had NO IDEA what we were going to do. We had one light ‘rule’ that we were going to try and use, or not, which was that one way of changing scene would be to take a word, phrase or sentence that the other actor had spoken and repeat it as a way to start a brand new scene.

So we interviewed the audience. “What did any of you expect to see tonight? Or hope you would see? Or want to see?” They stared back at us. Nothing.

“Okay, so let’s bring it down a notch. Does anyone have a favourite colour?” Red.

“What does red make you think of?” Roses. [We’re getting somewhere, slooooowly]

“And what do roses make you think of?” Love. Thorns. “Ah, so we have the optimistic romantic side of the audience over here and the cynical bunch over there.” [nervous laugh]

So then Megan got bold with, “So can anyone share a story they have which involves a rose?”

No lies. From right at the back, someone [who, let’s be honest is a friend of mine] speaks out, “I once smelled a rose.”

We look at each other. Maybe we should just start.

And so we did. And without having a clue where anything would go, and with not a single accent, character or idea i’d been practising in front of my mirror all day emerging at any point [yay for that] we produced some magic and the majority of it was really pretty amazing, and some was really odd, and a whole lot of the really odd stuff was pretty amazing.

One of the oddest moments, and personal highlights of the show was an interaction between Megan and i where she from the left of the stage called out to me, sitting on a chair at the right and eventually came over to join me, clearly climbing over rows of things to get to me.

“Where’d you get all the sticks?”

“I bought them… at the hardware store.”

[pause] “Why do they have all those fingers on them?”

“To keep the badgers away.”

[pause] “But there are no badgers here?”

“Yes, they’re really effective.”

You can. not. make. that. stuff. up.

Oh, but we did, and more. [And if you heard the creepy accents we were using for that scene, just imagine it 1000 times better]

But from Megan’s Energiser Bunny skills demonstration for a secretary job interview, to pulling a Spanish guy out of the audience to interrogate him [who only said “Que?” and who i thought was taking the piss, but turned out to be really just a Spanish guy and so completely Fawlty Towers moment right there], to King of the Ice Throne [which you can’t lick!] whose bird Gabriel had to be eaten when he ran out of snacks, to the waitress at the French Cafe who offered ‘Cafe de Mime’ which is a coffee and mime combo, to being asked to dictate a 13 word poem, where each word rhymed, had three syllables and ended with X [which technically i pulled off, even if the ‘X’ was silent] to a weird strange alien creature who spoke in garbled sounds interaction, to telepathic CV’s, an on the spot song called ‘There’s a Fish in my Wine Glass’, a funeral where the roses had been made out of paper mache [by the woman, whose mom had died,’s husband’s ex] and finishing off with a Captain Jack counselling session featuring some Pilates of the Caribbean which you couldn’t really observe because it was all core.

And probably more  – it was incredible to see what we fit into 55 minutes – but it was dangerous [pulling an audience member on stage] and delightful and risky and fun and brilliant and when i walked off the stage i was instantly disappointed that Anne, Ryan, Carolyn and Tandi were playing the next four nights and not Brett, Brett, Brett and Brett. Except that they will be great and there will be a slightly different format per show and i really wish i could watch them all.

This is addictive stuff people. Be warned.

And so Big Huge Giant Tremendous thanks to Megan for trusting me and letting me go first and kick the week off. And for just absolutely diving in with everything and being so generous in both taking and receiving offers. i look forward to Impromt2 II

If you’re in Cape Town, GO AND WATCH A SHOW – Tuesday to Thursday. Do it!

Another guest on Friday was our mate Portal Pete who has moved with his wife, Sarah, into Manenberg and is running a drug rehabilitation program among other things, and he had these words to say:

pete

Great food etc.

It didn’t feel awkward to me. It felt OK. Living and working in what some call missional community in Manenberg, I feel and cause offence on a fairly regular basis. We’re learning that offence most often leads to blame, and blame is one of the greatest obstacles to moving forward together (whatever that means!) We need to deal with our offence if we want to get anywhere. Proverbs 18:19 – “a brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”

When we feel we have been wronged, will we deal with our unyielding-ness? When we are accused of wrongdoing or oppression, will we acknowledge hurt we’ve caused and work towards restitution? Will we see the futility in ‘disputes’ about ‘issues’ held at arms length? It’s one thing to get all systemic about things. That does need to happen. But if it’s not preceded by friend-making across the racial and geographical barriers we bang on about, issues will remain impersonal and we will become either an enraged activist or a hopeless cynic. Very few people want to be friends with, or even listen to, enraged activists or hopeless cynics.

One of the young men we have been doing life with decided to leave the house on Tuesday, the very day he was celebrating being four months clean from drugs. It hurt. It makes me realize that the battle and the journey towards healing really isn’t against a chemical dependency on tik. Personal, communal, or national healing Is about each person’s whole life – their beliefs, behaviours, view of God, awareness of strongholds, sense of self-worth, level of humility, level of Holy Spirit, and pivotally WHO THEY ARE DOING LIFE WITH. That’s the key.

