Monday, 17 February 2014

in defense of valentines day

Happy Valentines day. Enjoy the day bred more from capitalism than love. -{this was said by a guy whose job may as well be called love. He runs Dlala Nje a culture centre for disadvantaged kids in Hillbrow, and the recipient of FNB’s love in their Neknomination video}

Happy Valentine's: A magical day when single people are jealous of couples and couples are jealous of single people. {from here}

Bring on the cheesy red stuff Valentines day…I’m mentally prepared for you #notafan

Some V day love from that centre of mindless banter called Twitter. That last one was me. And I’d like to give Past Me a kick up the butt. Because when my husband turned up at the office at lunchtime on Valentines Day with 5 giant proteas and 8 heart shaped cupcakes (so that I could share with my work friends), I was smiling like it was 2012 and I was wearing a white dress again. So really, I had no business getting on the snarky band wagon and being…snarky. I succumbed to negative peer pressure. How boring. Note for next year: stop trying to be cool and instead admit that you long to be romanced and secretly compete with the other office ladies as to whose husband loves them just that teensy (read 6 vs 12 roses plays teddy bears and balloons) bit more. We are all living the capitalist dream with our white weddings and tropical holidays and should the nursery be grey and pink or pink and cream. We have no right to diss the holiday that we all secretly love. Here are my top 5 (rubbish) reasons we all love to hate V Day:

1. We are single.

2. We remember what it was like to be the only person ON THE PLANET who was single. All those insecurities and neuroses come rushing back. After 5 years of marriage.

3. We are afraid to be disappointed by the ones we love. See insecurities/neuroses above.

4. We want to be hipster cool, because admitting to the Great World Wide Web that we like silly trinkets and overpriced red roses is like admitting we support the mass destruction of Amazon rainforests to produce Big Macs. Because we all need more of those.

5. We are male. No further explanation needed.

// beautiful dog photograph from Jessica Claire
// proteas from the Hub

Sunday, 16 February 2014

hiding from the singhs

Due to the odd shape of our garden, we have 3 neighbours. Our house is on the corner of a crescent and a cul-de-sac so it’s less of a block and more of a hexagon. The neighbours to our right are the wonderful couple I spoke about here, who sent us lilies when our Grannies died last year. They are moving, to be replaced by a family with FOUR KIDS. Watch this space and your local newspaper; I cannot tolerate noisy neighbours and WILL RETALIATE. Violently. The neighbours at the bottom of our garden to the left are ghosts.  We have not seen hair nor hide of a human being in the 18 months we’ve lived in our house. They do have two extremely vocal Great Danes, so perhaps the house is run by them. 

Lastly, at the bottom of the garden to the right we have The Singhs. That’s not actually their surname, they are just an extended Indian family and so we pronounced that that must be their surname. Totally politically correct of course. They are quiet and lovely neighbours to have, except for the odd occasion when the Dad loses it and screams at the 2…3…maybe 4? kids that live there to get their stuff together and MOOOOOVE IT. Hilarious. Have you watched that Russell Peters comedy show where he imitates his Indian dad shouting at him: Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad? Well Mr Singh is just like that - you can watch it here but excuse the swearing. Due our present lack of funds we cannot afford to put up a proper wall between our property and the Singhs. Currently there is only a rickety fence. And of course the Hub is of the opinion that The Singhs spend every waking hour just waiting, WAITING, for us to run around starkers after we have showered. Because they can totally see 100m up our garden, past 5 large palms and an unidentified purple flowering tree (also large) and straight into our bedroom window. So I put on my make-up most mornings in the pitch dark SO THE SINGHS WON’T SEE MY BUM. Donations for the Great Barrier Wall of Singh are welcome.

// cartoon with cat that looks remarkably like Panda from here

Friday, 14 February 2014

a culture shock: vietnam, russia and the usa

Those two words have been buzzing around my head a lot lately. Firstly, because we’ve been watching this show by Luke Nguyen, an Aussie/ Vietnamese chef. There are dogs and black baby chickens and cobra hearts still beating in shot glasses. My WORD. The Hub and I just sit on the couch with eyes like bush babies thinking, what the hell have we done. Why didn’t we just go to England where the most exciting food is haggis and you have to travel 800 km North to find it in some obscure Scottish pub? Why Vietnam? We start to question our very fibre, why must we always operate so far out of our comfort zone? Why do we need to adventure all the time? Why can’t we just be normal? They eat PUPPIES. Deep is breathtakingly beautiful and we have booked through a reputable tour company with a Vietnamese English-speaking guide included. So if we are in any doubt as to whether that is pork or COBRA, he can translate or at least recognise the form of protein. My shattered sensibilities. I don’t even eat COWS for goodness sake. Vietnamese culture shock…coming April 2014.

