Monday, August 31, 2009

Experiments and Spring springing

I had a fabulous weekend. Spring is in the air, and I am always surprised when it arrives and my mood lifts and I remember that I'm not actually the grumpy bitch I am all winter - I do actually have a personality.

On Friday I had strawberry daquiris with The BFF. It was an especially good afternoon I thought. I haven't seen him for ages because he's been useless, basically, and tends to get caught up in his own misery, to the point that he forgets to look around and see all the good stuff he has, right here and now. We had a good catch-up, though, and I hope he remembers the resounding theme of it all - that he does actually deserve to be happy.

During the course of our cocktail session he brought up the programme Mythbusters, and was telling me about one they did to show that if you drop a Mentos in a coke bottle, it explodes. Of course I spent the rest of the time gently coaxing him (i.e. vociferously persuading him) that we must try this theory out. He kept telling me he had no desire to blow off one of his arms just to satisfy my lust for dangerous experiments.

Needless to say, we stopped in at the 7-eleven (I needed bread!) on our way home, and using my winning smile and never-ending charm, I persuaded The BFF to buy Coke and a roll of Mentos - it was a sign, the Mentos were in the passage on the way to the till! In a quiet cul-de-sac, our adrenaline pumping in anticipation, with me nice and far away from the test site (I don't want to lose an arm) The BFF bravely placed the bottle of Coke in the middle of the road, dropped a Mentos in and rushed back to me. I'd like to say he rushed back to protect me, but his standing behind me would negate that idea completely.

We waited with bated breath. The Coke fizzed, bubbling over disconsolately onto the tar, and stopped. We looked. And waited same more. Nada. A Coke bottle surrounded by a small puddle of Coke. Some experiment that was. The adrenaline popped, causing uncontrollable giggling, despite the disappointment of it all. Subsequent reasearch has brought to light that one needs to put the lid back on to cause a build up of pressure. It's probably lucky that we were not bright enough to realise this (really rather obvious) point as I might instead be writing about how to remove Coke bottle shrapnel from your shins...

The rest of the weekend was filled with lovely people and lovely things including Lindt hot chocolate, a drink straight from a natural spring, a long drive, two princesses-who-became-sleeping-beauties-who-became-nudists all in the space of Sunday lunch and the overwhelming feeling of the promise of new things with Spring.

Who doesn't feel like skipping about singing with the first whiff of Spring?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A mammogram and an experiment

I went for my routine mammogram this morning. While my parents blessed me with some great genes, the one that isn’t so great is the breast cancer gene. My mother had it in her early forties, I was about 10 years old at the time, and remember my father explaining to us that she was in hospital having an op that would save her life. The stress was palpable, even to a 10 year old. I had no idea then, though, what an awful time she had. Thank god she’s been clear since. My paternal grandmother had it too. Therefore my being very vigilant.

Mammograms, though, are not for the faint-hearted. I don’t, under any circumstances, want to put anyone off, but really, one would think that in this day and age of being able to speak to (and see) someone 14 000 miles away, across an ocean, some time zones, and a couple of weather systems, we would have developed something that allowed us to see our breast tissue without having to pull them as if they’re plasticine (for those of you who don’t know, they’re not!) and flatten them like pancakes between two hard pieces of plastic. For us who are, ahem, not-so-well-endowed, this is an especially trying process.

The funniest thing, though, was the Waiting Room, which was not unlike somebody’s lounge. Admittedly, somebody with fairly poor decorating style, but still – large couches, coffee tables with magazines etc. No YOU magazines though. What kind of doctor’s rooms doesn’t have YOU magazine? Tsk. I digress, the funny thing – there was a large TV sitting very loudly in the corner, set on the movie channel which had reached the end of an epic 9/11 movie and was playing tragic music. Very loudly. In a doctor’s rooms. I am here to tell you that pre-mammogram, tragic music is not ideal.

