Friday, 26 February 2010

Anticip... ation

Counting down the hours until we hit the road.

Even if it rains the whole weekend, at least we won't be at home, following up on emails and being badgered to protest against the megastore (I just keep pointing people in the direction of committee members who don't seem to have done anything yet. I have done more than my bit so I don't feel obliged to stand on a street corner holding a banner. Besides, the tall people would be better at that).

This weekend, I plan to write. My course has me so inspired and I am bursting with ideas, but I have barely found time this week to have supper, let alone sit down and spend quiet time writing. I have warned TSC that I will spend hours scribbling. He says it's fine seeing he will have to do some studying for the three tests coming up this week, poor boy.

Other than sleeping and writing, I hope I get to read and swim. If I can do all of those things, it will be a joyous weekend indeed.

Can hardly wait!

Well, I will let you know on Monday. Until then, take care, be safe and have a fab weekend.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Why is always the irritating songs that stick in my head?

And does anyone know of a good dentist in the Fourways / Bryanston / surrounding area? Please mail me at doodles of a journo at gmail dot com if you have answers to these deep and meaningful questions. Thanks.

I thought seeing my brain has turned itself off today (like our electric gate, it tends to play up when it's raining), I would leave you with something that made me smile:

Have a good Thursday.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Cupcakes and headaches

Last night we had yet another committee meeting last night about this 20 000 square metre store that wants to open next to us. It ended in political mud-slinging when various members began arguing about whether we should get the local DA or COPE folks involved (two South African political parties). What a headache!

I am the youngest person at these meetings but I am often tempted to stand up on my chair and tell the lot of them to grow up.

Oh well, at least we got stuff planned and accomplished. I can't make the next meeting. What a pity ;-)

When I got home I treated my headache with my usual therapy - baking. Roo had ordered cupcakes from someone, but got dropped at the last minute. I recommended her to cupcake miracle worker Angel, but because it was just so last minute with no notice, Angel couldn't fit her order in. I said I'd do it, so here are the results:

Roo seems to like them.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Weekend happenings and various random metaphors

The weekend felt like a very welcome water stop in the middle of a marathon - we were briefly refreshed and hydrated before hitting the road running again on miserable old Monday.

I don't know what I would do without TSC. Seeerrriousssly. When I arrived home on Friday I was bushed. I felt about as fabulous as a wrung out dishrag. And he let me drag myself up the stairs, throw myself on the bed and immerse myself in my book for a bit of an escape while he stacked the dishwasher and made supper - courgettes stuffed with mince. Yum! Then we watched a couple of Scrubs episodes to laugh a little and went to bed. Happy days.

Something else I realised again this weekend is that we generally get along with people who are older than us better with people our own age. There are exceptions. We have close couple friends Brett and Kim who are of similar age to us. But most of our friends are older. For example, we had our neighbours, let's call them The Italians, for supper on Saturday. They're a couple in their late 50s and are closer to my parents in age than to us. But we get along like a house on fire. They only left at midnight once we'd all devised a plan to bomb the new warehouse shopping centre should it ever come into being.

On Sunday we slept in.

I felt that sentence deserved its bold font.

It was wonderful. I have missed spending quality nap time with my bed. And my pillow. And, of course, my lunatic cats who climb on top of me and poddle away when I'm trying to snooze. As someone once said, "There's no such thing as a snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast."

We also went for a picnic at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens with my folks. It was my dad's idea. I was surprised, seeing he's not generally one for finger food or sitting on the ground. But a great time was had by all. After some delicious chilled wine, samoosas, roast chicken sandwiches and then candied cashew nuts (dessert), TSC and my dad were so relaxed that they fell asleep on the picnic blanket. My mom and I went for a walk to the waterfall and brought ice-cream back with us.

On Sunday evening we also had pizza with some mates after church at Ciro's - one of my favourite local spots. It was good to chat about stuff on our minds with other people (also much older and wiser than us). We needed it. I think they needed to share too.

Monday morning was a smack with a frying pan after such a great weekend. It was my only free night of the week. We have meetings galore this week and I'm on a few freelance deadlines too. Plus I am supplying Roo's birthday cupcakes. So I had better hop to it and do some work.

I can spot an oasis in the distance though - this weekend we're going camping. Yay! No emails, no meetings... can't wait.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Would you read my book now?

I have refined my synopsis and found my focus. At last! I've also sent this to dear Po. And seeing she was nice about it (she always is nice), I am going to be brave and put it out here. So, readers, what do you think?

