Monday, November 13, 2017

under the jacaranda

I've recently finished a monster of a job in Johannesburg.

I was contracted through a long-standing client to do the logistics on a high-level meeting of, originally, 80 experts from around the world. And by around the world I mean really around the world - Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia ... 20 different countries all in.

Rapidly, as these things are wont to do, our numbers burgeoned beyond 80, making the group too big for the main auditorium in the venue we'd booked - the historic and poignant Liliesleaf Farm.

'But we have to have it there!' they cried.
'Well we can't bloody do it inside,' I replied.

6 weeks later...


Negotiating the precarious space between budgetary constraints and expected outcome I worked with the venue, engineers and external suppliers to put together a tented space on the grounds, under the flowering jacarandas, the territorial hadedas and the hot early summer sun.

It looked great on paper and when I flew up a few weeks earlier to do a site inspection it all mapped out well, in theory. But on the Sunday before the meeting, as the tent went up - more open on the sides than the pictures I'd been shown - and the plastic-tile 'floor' went down - on a bumpy lawn which had not in fact been mowed despite assurances that it would be - and the chairs were delivered - and unceremoniously dumped in a corner of the lawn, all 120 of them - and nothing was quite as it should be, far from it in fact - I stood on that bumpy lawn and wondered what to do first: throw-up, change my name, book a flight to Abu Dhabi .... I thought I might cry.

Instead I started unpacking 120 chairs, and vented my frustration at the first supplier who crossed my path, quietly informed my client that it was fine, but not ideal, and checked the weather forecast for the bazillionth time in 24 hours.

The next day I was there by 07:00 and already things started looking better. With cushions on all the chairs and the big plasma screens in place and the fresh morning air - it felt serene and controlled. I watched from the lawn as the Big Boss arrived in her chauffeur-driven car ... she came slowly down the hill toward me as I stood there taking deep breaths, braced for whatever might be rained down upon me ...

'I love it.' She said, spreading her arms wide as she approached. 'Meeting under the trees, it's the African way.'
I thought I might cry again.

3 days of meeting in a dappled green, outdoor space, 3 inspiring days of ideas and information, people stepping out of the tent to stretch their legs and ending up stretched out on the lawn, still listening and engaging. Not a chill breeze or a drop of rain or a dusty gust to distract them. Just the creak of the trees, the occasional cry of the birds and the warmth of a few perfect African days.

That spirit went back to Jordan, to Indonesia, to Pakistan and after it was all over, I came home to Cape Town, happy and exhausted. I love my job, mostly ;-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

14

I got a kiss and a cuddle at 4 am before he left for the airport and a 3 day business trip.

I fell soundly back to sleep until 7 when the doorbell woke me. It was the delivery of my online wine purchase.
It seems vaguely immoral to take delivery of 12 bottles of wine so early in the morning, but in lieu of an anniversary bouquet? It'll do.

The kids are on holiday. I have to work.
There was a bit of juggling that and then a drive round the coast to fetch F's bestie and a stop at the harbour to stand on the rocks and watch whales cavort not 50m off shore from us.
A submarine, yes - South Africa's only submarine, chugged by in the background.

A Southern Right whale and a submarine in the same frame make for a pretty exceptional moment, were it not that we're spoiled rotten enough to see both on a regular basis.

Then home to work work work work work, interrupted only by my mother bearing celebratory poppies (what a wonderful mother indeed) and a puppy who needed a reassuring cuddle. I was happy to oblige.

Dinner out with a friend and a gaggle of little girls. It might seem funny to celebrate one's wedding anniversary with one's most freshly divorced friend but it was a pretty unconventional day as it was.

Home, girls in front of a movie, an hour long chat with my newly widowed sister-in-law. I confessed to her the Tom Selleck / brother-in-law dilemma of my youth and we had a silly giggle.

I finished off some more work, staved off some more puppy cuddles, had a dear message exchange with one of my bestest of friends, and will now go to bed where not my one true love awaits, but an elderly black cat who will sleep up against my heart and a small girl who told me earlier (as I tucked her into my bed tonight as a special treat) that she is so, so, so, so glad that I am her mummy.

I might not have spent my 14th wedding anniversary with my man, but I spent it full of the love that our lives together have created. And that made it a very special day.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

colour blocking

This time last year I was doing this. And it hasn't really let up much.

To be honest the year has been brutal.

