Nelson Mandela: a South African Journey Through the Smoke

Nelson Mandela: a South African Journey Through the Smoke

On June 26, 2013 this publication received word that the great Nelson Mandela had died. An article was drafted based on information received from two different sources. It was then placed in a pending file whilst waiting for a third independent source to come forward. A decision was made to publish the news based on the integrity of the two sources who had provided our Johannesburg  correspondent, Laura ONeale, with the information. Within hours of publishing the story,  this website was attacked illegally from that area of the world.

Nelson Mandela: Officially Declared Dead After Months of Obscene Travesty

Nelson Mandela: Officially Declared Dead After Months of Obscene Travesty

Nelson Mandela; the name calls up images that some would like forgotten. Apartheid for one and years in prison for a lone man whose white-haired exit from his enforced incarceration caught the world’s attention, compassion and imagination. The most recent image that springs to mind is that of an obscene travesty. One that was started by the great man’s avaricious family who have now officially declared the beloved Madiba dead after months of maintaining the fiction of him still clinging to life.

My Summer Vacation: Acting and Adventure

My Summer Vacation

The film I worked on this summer has now been made available for public viewing on Vimeo. It was filmed in July around Sidmouth, England with an intimate cast and crew. I worked with some brilliantly talented people and hopefully will work with them again. The experience was another life changer for me.

I had given up the idea of ever working in a profession that I’d been hooked on since my teen epiphany that this was the ideal occupation for me. When I reluctantly turned my back on it, I knew that I would never have the chance to prove that I still had the chops for this type of work. I was wrong about that, just as I’ve been wrong about many things in my life. One thing I think I’m right about is, I have always honestly believed that people are born to be actors, writers, directors, et al. I still do.

Just as there are people who have certain party tricks; like being able to imitate Christopher Walken or John Wayne after a couple of drinks, there are others who have a talent that they were born with. They enter the world as a sort of idiot savant. The ability; the talent, exists already. All they need is the opportunity to develop the skill required to polish and hone that innate talent. Like the joke goes, it takes practice to get to Carnegie  Hall.

My month of July 2013 (my summer vacation, if you will) was filled with excitement. Not only did I get to step in front of the camera for the first time in years, I also got to prove to myself that I had not lost the urge, or the ability, to act. It was still a part of me and though I’d turned my back on it, the creativity had not left me. Nor had the imagination needed to “pull it off.”

The end result was a project that I could take pride in. All because Natasha Harmer took a chance to use an old out-of-practice actor, who could have turned out to be  a ham or an actor who could not act. She writes a blog titled Films and Things, which was the name of the production company incidentally, and if you haven’t already, you should go check her out.

For those of you who want to see the film, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, just click on the link. Once you’ve seen it, drop by and let Natasha “Tash” know what you thought. Personally, I think that every single person attached to the film did a bang-em-up job, but I could be a little prejudiced.

My Summer Vacation
In Mandela House July, 2013

The second thing I did in July was to travel to South Africa to track down a couple of sources who’d turned our paper, the Las Vegas Guardian Express (guardianlv.com) onto the news that Nelson Mandela was no longer with us. Despite the huge smoke screen thrown up by the world’s press, based on news released from his children who have their own reasons for not acknowledging the great man’s passing, we received information that was disturbing and obscene. We’d been told by quite a few sources that the man was really gone.

I will not go into the story, you can follow the above link to see the articles written by myself and other journalists in the paper. I was chosen, at the last minute, to fly to the country and search for the truth. I have written about my experiences and will be adding more of what I learned about the country  in the paper itself.

I met people in Johannesburg who watched over me in this dangerous area of the world and treated me like a long lost family member. I travelled around the local areas, saw where the poor lived and the rich. I went to Pretoria visiting  the hospital where Madiba was interred.  I spoke to fellow journalists who were camped outside the hospital waiting for the next act in this tragedy to unfold.

This trip was another life changing event. It  made me realise that I was addicted to the adrenaline rush. The feeling of hyper-reality that comes with the territory of increased heart rate and focussed vision. Johannesburg emits a feeling of underlying danger, somewhat akin to working in the prison service when there is trouble brewing from certain elements. You are on edge and, seemingly, aware of everything going on. Afterward, you are exhausted by all of the hyper-awareness.

I have been incredibly lucky in the time following my near brush last year with the grim reaper. I have, in essence, rediscovered myself. I’ve learned that there are some things in me that will never change. The actor in my soul will never die and my yearning for adventure, aka adrenaline addiction, will always be a constant companion. I have also rediscovered my love of writing.

