[with object] reduce (a judicial sentence, especially a sentence of death) to one less severe:

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Station Deck Road. Cape Town Station

Mark, a graphic designer, who lived just along the tracks, at the Old Castle Brewery building in Woodstock, liked to come park his old Landcruiser on the Station Deck road and think. The sweeping unobstructed view of the Cape Town city bowl, and Table mountain allowed him to imagine how it all had been before. Before, when there was no city. Just the mountain and wilderness. Cape Mountain lions. The zebra like Quagga. And the ancient, hunter gather Strandlopers (beach walkers). Humans in loin cloths who had for Millennia, walked the shorelines of Southern Africa, scavenging sustenance from rock pools and surf zones. Restless souls who lived in temporary middens. And paused just long enough to fill their bellies before wandering off along an infinite coastline.

Mark reflected often on how the area abutting the sacred mountain, following the tracks from the city centre to the outer margins of the Mother City, had turned into another kind of jungle. An edgy, urban matrix of inter-racial disharmony and suspicion. X was a symbol for troubling issues. Along these tracks, Xenophobia was rife.

Station Deck road, an access channel to Cape Town's central station, along what is called the Foreshore, was usually deserted on the Sunday afternoon's when he liked to come park here. In fact it was empty of vehicular traffic most days, as middle class Capetonains avoided the notoriously high risk, commuter network, the Metro rail completely. They preferred to commute in the relative safety of their cars. It was the poorer communities of places like Mitchel's Plain that were the strap-hangers of the Metro. The foot soldiers of the working class.

A lone vehicle, parked anywhere in this precinct was a potential target for theft. Mark was only too aware of this, but he felt at ease embedded within the tank like structure of his old FJ60. The wrap around tinted windows helped. They increased his sense of safety. He used his left, right and windscreen rear-view mirrors like security CCTV cameras. Surveillance apparatus. He kept his eyes on those approaching from all sides but especially from behind. Car hijackers were notoriously quick.
Within station zones everyone was on their guard.
People walked with a sense of purpose. Those who did loiter were usually hobo's tanked up on grog and posed no threat. Just way to comatose to be a risk.

Mark liked to wind down his driver side window, and let in the salty air off Table Bay. He found something hauntingly beautiful in the cry of the kelp gulls, the rumble and screech of trains on steel tracks, and the stoic presence of Table Mountain. What tickled his mind the most were the questions of what she had seen over the last 25.000.000 years.

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Silhouetted. Cape Town Station

The evolution of black and white lines and stripes on zebras is not about camouflage against the fawn tones of the African savanna, but rather that of blending into each other. They are seen collectively by a pack of marauding lions as a blur. Individuals merge into the mass of the shape shifting herd. Lions hunt by focusing on one beast and attempt to separate it from the group and drive it towards companions lying in wait. Into the kill zone. But the staccato mosaic picture they receive as they close in on the herd, compromises their ability to pick one out.

However lions, creatures of cunning, learn to hunt when the low afternoon sun back lights and silhouettes the skittish beasts. The trade off is loss of surprise! For an attack out of blinding sunlight is how raptors nail their prey with devastating effect. With lions, the benefits of mounting a reverse, asymmetrical attack into the light far outweighs the disadvantages. Seen this way, the wary grazing zebra, present themselves as big, bold shapes with which to lunge at.

How lions catch their prey and muggers shake down their victims are vaguely comparable. They both use stealth and the element of surprise. Cape Town's Metro rail dimly lit station are ideal mugging zones. Regarded as risky, commuters are wary, and similar to grazing zebra, they are always watching their backs. Using their peripheral vision to the max. The further down quiet off-peak corridors they shuffle or into gloomy underpasses they wander, their trepidation rises. There is a palpable sense of urgency to get off the carriages and out of the system. Until they do they are in a state of hyperarousel, or acute stress, a psychological response, also known as fight or flight mode!

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The Girl in Red. Cape Town Station.

The backlit billboard had showcased a Kentucky Fried chicken advertisement. It's illumination ensuring higher visibility. But now, where the once arresting battered chicken, fries and coke visual had been, there was a gaping hole. The shuttered shops below it, were empty. Temptation replaced by disquiet?

This was the main station forecourt and ticketing hall at the end of the pan African railway line, Dar-Es-Salaam to Cape Town, and yet for the lady in red, caught in a state of suspended animation, her mind a moratorium of disbelief, this was not how she remembered it.

Things has been different then. In 1985 there had been no Tazara line. It had ended at Beit bridge. Facing the Limpopo and beyond that the newly declared state of Zimbabwe. But this station had seemed much friendlier then. Less forlorn. Jolly was word that came to mind.

Admittedly she’d been much younger. Travelling with her parents. Her own safety almost all their responsibility. Now things were different. She was on her own! Then they had hardly known who Mandela was. Imprisoned on an island just across the bay. Now he was dead and buried and with him for many, the hope of a better life and future buried too. She reeled at the thought of what might come next!

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Love & Fuck Girls. Cape Town Station.

The woman, sat waiting for the doors to close on the mid afternoon 0557 to Athlone, stared at the face on the seat opposite. Her mute companion troubled her. She felt an urge to change seats. Or better still, move to a carriage with other occupants. The metro rail directive was to avoid empty carriages, especially women traveling alone. Instead, she remained where she was and studied the figure before her.

Her position as office clerk at the registrar office for the psychiatric and mental health department of the Groote Schuur hospital had, indirectly, contributed to her interest in the psychology of vandalism. The fine-nib, marker-pen graffiti before her she concluded, had, almost certainly been rendered by a man. Implausible she mused, that such a motif could be conceived in the mind of a female.

The oversized teeth spoke of cannibalism, yet she concluded this exaggeration was borne out of some perverse sexual fantasy. The metaphor. To gorge on female flesh? On an adjacent carriage prior to boarding she had read the words, 'Love and fuck girls', sprayed in a hurried red squiggle. These grotesque sentiments were of no surprise to her given the cold hard facts! That South Africa had the highest rate of sexual violence in the world, and the police openly declared that a woman was raped every 36 seconds. The reported cases!!

She acknowledged that women living on the Cape flats in a violent, patriarchal society, had to endure an all pervasive sense of unease and live with omnipresent danger. By default, they had developed a robust threshold to threat. The commute only exposed them to the unwanted male gaze and attention. To cope they bandied together. Safety in numbers was their rationale. The women from the flats were tough. She knew! Tougher than they should have to be.

