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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Words fix everything that is broken

images (1)We were in one of those studio apartments in Disa Park, in the middle tower.

For non-Capetonians, Disa Towers are those three monstrous pillar-shaped apartment blocks up against the slopes of Table Mountain.

It was the eighties, and I’d discovered that my then boyfriend, J. had cheated on me. There was literally a thank you card from the older woman (a cougar?) whom he’d taken away for the weekend. Wait, hang on, she’d treated him to a get away. The card was on top of the music centre. Yes, that’s where I found it.

As I thrust the card in his face, he said:

”Your aggression is causing my love for you to evaporate.”

No, not joking.

One more time.

”Your aggression is causing my love for you to evaporate.”

Fast forward to the late nineties.

My then partner cheated on me with at least three women over a period of eighteen months. Only three? I knew you’d ask that.

Three that I know of, and once I found out about the third one (she obligingly sent him a postcard), he said, almost in relief:

”OK, now you know everything!”

I seethed, I sulked, I demanded answers.

I got:

”We’re not married.”
”The French are more laid-back about these things.”

There was more, but this person deserves no more space. Delete.

The point of these disclosures?

Take your power back.

J. won’t read my blog, he died at the age of 34.

And the thrice cheater is unlikely to be scrutinizing my essays.

It’s not about the reader, reader. It’s about the writer. It’s about you.

You cannot erase the past, you so cannot change another human.

So why bother? Why not move the fuck on?

You word the past right. That’s why.

You cannot change another person but if you don’t rearrange the words, their words might change you.

Rearrange. Words. Memories. Lives. Yours, mine, everybody’s.

Words online, words in private, words that create memoirs, poems, art.

Words fix everything that is broken. Words. Mine. Not yours. Mine.



Words matter

Words. They redesign our neural pathways. Literally.

read that twice

”You’re too noisy, too alive. too energetic.”


”There’s not enough of you. I need more enthusiasm, more insight.”


”You’re over-sensitive. You feel too much.”


‘You’re too numb, dead, cynical, emotionally constipated.”


”You’re entitled, demanding, be grateful for my (turgid) company.”


”I need an energy exchange, not a parasite feeding off my labour.”


Words are what we read, say, hear, internalize, process, integrate.
Digital minimalism. I see a sleek interior. A river of free hours.
Male privilege. Google. Do the labour.
White fragility. Google. Do the labour.
Feminism. What do you see? A ……?
Police officer. What does your mind conjure up?

Words are literally redesigning my inner landscape.
Words are the bricks I use to build a home.
Fridge magnets are words, too. Here’s my June’s magnet:
”Words are the bricks of your home. Words matter.”


(images by a townsend) 

Addiction, the neural network of distraction

Other people are addicts. Not us. Others.

Addiction involves jail time, it involves breaking the law.

Addiction is about a nasty illegal activity, like shooting up.

I’m here to tell you otherwise.

Addiction can be legal, socially and culturally normalized, and free.

Addiction can be the labour-intensive ten hours you spend on Netflix.

Addiction can be the five tweets you send at 3 am. Because you can.

Addiction is not only young people, or Instagram, or Twitter.

Addiction is the finger-tapping that robs you of star-gazing.

Addiction is the neural network of distraction.

Addiction is the wildly anti-social habit of putting a phone on a dinner table.

The Corona virus is giving me the courage to break free of any restraints I may have had in the past, of putting off what needs to be done or said.

I’m giving this to you from the horse’s mouth. Addiction is you, now, this.


”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.

It’s Nothing Personal. Except. It. Is.

As it happens, I believe Tara Reade, Joe Biden’s alleged victim.

But…… isn’t she his accuser?

Words matter.

Accuser positions her as the perpetrator and an elderly white male as the victim of her accusation.

Where were we?

Tara Reade, in the truly exceptional interview with Megyn Kelly, comes across as credible, sincere, well-intentioned and poised.

But…. she breaks down a few times, her voice cracks.

Yup, I noticed. She still/also has the body language, poise and manner of a truth-teller, a silence breaker.

Due process? Heard of it?

Unfortunately, only too often. It’s what lazy people throw at you.

Due process, from the conventional legal perspective, is flawed, favours the perpetrator and usually retraumatizes the alleged victim.

(Google ”rape culture/due process”. It’ll be worth the time / effort. Refrain from burbling ”due process.”)

Tara Reade has opened the floodgates for so many survivors of sexual assault.

From my side, having spent most of today researching the story, I’m grateful.

Floodgates, and this is a deeply personal take, have seen me washed to shore.

Floodgates, once you learn to surf the flood, will, sooner or later, open a gate.

Folks, it’s day X of the lockdown, my Karoo garden is a place of peace, and I wish you well in these truly unusual and for some, stressful times. Go well.


images from google




Joe Biden. It’s in your imagination.

No, it’s definitely not actually happening.

A credible accusation of sexual assault, which is now a partisan issue.

A host of sexual assault experts, and yet, it’s a partisan issue.

A white male politician, saying, ”It never happened.”

Bystanders asking, ”But….. why on earth didn’t she report it sooner?”

Folks, it’s not happening. And it’s absolutely not triggering.

Have a lovely Saturday evening, during week X of the Lock down.



Karoo Reflection


image by a townsend ~

Karoo Hoofweg


image by a townsend ~ 

Karoo Sunday


image by a townsend

Karoo ~ After the Rain


image by a townsend ~