Saturday, March 31, 2012

The aquarium

"It's feeding time at the zoo," she said, although I'd met them at the aquarium - my best friend who is visiting from Sydney, her husband and my godchild, aged 2 1/2 with her cousins (2, 4) and aunt. They'd all been around the aquarium, ogled at the fish, touched the starfish, stared entranced at the huge tank filled with big fish and a shark or two.

I'd forgotten it was school holidays and planned to meet them in the restaurant for tea, while the littlies ate their lunch of fish and chips - oh, the irony! The noise level was extraordinary and the excitement tangible as hordes (schools?) of children ran between tables populated by harassed-looking mothers and the playroom in the corner, even more ironically sponsored by a frozen fish company.

My godchild informed me that she'd got a hippopotamus, which she'd aptly named Henry. Before I could ascertain where Henry had come from, or why he seemed to be the star of the day when they were at the aquarium, she'd scampered off to play with her tomato sauce-smeared cousins in the playroom, leaving us to chat (at high volume) over a calamari salad.

There's something really lovely about being in a space like that, where children's excitement fills the air, flooding ones lungs and, somehow, changing your view on things slightly, opening one's eyes to the possibilities in everything, the naive wonder of the world.

There's a lot to be said for hanging with the littlies every now and again, despite the noise levels that come with them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Small town thoughts

The leaves are turning on the vines on the other side of the tunnel, just their edges starting to bleed red as Autumn throws her cloak over us. I don't like the tunnel. It makes me claustrophobic as I try not to breathe, every time reminded of the fact that it is impossible for a person not to breathe for that long, without dying. I endure it, however, in order to leave the heaving city behind us. We are in the country, separated from the bright lights by the towering mountains.

As I've said, possibly ad nauseum, I love small towns. I grew up in first one – a place where the land was flat, the soil red, mielie fields abounded and the sky stretched all the way to space – and then another – where the earth was unstable, a patchwork of holes beneath the surface threatening to swallow houses at any moment. Both were places where, if you went into ‘town’ on an afternoon, you would run into at least two people you knew well enough to stop and chat for ten minutes. We borrowed sugar from the neighbours, rode our bikes everywhere, people knew your name.

The small town we went to is one of those that claims to be a little shoowow, you know the type - they have a 'Retreat' which does yoga and runs 'Silent Retreats'. They claim to be on ley lines and talk of spiritual energies and such. I probably don't have to point it out that, while I love a good hippy, I do snigger a little at those that are a little overboard with the shoowow stuff.

Anyway, it's a lovely little peaceful town, surrounded by mountains. The air is clear, they have donkeys, and we needed a night of starshine and peaceful sleep, which we got. We arrived early, visited the donkeys and stroked their noses, scratched behind their ears and bequeathed them carrots. They seemed pleased by the whole thing.

After donkey-stroking we ambled into the village to eat some lunch, a very delicious meat and cheese platter accompanied by a crisp glass of white wine from the valley. We'd decided to braai in the evening, our house being blessed with a fabulous verandah on which to watch the sun set and braai some meat, as good South Africans should on a Saturday. Asking the deli lady about where to buy meat, she showed us her 'deli sausage' and pronounced that there was "nowhere else in town that sells meat. Other than the Chinese Supermarket." The last statement was accompanied by a disturbing sniff of contempt.

So off we traipsed, to investigate ourselves why this should be. It's a supermarket, in the first half of town which we discovered, on our journey, to be the 'coloured area', owned by a Chinese couple, with very little English, but smiley and welcoming. The shelves were filled with necessities and smelt like a proper, farm shop - furniture polish, maize meal - a comforting, childhood smell. Above the meat freezers hung a disturbing array of sexy lingerie. I guess maybe there's a market for it in Small Town South Africa.

Ahead of us in the queue were a patently poor family, buying milk, bread, some fruit, with a toddler who was wailing because he'd picked up a chocolate and his mother had whipped it away instantly and put it back. They paid, and as they were walking out, the shopkeeper reached beneath the till and pulled out a handful of sweets, handing them to the snivelling child, turning his tears into smiles.

I wished I had the gall to go back up the road to the sniffy deli lady and tell her this sweet story (ahem) and encourage the occasional amble over the invisible line dividing the town, but I didn't. Instead we marvelled at this country we live in, still so full of prejudices and segregation, but never stopping trying to make it better. I suppose it all takes time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I have been developing a growing fondness for Ryan Gosling. After watching Drive this morning, it has turned into a full-blown crush of teenage proportions. Gorily violent, a description which would normally put me off a film, this one was brilliant. I loved it. There is a lot of silence, some slow mo, a fabulous soundtrack and... Ryan Gosling. Sigh.

I am always astounded when I love movies like this. I'm not a fan of violence, especially gratuitous violence. This violence is so close to sex that it is unnerving. I'm not even sure that I can quantify that statement because it sounds wrong but it is not meant to. It's a violence entrenched in passion. Like Tarantino does violence. It's graphic, though. Really, really graphic - heads get blown off, blood spurts, jugulars get spliced open. I found myself closing my eyes, hiding behind my arm, in places but only momentarily, because the compulsion to look back was overwhelming.