Sometimes one needs to hide ...


... and spend a day faffing the shelves.


I painted these shelves, turns out almost exactly 3 years ago. Must be a spring thing then ... sprucing.

It was so good to not think. To handle things which have a story for me - the books and the figurines and the things - to dust, to sort, to place. To use my eyes not my heart, my hands not my head.


Regaining control over some tiny corners of my life.
Let's go October.
Be gentle.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

hennie, aka tom selleck

Posts I've got in drafts:
- It's Spring and we've been in our lake house for 5 yrs!
- A week of Me and how I came back to life after the madness that was August!
- My Granny turned 100!

Post I'm writing instead: My lovely brother-in-law died and we are bereft.
Because life is weird and unpredictable and very, very strange. And we know this, but it hits home so much starker and harder when you lose someone in the very blink of an eye.

Hennie always knocked off early on a Friday. It was one of the perks of running his own business after years in super-corporate investment banking.
He came home early last Friday to mow his lawn. He always mowed his own lawn because he didn't trust anyone else to do it right, because he was particular about this (and very many things) and because he got great satisfaction out of it.
He mowed his lawn with focus and presence, possibly only wandering off in his thoughts to think about the pizza he'd be making for supper (he converted the whole family to homemade pizza, we've all been using his dough recipe for years, and always will), or the weekend ride he'd had last Sunday with his brothers and his niece (Frieda went as her Dad's pillion), maybe he had a chuckle at the latest hilarious atheist meme he'd messaged to his sister-in-law (me) the day before.
He mowed his lawn in the soft Spring evening air and just as he was finishing - edges perfect, minimal cuttings in the pool - a sudden massive stroke felled him right there and took him from us forever.

I met Hennie when I was 17. He was 37. In Afrikaans culture I should by rights have addressed him as 'oom' (uncle) because of the age difference, but being my boyfriend's brother closed that generational gap and I awkwardly called him by his first name, always feeling a little cheeky for doing so.

There was another reason I felt a little uncomfortable around him.


I'd only a few years back gotten over a teenage crush on this guy - Magnum PI - and my new boyfriend's brother, with his loooong legs, twinkly blue eyes, big mustache and cute giggle awkwardly reminded me of that only recently abated lustful interlude.
I'd had posters of both these images up on my bedroom wall for ages, along with MacGyver and Pancho - my other two tweeny heartthrobs. (Don't judge okay, it was the 80's!)

He was a difficult man then - painfully hygiene-conscious, hard, prone to ranting tirades about all the things he felt were wrong with the world (there were many), still the over-indulged eldest child despite being 1 of 4. All the family deferred to his wishes and as time went on and my position in it got more secure I started baiting him a bit, gently challenging him on issues and subtly telling him to STFU when he got too boring.
I remember once in a restaurant asking him if I could taste his guava milkshake - it seemed like an exotic flavour and I was intrigued. He was so taken aback he let me, and afterwards his other brother told me he'd never seen Hennie share a straw in his life.
Another time I accused him of being a pussy for making a huge fuss about a (smallish) spider, no one else would call him on his shit.
When we first moved to Observatory he commented that a 'lot of gay people' live there. I retorted that a 'lot of gay people' probably lived his neighbourhood too but just didn't feel as free to show it.
We disagreed on a lot of things, but strangely we liked each other a lot (and it wasn't just the Tom Selleck thing).

Hennie was a difficult man, but almost more than anyone else I know he changed. And he worked at changing.
He became less ranty, or at least would catch himself and laugh off whatever was supposedly offending him. He became far less bigoted and he and his wife regularly had dinner with a gay couple (who lived nearby!). He went through a long and measured introspective journey to embrace atheism. He started his own company as I said, and employed people from many different walks of life. He phoned his aged aunt every week for a long chat, he popped in for breakfast or lunch with his mum at least twice a week, he had her over almost every Saturday evening for a braai, or his famous pizza.
He mellowed as he got older, he got gentler.

The last time my husband saw him he was wearing a t-shirt which said 'Normal People Scare Me'. Sheldon Cooper was his profile pic.
He was a funny guy.

He was only 62.

My husband loved him. As a brother, as a friend. They would spend hours on the phone talking bikes and cars. Hennie used to come and LAN game at our house once a week for years before we selfishly started having children. They'd go for rides together, fix things together, laugh at idiots together.
He shared a birthday with Frieda.
We joke he's the source of her long legs.
The girls loved him.

