Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's delight

I have ten minutes, then C, G and I are off to catch the train into the city to meet Pop and Shuzie for lunch, a New Year's Eve lunch. I have never been an NYE fan - the searching for the best party, the feigned excitement, the slobbery kisses from strangers at midnight. Sometimes I have a braai at my house, last year I had something resembling a party, with people I love. This year, it's a DVD, and sleep, probably way before midnight, and a fresh, clear, 1st of January 2011.

I have a feeling about 2011, I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but it's expectant. I don't think I've had that before. What I wish for, for us all, is happiness. Happiness like that I have seen in my 17-month old little nephews over the last ten days - undaunted, unstoppable, crazy-shit happiness that makes them giggle amd squeal at small things. What a treat to have them here, they are delicious.

So, yes, a quick note. I have much to tell of those squeals, of the fascination of one nephew with his grandfather, of watching the bond develop, tight as tight can be, of Christmas lunches and family, of friends, and love, and a little tinge of sadness, but mainly of those delighted squeals. I'll be back soon, as soon as I have time. Right now, peak-a-boo, buzzing like a bee and pointing at the butterflies that hang from my roof, all to elicit that delight, is way more important.

Wishing you all out there a delight-filled 2011. Remember to giggle and see the joy in everything.

Shiny x

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I. Can. Not. Wait.

Wowee, time flies this time of the year. It is my last day of Real Work today, thank goodness, and as we speak, my sister, N, and the two baby nephews are winging their way towards The City Beneath the Mountain. I. Can. Not. Wait.

I have been desperately baby-proofing The House in the Middle of the Street. This is far from an easy feat as I am, to put it politely, a hoarder. Luckily, though, I am not a hoarder of extremely valuable or extremely breakable goods. My taste lies in the cheap and shiny section. Therefore, my house is Child Heaven and Parent Hell, despite my constant reassurances that little hands are welcome to touch/play/move all treasures found. This applies to friend’s children. My sister, on the other hand, knows that I am not just saying it, so my nephews’ four little hands will be everywhere. I. Can. Not. Wait.

The tree is up, there’s tinsel scattered about the place, two stockings hang from the mantelpiece. They’re ancient family heirlooms at this point, having existed since my sister and I were tiny tots. The boys are still a bit small for Father Christmas but they’re there, waiting. Did I tell you, they’ll be there, in The House in the Middle of The Street, today when I get home from Real Work? I. Can. Not. Wait.

In other news, I received a parcel in the post yesterday from a country way over the seas that is covered in snow. It was just a plain, brown, envelope but as I ripped it open I smelt the sweet scent of chocolate. I tipped it on the kitchen table – three slabs of chocolate, deliciously wrapped in wrappers with a foreign language (how exotic), a little bag of Christmas chocolates, and a decoration for the tree. What a wonderful treat, sent from Angela, over at Letters from Usedom. Thank you! This blog world is so wonderful, isn’t it?

Oh, did I tell you that I. Can. Not. Wait?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brown or white?

Here on the tip of Africa we have some Nasty History. There was a time when Horrible Men (and Women) did despicable things to people who share this country, just because they had the wrong colour skin. I was young when those awful times were at their peak. I was there, and aware, but it was on my periphery because, well, ludicrously, I’m white. Therefore I wasn’t subjected to Pass Laws and inadequate (or no) education; to segregation and violence; to being treated as inferior; and to having any opportunity taken forcefully from me. We couldn’t even go to school together.

Thankfully, that is a thing of the past and things started turning as I went to university. I think my parents are eternally grateful for this too, not only because they were Anti-Apartheid, but, more personally, they knew that I would’ve been politically active and, more-than-likely, in trouble.

But, yes, we were all saved from that, over 15 years ago now. Everybody walked on shells for a while, and sometimes still do. It was all about 'political correctness'... Be careful what you call people, how you say things, how you write things. Everybody was hyper-sensitive and ready to flare. 'Racism' was bandied about and flung back and forth and shouted at any hint of anything. Sometimes unnecessarily. Understandably, it was a difficult transition, from all sides.

How time flies. We almost have the first generation of adults born in the Free South Africa. Now everybody goes to school together.

This brings me to my point, a conversation G and I had with her 7-year old nephew in the car on Monday. He’s a sweet, blonde, mostly-bare-footed Afrikaans boy (like we all were... urm... some years ago) who has just moved with his parents, brother and sister, from a farm to a small town which, in the bad old days would’ve been, well, bad. Unless, of course, you were white.