In other news, I’m conducting an experiment (possibly as a result of too-early waking – my mind wanders at 4:30am). If you were a chocolate cupcake, and could be eaten by anyone in the world, who would it be?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Tragedy, Part 2

So where was I? I started Part 1 and then found myself clamming up again, but I am going to open up my little clammy shell with my little clammy-shell-opener-thingy. It's not an easy thing to do I'm afraid, it's a bloody tight little clammy shell, but I think it's a good thing to do, hopefully cathartic, and hopefully not too tedious for any of you reading this. It's a disjointed story, the story of The Tragedy, mostly because I've never managed to write it down or sort it into any order. Maybe because it has no order.

This bit is about the hospital, I think. I plan on it being about the hospital but you never know where it'll go. Being in hospital is just not fun. Being in hospital for three solid months is like hell on earth. I was transferred from Small Town hospital to Big Town hospital, where I spent a night, then airlifted to The City Beneath the Mountain hospital where I spent three nights and then to another hospital, which was to be my abode for the next four months, according to the doctor. I made it three months, I was determined (and if I'd stayed any longer I may well have jumped out of the fifth floor window, if I could've... the irony.)

Ok, no, the details, I need to get out the details. This may not, yet be about hospitals. I need to go back to the car, being in the car, waiting for the ambulance. Somebody gave me a sip of coke, through a straw. It was hot, remember, and we were in the middle of the Karoo, waiting as the sun got higher and higher. The woman who gave me the coke spoke to me, gently, telling me about her Tragedy - how she'd broken her neck years before, but not completely, and recovered perfectly. I wondered at the time why she was telling me that story, not for a second thinking my neck could also be broken, just there, at the back of my head.

The car had been filled to the brim with my and D's earthly belongings - four years of university life snuggly packed in the back . In the accident our lives had flown out, scattered about on the dusty red sand between the thorn trees that had also flung their arms into the car, embracing me and planting their thorns all over me (we discovered later). Two Karoo farmers on their way to play cricket in the Tiny Town a bit further down the road stopped too and I heard them trying to gather our scattered belongings, including a large plastic dinosaur, Leonard, who I'd purloined from my First Love's younger brother. They told me they'd 'put him out to pasture' on that lovely red sand (Leonard the dinosaur, not First Loves little brother).

There are so many characters in this story, people I'd not thought of, and this is still within the first two hours. This story really may take a long time. I'm glad I'm starting, I think. Those people, the nameless ones who stopped, I hope that Karma has blessed them with all sorts of good things. They were all so nice. A good reminder of the value of stopping, and helping. I'd love to be able to write them a letter, send them bunch of lillies, if I knew who they were.

The farmer whose farm we had so rudely, and without invitation, landed on, apparently took all of our wordly belongings and kept them safe until somebody (who was it, I wonder?) collected them for us. I had a mirror in there, it didn't break.

And then M, the guy from our university who I didn't know well. I think D knew him quite well. Anyway, it's beside the point. He was there, and he stayed with us, and came with us to the hospital and was, I guess, our own little angel, keeping us together as we unknowingly fell apart, because, really, I guess, I was already starting to unravel at that point, I just didn't realise. Or was I? I was still so sure of everything. Oy, this is all-over-the-place.

The ambulance arrived eventually, from Tiny Town with a fabulous paramedic man, who also, if I remember correctly, was meant to be in the cricket match (I wonder if they still had the match). I got bundled onto a hard wooden board with a neck brace and put into the back of the ambulance. Up until that point I had been obsessively superstitious about 'crossing my fingers and touching my toes hoping to never go in one of those' everytime I'd seen an ambulance... I've stopped that now.

I have to stop this now, too. This disjointed tale. I wonder if it makes any sense at all?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Today You are You

I wonder often (perhaps too often) at the nature of people. And, of course, the nature of me. Only every now and again do I take a moment, but like in REALLY take a moment to breathe, and think about who I am. Isn't that wierd? I wonder if I'm alone in that? I usually just blame the busy-ness of everything. There's always something to do, something else to think about, somewhere to go. Maybe that's just avoidance tactics not to face The Truth of it all.

