Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Visa

G needs a visa to go to Spain. Being organised by nature, I called the embassy two months ago and was brusquely given an appointment, a month later. 11:40, on the said day which was the ‘earliest possible’ I was told by the man on the phone, busily. The day was last week.

We had checked the website and read up on the hundred-million things needed, got them all together, filled in forms in duplicate, photocopied them, photocopied the photocopies, had pictures taken (turn left, turn forward, face front), showing her ears, in colour, 0.2mm white border, no-more-no-less, photocopied them, drew blood from her finger to smear on them for DNA, cut a lock of her hair to stick on the visa application, put her toe nail clippings in the envelope provided***, got all the letters from the people we’re visiting in Spain declaring their allegiance to the country, etc.

We checked and rechecked and arrived at the embassy’s big wooden door in the city and rang the bell in the wall, early, at 11:20.

Voice in the Speakerphone: Yes?
Us: Hello, we’re here for a visa appointment.
VitS: Who are you?
Us: G and Shiny.
VitS: You’re late. Your appointment was 10:40.
Us (with tone of shock and abject apology): Oh no! Sorry, we were told 11:40.

The speakerphone seemed to sigh. Bzzzzt. The door was opened by a smiley, very unSpanish-looking (pure South African) man who welcomed us through. Let’s call him Ben, so as not to get confused. Ben ushered us through the doors, through the metal detector, which obviously doesn’t work as it was stonily silent despite my knowing I have metal in me that sets them off, and through to a large room with seats around the edges and a post office-style counter with two windows at one end and a door on the side leading to some fancy stairs. There was a very Spanish-looking man at one window, the other was empty.

A couple was at the window with the man and the room was otherwise empty. Ben pointed at the seats and told us to wait our turn, we’d be called, smiled, and disappeared through the door. A minute later he popped up at the window looking oh-so-serious. Another minute and G was called by him. He showed no sign of recognition as he bureaucratically asked for the forms, toenail clippings and the gazillion South African rands this whole process costs. Dead pan. It was at this point we realised we’d left half the forms on my desk at home.

G and I tittered to each other, trying not to get too stressed by this situation while Ben very seriously stamped what forms we’d given him. Finally we admitted our error. I phoned B, asked her to bring the forms and Ben told us it was fine (still unsmiling), as long as everything was there by close of day. If all was fine, the visa was to be collected a week later, between 11:45 am and noon. This I am not exaggerating. The window of opportunity is small.

We took ourselves out and over the road for a cup of coffee while we waited for B to return with the errant Important Documents. About fifteen minutes later we saw the big wooden embassy doors opening and out popped Ben. He saw us, waved, and smiled, friendly as can be. Then he walked down to a very large BMW with diplomatic plates, got into the driver’s seat, and sat. G and I discussed what we were going to do when the Important Documents arrived – give them to him in the car or take them to the other dude inside? It was a wasted conversation because another ten minutes later he drove the big BMW to the wooden doors through which an important-looking Spanish man emerged and climbed into the back seat. This all happened within a meter of us, his driver’s window open to us. He looked at us, unrecognising, and did up his tinted window.

A multi-tasking man. And so serious in all his official roles! Thanks to Ben, we are now in possession of necessary visa and ready to leave for Spain on Sunday!

***Some of these requirements may be slightly exaggerated.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A blogging rant

This blogging thing is fascinating. One of the first blogs I got hooked on is Family Affairs, a blog written wittily, truthfully and very funnily by a woman who has been through a divorce, has three growing children, a new (well, not anymore new, years-old now, but he was new) boyfriend called BB, and an ex-husband who has recently married her boyfriend’s ex-wife. Yes, you heard correctly. They met after she’d been together with BB for a good while and they (the ex-husband and boyfriend’s ex-wife) married within a year! Jerry Springer-esque indeed. She’s not though (Jerry Springer-esque).

The interesting thing is that I feel like she’s one of my friends now, despite being on different continents, and never having met. But I’ve read her blog for years now and gone through the dramas and ructions and plenty of happy times that she’s gone through, throughout the whole thing. She’s struggled and, I think, dealt with numerous verysticky situations admirably. It’s not all drama, by no means, in between there’s loads of fun and just every day stuff, like any blog.