He was the most charismatic curmudgeon I've ever met. He was a gentle giant. For a grumpy guy, he made a lot of people happy.
RIP Hennie, we will miss you so.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

reasons I am not blogging ...

... in no particular order.

1. Game of Thrones. I started re-watching from the very beginning a couple of months back and am, to date, all caught up until S7E5 which drops tonight. 
Yeah, I know, it's not for everyone. But it is so very much for me. I'm already panicking about how empty life will be without it.

2. I am doing a 3000 piece puzzle. Lame right? But it so very much for me too.
There is something so calming, therapeutic for me about puzzles. Pieces fall into place, my brain relaxes into it and focuses. There is chaos, and then order - so unlike my life.
My only problem is that I don't have a table top big enough! I'm working on the bottom two-thirds and will have to ignore the top.
My completion problem tendency is deeply satisfied.

3. This.

Our long awaited and now much beloved wood-burning stove. I swore I wouldn't do another winter without one.
I swore that a couple of winters back actually, but this time I made it happen.

4. Life.
I'm finding life quite full-on a the moment. There is work, and there is home/kids/pets/school and in between all of that there is very little me.
I know to know that this is a season, a patch we're in. This is an inordinately busy work month, and I've not had one this full on for a while. The girls are busy and growing and living large. 
The pets are time-consuming. There is a puppy to watch and train and manage and a boy who is adjusting to a puppy and recovering from surgery - as we recover from the shock of his own brush with skin cancer (he's all clear thank dog). There's an elderly lady cat who needs assistance more than she used to, is adjusting to a puppy and is, we realised recently, stone deaf.
And there's still a Lego to mourn. I miss her every day.


Sometimes I can ride the hurdy-gurdy of our very full days. And sometimes I feel discombobulated and unbalanced by their pace.

5. Death.
Of relationships, of innocence. The very concept.
It's been hitting close to home of late, and it's almost impossible to put into words. Feelings of loss are the hardest to describe. What do you say about something which creates a gaping vacuum in your heart? A space which feels both empty and full to the brim.

This August is nothing like last year.

Friday, July 14, 2017

nacho :: starter portion

While I was in Joburg in May, working hard and mourning my Lego, I got sent this pic ...


... husband and daughters were hatching something.

At first I wasn't that enthusiastic, it felt too soon, I didn't think I was ready to start a new doggie relationship, and tbh the memory of puppy care was still fairly fresh in my mind.

But ... Orca was lonely, bull terrier puppies don't come along that often ... especially tan and white females, the exact kind we'd always jokingly said we'd like 'next', and she couldn't come home until mid June so we had a few more weeks to adjust.

And so, the day after Frieda's party, Nacho joined our family.



As if she'd always been here.

She's really just slotted right in. Quietly confident without being cocky. Smart, affectionate, feisty but calm. She's perfect.


And sometimes, when she sits next to me and puts a paw on my foot, when she cocks her head and grunts at me softly, when she leans into me and sighs - she reminds me of a girl bully I used to know and I feel sad, and very happy.

Friday, July 07, 2017

winter holidays

The second term finally dragged to a close, all of us broken and semi-sick and deep bone-tired.

And maybe because we needed them so very, very badly, the holidays settled on to us gently and comfortingly, like a well worn cotton duvet on a chilly winters eve. Exhale ...


Winter mornings when the world seems black and white in its chilly serenity.


Winter evenings when all the colour from the day pools and deepens, dip-dying the sunset as the chill creeps in.


Winter days when despite clammy sand (and dirty fingernails) we still congregate on the beach for a late afternoon cone and a laugh before fleeing home to warm baths and early nights.

Winter is quiet, and measured and calm. Except when it's not of course. But when it is, it is just the balm for the weary mid-year soul.

Monday, July 03, 2017

10


It's July and I've not posted about Frieda's birthday last month!

It's been a rough couple of months with sad news from so many quarters and to come here with frivolity and fun has sometimes felt nearly impossible. But turning TEN is important business indeed and certainly not to be passed by without special mention.

The party was to be a Decadent Milkshake Dance Off extravaganza, which sounded fabulous in the planning stages, and increasingly exhausting as the day drew near. It had been nearly a week of fun and cake and spoils by then and even the birthday girl when I jokingly sighed 'Are we really having a party here tomorrow?' on Friday evening, rolled her eyes and mock-exasperatedly said 'Do we have to?' Yes, of course we did - I mean, look at the line-up!