Nephew: Benj was in the school play. (Benj is his younger brother, Benjamin)
G: Oh wow, who was he?
Nephew: Joseph.
Shiny: Jesus’ dad?
Nephew: Yes.
G: Who played Mary?
Nephew: Brown Hayley.
Shiny: Brown Hayley?
Nephew: Yes. She's brown.

G: But isn't that rude?
Nephew: No, why? There’s two Hayleys in the class, one is brown and the other is white, so we call them Brown Hayley and White Hayley. Otherwise it’s confusing.

Well, yes, indeed. This was nothing to do with racism, this was logical, like referring to your red t-shirt and your blue t-shirt, and I smiled a huge, happy, smile, to hear it. It seems our country has grown into its shoes - the terrible past, the uncomfortable teenage years of adapting and finding our feet are done. Now we can just be. How wonderful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Absence due to jollification

Oh bugger, how did that happen? I’m trying to be a good blogger and write lots and lots. Not daily, mind, but often. Like in maybe everyday and then, all of a sardine, it’s been five days since my last post. Five? Surely not. That time flies thing? I think it might be true.

I’ve been busy you see. This entails not so many hours type-typing away on my computer and many more hours spent doing so many other more fun things. Like drinking cocktails full of crushed mint while the sun sets, turning the sky brilliant pink and The Mountain hazy purple, while seagulls fly above laughing at the ice cream lickers below.

And sitting in a garden that feels like a small oven in the Summer sunshine while a big boy cooks meat on the braai and a little one throws brightly coloured balls into his sandpit-without-sand and then into his pool-without-water. There’s no water in it because otherwise he will never get out. Ever. Not even at bedtime.

Or sitting amongst the warm happiness of a large family, celebrating birthdays in a hidden valley on a stoep next to a very much loved herb garden while the children zoom about, swinging, climbing, and the adults drink wine with lots of ice in it.

Then there’s the taking out of the Christmas lights, checking that they work and getting the box of decorations, old and new, from the top of the cupboard, and persuading my father that he really, really, does want to go and buy a tree from the guys next to the racecourse and put it up in my house. A smaller tree this year, though, not one which reaches the roof like he always gets me, which I love (despite my mother always telling him to get me a smaller one.) No, this year the tree must stand on a table, slightly above 16-month old twin boy height because… THEY’RE ARRIVING, next week, for Christmas! My beautiful nephews, and their mothers.

First though, tomorrow, is my annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party. When people pass through, some stay a half hour, others all night, with their children, their friends. There’ll be food and Christmas songs and everybody who walks through the door has to put at least one decoration on the tree, from the box.

See now, why I’m being a naughty blogger? I’m busy jollifying.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The crush intensifies

Okay, I don’t mean to go on too much about it, but thought I should just update you on my crush, after I Google-stalked him. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m the poster-girl for Google. At this point I must just mention how hard it is to Google-stalk somebody called Christian Love. My search came back with, literally, hundreds of hits for religious websites ranging from the zealous to the over-zealous to the sublime. I pursued though.

Turns out The Light of my Life (no pun intended) is the son of the main Dirty Old Man Beach Boy, Mike Love. His name is Christian Love, 42-years old, and he has his own band too – 5 Alarm. I searched and searched, but could find no mention of relationship status so will now assume that he is completely-and-utterly in love with me. Of course.

When I saw that he is 42-years old, my immediate reaction was ‘Oh, he’s old.’ Then I remembered that, in fact, even though I was acting like a 16-year old groupie, I am 35-years old, so 42 is just perfect. Strange how our minds can play tricks on us.

I leave you with a picture of my Heaving Crush, and let me just say that it doesn’t do his ravishing good looks justice, at all:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I have a crush on a Beach Boy

There were couples dressed in matching Hawaiian outfits, some headband-toting aging hippies and a smattering of youngsters. G and I felt young, being about 30 years younger than the majority of the audience. The place was packed, though, probably 90% full. I was pleasantly surprised. And a nice crowd it was. Very civilised. To be expected, I suppose, with an average age of 65+.

G took me to see The Beach Boys last night, and I loved it. We sat a row behind the front row, so when the old men (only three of the orginals, and three ‘newbies’) doddered on, we could see them very, very, well. They must also be in their late sixties but boy, they can still harmonise beautifully, and it’s hard not to to beam a huge, happy, smile when they’re singing songs of surf and California sun.