What our dear friend, or any addict, or in fact any human needs to realize is that each individual’s freedom is inextricably bound up in the freedom of others. Ian needs Dowayne, who needs Achmat, who needs Elroy, who needs me, who needs Sarah, who needs Clare, who needs Lloyd, who needs Ian – and so the cycle continues. That is why I need Manenberg – because it teaches me everyday. I, a white British male with a tertiary education and networks of economically empowered friends, become interdependent with those who have been, or are currently, marginalized, addicted, abused and traumatized. As theologian John Inge puts it, “if places are the geography of our imagination, it is…true to say that how we are affected by them will be a function not only of the place, but of the people we find in it. Our ‘placement’ is much more important than is generally imagined. It is no mere backdrop to actions and thoughts. This needs to be part of the ‘unavoidable witness’ of the Christian community.”

So the power for systemic transformation is in living locally as a generative contradiction to the neoliberal dream, living in distinct redemption to a segregated past, and in emphatic opposition to a globalised present. I think conversations like the one we had last week are important. But much more important is making friends with people different from yourself, and moving near them and doing life together. Then, from a place of close, placed, friendship, a local theology will spring up and the issues will choose themselves.

What if we all just stopped talking about it, and did it?

[To return to the start of this conversation and read what reflections other guests had, click here]

[For a post Portal Pete wrote on Moving into Manenberg, click here]

My lovely wife Val was of course the hostess for Friday's dinner and deep dive into Race, Boundary and Location conversation that i wrote about over here, and she shares some of her thoughts from the evening:

booklaunchvovotelohotwoman
The idea is simple: gather good people around good food and good discussion and see what happens. So we did. We turned off technology and tuned in to people. It was messy and it was chaotic, it was painful and it was personal and it was powerful. It was raw and it was redemptive. Some of us ate spaghetti with a spoon cos we ran out of cutlery. We sat on the floor and on stools and really close to each other – three people thigh to thigh on a chair made for two. We talked and told stories, argued and challenged, wrestled and sat in silence – the good kind and the uncomfortable kind. We left with heads and hearts aching, but full.

Here’s some of what I learnt:

1. White privilege is less about access to “stuff” and more about access to choices or, in Sen’s theorizing, capabilities – the real opportunities of being and doing available to attain well-being. Here’s an example: consider a priest who is fasting and a man in a famine-stricken country who is starving. The key element in determining a person’s well-being here is not whether both are experiencing hunger, but whether the person has access to food and is choosing not to eat. The functioning is starving but the capability to obtain an adequate amount of food is the key element in evaluating well-being between these two individuals. Having a lifestyle is not the same as choosing it; well-being depends on how that lifestyle came to be.

Here’s another example. Consider a bike as a commodity which enables the functioning of mobility. Personal, social and environmental conversion factors impact an individual’s ability to convert the commodity (the bike) into functioning (getting from A to B).  If a person is physically disabled, never learnt to ride a bike, if women are not allowed to ride bikes, or if there are no roads, then a person’s capacity to convert the potential of the bike into movement is limited. It’s not enough to give someone a bike if they don’t have the ability, the capacity, the enabling conditions to ride it in a way that moves them forward (or if they don’t have access to a pump, if they cannot take the bike out without being physically threatened by a mugging, etc)

2. In a post-industrial/post-agricultural world, we believe that we too are living in the Information Age, where the primary means of production is Knowledge and the accumulation of knowledge (i.e. education) is the means by which individuals access livelihood, opportunity, resource, jobs etc. I simply don’t believe this is true in South Africa. I wonder if perhaps we are actually in the Age of Connection. Knowledge might be power, but it’s less about what you know and more about who you know. The primary means of production might be Social Capital – the contacts and connections which enable us to network, navigate and negotiate the economic landscape. Perhaps education is the capability, but the functioning is all about social capital – it’s the people we know, the professional contacts, the personal networks that enable us to actualize opportunity. White privilege is at its core all about social capital.

3. While I can sympathize with the pain and anger of black friends, I don’t think I can actually empathize. I can show compassion for, seek to understand, commiserate with, experience anger on behalf of but I can never really experience “from within another’s frame of reference”. As one of our guests so rightly pointed out “We do not and cannot experience EQUAL frustration. You had a choice.”

4. I need to shut up more. Perhaps one of our greatest failings as white people in South Africa is our inability to sit in silence. When we listen to the voices of our black brothers/sisters expressing pain, anger, frustration, or simply sharing their experience, we want to immediately question, clarify, push-back, argue, dissect, debate, wrestle, show the other side, point out the discrepancies or inconsistencies, locate within the “larger picture”, propose solutions, and find “action steps”. We don’t know how to sit – just SIT – with a rage that fills a room, sucks all the air from it, and leaves our friends shaking. We have ears but do not hear, and eyes but do not see.

5. Reconciliation is not the path towards Justice but rather Justice is the path towards Reconciliation. Until and unless Justice has been enacted we can not experience right relationship. (Thanks, Nkosi!)

[To read more reflections from the other guests, click here]

[For more from tbV, like this piece explaining her tattoo, click here]
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