Monday, February 20, 2017

control

I crafted myself the perfect weekend, this weekend past.

Broken and exhausted after my big annual February conference and a busy week wrapping that up and catching life up and working hard to remain sitting up, I planned a whole weekend of ... nothing.

Nothing except life-restoring wine with girlfriends on Friday evening, and some somewhat drunken (me) half-light shenanigans with my eldest, re-positioning the new neighbour's garden art so that we don't have to look straight at ceramic vulva when parking our cars (we angled it so that they'd get that view when coming out of their front door instead).

Saturday morning I slept in, I went out on my SUP, made EPIC morning smoothies - weekend edition - and nurtured. Nurtured my home, my family, myself. I had a nap. We played UNO and read books and hung out and chatted. We cooked and cycled and watched Planet Earth 2.

It was the weekend I'd been planning for weeks, and it played out just the way I wanted it to. I felt in control.

I have 3 events in the pipeline over the next few months. I've made terms and planned the most efficient way to execute them. I've drafted my contracts to work within the parameters I need. I've quoted accordingly and made some plans on how to channel those funds into our ongoing home renovations.
I feel in control.

But this morning as I watched a red line snaking up my friends arm during her chemo treatment, as the 'Red Devil' was pumped into her system to kill the tumour she'd had no idea was there - she my friend who's always been most in control of her life, her environment, her plans - I reminded myself that there is no control really.

The best laid plans, the purest intentions, the most optimistic of mindsets - these are all nothing in the face of life and its mysterious paths.

There is no control. There is only the madness of wine and love and the delicious giddiness of giggling with friends - whether it be in Cancer Care or on a dark lawn in the wind with one's daughter.
There are only moments of peace, weekends of quiet, interspersed among the many moments of baffled busyness and daily chaos. There is only this moment, and then the next, and then the next.
Take them as they come.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

brain farts at breakfast

Thoughts while killing time in the breakfast hall of an inner city hotel, early for my meeting, midweek in the city ...

- live piano, while in theory a lovely thing, is not ideal in a busy dining room full of clanking dishes and excitable tourists
- the way some people dress ... yellow ill-fitting cocktail gown with visible g-string at breakfast? Did you accidentally find yourself spending the night here perchance?
- if ever you doubted that businessmen rule the world, a hotel breakfast bar will confirm this. Confident, relaxed, catered to, flattered and cajoled - in the busy inner city hotel, businessmen are kings.
- when early to a breakfast meeting how much breakfast is it acceptable to eat before your client arrives? So far I've stuck to liquids - juice, coffee - but now as the need to wee coincides perfectly with our planned meeting time, I'm wondering if a more solid pastry would've been a better call...
- the piano-man is on a break, what's the bet he starts again just as my client arrives?

Here he is!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

livelikeadam

I've written about Adam here before.

It sometimes puzzles me that he has stayed SO present in our consciousnesses. Not because he wasn't a singularly special guy - clearly he was - but he died so very long ago now, he featured in my life for such a relatively short time, it's been many years ...
And while I imagine it's because his death, and the circumstances around it, were so shocking that we've not ever forgotten it - and that we were friends at such a formative time of our lives - I also keep coming back to this: he was special. Like, really special.

So special that in December, 20 years after Adam left us, a group of 30-40 of his friends gathered again to remember him.





In their 40's now, a little rusty on their boards but more at liberty with their emotions, his brother and closest pals paddled out to hold a space for Adam one beautiful summers evening in a bay which knew him well.

Us land-lubbers stayed on the rocks, not even pretending that our watering eyes were the fault of the setting sun.

Many of us had not seen each other since back then, some have had misunderstandings and falling outs over the years, but we reunited with a frankness and gentleness that was pure Adam and the time we shared in the golden light as the day ended was in a bubble of his energy.

This is his legacy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

2017 is going to be YUGE

2017 is going to be hard. Challenging and scary and exhausting.
2017 will require us all to 'nut-up' (my very most worst and best expression of late).
We know this.

But there are things so much bigger than all that.


There are big skies and adventures.



Big open beaches and friendships big enough to hold all our collective memories.


