Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Eager Beaver's Reading Circle

I finally did it. I’m an adult. Okay, scrap that, I’m one step closer to being an adult. It’s going to take a lot more than this to make me a complete adult. Hell, this 13-year old boy brain is here to stay I think. I stray. I am now, officially, part of a book club. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I’m a co-founder of a book club. We had our inaugural meeting a couple of weeks back. A book club! Indeed.

The Eager Beaver’s Reading Circle.

That’s what we’re called. There are five of us thus far, although one couldn’t come to the inaugural meeting. Does that mean she gets thrown out? We’re unsure of book club etiquette. We knew we needed some food, some wine, the book club/reading circle members… Oh, and, of course, books. The rules, though? That we're unsure of, being virginal book clubbers. We decided to each bring a book we’d read and loved, and a suggestion for another.

It was great: we have an architect, a nutritional therapist, a copywriter and a some-kind-of-computer-worker (well, maybe we have her, depending on the rules). We ate yummy food, discussed our books and pulled two out of a hat for discussion at our next meeting. We plan to be as environmentally correct as possible and not buy too many new books, preferring rather to support second-hand bookshops, and always to have one South Africa book.

Our books:

The Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susanna, ‘cult classic’. I am still to read it, I’ll report back when I have.

The other one, our South African option, is The Au Pair, by Michele Macfarlane, a true story about a married woman who left her husband for… you guessed it… her au pair. I read it in two days. It’s like reading someone’s diary, something we’d all love to do, but don’t (I hope!) because it’s rude to do that. This, however, is allowed. I liked it for its brave honesty. It also contains some hot and heavy lesbian action. (I wonder what hits that sentence will bring on Google…)

So, there you have it, Shiny moves one step closer to adulthood, at her advanced age. I’ve joined the sacred book club circle and we’re serious about it. No drinking wine while discussing the blurbs on the back cover for us, we plan on actually reading the books and talking about them. While drinking wine, of course. Now, if someone could just send me the Book Club Rules, please?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Habitual dinner

I go out for dinner regularly with my parents and their old friends who I call That Other Lady and That Other Lady’s Husband. They’ve known me since I was born so they’re always a comfortable kind of dinner. We always go to the same steak house around the corner, owned by a grumpy man who I adore.

It’s all very predictable always. That Other Lady’s Husband brings a bottle of red wine which they share, although sometimes That Other Lady abstains and drinks lime and soda instead. My father brings a bottle of white wine, which we share, with lots of ice.

We all order the same things each time, altering only the choice of baked potato or chips, according to the time of the month. My father allows himself chips once a month, otherwise goes for the healthier baked potato option. I normally have the baked potato, because I like the sour cream. My dad always orders his steak: “Rare, underdone.” My mother and That Other Lady have their’s medium, I have mine rare and That Other Lady’s Husband has his medium rare.

We talk about how much fun it is to be retired (them), how busy I am at work (me), whatever sport is going on (oh, our boys at the World Cup, sigh) and, newly, because they too now have their first grandchild, the grandchildren.

Last night was a little different, though. A shared close friend of ours, a woman whose kids I grew up with, died on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. She was a warm, generous character with three sons who were the most destructive creatures ever created. She loved them, despite this. I remember being mortally affronted when they broke our much-loved hammock when we were children. She longed for daughters so loved my sister and me and we loved her.

Her youngest son produced a daughter with his girlfriend aged 16-years old about 16 years ago. She was there to catch the baby and had a most joyous 16 years helping raise her. The daughter she’d never had. She was oh-so-brave, and went through three sets of chemo and then decided, with the last recurrence, that enough was enough. We spoke about her a lot last night, remembering her loveliness, her abundant love. I hope she’s peaceful now.

Also different last night, was the empty red wine bottle. Well , not that it was empty, that's normal. However, unbeknownst to those drinking it, them being my dad and That Other Lady’s Husband (That Other Lady was on lime and soda), in amongst the delicious wine were four floaty things, which we only noticed, stuck to the side of the bottle, when it was finished. Four, differently lengthed, furry-looking things.