And the playlist! It was lit I tell you.

We set up a big milkshake station and hit the ground running as soon as the kids arrived. A hot sticky 45 minutes later everyone was full and sweetened-up and the rest of the afternoon ticked over so pleasantly. The kids boated and bounced and hang out in the winter sunshine.




And then we did this really weird eye-ball-roll-inducing thing and made her friends sit through a viewing of this ancient You Tube sensation ...

Before presenting her with a disco cake complete with aforementioned squashed alien. It was one of her FAVOURITE clips to watch when she was half this age.


Hello 10, hello tweendom. I see you. And you're kinda cute.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lego

I've postponed writing this, because I honestly don't need any prompting to blubber like a baby over the loss of my magnificent furry friend - I've shed enough tears over the last few weeks without having to look at pictures and write stirring words.

But she deserves her own special mention - she deserves to be cried over every day. And I need to get back to this space which I didn't feel I could without noting this moment first.

Lego is gone. Her cancer progressed faster than we'd believed it could - but right on schedule for these canine diseases it seems. The vet gave her 6 - 8 weeks from diagnosis, she made it to 7.


She came to us in January 2009, by air from Johannesburg. We'd seen pics of her with the torso and arms of a man in the background, and based on our assumption of her size we picked out a collar and lead, a couple of feeding bowls and some toys and went to the airport to fetch her from cargo.

A big wooden box came trundling out on the conveyor with a teeny-weeny little pup inside. Turns out the arms who had held her in the pictures belonged to a boy and she was much smaller than we'd expected, the collar we had for her much too large!


She and Frieda were firm friends from day one, up to all kinds of mischief.
Lego would nibble Frieda with her sharp puppy teeth until I felt a bit self conscious of all her scratches - Frieda didn't mind - and Frieda used to try and protect Lego from trouble by kindly covering up her illicit puppy poos with whatever was handy - even kitchen cloths and her own clothes!


She was a handful at times, raising her was challenging in places - she was our first dog you see, and firstborns are firstborns really. But she fit with us so well, she was so loyal and so stoically and devotedly there. I trusted her implicitly.


And she trusted us. Which is why, after her diagnosis, I promised her we would never take her to the vet again (she hated trips to the vet) and why, when she was so lumpy you couldn't touch her without her flinching - gently and apologetically 'til the end, we made the decision to call the vet and when he came, we held her in our arms, in her bed, and whispered love and reassurance to her as she slipped away.

The neighbour played violin in the background. I kid you not, that really happened. [Edited for clarity : at her house, next door, completely unaware of how bizarre sad violin was for us at that moment.]

I miss her. I miss her grunts of communication which were as clear (if not clearer) than most of my children's communications with me.
I miss her watchfulness, I always felt safe with her around. I miss her companionship, she slept at my feet for most of her last few weeks. I miss her love.

I've got some people in my life going through some hard shit. Cancer, divorce - massively disruptive and sad life events - and I've felt badly, in the midst of all this, grieving for my dog. But as one of my wisest friends said, 'Family is family, no matter the species'.

Lego was part of our family. She is gone and we miss her.

Friday, May 26, 2017

42

I'm in Joburg, working, and it's hard to talk about home. I'm halfway through a 6 day stint here and missing my people, but the late afternoon slump is hitting hard and I can't let my birthday go by with recording it (and looking busy is preferable to pinching myself to stay awake right now!).

I have exactly two photos from my birthday weekend available to me here ...


... pretty much sums it up.

The weekend was full of all my favourite things: gin, (nice) surprises, love, girlfriends, cackling.

Celebrations kicked off with my, now annual, birthday lunch with my lovely parents on Friday. I do love those guys.

On Saturday (my actual birthday) a friend's kid who I share a birthday with had a 'disco party' - conveniently situating lots of my favourite people in one place with no effort required from me. I took a couple of bottles of fizz in exchange for a fun evening - a surprise birthday cake, a wildly generous spa voucher to cash in when I'm home, a personalised set from my favourite DJ-mate and a chance to shake my booty to it with my daughters and friends, and lots of cackling.

Sunday was tea gin and cake with more girlfriends - my specials, my hearts.

