Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paella, please

I am, truly, the luckiest girl in the world. My friend D's husband phoned me on Monday to tell me he had got me tickets to the match last night. At my favourite stadium, there near the sea, below the mountain. Between Spain and Portugal (the match, not the stadium obviously.) To say I was a little excited would be a gross underestimation. Very excited? Still doesn't do it. Absobloodylutely ecstatically over the moon? That's a bit more like it.

Honestly, had you told me two months ago that I would be a football fanatic, I would've fallen about laughing, but having it here, in our backyard and seeing the fans, playing host, watching how people are loving being here, well.. I'm hooked. For now. Fear not, this will not be turning into a sports blog.

So, last night, we bundled up warmly, packed blankets, scarves and beanies, and headed toward the gorgeous stadium. The weather had been ridiculously miserable all day with cold wind blowing pelting rain in sheets, it didn't bode well for a comfortable match-watching experience but, hell, what's a bit of rain when seeing pretty Portuguese boys play stunning football with even prettier Spanish boys?

We needn't have worried though, The City Beneath the Mountain had obviously whispered into The Weatherman"s ear and explained we have guests and need to be hospitable because between them they cleared the weather up and The City put on her Sunday Best. At one point in the second half, she sent up the almost-full moon above the curve of the stadium roof - an African sky to be proud of.

And can those boys (with their cute little tushies) play soccer? Wow. I was amazed. Mainly, though, I watched the people and felt the incredible feeling of, um, I think the only thing you can call it is Humanity. 64 000 people crammed together, yelling and screaming and blowing vuvuzelas and a conglomeration of passion and, above everything else, a plethora of smiles. From everybody, to everybody.

Again, I am so proud - I watched real Spaniards and real Portuguese fans mingle with South Africans. South Africans dressed in Spanish/Portuguese clothes, faces painted, they were as passionate as the people from Spain and Portugal. Yet another testament to how we're embracing this World Cup.

And now our hearts and souls are with Ghana on Friday - our very own African team! Shall I stop gushing now?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So proud

G and I went to one of The City Beneath the Mountain’s big tourist spots last night. It’s a shopping mall, but redeems itself by being strategically placed in the harbour, with wheeling sea gulls above, our beautiful sea beside, and our ever-present mountain, over there.

It’s a place I go to relatively often, mainly to do some shopping (of the boring shampoo and calcium pills variety) and to have a little dinner in a pretty spot by the sea. This time I was there to upgrade my phone, a task that, while I realise some people get all excited about, I don’t. A pimply youth getting excitable about the wonders of Phone A (“It can take pictures from two kilometres away!”) versus Phone B (“With a press of a button you can send your whereabouts to your three hundred closest friends!”) holds no attraction to me whatsoever. That’s another post though.

I expected it to be a bit fuller, what with us playing host to a couple thousands of foreign visitors for the World Cup. I misjudged the size of this thing. It was crammed full of tourists. Fabulously so. All dressed up in country colours, swarthed (is that the right word?) in their flags, vuvuzelas parping left, right, and centre. We chose to have dinner at one of my favourite spots – an ‘English-type’ pub, where we sat outside, next to a table of Poms. Note, this was post the England/Slovenia match.

They were all dressed in English soccer kits, faces painted, flags aflutter (one woman even had one of those alice bands with two tiny flags flapping about above her head.) They kept bursting into song and hugging. Then two Americans ambled in, one in a fabulous HUGE American-Indian headdress. They were met with cries of joy, and more hugging. It was great.

Then there was the large Argentinian man, with a group of lovely other Argentinian people. He was dressed in a (large) green and yellow top with “Boks” written across the front. Bless.

But my best? In the parking garage, I saw three good-looking Portoguese boys, with their Portugal tops on, ambling into the entrance, past one of the cleaning staff men who was wheeling a bin somewhere. He looked at them, smiled hugely, and said enthusiastically: “Obrigado!”, in his beautiful Xhosa accent.

The world is not wrong if they think us South Africans are hospitable, are they?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I woke up this morning thinking of the house I did a fair amount of my growing up in. The one in the dusty Free State town. I have a vivid picture of it in my mind and I think it’s because I was at my very happiest there. I remember it as a safe, warm place with lots of places to play – a coal shed in the courtyard, big trees to climb, a vast garden to run around in. We lived there from when I was about three until I was ten. I played a lot. In between playing I went to first Nursery School, which I loved, and then Primary School, which I loved more.