As the doors closed, ready for departure, she remained where she was. Resolute. Defiant. No man was gonna scare her away. She studied the effigy some more. This thing, etched into the forlorn grey fabric spoke to her of the deeply troubled male psyche, and teased with her viewpoints. She understood that mental illness could be treated, yet her friends espoused that women had to take the law into their own hands. They shouted in unison, support for the kangaroo court and publicly lynching perpetrators of sexual abuse to women and minors. A necessary evil they unanimously agreed.

As the train began to rumble out of the station, she glanced away from the chilling drawing, to Table Mountain. The summit was partly obscured by heavy cloud, and it's dark, brooding presence seemed to enforce her pessimism. She wanted to believe that violence in her community, city and country would not continue, and yet this malevolent face before her spoke of darker things to come!

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Discharge. Cape Town Station.

The metro rail is no S-Bahn for sure. Swiss trains run punctually. In Cape Town they don't. They might leave the terminus close to schedule, but arriving at the destination on time is very rare.

While discharge is the concept behind any commuter rail network, ie. getting the working masses to and from home, the flow of humanity is interrupted when the system they use is leaking. Grinding to a halt!

Collateral damage, in the form of vandalism, and the siphoning off of assets integral to the integrity of the network, is the rot that destroys the host. Legions of vandals , a rag tag army of highly motivated scavengers, who steal overground/underground electrical cables for their steel and copper content, overwhelm the authorities and police. This underclass of criminals, with their unrelenting brazen tactics, contribute to putrefaction of the infrastructure. The community witnesses the slow and irreversible collapse of a network that their livelihoods depend.

With the system in shit, the local newspapers seep headlines to the public! 'The criminals have won'! Public morale deflates to base levels of resentment. Anger rises. Violence steps up. The blame game escalates. With it more violence. The arsonists vent their anger, and set whole fleets of carriages alight. All the while, the system decomposes. The smell of excrement and despair permeates the tracks.

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Discarded Croutons. Cape Town Station.

People discard things, get rid of stuff, throw out what they no longer find useful or valuable. Stale croutons are dumped because they cease to be desirable. The Cape Town Metro rail is loathed for it's lousy services, and dreadful stations. Travel on the rail network is an undesirable experience.

Humans tend to shun that which they dislike. Stay away from venues which make them feel uncomfortable.  Avoid places that scare them. The metro rail has a bad reputation. Beliefs and opinions are such that everyone, except possibly hardened criminals or drug addled youth feel trepidation to some degree when entering the system. They would be happy to dispense with the experience altogether if they had another choice. But certainly with every turnstile exit out of the network they discard temporarily with angst.

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Big Black Riding Hood.

Cape Town winters are cold and damp. It rains a lot. Low clouds blot out the mountains surrounding the city bowl. It’s chilly. And windy. Drafts push discarded plastic and polystyrene into the recesses of the municipality. Creating little piles of rubbish that people step over and around. Neglected station precincts are prefect trash repositories.

Our commuter today, dressed in a heavy duffel coat, with a big black riding hood, there’s no walk in the woods. It’s a purposeful stride through garbage ridden forecourts, under concrete overpasses, along wrought iron bridges and down dank dark underpasses.

Alas she’s in her very own grim fairytale, for she’s off to see her grandmother. And to do so she’s gotta pass all the wolves waiting in hiding.

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Three Yellow Chairs. Cape Town Statonn.

Some would say South Africa is a nation of thieves. That looting and pillaging is part of the national psyche. Written into fabric of the land. That since time immemorial the hunter gather Xan (bushmen) clans stole from each other. Then later they stole from the cattle rearing Hottentots. In turn the Zulu's came along and stole from them both. Later the Xhosa and Zulu were at each other's throats, and still are today.

When the Dutch came along and stole ancestral land from the Strandlopers, Xan and Hottentots, and then later moved inland to steal from the Zulus, it was the British arriving much later that decided it was time to steal everything from everyone!

With this 'take away' culture in mind, it's no surprise then, that Jacob takes some unattended chairs from a quiet annex of Cape Town station, to make his life and a couple of his friends, living beneath one of the nearby underpasses a little more comfortable. He doesn't think for one moment, he's unwittingly propagating the gossip, that anything not chained down in this city, grows legs and walks.

He might see the chair as low hanging fruit. Easy pickings, given that most things of value in the land of the takeaway, are guarded behind barbed wire, electric fences or packs of half rabid guard dogs. If he's ever been picked up for shop lifting and taken to the nearby District 6 police station to be charged, he might have missed the irony of seeing the television in a steel cage, bolted to the ceiling. Placed there to entertain those waiting on the bench to file a theft complaint. An electrical appliance, in the centre of a police station, surrounded by heavily armed 'law enforcement officers' is not even safe. It's a TV not a safe is it not? Jacob is too busy trying to survive to amuse himself with such trivial ironies.

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The Spirit of the Nation. Cape Town Station.

Out the back, out the front, some down and out. Some down and not yet out. Some down and out for good. Substance abuse in the Western Cape out of control.

Alcohol, methamphetamine, cannabis, cocain, heroin. Alcohol is the substance most misused. With it goes, rape, sodomy, sexually transmitted diseases. Crime. Injury. Women statistically are bigger binge drinkers than men. The result. The Western Cape has highest rate of FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorders) in the world. The results. Children with deformity. Mental disabilities, hearing and sight issues.

Alcohol's burden of harm, dictates traumatic injuries burden's society, and most certainly the metropolitan rails image and operations. Men are the most likely to die falling in front of one of their moving trains. That means the trains don't run on time!

Station car parks are where a lot of the inebriated gather. Some pose as car guards to fix their meth or tik habit. Some don't attempt to hide their addictions at all, and walk straight up to commuters exiting or entering the premises. The onus is on the individual commuter whether to risk ignoring the glue sniffers cry for spare change. The gamble is that a rebuttal might result in a mugging. Metro Rail security and police are usually elsewhere when needed.

Those on the floor are usually far too gone to cause too much harm. What others do to them or they do to themselves is another story altogether.

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The Dead of Night. Woodstock.

Jacob was from the Eastern Cape. Umtata to be exact. He took the job of night security guard in Cape Town, to feed his family. His monthly paychecks were sent home. There were no jobs in Umtata.