I tried to fish them out with a long spoon but had no luck. It provided much amusement during pudding as we wondered how many had been in there to start. I have e-mailed them and wait to hear. I’m hoping to get a case of wine out of the deal…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hello Sailor

Observatory, fondly called Obz, is a student area of The City Beneath the Mountain filled with beautiful old houses, mainly digs and a main drag called Lower Main Road. A street filled with restaurants, pool bars and hidey-hole shops, it has an air of vague degradation, yet some youthfulness. The youthfulness probably comes from the plethora (of?) tattooed, earringed artsy looking, well, youths. Versions of me, twenty years ago. I spent a lot of time there then and don’t so much anymore, but G and I went there last night.

She’d had a rough day, emotionally, having been to the funeral of a much-loved friend. I could almost see her nerve endings fizzing with emotion, and it was catching, I felt it too. As we drove down into Obz a sad, grey mist was flying in from the sea, going up our nostrils, chilling our skin, a meteorological version of how G was feeling.

There’s nothing like the death of somebody close to you to shake you up and throw the fact that life is so fleeting straight into your face, knocking the breath clean out of you. I’d read the lovely Miranda’s account of her friend’s death in the morning, a beautiful, heartbreaking post that made me cry and cry.

So we went to the place where we played as youths and had two glasses of wine at Hello Sailor. A sweet little place that has moved into the centre of Lower Main Road. The owner/maitre’D was so yummy, clean and fresh looking I almost wanted to lick him. I didn’t, though, I know better. He was the perfect type of attentive – there, but not in your face.

It’s in one of those old shops with beautiful wooden windows and doors and is most tastefully and simply decorated with many sailor-inspired pics and a wonderful wooden-framed old mirror that’s so old it’s got that mouldy look. I loved it. I felt like I was in a wonderful old companionable house. It was full – an eclectic mix of businessy-looking people and oh-so-cool youths. The two pavement tables, on either side of the door, had a man at each, drinking coffee, one reading the newspaper, the other engrossed in his book.

G and I philosophised about life, chatted about the world and drank icy white wine. The two glasses of wine, despite my watering them down, as I do (I know, I know, I’m a Philistine) went straight to my head. I’m such a bloody lightweight these days. I tried to soak it up with their special – Shepherd’s Pie and salad, which was actually a kind of stew with mashed potato on top. Not what I expected, but delicious none-the-less.

And then we went home, passing the youths only just starting to go out. I watched as a girl in the flat above the tattoo parlour primped and preened in front of a (non-mouldy) mirror, adjusting her top repeatedly to get it perfect and wondered about humanity. I wanted to tell her she was perfect, just as she was.

Death, breathing heavily, just around the corner, an inevitable, frustratingly unannoucing visitor, makes me want to pull everyone closer, hug them tighter, tell them they’re beautiful, just so.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The circus comes to town

It made me want to rush home, find every colourful piece of clothing in my cupboard, put them all in a suitcase, and join. Only one problem: I have no special skills that they’d be looking for. I thought maybe I could let my middle-aged lady hairs grow on my chin and be The Bearded Lady, but I don’t think that’s what Cirque du Soleil are looking for.

It was, literally, breathtaking. The colours, the silliness, the fun, and then the acrobats – swooping through the sky like superheros, throwing each other around as if they were weightless… seriously, I found myself taking in huge lungsful of air every now and again at the astounding stunts.

And to add a cherry on the top, I know one of the characters. Back at Small Town University his older brother was my first love and they included me in their family for a good proportion of my varsity years. I used to help him with his maths homework when he was little. Back then he was friendly and funny and sweet and now: he’s friendly and funny and still sweet and incredibly talented and I kept wanting to jump up and shout: “I know him!”

And to add another cherry on the top, his family were there from Small Town University town, including Nanna, the granny, who I haven’t seen for years! So lovely to see them all and bask in their pride. Well deserved pride, too.