Big moments of peace and remembrance, big emotions and spaces to hold them.


Big acts of nature to remind us of a power greater than ours, to give us bigger perspectives on all we hold dear.


And big love. Always big love.

2017 will have all of these - and they will make easier to bear, no matter what comes our way. Let's keep our eyes on the big picture, it's a lovely one.

Monday, December 26, 2016

christmas happened

It did! And looking back through the hasty snaps taken here and there I realise there were moments of real peace and calm, and beauty, despite the days feeling very full and rushed - the irony of these longest days of the year flying by so fast.


Stella has been taking holiday art classes with her Waldorfy pre-school teacher from 2014 and it's wonderful to have lovely Xmas crafts in the house again. The reindeer above is one of my favourite things ever.


I've never had a nativity scene up for Christmas before, and wouldn't have were it not for this remarkable fold-out cardboard one I picked up secondhand for R20. It's from the 1950's with intricate fold-outs for the kings and the shepherds, hosts of angels overhead.
But it was the family scene which really sold me. Set up on the bureau in the dining room it is just at eye-level for a little girl we have, currently deeply enamored with her family, with concepts of nurturing and loyalty and love. I knew she would love it.
I'm not a believer, and the Christmas story doesn't have the significance for me that it must do for practising Christians. But it represents two things which I do hold dear: the power of stories to teach us lessons and give us a sense of belonging through magic and mythology, and the strength of the family bond. These are the things I celebrate at Christmas, and this little scene captures both of those for me.


We did our annual Christmas book advent too. Each year I think the girls may have outgrown it, but each year they start anticipating them in November and I find myself trawling the secondhand book stores for a few new titles to throw in the mix, and looking for bulk deals on wrapping paper. They love them and the reappearance of our family favourites - Father Christmas and The Jolly Christmas Postman, plus other vintage and more modern titles - gets us all in the Christmas spirit.

There was some Christmas baking too ...


... in this case the freshly spray-painted fuel tank from Husband's project bike, curing quietly in the oven one warm night.

But there was some of the more traditional kind too - annual Christmas cupcakes for the security guards who work our neighbourhood.


We visited FC, and handmade a few gifts (much anticipated little boy cousin due in March!), I watched - and cried through - Love Actually, Husband and the girls attended the traditional Christmas Carols on the water one evening, while I stayed at home with a tummy bug, but I managed recover in time to outdo myself with a Christmas pinata!




It was a good Christmas.

But it was a hard year, and 2016 still had a couple of gut punches it was saving until the very end. Fucking hell.
I'm always partly sad and partly relieved to see the back of Christmas. It was lovely but it was busy and now that it's done, now we can relax for a couple of weeks before bracing ourselves for the next year.

We're clearing the debris today, and packing for the beach. Tomorrow we leave on holiday, and that's a different kind of magic - one which we are all very much looking forward to.

Bye bye x

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

thursday everyday

The eve of November seems a good time to say it sucks.

In November sometimes ...


November is like ...


In November it's easier to speak in meme's.

Because frankly we're too tired to string sentences. We're too busy to be coherent. We're running too low to be original.

It's been a long year. I hate Thursdays.

BUT. Tomorrow it is December.

And just today I tasted it in the air. Holidays.
Christmas and family time and lazing.
Swimming and small domestic jobs and food and lightness.
Beaches and friends and beer and seafood.

It's coming. But it's not here yet.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

won't ever happen

We found a video clip on an old phone of Frieda, soft-faced and blonde curls, age 6, her voice so different, thicker - pre-tonsillectomy -  'I pinkie swear I'll never twerk.'

Stella, regularly, 'I'll never leave home, I'll live with you until I die Mummy. Or until you die, whichever happens first.' Her eyes become solemn.
She thinks a lot about death this one.

Overheard today: 'I will never, ever drink coffee.'

We've thought for months: 'Trump will never become president.'

Monday, October 31, 2016

paying tribute to my namesake with gin and facepaint

On Friday my late Granny Molly would've been 97 years old.