Then to add insult to injury, two of my cousins are doing a year in Russia and I’ve been catching up on the blog their friend has started. Brave, brave girls. It’s called Adventurous Matryoshka (I know. I’ve linked it here for you, don’t even try and spell that in your Google search box. I got some beauties – all blocked by my browser security). Matryoshka are Russian nesting dolls but that doesn’t sound half as cool. These 20 somethings are tutoring the rich and famous of Moscow and surrounds by the sounds of it. Alison writes so well you must take a look. Anyway, this all brought back the times when I felt most culture shocked. The freaky old gypsy ladies in Italy, the public toilets in Germany and Austria, the nerve jangling ride up the gondola in Lucerne, the cold in England over Christmas…and mostly the US. I did a ski season there a few years ago, and I would rather have to beat off 1000 Italian gypsies with a stick than deal with that culture shock ever again. The food, the noise, the accents, the cold, the EXPENSE. And I was a mere 21 years old. And this was AFTER I’d travelled the UK and Europe and Contiki’d myself into oblivion at age 19. It was such a different world to me, I spent the first 2 months in a state of constant homesickness. What made it worse I think, was that we worked with lots of South Americans, most of whom were divine and sweet and kind. But the Brazilians. Mi palabra! They were just plain scary. My Argentinian friend, Nati, told me that because Brazilians are the only ones in South America to speak Portuguese they consider themselves superior. And because we hung out with the Chileans and Argentinians that made us inferior by association. Never mind we couldn’t speak or understand a word of Spanish OR Portuguese. We sucked. A whole lot.

I got the but you’re not black thing I think most of us get in the US (and Russia from Alison’s blog descriptions). They looked at me as if I had fallen out of the sky when I pronounced tomato correctly and not as tomayto. Or basil correctly and not as baysil. I have a degree in finance you idiots, I wanted to scream. My grandmother was born in England you idiots, I wanted to scream. You realise you speak the English language created in ENGLAND you idiots, I wanted to scream. But I needed their green and shiny American dollars to fund my Vegas/DC/NYC trip after my work contract ended so I kept that to myself. The people I loved most in America where the South Americans. How is that for ironic. Once I had travelled a bit more, out of the back end of Colorado; and we shall not mention the obese, tracksuit wearing, cocktail-funnel toting hillbillies in Vegas; I saw that the US is full of intelligent, worldly folk. Who lecture you about apartheid and why you should feel guilty because have you not heard about the slave trade? That one got my blood pressure up. Travelling the US was an experience I would love to repeat. With the Hub, with an extra 50 grand. Fortunately at the time it was worth it for the ski pass. I got home and dug up some photos of my time in the US of A. How I have aged.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

{of an electrical device} disconnected

I got home from work at a reasonable hour, unpacked my empty lunch containers and fed the cats. I switched on the TV, it was Grey’s I think, and waited for my brain to shut off. And waited. And waited. And watched an episode of Top Gear. And waited. And said hello to the Hub as he got home from the gym, and drank some water because maybe I was dehydrated. And got really irritable with the Hub. And waited. The buzzing just got louder and louder until I could barely speak or see.

Maybe it’s the TV I thought, so went to lie down on my bed and look at the giant tree outside our window. I admired the vantage point from our room. Because the plot isn’t level we look over our pool and the nest of huge palms at some height. I watched a red and navy lourie squawk between hops around that truly ugly tree where the Great Dane’s always peer over the wall. And the buzzing continued. I badly needed to unplug.

Unplugged has become more than a cool word for guys with acoustic guitars playing in dinge bars (check out Bastille at the Pompeii Exhibition – if you are not blown away…well then there’s something wrong with you and you should have that seen to). Unplugged now means, according to our friends at Google, (of an electrical device) disconnected.

Don’t you sometimes FEEL like an electric device? All jittery and tingly with nervous energy; plugged into the socket of the world on an endless white plastic adapter. I felt like that yesterday, after spending 5 hours in an over-cooled board room whizzing numbers and strategies around my brain with one 10 minute break. I couldn’t switch it off.  I’ve read plenty of advice about unplugging because I know people like me who spend hours in front of a laptop or on my phone are most at risk of the associated burn out. I’ve read that you should leave your phone off at night, and not look at it first thing and last thing. I’ve read that walking around the garden, being surrounded by the green quiet of nature should help. I’ve read that you should get up from your desk every 15 minutes and focus your eyes on the far wall. None of it works. I work too hard. I try too hard. I need to feel connected to feel alive these days. I often feel like a frightened rabbit in the headlights of a small truck, barreling towards me but with no power to move. I have to see that next Instagram photo, what if Miss X has had her baby? I'd better check Facebook IMMEDIATELY. What if, God forbid, I miss out? We are all so connected that we live in a state of permanent FOMO. There is so much out there, happening all the time, we are bound to miss out. Twitter and buzzfeed fads last a few hours. And in that time millions of humans globally have caught on. And if you miss it, it's down right embarrasing to tweet and ask uhhh...I missed that? No wonder we feel like rabbits in front of trucks. It's all glittery and sparkly and deliciously connected. And we don't have to put ourselves out there, make verbal conversation or see the look on someone's face when we rant about them. Anonymously of course. We all know the proverbial "I hate it when PEOPLE...". I think a smartphone detox is in order. Either that or I need to become a botanist.