He patrolled the Old Castle Brewery building premises every three hours. 12 hour shifts. From 7pm to 7am. Four circuits a night. The Metro rail abutted the south flank of the complex. The only thing that discouraged the thieves and vandals was the track, electric fences and razor wire. He was paid to monitor movement. Human or vehicle.

He would walk the three level car park on the SE corner of the premises. Up to the top. The view across to Woodstock station was all buttresses, cast iron, wire, cables, corrugated iron, concrete and steel tracks. Quite often he would see a lone Metro Rail guard in this tangle of stuff. A solitary diffused shape in the mist, that which would roll in off the sea in Table bay and smother the station. He wondered if his contemporary felt like he did. Thankful to have a job, but wishing he could be some place else. Like back home, in bed with his wife.

This corner of Woodstock was all godowns and factories. In the dead of night, all was eerily quiet. However, the dispossessed who slept under nearby bridges and in culverts besides the tracks would pass by in the gloom. They sought food and shelter. Jacob thought of them as hungry ghosts. He was paid to regard them as a menace. To keep an eye on them until they disappeared off into the shadows.

In the winter months, the last trains out of Cape Town station were 6:30pm. Nobody wanted to be on them at night. By 5:00pm Metro rail commuters, those that braved it's dilapidated system, were gone. The last few trains ran almost empty. Woodstock's illuminated yet vacant station reminded Jacob less of a transport hub to utopia, but more a terminus to dystopia. A stop, in terminal decline.

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Junction Road. Woodstock/Salt River

In Salt River, a residential areas between Woodstock and Observatory lies Junction road. As the name suggests, nearby there are tracks and shunting yards. A large open tract of land, abutting Voortrekker road, is where the Metro rail's rolling stock depot is to be found. To some degree a graveyard of decommissioned bogeys and vandalized carriages. Within that allotment of abandonment, another class of despair can be found. The homeless and dispossessed. Humans with no place to live except under rusting coach class coaches.

This neighbourhood, is where some might say the vibe shifts from ok to not so ok. While nearby central Woodstock is deemed cool, its recent facelift encouraging notoriety as an enclave for artists and trendy folks, and competing with Observatory's well established cafe society vibe to the East, Salt river is still regarded as dodgy. It sits in the twilight zone, between good n bad. Some folks see potential in it's dishevelment. Some see risk.

Junction meets Foundry, which is rammed up against the main commuter artery of Voortrekker road and the railway line which brings in and takes out, the good and bad people. Those from the east of Cape Town. Folks from Maitland. Elsies Rivier. Gangsterism, drugs and crime continue to plague these areas. Lives of the innocent squandered, caught in the cross fire of violent gang turf wars. Every year the murder rate climbs.

As one resident proclaimed "to live in Elsie's rivier, is akin to hell! Like been in prison. Burgled in our houses, we live behind bars and razor wire".

Gangster paranoia permeates out in all directions from violent suburbs. Residents living in areas abutting them, the high crime precincts, they live with a heightened sense of fear. For the exaggerated police presence found in and around the most dangerous neighbourhoods wanes, away from crime hot spots. Communities on the fringes of problem areas, feel vulnerable, because drug addicts look beyond their immediate surroundings for their fix cash.
Pick-pocketing, house breaking is rife. No one leaves an unbarred window open. Peoples possessions are worth a lot to a tik addict. Their life. Less so!

For many, living besides the length and breadth of the Metro rail, is about living with concealed unease. For a stranger hurrying towards them would activate their sympathetic nervous system. Trigger an acute stress response! That which prepares their body to fight or flee. A revolutionary adaptation designed to increase survival in threatening situations.

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Lower Church Street. Woodstock.

For anyone walking this corner of Lower Church street, surrounded by the omnipresent screech of trains and the grumble of cars, to them, it's name, might evoke the peace and quiet of a hushed church interior. Tug at their conscience. Strike them with an impulse to elope.

For this stretch of the foreshore, all roads and bridges, and derelict land abutting the tracks, can feel rather forlorn. Even on sunny day. But certainly on a cold wet winters afternoon, with not a church in sight, those factory workers, walking the overpasses across the N1, from Paarden Eiland to Woodstock metro rail station, could be excused for imagining more spiritual things. Only as means to help them cope. Weather the drudgery of the commute.

If any of the commuters were sanguine by nature, they might garner some inner peace from the sight of Table Mountain. For it's bare slopes may speak to them entirely of a different time. A former epoch, when the only sounds would be of wind, crashing waves, and the muffled moans of sea lions wallowing on the foreshore.

They might imagine their distant ancestors in loin cloths, speaking in incomprehensible clicks. Hardy, muscular people in tune with the rhythm of nature and with no inkling of the hideous factories to come. Soulless places, surrounded by graffiti clad walls and razor wire. Governed by time. And fear. They surely would not be able to comprehend this modern day sprawl thrown across the land. That which they regarded as communal. Owned by no one. Free for all. There were no clocks.

The enlightened commuter, inching his way towards the station, might look up ahead and notice the line on the distant horizon. The edge. Where humanities conurbation ends and the wild mountain begins. Upwards into wispy clouds. The heavens. A timeless place.

He may reflect upon the fact that down here, where he and other humans trundle home from work, as recipients of slave wages and conscripts to time and schedule, there was no freedom!

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The Black Man. Woodstock # 11

Black day. Black weather. Black road. Black cat. Black coat. Black man. Who was he? Jacob, the security guard peering at him through the security fence from the Old Castle Brewery building, had no idea. Whoever he was, he seemed lost in thought. His demenor and dress suggested he might be a cop.

Or rather a detective. A recent murder along the way, a homeless person found dead and lying on the grit of the service road that runs besides the tracks, might have prompted his revisit. Jacob's imagination continued to draw up a narrative. He'd decided to take a slow walk back to Woodstock police station and give the case a thinking over!

Jacob concluded the cop construct was a serious plausibility, given there was no shortage of evil around this neck of the woods. He acknowledged the misnomer. For there were no trees here. Just brick, concrete, corrugated iron, razor wire scruffy tracts of scrub and the odd scraggly date palm.

Jacob and all the commuters that used the Metro rail to and from work, knew only too well how it forced upon them introspection. For it was part of the process of blocking out reality. The daily grind through a menacing and unreliable system. By keeping's one's head down. Avoiding eye contact, it made the journey somehow seem safer. Everyone adopted the poise of a cat. A black cat at leisure. Appearing docile and at ease, half asleep. Yet eyes and ears tuned surreptitiously. Their senses ready for early warnings of trouble. Primed for fight or flight!