I've written about the legendary lady she was before here and really, for someone who left just over half my lifetime ago, she still lives so large in my consciousness and in family lore.

On Friday we had a little Halloween gathering here at our place. 'Halloween at the Lake' I messaged our local gang - come over from 4, bring stuff, bring kids, dress-up optional...
I may have nicked some pics from the interwebs.


I'm generally ambivalent about Halloween, even grinchy, but I've been slowly coming round ...

This year was windy again though, and it not actually being Halloween yet the chances of any decent trick or treating were slim. Besides, who really wants to clang around in the howling wind hanging on to your wig when we could be drinking gin and ignoring our children right?

Gin. I got Granny Molly's genes to thank for that.


Costumes. I got Granny Molly's genes to thank for that too.

Hosting. Yup, big up to Granny for that one.

And I need to give her a nod for the Halloween Treasure Hunt too - late on Friday afternoon, after racking my brains as to how to give it a special Halloween twist for the kids, I realised that actually we have the best house for a treasure hunt. So late, after a few gins, I snuck away, threw together some rhyming clues and installed a friend's husband in the attic with goodie bags, a scary wig and a torch. We set the kids loose and sat back on the stoep to wait for the screams!

The kids loved it, the 'early evening' gathering turned into a bit of a gin fest and the next day, with a fuzzy head and a sticky house, I thought about my Granny Molly and felt she would've approved.
Thanks Grankie, we miss you.




Wednesday, October 26, 2016

the ups and downs of October

This post is to filed under 'diary'. I need to record this last crazy month for myself, for the record.

I've come here so often with an opening line, a thought or an observation, but the back story has always been so enormous - October's stories have been enormous - that I've either shied away or the next thing has happened before I could finish writing/processing about the last.

Emotional ro-la-co-stah. I'm tired just thinking about writing about it.


October is a beautiful month (which month isn't really right?), but this one has brought some pain.

On the 1st of the month one of my very best friends was admitted to hospital after weeks of what we all then thought was 'flu.

That weekend, beloved English cousins currently living in the States woke to the news that their 23 year old son had died in his sleep.
Shock rippled around the world as we gathered in small digital huddles - on FB messenger, Whatsapp and eventually a Tribute Page - trying to cradle a family in unimaginable pain with words and images shared on these platforms, knowing that none of it worked as well as a hug, but that all the hugs in the world wouldn't heal their hearts.
When a healthy 23 year old guy dies in his sleep on a Saturday night there is one conclusion that everyone jumps to, and from the talk it does seem he lived a colourful life - partying and living it up in the film industry in which he worked.
But louder then that were the reams of words testifying to his gentle care of those he loved, his sense of humour, his intelligence, his diligence to his work, his magic touch with animals - all these words proven by the multitude of photos of him shared on the page, in each one of them he has his arms around someone.

I recalled so vividly the boys like him I knew at that age. Young, gorgeous, healthy young men who worked, had plans, took their jobs and their lives seriously, earned well, and partied hard. Those boys were the best friends a girl could have, watchful and caring, they were the most fun to have at a party, loud and gregarious and hilarious, they were generous with their love, their time and their drugs - and after a heavy night out they would go home to Sunday lunch and be the most attentive, genuinely devoted sons and brothers. They thought they were invincible.

So many are lost in grief at his passing.


On the 4th we celebrated our 13 year wedding anniversary.

It was a magic evening, warm and golden and still. We'd made no plans, but that afternoon I remembered two bags of prawns in the freezer, a bottle of very fine wine we'd been saving, a box of creme brulee magnum ice-creams I'd seen at our local store ... I lit the fire and watched the girls play wildly on the lawn as we waited for the sound of his motorbike arriving home.
We ate grilled prawns 'til the butter ran down our arms, washed down with sublime wine, and grinned stupidly at each other over our daughter's heads. 13 years.

A couple of nights later we ditched the girls and went out for a proper grown-up dinner in our beautiful 'hood.


But still my friend was in hospital, and the news was not good. An inflammation of the spinal cord, a rare auto-immune condition, crippling pain and uncertainty about the path ahead.
Sobering updates as we rallied around her family, setting up an online meal roster to cook for them, a Whatsapp group to keep all those concerned in the loop.