The drama has just come to the fore because suddenly the boyfriend’s ex-wife/husband’s new wife has discovered the blog and now she’s feeling funny about writing things and feeling, I would think, limited. Not that she’s ever used her blog for mud-slinging at all. For the first time ever she had a nasty comment yesterday and, if I can be all judgemental, which I can, this being MY blog, it was bitchy and rather silly. It is also quite suspicious in its timing.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think comments are wonderful. And they don’t need to always be nice – a bit of intelligent debate about any topic, or sound advice even if it’s not what you really want to hear, is welcome. Uninformed commentary and harsh judgement on your life choices, parenting skills or pretty much anything for that matter is, however, not welcome and frankly is unhelpful and unnecessary. There's something to be said for being kind. Always.

I’ve always had an issue with privacy on my blog, which is why I remain (relatively) anonymous. I feel for her over there at Family Affairs. She’s always written honestly and now she must be feeling censored on her own blog. I censor myself, but would hate to have a real reason, like somebody breathing down my neck.

It also brings her to the point of deciding how far to take it. Respond? Ignore? Respond once, then ignore? I guess nobody really wants the kind of back-and-forthing that could result in full-on cat-fighting on their blog, but I’m sure she also feels she should stand up to this person who has made some fairly harsh comments. And on one hand I feel she should, having not deserved the comment she got, in my opinion.

Funny, I get very protective about my friends and, although we’ve never met I count her as one of them. I wanted to write a letter to the nasty commenter and tell her to back off. I had more choice words to use but they’re unladylike so I’ll just use ‘back’ and be all polite.

It got me to thinking what I would do. Honestly, I think I might run into a corner and hide. I’m a sissy with confrontation though. I’d love to be one of those people that gets cross, shouts and walks out, slamming the door behind me. I’m not though, I cannot, ever, leave something festering. With me, it gets sorted out now, even if it means I have to back down.

This is a rambling post again. I wanted to be succinct and sensical and say something wise. I fear I haven’t. For L, from Family Affairs, though, I’d like to shout at her nasty commenter, tell her to bugger off and slam the door in her face. And here, in blogland, where everything is metaphorical, I can.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Absurdly real

I love the theatre. In small doses, mind. A play longer than an hour makes me fidget, unless it’s really good. I went to a production last night at one of my favourite little theatres in The City Beneath the Mountain. It’s little and close and you almost feel like you’re in the play itself.
They’re a young theatre company known to be slick and funny. And that they were, making fun of various theatre forms cleverly, wittily and making spurts of physical theatre look like a walk in the park. They mixed ‘old-fashioned’ with modern and basically took the piss out of all of them, the whole concept of theatre and drama. In the theatre, in a way that had the audience in hysterics. Brilliant stuff.
I needed the escape, the real world being a little tiresome for me at the moment. I was whisked away into another place, where the absurd is real and the real is absurd and when it was done, I didn’t want to come back from the absurdity, where the situation could be changed by moving two chairs and three frames around the stage.
But I had to bump back into reality. At least I had my favourite spaghetti and meatballs in my tummy, although, honestly, the bump was still, urm, rather bumpy. Lack of sleep. That’s what I’m blaming my lack of shininess on. I’m bad on lack of sleep. Just horrible. I’d like to be able to change situations by moving two chairs and three frames.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


He had that pretty boy look, beneath the grime. If he’d had a good shower, washed his jeans-hanging-moodily-below-his-bum-showing-his-boxers, had a R450 Bieberesque haircut and cleaned his finger nails, he could’ve been one of those private school boys I see being dropped off by their mommies in their gas-guzzling 4X4s each morning. But he wasn’t.

I was sitting alone in the passenger seat of the car at the garage. B had gone in to pay, leaving the driver’s side window open to petrol fumes and the lemony scent of the dishwashing liquid in the bucket next to the window – the water for washing windscreens. I smelt it as I riffled through my purse looking for change to tip the petrol attendant, my cell phone (the new one) lying quietly on my lap waiting to be put back in my bag. A clean smell.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw him swagger over. Looking up, I watched him fill his syringe with the sudsy water, squashed up bugs from trips to faraway places rushing through the needle and into the syringe. He squirted it out, shattered dreams from a different type of trip joining the bugs being forced back into the bucket. And again.

I pretended to not look, hid my phone in the door of the car, put my purse between my knees, and watched, acutely aware of the sharpness of that needle. He was completely unthreatening yet I felt threatened, not by him, but by my inability to stop him from walking away, to inject whatever noxious chemical he’d buy around the corner, along with the dishwashing liquid and squashed windscreen bugs now coating the syringe into his young veins.