While we waited for them to start, I listened to the conversation behind us – three couples all terribly excited about the fact that they were seeing their beloved Beach Boys AND that Neil Diamond is coming soon. I say no more. It was fabulous to be there and get swept up by the excitement.

The band – well – the lead singer, in all his late-60’s glory, still thinks he’s the god’s gift to women so spent a lot of time making eyes at women in the crowd and doing a vaguely disturbing ‘come hither’ pointing finger thing making him look very much like the definitive Dirty Old Man. Then again, looking and listening to the swooning (older) ladies around us, I think he probably could’ve had his way with any number of them! I avidly avoided making eye contact with him but secretly wished I’d taken a pair of (granny?) knickers to throw on stage.

They sang all the favourites, the crowd roared with delight and clapped and wolf-whistled and I’m happy to tell you that one of their new additions is an absolutely gorgeous young fellow who I have fallen head-over-heels in crush with. Yes, I’m the original groupie! Luckily my crush is not one of the old ones. That’d just be weird.

I never thought I’d see Good Vibrations performed live. I’m really glad I did.

There’s nothing wrong with having a crush on a Beach Boy, is there?

My weekend

We should have known from the show times – Friday 6 pm, Saturday 3 pm. We went expecting physical theatre – bodies being thrown to each other, bending in ways you didn’t know they could to music that buries itself deep in your tummy.

Instead, we got High School Musical – a lively bunch of pretty young things prancing about on stage singing (some with beautiful, skin-pricklingly clear voices, others not) while teaching us all about the angsts of adolescence – from poor body image to cutting to HIV to abortion to anorexia to the dangers of listening to rap music (WTF?), it was all there. I loved it – it was full of poppy little songs that I wanted to sing along to, including a rousing rendition of Pat Benatar’s We Belong.

After that, dinner at a Mexican restaurant owned and run by a real Mexican family with the best margaritas I have ever tasted and delicious food. The waiter greeted us with: “I am Arturo Garcia. I am from Mexico”, in the most gorgeous Spanish accent, before showing us on the map exactly where in Mexico. Did you know that Mexico has 32 states and each and every one has its own version of the cuisine? Me neither. It was yummy and Arturo reminded me of that dude in The Princess Bride who says over and over: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I must watch that again, I loved it.

Saturday brought with it an ill-advised trip to shopping mall hell. We were clever, however, and just snuck through the maddening crowds and into a dark cinema, where we watched The Kids are All Right. Fabulous. Watch it. You must. Then home to watch Caramel, a film set in Beirut. Also fabulous.

And Sunday I had lunch with H, my varsity friend, at a beautiful place in the middle of a vineyard. Fantastic. A good weekend, filled with culture.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The larney dinner

It's one of those places where there are terribly polite, slightly disturbingly obsequious people around every turn, wanting to open doors for you, offer you drinks, carry stuff, wipe your nose. Okay maybe I'm taking it too far, but you get the idea. It starts when you drive up the driveway and park next to the extravagant water feature and two dudes in suits rush up, one to open the door and one to offer to take your car away for you to some unseen garage. The only cars allowed to stay in the vicinity are big and black, with tinted windows and huge price tags.

You walk into a triple volume (possibly even quadruple) room with an enormous chandelier thingamy above a bar and little groups of chairs huddling around small tables on which to set your designer drinks. It's all very gracious and stylish. One whole wall is glass with a view of The Mountain (the one I refer to in the phrase The City Beneath the Mountain). It's beautiful. Here, too, many men quietly ambush you with menus, drinks etc. I had a Rose Petal Mojito. It was as beautiful as the decor, filled with blood red rose petals and deep green fresh mint. Very Christmassy colours really.

Then next door to the restaurant where Aubrey, our waiter, placed an enormous file on the table - the wine list, all gazillion pages of it, complete with index. Now, here I need input. The wine could be bought in a number of formats - 50ml, 150ml, 250ml or a bottle. Honestly, who drinks 50ml of wine? Do you think they give it to you in a syringe, like you give babies muti? I went for the 250ml, expecting a carafe. I got an enormous glass, into which they poured it. I kept looking to see if there was a goldfish in it.

The menus were printed on large pieces of paper, embossed with the chef/owner's name. Next to us, a married couple sat, looking not-too-pleased to be there. What a waste to go to such a special place and not enjoy it. That's beside the point though, the funniest thing happened. While Shuzie and Pop discussed the merits of the wine list, and I glazed over (I'm a pleb when it comes to wine), I suddenly smelt burning. The not-so-happy-man's menu had caught alight on the flame of the oh-so-stylish little candle on their table.