70-year old Joe Botha is struggling to cope alone after more than 40 years of marriage to his wife Marge, who recently and unexpectedly died, following a massive stroke.

Living in a small town in the Freestate, Joe is surrounded by well-intentioned but meddling neighbours who unwittingly make his grieving process all the more difficult. Months after Marge’s death Joe meets Rose Oosthuizen at a bowls tournament. The strident Afrikaans ex-wife of a prominent politician, she is nothing like Marge. Nevertheless, Joe is intrigued.

As their friendship develops, Joe is shocked to learn that Rose has been living alone on a small plot on the outskirts of the town. Left destitute by her ex-husband, Rose has nothing to her name.

Shared neediness and shattered confidence bond the two firmly and, despite the disapproval of their families and townsfolk, they are soon involved romantically. When Rose moves in with Joe the rumours escalate and even Joe’s priest tries to put a stop to the relationship.

At 72 years old, Joe is tired of trying to impress people. He and Rose buy a dilapidated nursery in KwaZulu-Natal and escape to start a new life together in their old age. Rose brings Joe back to his Afrikaner roots and as they work rehabilitating each other and the nursery, they discover a variety of love that is new and different to both of them.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Not much at steak here

I am utterly exhausted. All I want is 10 minutes to stand still and do nothing. But seeing that's not likely (am typing this post between following up on work emails and filing residents' objections to this stupid store), I will indulge in a random rant instead. About steak.

Yes, steak.

It's just one of those things I don't "get". Seriously, what is the fuss about steak? It's a lump of cooked meat. But people go mad for it (especially South Africans). They search for the perfect steak restaurant, order their massive piece of dead cow and then rave to everyone about how delicious it is.

But it isn't really. It's just plain boring. I would never order steak at a restaurant - there are too many other more exciting things on the menu for me to get stuck with a chunk of meat. I would even pick good old roast chicken over steak any day of the week. Or calamari. Or curry. Or a stirfry. Anything, really. Except tripe. I draw the line there.

People think I feel like this because I haven't had a "proper" or "perfect" steak. I have. My husband is the world's greatest steak snob. I have tasted the steak he orders at restaurants ranging from The Cape Colony to Coco Bongo and many, many places in between. And I'll tell you what... it all tastes like steak.

Yes, some steaks are tender and some are tough. Some are cooked beautifully while others are burnt to a crisp or slapped on your plate while they're practically still moo-ing. TSC actually does a better steak than most of the restuarants we've been to. But even the most delicately spiced, perfectly cooked piece of steak still tastes like a big chunk of beef.

I prefer the taste of fresh coriander, lemon butter, plum sauce, green curry or napolitana sauce to steak. That's just the way it is.

But you wouldn't believe how many people have tried to convince me that I am wrong and that steak is indeed the ultimate meal. Weird.

Anyway, go ahead and take your shot. Tell me how awesome steak is. Or don't. I'm going to pick the roast chicken anyway.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Not going quietly

I have yet another meeting about this warehouse store tonight (before my church small group meeting, so it's going to be a real rush). The past few days have been spent writing fliers, posters, banners, web copy and emails... I am now heading up the communications for our newly formed residents' action group.

It may seem like a lot of fuss for nothing, but the new development would negatively affect our property values and introduce serious security, traffic, noise, pollution and storm water considerations to the whole suburb. Our complex is specifically affected by the proposed road developments, which would have the delivery entrance to the warehouse runnign past us, meanign trucks arriving and departing at all hours of the day and night. It would also, no doubt, become a new back route for people to use to avoid the main roads in our areas, so we can look forwrad to peak-hour traffic congestion.

We bought property in this area because it is quiet, peaceful and safe. Now they're meddling with all of those things. And the tragedy is that those of us who will actively stand up and fight are in the minority. The rest simply shrug and say, "Oh well, it sucks. But what can you do? I guess we'll live with it."

Not us. Not ever.

Bring it on, biatches. We're ready for you.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Explanations and deliberations

My blogging mojo, as you may have noticed, has been severely lacking. I put this down to a couple of reasons:
a) my creative writing course is keeping me so occupied that it's difficult to find a moment to blog, and when I do, I feel like I've used up most of whatever creative juices I might have had.
b) I have been otherwise occupied by a crapload of admin, mainly for church and my freelancing business, as well as by the fact that our neighbourhood is up in arms about this big warehouse store that wants to open on our doorstep, so we've been attending, photocopying notices and generally running around like headless chickens.
c) a lot of stuff that's going on in my little world is unmentionable on this-here public space, just in case the wrong people happen to be reading it.