For my Other Job I have to write really cheesey stuff, some of it aimed at mothers with children (yes, I know, it's not something I know all that much about but hell, I was a child, I have a mother, my friends are breeding and... there's Google). It's schmaltzy stuff like how to get your kids away from the TV and into the garden and how to get them to eat their veggies. This month I had to write one on 'Sticking to your story' i.e. being you. I ended the piece with Dr Seuss' wise words: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You”. The man is a genius.

That's what got me thinking. About the importance of taking that time out, to breathe, to take a quick peek at where you're going. You know, just to check that you haven't, by mistake, while you weren't looking, done a 180 degree turn and are actually rushing off somewhere you don't really want to go (maybe even... gasp... backwards). It made me realise that I'm neglecting bits of me. This is a good thing.

Isn't acknowledgement the first step? Or is it acceptance? Either way, I'm going to get it. Because nothing and nobody should feel neglected, surely, ever?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Baby skin, flocks of birds, and baby skin

It's their skin that is so incredible. And their little baby grunts and noises. And the peacefulness that fills the room when they're sleeping. And their skin. And the wonder that surrounds them when they look around. And the way they stare at things we can't (or just won't?) see. And their soft-soft skin. And the way their mothers are just completely and utterly besotted. And their tiny, perfect, fingers and toes and neat little ears and... and... did I mention their skin?

They are beautiful and I was amazed and enthralled by the calm glow my sister has. Some people are just natural mothers and she is it. And it's not just me who sees it, I'm not being biased, other people we saw over the weekend commented on it too. Her and N have taken to it like ducks to water and I'm so very, very pleased.

It was a lovely weekend, filled with baby-feeding, baby-oohing-and-ahing and, generally, just me looking at them wonderously. In-between, met up with friends for some lunch and caught up with T & G and their son, J, who is three and fabulous. He taught me how to brush my teeth on Saturday morning. He informed me very seriously that I needed to keep my head still while brushing, then demonstrated with his finger where I should brush, before running to get his (Winnie-the-Pooh) toothbrush and (Shrek) toothpaste to demonstrate the real thing. Thank god, finally, after 34 years I now know the true art of toothbrushing.

And then there were some moments of sudden overwhelmedness at the enormity of it all and, well, other moments, things about which I need to think and hopefully formulate into something I can write about and, maybe, purge, and feel good about, rather than feel a gaping hole with wind whistling through it. Again, vague, but not ready yet.

And now I'm back in the City beneath the mountain, feeling a little all-over-the-place and missing them all, but there is a twinge of Spring in the air and four (yes, four!) flocks of birds flew over me in the Spring-ley sky on my way to work this morning so it feels okay.

I wonder when my next surprise will be?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Certifiable? Maybe

I just read my post from this morning and realised I could be diagnosed certifiably mad by anyone reading it who didn't know me (or, for that matter, anyone who did know me). That's what a lack of sleep, a feeling of lacklustreness at work, and too much coffee too early in the morning will do to you. Either I can blame those things, or I need to get out more.

Or maybe all of those things?

Voices in the night

I was woken up last night by someone saying very loudly, twice, something like "Bracko". This is wierd from two angles. Firstly, what the hell does "Bracko" mean, and secondly, I was alone, except for Big Black Dog, sleeping in the lounge (who has previously never said anything in English) and The Siamese Princess, sleeping on me (ditto).

But I definitely was woken and heard it, loudly. I have a ghost, but she's never spoken before, and she's a she. This was a male voice. Again, I wonder if this was some kind of dream/sleep in-betweenness. Anyway, I decided it best for me to do some investigating as to what this "Bracko" was and if it has some deeper meaning. My searchings resulted only in things that sound similar, but aren't really "Bracko":
Brčko District, a district in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bačka (Serbian Cyrillic and Rusyn: Бачка, Hungarian: Bácska, Serbian Latin and Croatian: Bačka, Slovak: Báčka) is an area of the Pannonian plain lying between the rivers Danube and Tisa. It is divided between Serbia and Hungary, with small uninhabited pockets of land on the left bank of the Danube which, according to Croatian POV, belong to Croatia, but are under Serbian control since 1991 (see disputes of Croatia and Serbia).