The food was sublime, I asked many questions about what was what, it had lots of unpronouceable-but-delicious-sounding things on it, as predicted. The company was even more sublime, and we all ordered different things and classily handed them all around the table so we could taste everything. C's order of pork belly was the ultimate winner - delicate medallions of pork, each with a little jacket of perfectly crisp crackling.

G managed to join us for pudding, leaving the monster boss behind. She chose the 'Lemon and Olive Custard'. I was pleased because I'd been intrigued by it. That's what it was called and beneath its name it said 'Cocoa crumble, chocolate mousse, chocolate tile'. It came in a large creme brulee dish - yellow-looking, half the top covered in dark chocolate (tile?) with a small ball (mousse?) covered in edible (I hope) gold paper. It was horrible. Tasted like... well... olive oil. Turned out the crumble was underneath.

When Aubrey came back we discussed this with him. Unfortunately somebody else took our pudding order and he sympathetically told us that he would have warned us against it had it been him! It did not detract from a fabulous evening, though, the beginning of my Jolly Season and we left, through the door opened by another dude-in-a-suit, satiated with delicious food and good company.

Who could ask for more?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Tis the season to be jolly

Okay, that’s the Pity Party done for the year, black jelly beans and stale Cheese Curls all eaten up and I’ve left the party, with not a glance backwards. ‘Tis now the season to be jolly. Tinsel and sparkley things. And jolly I plan to be.

I’ll be starting the jollification process with a very delicious sounding meal tonight, at one of those very smart, very in, restaurants where I have to ask the waiter a million-and-one questions because I don’t understand the menu because it's filled with oh-so-fashionable-but-unpronouceable ingredients. Normally in the form of a foam or a jus. I can always see them shaking their heads and rolling their eyes when they turn away, at my ignorance. I’m persistant, though, and normally have them on my side by pudding.

I’m going with three of my favourite people. It was supposed to be four, but G’s boss is a monsterous ogre with fourteen arms and one eye and she has to work late and is not allowed to come. I shall attempt to smuggle out a small something for her, probably unpronounceable, but which, I’m sure, will taste delightfully delicious. I’m sure they won’t mind washing out my lunchbox from work lunch (tuna stir-fry) and putting it in there. Why would they?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fourteen years

Today is the day I feel naked, unzipped, unhinged. Silly really, but there you have it. Fourteen years ago, today, The Tragedy happened. Around about exactly now actually. I commented to G this morning that in all those fourteen years, each 1st of December has dawned as bright and blue and sunny as that one in 1996. I normally take the day off and do something beautiful. This time, I’m at Real Work. Feeling naked, unzipped, unhinged. The clouds are coming over. Weird. Maybe it’s because I came to work. I will do something beautiful over the weekend.

Everything just seems so close to the surface when I think about it. It’s watery and bare and it stings a little and it feels like yesterday that I lay on my dig’s carpet in the room I had packed up into a couple of boxes and a suitcase – four years of learning, living, loving, completely carefree (except, of course, for some good doses of teenage angst) into so little material stuff and so much wonderful ‘internal’ stuff. I listended to Eddie Vedder sing Off He Goes loudloudloud on my Walkman and cried fat tears for leaving that life behind. It feels like yesterday, but it was yesterday fourteen years ago.

Little did I know how big and fat those tears were. Maybe I did know. Maybe that’s why they were bigger, fatter, hotter. Or maybe they’ve just turned into that in the time that has passed since.

I am still here.

Off He Goes, Pearl Jam

Know a man
His face seemed pulled and tense
Like he's ridin' on a motorbike
In the strongest winds
So I approach with tact
Suggest that he should relax
But he's movin' much too fast

Said he'll see me on the flip side
On this trip he's taken for a ride
He's been takin' too much on
There he goes with his perfectly unkept hope
There he goes

He's yet to come back
But I seen his picture
It doesn't look the same up on the rack
We go way back
I wonder 'bout his insides
It's like his thoughts are too big for his size

He's been taken...where, I don't know
Off he goes with his perfectly unkept hope
There he goes

And now I rub my eyes, for he has returned
Seems my preconceptions are what should have been burned
For he still smiles... And he's still strong
Nothing changed but the surroundin' bullshit
That has grown

And now he's home and we're laughin'
Like we did, my same old, same old friend
Until a quarter to ten
I saw the strain creep in
He seems distracted and I know just what is going to happen next

Before his first step, he's off again