But here I am anyway, so let me give you a little update on happenings:
  • We saw Up in the Air on Friday. It was good. George Clooney is as gorgeous as ever and the movie was well made. But I don't quite see what all the fuss was about.
  • On Saturday we visited Kitty Haven and signed up to volunteer. When asked about which area I'd like to help with, I ticked "Cat cuddler". Isn't that a dream job?
  • We went for brunch at Melrose Arch on the way back at Grand Central. It's the first time I've been to Melrose Arch just for the sake of being there - I've only ever been there to the offices before for work meetings. I must say, we had a divine time at Grand Central. It is the first place we've found in the almost three years we've been in Joburg where the Eggs Benedict matches up to that perfect creation from The Gardener's Cottage in Newlands, Cape Town. TSC had that, while I enjoyed a homemade lemonade (yum!) with my brerakfast of polenta toast with sweet corn, avocado sala, sauteed cherry tomatoes, wilted rocket, pesto, Napolitana sauce and grated pecorino cheese. It was heavenly.
  • I got seriously stuck into my garden on Saturday afternoon. I have the scrapes and bruises to prove it.
  • TSC went to the rugby with friends and I enjoyed the opportunity to go out gift shopping for Roo and finish up TSC's Valentine's Day card.
  • Yesterday we overslept. And it was bliss. Since I started this writing course I haven't been able to sleep properly with all the ideas running through my head (and not all of them are useful. Sometime early this morning, my dreams were telling me that there should be a giraffe as one of the central characters and that I should name her Abigail. Weird). Anyhoo, we spent our day having a picnic on our lawn with sparkling wine and chocolate mousse. It was the best way to spend the day - away from te madding crowds!
  • Last night we met my folks for dinner at Primi Piatti in Midrand. It was nice to catch-up, although I did almost all the talking. I couldn't stop myself... I just needed a vent about this stupid warehouse store (noise, traffic, security and aesthetical issues, nevermind the fact that the value of our property will plummet if it goes ahead) and work stuff. The good news was that this Primi still had gnocchi bolognese on their menu. All the other branches have stopped making it and that dish was pretty much the only reason I ever went to Primi.
  • Today was the deadline for the submission of our first writing assignment. I had great fun doing mine, but I'm terrified of the feedback! I posted my synopsis on the course forum and the course teacher gave me a great response. He loved my writing, although he reckons I'm giving myself way too much work. I agree with his poitn of using my granddad's life story as background and writing the last bit I'd planned - the relationship this old man has with his second love, and how he deals with the situation. Having a clear focus has helped me more than I can say. I may post the revised synopsis sometime for your thoughts.
  • Have a great week. I promise I'll be back soon this time ;-)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Would you read my book?

Here's my first draft of the synopsis...

Born in Southern Rhodesia as the youngest of seven children, Harry learns early on to make his own way in life. When his mother dies and his stern Afrikaner father remarries, he finds himself with another seven siblings and his fight for independence intensifies.

Hardworking and intensely stubborn, he finds a job on the mines before meeting his match in the fiery red-headed Nell Carol. Although they can barely understand each other and belong to different social classes, Harry pursues her against both families’ wishes.

They marry and, despite facing financial ruin, political instability and eventually guerrilla violence as Britain loses its colonial hold on the country, they stand firm together, raising two children and sending them to school in South Africa to acquire the education Harry always dreamed of having.

When they are forced to flee the country to avoid political violence, Harry and Nell start over in the small Freestate town of Deneysville. Closer to their children and involved in the community, they are happy again until Nell suffers a massive and unexpected stroke. Within weeks she dies.

Distraught, Harry does everything possible to keep busy. After more than 40 years with Nell, he is unable to function alone. Months pass before he meets Lilly. Divorced and destitute, she is living alone on a plot outside of the town. As their relationship deepens, she brings him back to the roots of his Afrikaans culture. But not everyone approves of their love. Townsfolk and even family members make hurtful comments and shut the couple out.

To escape rumours and judgment, they relocate to KwaZulu-Natal where they once again start over, learning to put past relationships to rest and to embark on new adventures together in their old age.