So many lovely gifties and messages - most of which were packed away again in a hurry on my departure and are waiting to please and delight me all over again when I get home - and this ...


... not that boy, I've had him for a while and he pleases and delights me every day, but that magnificent Nguni cow skin he's lying on.

My friend, my magnificent friend, back in March acquired this skin and as much as she loves it, she just can't with a dead cow on her floor. I, luckily, don't have the same sensibilities and OH MY GOD she gifted it to me! I've always wanted an Nguni skin. I've always wanted an Nguni too, but a skin - and such a beautiful one! 
What a gift.

Apparently 42 is the answer to everything ... let's see!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

right now

It's hard to blog when all the big things happening around me at present aren't my stories to tell.

Big things happening to people who are big in my life - filling me with sympathy, sadness, fear and fragile feelings of maternal tenderness.
There's a lot of them - people I love at whom life is throwing some big curve-balls.

WTF life??

The things I can write about are a mixed bag ...

... my Lego is failing fast. When the vet said 6 - 8 weeks, 6 weeks ago, I kind of scoffed. How could he be so sure when we've no idea how long she's had the cancer for? Turns out he knew (being a vet and all I guess). In 10 days time I go to Joburg for a week ...

... Joburg for a week to run logistics on a fab project. It'll be a week of hard work and hard play - my favourite kind. Johannesburg is interesting this time of year - icy cold nights (way colder than CT ever gets) and still, warm days. Good people, some of whom were with me in Durban last year, and interesting work. I'm looking forward to it, were it not for my ailing furbaby.

But in other news - we finished our bath renovation!


Well, besides for a small snag list ...

But it's lovely, very 'executive' as my brother called it (i.e. black and white and sleek), and now of course - totally different to the rest of our house.

It's been about 6 months in the making - the old bathroom was ripped out in November - and we've had the work done slowly as we've had the cash, or inspiration. We're 'hashtag blessed' to have had other loo's to use in this silly big house of ours. It's been fun, and we're hoping to keep up the momentum. We've been reminded that we love doing this, and I think we're quite good at it.
Photographing a bathroom is hard though - thank goodness for that massive reflective shower screen!

Life is hard, life is beautiful, life is relentless. What would we do without it?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

in time of drought ...

... drinking ants in ones tea becomes less reprehensible than emptying and refilling the kettle before boiling it.

... the amount of ice blocks in ones drink becomes a question of conservation, not taste.

... the merits of paper towel versus water play through your head as you wonder whether to wipe or rinse a greasy pot. You can drive yourself mental playing this 'which is worse/better' game.

... your loo can look like the scene of a horror movie as you resolutely flush with bath water despite your daughters predilection for garishly coloured bath bombs.

... you add, to the other multiple lists in your head, a roster of which plant has received grey water when and which is more deserving.

... the sound of a sprinkler is arresting, and out of place. One instantly harshly judges the sprinkleree.

... a dirty car becomes a badge of honour.

... other people's hysteria about the water shortage weirdly makes one feel calmer?

... small people worry. She brushes her teeth with an inch of water in a cup and when she's finished, swills the last drops around in the bottom and asks, 'What shall I do with this Mum?'

... and when there is rain - it's only happened about twice this year - everyone stops what they're doing to watch it, and all the pot plants go out to play. And everything feels right with the world again, for just a minute.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

the hard stuff

A friend who is battling cancer did such a good Facebook post this week.
Couched in a wry, humourous story about her kids, she subtly updated her broader friends as to where she's at in her treatment.
For those who hadn't known she created a light space in which to reach out with their love and concern, for those that did, some light relief from the heartache of watching a good friend go through this.
There was no pity party, no drama, no big announcement - just a gentle 'this is my life now and it's hard but still full of love and laughs and we carry on'.


It's hard to tell other people when you're having a shit time. You feel self-conscious about ruining their day or happy mood, you feel like you're trying to illicit sympathy, but it's more about needing people to know - this is what's up with me, it's not that great.
Be gentle.

What's up with me is that my doggie is dying.
Lego has lymphoma and the prognosis, 4 weeks ago, was 6 - 8 weeks.
She will be 9 this year. She hates going to the vet. Her liver is affected, her lungs and possibly her heart. For these reasons, and others, we're not going to attempt chemo.
We're going to keep her comfortable for as long as we can and then one day, soon I fear, we're going to phone our lovely vet and ask him to come here and put her to sleep in her bed, in our arms.