I’ve written about all the above mentioned  things before, but, I’ve been a bit lackadaisical with my blog of late. My  work for the paper has pretty much overtaken everything in my life at the moment. But I will remember to make time for my inner actor and will soon be preparing a showreel to see if anyone else would like to hire an old “not-so-out-of-practice actor again.

Until then, my summer vacation with its adventures in acting, world news, and dangerous surroundings will be in my memory book. If I close my eyes, I can see South Africa unfold before me just a vividly as the day I arrived. It is amazing that the end result of being so close to death has made me feel more alive than ever before.

I have been truly blessed by whoever, or whatever, is in charge. I thank all of you lovely people who take the time to follow my little blog and who leave comments or like my efforts. May you all find what makes you feel truly alive in your lifetime.

Michael SmithMy Summer Vacation

United Kingdom

18 October 2013

South Africa a Personal Journey: On the Road to Pretoria

IMG_0972

While in South Africa, I visited many neighbourhoods and townships around Johannesburg as well as outlying towns. After our visit to Soweto, we waited until the next day for Pretoria. My personal journey was all too quickly coming to an end. My excitement during the entire trip was tinged with disappointment that the stay would end so soon.

But it almost got extended by a pretty significant amount of time.

After finding out a wealth of information from the first interview that D and I conducted, I realised that this part of the world, besides being a fairly dangerous place to live if you didn’t know the rules, was fascinating enough to give me material for several news stories. I relayed that information to the paper and they agreed that perhaps I should stay longer. DiMarkco just needed to check a few things out.

He left the issue open and said that we would talk about it after my second interview, which was scheduled the next day.

The second interview, revealed even more things that were fascinating and opened up many other avenues of interest. After that day had finished, L and I rang the paper on Skype to report our findings.

Speaking to DiMarkco, our boss, he asked about the possibility of extending my stay. Did I have anything to stop me from staying longer, he asked. I replied that the only thing necessitating a return would be my heart medication. But first I needed to see if I could extend my ticket. After trying to do it over the internet, I gave up and finally called the airline.

The answer was a straight forward no. There was no room for negotiation, you flew back on the original day of booking or you bought another ticket. Buying another ticket was an option that DiMarkco had thrown out there so I checked prices and found that a one way flight from Johannesburg would cost more than the paper had paid to fly me out and back.

I relayed the information to the big guy and he asked if I could stay till the middle of the month. By that time we would have our money in from advertisers to fund the ticket back. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t bring enough heart medication with me and I couldn’t afford to go to a private doctor and purchase the replacements in South Africa. I would have to leave and then come back.

That meant that I had one more day to see everything I’d been sent to see. It also meant missing out on one of the biggest interviews that had been set up. But that was my fault as I’d incorrectly said I was leaving on Tuesday morning.  I was woefully out of practise in the world travelling department.

For someone who had, at one time, travelled quite frequently; I made a few errors. One was reading my return flight information incorrectly. I had decided in my infinite wisdom that I would be departing Johannesburg  on the Tuesday, but, I was departing Monday night and arriving back in the UK on Tuesday.  Then I misread the ticket again, and decided I was leaving in the morning and not at night!

There were two incidents that gave all  those around me (and me especially) abject heart failure. The lovely people who put up with me for the four days I was in South Africa, C and L, had planned a couple of special events for my stay. A South African barbecue one evening and a traditional stew the next. I wound up missing both due to the long days D and I were putting in. I did get to sample some “left overs” from the barbecue and it was delicious, even after being warmed up in the microwave!

One of the heart attack inducing moments took place in these lovely people’s home. I decided to get all my things organised so that when I packed up, I didn’t inadvertently leave anything behind. As I gathered medication and toiletries, I decided to clear out my wallet except for some Euro’s that I’d purchased in Amsterdam.

My room during my stay.
My room during my stay.

As I went through my wallet, I noticed that my credit card was missing. I stopped and immediately started searching my luggage. It wasn’t in my suitcase or my toiletry bag. I checked my wallet, trouser pockets, shirt pockets and even sifted through my dirty laundry pile. I then remembered that C had offered to wash my travel clothes.

Eureka! I just knew that the card would be in those two items.

Wrong. They were not. L was getting very concerned, he told me if I’d dropped it anywhere whilst we had been travelling around, I needed to get it cancelled immediately, if it was not already too late.  My anxiety level cranked up another notch or two and I began another close scrutiny of all my clothing once again. It was when I bent down that I remembered one place I had not checked.