As we drove away I saw him loitering outside the café waiting for whichever dealer would come by first, licking his lips with delight, swapping death for cash. The scene was watched over by the big old lady of a hospital across the road. A hospital filled with the ghosts of young boys just like him, and I wanted to scream out of my window: “Don’t do it, please. You’re beautiful, and you deserve more than this.” But I didn’t.

This morning, driving past the café, up to the big old lady of a hospital I wondered where he and his dirty, dishwashing liquid-smelling syringe spent the night last night. Winter is coming and the evenings have a decidedly biting edge to them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

It wasn't a culinary affair by any means. Mother's Day yesterday. I suggested we try the new Italian down the road, the one with a view over the parking lot next to the railway track. The one neighbouring the building that the council says may fall down any second due to bad building practice. It was a sunny day, lovely for a walk.

And a lovely walk it was, along the railway track, marvelling at what gets thrown out of trains or perhaps what happens next to railway lines. Many condoms over a short distance. Ugh. Despite the yukkiness, deep down I'm grateful they're being used in this beloved country of ours, riddled with HIV. The sun is wintery, the wind has a bite but it's clear and the sky is brilliant blue. Mothers are being appreciated all over the place.

We sit next to the window so we can make the most of the view of the parking lot. The table next to us have two little girls, a jolly father, a pinch-mouthed mother, probably so exhausted even a smile is too tiring, but she's being a mom, being treated to lunch, in-between making sure the 2-year old doesn't run into the parking lot. Said same 2-year old smiles and waves at us, two-minutely, as she makes for the door.

The menu is basic, with pizzas and pastas reticent of the Italian place we went to in the '80's, the bar is big and has a few hangers on. The brochure on the table proudly announces R10 beers on rugby days. I realise I've brought my mother out for her Mother's Day lunch to a drinking hole.

And she loves it and that's why I love her. She revels in the blackboard menu, the over-cheesed pizza, the slightly cold pasta, even my dad's dry chicken roast. She wants to come for the live music on a Sunday afternoon. And she gets free pudding for being a mum - ice cream with chocolate sauce sprinkled sparsely over it.

I under-appreciate her, often. But really, she's an amazing woman who has gone through some tough things and always dealt with them with the utmost grace and strength of character. I'd be lucky to have inherited even a fraction of that character.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I'm ba-ack!

I keep meaning to write. I have things to say. They're always important and, in hindsight, I convince myself they would've been beautiful, prosaic posts far beyond anything I'm capable of writing. In my head, they are. But life is getting in the way, not giving me my outlet. I'm not letting it. And I must. I miss my blog, and I miss reading everyone elses. I try desperately to catch up every now and then. Listen to me... whinge, whine, moan.

I had my phone stolen on Friday night. This is not an unusual occurrence for South African phones. It happens. First time for me, though. It was at a food fair filled with bourgeois (sp?) people looking beautiful, wanting to be seen. One of them stole my phone. I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing and quite enjoyed being phoneless and having a springclean of phone numbers forced on me. The admin around cancelling, replacing, organising bored me a bit though.

A rambling blog post. I want to get back into it before I fly off to Spain, in TWO WEEKS! So exciting! I'd like to say I'll be blogging all my lovely stories from there but I fear I'll be too busy just being. on. holiday.

I'm going to try to be more regular until then though, I have stories to tell. They're blocking up my head. They need out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


That is Missing In (too much) Action. Some of it good, some of it boring-old-admin. I'm going to bullet point, because I need to be quick. Just some of the things that have kept me away, which each deserve a full story and not just a bullet-point:

  • A night on a farm in a house that had no books, but waking to only birds

  • Being offered rabbit stew on Easter weekend (oy vey)

  • Working my little, um, well, okay, ever-expanding butt off on Other Work, between doing the same on Real Work

  • Getting sorted for Spain! Off to the embassy now to organise G's visa

  • The Wedding - I wasn't all that into it, then I was. There's something about a story that mirrors the fairytales we read as children that gives it an air of magic. As long as you keep the sharp edge of real life out of it

  • Watching The Wedding at my mother with eight women, average age about 67, eating cucumber sandwiches and chocolate cake

  • An afternoon at the market meeting The Farmer and his helper, a young law student with a twinkle in his eye and a melting smile gave me hope for this country's future

And more, but I must rush, or I won't have time to brush my teeth before going to charm the Spaniards. Ole!