From there we moved to a far more conservative (putting it lightly – it was a hotspot of nasty Apartheid politics) Small Town, and things changed for me. It’s not that I was unhappy there, it was just that my eyes were opened to all sorts of things I had been completely (and happily) oblivious to. Whether this was actually to do with us moving, or just me growing up, I’m not sure.

We used to have snail races at that Free State house, my sister and I. That’s how much time we had. There was a garden tap outside my bedroom window which was the local hangout for snails. We would spend an extended period of time choosing which one would be The Chosen One for each of us. Then we’d name them, place them on the painted brick wall, say “Ready… Steady… Go!”, and watch as they sped off toward the finish line ten bricks up, yelling encouragement.

Of course, them being snails, they didn’t really speed off, and we quickly changed the finish line to two bricks up and sometimes to the left, or right, depending on the two snails preferred direction. It was problematic when they went in opposite directions. That is when one realises it’s not so much fun being the younger sister. Sigh.

Snail-racing – is there a more fun way to spend an afternoon?

Monday, June 21, 2010


It is a fear so intense that I can’t even bring myself to look at it. I know it’s there, I can feel its breath behind me, icy-cold and impossible to escape. I can even see its cavernous dark underbelly if I allow myself to look to the side just slightly, but I turn away as soon as I see its black hole of emptiness.

Instead I keep looking straight ahead, tie my blinkers on more firmly, double-knotted like I learnt at Brownies, and hope that, before it devours me whole, some incredibly brave creature will swoop down in a flash of light, its wings blowing warm air over me, and carry me away to a place where I am safe from it.

Have I told you of my fear of loneliness before?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I am a small town girl, happiest when I can see more sky than land. I have lived in The City Beneath the Mountain for twelve years now, and I love it, and am eternally grateful for it’s beauty (and its vast sky), every day. But. I still miss small town. I miss being two minutes away from a mielie field, in any direction. I miss the vast open space of it. And every now and again I get so claustrophobic that I feel like I can’t breathe.

It happened last weekend so, on Saturday morning, the morning after the hoardes of people and the excitement of the World Cup opening, we packed a little bag and set off out of the city, allowing the car to choose which direction we’d go. I could feel my lungs expanding as we headed away from the city and the emerald winter landscape opened up ahead of us.

We drove through vineyards dressed in their red-and-gold Autumnal finery, past little farm stalls and into Small Town. We ambled through slowly, looking for a possible place to stay and a place to watch The Rugby (I know, I know… me? Rugby?) Almost as soon as we’d driven into town, we found ourselves on the outskirts again, just the way I like it.

We continued driving, up the mountain pass, and up, the view simultaneously breathtaking and lung-filling. At the top we turned and trundled back down… rugby time. It’s not hard to find a place to watch the Springboks play an international game in Small Town South Africa. We found a cosy litte pub and were soon happily ensconced near the fireplace with a beer each, me with my book, G staring fixedly at the TV. Ideal rugby-watching situation for me – I could read my book and still look up at the exciting bits (given away by squeals/roars/’yeses’ from G and our fellow pub inhabitants.)

I spent the time reading, finding a spot for us to stay (with thanks to the lovely guy who owned the pub) and listening to the conversations of the people around us. I'm a terrible voyeur that way, it fascinates me.

The rugby finished, we switched to football and made friends with a guy called Koos (I kid you not, I have his number in my phone, seriously), who I tried to convince to make up with his brother who he hasn’t spoken to for years, due to his horrible wife. I have a knack of eliciting full family histories from people I meet, almost instantly.

We ate, bid farewell to Koos and went off around the corner to the warm quiet of our little house where I slept, solidly, for almost 12 hours, waking only briefly to hear the rain falling on the roof, and the fabulous cries of the hadedas off to church or something in the morning. Bliss.

I wanted to stay there, where I could breathe.

Unfamiliar familiarity

I sat there, next to the fire, watching it dance and prance, little orange flames flicking and licking the wood, the occasional blue or green one from some unknown chemical (even though I ordered it from a so-called ‘green’ supplier… tsk.) It was entrancing, as always, and I felt even more detached than I had been before I started watching it. The room was full of people. Familiar, lovely, people, in my house, but somehow, tonight, it all seemed unfamiliar, like I was somewhere else.