I traveled to Pretoria for work. Twice.
Pretoria was hot, and dry, but magnificently purple.


Jacaranda trees were introduced a hundred years ago, blatant invaders from South America, for their beauty and their shade. They kind of hung around and once a year transform Pretoria from a fairly drab and run-down city to a psychedelic wonderland. Well played invaders.

The work was good, the people I met inspirational and fun.

Our country has had a hard month too. Our Minister of Finance is facing trumped-up charges of misconduct, leveled at him by a President fueled only by his greed. Our students are rising up to demand the education promised to them 20 years ago, and getting beaten in the streets by our dysfunctional police force. Our academics and universities are reeling from the damage - to their campuses and their careers. Our general public are split down the middle on a topic so complex that you can only see it in black and white if you're at the heart of a the struggle or being a total asshole. Their are a select few who are both.
It's a fucking mess.

The activists I was in Pretoria with were for the most part much younger than me, black and very active in education. We spoke at length about the current situation and it was so reassuring to me, a white, middle-class, (cough) middle-aged lady, to check in with them and find that we shared many opinions on these issues. It's easy when you live among your peers to believe that you're right. It's a gift to step out of that circle and find others, very different to you, who feel the same. I love my work for the worlds it opens up for me.

Back home and straight into a very special celebration. My Dad turned 70.


Which necessitated a party, with some of our dearest family friends, and a rainbow cake for the birthday boy, with ants on it - because he's all about the ants, about the ants, no spiders - according to one of his silly granddaughters.

And then another anniversary - a really BIG one.

On the 24th my man and I marked 25 years together - a silver anniversary - from bumbling high school sweethearts to married-up parents.
We celebrated with an enormous bunch of chinkerinchees, a bottle of bubbly and the gift of a vintage silver dollar from my parents. How exactly did I get this lucky?


And still ... my friend is in hospital. Still battling pain and an uncertain future, but still smiling when she can, still strong, still her.

This growing up thing is not for sissies, the realities of life and aging are hard and painful. But the love, the love just gets stronger and sweeter - and the knowledge that that is all that is important gets clearer every day.


This year has worn us out already - is it holidays yet?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

the very best of friends (vol.6)

If you've been here for even 5 minutes you'll know how much I love to camp.

I have the best camping buddy.

This chick is camper-convivial, camper-confident and camper-kitted-out-for-any-occasion.

She is the one who always has a tin opener, space in her fridge, a spare tarp or the perfect sized water tub to wash your baby.
She's the one with the thing best paired with the other thing, as in:
Us (and by us I mean husband) 'I'm going to bake bread on the coals'
Her, twinkling: 'I've got nastergal jam.'
All of us: Swoon.

She's the one who'll stay up all night giggling hysterically 'round the fire, or ignore you for hours because she can't unstick herself from a book she's devouring. She's the one who'll bring a (fucking heavy, fucking cumbersome) canoe on the trip and then take you on a magical adventure up the river.
She's the one with the torch which always works and the balls to investigate any noise, no matter the hour or the darkness of the night.

She can light a fire in any weather, braai a steak, wrangle a misbehaving gas bottle and tie down a tent in a hurricane.

She's the one who is up for any adventure, has more energy than a pack of puppies, will always take the scenic route, and is dead happy to leave the dishes 'til morning.


We've been friends since high school and I could honestly write a book on the adventures we've had. But camping has always been one of our love languages.

I started this collage for her after our last trip, much earlier this year.

I wanted to convey that perfect moment, which makes every camp worthwhile, and is even better shared with those you adore - the one when you're sitting at the fire, its light glowing on your camp homestead, and all is still. Beyond is dark - many layers of dark on dark. Some of it glowing, some gently reflecting, some harbouring rustles and sounds of life, some holding a silence so complete it roars in your ears. It envelopes you, and settles over your shoulders like an embrace.
The fire crackles, something swoops overhead, a cold breeze niggles the back of your neck, and your buddy says: 'Last cup of tea?'


With you, any time.