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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Monday, March 14, 2011

"On a clear day you can see Mt kilimanjaro...and Mt. kenya."

Nani Croze stood and turned her sunblued focus from horizon to horizon. As if for the first time. We were 6 dogs, 2 tennis balls, several piccaninis and a golf ball on an evening walk.

Squinting at the one mountain we can see, Nani asks a small boy attached to a large Rotweiller what mountain that could be...."Longonot", he replies, confidently.

As if it were the only mountain, magnificent, melancholic. In Africa we can be everywhere and nowhere.
Unless you once had a farm. Then it's home.

Somewhere en route we divert to visit an exhibition of art, pinned up on bushes and the wire cages of 3 sweet-smelling camels.
The artist and camel herder turn out to be the same person, Hassan.
18 hours later we are still at Kitangela Glass. Take the first turn left after the Nairobi National Park and follow the signs.

Some folks get horribly lost and give up. Bad move. Even the right road is way out of synch with the average macadamized adventurer. It's times like this I am happy to be South African. The worse the road, the more my instincts tingle.
So stick in there and get there. Even if you are a travel weary Kalahari First Person who survives on the smell of a root and the thirst of the hunt, you cannot be prepared for what you will encounter in Nani's world.

The closest I have come to the feel of this unsolicited Eden was my first time in Piccadily Circus. 1977 and Londoners were looking decidedly different. Malcolm Maclaren had opened a shop called SEX in Kings Rd and a swathe of red was about to sweep the world.
That it had a short and sharp life as the pure knee jerk of a frustrated generation was inevitable, but for a brief time it gave colour and voice and a vivid alternativeness to a world tired of tired hippies and undisciplined children.
Punk never was a particularly great idea, hardly a movement of the people, but in Piccadilly Circus that 70s day I was forced to engage with a chaotic mix of pinstripe suits, art for revolution, colour for no reason, body piercing unimaginable and by simply standing in one spot, a world passing around me.

It is lunch time. Nani's husband , Erick, thought he would retire in London one day, but didn't. He doesn't quite know whether he is actually retired yet or not. "I am waiting for this lady..." he points warmly to Nani. I have only eyes for her strong working hands, an equally strong gold band on her right ring finger.
She is on the phone to a French woman who is lost, coming to buy a pig. It turns a pet.
In the small of my back a sharp pain tells me that Vultjie, a 31 year old Egyptian Vulture wants more custard.
A man in a harlequin boiler suit is reprimanding a Sikes monkey, a big bugger who, despite having had half our breakfast, is still waiting for his gap to grab our freshly baked bread.

OK, so take all the aggression, frustration, pinstripes, buses, taxis, grey skies, bobbies on the beat, safety pins away, replace Piccadilly Eros with a 25 metre rust and glass crocodile with a barbeque in its gaping mouth and that's where I am, facing due south.

That is if Heaven has directions or Eden a magnetic field, because it seems that Salvador Dali died and woke up here....sort of in my body.
Alice couldn't make it to tea but Dr Suess and Doolittle did. The horses smell of lanolin and the swimming pool of jasmine.

A pair of star-scrossed starlings bathed furiously in the shallows behind the dragon's tail this morning, unable to distinguish between me and the baboons who occasionally sit and on the swimming pool wall and watch Mzungus swimming.

This all works, I think, because no living creature here tells another to 'Get outa my country'. This is Eldorado, Naniland and like Piccadilly Circus, is a chaotic mix of a well kept secret garden and a shared public space.

Once upon a time, a dashing German named Ludwig, left his piece of Africa to his equally dashing cousin, Nani.

This was all she needed for her artist's heart to explode into abundance, a little like they say our universe did.

There have been, from time to time, other minor universes bursting into existence. the Owl House in South Africa, Barcelona, Macchu Picchu. But Naniland is the real thing.

You have a few options once you get here. Arrive, be blown away, see the glass blown, see the blown glass and buy a memory.
Or, book into one (it really does not matter which one as you will certainly return to try the rest) of the Suessy, dangly, mother Hubbard houses and work your way from the heart of this alternative universe back to a life that can simply never be quite the same again.

Oh yes, you will have to pay for the privilege, but that, like any real artist knows, is never the real deal. If the great creator within has half an eye open you will leave here with a deep desire to find your own creative way of paying back Nani, Erick, Mary, Savannah, Tolstoy, Vultjie, Monkey, Askari, Hassan, Kilo, etc etc etc etc for allowing you to feel that it's A OK to wear pink pyjamas to .... well....wherever.

p.s. Even if your religion forbids dogs you will find yourself totally comfortable with sharing the dinner table with other animals...and delightfully, Nani and Erick.

Before sunset worlds collide and once again upon a time, 8 varied sized homo sapiens shared a water hole on a cliff with 8 baboons.

Never have 2 South Africans, 1 Londoner and 6 yelping children got into the drink faster than after the arrival of 1 very commanding and distinctly aggressive Alpha Male.

That, of course was not Erick, who however did arrive a little later for his daily exercise. Or, as he said in a soft voice, "All I wanted was a swimming strip and this is what Nani gave me."

Nuff Sed!

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