She knows. She's slowing down for sure, still eating and being herself, but slowing down. Yesterday she didn't come outside when I was throwing bits of wood for Orca, usually a game she'd get involved in, just watched from the door with a waggy tail and a sad eye. She's always been good at the sad eye my Lego, there's a reason we sometimes call her Eeyore.

She sticks close, wandering in with her 'don't mind about me' demeanour, to plonk herself down with a grunt and a nudge, and sleep at my feet. In the evenings she comes to tell me it's couch time - time for TV and a cuddle. In the night she wakes me with an apologetic nose, to let her out or fill the water bowl which is no longer lasting 'til morning.

She knows and she's saying goodbye.
I know and every chance I get I'm saying, in the ways in which she understands, 'I love you Lego'.
This is what's up with me, it's not that great.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

easter happened



I was woken Easter Sunday morning by a small child shaking me.
'Pinkie-swear Mummy, pinkie-swear you're not the Easter Bunny.'
Hungover AF (we were in Hermanus, with friends, we'd celebrated a 50th the night before, there'd been a very excellent Taiwanese whiskey), I groped through my remaining brain cells.
'Pinkie-swear Mummy!' 
Little finger crooked in my face, big earnest eyes - this was serious.

I examined my conscious, and made a hasty decision. Actually yes, I could pinkie-swear I wasn't the Easter Bunny.
Was I fluffy? No. Did I zoom around the world planting chocolate eggs? No. Was I a fictional being? No. Although the whole experience did feel a little out of body tbh.

I wrapped my little finger around hers and shook it. 
'Pinkie-swear', I croaked.


The situation was nearly as awkward as a bell jar crammed with bunnies.


None-the-less, back home Easter happened in a far more adult and tasteful fashion.

Monday, April 24, 2017

ex-spike

For nearly 3 weeks I had a dead hamster in my freezer.

Spike, the innocuous grey and white dwarf hamster Frieda got for her 8th birthday, succumbed a few months short of the 2 years we were warned hamsters usually last.
I ... didn't really get the hamster thing. He was kinda cute, very soft, but more likely to bite one on the sensitive web of skin between your thumb and forefinger and leave a string of turds down the front of your shirt than anything else.
His cage ponged and his wheel squeaked all night.
We had to keep the girls bedroom door closed all the time for bull terrier and cat risk.
Except for the couple of times we didn't.

Spike's most noteworthy achievement, in his small life, was to not once but TWICE ward off attack by voracious bully. Orca just couldn't resist that little guy.

#hamsterwatch
Very possibly the stress contributed to his shortened life span. Spike got steadily more crabby and less lovable. His fur lost its lustre and that wheel didn't squeak as energetically at night. One morning I realised he was really not happy. I called the vet to warn him I'd be bringing in a hamster for euthanasia, I prepared the girls (home for the holidays and remarkably - worryingly? - unfazed), I kinda berated myself for not being butch enough to just hold a ball of socks over the little guy's face until it was over, but call me 21st century soft if you will, I just couldn't do it.
And by the time I got upstairs to fetch him it was basically all over. He was lying in the sawdust, in a coma I think, occasionally a limb twitched but he seemed peaceful and that to move him would be more traumatic than to just close the door, tip toe away and come back later.

No more caged pets please.

Husband felt we needed a proper burial and so, in a box and a bag, into the freezer went Spike.
And then we forgot to bury him.
And the next night we all got home too late.
And the next day is was raining, or something.
And then it was rubbish day and I informed the family I was going to send Spike off in that great wheelie-bin to the sky.
And then I forgot.
And then the next rubbish day was Easter Monday and we were away.
And then finally, today, after that box had been opened a couple of times by morbidly fascinated children, after I'd shuddered more than once getting ice for a drink or scratching around for supper makings, after we'd had a very naughty but delightfully squirmy imagining about a ... hamster smoothie ... I managed to get him out, in time for rubbish collection.

RIP Spike.
No more caged pets.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

lately

Our new (to us) Flying Dutchman sail boat is moored off the lawn, all the shiny bells and whistles clapping in the wind. Well done, well done.
Husband spent the WHOLE of Sunday rigging it and at 18:30, as the evening drew in, we set off on our maiden voyage - a fast clip around the lake. And this in just a light breeze! We LOVED it!
Nearly 5 yrs on and life at the lake still has adventures in store.