What a treat to spend a Sunday afternoon in a Dr Seuss-esque glow, eating popcorn and Whispers and gasping in delight, then seeing old, old friends.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It is twenty years, today, since my first ‘real’ kiss. I was sixteen. I made sweet sixteen. Not through a lack of wishing I hadn’t though. The opportunity just didn’t arise before. I would never remember the exact date as a rule but for one thing: the green beer. We were out, at a bar in The Big Smoke, with the parents of friends. I realised this morning that it was twenty years, because… well… I’m 36. And good at maths.

Yes, you didn’t read me wrong, I did say green beer, we were celebrating St Patrick’s Day. . Served in 500 ml plastic beer tankards. Ugh. I am thankful to it, though. I was a shy teenager you see, having had little to do with boys. No brothers and an education at a prissy Girl’s School will do that to you. The (green) beer helped ‘bring me out of my shell’, allowing me to snog away happily, in front of the friend’s parents (cringe), a boy with a disturbing nickname.

He was a year younger than me (shock, horror… 15!) and shorter than me (not hard, being 5”11’) and I can’t actually remember if it was fun or not. We wrote to each other a couple of times after but it was not meant to be. It was sweet, innocent, and the beginning of a wonderful relationship of me and kissing. I love it. It took me until university to properly get the hang of it but when I did… there was no stopping me. I’ve experienced it all (well, some of it, I hope not really all, yet) – the washing machine, the inhibited, the wild, the innocent, the devilish, the unsolicited, the unwelcome, the gentle, the prohibited, the secret, the voracious, the ones that lead nowhere and the ones that lead everywhere…

Twenty years ago. Sheesh. When did I get so old?


I dreamt I flew last night. Hesitantly at first, I had to work out how to change my gears, gain momentum, and then swoop. Who knew you needed gears to fly as a human? It was scary at first and then wonderful, once I got the hang of it. I flew through an amazing canyon filled with art installations and then landed in a house on a rugged coast, also filled with more art.

Outside it got dark and I swooped out again, away over the bay which was protected on all sides by huge cliffs. There were lots of other flying things (helicopters? Fireflies?) all lit up like chinese lanterns, flitting about. It was beautiful.

Then it turned all sexual and I’m feeling shy today, so will leave it at that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A visit with the baby nephews

I've just returned from visiting my sister and her twin sons, aged 20 months. Despite my being ill with some wierd fever-inducing, yukky-feeling lurgy for the first two days and the one baby having a nasty tummy bug, then the other, then my sister, it was fabulous. My poor sister has lost 3kg in as many days and was looking positively green. The boys, however, are delicious and delightful and interested in everything and trying very hard to speak.

I have never before been so intimately involved with babies and small children and observed how they grow. It is incredible and enlightening to watch how something as small as a little flying insect can inspire such wonder. They honestly are at such a fun age and to see my parents soak up grandparenthood is such a treat.

And to feel the love for those little boys as they grow up too fast is inspiring too. I was discussing it with my sister - the temptation to wrap them in cotton wool and keep them safely in a cupboard, to protect them from any harm, to shield them from The Big Bad World is almost overpowering.

Lucky for them, though, they are WAY too fast on those little feet and WAY too curious to be wrapped in cotton wool and, I suppose, they will have to get hurt, see things we don't want them to see, learn things the hard way. Sometimes. Then, hopefully, they can wrap themselves in the love of their family, and still be okay.

There is honestly nothing like seeing those four dark little eyes look around the door in the early morning light (now that they've learnt how to climb out of their cots) and see their little smiles break through when they see you're awake. Delicious. Delicious. Delicious.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A day away

Through the back streets to avoid the traffic, I forgot to take into account the weekday working people, poor things, sweatily going places importantly, driving too fast, frowning too much, not seeing four pretty girls chattering in The Silver Unicorn, heading for the hills. Girls, I use the word lightly, more for our presence of mind than our real ages.

