Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

And then, suddenly, it was the night before Christmas, with no warning whatsoever, the year barrels to an end. I had such good intentions of reading, and writing, and getting back into my blog and then work got busy and then I got a blood clot in my leg and the doctor packed me off to be still in bed so it didn't pop off and rush into my head or heart, making me feel like a ticking time bomb, while people stuck needles in me and I swallow ludicrously pink pills to thin my blood. Wierd.

So, I have spent the past week in bed, gorging on Downton Abbey, to which I am now completely addicted; reflecting on the year that has flown by; feeling overwhelmed with nostalgia of years before. House arrest is an interesting phenomenon, my thoughts flit, like birds from tree to tree, with wild winds fluffing their tail feathers.

December has been filled with things that should be blogged about, that should've been blogged about immediately, while my heart was exposed, my nerves raw, but I guess that's how it works, the stories are still forming, incubating, and in the meantime, I'm going to catch up on everybody else's stories, and then watch the last two episodes of Downton Abbey, which I'm trying to devour more slowly, to make them last.

Happy Christmas, all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yoohoo

I did it. I wrote 50 000 words in a month. I have to admit that they're not brilliant words, I have not written the next amazing South African novel, not by a far shot, but I wrote fifty thousand words in a row, to make a story. There will be no awards for this one, or any other I write after, but I did it. 50 000 words. In a row.

And now I'm exhausted, but I've missed being here. Mostly I miss Candy Sandwich's amazing adventures; I missed Livvy coming back, beautifully; Kitty admitting the painful truth, heart-breakingling (Precious Things, that's it for you, Kitty); Miranda, Tamara, Geli, I wait; Family Affairs, I long for you to be able to write freely again; and so, so, much more. I have words bubbling up again, though.

I'm back, as much as I can be. I'm waking up. A new year is beckoning, there will be things going on.

In the meantime I watched some Cape Town schmodels mingle with two Catholic priests, like something out of a ridiculously fabulous Tim Burton story. I'm back, I hope. I have a new soundtrack. It makes the words line up, a good soundtrack.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tori Amos

A moment’s respite here in my little corner, which seems fabulously comfy when I face the last 15 000 words of NaNoWriMo. I hit a hump last week but luckily escaped to the countryside over the weekend and caught up. I fear the second half of the novel is really, really bad (as opposed to the first half, which is just bad) but I’m feeling inordinately proud of myself for pushing through. I must just not speak too soon. It’s far from over yet.

Last week we went to watch Tori Amos in concert. I have loved Tori Amos since she first appeared on the scene: I desired her red hair and many of my teenage relationships, and more importantly and aptly with her music, break-ups, were set to a soundtrack which featured her songs prominently. In fact, scrap the ‘teenage’ bit of that. Show me a good break-up since forever and I’ll match a Tori song to it. Not only break-ups, though, I love her music for its raw beauty, the piano, her voice, happy parts of my life include Tori Amos tracks too. You can see why seeing her live was such a thrill…

It is seldom that one can say that a person’s live performance is better than the CD. Tori Amos is. We, along with the biggest number of red-headed women I think I’ve ever seen in one place, and a large smattering of gay men, were enthralled by her voice, her piano playing (two, at one time!) I shed tears and, by the looks of some people after the concert, many people bawled. She is emotive, her voice is as raw as her lyrics. Incredible.

Just one thing saddened me. She is plastic-surgeried to the point of actually looking puffy. Botox? Collagen? Whatever. It makes me sad to think that someone so incredibly talented, who writes such real lyrics and puts them to music that can turn a thousand-strong audience into a gushing mass of emotion, should feel the need to “fix” themselves so.

My fandom, however, was only marginally minimised by this, as she sang ‘Precious Things’ and literally sent tingles coursing down my spine. The woman is a musical genius.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NaNoWriMo

I'm still alive, just so busy, with words flowing out of me in a surprising gush of completely trashy chick lit. I'm amazed and feel slightly schizophrenic, like my lead character has taken me over and is making me write. Bizarre, but very pleasingly so. I'm afraid to say it, in case I jinx it, but I'm really enjoying NaNoWriMo.

I fear that probably only 5000 of my (hopefully) 50000 words may, in some future where I really sit down and write a book, be useable in some form but that doesn't matter. At this point, what matters is that I've managed to get over my 1000-word block.

It's a different thing to blogging, and I feel a little tongue-tied here. I wanted to check in, though.

I'll be back. Maybe only in December. Forgive me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo

So, I signed up for it, and it's Day 2 and I'm loving it and I'm, surprisingly, on track. Like I said, it is but Day 2. I am, honestly, scared by the trash that is so easily flowing out of me and know that, if I do manage to finish it, there may, if I'm lucky, be about 8 000 usable words, the rest being relegated to the dirty corners of my computer. But I'm loving it.

NaNoWriMo. 50 000 words in November. That's 1 666.66667 words a day. Every day in November. Write a novel, focus on quantity, not quality. That can come later.

I'm tired. Already. I keep waking in the early morning, words swirling around in my head, flying out of me into my dark bedroom, playing movies on the backs of my eyelids. Then, later, the words are gone, and mainly trash falls out onto the page. I'm exhilirated (how do you spell that? It looks wrong) by it, like a fire is burning, somewhere deep within. This will not be a beautiful, prosaic story, but it'll be 50 000 words strung together. All in a row, all together and, hopefully, in amongst it all, will be some bits, a skeleton, that I can flesh out, fill with blood and breath, and bring to life.

If I can just keep the momentum going.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nowhere Boy

There is a moment in the movie where I literally lost my breath. I can’t remember that ever happening before. It’s not like it was some scary thriller perfectly suited to being watched on Halloween night, not at all. It was a sweet, beautifully shot portrayal of the early life of John Lennon, basically his adolescent years, before the fame of The Beatles, when he was just a naughty school boy in Liverpool - Nowhere Boy.

With stellar performances from Kristin Scott Thomas, as his strict aunt Mimi, who brought him up, and Anne-Marie Duff as his all-over-the-place but absent for most of his life mother, it tells a story of a boy discovering his roots, being adolescent, getting into trouble and causing his aunt much consternation and learning to love music.

I just got so engrossed in it that the completely unexpected moment, which I won’t divulge here, in case it spoils the movie for anyone reading this, took my breath away. Just like that.

I was saying to G afterwards that I always find it astounding, no matter how many times I am reminded by stories like this, that famous people, at least initially, are just like normal people. In fact, they are just normal people, famous or not. I hadn’t realised, however, how chequered John Lennon’s early history was. Let’s just say his wasn’t an easy time and a lot of the lyrics to his songs now make sense.

It’s a heartbreaking, interspersed with purely joyful scenes, story that reminded me that everybody, regardless of who they are or become, have amazing stories to tell. We all have our fair share of heartbreak and happiness, it’s what we do with it that matters.

John Lennon called his Aunt Mimi every, single, week, from the time he left home until he was assassinated. He was just a nice guy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Writing Prompt Six: Thumblessly happy

So I've crazily signed up to do NaNoWriMo - write a 50 000-word novel in November. I don’t have the time, but I’m going to try. If it doesn’t work this year, I will try again next year when, hopefully, I will be in the place my heart swells and have plenty of time on my hands, and inspiration. In the meantime I fear this blog may be a little neglected for the month. Here’s another Writing Prompt for now – they are such deliciously bizarre prompts, see at the end, after my little story…

Alice had always known she was a little different. It had started with her not having thumbs, and the endless string of childhood taunts that elicited. Then that whole trip to Wonderland. Why she’d told them, she herself couldn’t fathom. The fact that she kept going back there reinforced her differences, despite her keeping her dalliance’s with the Cheshire Cat and what had developed into a rather passionate affair with The Mad Hatter, quiet. He really wasn’t all that mad, after all, and damn, he was good in the sack. It was the only place where people didn’t stare and snigger at her lack of thumbs.

It was just a pity that she had to work so hard to earn the money to go, and then pay to stay. Despite that sweet storybook tale, which made it sound free, her trips to Wonderland, like any fabulous holiday, cost. As sweet as the Old White Queen was, she had a business to run and staying in one of the hundreds of rooms in the castle added up. Alice had tried camping, once, but the campsite was owned by The Caterpillar and his incessant smoking had made her sneeze. It wasn’t free, either.

So she’d been going back and forth, conducting this long-distance relationship with The Mad Hatter, missing him when she was away, loving him there (but not enough to move in with him – he was a slob, she could never share a bathroom with him). Knowing this, he kept sending her e-mails from Red Heart Realtors with pictures of properties for sale, but they, too, were exorbitant.

And so it went, year after year, Alice being inconsolably unhappy each time she had to return to the Real World, slaving away, making doughnuts for a living, saving each cent, until she could return and then being happy as a lark for her time there. But always she had to return to the teasing and grey Real World.

And then, one particularly damp and miserable day, she won the lottery, packed her worldly belongings and moved to Wonderland with not a look back, where she lived thumblessly and happily ever after in a beautiful house with candy floss wall paper, next door to her love, The Mad Hatter. The sun shone all the time, unless they felt like a bit of rainy weather, and then it rained. The End.


Prompt 6: Imagine if your favorite character from 19th-century fiction had been born without thumbs. Then write a short story about them winning the lottery.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween in the hood

We went there last Saturday too, to watch the rugby. Well, to do the usual deal, where G watches the rugby and I read my book. I liked it. It's close by, it is enough of a divey kind of pub/restaurant to suit my desire for such dives, and the guy who owns it made a toasted sandwich for a woman who walked in off the street with a baby and asked for help. She was another blogpost, but one that's been filed way back in my head, possibly not to come out. Yet. The people, all around 40+, and mainly manly-kind-of-men watching rugby, seemed to all know each other.

Anyway, we decided to go again, it being some rugby final and me loving the idea of reading my book and watching people. I was rewarded splendidly. The same crew were there, but arriving a bit after we did was a pretty and friendly blonde woman with a whole armload of plastic bags which she dumped on the big table in the middle of the room. Intriguing. She was greeted by most people in the room and I saw many an admiring glance from the male contingent.

