My Grandmother Monica: A micro love story

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This was not common for a woman, even a white woman, like smoking cigarettes, which she did, in a pearl holder which I keep in my shrine.(Supplied)
This was not common for a woman, even a white woman, like smoking cigarettes, which she did, in a pearl holder which I keep in my shrine.(Supplied)

Small love. Big love. Skinny love. Toni Morrison’s “love is or love ain’t, thin love ain’t love at all”. Early in the morning love. Love and honour your parents love. Love at the ends of its tether. “I can’t do this anymore” love.

Here Charl Blignaut considers his grandmother, Monica as a part of Arts24's series "More Than One Kind of Love". 


My grandmother Monica, at her last home near the sea, would contract dementia like a tropical disease that came on the breeze.

She was once a maths teacher in the Karoo. This was not common for a woman, even a white woman, like smoking cigarettes, which she did, in a pearl holder which I keep in my shrine.

In the early evening she'd ask me to spot the mosquitoes on the ceiling and then blast them with a pump and spray - rescuing me from the terrifying, dying man on the bed. Distracting me with pettier deaths. After he became a ghost, she had tenants; long-haired surfers chasing waves.

She’d hum tunes while she stirred the tamatie bredie on the stove, and release them on the wind, thin and unkempt, out the kitchen door behind her. In the garden, a near naked surfer washing off sand under a shower below the grapes, catawbas if I recall, sweet and musky as desire.


An established arts editor and award-winning journalist, Charl started work at the Vrye Weekblad before creating the Mail & Guardian’s arts section Friday in the 1990s and, decades later, City Press’ arts section #Trending. He has worked as a news reporter, feature writer and critic; as a trainer of young journalists and of LGBTIQ journalists across Africa; and as a frontline and front-page investigative reporter, focusing on cultural issues and institutions.

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