// Funny card from Emily McDowell Draws via Cup of Jo

Friday, 7 February 2014

some life hacks

Study. Something, anything. A tertiary education will help you when times are tough. It’s something to lean on when your pub/Etsy shop/grooming parlour is on the rocks. 

Ignore negative people. You know who they are. What they say is tainted, don’t let it influence you. 

Buy organic cosmetics. Especially deodorant. Those chemicals are so close to your lymphatic system under your arms, and that’s NOT good for the potential big C.

Travel. Even if it's just to the next town. You never who or what you may find there. If you can, go abroad. A different culture will make you appreciate your home like you never imagined.

Buy an organic shampoo. It will change your life and get rid of your bad hair days. It might take two months of icky, frizzy hair while it sheds the silicone present in most over-the-counter shampoos, but it’s worth it. My delicious smelling Rosemary and Vanilla even got rid of my stress-induced scalp flakage. Ick. 

Get a PVR, else don’t bother watching TV. Watch Masterchef if you like food, but never when you’re hungry. It will make you HUNGRY regardless. 

Use less water; put that tap off while you’re brushing your teeth. They say future wars will not be about land, but water you know. 

Eat less animal based protein. Cows are lovely tasting things I’m sure but they are a burden on natural resources. Their farts burn up the ozone layer, haven’t you heard? 

Don’t listen to fad diets. 

Always have something to look forward to. Even if it's just getting home and telling your husband/roommate something funny about one of your work colleagues.

Use home remedies. But only the ones that work. Like raw oats and raw honey in warm water as a face mask. It works a charm and won't coat your precious face in chemicals.

Don’t make decisions when you’re tired. 

Don’t fight with people when you’re tired (if you can gather up the energy). 

Don’t assume your life is crap when you’re tired. 

Wait until tomorrow, go to bed early, drag yourself to the gym, eat a healthy supper, read a good book, and then decide if you still hate your life. I had one of those days today. It’s ONLY Wednesday. I've got to the point where looking at my bank balance is worthy of tears, and I feel like I weigh 100kg’s. Everyone has a better life than me. Everyone has a better body/family/
career/bank balance/pantry than me. Sometimes I need to write so badly (through ALL OF THE SPREADSHEETS) that I feel like I’m going to explode. But there is never any TIME. Making money is time-consuming people. But you don't need me to tell you that.

// Photograph of a Turkish teacup by Sarah Duff

Monday, 3 February 2014

dear husband

I know I’m difficult. Somehow God knew I needed someone who was far easier than me. Someone who doesn’t sit still and someone who doesn’t stew over things. Someone who goes out and gets it DONE. Someone is not afraid to phone the plumber/Thai takeaway/travel agent/Multichoice.

When I ask you to pretty please make me some tea and you do, just because I’m right in the middle of this Mystery Box challenge on Masterchef and plus tea tastes better when it’s made for you. And then I open my dark eyes very wide, because I know you love them. I know this because you tell me every time I say I hope our babies one day have your blue eyes. Brown is so boring. And you say, but I love your brown eyes. They are so wide and you have long eyelashes. Like a cow. And we both laugh, because actually I love cows so much that I refuse to eat them. So much that I cry and look away when we see all the poor mooks in a truck on the way to the abattoir. Thank you for always making the bed in the morning. Just because once, ONCE, I said it would be nice if you could seeing as I make the salads for lunch for us most mornings. And I didn’t say it in a way that expected you actually would. I was being a bit of a meanie that day. When I said, a week into our marriage, that I want a furry kid or two, you even helped me search for a mate for Howie. Even though you weren’t sure you wanted a slobbery, medium sized, slightly effeminate looking breed. And you found Coco. And now Coco is your little shadow. She helps you build furniture in your workshop, and she sniffs out all the geckos in the pool pump when you are backwashing the pool. She does this because she knows you love her. That you will pick up her up when a Rottie comes too close at the dog park. Even though you know it makes you look a little sad, picking up a 10kg Cocker Spaniel. You don't judge me for those thirty minutes of quiet that I need when I get home from work. You wordlessly hand me the wine. Thank you for knowing when I'm just being hormonal and for diffusing that particular ticking bomb. For knowing when to tell me, quietly, that perhaps the world will continue rotating on it's axis despite me not being able to find that purple top that goes so well with that black skirt. Honestly. Even when I say "do you not know it is the END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT". That purple top is my lucky charm for scary directors' meetings. How can you not know that? You download Adele and other music that's not really your style off iTunes because I chose an Android phone. And I don't really know how it works yet. Despite the cute purple cover. Which reminds me...where is that purple top? Sibongile? 
Where IS IT?

{Sibongile is our long-suffering, wonderful and makes-your-home-look-like-a-hotel housekeeper.}

// Image of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall from here