It turned out that she was decorating for the Halloween Party later on that night. She had the whole bang shoot - bats, full moon pictures, zombies, fake spider webs and pumpkins. Well, sort of. She didn't really have pumpkins, but instead four butternuts and ten gemsquashes.

I became engrossed in my book for a bit, G completely focused on the rugby. I was reading the latest Fannie Flagg, you see, and I adore her writing and become completely entwined in her stories. Twenty minutes later I looked up and saw, seated all along the side of the table from which you could see the TV, three of the manly-men, all of them armed with a sharp knife, all of them shelling the "pumpkins" and cutting out scary faces.

What a perfect picture. They reminded me of family Christmas lunches when the women would all sit around a table, preparing the feast and chatting. As we left after the rugby, checking out their, suprisingly really good, handiwork, one of them looked at us and said "You girls leaving? Why don't you stay for the party?"

I replied: "Perhaps next year we will. Have fun!"

And I think we might very well just do that.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gossip Girl

I watched Season 4 of Gossip Girl. There, I said it. I devoured it as The Big Black Dog devours each of her meals - as if she hasn't been fed for months. Admittedly, I feel slight shame in admitting that. I know it's a load of hogwash about far-too-rich-for-their-own-good kids living a ridiculously glamorous and silly world with little to no regard for anything that's real and true or, for that matter, kind.

But...

Despite all that, I love it. It's unrealistic escapism that requires absolutely no concentration or thought. The scheming and planning and focus on all that is only skin deep is astounding in its excess. I feel myself falling in love with each character, waiting for the kiss that's meant to happen as they carelessly throw each other's hearts around. The drama, the angst, the passion, the ultimate me, me, me-ness.

Last night, though, we were out for dinner and we sat next to a table that had five squealy 14-year olds at it, out for dinner on a Friday night. I don't remember going out with just my friends on a Friday night when I was 14. Sure, we spent hours at each other's houses and went out with each other's parents but alone? Maybe we did and I've forgotten in the mists of time.

It was like watching a real, live, version of Gossip Girl. They were all dressed in similiar outfits - skinny jeans, fresh faces, long hair. All of them. Attached to their cell phones, they took pictures of each other, presumably to upload directly to Stalkbook, so that those who weren't invited knew they hadn't been, a' la Gossip Girl. They spoke of holidays to LA next year. Rich kids. Young kids.

The thing that horrified me, though, was when I watched them order. All of them ordered and ate, except one. She had a water bottle filled with some milky thing, presumably a diet shake which she sipped on throughout the meal. She was tiny, skinny, beautiful. My heart broke when she, literally, asked her friend opposite to smell her food. Smell it. She did, a look of pure pleasure crossing her face as she inhaled the aroma of the food, before passing it back.

Not a thing passed her lips except for the shake. I wanted to hug her, shout at her mother, tell her she's beautiful. And then I realised how dangerous media can be. These were bright young things who are the real audience of Gossip Girl and, I fear, they're not considering it as fun, frivolous, silly entertainment, but as something to aim for. And that is just frightening.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing Prompt Five: A diary entry from Humphrey

These writing prompt things are completely bizarre, but fabulously so. Here’s number five. It was gross but I actually really enjoyed this one.

San Jose, 27th October 2011.

It’s not that I wished to have been involved in such crass behaviour, it was just that I was born into it. I opened my little compound eyes and wiggled what I now know are my antennae and looked around. I was not alone, but surrounded by my brothers and sisters and the biggest feast I’ve ever seen. All around us, a living spread of food.

Thinking back I cringe at such unbecoming behaviour, all of us chomping away at that tarantula flesh, not even stopping between bites to wipe our mouths. It was a feeding frenzy. I blame youth and pure naivete. My brothers and sisters think not, of course, but I consider them all simple.

I only realised the error of my ways once we’d eaten up the entire feast. I gagged on the fur on the outside and realised what we’d done. Now being five hours old and far more worldly, I stopped, spat out the fur, and swore to go vegetarian. It’s been three days now and I’m just getting used to the ridicule from my brothers and sisters. I swear the copper in my wings shines much more brightly than theirs, though, on my vegetarian diet, so I'll push through.

Humphrey Tarantula Hawk, the 12 674th, aged 3-and-a-half days.


A wasp called the tarantula hawk reproduces by paralyzing tarantulas and laying its eggs into their bodies. When the larvae hatch, they devour the still living spider from the inside out. Isn’t that fucked up? Write a short story about how fucked up that is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gift horses

It's a funny story really, how it came about that I am about to head off to that beautiful stadium down by the sea, beneath the mountain. After going to watch Coldplay there, exactly three weeks ago, and swearing never to go to a big concert again, here I sit, about to go back.

I love Coldplay. I love the stadium. But a whole bunch of factors twisted and angered themselves together to turn it into one Big Bad Experience, despite there being all sorts of reasons for it to have should have been a great night. What an awkward sentence, what an awkward, cold, disorganised night it was. Honestly, the sound was so bad that it was hard to discern which song they were playing, when. And it was cold.

I'm a good consumer, though, and I complained. Bitterly. To everyone involved in the organisation of the concert. Result? Free tickets to go and see Kings of Leon, tonight. So off we go, G and I, never being able to look a gift horse in the mouth (thanks, Miranda, for the teachings on the origins of that funny saying), we are off to the stadium for the second time in three weeks.

I thank Miranda for her teachings because, yesterday on Stalkbook I said something about the tickets in my status update about said tickets, followed by the comment:

I'm also now going to spend a productive day researching the origin of "Never look a gift horse in the mouth" because 1. WTF is a gift horse? and 2. why would you look it in the mouth in the first (or second for that matter) place and 3. if you decided you wanted to, what would be the harm? Would the gift horse lick your eyeballs or gnaw on your eyebrows?

And the lovely Miranda explained:

‎1. A gift horse is a horse that has been given to you as a gift. 2. You look at its teeth to see how old it is (long teeth = old horse. As in 'ooh he's a bit long in the tooth') 3. As our mothers told us, Its just rude, really to see if the gift you've been given is a dud, as opposed to a stud. And also horse slobber is disgusting.

And now we all know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing Prompt Four: Enough already

Back to the writing prompts. Sheesh, they're bloody difficult! Again, I'm not entirely happy with what I've done with it but I've been sittting on it for two weeks and then just decided to write and get on to the next one so, here goes:

When he’d retired early, at 46, Bob had made a deal with Debra. After being married for 21 years and working hard for all of those, he’d done extremely well and retired with enough money for them to live very comfortably and do all the things they’d always wanted to do. They would now have the time to fully appreciate their farm in the Winelands.

Debra was worried about having him home full-time, she’d got used to only having to deal with him in the evenings when he got home (usually late) from the office. Over weekends he played golf which suited her perfectly due to its long hours. Now he’d be home morning to night.

Bob had always loved horses and had learnt to ride at an early age growing up on a farm in the Natal Midlands. He’d always wanted one of his own. Debra thought it was a yearning of his to be one of the horsey crowd, he had always been a snob. Regardless of its roots, she’d always stopped him from buying a horse because she knew she’d land up looking after the bloody thing and she was mortally frightened of horses.

He’d retired though so they made the deal: he’d buy the horse and she’d get a hot air balloon and lessons on how to fly it. Seriously, it was all she’d longed for and she loved it.

That was five years ago. Debra is now a seasoned hot air balloonist and Bob… well, he rides every now and again, and leaves his sweaty, smelly, riding shoes just inside the front door, every. single. time he rides, despite Debra’s first asking nicely, then not-so-nicely for him not to. Despite her irrational fear of horses she hates how cruelly he treats the poor thing.


She hasn’t got used to him being around all the time, especially because he treats her as, she assumes, he used to treat his secretary at work and as he treats the poor horse – not very well. In fact, he is being mean to her too.

Debra is seriously thinking of leaving him, despite their being together for 26 years now and actually thinks she doesn’t really like him at all.


"I'm going away with Nigel and Mike for Christmas, we're leaving the day after tomorrow" Bob said, walking into the kitchen as she opened the pot to stir the soup she'd made for supper. She looked up at him, surprised by this sudden announcement, a week before Christmas. "Oh. What about the horse? The groom is already on holiday."

"Oh, you can give him his food, surely? It's Summer, he'll be fine for a week outside. You can just chuck his food over the fence." Debra shuddered, her dislike rising in her throat like bile, making her feel quite queasy. As much as he'd been particularly unpleasant, she'd never quite expected this degree of neglect for anything she felt. At the same time she grinned slightly at the thought of being free of him for a whole, blissful, week.

Mistaking her grin for agreement Bob smiled back saying "Oh good, you're fine with it then? That soup smells revolting, I'm going down to the pub. See you later." She mumbled and watched his ample shape leave through the back door. The last iota of her tolerance slipped out of the door with him as he slammed it behind him.

It was easy enough to do, she used Google, searched "Painless death for horses". She did hours of research, finally coming up with a plan. On day one of his trip with Nigel and Mike she first put the entire contents of Bob's sleeping pills in with the horse's food, mixed with poison she'd bought at the hardware store (who knew?) She hoped Bob was having trouble sleeping, what with his sleeping pills having been swapped with plain old aspirin.

She felt terrible watching the horse get drowsy and then lie down and then it was still. "Sleep tight, may your next place be a more peaceful one." Four days later she went back down to the field and was pleased to see that the horse, now well on its way to rotten in the hot Summer heat, had not moved. She was relieved that she hadn't caused any extra suffering.

The soil was hard and dry around the horse's body but she persevered with her shovel, digging a trench right around it's body, the stench almost unbearable. Scattering the wild flower seeds into the trenches she said a little prayer and covered them, hoping they'd bloom.

Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.