The start of another working week, a black Monday, and the rail ride, induced a black mood. The only way to deal with that was something akin to meditation. Or creative thought. Like shining a light into the darkness of his mind, it was the process that helped Jacob cope.

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Salt River. The Seagull.

Bad Company. Songwriters: Mick Ralphs / Paul RodgersSeagull lyrics © Wb Music Corp., Badco Music Inc.

'Seagull, you fly across the horizon
Into the misty morning sun
Nobody asks you where you are going,
Nobody knows where you're from
Here is a man asking the question
Is this really the end of the world?
Seagull, you must have known for a long time
The shape of things to come
Now you fly, through the sky, never asking why,
And you fly all around till somebody shoots you down.

Seagull, you fly, across the horizon,
Into the misty morning sun.
Nobody asks you where you are going,
Nobody knows where you are from,
Now you fly through the sky, never asking why,
And you fly all around till somebody, yeah,
Shoots you down. Mm mm, yeah.
Seagull you fly, seagull you fly away.

And you fly away today
And you fly away tomorrow
And you fly away, leave me to
My sorrow'.

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Sign of our Times. Woodstock.

Upon rusting razor wire, hangs degenerating plastic. This once airborne flotsam and jetsam of our contemporary trash economy, now snared in spikes designed to inflict pain, merely flaps in the steady SE Easterly, unfeeling. A talisman of the modern age? Or hoodoo? Think jinx!

Come rain or shine, this simulated material, born of the age of oil, flutters nonchalantly in the breeze. A sound akin to Tibetan prayer flag? A novel material to ancients perhaps? They might be forgiven for temporarily revering it. But hopefully their venerable wisdom would prevail and they’d come to see it for what it really was. An eyesore. A scourge! It’s synthetic cells the ruination of a once pristine planet. Or was humanity always destined to hang itself metaphorically speaking. Sloth, avarice, indifference, wired (excuse the pun) into our very DNA!

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Maitland, MOP.

Most commuters wandering this side lane abutting the rails, heading towards Maitland station, probably don’t pay much attention to the paint splashed security walls. Or consider for a moment that the daubs of colour, may resemble dried blood. But then again, in this city and this neighborhood where there is much violence and much blood spilled, this motif has to give but only the most ardent day dreamer, a subliminal sting. A sort of pin prick to the senses. Surely! For studies in the 1950’s revealed that even brain damaged patients reacted negatively to the color red. It stimulated their visual activity and autonomic nervous system in ways that the colour blue, didn’t.

An astute commuter might see the irony in the three letters. MOP. And think, mop implies. To wipe! Wipe out? To clean! Remove? Mopping up in military terms, means, to kill all remaining enemy troops. Quite often, by rounding them up, standing them against a wall and mowing them all down!

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Come and Play

Woodstock 2009. Children of all ages and from every socioeconomic background retreat into a closeted world of battery-operated toys, television, computers, smart phones. They abandon self-directed, imaginative, and creative play.

Traditionally, play is the work of children. It consists of activities performed for self-amusement that have behavioral and social rewards. It’s child-directed, and the rewards come from within the individual child; it’s enjoyable and spontaneous.

Some parents understand play is an important part of childhood development. It’s when they learn about shapes, colors, cause and effect, and themselves. Besides cognitive thinking, play helps children learn social and psychomotor skills. It allows children to gain control of their thoughts, feelings, actions, and helps them achieve self-confidence. It is also a way of communicating their joy, fear, sorrow, and anxiety.

Woodstock 2009. Playgrounds stand empty. Refuse collects in the framework of abandoned jungle gyms. Gone is the laughter of children. In the void there is merely the rumble of trains on tracks, the drone of distant traffic and the sound of tin cans clattering across the graffiti scarred tarmac. Junk driven by intermittent gusts of wind.

Sociologists acknowledge that the opposite of play is not work, it is depression. The decline of 'real' play spells the decline of society.

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Un-Merry_go_Round. Salt River Station

Salt River station. On one side there’s the frenetic 4 lane Voortrekker road, carrying speeding cars in and out of the flats. On the other, there’s stripped down shunting yards and derelict land. In between these two danger zones lies the station platform & tracks, pointing east & west. Spiraling away from these commuter lines is the pedestrian on/off ramp. A concrete helix, reminiscent of an amusement park big dipper.

Those bodies in motion, many with their heads down, tend to miss the irony that to get up or down, they have to stray left to stroll right. Turn east to head west. Trundle backwards to mosey forwards. An un-merry-go-round. An experience akin to a bad dream. Everyone has them. Of trying to get somewhere and yet with every turn they slip inextricably further away from where they want to go.

So for those walking the helix with their heads bowed against the rudimentary experience that is called the commute, their conscious reality mirrors their unconscious troubled unreality. Life mimics illusion which in turn leads to delusion.

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Railway Street. Woodstock.

On this side of Woodstock is railways street. During the Victorian era it was chocablock with busy warehouses that serviced the great steamer ships of the British East India company. The side tracks buzzed with bogies, pump trolleys, jiggers, and kalamazoos. Not anymore!

The buzz now is that of electric fences and CCTV cameras. Bergies (homeless people) gather below the footbridge, in the cul-de-sac at the end of railway street that bumps up against the Cape Town Central to Ndabeni line.

No longer a thoroughfare, like an eddy in a stream, flotsam and jetsam collects. Rubbish and people cohabit. Cape Town’s down and outs, mostly alcoholics and glue sniffers shuffle about in this forlorn corner of limbo-land.

Long gone the horns of the steam ships. Long gone the chug of the steam trains. Now it’s just the grind of diesel locomotives, the drone of vehicles. The cry of the gulls. The moan of the inebriated. The shouts of the mentally ill.

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Bax Street In the Box

Adjacent to Maitland train station is the Bax Street industrial park. It lies sandwiched between the busy Berkley road and the defunct and abandoned end of the railway shunting yard.

Besides the Cape oil and Margarine company the other businesses that inhabit this moribund end of Maitland, include Jungle Oats, The Hideaway, Safety Mate, Quick Tint, Laser communications, In the Box delivery, Edge Lighting and Plumbcrazy plumbing suppliers. Names which some might agree alude to the notion of hazard. Uncertainty. Insecurity. Mental imbalance. Peril. Danger. Risk.