I felt like a smooth, round pebble, just in from the shore. Waves of noise washed over me, some not even budging me from my little burrow in the fine, wet sand, others jolting me about, rushing me forward, dropping me, allowing me to burrow again into the sand. There was a beach at the Seaside Town I spent all my childhood holidays and many happy varsity weekends on - a place where often one could walk for miles along the flat sand, dunes to the left, ocean to the right, and see nobody but a couple of birds and some friendly welks. I was there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup Opening and weekend fun

I have too many things to write about and I don’t know where to start. My mind is full of thoughts and confusions and big things and I’m feeling a little unsettled, but I think I’ll stick to telling you about my weekend, which was full-to-overflowing!

Friday. Well, if there’s one way to pull a country together into frenzied excitement that could electrify an entire nation for a month – throw a World Cup Soccer event. It was incredible. I headed into the city to watch the opening at G’s work, on a big screen. In my (very bright) yellow Bafana Bafana t-shirt. Yellow is not my colour, but supporting one’s team is far more important than any possible fashion faux pas.

Every car we passed and person we saw on our way in had some sort of South African garment on. And everybody was grinning at each other. At G’s work, where I have never been before, I was welcomed with a beer and we settled in to watch. I met her boss, his lovely boyfriend, some others. Ad people. I’d heard it before, but I’d never seen it. Ad people really do run on ego. That’s another story though, we were all there for The Big Opening and The Game, and it was fabulous.

We watched the first half, then clamboured into the car to head to the stadium for match 2, and the opening match in The City Beneath the Mountain. Our boys scored while we were stopped at a red robot, and the swell of pride, and roar of excitement on The Grand Parade nearly washed us out of the car.

And then… our stadium. Prepare yourselves, I’m going to gush. It is, honestly, beautiful. Slickly designed, spacious, and gorgeous. I don’t normally get gushy about buildings, but this one, well, she is pretty as a picture. I am smitten. Perhaps it was the other 64 099 people there, all grinning at each other, blowing vuvuzelas, and generally filling the place with an incredible vibe, but I think perhaps it is a beautiful design too.

So the food stands were a bit unorganised, and the hotdog rolls came in a choice of ‘frozen’ or ‘cold’, it was their first time, teething troubles are to be expected, even cold hot dogs didn’t detract from the grinning and the frenzied vuvuzela-blowing. Then there they were, the Urugauains, and the French, on the gorgeous green field, singing their anthems and opening the World Cup for us, here. The crowd went wild.

My best part (remember I’m not the hugest sports fan): Thierry Henry spent a good half an hour in the second half warming up, 100 metres from me. Yes, that’s right, one hundred metres. The cameras don’t lie, the man has one hell of a cute tushie.

The rest of my weekend will have to be another post, I must do some Real Work. It involved getting out of the city, to some open blue sky and a pretty little town where we drank with the locals, watched more sport (okay, I admit, I read my book, but I was still there) and made friends with a guy called Koos.

Tonight I’ll be popping over to my new crush, Green Point Stadium, to watch the pretty Italian boys come up against the Paraguains.

I’m a lucky, lucky Shiny, aren’t I?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An old friend

I had dinner last night with an old varsity friend I haven’t seen for years. I am always amazed at how nice it is to do that, forgetting in the wide spaces of time between meetings, how well we get on. Years of, well, just getting on with motions of life melt away in moments, and we are suddenly back, sharing secrets, talking as if we saw each other yesterday.

We went to a restaurant in my hood – a small, cosy place with terrible acoustics so that, as soon as there is more than one table, you have to shout. The food is good, though, and the shouting is friendly. We discovered that, strangely, our lives are running in parallel, with some weird coincidental similarities. It’s nice to know it’s not just me.

And then, the thing on the tip of everyone’s tongues, flying from their cars, hooting from their vuvuzelas – it’s one more sleep until the opening match. Just one. Yesterday, at 12 noon, the entire country erupted in a cacophony of vuvuzela blowing and cars hooting, in support of our boys, Bafana Bafana. My heart swelled, and my eyes welled. I love it. The spirit is palpable and it’s just that that makes me overflow with pride for being a citizen of this country on the tip of Africa. We love a celebration, and, boy, are we going to celebrate!

Can you feel it too?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Cup Fever

I woke to the mating call of a vuvuzela this morning, and smiled. For those of you who don’t know what a vuvuzela is, go here. The first match of the World Cup that you watch, you’ll know what it sounds like. Loudly festive.

We went to do a little shopping last night, down there, by the sea, near the stadium. I felt like I was in an advert for United Colours of Benneton. Remember them? Stereotypical models from different countries, dressed in bright colours. The (soccer-playing) nations of the world have descended on us, it’s fabulous. And loudly festive.