Prompt 4: Write a story that ends with the following sentence: Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday meat market

I watched him nudge his friend and make lewd signals as she got up to go to the bathroom. She was dressed head-to-toe in white flowing things that made her look vaguely biblical. As she passed me I felt a desperate rush of air. He played on his phone while she was away and I could imagine the Twitter update or Facebook status he was writing, his face lit up blue by the screen. The smile he gave her on her return allowed me to know that he knew exactly what he was aiming for.

Leaning against the bar was a woman wearing an outfit that was far too small for someone her age, presumably to show off her numerous tattoos, some of which were beautiful. She’d obviously been there all afternoon and was just a little too loud as she flicked her bottle blonde hair while chatting up a body builder gone-to-seed at the bar, or being chatted up, I couldn’t quite tell and hadn’t been paying attention when it started to know who’d started with who. My money would’ve been on her if I had to bet. Again, I could see where their story would end.

My attention had been distracted by the beautiful young woman in the corner wearing jeans that fitted her so snugly I worried she might not be able to ever take them off. Her dark skin glowed in the candlelight from the table in front of her, the same candlelight that shone through her glass of white wine that was being kept full by the much older man next to her, his wedding band glinting. Beside us, a suave guy watched them, not secretly but unobtrusively. Her pimp.

It sounds like I was out at some dodgy bar. I wasn’t. It’s an upmarket place on the sea with a beautiful view over the ocean. Last night the waves were crashing over the rocks outside and sending spray twelve feet in the air, their spray looking in the window. I’m convinced the waves, like me, were fascinated with the goings-on in the meat market I found myself in on a gentle Sunday evening.

We left after the band started up and the ebony-skinned woman began dancing to the beat. Breathing in the sea air of the harbour, I wasn’t sure if it was the scenes I’d seen in the bar that were making me feel slightly queasy or the bobbing boats in the harbour giving me flashbacks to my childhood of sea sickness.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Drag racers

I hear them sometimes, late-late Saturday night/early-early Sunday morning, when the air is still. Or maybe it's when there's a slight breeze blowing from there, that death-trap ribbon of tar.

Whichever it is, sometimes I hear them, the sounds of their cars roaring at way-too-high speed. I can almost taste the testoerone on the night air. The illegal drag-racers taking over the quiet early morning city highway.

I've never seen them, but I've read the stories in the paper. The ones where they've killed themselves showing off how much bigger their engine is than the guy's next to them. Bigger engine, shinier wheels, more power, slam into a lamp post and all that's left is a glinting silver mag wheel, winking as life drains out of someone far too young, a streak of adrenaline on a cold tar road.

I heard them last night and sent a little prayer of sorts to the gods or whoever looks after us to keep them safe, those young urban cowboys doing their thing, thinking of their mothers, worrying at home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Topsy-turvy, be mine

It's a strange world, this one we live in, a twirly-whirly ride of ups and downs over which, sometimes, we think we have control and, most of the time, we realise we have none. Whatsoever. I'm quite glad of that, though. There is magic everywhere.

Gadzooks, I'd hate to feel like I had any kind of control. Out-of-control has always appealed, despite my being a particularly organised sort. Organised in some aspects, the ones that, I am hoping, hoping, hoping, allow the rest to be completely and utterly and mind-blowingly, topsy-turvy all over the place.

The fat moon laughs at me from high in the sky, taunting and teasing.

I'm craving topsy-turvy, I am.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I owe an apology

I think I owe an apology. In fact, I know I do. In a most roundabout and completely unintentional way I have been badly behaved. It happens sometimes, when I feel a little trapped or think that someone else is feeling trapped. I get prickley and build a wall you see. The wall has little airholes, though, which allow me to smile through. I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing. It may just be confusing to the person on the other side.

There are certain aspects of living and being that are hard for me. I don’t mention them much because, honestly, it’s a bit boring, even to me in my most navel-gazing times. They’re things that make some stuff impossible and make me want to scream and cry until I can scream and cry no more. It wouldn’t help, though, so instead I get the prickles, build the walls, and ignore it all.

The problem is that I then don’t give anybody the chance to get in. I assume how they’ll be, how they’ll react, what they’ll do and, in my mind, I save them from it all by moving steadfastly away in a prickley fashion. And, in the process, I fear that I can even be a little bit mean. This makes me sad. Like I said, I think I owe an apology, or two, possibly many. I just have no idea how to go about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pearl Jam

I found it strange that we were amongst the few women in the cinema. Groups of men kept arriving. I’d had fun in the foyer with G, guessing who would come into our cinema and who was going to see “The Smurfs” or “Friends with Benefits” or the other mainstream offerings. Yes, I was being a movie-snob.

The ratio of men:women was about 6:1. I mentioned this to a male friend on Stalkbook and asked why he thought it so. His reply? “Because chicks generally have appalling taste in music. There, I said it!” I could only snort in derision and make a derisory (is that a word?) comment. I’ll tell you what it was at the end.

Being more an art nouveau kind of movie watcher I’d forgotten that the mainstream cinemas have enormous screens, so huge I wanted to squeal with delight. I waited until the movie started, though, before letting out a discreet squeal. Pearl Jam Twenty, one of only two screenings here – a commemorative documentary of this band that I have loved since, well, they began!

It’s a visual and aural whirlwind. I cried, I smiled, my heart soared with their story, which I hadn’t realised has many heartbreaking twists in it. The sound in the cinema was superb, filling the room and climbing right into my soul. I’m not a huge fan of their really heavy stuff but there, in that dark room, on that enormous screen, it was perfect.

And then there’s Eddie Vedder. Swoon. Double swoon. And his voice that trickles at first and then gushes through me. If I were to have to describe sex in sound I would say, simply: Eddie Vedder. And then there is the rest of the band, each one a genius in their own right. The guitarist that seems to just fly through those riffs, the bassist who always just looks happy, and they all seem to have so much fun!

I left the cinema feeling like I’d been thrown back into my youth, the energy coursing through me, the music filling my head, Eddie talking to me. We stayed until the last credit had rolled. I was interested in the fact that there was a Bootlegologist mentioned. I think I’d like to have that title.

So, in answering my Stalkbook friend’s reply, I said: “I fully expected an answer of that calibre. There, I said it. Of course, being a chick and all, I was not there to appreciate anything about the music. I was purely there to look at Eddie Vedder’s arse.”

I failed to mention the fact that, lyrically and musically, Pearl Jam is one of my ultimate favourite bands and Eddie Vedder’s oh-so-beautiful arse and face and lips and…, just make the whole deal so much sweeter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday afternoon epiphany

One sentence, a beautiful, complementary one, reduced me to tears. It was somebody else’s thing but then it was mine. A completely unexpected Tuesday afternoon, a testament to the power of Social Networks, despite my complete cynicism toward them all.

Clicks of a mouse button in places far away, the realisation, again, that I was never alone in this. The heartbreak flooded in, drowning out everything else, filling me with tears, like a blow-up doll water balloon, but a loved one. Lucky, lucky me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing Prompt Three: Dottie

Another writing prompt. This one I struggled with and I think the story is a little silly, but I don’t have the energy to write/think of another and I want to do them all, to complete the full thirteen prompts, as tempted as I was to just ignore this one. Historical figures are not my forte and so I did cheat slightly – I’m not sure she really falls under “historical”.

My mother never thought I’d amount to anything. It’s not really expected, you see, for imps to amount to anything, so my mother’s attitude was not unreasonable. I, however, had other ideas and from when I was knee-high to a flea and scribbling poems in my tiny imp diary, knew that I’d prove her wrong. My goal – to use a human to take me to greatness, even if it was unrecognised greatness, my mum would know it was me, and that’s what mattered.

Imps are, essentially, set on this earth to be, well, impish. We were of the New Jersey Imps, a particularly good breed, if I may say so myself, known for impishness pertaining most often to baking. That cake that flopped in the middle and tasted soapy? Probably one of my uncles, swapping the baking powder for washing powder. Not that we were only into baking, we did the common garden imp stuff like hide one sock behind the couch too. I, however, wanted more.

Luckily, I grew up under the floorboards of a Manhattan apartment lived in by the Rothschild’s, a family prone to tragedy with a daughter who they referred to as “difficult”, Dorothy. She was indeed difficult, but I knew I could make her clever and witty and so I moved in, just behind her right ear and started reciting my poetry to her. She wrote them down, my poems, thinking they were hers.

As she grew into a feisty woman, I started giving her my one-liners too, and watched how people laughed and called her “ascerbic”. She got our poems published, we ran with an artistic crowd, she fell in love, over and over, married three times (I can’t claim that as my doing, I was the poetry, the wit, she was the passionate lover.)

I also can’t claim to be responsible for her political aspirations or views, imps are just not into politics. I could’ve done without having to be arrested with her that day in Boston but there you have it: the joys of being an invisible imp behind a famous person’s ear.

Also, I tried so very hard to make her happy. I thought my funny, witty one-liners would perk her up and that our poems, despite them not being of a frivolous nature, would make her smile, but she was a dark soul and the drinking didn’t help. All through those suicide attempts I was fearful, and sad, and became inspired by it in my (her) poetry.

I got her notoriety though, and recognition, and almost an Oscar, twice, and, most importantly, I showed my mother that I could (under cover) make something of myself, despite being a tiny, invisible imp behind somebody’s ear.

If wild my breast and sore my pride,
I bask in dreams of suicide,
If cool my heart and high my head
I think "How lucky are the dead."

Dorothy Parker


Prompt 3: Choose your favorite historical figure and imagine if he/she had been led to greatness by the promptings of an invisible imp living behind his or her right ear. Write a story from the point of view of this creature. Where did it come from? What are its goals? Use research to make your story as accurate as possible.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing Prompt Two: The lake

Further to my writing block deblocker challenge, here’s my second attempt. The city has again wrapped its little fingers around me and is leaving me feeling slightly deflated or, rather, paralysed when it comes to writing. Here goes:

It was one of those grey days that wraps itself around you like a damp shawl. The mist hovered over the lake and twirled amongst the bulrushes around its edges. Next to the path the trees rustled and whispered to each other, telling the secrets of the night before in the early morning coolth. It was strangely quiet and perfectly still, as if even the birds had burrowed back into their nests on seeing the chilled mist.