On weekends this area can feel particularly minatory. A dead zone comes to mind! For the only animated objects are plastic bags whipped up in the infamous Cape winds, and the flapping kelp gulls with their eerie cries. The scene made to feel all the more portentous set against a backdrop of gathering thunderclouds.

From the vacant yard, Signal Hill can seen in the background. Once a symbol of safety for mariners who had survived the savage storms along the Skeleton coast. That 1000 miles of denuded coastline between the Tropic of Capricorn and The Cape of Good Hope. Today some might say it's all rather hopeless and Signal Hill is nothing more than a monolith to melancholy.

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Maitland. Margins of the Threat Matrix

Uncertainty is more arousing than the familiar.

Then the region of the brain called the amygdala or threat centre, goes into overdrive, receiving neurological fight or flight signals. Supposedly threat stimuli which traverse long and short pathways or “low wires” and “high wires”, down so called subcortical and cortical fear threads, to the threat center. Arriving at the amygdala independently and at different times.

Around the metro rail matrix of lines, corridors and channels, people instinctively and subconsciously evaluate perceived external threats that challenge their own sense of personal security. So called non-existential and existential threats.

Non-existential categorized as physical violence that arises during a mugging for example. A push and a shove. A slap or possible punch in the face. An existential threat however is about lives in jeopardy. Knife or gun violence which results in loss of live. Existence is extinguished.

For those that feel trapped within the metro rail’s threat matrix, like an insect entangled in a spiders web, with the fight or flight response rendered almost obsolete, all they can do is attempt to mentally switch off that almond shaped lobe at the back of their brains, the amygdala, and just say their fucking prayers.

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Behind the Lines. Maitland.

A short cut from the cul-de-sac that is William street, to Sunrise circle Maitland, is to follow the disused railway tracks that run parallel and then under the main Ndabeni line via a concrete elevated bridge.

This dark passage allows the pedestrian to get beneath and bypass the busy and not very prestigious, Prestige drive. For as an elevated road, crammed with trucks rolling in and out of the nearby industrial zones, and careering mini-bus taxis, Prestige is best circumvented, for you are more likely to die trying to cross it than you are chancing the short-cut.

However for those walking this track of rubble and refuse, shit & piss (human and animal), they might be forgiven for thinking that short ain’t that sweet. While they hear the grind of trains and grumble of cars above, the wary pedestrian will be keeping eyes peeled for low lifers lurking behind soot blackened walls or taking shelter in cardboard boxes under the arches.

For those intent on getting to Sunrise Circle they first have take this stretch of no-man’s land in their stride. Actually less no-man’s and more a communal tract for everyone.

Everyone who is down and out, unwashed, off their heads on glue and meths, hungry, dispossessed, beaten down, ruined, injured, broken of spirit, stinking, itching, scratching.

Yes those wandering this dodge through a duct of despair, will be hurriedly anticipating the light of Sunrise circle.

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Over the Wires. Paarden Eiland

Electric barriers shock. Razor wire cuts. Steel gates bar. Chain-mesh fences segregate. Padlocks clasp. Chains shackle. Dogs bite. Security guards look and listen as they wander around the premises in circles, while checking this. Checking that.

While on their side of the barrier, sometimes bumping up against it as they look out through the lattices and grills and coils, like a prisoner, they long for somewhere else. The free world. But then again, the arena beyond the fence line, represents two things. Freedom and danger. There are good folks are out there. Sadly, bad folks too! Some of those bad folks want to be behind the wires. Over his side of the fence. Stealing things. Or worse, sticking a knife in his chest before they steal things.

At least on his side of the perimeter, those with the knives have to try pick the locks or cut the wires, before they can enter. He knows this side of the palisade, he’s alive, safe and bored. For the time being at least. Out there, over the fence, he would be vitalized, unsafe and possibly dead. Catch 22. Stay in. Go out. He’s kind of fucked either way.

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Sniperism. Woodstock Station.

Sniperism is the art of sniping. Sniping is what snipers do. Snipers accurately take people out. Often from long distances. They are regarded as crack shots.

Around Woodstock station there are no crack shots. Just crack heads. Crackheads may kill people too, but at close range. This certainly can happen if their chosen victim is stubborn and refuses to hand over the fix money. Then knives may come out. Or worse, illegal guns.
For those who are the target of a crack shot snipers bullet, the lights tend to go out in an instant. They don’t ever see the person who sends them off on a journey into eternal darkness.

Crackheads tend to ensure their victims departure to the afterlife is a rather messy affair. The last thing they may see are the assailants bloodshot eyes. The glazed orbs of a crackpot! Smell foul mugger breath. And of course should the robber be a lousy swordsman or sloppy shot, then there would be no swift jaunt to that great gig in the sky.

Instead prolonged stress. Pain. Bloody body parts and a head spinning dizziness into oblivion.

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The Golden Cut. Cape Town Central Station.

Support and resistance zones on a trading chart can be determined using the Fibonnaci golden ratio. Also called the golden mean. The extreme ratio. The golden cut.

Cape Town station entry and exit points, are where rising and falling levels of anxiety and stress play out! For there is nothing golden about a golden cut. Commuters have to watch their rear. Carry a stop loss in their back pockets. Which in non trader, layman's terms, means holding very little cash.
On the Metro rail network, an extreme ratio here could well be the metric of blood loss any random commuter might have to shed as a result of a stochastic slash or stab!

A commuter who succumbs to his wounds and falls before a knife wielding tik addled youth, becomes just another statistic. And the crazed juvenile merely hunting for his next fix, doesn't fully understand the damage done. Or the long terms ramifications of the capitulation event he might well be causing.

He neglects to think of incarceration. Or the violent gangster intimidation and horror of Polsmoor prison as he hurriedly rummages for the empty wallet, in the pants of the dying soul at his feet. There simply isn't much gold to be found or gold to be had, here at the golden cross on mezzanine exit level A.

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The K-Word. Woodstock.

In South Africa, using the K-Word is frowned upon in much the same way the N-word is in America. Just to be clear.

Kaffir is an ethnic slur used to refer to black South Africans. In the form of cafri, it evolved during the pre-colonial period as an equivalent of "negro" as a corruption of the Arabic word kāfir meaning infidel and used to refer to the Bantu peoples. This designation came to be considered a pejorative by the mid-20th century, and today regarded as extremely offensive.