We ate some lovely dinner and then went for a night cap in the very smart hotel bar at the end, hoping, perhaps, that there might be a soccer team staying there, so we could be groupies (far be it for us to be picky, any team would’ve done.) But none were to be seen. We made friends with the barman instead, who informed us that all the teams are staying out of town. Probably to get away from groupies like us. Wise move really.

Anyway, our plan of action is in place, we will be there, at the stadium, for The City Beneath the Mountain’s first match on Friday, woohoo! We just need to decide who to support – France or Uruguay?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A brilliant idea

I came up with a brilliant idea the other day. Truly brilliant.

Why can't we all live in a state of semi-drunkenness? I don't mean fall-down-drunk-I-don't-remember-who-I-am-but-I-know-I-look-good-dancing-around-this-pole-drunk. Just a mild sort of tipsy. You know the one... just a one drink, take the edge off, no worry kind of state.

I thought it could be done very respectfully - a tot of whiskey in your morning coffee, a little G & T with lunch in the office with your packed sandwiches, a sundowner after work, a glass of wine with dinner. Everybody would be so much more pleasant. The scary bits would disappear into a haze over there, in the corner.

Oh dear, writing it down, it doesn't sound that good. It really doesn't sound that delicious, for one, all those alcohols making some kind of giant Long Island Iced Tea in your tummy every day? Hmm, bugger. Perhaps stick to one kind of alcohol the whole day? Monday's could be vodka, Tuesday's gin, etc. No, ugh, G&T with corn flakes for breakfast? Yuk.

Damn, the brilliance is fading, into the kind of haze I was talking about. Maybe there is something to say to having the perfect-non-alcohol-softened edges to things, the sharpness, the non-blurriness. The sharpness may cut, but at least it's clear, and you can be perfectly aware of the fact that it hurts.

You will excuse me now though, won't you? It appears to be sundowner time.

Grunts and heavy metal

He is still not talking to me. I still don’t know why. I am still receiving grunts to any question thrown in his direction. Sigh. Thus my prolific writing at the moment. You see? Some good comes from every situation… it’s forcing me to stretch my writing muscles.

At least he’s playing some lovely classical music. I have to admit, though, that his behaviour pulls out the teenager in me. In full force. It makes me want to blast some particularly loud heavy metal from my computer.

Do you think he’d appreciate a couple of tracks from Rage Against the Machine?

Sheep-shaped clouds

This morning when I got into the office after a night of storms thrashing through The City Beneath the Mountain, the rain on my tin roof soothing my awake times, I saw the silver lining on the clouds over there, across toward the mountain which pushes the sun up each morning, literally. Funnily, it was a long-bodied cloud, with a sheep’s head. A sweet, woolly, long-bodied sheep. With a silver lining.

Then I heard a pair of hadedas flap past, shouting hello to the world. I love them. Almost as much as I love donkeys. Their not-so-graceful pre-historic bodies, long beaks and oh-so-very-loud voices are just so, um, African. I am prone to shouting “Hi”, back to them. It gives people a fright sometimes. Especially when I do it in the office.

My point? To apologise for my whinging and griping, and shloomphing around like a teenager these past few weeks. Yes, I’m sad, I’m in a weird kind of limbo, I’m unsure, I’m confused, I’m all-over-the-place BUT I’m okay, I’m still talking, I’m still loved, this story is far from finished. I have plenty to be thankful for, I am far luckier than a lot of people, there are far worse things going on in other people’s lives.

So I’m going to buck up (or, as that Australian guy says: “Harden the fuck up”) and get back to my Pollyanna ways and work things out and find the happiness and the humour in it all and then, things’ll be okay. Won’t they?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The beginning

I am punctual.

Let me start right at the beginning, to explain. The beginning of me. Well, not right at the beginning, of course, nobody likes to think of their parents having done the deed to create them, do they? I know mine, for certain, only did 'that' twice. One time for my sister, one time for me. Of course.

Anyway, back to the point. As the story goes (I can't absolutely verify it, even though I was there), I was due on the second of February. That morning my mother went into labour and trundled off to the local hospital in that dusty Free State town and read her historical novel until I showed up, just after the ward staff delivered lunch. 1pm on my due date.

My father ate her lunch while she had me, it being before the hands-on-daddy days.

See? I told you I was punctual.

My first crush

I had my first crush when I was at primary school. He was a beautiful, clever, tall boy. I did the as-to-be-expected “I don’t like you” thing, as one must when one is 10-years old and has a crush. It lasted for three years, during which time I twisted and turned around him, watching him from behind my maths book, going to holiday tennis club to see him, despite a distinct lack of any tennis talent, and so on… typical small girl crush behaviour.