The man walking along the path looked young, but wasn’t. He walked slowly, struggling slightly with two plastic bags from a grocery shop in town filled with something heavy. Around his neck hung four brightly-coloured ropes that made him look as if he were about to be part of something fun. But he wasn’t.

He walked out along the wooden jetty where he’d fished as a child, the worn planks familiar beneath his feet, and sat down at the end, his legs splayed in front of him, the heavy bags between them. Threading the ropes through the plastic bags he sighed, an exhalation of pure relief that joined the swirling mist.

Once the bags were tied, firmly but not too tightly, he stood up and shuffled awkwardly to the edge of the jetty and looked down into the clear water while inhaling the earthy smell of the tiny gardens of moss on the jetty’s edge. He looked up, smiled, and stepped off, sinking rapidly to the muddy floor where he rested, still smiling and looked up through the water, watching his air bubbles rise, to see a milky sun pushing its arms through the mist, turning it golden.

As the sun poked through, the dull cries of the hadedas interrupted the stillness as they called their morning greetings to each other.


Prompt 2: Write a short scene set at a lake, with trees and shit. Throw some birds in there, too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart

There’s something really comfortable about reading a book that’s set in your home town. Finuala Dowling’s Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart is exactly that – comfortable. I read it in a day, and was sad when it was finished because I really liked the characters and I wanted to interact with them more.

You see, they’re real and believable and imperfect, like us all. And they’re living in my world, well, just down the road from my world, but in places that are familiar and doing things that are equally as familiar and flowing between happy and sad and disinterested and guilty-for-being-disinterested and tired and productive and just-bloody-getting-on-with-it, determinedly.

It’s essentially a book about a late-night radio presenter who is an ex-wife to a serial-cheating, unhappy and unfulfilled, pseudo-comedian; a mother to a daughter entering adolescence with an imagination that’ll save her (my favourite character); a daughter to her mother who’s falling into the heart-breaking clutches of dementia; a girlfriend to a guy with a surprising character not shown by his shell; and a landlady to an alcoholic friend who’s a psychic and a dreamer.

It’s written from all of their perspectives, with snippets from her mother’s guide to living, which includes the philosophy that a house must have dirt and mess to be lived in and loved. It also documents her mother’s decline into dementia and the messiness and disappointment and frustration that this devastating disease causes. But it’s not a depressing book about dementia, its real and raw and honest and about life and living it, mainly from the lead character’s perspective.

What I’d really love to do is invite all the characters over to my messy house and drink wine with them and discuss, honestly, the messiness of life as we know it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Soul music on a Saturday

Is there anything better than putting headphones on and feeling music coursing through your blood, through every cell of your body to each nerve ending, a soundtrack to life. The magic of hearing a song that makes your heart contract and your stomach do a somersault. I love it.

While in that magic place in the Karoo, the place where my heart swells-to-bursting, I heard a new band sing a new song (well, new to me) and loved it. I thought of them this week and did a bit of YouTubing, as one does. Yet again, the magic of the place followed me, throwing out this video, pumping hearts and all (headphones, top volume necessary. Feel it):



The complete joy of the song made me get G to drive with me, miles and miles through the blastedly depressing factory lands to get to the only place that had the only one of the CDs left in The City Beneath the Mountain and drive back, music blaring, windows open to our first Summer day's heat, and smile the smile of one who's found some music that hits the soul in one fell swoop. And there, in amongst it all, another song with perfect lyrics for my ever-expanding life soundtrack.




And then to our other ally, who came with us, for a cooling beer, where we drank the last bottle of that spring water brew from that magical place and began some serious plotting to get back there. Perfect Saturday afternoon of sunshine and magic and music to keep the deep red blood flowing through a strongly-beating heart with bass to kill for.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pavement conversations

It's one of those streets where The Beautiful People hang out, seeing, being seen, strutting. We were just passing along it, on our way between food and movie, when we heard G's name being called from across the road, an old university friend of hers. Introductions, hand-shaking, behind a sun-aged face, deep beneath a life-filled-with-stories, kind but desperate eyes. I could see he'd been good-looking, once upon a time, in a place far away from this.

We walked together along the narrow pavement, dodging the open drain on the right, careful not to fall off the ledge on the left, into the 5-o'clock traffic filled with irate people in their tin can cars hurrying home to their suburban lives. I listened to their conversation, one of those catching up after ten years, skimming the surface, and watched his skinny frame as he nervously rubbed his hands together.

He lives on the mountain, in the mountain and was on his way into town to beg. He's been their for six months and says he always knew it was where he'd land. "I'm bipolar and an addict." Straight-forward, simple, the facts, laid bare like a slaughtered pig on the narrow pavement.

We separated at the corner, us to go further down the road into a warm, delicious-smelling little Italian place for dinner, him further into the city. He asked for money, I couldn't say no, and as we handed it to him I saw the monster behind him grin and rub its hands in glee, a dark alley filled with smacked up grins. I wish I'd given him food.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Skoonheid

I was left speechless by it. This, as you can imagine, does not happen often. Not only my being speechless, but a movie leaving me so. Skoonheid, a South African movie about a conservative Afrikaans man trapped in his conservative life. We stayed until all the credits had rolled and the lights were up. Speechless.

There is a generation of South African men who went to the army at 17 or 18 and saw and did things that no person should see or do, ever, let alone at that impressionable age. South African society (or a certain section of it), too, is known for its stoic conservatism. Men are men - they don't cry, the don't talk about things, they bring home the bread and protect their families and watch rugby and drink beer.

Skoonheid is about one such man, living "The Dream" in a conservative South African town - he has the wife, two daughters, a successful business, everything society expects from him. Only problem is that he is a closetted gay man who sees in one of his friend's young, beautiful son, something he wants. It is shot incredibly slowly, with minimal dialogue and a couple of toe-curlingly devastating scenes. The mindfuck comes in that you feel (or I did) sympathy for this man, even in a scene of such utter violence that you feel physically ill.

It is brilliant in its social commentary, the search for that abstract and fleeting beauty of youth, the danger of keeping it all in, the flaws in our society, laid bare. It being South African, it was all too familiar and that, I think, was why I was speechless. He could be my next door neighbour.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jumping in, heart beating wildly

I had a friend at university who was scared of everything, from tasting anything she didn’t recognise to throwing herself into love and everything in-between. I often wonder now, where she is with that.

My mother forced taught us as children that we were never to turn our noses up at food, until we’d tasted it. I am eternally grateful to her for that and have tried to put that philosophy in place with everything I do – from food, to visiting places to reading books to falling in love, and by falling in love I mean not only with lovers, but friends, places, things, all of it.

I live in fear of not doing things and gaining no experience. This has, of course, at times put me in line for looking like a fool, for heartbreak, for silliness, but I figure it’s all been for a good cause. Where would I be if I hadn’t thrown myself into the midst of a Spanish protest or into the arms of an unsuitable suitor? Somewhere else, that’s where. Somewhere with fewer stories, fewer scars on my heart that make it beat more breathily and with more urgency.

Because, yes, for sure, my heart still breaks at the thought of some of those loves – my first, the one that was never resolved, the one that I never actually met but had a deeper connection with than I have ever experienced who turned out to be married, the years-ago one that could never be – they all add up into the life force that runs through me and makes me believe, completely, that the heart break is worth it. And that kissing a wizard in a dark night club and going to places that make the heart swell and driving out into the open spaces is what makes the world go around and the stories sprout. Each experience a beautiful, magical thing.

So here’s to remembering this and keeping on falling in love with people, places, the world. Here’s to jumping in, arms flailing, heart in your hands… into the free-fall of life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Angry Shiny

Warning: This post is extraordinarily, self-indulgently, navel-gazily me-me-me.

I just realised something. I’m cross. Not just a little bit cross, but seethingly angry, as if my insides are snakes. On the outside I have my Shiny Suit on that makes me look just like Shiny – dark-haired, smiley, even-tempered and relatively good-natured. It’s just a shell, though, that looks like me. Inside the snakes are a-slithering.

I’m angry at everything, everybody, the world and its brother. There are a whole lot of different snakes, the work frustration, the other frustration, the admin pile, the unhappy pile, the other pile, etc… each a snake, slithering and sliding, snapping at each other’s tails, and me.

I know I need to get out, to get air, to breathe and at the same time I know I have to gain some kind of acceptance of where I am now but… I. Don’t. Want. To. That acceptance stuff all sounds like a bunch of self-help hoo-ey. And you know how I feel about self-help hoo-ey.

Instead, I’d like to lie on the floor and kick and scream and stop breathing until I’m blue in the face and then take a huge lungful of air, and scream some more. Which all sounds very adult and productive and, we all know, including me and my slithery snakes, that it probably wouldn’t make me feel any better anyway, so I shan’t subject the poor people around me to it.

Instead, I’ll keep hatching plans in my head, looking up into the sky and breathing, breathing, breathing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Desperate mecca

We drove in around the back, by mistake, past the big black bins oozing waste, past the back doors of the restaurants, past the chef with his greasy hair and nicotine-stained finger nails, puffing away sitting on the pavement. He didn't even look up, as we drove around the corner, into yet another non-descript parking lot filled with people hunting for bargains with fistsful of cash.

The thing that struck me first was the wierd silence, despite the people. Each little shop crammed full of shiny, plasticky stuff and "brand name" takkies, people inside quiet, the only sound some high-pitched Chinese pop music, as synthetic as the rows and rows of polyester panties and matching bras. Each shop with an owner sitting higher than the shop and one or two shop assistants, acting like they'd never seen each other, were strangers.

We stayed a while, until we both admitted to being overwhelmed by a sense of despair, this little shopping mecca had driven us down and we couldn't decide whether it was some kind of spiritual aura left in all that merchandise probably made in sweat shops behind closed doors, or if this was just the desperation of a displaced population seeping into us like damp, people living oh-so-far from home in a country with a strange language, trying so hard to make a living out of their sweat shop merchandise.