A single K sprayed on a wall could denote many things. 3 K’s less so. The Klux Klan Klan are an international organization. Some black commuters on the entry or exit to Cape Town station, who glimpse this word/symbol from their graffiti clad carriages as they rattle through Woodstock, might think this is a racial slur against them. Others might instantly think K for Kill. A few might consider K for Kindheartedness.

Would they consider too that the letter K is a digraph? That is when one letter can make two sounds. With this in mind...

Kommuters kan konsider societal kollapse. A problem exacerbated by the notion of that their kountry is kontrolled by a kollective of korrupt kuntz and kriminalz.

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Salt River. 321.

Salt River station. It pays to be vigilant. No one is watching out for you. But then again vigilante's abound. Citizen cops mingle with the masses. They have a gun and know how to shoot straight.

Self appointed folks, undertaking law enforcement without legal authority, because they don't believe the cops are up to the job of keeping the public safe. They'll shoot first and let the cops ask questions later if some glue sniffing lunatic decides to go on the rampage.

They are hawk eyed and can spot trouble makers before they start making trouble.

In a war zone the shoot drill is pop, pop.....pop. Two quick slugs to incapacitate. Followed by an aimed, third round. The executioners bullet. Here on the metro rail, citizen cops tend to drop with the third shot, and take pride in playing incapacitator.

Glazed and Bemused

Frosted glass. He can’t see out. They can’t see in. What is there for him to see anyway? Motion speed. Urban blur. Motion stop. Grimy platforms, nervous, dour looking commuters. Repeat. Repeat.

Best he not see anything. Better he stare with glazed eyes at the glazing. Look blankly at the blank walls. Let his mind empty and thoughts drain away. At least he might be able to suppress the tendency to think his life has already gone down the drain. His life, along with countless others. Him and the masses, forced to ride a dilapidated transport system, day in day out, to a lousy job, trying to eke out a living in an economy that is going down the drain, in a country that already has.

Never so blind as those who do not want to see.

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Unfair Dodgers. Observatory

Platform 2 faces the setting sun. Platform 2 is where people wait for the end stop. Simon’s Town! Platform 2 is where fare dodgers from Cape Town central station, jump the low wall down to Milner street on the east side. Fare dodgers don’t pay to ride. Fare dodgers don’t pay for much. Fare dodgers! Beware.

Fare dodgers could be dangerous. Best ignored. Fare dodgers could be ripped. Best don’t notice them. Fare dodgers could be violent and fast with a knife. Fare or no fare, fare dodgers don’t play fair. Those that know just turn a blind eye. That way they have a fair chance of not been harmed. Fair enough!

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The Hunched. Back on the 18:40.

The three levels of human consciousness. Conscious. Pre conscious. Unconscious. Oh and lest us not forget there’s one more, which really is more of a contradiction in terms. There’s post conscious. ie. one is kaput, a gonner. Extinct for a better word. With this fella on the Metro Rail,18: 40 from Cape Town Central to Malmesbury, it’s hard to tell what state he’s in.

Are those bullet holes dotted into the graffiti smeared paneling? Probably not. He’s most likely passed out from some form of alcohol induced asphyxiation. Paralytic perhaps?

Or he might have had a hard day at the office. Dead tired? Who knows? But on the Metro rail, one’s imagination does tend to run wild. It pays commuters to assume the worst. Rather than sit next to this dead or alive fella, better to move a few carriages down, just in case he awakens from his muddled three states of current oblivion, and decides to pick a fight with someone.


Pinelands. But don’t let the name or the tranquil setting fool you. For amongst the pines, besides cooing pigeons bad folks peep, and skulk. David Lynch made a career out of presenting to his audience a seemingly innocuous urban setting that hid within it a pandoras box of horrors. Pinelands police just the other week had been called to investigate a human ear found in the undergrowth on this stretch of razor wire sealed fear-estate.

You see that open window off to the right? It’s not open because somebody wants fresh air. It’s open because it’s been broken open. Tik addled kids went in and and ransacked the house, looking for fix funds while the owner was at work. At least this time no one was stabbed.

Notice that dove on the telegraph wire, with jet black eyes that blink into the oblique afternoon sun, it has no idea that it’s a symbol of peace overlooking a very un-peaceful place.

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Back to Poetry

Back to work
back to back
back to boredom

Back to boredom
back to burglary
back to prison

Back to prison
back to breakout
back to freedom

Back to freedom
back to despair
back to misery

Back to misery
back to booze
back to oblivion

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Atlantic Meats. Station rd. Wynberg.

The word slag in Afrikaans can mean many things; bang, battle, beat, blow, bump, butcher, dump, explosion, kill, slam, slap, slaughter, slay, smack, smite, snap, squelch, strike, stroke, thump, thwack.

Ironically the word for a butchery in Afrikaans is slaghuis. At this house, Atlantic meats, it’s very much a case of death by blunt instrument.

Shoppers revel in the smell of dead animals at the smackhouse! They order take-aways from the thwackhouse! Buy discounted bovine at the banghouse! Search for fatty off-cuts at the smitehouse! Dig around in the frozen goat head bins at the dumphouse! Consider pig eyeballs at the explosionhouse!

Ultimately they sign off at the till with their shopping bag full of dead stuff at the slaughterhouse!

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They see therefore they want.

Most commuters keep their heads down while on the trains. They know the # 1 rule. Pretend not to notice anything, all the while notice everything. They know to avoid eye contact, for eye contact with the wrong set of eyes, can set up a chain reaction.

Criminal psychology works in predictable ways. like Hyenas on the plains, they hone in on easy pickings and those that appear to have something to steal. Commuters keep their phones hidden. They stare at nothing. Many just keep their eyes closed and imagine more pleasant surroundings.

Staring back at the starer is a dumb move. Commuters understand this, the foolishness of thinking they can stare the criminal down. They know it can trigger a revenge impulse. For in the violent gangster ridden paradise that is the Cape Flats, where lawlessness is the law, gangsters make the rules. They do what they want. When they want. Where they want.

They sit on the trains eyeing everyone up, while everyone else sits there with their eyes down.

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A Thicket of Thorns

You might suspect something is not right when you see razor wire lurking in the grasslands of Zandvlei, like weeds. Weeds that cut. Snare and tear. Hook into flesh. Lacerate the unsuspecting.

Zandvlei is a nature reserve on the edge of False Bay and it’s dwindling wildlife has to be protected from those across the way at Lavendar Hill and Grassy Park. It's hard to reason how places with such pretty names can be so dangerous.

