Where I Stand 29/04/16

What is it about Cavafy’s poetry that somehow, for me, will always hold something of Cape Town within them?  Is it their association with Africa? This surely can’t be the case.  His Egypt is not South Africa.  Perhaps it is because Stephen Watson introduced me to him. But I think there is something more to this. I think his poetry suggests that landscape is constructed in place and in the people that inhabit it.  That is that landscape is of memory.  The English landscape that I encounter in Norwich is somehow so familiar, it is something that seems to me to have been spoken of and instilled in me right since my birth.  And yet it contains no memories.

The other day while cycling in the countryside I became aware of how beautiful (yes I really do mean beautiful) the landscape around Norwich is.  But there was real emptiness to this feeling.  It left me longing for the smell of the sewage farm on the N2 in Cape Town or the wind and rain on the beach in Hermanus.  It made me realise that I wanted to be back home with these things and the people that surround them.  Not in the sense that it is a better or happier place but simply because it is something that I understand.  I realised that I simply do not understand England despite the fact that it seems so recognisable.  And that this lack of understanding is one related to lived memory – whatever that might actually be.     I guess this has a simple and rather uninteresting name: Homesickness.

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