Chinatown. Not somewhere I'll be rushing back to. It did, however, make me want to pick fresh spring flowers and deliver bouquets to each of those sad, silent, people. To hand them over with a hug, and a kiss on the forehead.

Silence, here, is not golden

It’s not often I rear my head from its apathetic little resting place. No, that’s not true, I often rear my head but don’t often move my butt. On Saturday I did and it felt good to be shouting “Viva” with hundreds of other red,black and white-clad protesters marching against the new Secrecy Bill that is threatening to endanger our beautiful country’s freedom of speech.

There’s something about group action that turns the very air around a gaggle of protestors electric. It’s as if all the atoms are rubbing together from the heat of people’s anger and passion for something they truly believe in.

It was a beautiful, hot day and I’d overdressed, not having paid attention to The Weatherman’s forecast. Luckily there were people handing out little blue bags filled with water. I have to admit to us getting particularly juvenile with them, but what do you expect on a very hot day with passion in the air and tiny blue plastic bags of water you can bite and squirt like a water pistol?

Now we wait with bated breath to see if our protest not to be silenced fell on deaf ears.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spring

Each year, without fail, I forget what a grumpy monster I turn into during the dark days of Winter. All I can say is thank the gods I don’t live in Europe with its way-too-long Winter, I might not have any friends at all if I did! Then, again without fail, Spring comes along and I feel the dark cloud lift and my personality starts wiggling around in the sun and I can feel the smile coming back.

This year is no exception. Our trip into the beautiful Karoo was the perfect celebration for the beginning of Spring – breathing fresh air, meeting new people, clearing the cobwebs from my head, opening me up to the newness of another Spring, all fresh and light-green-leaf-budded. Is there anything more beautiful than a tree in its new Spring dress?

And so, I’m welcoming it all, opening myself up to all that life can offer me, crawling out from the Winter darkness and blinking in the sunlight, its warmth on my face to the sky. I have had one of those weeks that have restored my faith in humankind. Despite having a momentary wobble (again) about privacy on this here blog, I reminded myself that it’s my stream of consciousness, be it egotistical, fantastical, or real, and I love it. I still claim my anonymity, even though it's not quite as anonymous as it used to be.

I’ve got back into watching movies, seen friends, met people, remembered my personality and (here I’m going to sound egotistical but I’m referring to the world, not my personality as such) it is good.

Happy Spring.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Handwritten letters

My mother and grandmother wrote to each other weekly, from the time my mother went to boarding school aged ten, until my grandmother died, aged 70-something. Those letters chronicled their lives and mine and… they threw them all out. What a pity. I would’ve loved to read them, a personal history from the 1950’s onwards, from two different perspectives. Now there would be a fabulous book. But they’re gone, those pages and pages of life, lovingly recorded.

I, too, have done my share of letter-writing and, unfortunately, letter-throwing out. I found a box of old letters the other day, though, and was reminded of the beauty of letters, specifically written, carefully folded, addressed and stuck with a licked stamp.

They were all handwritten, some posted with stamps on them and handwritten addresses (various, according to which stage of my life they were from), some notes that were just letters, hand-delivered, envelopeless – under doors, across desks, under windscreen wipers. They all filled me with nostalgic emotion, from ecstacy to melancholy and back. I miss handwritten letters.

And how I wish that I’d kept them all. I realise that kind of hoarding may result in me living in a house with tiny passageways made between boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’, but I’m not wishing to be logical here. What a beautiful record they are, of lives lived, loves loved, hearts broken and hearts mended.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Case of the Missing Of

I don't get it. What happened to the lovely little word OF? Somebody seems to have murdered it or, perhaps, just kidnapped it. Is there a ransom we could pay, to get it back? I am pretty sure we could gather together enough people here in Blogland and maybe even in the Real World, who would happily donate a couple of cents/pence/pesetos to the cause and get the poor tyke back. I really miss him, even though he's small, he has a big, um, presence.

Are you with me, people, or have I lost you with this one? I have been told that I can, on occassion, be a bit obscure. I don't mean to, it just happens that way. I am perfectly up-to-date with what I'm talking about, I'm on the same page as me, so I'd expect everybody else to be. Perhaps I'm expecting too much. Reading that back I'm thinking I should be really glad that I'm the same page as me. Imagine if I wasn't? Shudder. Sometimes, I'm not. But I digress. Back to the lovely OF.

To explain, can I just give you an example of a sentence I read this morning:

House big enough, with plenty bathrooms and rooms to make a group visit comfortable.

The poor OF so blatantly left out. I thought perhaps it was just an omission (these things happen) but then... I stumbled across TWO more sentences that had left it out. Chilling, isn't it? Has some wierdo made off with OF?

Hatching a plan

So, there I was thinking. Not an unusual thing for me, perhaps even “too usual.” I was thinking of the surrealism of it, the difference between this world I live in, here in the city, and the one I long for, there under the wide sky. Trying to rid myself of the feeling of suffocation that it is (has always) instilled in me.

The thing is that it is so hard to quantify. I do love it here, too, of course. I wouldn’t stay if I didn’t (or would I?)… It is beautiful, I am blessed with mountains and sea and vineyards and wonderful friends, what more could I ask for? To be rid of the claustrophobia, that’s what. I am trying hard not to be whingy and ungrateful, because I have so much to be grateful for. I’m just struggling with it.

I keep looking out of my window, like those sad penguins at the aquarium staring out of their glass cage to the sea beyond, and wishing for that big sky, that fresh air, that magic. The magnetism of that place seems to pull more each time I go there, until, at some point, it will become impossible to ignore. At some stage, I get the feeling that I will be pulled back there, even if I try to stay.

G felt it too. We’ve decided it’s time to hatch a plan, to get it right, to make it work. We're aiming for next Autumn, and I'm putting this in writing because, well, then it'll be more tangible.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An aside

Did you see what happened there? I went into the Karoo and the stories just tumbled out of me, are tumbling out of me. And I'm loving the writing, not having to force myself like I have been for the past few months, they're just there, pouring out, unstoppable.

I'm sitting in my lounge, in the House in the Middle of the Street, watching the sun set over the mountain and hearing so much city noise and missing the stillness of that place out there, under the huge sky, where the biggest noise is the hadedas coming home to roost in the evenings.

Across the road, through the gate, I have just watched a woman park her car on the pavement, get out, and place five tiny vases, each with a different, also tiny, bouquet of flowers in it, on a tray. The magic continues. The question is just how to keep it going...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Off to the Karoo

I’m so excited that I can hardly breathe. Tomorrow we set off in The Silver-Winged Unicorn to the vast expanse of The Karoo, one of my favourite places in the world. Two of my favourite people in the world, and I. We will stay in Nieu Bethesda where the air is clear, my heart squeezes in pleasure and the stars are sprinkled liberally in the night skies. A place where donkeys amble about on the dusty streets and there is no petrol station, no grocery store, no ATM. Bliss.

I hope to be inspired, to write.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writing Prompt One: Melting ice

I’ve decided to do a thing, due to my blocked writing channels. A couple of years ago I wrote a month of 100 words – basically 100 words exactly, every day, for a month, it’s a fabulous website and documented a very beautiful time in my life and I really enjoyed it so I've decided it's time for something like that again.

A while ago I downloaded a list of thirteen writing prompts from a website somewhere and I’m now going to do them. Some of my blogs will be stories I’ve made up, using the prompts. They’re quite cool, and a bit difficult, but I need a challenge. I’ll tell you the prompt after each story. Here’s the first:

The walls of the flat are thin, and it’s a hot evening so the balcony doors are open to let in what I hoped would be some cool air. In fact it is only letting in more of the hot, still breaths of the sweating city and the noise from the next door flat. The air fills with the shrieking that one expects to hear when something really bad happens. It’s followed by some ineffectual interjections from a lower voice, one of those overly calm kinds that would certainly make me shriek louder.

I step onto the balcony in search of the non-existent breeze and because I’m a voyeur and can’t hear properly, the thin walls muffling the noise. As I settle into the canvas chair on my balcony and put my glass of wine filled with ice-fighting-for-its-life-in-the-heat, I see a flurry of letters being thrust from the next door balcony and I smell a tiny whiff of cheap perfume from the papers that flutter lazily downwards. Someone’s history, left to fend for itself on the hot city pavement below.

Contemplating running down the stairs to gather them up and read them but too hot to move, I sip on my wine. The ghosts of the melted ice form condensation on the side of the glass and cool my lips momentarily. The shrieking continues but moves further away, finally punctuated with the slam of a door. I take another sip and watch a black cat hunting a chip packet on the other side of the street.


Prompt 1: Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man’s friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.

I’m not sure that I got it quite right but I had fun doing it so that’s okay, right?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Computer geek conversations

My one CD-drive on my computer at Real Work suddenly decided not to work yesterday afternoon. It was a wet and grey day here. You may think I’m losing the plot and flitting from computers to weather illogically. There is method to my madness. The link will soon be made clear (well, sort-of.)

I work at one of the largest tertiary educational institutions down at the foot of Africa so one expects the pimply youths running our IT department to be of an extremely high grade. This was the conversation I had. I’ll let you decide:

IT Geek: IT Helpdesk, Pimply Youth speaking, how can I help?
Shiny: Hi Pimply Youth, it’s Shiny, from up here in The Ivory Tower. My CD drive… blah blah blah…
IT Geek: Ah, yes, hmmm, um. Have you tried switching your machine off?
Shiny: Yes. Twice.
IT Geek: Ah, yes, hmmm, um. Can I connect remotely to your machine and I’ll see what I can do.
Shiny: Sure, go ahead.
IT Geek: Ah, yes, hmmm, um.

Silence.

More silence.