The nearby Cape Flats is an altogether ganster-ridden place. To put it mildly, it’s a rough neighborhood. So therefore it calls for a barrier of sorts. A ring of steel thrown up to protect the water birds and Waterbuck from those who might be tempted to sneak in and steal them as an extra source of protein.

But these rolls of barbed wire skulking in the grass, reminiscent of the elaborate patterns of fences, concertinas, ‘dragon’s teeth’ placed on the battlefields of WW1 to channel troops into the so called ‘killing zone’, don’t differentiate between friend or foe.

So while all is not well across there in Grassy Park, here in Zandvlei everyone and everything, suffers.

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Muizenburg. Standing on the Corner, looking around the corner.

When they are in or besides and adjacent to the commuter line, nearby or abutting the metro rail zone, it pays them to be vigilant. For drunkards, meth heads, gangsters, dealers, petty thieves, hard core criminals, opportunist smash and grab kids could be lurking around the next bend. It’s best they approach the streets, especially deserted ones, as if entering into a zombie world. Imagining zombies abound. Thinking zonked zombies could be waiting for them in groups of three or four, just around the corner.

Sometimes it’s best they pause on the intersection. At the crossing. Thinking death cross before continuation. Looking right. Looking left. Looking right again.

Look, streets belong to different zombies. They all have their turf. Their zones. Zones within zones. Best commuters try to identify which zombie, belongs to which zombie domain. And they must remember to look around the corner. To adopt some serious surveillance tactics before stepping off the pavement and continuing on their commute.

Oh the commute. That damned daily thing they have to do. What a slog, taking that damned crap rail system to places of work many despise. And passing through places they fear. Oh yes. Life can be a bitch. And then if they are not careful they get zombies out!

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Arch Angel. Muizenburg.

Arch. A curved symmetrical structure. Arch-enemy. A person who is extremely hostile or opposed to someone or something. Arch-rival. The chief rival of a person, team, or organization. Archangel. An angel of high rank. An angel. A member of one of the most dangerous gangs on the Cape Flats. Don’t fuck with an angel unless you want to get fucked by an angel.

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Earth, Smoke & Fire. M 81. Muizenburg.

For millennia, humans have been staring into flames. Pieter, he’s been staring into flames for the past 15 years. There’s a theory that with the invent of fire, and an ability to cook meat, thereby giving our stomachs a break from the stress of trying to dissolve raw protein, our bodies directed this surplus energy to grow our brains and with it our intelligence. Pieter’s surplus energy goes towards trying to keep warm in the winter months. There’s almost never any meat in his diet.

Earth Wind and Fire sang;
“We're goin' round
Tryin' to get higher
Better come down
There's gonna be a fire
We're goin' round
Tryin' to get higher
Better come down
There's gonna be a fire”

Pieter has no radio. Batteries are too expensive. And there’s no electricity supply either. The authorities the cut the power long ago. So he hums to himself while he stares at the flames and thinks. As he sits and watches the fire blacken his already blackened tin pot, waiting for the sea water to boil an egg, he reminds himself what his mother said to him a long long time ago. “Pieter, don’t let your dreams go up in smoke”.

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Series. Commute. Room with a View. M 81. Muizenburg.

Opposite Muizenburg metro rail station, there’s a room with a view. An empty room. In an empty house. An address empty of stuff. The stuff stolen long ago. The only things left here are vagabonds with their meagre possessions. Sneakers with holes. Soiled clothes. Cheap liquor bottles emptied out.

They, the illegal tenants, squatters for a better word, stagger across the mildew rotten carpets, amongst their fag ends on carpets that don’t resemble carpets anymore. Merely ragged patches of cigarette scarred fabric. Colour swatches with no colour. The hues and pattern having evaporated into the ether of neglect. For the salty air wafting in off False Bay, rots most things if it’s not maintained.

The tenants of the building at M81, occasionally notice the world outside through grime streaked windows. The smudged vista of flickering lights, station, road and bay is a painterly impressionist view probably not appreciated by those gathered inside. For mostly they are too out of it, or too depressed to notice the beautiful soft pink hues been cast upon the walls. Bare walls within their squatter camp.

They don’t stand at the window and look in awe at the enchanting scene like some of their wealthy neighbors do. For Muizenburg and Kalk Bay is really the enclave of the rich. Next door neighbors partake in the light show. Sip expensive merlot. Hold hands. Hug and kiss.

But here at 81 Main rd things are different.

Within this drafty gutted building on the renovation/demo list, the tenants sit huddled down in the basement around a fire concocted from scavenged refuse and wood scraps. It’s another day in survival mode. Not art appreciation week.

They mutter amongst themselves in between bouts of coughing and wheezing. Fire smoke and cheap rolling tobacco has ruined their lungs. Their bellies are scarred from meths and cheap liquor. Their backsides numb from sitting on discarded beer crates. Their taste buds dead after a lifetime of eating lukewarm baked beans on stale bread.

Eventually they will fall asleep half comatose to the rumble of the Metro rail. Often before darkness has obliterated the painterly Turner-esque panorama outside.

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Every Stick HAs Two Ends. Fish Hoek.

Commuters spend their time away from the commute, involved in other repetitive tasks. Cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, trying to keep themselves happy. Trying to keep their families happy. Hoping to keep the dog happy. By taking it for a walk. Throwing it a stick. Watching it run off and return with it clenched within it’s jaws, tail wagging. The dog seems happy. We guess the owner should be too. Momentarily at least. Since the reflex action of throwing the stick again, and again and again, and watching the dogs race off to collect it, again and again and again might be therapeutic. A reflex action. And encouraging a glimpse of solace seeing the hounds happiness. Both of them then, in a state of temporary bliss, and perhaps equally distracted from thinking too much about reality. An escapist sojourn for human and animal.

The hound can be exonerated for missing the irony of the moment! The paradox of the deed. The owner less so. For the dog has no ability to reason. But the human can reflect on the metaphorical act. And understand the nonsensical and mindless repetition of; throw stick, collect stick! Surely a reminder that life for most part, for many, is nothing more than a repetition of chores. A path of drudgery to the grave. They might consider too that every stick has two ends. And life too, has a start and finish, and that birth is nothing more than the beginning of the end.

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Blood River. Fish Hoek.