And then we were in our last year of primary school and, with that, came the 13th birthday parties – all very grown up, we moved from afternoon dress-up parties in the garden with jelly beans and tartrazine chips, to evening disco parties in the garage, with jelly beans and tartrazine-filled chips.

We would all stand around awkwardly, girls giggling on one side, boys on the other, fleeting glances across the room, everyone waiting for everyone else to start dancing, hormones raging around the room, silently causing havoc. With that came the dreaded Spin-the-bottle, a game that I still can’t bear. But. On my one dalliance into it, I longed for the bottle to land on me and him. It didn’t. I spent an awkward minute in a cupboard with a boy I didn’t like, studiously ignoring him, and blushing wildly. It put me off the game forever.

I continued my crush, however, and became quite good friends with him (I was unaware at the time that this was the beginning of a pattern for me) and then began swooning over notes passed back and forth in the classroom. Ah, young love.

Pity the notes were for my best friend, and not me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

No, don't

It turns out I was being premonitionary premonitional with my post of yesterday. My post yesterday was not without founding, it turns out. I could feel there was something up, the air was uneven.

My fingers slipped, I banged my knees on the cliff edge, my heart tattered and my lungs contracted, leaving me breathless and falling. And down there, on that plain? No, it doesn't look so beautiful. Not at all. I am falling.

I am angry, but my anger is swallowed by sadness.

I cannot write of this now. I just can't. So, instead, please allow me a bit of self-flagellation and I am going to write of old things, my childhood, just for a while, those safe, happy memories where everything seemed simple. I know they weren't, really, but the difficulties get lost with time. Like a pencil drawing that has lines filled in with koki-pens. You rub out the miserable grey lines with an eraser, leaving only the bright, beautiful ones, and soon the pencil lines disappear in the mists of time.

Where are my koki-pens now?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some African animals visit

I am an ant. Marching on my many little legs, holding a grain of sugar in one hand. In a line, with the other hundred ants, I am nameless. My grain is important, though. Without it, baby ants will go hungry.

I am a cockroach in your kitchen cupboard, indestructible. I will find my way in, make it home, and love it. I deserve it.

I am a soaring Fish Eagle, watching from above, circling, protecting.

I am a battery chicken, my feathers never grown properly, my claws never reaching the paradise of dust. The automated lights keep me up beyond my bedtime, my wake time, my anytime. I see the light from outside under the shed door, though.

I am a lion, brave and proud. My mane shines in the African sun as I roar, and small animals skelter away, frightened of my might. I will kill only if I'm hungry, or if you make me angry, or to protect the ones I love.

I am a laughing hyena, giggling at your jokes, sharing your secrets, finding the funny side. I may not be beautiful, but I have a sense of humour, and a hell of a laugh!

I am an elephant, I don't forget. That sadness in my eyes is from what I've seen, the tears are not in your imagination. They are my tragedy, pouring out of me in rivers. I trumpet and wag my ears, to look cross but, really, on the inside, I am sad.

I look across the African plains from my cliff-edge hold, my fingernails clawing into the face, clinging on. Above me, the enormous blue sky, the sun smiling warmly. Below, me a sheer drop and then, pure beauty. Keep clinging.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bearing the brunt of the grunt

I’ve mentioned him before, the man I work with, who is prone to a bit of grumpiness. He also likes food, a common interest of ours, and one which keeps us amused and in conversation a lot. We often discuss what we had/will have for dinner, and the like. We have worked together for many, many moons and, in general, get on quite well. As I’ve said, though, he tends toward grumpy, and keeps grudges. It’s familial. His mother lived next door to her sister in the old age home for something like twenty years and never spoke to her, due to some long-standing grudge. Unbelievable really.

Anyway, the reason this all comes up is because I seem to have done something to make him cross. Or I think I have. Due to his grudging-abilities, it is hard to know for sure. He has stopped speaking to me, though, which is what is giving it away. Any attempt at conversation has resulted in a grunt. There’s a stony silence from his corner, unless he is on the phone. To somebody else.

I’m thinking I might have to instigate a conversation. I forecast that it’ll go something like this:

Shiny: Grumpy colleague?

GC: Grunt.

Shiny: What’s your wife making for dinner?

GC: Grunt.

Shiny: That sounds delicious. And for pudding?

GC: Grunt.

Shiny: Yummy. That’s one of my favourites. You didn't know that, did you?

GC: Grunt.

Shiny: Now you do.

You can sense the enthuasism, can’t you?