I could do without the tinkling though, we're going to have to do something about that ...

Our little dog Lego is in tatters ... she went under the knife yesterday to have two cancerous growths removed and she looks like she's been in a dog fight with a hatchet :-(
We've not had the pathology results yet but we're hoping the vet got it all and that we still have much more time with this sweet furkid.
She really looks like Frankenweenie now ...


Recovery includes treats with her meds, grated apple served to her in bed and lots and lots of snuggle time on the couch (which means I've been watching a lot of TV!).

There's another new baby!


He's not a blood relation this one, but as close as ... first son to some of our dearest friends.

We're coming to the end of the first school term of the year. It's been a long one and the girls are tired. So am I. Not that there's a holiday in the works for me, I'm got an event on in Joburg in two weeks time, but ... just the not having to wake early on these ever-darkening mornings will bring some relief.

But we did get out of town a couple of weekends back - a short mums and kids camping trip to one of our favourite places. It was hellishly hot and the time flew by in a haze of endlessly refilling juice bottles and reapplying sunscreen but we spent a lot of time in the softest, most delectably gentle and soothing mountain river water I've ever known, which made it all worthwhile.
I took no photos.
We've done this a few times before, no-husband camping trips, and I must say we love it. Not that we don't love camping with our partners, but there is something simpler about girl-camping - feed the kids, eat crackers and cheese, go to bed early with our books. OR feed the kids, eat crackers and cheese, sit up late 'round the fire drinking wine and cackling.
My favourite thing about it is showing my kids that we can. Pitch tents, light a fire, handle a massive thunderstorm and unexpected rain (that happened). That we can drive off-road and jump start a car and you know, be ballsy. Except is it not the most unfeminist thing ever to think you have to prove that you can? I'm so tempted always to tell the girls: Look, look what we're doing, aren't your mum's awesome? But I don't.
Far better to just do it right? To just let this be a normal thing for them.
I do hope they remember though, I hope taking their kids on road trips and camping without waiting for a man to be available to accompany them, I hope this will just be a normal thing for them too.

Oh and one last thing, a Pixies concert.


A throwback to our wild youth on a magnificent summers evening in the most beautiful garden in the world, surrounded by many friends - from then and now - listening to a bunch of aged rockers as tight and magnificent as they were then.


There was magnificent merch too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

sim


My girls have only had one cousin. A great big man of a 21 yr old boy, son of my husband's sister.
He's very sweet, very fond of the girls, but he's also very shy and not a chatter at all. Clearly not from my side of the family.

I grew up with hosts of cousins. None of them lived close by but we would meet up on holidays and special occasions and run in a pack, always feeling that connection that we were related, always knowing that was special.
I've talked about them a little here.

I've always felt a bit sad that my girls haven't known that sense of tribe.

But we're working on it. Well, my youngest brother and wife - them of the magnificent wedding two years ago - are working on it.

On March 14th they gave us Sim. A little boy named for a Great-Grandfather he never met.
A nephew. A boy cousin. A new friend.

Thanks dear people, we love him.

Monday, March 13, 2017

7

By last Saturday evening the bags under my eyes were almost as deep as these panda's. We had a house FULL to the brim with friends, flowing freely with G&T's and laughter and wet swimwear and sticky floors and toys everywhere and not a crumb left to eat or a clean fork or glass or mug in the place.
PANDAmonium!


Black & white food (kinda - chocolate brownies are dark enough right?) and ice cream cake and a black rice salad (which I'm still craving every day since) and more and more and more.


MASSES of people (our guest list seems to keep getting longer - a nice kind of problem to have), most of them of the just-above-the-waist-height variety, and lots of love and the sweetest, dearest birthday girl.


She was such a star, this baby girl of mine. In the days after the party I got many messages remarking on how polite she was, how engaged and thoughtful, how considerate.
These make a mama's heart sing.

But that heart does feel a little sore too. I know from her older sister that this year, 7 to 8, is really the last of the little girl years. A lot changes in the next 18 months and very soon I'll be in this space lamenting my lack of smalls, and celebrating my two very big girls. One more year with a soft-cheeked cuddler, who still (just) fits on my lap and requests a 'bednight' story and can't quite reach the bowls on the top shelf.
I plan to make the most of it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

suspended

I stood on the stoep and watched a butterfly. One of those big orange and white faux-monarch ones, I could see his/er feelers twitching.
And then, a starling. Picked it out the air.
So quick, the insect had no more knowledge of it's end approaching than a pea suddenly speared with a fork on a plate.
The bird whipped away, and empty blueness remained.