Cape Town’s history is written in blood. Contested land. Firstly skirmishes between indigenous tribes; the Khoisan, Hottentots, Khoekhoe, Koranna, Nama, Xhosa, Zulu. Hunter-gather warfare with clubs and spears. Finally with the arrival of the Europeans and their cannons and muskets, the real carnage began.

To start with, it was the decimation of local clans, blown to smithereens by buckshot and cannonballs. Firstly the Portuguese did the shooting. Then came the Dutch. Later the French and finally the British. During these pioneering days, the slaughter soirees that became known as the frontier wars, went mainstream. Oh the fun of chasing indigenous peoples from their lands with rifle volleys and bayonet charges. Goodness. There were the 9 Xhosa wars. Ah the blasting, clubbing and chopping on the koppies. Then with the local tribes dead, scared away or enslaved and no-one to left to kill or maim, the pale skinned folks turned their blunderbusses on each other….

So, sea and land skirmishes between the world’s superpowers increased and became ever more bloody. Rival nations at each others throats, attempting to protect or control the important commercial and logistics hub that Cape Town had become by the 1700’s. Sea lanes to die for. Think. The Battle of Blauwberg. The Battle of Muizenburg. The Occupation of Simon’s Town. Just one bloodbath after another!

And to think, the Mountain gazed upon the grand coastal plains and the bays for some 360,000,000 years before the lunacy arrived. There, where the myriad bird, mammal lifeforms danced until one day, strange things called ships came drifting in from over the distant horizon, and then very shortly after, the bays, veld and rivers of the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ turned red.

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Foreshore. Foreshadow. Fish Hoek.

(verb ) to be a warning or indication of (a future event). What that future event might be is anyone’s guess. In the underpasses and along the corridors and alleyways of the Metro rail, a future event might be a rather unappealing one. With this in mind, commuters approach shadows warily. And shadows can take on a sinister guise. They can look and feel more threatening than they are, for imagination is a tricky thing. As the saying goes, ‘there’s nothing to fear, but fear itself’. The other saying is, ‘there’s nothing to fear of shadows, except for what might be lurking in them’.

Foreshadowing in fiction creates an atmosphere of suspense in a story. Foreshadowing in life, scares the living shit out of you.

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Calm before the Storm

Headwinds, tailwinds. North to South. East to West. Opposites attract. Or repel. The calm before the storm, an idiom that denotes a period of inactivity before a spell of intense comings and goings. Occurrences. Incidents!

As the 16:00 to Simons Town, passes the 15:30 to Cape Town central, at the now defunct and derelict Clovelly Kalk Bay Promenade station, it’s like that.

First the eery quiet. Not a soul around. The distant sound of waves, merely mimics white noise. The sea breeze tussles the strands of shredded plastic hanging off razor wire. The calm. But he doesn’t feel calm.

Then suddenly decibels rise. A screeching crescendo of steel on steel. He’s fucking frightened. Alarmed for a better word. And then there’s the sucking sound. Oh shit. The rapid displacement of air as two hulking bodies in high speed motion, pass within a meter of each other. Then comes the big bang when the apex of mass, velocity, speed and direction meets his ear. Temporary deafness ensues, as inner ear hair cells wither. Disorientation. Perhaps. He’s blinded too, as the after image of red signal lights flare across his burned retina. It’s all flash bang, wallop. Just like a storm.

For fuck’s sakes, an eery quiet once again settles upon the derelict graffiti clad platform.

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Last One Out. Turn off the Lights.

Mariners of the past would steer their battered ships in from rough seas towards Simon Town’s lighthouse. A star like pinprick on the horizon, it reminding them of Polaris perhaps, reassuring for sure, both, a navigators best friend. Land ahoy! Their lighthouse, a beacon of joy. They’re drawn towards it. Entranced. Hypnotized like a moth to a lamp, their minds flooded with lusty thoughts of dry land, fresh food, wine, women and song.

Now, should those deceased souls be obligated to return to this peninsular, because of some unfulfilled karmic payback, they’d step down from their celestial drift, onto hard rock and be fearful. It would look so alien and threatening.

They’d ask themselves; who is that over there skulking about, shoulders hunched, in a hood amongst pillars of decay? The grim reaper? Why does everyone look so unhappy? Concerned? Wary? Miserable for a better word!

And how come the water is filled with all this weird multicolored floating shit? Of course plastic been a substance they’d never seen, would prompt them to wonder. Oh and all these scrappy fonts? To them, merely squiggles on walls, that don’t resemble copperplate, would have no meaning whatsoever?

They’d be prompted to ask of the bigger picture. Have these people lost their minds? How did the veritable Garden of Eden they clearly remember, descend into such an unadulterated shithole? Where have all the birds gone? Where have all the fish gone? Where have all the antelope gone? And the natives? Once proud of their boma’s, lapa’s, swati’s, now live in tin shacks! Their leopard skin loin cloths replaced by some baggy blue shit that makes them look like dull, forlorn circus clowns.

“What the hell has happened? This feels like the end of the world. Get me the fuck out of here”, these mariners would scream?

COM-MUTE. reduce (a judicial sentence, esp. a sentence of death) to one less severe.

Commute my second body of work set in South Africa explores multiple themes; fear, xenophobia, fate, issues such as crime, urban decay, the existence of the individual in an 'unpredictable & unsafe' world.

The work intends to tussle with both literal and figurative notions of fear through objective and subjective record of place. That place for the purpose of the narrative of this collection of photographs, is the commuter railway journey from Cape Town's city central station to the quaint coastal enclave of Simon's Town.

This is not a random selection of one route over the many routes which the state run Metro Rail runs across peninsular Cape Town. Or to neglect the countless other city commuter rail services globally that cut through diverse social, ethnological & geographical zones and could be treated with equal consideration! I choose this route because in contemporary South African terms it has been regarded as a heaven and hell experience. Scenic yet dangerous. Violent crime on and off the train has been and continues to plague the route.

There are certainly social and political inferences built into it's very essence, but I don't dwell on the complexities of them here. Possibly subliminally though I do gather referrals from another period in South Africa's history.  That of the 1980's, apartheid and the 'old' South Africa.  Certainly there continues to be much social comment that, under the authoritarian and draconian ways of the apartheid regime, this very same commute was clean, orderly and safe.

Certainly the seed from which this work germinated was a flashback to riding this line during summer of 1985. Recalling the fresh south easterly wind off table bay wafting through the window......

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