I have a place where I keep all my important things when I travel. Passports, driving license’s and credit cards. I checked and sure enough, that was where I’d put the card. it had been so long since I’d travelled that I forgot to look there when I couldn’t find it in my wallet. Calling myself many very uncomplimentary names, I went out to inform C and L that the daft old bugger had found his card.

The relief I felt was shared by all.

The second thing I messed up, as I mentioned above, was the departure day of my return flight and then the times that I needed to be at the airport. All in all, I think I impressed everyone with my overwhelming ability to be an idiot!

Luckily, my newly discovered idiocy did not extend to my work and that was done reasonably well. I went to all the places I was meant to and took well over 1,600 pictures. Some, I have used on my blog posts, and many more are being lumped into places and shared with the writing team.

On the last day of my personal and professional journey to South Africa, I packed my bags, said goodbye to one of my hosts, C as L had gone to work already. I then took myself and my bags out to the vehicle and we started on our way to  Pretoria.

To be continued…

View of Pretoria from the Union Building.
View of Pretoria from the Union Building.

Blogging Challenges Finding the Time to Write

My work desk.
My work desk.

Since I moved over to WordPress last year in April, my personal circumstances have changed dramatically. I’ve been the recipient of two live changing events and my life has gone in directions that I never would have dreamed of. Well, except in the area of acting, that’s a dream that never went away. Now I find my personal challenges of blogging all have to do with finding the time to write.

The vast majority of my day is spent writing. I attempt to post at least six to seven articles a day for my newspaper and often exceed that number. But unfortunately I also have to fit in cleaning the house – which I’m abysmal at – and going on my healthy heart walks. I also have to fit in “house” maintenance, another area I’m failing badly in; my grass is getting tall enough that is could harbour escapees from the Serengeti. I expect to see Tarzan and his sidekick peering back at me from the foliage.

The other part of my day is spent collating the over 1,500 pictures I took in South Africa for the writers at the paper who are putting together our trilogy of recent events in that country. I also spend a great deal of time talking to new writers who are joining our organisation and combing the internet for new stories to write about.

I can honestly say, hand over heart, that I am busier now than I’ve ever been in my entire life.  I am still struggling to find time to visit my friends blogs and leave comments. My interest in their output has not waned, but I’m struggling to write enough to ensure that I can live without having to ingest cat food to survive.

And my  professional writing, has taken precedence over my “creative” writing. Sometimes the two are combined, but very rarely, and my newfound love of investigative journalism has knocked creativity into a very solid second place.

I still enjoy writing the “fluff” or entertainment as it’s really categorised, but it’s harder for me to get excited about it. My mind keeps going back to South Africa and all the “hidden” stories there that are just waiting for me to uncover and write about. But that may, or may not, happen. Money, as always,  is the motivating and ruling factor in all travel plans and I won’t know if I’m returning until later this month.

Gold Mine Dump
South African Gold Mine Dump

In the meantime, there are films to watch (and review) stories to tell and news articles to write to ensure a decent wage. I can safely say that the two life changing events (and my divorce the year before) have put me in a very strange, yet happy, place. I am busier now than ever and I find myself in the rather unusual position of being in demand; not to mention much being a much appreciated member of  my ruling organisation.

I am being recompensed handsomely for the fruit of my labour and I have dreams of clawing my way out of the debt that my divorce landed me in.But the daily challenges of blogging are difficult to overcome. Finding the time to write own personal creative blog posts is becoming ever more difficult. I am, admittedly, struggling. Not that I’m complaining.  But the handsome remuneration doesn’t make up for my absence of mixing in the blogging community.

I am  concerned for an old friend. Marilyn over at Serendipity. She  is in a bad place at the moment. If I had been reading my all my friend’s blogs I would have known, but as I haven’t had time, it took an email from my good friend to alert me of her latest problem.

When I got the email, I felt shock, guilt, and dismay; all in equal measure. Guilt did finally become the winner of the gamut of emotions that I felt when I read what was going on. I almost missed what was happening to her and it upset me terribly. If you have a minute and haven’t done so already, follow the above link and read this amazing ladies blog and offer some support.

I can only say that I’ll try to do better, I’ve already tried to schedule my day to at least continue to write a daily blog entry and now I realise that I need to make time to visit my friend’s blogs as well. I have mentioned before that I am basically a lazy bugger, so all this increased activity is difficult for me to adjust to.

I am trying though and the challenges of blogging right now have to do with me struggling to find the time to write. It is yet another development in my ever changing life that I must adapt to. I want to publicly thrash myself with brambles to apologise to one of my dearest friends in the blogging community and I ask that everyone head over to give this remarkable lady some love.

Michael Smith

Cheers!
Cheers!

United Kingdom

8 August, 2013