We left the choking traffic behind and found ourselves amidst vines all ready for the changing season, the tips of their leaves yellowing, the ground dry and hard, waitingwaitingwaiting for the Winter rains. In the air, the smell of the grapes being 'stomped' and starting their fermentation was thick and, honestly, not entirely pleasant. Not surprising I suppose, it being fermentation and all.

We threw our bags into the beautiful rambling Cape Dutch house that was ours for the night and drove out the other side of town where we drank champagne as the light faded next to a dam with a lady who had a skirt made of rocks. The farm's ridgeback puppy, already enormous, fell in love with us, and us with him.

Back to our wooden-floored, thick-walled house, they dipped themselves in the pool and I watched the steam come off them as I listened to the hadedas heading home through the clouds that turned pink as the sun disappeared behind the towering mountain. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? It was.

A dinner filled with laughter and stories, we were the only guests mid-week out-of-season, our waitress answering "Why not?" each time we asked for anything, and showing us pictures of her son and daughter on her phone. Red wine from down the road, rich, deep red, vampirical (I know, there's no such word, but it just suits it) like the mosquitoes that swarmed and buzzed.

We sat on the stoep and it seemed the word had spread as the quiet street suddenly had numerous cars driving past and slowing to look at us. Four women, on their own, out in the middle of the week, seemingly with no cares in the world. Just for tonight Little Town, just for tonight.

Sleep in a house filled with hundreds of years of other people's dreams and breakfast in a cutesy shop filled with cutesy things and homemade jams with computer-printed labels. I want homemade jam with a handwritten label, please. Demanding City Girl.

Moments of confusion, moments of clarity and home again, to moments of a different kind completely.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Four friends

We met when we were 18, 19. Fresh-faced, naïve (some of us), lusting for life, ready for university. We were in res together in first year and quickly became friends. Our small town university was conducive to a social lifestyle, to the forging of intense, passionate, lively friendships. The kind that last. Four girls, all very different, but sharing a most incredible friendship.

We have shared triumphs and traumas, love’s beginnings and love’s heartbreaks, marriages, babies, moves to different continents. For a good wad of years I landed up being the only one living here on the tip of Africa, the others doing time up there, in the UK. On The Mud Island. Throughout it all there has been constant contact – mails, phone calls, visits. The type of visits that, while they may be a year apart, feel like they’re a minute apart. That’s how comfortable it is.

Now we find ourselves back in the same place (three of us) and the fourth visiting from Sydney, with my fabulous godchild. We sat at D’s table last night, eating delicious coconut milk fish curry under the stars, revelling in the coolth (well, relative coolth) of the evening air, with the husbands and partners and chatted and laughed and reminisced and I was so awfully proud of the choices they’ve made in husbands, they’re lovely. Our little foursome has grown, with some added adults and some kids in the mix too. And it makes a mighty fine little group, I must say.

This afternoon, however, the four of us will leave husbands, children, partners and pets behind and we’ll drive into the hills to spend a night together, just us. To eat, drink, reminisce and laugh… Not as fresh-faced, nearly twenty years on, with a fair amount of middle-aged spread (me, not them, they’re all ultra-slim, even the two who’ve had babies), scar tissue (both internal and external) and a few more wrinkles laugh lines, but just as fun.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hot. Hot. Hot.

I’m hot, and tired, and frustrated. The more I do, the more I have to do. It’s a never-ending parade of admin, chores, Real Work, Other Work, interspersed with hot nights in what equates to an oven on its top temperature.

It’s a sweltering 35 degrees (Celcius) today in The City Beneath the Mountain, and it did us the favour of going down to a balmy 26 last night. This does not make for easy sleeping and allows for swirly thoughts to, well, swirl. And, honestly, I’d prefer not to have them, thank you very much. They’re turning me inside out and making me feel exposed and silly.

There has been much fun and frivolity and lovely friends visiting and trips to the theatre and funny stories involving my parent’s dog, Daisy, under my bed, but I am just. Too. Tired. To tell them. I’m feeling sad and tumbley-turny, but was feeling oh-so-terribly neglectful of this, here, blog that I thought I must pop in. And grumble, apparently.