Thursday, 30 January 2014

the wolf of wall street and why I didn’t become a banker

"On Wall Street, when you're not creating anything, when you're not building anything, when you're making money buying and selling the ingenuity of other people, it's almost like there's something missing from the money," he says.
So you start searching for something else, spending recklessly, because you're desperate to attach something to the intangible money."
"And you spend obscene amounts to buy things that are tangible."
"Not just jets and mansions and fancy cars, I had five Ferraris, but objects, or people, that can turn your volume of money into something unique."

My brother is well on his way to becoming a banker. I haven’t told you about him. He’s called James and he’s 26. He lives in That Awful City (sorry Joburgers) and dislikes it almost as much as I did. Once a coastal baby, always a coastal baby. He is fundamentally different from me in every conceivable way. He likes gaming, he likes eating animals, he has never set foot in a church. He’s had one or two longer-term girlfriends, but is definitely not a serial monogamist. Oh and he’s single my pretty ladies, and I’m looking for a sweet sister-in-law. James likes all the techie, boychie jargon that comes with banking: go long, go short, derivative, hedge fund, butterfly spread, bull, bear, risk, return, CRN. Ok that last one I made up, but I know there is something called a Credit Denominated Upside Down Note. Or something like that. Bankers use them to confuse us. And I don’t like to be confused. There was a brief 6 month period at the beginning of my working life where I was heading for bankerdom. I had the suit, the sunglasses, the degree. Then I worked for this Romanian chick. Oh my word. She had a mustache and she smoked the South African equivalent of Gauloises. She was terrifying. And I decided I was too soft and sweet to be a banker. I like solid things. So now I help people make fast-moving consumer goods for a living. Google it: F M C G. When you go into a shop, a tiny part of what I do is in that carton you see on the shelf. I love that. It’s real.

Back to banking. The Hub and I went on a date on Saturday night. It was wonderful. We ate Thai food and went to watch The Wolf of Wall Street at the movies. It is a loooooong movie. It’s a debaucherous movie. Don’t you dare watch it with your mom. We got home at midnight. But it got me thinking about the banking world and why I’m happy I didn't get sucked into it. The movie is based on the life of Jordan Belfort, a banker who made a killing in the early 90’s selling cheap (mostly worthless) shares to unsuspecting folk. He could talk his way out of a paper bag. He also went to jail for 22 months for said dealings. As he said in the quote above, the world he inhabited (a world that still exists, I have seen high flying bankers chasing the white dragon in our very own Joburg) was an empty one. No real money, no real businesses backing those shares, no real relationships or real love. And finally I understood why, despite much opposition from colleagues and friends, I couldn't be a banker. It meant less money, less STARDOM, but I needed something tangible to keep me from chasing the tangible in my personal life like he did. I’m not an essentially bad person, but I am an extreme person, a TOO MUCH person. I need to make choices that prevent me from hurting myself. Choosing not to be a banker was one of those. I do like to think I wouldn't have landed up in jail, but you never know.

Monday, 27 January 2014

listen and love stacey kent

I first discovered Stacey Kent at a friend's braai. Said friend is a plastic surgeon my dear, he is sophisticated and kind and has the biggest TV I've ever seen. I would never have discovered this kind of music on my own. I'm from East London for goodness sake. Listening to the music of Stacey Kent calms me and romances me and makes me feel more sophisticated than I ever will be. Her style of music is described as jazz, but it's way more than that, especially the songs she sings in French. They describe her as:

"...a revelation. There is nobody singing today who can compare with her. She has the style of the greats, like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. And she sings the words like Nat Cole - clean, clear and almost conversational with perfect phrasing. And that's as good as it gets."

You can download Raconte Moi (French only) and The Changing Lights (English/mixed) on iTunes. Do it. Do it now. Your shattered nerves will thank you.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

who said Durbs isn’t cool?

Wasn't me. Ok…it was. 

Before we moved here I had been to Durban maybe three times. And mostly to Ballito or to visit my in-laws on the North Coast. Those don’t really count as visiting Durbs the city. When we moved down from Jozi I assumed it would be all surfing and settling down in the burbs with a jungle garden and stifling humidity. I was happy with that. Hell, it wasn't Joburg and I was more than ready to burb it up a little. Before Joburg I lived in Cape Town for 5 years, so I’d always assumed that making Durbs my final settling place was well…settling a little. But I would do it for my hubby. And I grew up 600km down the coast in a much smaller city so I was well prepared right? 