It all seems very Eastern European - perhaps I'm adopted and I have Eastern European routes. I had imaginings of the movie "Black Cat, White Cat" and me, gypsey-like, with a wierd and wonderful family who all play the fiddle, drink too much and throw wild, love-filled parties. Then I remembered that I have my father's chin and my mother's personality and my father's temperment and my mother's disposition and I had to chuck that theory.

I decided I needed to Google it, being The Google Girl. The first three hits were:

  1. The Bracko Brothers: a furniture supplier in Calgary. They've been going for 25 years and supply both mass-produced and handcrafted furnitures of all kinds. I like a family business, but couldn't see how this could possibly relate to me. While I do need another bookshelf (mine has got to the stage where the gaps between the books and the next shelf are a being filled with books too), it seems a bit silly to order one from Calgary - one needs to be aware of one's carbon footprint!
  2. Bracko Kennels, also in Canada (I wonder if they're related? Maybe I'll e-mail and ask). Breeders of a very fluffy looking small dog called a Shiba Inu - apparently a Japanese breed previously used in the mountais to hunt for small animals and birds. According to them, were it not for some dedicated people in the '30's they'd have been extinct. Instead they were declared a natural monument (WTF?). I don't like small dogs so I'll leave it at that.
  3. Dr Bracko: sports physiologist and hockey expert. Let's just say ball skills were never, and will never, be my thing. He also lives in Calgary.
So, with all that researching, I feel no closer to the meaning of it all. I'm going with: Either someone's trying to tell me I need to go on holiday to Eastern Europe, or I have some kind of connection to the Bracko family of Calgary. Alternatively, I really need to get some lavender oil to sprinkle on my pillow to ensure uninterrupted sleep - my mind is way too active for my own good.
Or, maybe one of the Bracko son's is my destiny. Now if it turned out that way, it'd be pretty bloody freaky, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nothing in particular

I am feeling writer's-blocky. Well, I would be if I were a proper writer. I'd be looking under the couch (Oh, look, the John Irving novel I lost in 2005) and amongst the dust bunnies in the spare bedroom for my Muse. If I had one. Instead I'm just sitting here, typing away, hoping something will just come. It's not that I have nothing to write about, it's just I feel like I can't write it.

I keep waking in the early hours of the morning, constructing blog posts, and then I get in front of my computer and, wham, gone. Or, not gone really, just slightly out of my field of vision, floating about, teasing me and pulling their tongues at me. It's most frustrating.

In the good news, though, I'm off to The Big Smoke on Friday to tickle those little babies's toes. This fills me with astounding amounts of joy. And I had a fabulous picnic in the park on Sunday to celebrate one of my best friends, M's, birthday. Champagne, strawberries, and lovely people in the sunshine - who could ask for more?

So yes, a bit of a waffle, without the waffles though... my waffle friend is over there, where my muse would be if I had one, they're hanging out together, on the periphery, which makes me miserable, but I don't want to talk about that.

I wonder if they sell muses on the internet?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A night at the theatre, another millenium, and a picture

Woohooo! I just looked at my little reader counter thingamy and it says 1999. What a cool number, my blog is heading for it’s Millenium Reader Birthday. I think it calls for champagne, and balloons, and a mirror ball with disco music in the garage. Oh, wait, that’s what we did for the actual millennium (OMG – it’s NINE years ago now… there is still an enormous silver 2000 spray-painted on my garage wall). Beside that, it seems unbelievable that 2000 people have passed by here. Well, ok, maybe more like 5 people have passed by here 20 times each and I’ve been on the other 1899 times. Regardless, after yesterdays’ rather uncharacteristically serious post, I think we should have champagne.

I went to the theatre (pronounced thee yater) last night to watch a fabulous one-man play about a German transvestite. It was brilliant. He was brilliant. I wanted to get on stage and hug him. I would’ve if I could. Probably not good theatre etiquette, so lucky I can’t.