Shiny: Hello? Pimply Youth?
IT Geek: Ah, yes, hmmm, um. The network is a bit slow. I’m just waiting for remote access.
Shiny: Ah, okay. Slow? Yes. I’ve noticed.
IT Geek: It’s cloudy you see.
Shiny: Yes, I’ve noticed that too. What does that have to do with remote access?
IT Geek: Well, you know when a woman has a caesarean section?
Shiny: Urm, yes?
IT Geek: Well, when they’ve had one, and it’s cloudy and grey, they get moody and slow.
Shiny: (completely stumped silence)
IT Geek: Network access and, therefore, remote access are the same.

I couldn’t make this shit up. He did, however, after this gem of wisdom, fix the problem so I guess I should just be grateful.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another letter I should send: Women's Day

Remember last year’s Women’s Day treat that was organised by Real Work? The talk on post-partum depression? Well, this year, they outdid themselves, inspiring (yet another) Letter I should Send. In order to celebrate women, which is the point of Women’s Day. We were invited to a talk and ‘light refreshments’. The topic this year: “Alcohol Abuse: Do we care?” Seriously.

Dear Real Work Party Planning Committee,

Thank you, again, for thinking of us and rewarding us with a little treat to celebrate Women’s Day. Unfortunately, “Alcohol Abuse – Do we care?” is honestly the most awful topic I’ve ever heard of. I didn’t think you could beat last year’s awful topic, but you seem to have managed. I’m amazed, but in horrified way.

Why on god’s green earth would you think that we’d like to celebrate our womanliness discussing such a depressing topic, with the added assumption in the title of the talk that we don’t care about it? Next year you could go for something more upbeat, perhaps “Toenail infections – when to seek medical help” or something like that?

I do want to say, though, thanks again for organising lunch snacks. You sure know how to make a lady feel good on Women’s Day. Thank you, too, for putting in the effort to plan the celebration. How does one get onto the committee? Just a question… I’m not planning on ousting you all or anything, really.

With love,
Shiny x

Uggh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Turmoils of thought

I want to write, and I've started about four gazillion (give or take) blogs and lost momentum. They're piling up over there, on the other side of my desk, past the Ferrero Rocher wrapper (empty, unfortunately). I have so much to say, my mind is bouncing between the darkest depths and knowing stuff needs to be outed and complete inertia.

See? Completely turmoiled, my head is.I really do have lots to say. Hell, I haven't even begun with all the Spain stories and we've been back for, what, three months? Ai. How does time fly so? The Spain stories are going dull at the edges, losing their distinct lines, they must be written quick, before they curl up like Autumn leaves and fall off the tree into nooks and crannies that I can't reach.

So here I am, waffling, in an attempt to get the momentum going. Enough already. Hopefully you'll see me again tomorrow. I can't promise intelligable writing - is that even a word? - but I will, at least, try to write. Before the thoughts in my head devour me alive.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The mist

There’s something about mist that is lovely. Perhaps only for those of us who don’t have to experience it too often, though, I’d think. It just feels to me like a hug from The Weatherman, albeit a slightly damp hug.

It seems to me that in thick mist, like that that fell over The City Beneath the Mountain this morning, the trees and plants get away with doing things they can’t (or won’t?) normally do. Like jumping up and down, or wiggling their trunks, or dancing a little. They know, that, if we humans notice, we’ll shake our little heads and blame it on a trick of the mist on our eyes.

There is the most beautiful huge old Wild Fig tree down there, on the other side of the river. It’s so big that it’d take about six tree-hugging hippies, depending on how long their arms are, to hug it. It stretches into the sky with its branches waving very much toward the direction in which the wind blows, like a wild hairstyle. Today, as I looked across when we drove past on the way to The Ivory Tower, I swear I saw it, through the mist, wave one of its ancient tree hands at me.

I waved back, in the hope that a human response might encourage it to wave again, even when its not misty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

In memorium

She thought that if she carefully opened up her chest and took her heart out it might help. She did it gently, knowing the fragility of it all and wrapped it in layer upon layer of the softest, reddest satin and put it in a beautiful engraved wooden box that her grandmother had given her as a child. She’d said it was a magic box and could be used quite safely to hold secrets and valuable things.

Carefully she placed the box in her bedside cupboard and whispered some unintelligible words as she closed it and lay down on her bed. It didn’t help, though, the box couldn’t protect her heart. Her despair leaked out of her, a gush of red, a waterfall of disillusionment, into a puddle of hopelessness. And her heart gently stopped beating in its beautiful red satin outfit. She sighed and was peaceful at last.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday night party

When he sat down next to me I could almost smell that rich, earthy, moss smell. He reminded me of a beautiful, old tree with gnarled bark that tells a thousand stories, its tree toes snuggled in the rich earth, a coat of moss to keep it warm. I can't pinpoint exactly why, but he was the closest thing I've ever come across to a tree, other than an actual tree of course.

He had an air of sadness, though, that I recognised instantly. A loneliness that coursed through his veins, although we were surrounded by people at the party. A country creature in the city, we discussed my country longings and I envied his home in the hills.

She had bright red lips and flaming orange hair. She painted my lips the same red and, momentarily, I felt slutty and beautiful. I hadn't met her before, but I'd heard about her. The now-not-so-new girlfriend of a friend of mine. I was pleased, she's lovely and they seem truly happy and well-suited.

A drummer started the dancing. We all gathered, the cool crowd and me, a heaving mass of party people, noisy, vibey, but still, the loneliness, as I felt the beat go through me and shouted out for more. He was obliging and I wished I could take him home, put him in a corner of my lounge and get him to beat a life-affirming rhythm whenever I felt the urge.

A tree man, a girl with flaming orange hair and blood red lips, a clutch of old friends around flames in tin cans, then home to bed with avo on toast. Friday night in The City beneath the Mountain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bumping back to reality

Coming back from our idyllic mountain stay I landed back in the city with a series of heartbreaking bumps. We bought a newspaper on the road back and G read the devastating report of the tragedy in Norway. It worries me that, as a society, we seem to be breeding this kind of violence. My heart goes out to the families of those children and, mostly, to the children who were there, who must surely be gripped by a fear and horror that is hard to imagine.

Then the news of Amy Winehouse – not unexpected, but still sad. She was a talented and obviously conflicted woman. Hopefully she has now found her peace. If only the gossip press would leave it alone. All this talk of speculation about how she died? Honestly, we all know. Let her be now, just let it go.

The most devastating and the point at which my heart really boke, though, was when I logged in to Stalkbook, the bearer of all news, good or bad. A wonderful friend of mine from school was found dead in her apartment by her husband. Her daughter is three. She was 36-years old. A strange story really – they lived in South America, so far away from home and family, and apparently she said she was tired and went for a nap. A while later her husband went to check on her and she was dead.

It just all seems so wrong and out of sync but I suppose that’s the nature of death. It’s incomprehensible, despite the fact that it is a truth for everybody at some point. Things like this, though, make me sit up and pay attention because so often I forget to do so. Life is so incredibly fragile, every interaction with every creature may be the last you have. Because of this, I am reminding myself to be a little kinder, gentler. To be sure that the people I love, know that I love them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In the mountains

Despite the grey, the place is spectacular. In fact, the grey may even make it more spectacular. The mountains tower above us like ancient giants and the quiet is interrupted only by the hundreds of weaver birds who are building nests in the pepper tree in front of the verandah, their other birdie friends and the “hee-haw” of Milly, Tilly and Violet, the three donkeys who amble about the valley, wherever they like. Truly free-range.

The house is 150-years old and overlooks an apricot orchard, beyond which the mountain towers. Behind it, the second range reaches even higher into the sky, their tops shrouded in cloud. There are raptors here that nest in the crags and soar through the crisp, clear, fresh air. Idyllic.

The baby boys love it. They run and look and explore, dragging Grandpa behind them, running to tell Mummy, Granny, me, G, what they saw – water, mountains, donkeys, piggies, sheep, the list seems endless. They, and we, sleep like babies, in the oh-so-dark night, undisturbed by any lights from the city. The isolation is blissfully complete.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Away we go



The sun is shining in preparation for our weekend away. We’re all going – my mother and father, sister and the delicious now 2-year old nephews and G. Unfortunately N, my sister’s partner has to go to Ghana for work which is crap, so she’s not coming. We’re going off into the countryside, in the mountains where we’ll celebrate my father’s upcoming 70th and the babies 2nd birthdays last week.

It’s shining now, but the forecast is rain for much of the weekend. It doesn’t matter though, we’re going to a house up in the mountains where the air is fresh and there are donkeys. The baby boys have galoshes which they love to the point of wanting to wear them instead of slippers in the morning and after their bath, to bed.

The baby boys are bliss-inducing. They turned two last week, can you believe? It seems like yesterday that my sister was on the verge of popping. They’re intelligent, engaging, funny, highly verbal and interested in everything. Delicious. Such fun having them to stay all week. It’s been a whirl of animal noises, fish fingers, giggles and running around after The Siamese Princess who is, I fear, not as impressed as I.

And then, away we go tomorrow. Into those faraway hills. Yipeee!


Just to show you how big they are - a picture of them at the aquarium, above, which they loved.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gone dreaming

I've been busy having something I would liken to a mid-life crisis I think. Mild anxiety with a strong urge to flee into the countryside where the air is fresh(er) and the sky is vast. In between mid-life-crisising, I have been having some fun, fretting about how I could possibly have become old enough to have a mid-life crisis, and attempting to do a lot of work to keep the wolves from the door.

Life, I guess, is what you'd call it. I keep having sudden moments of clarity, though, when I think that I'm sticking around too long, waiting for something to happen. It's not going to happen without a push and there's nobody in my vicinity who's going to make the push for me, so best I get myself going. Half the time I'm so tired that I have to drag myself out of bed, though, making the task of going to buy a firecracker, then light it, and stick it under my bum just too exhausting to contemplate.