The dabchicks are back. This is a sure sign that autumn is coming. They are the smallest, and the loudest, birds on the lake. They are very shy.
A family of them float in the water just off the shore. I stand from the table where I have been sitting and with an almost imperceptible plop, in one movement, they are gone.
The tiniest ripple remains.

The water weed sits dense and murky along the edges of the lake. This is the late summer bloom, close to the surface, rich and mysterious.
A huge fish hangs suspended in a grey-green clearing. I sit very still on the bank and watch him, faintly his tail sways, I think I see an eyeball swivel.
I blink, and he is gone.
A massive creature, he manipulates water to envelope and hide him.
The faintest wisp of stirred up silt remains for a second and then drifts away to belie his ever being there.

This week was heavy, and awkward and slow. I have this stage, paused between jobs, when I get crabby and frustrated and bleak. I have work (yes, I am grateful) but no pressure and the lack thereof retards me so I drift pendulous and heavy through my days, wanting to be productive but spending more time suspended. Thoughtful. Slow. Prone to existential examination which is neither healthy nor particularly interesting. I bore myself.
But unlike the butterfly, I know the jolt will come. I know if I hang out here too long I'll be in trouble. Like the fish I know this oasis of calm is encircled by the dark woods of the unknown and I shan't have too long to spend here. Like the dabchick I know I will soon be swimming fast to get my head back above water, back into safer territory.

And when that happens this week of disquiet will fade and disperse into my life and just be that one moment, when I was suspended, before action and movement and change.

Monday, March 06, 2017

mind the gap


See the child, hanging out with her best friend in the shade on a hot afternoon. The shade from the acacia tree we planted just 3 years ago - when it just reached the top of the fence.
See the exposed concrete banks and the weed in the lake - the mouth is open and the water is low. See the reflection though, it is summer but it is still - a rare gift.

Now see in the top right corner, that green grassy gap between the houses opposite. This post is about that gap.
They're all over the place here, little green spaces which allow access to the water - so that this is not just the privilege of us lucky few who live beside it. People launch canoes from them, feed ducks and dip toes, lovers canoodle and dogs tear around, and when you live opposite one as we do, you get to spy on them all.

It's a funny little blank space, always smaller when we've walked over there than we've imagined. It's a little stage if you will, and all the world are players on it.

Dog walkers appear stage left - and march across stopping, or not stopping, to pick up their dog's poo.
There are two cats who regularly frolic and hunt there. An enormous malevolent ginger (he hunts) and a slim Siamese who looks from here like she's wearing little white sneakers (she frolics).
We once watched a Jackal Buzzard alight there with its lunch, dismembering it elegantly until a postman on his bicycle disturbed it and it packed off elsewhere to finish the meal. We walked over later and found a neat pile of gizzards and some feathers.
Some naughty kids once appeared - throwing stones at the water birds and trying to scale a neighbouring wall - I yelled at them and their laughter carried across the water back at me.
We once saw a black fox. Or thought we did until binoculars revealed it was a well-known local dog, with a new and very distinctive haircut.
A few weeks back a pram was parked there, in the shade but seemingly alone. Unable to stifle their curiosity, Frieda and friends swam over to inspect. We watched them approach it with some caution, until they turned back to us and shrugged - it was empty. Later it was gone.
Sometimes at night a torch beam swings to and fro over there, shielding the carrier and revealing nothing but our deep-seated neurosis about mysteries in the night.
There are boys who play cricket. The thud of ball meets bat and accompanying cheers or groans float across to us.
There was an otter on a stormy winter afternoon. Right up out of the water, loping along the bank in the driving rain.
And on the weekend there was a puppy. And then another, and another, and another - a whole line of puppies, TEN puppies! Ten puppies gamboling and tumbling in the green gap across the lake.

Often times, most times, the gap is empty. Maybe a lone hadeda pecking at the ground. Maybe something unidentifiable which requires finding the binocs and confirming that it is, indeed, a felled branch or bit of litter. But mostly empty.
Until it isn't and some small tableau unfolds before us. It's always worth keeping an eye on that gap.


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.