But I don’t want to talk about the play really, I want to talk about the theatre. I love going to the theatre. Especially this one, which is one where you can stand out on the balcony under amazing orange lights in semi-circles in the ceiling that make you feel like you’re in a James Bond movie, and look over a lit up garden with a tree in it that, I swear, was painted by someone and put there. It is surreally beautiful.

I love the theatre too because it is so constant. The ‘theatre crowd’ never changes. Families with teenaged children (the subject matter did not lend itself to under-16s), older couples, some with that look of 40-year marriage comfort, others looking like they’re on a date (always makes me think they’ve been internet dating: “Likes walks in the park, eating out and theatre”), the scraggly students with skinny jeans… All drinking bad wine out of big wine glasses. And all wearing scarves. And all enunciating very well. And they smile at each other, really smile.

Remember, I’m a small town girl, so was not exposed much to theatre as a child, other than my own delusions of grandeur, so I love even just breathing in the air in theatres, it seems to hold all sorts of whispers and magic. So yes, I breathed in the air, flicked my scarf around my neck, sipped my white wine and enunciated to my friends: “Ah, what fun, to be at the thee yater!”

And, in celebration of the millennium, and because I’ve been meaning to do this for ages (especially for Allie), here is a little picture of my beautiful nephews.

Aren’t they the sweetest things? Champagne anyone?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SSIS - a dreaded lurgy

Help! It’s an Epidemic! Grab your face masks and run for the hills! Oh, wait, this one you cannot escape with a face mask. Well, I suppose you can, were you to run for the hills all alone and never see a sodding soul again. You see it’s an insidious disease, it creeps up, and bashes you on the back of your head, making those around you hurt all over, and it seems to be becoming more and more virulent. I am seeing it at work, at play, in the supermarket… pretty much anywhere humans hang out.

It seems to happen while the person is not paying attention. The first symptom is a complete lack of interest in anything around them. Only the ‘Me’ is of any interest. Or anything that directly affects the ‘Me’. Then the speech is affected. Sentences begin only with ‘I’ and any questions as to the wellbeing of anyone else disappear completely. This may result in severe pain in those around you to which you will be completely oblivious.

It is a disease we have all been afflicted with at some stage. I’ve had it on numerous occasions, a couple of times really severely but, luckily, seemed to have pulled through (although this, of course, is subjective). The more you’re exposed to it, the more immunity you develop (like any good epidemic), so you can avoid it next time it rears its (very ugly) head. One assumes also that, with age, people would suffer less from it, but, in my experience, this doesn’t seem to happen. Unfortunately.

This disease, which strangley has not yet been WHO classified is called SSIS, or Serious Self Involvement Syndrome. Not to be confused with GowL (Getting on with Life) and TCoM (Taking Care of Me), both of which are NOT diseases but vital functions of life, and are completely mutually exclusive of SSIS. SSIS on it’s own is just, plain, dangerous.

Oh dear, this sounds bitter and twisted. This is not at all like me. I normally have such faith in humankind. It’s not meant to be bitter and twisted, rather just an observation of society as I’m seeing it. I blame Self Help Books partly, and the rest, well I guess it’s just Ego that’s to blame, and the society we live in. And I am, by no means, excluding myself from this dreaded lurgy. As I said, I’ve suffered from it too and, no doubt, will again.

I guess this is just a way of me making sure I pay attention and not become that which I find so hurtful. You see, that’s the thing, when exposed, one becomes extremely susceptible to the disease and it seems like the best option to react to an SSIS-sufferer by just breathing it in and becoming one too. This, obviously, is no good. Thus the need for figurative ‘face masks’, otherwise known as Paying Attention. It’s the only vaccine. And cure, for that matter. I'm going to go get me some large doses of it.

It was a long weekend of much reflection. That’s pretty obvious though, isn’t it?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Women's Day and a letter

Here in South Africa we are very progressive and we have lots of Public Holidays. We like this. Even though we do hear the business analysts muttering about ‘loss of productivity’ and such, we choose to ignore such things and just revel in having days off work. Twelve a year to be exact. They’re not particularly evenly spread out, April and May being a particularly prolific holiday time and then there being a bit of a drought until August. August the 9th is Women’s Day. You see? Like I said, progressive. Only truly progressive countries have a public holiday to celebrate women.

