Monthly Archives: February 2014

When I was a schoolboy, I used to neglect my homework and do various things which were outside of school rules. This meant that I spent a lot of time fearing being caught.

When I grew up and became a goldsmith, I was required to keep a “Precious Metals Register” or Gold Book. Nowhere else in the world does a craftsman have to account for materials in this way, and the system goes back to the days of Rhodes, who wished to set up and control who may and who may not handle gold. Under these laws, simply possessing unwrought gold (or uncut diamonds) was a crime, unless one had a permit and kept a record of every tenth of a gram of gold.

gold book

At one stage I got my apprentice to keep the book, and it is her handwriting you see above.

The gold book was, of course, never as accurate as it was supposed to be. How could it be? Jewellers are often handy people with no talent for figures, or dyslexic. Jeweller friends talked of “writing poetry” to make the gold book balance with the gold one had on hand, and we lived in dread of a visit by the Gold & Diamond Squad, a branch of the South African Police.

Since 1994 the system was done over, and the control of precious metals and diamonds has fallen to a new office, that of the Registrar. We don’t have to keep the old Book any more, though we are required to keep a register of our gold use, and computers make this (and any “poetry” that may be required) a lot easier.

The old Gold Book got flooded, mold grew on it, and it was dined on by fish moths. The other day I was about to chuck it out, but I thought I should rather make something of it to mark all the years of anxiety that it signified.

Here’s what I made, using water-colours and collage. If you click on it, you can see it big.

Gold Book. Mixed media.

Gold Book. Mixed media.


The South Easter is moaning about the house and through the trees. A friend complained on Facebook. I have a persistent image in my head of a giant switch in the sky, which, if I could only reach it, would allow me to turn the wind off.

The Switch in the Sky

The Switch in the Sky


The Maenads sing

Now Dionysos is upon me
And out of my hands stream
Vines and lilies. My breath
Is hot, my limbs move free,
Easy among close bodies,
I am surrounded.
The cosmos is foliated
And fleshed, open and free,
And Dionysos is on me.

Now my breath is bated,
There is a dangerous glee
And the air has hyperventilated,
The whole scene is pulsating
With thunderbolt energy,
Vines, lilies, and death,
And Dionysos is upon me.
The cosmos is foliated
And I am surrounded.

From the Air

He said that he could see it from the air,
clipped in beneath his glider, almost free
below cloud-base. He said from there
you spy things that the road-bound never see.
It’s marked out like a picture-book, he said.
Tucked in away behind some folded hill
the graveyards lie. Here the assembled dead
are ranked by time. The older graves are still

there in their place. Some tended once a year,
some with stones or flowers, dates and names.
The old-time regular deceased lie there.
And all around them, file on file, the graves
of the new dead, packed with red earth
and marked with a cross or a stick or nothing,
and the grass still not grown about them
and the new ones, rows of pits,
and the diggers digging more,
fresh earth in raw heaps,
gaping holes.

And round these, fields of clear land, he said,
waiting to be cultivated with the dead.


My brother Raymond was a hang-glider pilot, and he is the source of the story contained in this poem. The poem is also the only one I have written which consistently makes me money – it has been anthologized for schools, and I still receive a few thousand Rands every now and again.

A friend wanted a bangle to go with a garnet pearl clasp at her son’s wedding. I made this – carved in wax, then cast by lost-wax casting. I wanted something which would reference both a ring and a watch, as well as suggesting a container or separated space, which could hold anything (magic).

Bangle: Silver, garnet.

Bangle: Silver, garnet.

I have just had confirmation that the Claremont SAPS nabbed the suspect in the early hours of Saturday morning, in a residence in Langa. I am pleased, but worried that he will return to his tricks as soon as he’s bailed – what other recourse has he to make a living, what other skill?