I'm trying, really I am, and that's the most I can do. I'm trying to keep those clear moments at the fore, hatching plans, dreaming things, trying to catch the dreams and make them my reality. In the meantime, I'm trying to remain grateful for what I have which is, don't get me wrong, a hell of a lot, and I'm looking out of my turret across to the mountains far away there and dreaming. There's a woman in the building opposite who seems to be doing the same thing - I can see her leaning out of her window in the sun, just thinking.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dreaming of wheat fields

We followed the ribbon of tar that leads upupup into Africa to the desert, drove past the Ugly Duckling Beauty Salon and looked into the Lucky Lips CafĂ© in the small town that boasts that it’s the cleanest town in the country.Then we left it behind us and drove through fields of bright green lucerne, to the even smaller town, the one that doesn’t even have a petrol pump, the one where Tannie Anna stood outside the bottle store, red guitar in hand.

To a cottage with thick stone walls and a fireplace, surrounded by stillness. I could breathe, huge lungsful of clear, crisp Winter air, the sounds of birds twittering. We ambled over to the pub, me with my book, G to watch the rugby upstairs. The view from my window looked like a painting – two adjoining fields, one golden, one emerald in the fading afternoon sun before the clouds came over, bursting with big, fat drops.

She’s from Holland, so doesn’t speak Afrikaans, the pretty girl that walked in looking for Oliver. He was upstairs, watching the rugby, but she sat next to the bar and ordered a tomato juice. It was taken to the kitchen and seemed to be taking awfully long, which we started discussing. I asked if she wanted a Bloody Mary, because it seemed that was what was coming and she told me that no, she couldn’t, because deep inside her a tiny foetus is growing. I clasped this secret information to my breast, a beautiful little glimpse into somebody else’s life, as I explained to the bar lady in Afrikaans, feeling protective of this stranger and her little secret burrowed inside her, that just tomato juice was required, no vodka.

We chatted for a bit, then I returned to my book until a disappointed-in-the-rugby G came down and we ate tomato bredie in front of the fire to warm our tummies and cheer her up. A young girl and her boyfriend were entertaining the boyfriend’s parents in the next room and she kept escaping and coming to chat, exclaiming they were the only two in the village under 50-year’s old. We spoke of longing to be in such a place and her boyfriend basically invited us to stay with them, desperate for young(er) company.

And then back to our little cottage with its fireplace and rietdak ceiling, the rain playing music on the tin roof. Even the manager was away for the weekend so it was all ours. Blissfully quiet, woken by birds and the sound of the church bells up the hill.

Driving home we took a back road, through emerald lucerne fields dotted about with lambs, it was surreally beautiful and I wished not to go back to the city. I pleaded with G to turn left and not right, gulping air, feeling wistful. She was feeling the same as we trudged back into the city lights. My heart feels heavy with a longing that I fear may consume me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spain 2: Barcelona

It’s true that Barcelona never sleeps. It positively throbs. We stayed in a beautifully central apartment within walking distance of many of the Gaudi buildings and a couple of fabulous little squares, including one with a towering clock in the middle with a tolling bell and the most amazing ice cream shop on its corner. It had Nutella ice cream that tasted as if it had dropped directly from heaven into the old, glass-fronted, wooden-panelled shop with a beautiful, smiley boy behind the counter. Then the Poppy ice cream, like lying in a field of poppies with a Spring sun shining on your face. Sublime.

I’m the first to admit I’m a small town girl so I was initially a little intimidated by the city’s hum, but then we walked through its ancient narrow streets, exploring the back alleys that looked like scenes out of a gothic movie, washing hanging above, little balconies with potplants on them, ancient walls and new graffiti, and I got into the rhythm.

We spent a lot of time just wandering about the back streets, behind the tourist-tat-filled ones and sitting at street cafes, drinking ice cold beer, eating tapas, watching people. One day we wound our way through a narrow alley toward Barcelona Cathedral, confused by the ever-loudening rock music. Popping into the sunshine of the cathedral square, we were met by a stage made of a double-decker bus on which a Spanish rock band were rocking to a large audience of Spanish youths. To the left, some fabulous wall art, to the right, the cathedral herself – beautiful, ancient, intricate.

We stayed and rocked for a bit and then went into the cathedral, her thick stone walls blocking out the noise, her air thick with hundreds of year’s of people’s prayers. I’m not particularly religious but here, in this cavernous building with its many beautifully decorated, gold-bedecked little chapels, I was stunned into silence. I felt like the very air I was breathing contained so many hopes and dreams, mine included. Mainly the shattered ones, although, I’m sure the fulfilled ones were there. I was overcome by sadness and I cried, big, fat tears, the kind that drip off your face and land in your lap, for all the lost souls.

I lit candles in the courtyard outside with the pretty geese and I watched their flames flicker, little lights, symbols of warmth and love and hope and I breathed again, the warm air of Barcelona. Afterwards, anyone watching would've seen three girls disappearing down the side street to find the hidden coffee shop in which to drink carajillos, write postcards and watch life pass us by.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A visit to the gallery: Tretchikoff

I’ve always liked Tretchikoff’s work, so when I saw that they were showing the first retrospective exhibition of his work at The National Gallery, I was very pleased. H, C, and I traipsed off there on Saturday morning, wrapped warmly against the icy Winter’s day.

I love The National Gallery. It sits in The Company Gardens looking like a beautifully iced simple wedding cake, the old kind, back when they were always a square fruit cake with white icing over and you slept with a squashed slice under your pillow, to dream of your future husband. It looks out over the ponds of the gardens toward Signal Hill and inside it is still and the air is thick with art. It always makes me want to sing out loud.

The gallery types, especially, make me want to sing loudly. You know the ones – they all look terribly intellectual and have scarves wrapped artistically around their necks and they say things like “Ah yes, this was in his flower phase, when he was depicting the intricacies of the social system of the time, using a floral motif, ” where I say “Ooo, look at those pretty flowers he painted!”

I did, in fact, say a lot of that, because I especially liked his big, colourful, highly-textured flower paintings. His iconic Chinese Girl is there too, and a whole lot of others. I hadn’t realised how prolific he was, and how wide a range he had – from still-life to nudes to portraits to animals (which I didn’t like) to some haunting and disturbing war images, he did all sorts.

It’s always nice, though, to go to an exhibition. To see something creative, to admire a great man’s talent, to be allowed to look through somebody else’s eyes, just for a little bit, and to wonder what they were thinking and know that what you’re thinking they were thinking is probably a thousand miles away from what they really were thinking at the time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Joan Rivers: A piece of work

I went to the documentary festival on Friday evening and watched Joan Rivers: A piece of work. When we went into the dark cinema, I knew very little about her, other than that she was famous for two things: being funny and being plastic-surgeried to the hilt. After leaving, I had those two things confirmed and had learnt a whole lot more.

She’s 75-years old and looks about 55-years old, but in a stretched and strained, far-too-much make-up, unnatural kind of way. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an attractive woman, but in a desperately clinging to youth manner, something I have never found graceful. When the credits roll at the end there’s a scene where there are two of her and one moves suddenly – it’s her. The other is her wax double at Madame Taussads (sp?). It provides the perfect analogy for her plastic surgery – she looks waxy.

The thing that struck me most, though, was her battle for perfection, her insatiable desire for recognition, not as a comedienne, but as an actress. She will never be satisfied with how well she’s done and she is so terribly sad for it. It’s also made perfectly clear that she’s lost friends because of it. Underneath her side-splitting funniness (and she is extremely funny), clear as day, is a creature so vulnerable, so terribly tragic that I longed to hug her and say: “It’s okay, relax, you’ve done well.” I think I'm going to write her a letter to say just that, even though I'm sure she hears it from far more important people than me, all the time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lift music

I'd tag her at about 49-years old, give-or-take five years. Her hair is dyed blonde, cut well and looks like it took a good amount of time earlier in the evening to get it to its current state - long, smooth and loose. She wears an unsuitably-tight-for-her-age white lace top. Underneath it she either has a boob job or a very good push-up bra, which we can clearly see. A little off-putting, really.

She breezed in as if she owned the restaurant, with a strangely-shaped large black suitcase that looked like something a mafioso might carry. She had various other boxes and a suitcase with her, all of which she placed next to us in the space left there after she ordered the waiter to remove the table and chairs. Right. Next. To. Us. Close enough for me to look at her perfect make-up, lots of it.

Collecting a bar stool from the bar, she placed it in the spot next to us too, and then led a power cord under our table and plugged in a small computer which she placed on a small table that she'd found somewhere while I wasn't looking. Her white lace top and dyed-blonde hair glowed in the blue light from the screen.

We were finishing up our food, chatting voraciously about books. It was book club, after all, a haphazardly put-together meeting of The Eager Beaver's Reading Circle because one of our circle, our host for last night, had to rush away to see her sick mother-in-law. We'd decided not to just cancel, but instead to meet at a restaurant, just to chat, because we can.

At this point the lady opened her mafioso suitcase and I wondered whether I should duck under the table, seeing the headlines in my head: "Eager Beaver's Reading Circle members injured in bizarre mafioso shootout at local eatery." Luckily, my sense came to me before I made a total fool of myself, as she pulled out a large, very shiny, saxophone.

She then began to play, using her computer to make background beats, what I can only refer to as Kenny G-esque lift music. Basically, my worst musical genre. Luckily, we were done with dinner, so could pay the bill and leave hurriedly, the dulcet sounds of the saxophone haunting us all the way into the parking lot.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not another one

I’ve known her for years although, in the past four or so, I have seen her less and less. She moved back home to the small town where people know her and knew her parents and their parents before them. I was glad for her, she seemed lonely here and unsafe in the house she shared with her sister and son and she was always ill.

She called me two weeks ago, when I’d just got back from Spain and was sitting waiting for a friend at a restaurant. It was that dreaded, heart-sinking, scream-inducing phone call. The one where the person on the other side says: “I have cancer.” And you want to cancel the call and throw your phone into the pond next to you in which two goldfish swim, not noticing a thing, in the hope that, by throwing it there the call won’t have happened and it won’t be true.