Anyway, this results in August being filled with media-hype about women (nothing wrong with that) and how fabulous we are, and how we should be celebrated (as we should) and we are stormed by a flurry of chick flicks on TV (because, of course, as women, those are the only movies we like… our TV station is, I’m afraid, very obviously run by, well, men). There are also celebrations to be attended, specifically for us. The place I work has organised just such a thing, about which I received an e-mail yesterday…

Dear Shiny,

You are cordially invited by Real Work to a lunchtime lecture to celebrate National Women’s Day. Dr Sadmummy, a renowned expert in her field, will be talking about Myths and misconceptions around postnatal depression. Please RSVP before Tuesday, 4th August. Light refreshments will be served.

Good grief. Are they bloody serious? I am seriously (and really seriously this time) considering sending the following reply:

Dear Real Work,

Thank you so much for thinking of us women who work here and organising lovely luncheon, I mean, snacks, to help us celebrate. You really do do so much for us ladies and we do appreciate it. What will the snacks be, by the way? Just so you know, I’ve stopped eating chicken completely, I have a thing about the battery chicken system but I won’t go into that now. There is something more pressing I need to discuss.

What on earth possessed you to choose postnatal depression as a topic we’d like to hear about to celebrate the fact that we’re women? I mean, come on, seriously think about it. Do you really think we want to celebrate our womanhood discussing such a topic? Even when it's spoken about by the highly reputable Dr Sadmummy (please send my regards, and do express that this in no way reflects on her). While I am fully aware of the fact that it is a real (and scary) thing, it’s hardly something to celebrate. Why don’t we have a talk on period pains or the price of tampons while we’re at it? I do apologise about bringing up such delicate matters in this letter but I feel it’s necessary, to validate my point.

So, basically, thank you very much but, despite the luncheon, I mean, snacks, I will have to decline your invitation. Honestly, I’d rather cut off my right hand with a spoon than celebrate being a woman by discussing depression, be it just normal endogenous type, or postnatal.

Shiny x

P.S. Should you like some help with topics for next time, let me know. Or help with choosing luncheon, I mean, snacks.

Do you think they’re confusing April Fool’s Day and Women’s Day?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A very important meeting

I have a meeting for my Other Job on Friday. At their offices. It's a very important meeting for important people. I received one of those invitation-from-a-calender things for it, for last Friday. You know those things that hang around at the top of your Inbox until they happen, being all important? It irritates me that you can't make them go away without the meeting-calling-person thinking you're not coming anymore. There probably is a way to hide them, but I don't know it. Those calender things are amazing really (if irritating) - gathering everyone together, making a list of who's coming and who's not. I wonder if it makes the agenda and organises the tea too? I'm straying from the point though.

Anyway, the meeting, which included five other (very important) people, was scheduled for last Friday, but I couldn't make it. So it was changed. To this Friday. This made me feel even more important. But, really, who organises a meeting at 3pm on a Friday? At that time of day, on a Friday, people want to clear off all the telephone messages on their desks, open the letters they've been ignoring all week and, well, play Solitaire until it's home time, preferably while drinking a cold beer.

This is a very important meeting though, so I decided I should make an exception, and attend. With the other important people. You see, it’s a meeting where we will be shown how brandy is made and then we’ll be forced to taste 5 – 6 very old, very nice brandies. The memo says we don’t have to swallow though, it’s okay to spit. Mwahahaaa, spit? I have one word for that: wasteful.

I thought I’d invite a friend of mine along to the very important meeting. She’s a very important person too. This was our conversation (approximately):

Shiny: Hello! Do you want to come to a very important meeting with me on Friday afternoon at 3pm?

C: No.

Shiny: It’s a demonstration of brandy production and a tasting of 5 – 6 very old, very nice brandies.

C: Was that 3pm? I’ll meet you at the office at 2:50pm. God forbid we’re late for such an important meeting.

I forgot to tell her she can spit if she wants. Who on god’s green earth, would spit?