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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

”The stars!! Like a fireworks!!”

Decisions can haunt us, decision-making can become a sport.

I used to make decisions, then unmake them, then change my mind.

Decision-making became a way to keep busy, to run, to distract.

In recent years I make decisions with far more trust in my intelligence.

When it comes to keeping a friend at bay, when it comes to ordering books online, when it comes to moving from Vredehoek to Surfer’s Corner, from Surfer’s Corner to Barrydale, from Barrydale to the Karoo.

Decisions make themselves. I listen for the answers. They’re in my gut.

Home internet. Since a few weeks into the lock down, I’ve had home internet.

On 4 September 2019, I moved to a new home, and for the next seven months, I only went online for 20 – 30 minutes a day at a cafe.

Home internet is convenient, it gives me time to research, to blog, to tweet.

Home internet is also a labour-intensive addiction, as life-robbing as addictions to substances that are illegal.

For now I look at all the ways in which the internet can serve a purpose.

I make certain rules, I break the rules, I lock my laptop up for the night.

Out of all the games I play, out of all the tricks I try out to monitor, to curtail, to investigate my addiction, the one that yielded the best results, was this:

At 6 pm I put my laptop outside, in a fridge in a garage I don’t use.

At 8 pm I sneaked outside to retrieve the laptop, and all I saw were stars.


The reason I moved back to the country I now live in?


By the time I left Hong Kong in January 2009, it was the seventh most polluted city in the world. Slime surrounded the skyscrapers, visibility was a metre or two of fog, and we were slowly dying.

It’s now 2020, we’re all dying, death spares nobody. The Corona virus has brought that fact closer to our attention.


If there’s one way to spend my time wisely, if there’s one non-negotiable while I live in the Karoo, it’s to lie outside, at night, on a maroon Pep Stores blanket.

The night skies put the virus into perspective.

The night skies put Twitter into perspective.

The night skies, and this is a fact I need to write down often, are the reason I moved home. My French boss in Hong Kong used to talk about the Karoo. During his years as a director of a French school in Burkina Faso, he visited South Africa, and as I waited for him to burble on about Cape Town, the beaches, the people, the penguins, the mountain, all he could do was to point up at the ceiling of the staff room, and explain, in broken English about the Karoo. ”The stars!!” he kept on saying. ”Like a fireworks!!”

It was 2007, I looked out the window at the slime shrouded view, and I vividly recall, as if it were yesterday, thinking:

”This man has travelled the world and all he keeps on talking about is the Karoo.”

Folks, life is short. I don’t know about you but while I live in a beautiful house in the middle of nowhere, I’ll be lying outside for as many hours as possible. Virus or no virus, mosquitoes or no mosquitoes. The panic we face about the most mundane daily decisions we make, (to wash the groceries or not, to pay cash or EFT), have forced me to live in the now. It’s the only rational decision to make. Now. Stars.


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