A week of head down, chasing, enticing, marketing, wooing, offering, jumping through hoops, researching, writing and doing whatever needs to be done to get clients to pay their bills. The “normal stuff” of work.
Times are not easy and many are paddling madly to stay afloat after the job destroying tsunami of COVID-19. Just as many are taking advantage of the desperation and not valuing the effort, craft and the time that goes into doing the work, making the products, setting up “shop”, and providing the services.
Variety and difference
This weekend was awash with variety and difference, a reprieve from the “normal stuff”, which is great for growing our brains and keeping us emotionally fit. Friday night saw us surprise Chantal’s son, Judson, and his mate, Dan, who were DJ-ing at a not-so-local venue. A so-called pizzeria and more-like meeting place for a much younger crowd to sip on colourful cocktails and ease out of the week. They definitely don’t go there for the food. As self proclaimed pizza aficionados we can say with certainty that their pizzas are the second worst we have ever had.
The music was great, though. We know the practice and preparation that takes place before a gig, and it pays off with laid back vibes, smooth transitions, and a toe tapping beat to release stress and ease tension. Relegated to a dark corner, paid less than slave wages - barely enough to cover the petrol to get there, Judson and Dan, focused and passionate, provided the ambiance and energy that covered for the mediocre meal. Their value, however, was as intangible as the waves it was played on.
Vanessa and Charles, the dynamic duo who make the now-that-I-have-it-how-did-I-ever-live-without-it tech pillow stands
Pivoting to earn
Linden was alive with the bustle of the Aardklop Arts Festival and several small pop up markets. We popped in to one ostensibly to meet up with someone Matthew had not seen for almost ten years but we stayed to browse. Along the pebbled path we met stallholder after stallholder who had to pivot after losing their jobs.
Here we encountered a neighbour peddling a family member’s homemade marula cordial next to her friend’s homemade cannabis oil infused sleep brownies. Both are delicious and we have had great sleep over the last few nights too. A detour through lopsided chairs to bag caramel covered cashews, bright pillow-like tech stands displayed under a blue gazebo caught our eye.
We learnt from Vanessa, the bubbly stallholder that she too had to find something to do after losing her job. We learnt how long it takes to make each pillow, and what value for money they really are. We purchased a few and turned down the offer of a discount. Despite our protestations she added an extra pillow, “just in case”.
“I prayed to God for something colourful and small that I could make and sell. He gave me this”, she said with a sweep of her arm. “Who prays for something so specifically?”
We should have asked Vanessa to pray for rain. Specifically that burping, tummy growling thunder of late highveld afternoons that signals a healthy downpour to cool the air, settle the dust and satiate plants and people alike.
An elderly couple selling watercolour paintings of wildlife, sat snug and cool under the pink and green of a Mexican red trumpet vine (bignonia cherere) spilling across the roofs of several lean-to’s. The paintings were quirky and clever. Perfect for sale at upmarket game lodges as easy to pack souvenirs. They just don’t have the money to market them there.
Diana, the artist and nature conservationist and her husband the tour guide and palaeontology enthusiast quickly became new friends. We expect to have coffee and a chat about old bones with them soon.
Posing in front of a Gawie Joubert masterpiece. We met Gawie a few years ago and it was lovely to see his art on display again at the Aardklop Festival
A question of value
As we sat in the shade of a tipsy umbrella, digging into cups of homemade ice-cream with names like Jailhouse rock (pear and grape) and Peppermint crisp tart (tasted just like it with mini tennis biscuits and sprinkles of that chocolate bar), we mused over the concept of value. Being able to value yourself and in turn being valued. We wondered, too, about the tendency of some to take advantage, to want services for free or at a minimal cost.
“Why is it that music and art is often expected for free or very low cost or worse, in exchange for, you know, “exposure”? The writing of content and articles too. How often have we been expected to provide our work at low or no cost?” Chantal wondered out loud.
“People are so used to getting stuff for free on social media and on the internet that if something is not tangible, is not something you can eat or wear, drive or own, people think they should get it for free,” replied Matthew licking his spoon.
It spills over into other areas where people’s real effort, their craft, and creativity are undervalued and diminished as not important enough to pay for. The young and the vulnerable get taken advantage of. Hopefully not for long. Hopefully, as in the case of Judson and Dan, they draw a line on their dignity and demand more or move on.
Our friend and artist extraordinaire, Clement, showcasing a ceramic pangolin
What is really important
As a society, we have lost any discernment for what is really important. What is truly of value. As Gabor Mate remarks in his latest book: “qualities like love, trust, caring, social conscience, and engagement are inevitable casualties - “sunk costs”, in capitalist argot - of a culture that prizes acquisition above all else.”
As individuals we can make different choices. We can choose to inspect more carefully what we are prepared to pull out from our fragile bank accounts and pay for. We can make decisions to value the intangible but precious. We can acknowledge the effort, the resilience and the guts it has taken to step beyond the co-dependence of corporate infidelity into the dignity of self determination. And maybe we can also stop to pray more specifically.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.