Yesterday afternoon she popped in to visit with her son who used to be a little boy and is now a grown man. She looked tiny and fragile, despite being wrapped up in layers of clothing. Always prone to being a little morbid previously, she was surprisingly upbeat, if pale and wide-eyed.

At Real Work yesterday I had a discussion with a doctor who had been soothing another collegue whose mother has brain cancer (monstrous thing is everywhere). He said something I hadn’t thought of before: “We all die,” he said (I had thought of that, not the next bit), “and, in some ways, it’s a better option to be given a time frame. It gives you time to tie up loose ends, to say goodbye, to tell people you love them.”

A difficult concept to grasp. I have never been okay with the thought of death. Of anyone else dear to me’s death, that is, not mine. Mine, I’m fine with. Maybe that makes me intrinsically selfish?

I didn’t ask her what the prognosis is. She’s being given some treatment, and I hope it works but, mostly, I hope that in this whole process she doesn’t feel too sore or yukky and that she will be loved as she should be, to make it all as okay as it can possibly be.

These things remind one to hug the people you love closer, to be nicer, gentler, kinder. Time is limited, always.

This cancer thing is a bitch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alone time

I sat alone. Luxuriously alone. Well, really, I wasn't alone. Who is, in The City Beneath the Mountain? But I was alone in a generic coffee shop, at my own table, frequented only by a smiley waitress asking me if I wanted things. Being on my own is something that doesn't happen often.

I had my book with me and I delighted in spreading my (rather small) handbag over the whole table, making sure anyone who looked at me knew I was not expecting anyone else. I was just waiting for a friend who would not be joining me, but rather just picking me up. Then we were going shopping. In the meantime, though, I was fabulously alone.

To celebrate, I ordered a glass of wine. And I drank it, all alone, in-between reading my book and just sitting. Everyone around me was drinking coffee, it being a coffee shop, so I felt especially decadent. They were also all eating American-sized slices of cake and muffins that were aimed at Gulliver as I, again, questioned why such huge food is necessary... It's SO wasteful, nobody ever finishes those slices.

I was disappointed that I hadn't arrived half an hour earlier, as the table behind me contained two ladies who could've been in their 40's, 50's or 60's, maybe even 70's. It was really hard to tell because their skins were stretched and tucked, their lips plumped. They were plastic. It's beside the point, though, because unfortunately they were paying their bill, after what sounded like a long session.

"And then, my latest, was such a wonderful man. We were so in love and filled with passion, but after two months I realised he was just using me, so I kicked him out." She'd obviously just regaled her entire romantic history. And I missed it! But still, I was luxuriously alone, with my glass of wine and my book. Glorious.

I watched a woman interview a young girl in the corner, her hands twitching and wriggling beneath the table, which I could see from my vantage point. It was a job for a PA to a chartered account, one that is "well-known in Cape Town" and needs discretion. I'd have loved to know the back story to that too. Maybe he chartered accounts dodgy strip bars in the seedy parts of town.

Then C arrived and we did adminny things like paying bills and shopping for soap. I'm a sucker for a bargain and found an enormous bottle of the 2-in-1 shampoo I used in Spain, so bought it. It contains 150 washes, according to its label, so I hope I didn't love it so much in Spain because I had my Spain bliss on. Otherwise it's going to be a long hairwashing year!

Even the admin seemed fine in the afterglow of an hour with just me. That sounds terribly vain but is not meant in that vein. Snigger.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Glad-wrapped and pizza-ed

There was a sweet, young couple at the table in the corner. It was the most dimly-lit space in the otherwise quite-bright-for-a-restaurant pizzeria. He looked like the stereotypical computer-geek from teen Hollywood movies, she was young and pretty. They shared a chocolate brownie for pudding and left holding hands.

I needed to go to the restaurant, one I’ve driven past on my way home from work for nearly 14 years but never been in. I had a voucher you see, that needed using and a disposition that’d make a bipolar sufferer off their meds look like a kitten. That’s why I needed it. The cling wrap is too tight, I needed out. G, too, was wound tight as elastic inside a golf ball. An old family-friendly place that smelt like pizza ovens was a good choice. It catapulted me back to a childhood place and wrapped me in its warm flour-dusted embrace.

All around us were families, each seemed to me to have an anomaly of some sort. The family with grown-up children next to us had a mother who is obviously going through chemo, her hair almost gone. They were talking and laughing and shared a salad to start. When their pizzas arrived the table was suddenly too small as they shared those too.

Next to them, another family – mom, dad, teenage daughter and boyfriend and much younger, very pretty blonde princess daughter in a spangley outfit more suited to a burlesque club. The parents were huge, their children tiny. They, too, were deeply engaged in conversation and handed phones around to show photos, Facebook statuses, heaven-knows-what. The princess threw her head to the table when they didn’t listen to her story.

Behind us two fresh young boys (oh, I sound old… they were in their early 20’s) sat with an older wealthy-looking lady, possibly one of their mother’s, talking passionately about music. We decided they were hoping she’d fund their band. They reminded me of various boys I went out with in my university days.

There was an old-fashioned carpet on the floor in deep, rich colours, highly patterned. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much red wine, how many pizza crumbs and olive bits and parmesan sprinklings were crunched into those patterns. How many family dramas, delighted celebrations, declarations of love and declarations of unlove... just stories of people's lives does that carpet have woven into it? We drank wine, ate pizza, spoke of plans to see things, get out of the city, breathe. The feeling of suffocation is just there making us both tetchy and short-tempered and that makes me anxious, a gnawing in my stomach that something in my life needs to break open.

I’ll plan it slowly though, tentatively. Start with a night, look to see not just to look, breathe it in, smell the smells, feel the wind, writewritewrite. Turn it into something that’ll keep me. Something that’ll keep me happily, most importantly.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cotton wool mist

It wasn't that misty when I drove up to Real Work today. It was just the kind of misty that makes you feel like you didn't wash the sleepy dust out of your eyes properly. In Winter it's still dark when I take the metal-box-full-of-people-pretending-not-to-know-each-other to my top floor perch in The Ivory Tower at Real Work.

I'm not a fan of Winter, as you know, but I do like watching the sun rise out of my big windows that look all the way to the mountains on the other side, all alone with only my music, or silence, before the others arrive squwaking and preening. I'm spoilt, I know. In Winter, dawn often dresses herself in the oranges and pinks of a child's box of crayons. She throws colours on the clouds in great swarthes (sp?). Very pretty indeed.

This morning, though, the sleepy dust mist had an orgy while I caught the metal box up from ground floor to my high-up perch and, by the time I'd reached my big window, had reproduced and filled up outside completely. It was like being in a jar packed in cotton wool. It licked damply at the window and I changed that simile in my head. I was a little pea, left to germinate between two soggy bits of cotton wool, like we did when we were children, marvelling at the wonder of plants growing.

That sense of marvel, that hope to grow into something delightful, I think I'll keep that with me for the week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An open letter to Ronald McDonald

During a visit to Stalkbook yesterday to play Scrabble and voyeuristically mess around, I came across an ad that made me need to write another letter:

Dear Ronald (I hope you don't mind me calling you by your first name - you seem like the kind of clown guy who wouldn't mind),

I play Scrabble on Facebook. I love it. It supplies me with a wholesome activity to break up the tedium of my day. You should try it. If you make friends with me on Facebook, we could play a game together. There's something about words that makes me all mushy inside. But, let me not stray from the point. You're a busy clownguy, and I'm sure you don't have time to hear about my love affair with words. Do think about trying though, won't you? It's a wonderful stress-reliever.

Back to the point. While playing my beloved Scrabble my eye kept getting distracted by an ad for a competition to win a year's worth of McDonald's Breakfasts. Seriously. You probably know about it. It was amongst those other ads, the ones that advertise jobs from home that earn R40 000/month and 30kg weight loss in 2.5 days. You know the ones? The ones that surely only people whose brains have been turned to mush by eating too much junk food could believe.

Now I know that you are merely the head of a huge corporation with capitalist leanings, tending to focus more on the amount of money you can extricate from your adoring public by handing out 'free' plastic toys to fill our landfills and clog our drains with your nutritionally-questionable, ginormous, fast food, but surely even you can see the disadvantages of such a deal?

It can't possibly be healthy to eat McDonalds for breakfast every day. And who would want to? Oh, wait, maybe I'm alone in that thought. Forgive me, I'm medically-minded. Perhaps offering a bag of oranges a day for a year might be better? Or, if you really wish to please the tree-huggers (you do, don't you?), a bag of locally-sourced, seasonal fruit a day for a year.

Suffice to say, I probably won't be entering your competition. Please don't forget to join Scrabble so we can play a game, though. I might even allow our first board to be food-orientated if that'd entice you. I think a bit of word play is just what you need to save you from your corporate hell.

Much love,

Shiny x

Perhaps, this one, I should really send.

Oh, enough already

So there I was, whinging and whining and bemoaning my place in this unjust and nasty world we live in, when I looked out of my window and saw picture-book clouds (admittedly building up into a storm), that had turned bright pink in the glow of the sun setting over The City Beneath the Mountain. My heart scrunched at the beauty of it.

At the same time, I received a Real Work e-mail with photographs of a woman living in a faraway rural area with little access to anything, let alone medical help, who is having a nasty skin reaction to her medication. I cried. Not purely because it looked so sore and uncomfortable, but because of her eyes. They were dull. Not blank dull but the kind of dull that reflects a life of poverty, harshness and struggle.

I landed back to earth with a bump. How dare I be miserable in my kushy (sp?) job, a warm home with full cupboards to go home to, people who love me on the end of numerous telephones, all with their accounts paid? How dare I get cross because my personal space is forever invaded? Those people care for me, anger is not allowed.

So I cried, deep down crying, and pulled myself up by my bootstraps and made a vow with myself to spend more time finding nice things to do, for me and other people, and to spend less time navel-gazing in a quagmire of self-indulgent misery.

Forgive me for making you all (my two readers) have to be audience to it.