Beautifully entwined is an electric love between two people that positively crackles on the screen and the one, very short, moment of passion between them turned my insides liquid. I was incredibly impressed by its beauty, its unexpectedness. Kissing scenes in movies are so often ridiculously contrived and the same thing is done, over and over, ad nauseum. This one - amazing - and followed by intense violence, again.

It's pretty obvious that my mind is a muddle after watching this movie. One thing is for sure - I'll be playing it over in my mind for a good, long, time. And finding the soundtrack. And carving Ryan Gosling's name into my desk at work. Oops, that's not 'one thing for sure' is it? Make that three.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book vs Kindle

I love books – their feel, their look, their smell, the lot. I have been known to buy a book purely because I like the cover – idioms, be gone! I love bookshelves filled with books and piles of books on tables, next to the toilet, on my dressing table, next to my bed… they’re welcome anywhere, anytime. I read them, too. This paragraph was beginning to sound like I had them purely for decoration. Books – they’re like little friends made of paper. If I could find one willing to commit to a long-lasting relationship, I’d marry one. Well, commit to it at least, I’m not so sure about the whole marriage thing.

The thing is, though, that I got a Kindle yesterday. I’ve been humming and ha-ing about it for months. Do I? Don’t I? Isn’t it cheating on my lifelong lovers, The Books? Am I selling out, falling for commercialism in a technology-obsessed world? Sleepless nights, turning these thoughts in my head, I tell you! Well, okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration.

Eventually, practicality won out over all those thoughts and I’m loving it. How easy is it? I have, however, sworn on Stalkbook (and, as we all know, a swearing on Stalkbook is like a legal document) that this will not stop me buying real books. Honestly, who could live without that paper smell? And the dust they gather?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Surreal. Nonsense.

It's hot. I'm not complaining (too loudly), though, because those little signs of Autumn are about and I'd far rather have hot, than Autumn. Autumn brings Winter and Winter turns me into a grumpy whiney person with no personality and a two-dimensional smile, if any at all.

I've had a vaguely surreal-feeling weekend for some reason, probably due to the hot nights causing a distinct lack of restful sleep. I saw friends, ate while we sat outside enjoying the balmy night, reflected to myself the priviledge of having old friends, and listened to conversations that I seemed to be flying above.

It's as if my mind seems to have shifted slightly off centre. Perhaps it was always there and now, in a flash of middle-aged wisdom, I've only just noticed. Did I really just say 'middle-aged wisdom'? Good god. If anything proves the point, that sentence must be it. Did I say my mind shifted slightly off centre? I think what I should've said was, my mind has taken a flying leap off a high, and particularly pretty might I say - the lillies are flowering in all its crevasses - cliff.

Waffle, waffle, nonsense. But it's writing, and I need to get back into it. I figure if takes thousands of a couple of nonsensical wafflings, so be it.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Heartbreak. It's a rough one. One of my closest friends is going through a break up. She thought they'd marry, it's that kind of break up. Admittedly, she's been living in limbo, waiting for The Ring, for months and, honestly, has been miserable not knowing, waiting, wondering.

Being miserable, however, before the break up, doesn't make it any easier when it happens. She's devastated and torn apart, convinced she won't survive this. One forgets that acute pain (thank god!) attached to breaking up with somebody. That feeling of not being able to breathe. Watching her, hearing her, I seem to absorb some of her pain, and am flung back to my own heartbreaks. I'm a bit of a sponge like that. This is not necessarily a good thing.

I figure, though, that maybe, if I can absorb just a little bit of it, I could make it easier for her. Obviously I know this isn't true, only time'll make it better. Ugh, horrid. It's always so hard in the acute stages to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and it's made worse by his behaviour now which, honestly, is just odd.

Best I away though, to take her out, feed her a delicious drink, and remind her (and me) there's lots out there still.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March? What?

There it is, right up in my face, proclaiming that February's done, dusted, over-scadover. March. Well, I guess I have no choice but so say: "Welcome March, come on in. Yes, yes, you can bring The Ides along too, just dust off all your feet at the door, please."

I have (again) been neglectful of my writing. I've been terribly busy doing Real Work, living life, now dealing with a heartbroken, broken-up friend, and gazing at my navel, to bring myself to write. This, in itself, is ridiculous because (a) What is blogging if not the highest form of navel-gazing? and (b) My navel seems to be expanding most worryingly and I'd do better to not look at it and, therefore, remain blissfully unaware of the middle-age spread happening down there.

I meant to (re)start blogging on the 1st of March and do it daily, at least for the month of March. I like doing stuff like that, starting things in a new month, resolving to be better at it. Please note that I said I like doing it, not I'm good at doing it. Not that I really have to point that out, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? It being the 3rd of March and all.

So here I am, starting. Maybe I'll do every third day, that seems more doable. I have lots of stories - the plans for the country move, a very sad and beautiful funeral, my first meeting with KitKat, the donkey...