All of those things were true: it’s hot as hades in midsummer, my garden is a jungle (because all the pretty flowers are EATEN by HUMONGOUS BUGS) and I live in the burbs. My hubby surfs before work. But I was also completely wrong. Durbs is not settling at all. Cape Town is trendy and cosmopolitan and wonderful. In summer. The winters are dreadful. I couldn't bear it. I had SAD, I swear. Joburg is trendy and money and…bearable with all of the money. (Sorry guys, I hated it. I’m sure you love it and I respect that.) Durbs, surprisingly, is also trendy. And warm and wonderful. All year round. I don’t just mean the weather either; the people are warm too. I've met the most amazing people in this city, and while she tends to get the bronze medal in South Africa, I've come to love Durbs as the best. And I've done all three now, so I get to say that. Here are some of my favourite places.

Lupa Osteria {Hillcrest}

Cafe 1999 {Musgrave}

Bean Green Cafe {Glenwood} 
oh and you have to go antique shopping in the two stores next door. They also sell Bean Green coffee at the Durban Surf Lifesaving Club's cafe upstairs.

Mooki Noodles {Berea}

i heart market on a sunny Saturday morning…make sure to say hello to my friends from Oak and Willow at their stall {next to Moses Mabida stadium}

The Lighthouse Bar at the Oyster Box Hotel {Umhlanga}
The views are beautiful and the cocktails strong. I have been known to toddle precariously down the marble stairs on the way out after one or three Tanqueray Mojitos. You have been warned.

Running, cycling, swimming in the sea, walking anywhere along the promenade from Ushaka to Blue Lagoon is safe, gorgeous and clean. Expect to see Durbanites from all walks of life, from meandering Indian aunties to yummy mummies on roller blades. My favourite is a quick run with my dogs at dawn. If you aren't a morning person, have brunch at Circus Circus and watch the world go by. {first picture above is at North Beach, 6am}

If you are ever in Durban and need any recommendations for places to stay // where to eat //what to see // feel free to pop me an email or check out this lovely lady's blog Durban Diva for local tips

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

iMfolozi - an anniversary adventure

Have you ever heard the term: stop the world I want to get off? Well it's only January and this last week has been nuts. We had a big deadline for this Monday, boring finance stuff to do with budgets and month-end packs, and so the pressure was on. Regardless, Nicky and I took last Monday off to celebrate our 2nd anniversary in the bush over a long weekend. Mid January is NOT an ideal time for an anniversary, but the way I see it this just means you have to really want to make the effort to celebrate right? It was wonderful. I can't believe we've never been to the reserve before, it's about a 3 hour drive away and is run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (so basically subsidised by the government and thus not hideously expensive). It used to be two separate reserves, but is now 960 square km called Hluhluwe-iMofolozi Game Reserve. On advice from a work colleague we stayed in one of the safari tents at Mpila - the non-fenced of the two camps in the reserve. The other, Hilltop, didn't look too fenced to me though (does a diagonal electric fence one meter from the ground protect you from leaping lion or rampaging rhino? I doubt it). Here are some pictures from our wonderful weekend.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

mason jar some memories

I've always been a collector of memories, I have boxes and boxes labeled as such. I'm sure my brain has a large compartment with videos of Transkei beach walks and school prize givings and weddings and exams and all the things that have made up my short life. When I saw this idea on Pinterest at the beginning of last year, I knew it was the perfect thing to try. Life goes so quickly, and I want to remember EVERYTHING.

It's quite easy: you take a recycled mason jar, slap on some chalkboard paint and a lid, and start post-itting all your happy memories of the year. Or, who am I kidding, you buy a jar like this one at Pick n Pay for 40 bucks and haul out some old scraps of paper and try to remember to scribble. You are not allowed to peep until the year is over. On the 2nd of Jan, the Hub and I spent a surprising hour or so opening all the scraps of paper in our 2013 jar. It was wonderful, you won't believe how many happy little weekends away or even sunshiney trips to the beach with the pups we had forgotten. And now it's all there, safely tucked away in a jar, for 30 years time when we are old and decrepit and want to reminisce about that year when all the grannies died, before we had kiddies, when life was simpler. Try it.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014 WILL be a good year. It will. It will. It WILL.

I make two types of New Year’s resolutions every year. One for me and one for God. I know, try hard right? The one for God I started last year after a preach by a leader in our church who I really respect, Marc. He talked about making your Faith Markers for the New Year. Basically, you decide on the few big things you are hoping to achieve or bad habits to banish or any goal really for 2014, and you pray for them. You give them to God in faith, and mark them off when they come to fruit. I had 3 faith markers last year, and in 2 of them He came through for me. Not a bad run rate, especially in a year like 2013. The other set of resolutions are ones I hold myself accountable for. This year I've gone full on accountant and split them into two categories. You know, all the better to balance the accounts. So here goes for 2014, these ones are on me (no pressure):