Thoughts? Comments? Be nice... but honest ;-)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Piccie post

I know I haven't been around for the past few days and that I left on a low note, but I honestly haven't felt like posting anything. I start typing and then I delete.

I've done that about seven times in the past 10 minutes. And I still have nothing. So here are some pretty pictures of happier places instead.

A scene from TSC's family farm in Namibia in Dec 2008.

Me at Mooiberge Farm Stall in Cape Town in Dec 2009, where we picked our own boxes of strawberries. Yum!

Our kitties when they were still littlies, back in 2007.

Me when TSC and I took a harbour cruise in Cape Town - one of the last touristy things we did before we left in 2007.

One of my favourite pics of us ever. Taken in Mpumalanga in Nov 2004, about eight months into our relationship.

Photos are great pick-me-ups on crappy days.

Monday, 8 February 2010

My version of hell...

...Would include eternal Chuck Norris re-runs, lots of Barry Manilow and/or Lady Gaga, fountains of custard (can't stand the stuff), pot holes the size of the one in the road near my office and, worst of all, admin.

Good grief do I hate admin! And right now I feel like that's all I'm doing. Since when did it become my fulltime job to follow up on people?! If I'd wanted to spend my time nagging folks I would have adopted a teenager by now.

Please bear in mind that I am not talking about my own personal admin here. I am not half bad at remembering to pay bills, invoice clients, and file my paperwork (ok that last one's a lie. My paperwork is a mess). The admin that is threatening to bury me at present is not mine and is for the most part avoidable if people would just do what they're supposed to do.

If I spend hours and ours drawing up the ushering roster for church (which is enough admin in itself - keeping track of 60-odd people's schedules) I would really, really appreciate it if once I hit the 'send' button I didn't receive 29 replies within the first two hours (not an exaggeration. This is an actual figure) asking me to make changes. If you can't make your duty on a given night, use the contact details sheet I attached and swap with someone else. Please. I say this with tears in my eyes. And homicide in my head.

Likewise, I would love it if just for once my clients would do their bit. It is impossible for me to send your web copy to the developer to finish your sparkly new site if you refuse to take five minutes to read it and sign it off. So please do not complain that we are running late. The copy is all sitting in your inbox.

I would also love to know how it has become my responsibility to fight neighbourhood evil. For some reason it is me that gets the joyful tasking of writing, printing and paying for notices to alert our complex of the meeting happening this week between our town planners and the major retail corporation that wants to plant one of their fugly stores on our doorstep. I'm not even on the board of trustees for our complex, for goodness' sake. How is this up to me?


I would whine more but I have to go. So much to do and so little medication.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Because modern life isn't terrifying enough...

...Someone (actually, a whole bunch of people) thought it would be a good idea to write children's books that will scar kids forever.

Why am I on about this? Glad you asked. Because, dear readers, this morning the Green Tip newsletter I subscribe to arrived in my inbox with this in the header: Stinkytown turns into Greentown.

Now, with a charming subject line like that, I just had to investigate further. And this is what followed:

Buy "green message" books for children. Forget about the 'Big Bad Wolf" - children's futures nowadays are far more threatened by greenhouse gases than they ever were by wolves. In a new book, Giggles is a happy little bean, planted in good soil, but he sprouts into a world in which the air stinks and the trees are gasping. In "Giggles the Green Bean Turns Stinkytown Into Greentown"... Giggles, guided by his bean grandmother and by a Wise Old Cabbage, learns environmentally friendly lessons and spreads the word to others. In the process Stinkytown is turned into Greentown."

Now forgive me if I would never consider buying this book for my hypothetical children. But seriously... if I'm ever going to be doing the bedtime reading, this book will not be my subject matter of choice.

It did, however, get me thinking about the rubbish kids' books out there. So I did a quick search online and oh my goodness gracious... the results were even more appalling than I could have imagined.

Take Who Cares About Disabled People? available on Amazon. Part of the Who Cares series, this book aims to teach children to care for disabled people, including fat kids and glue sniffers.

Another winner is The Little Boy Who Loved Dirt and Almost Became a Super Slob, by the same author who wrote Nobody Wants a Nuclear War. This woman has a gift for terrifying children.

She's almost as good as the lunatic who wrote Alfie's Home. The reviews tell it all. Basically, the book follows the tale of a little boy who is sexually abused by his uncle and teased about being gay before he is miraculously "cured" by a counsellor who tackles his father issues and makes him confront the naughty uncle (who also miraculously escapes prison or any consequences at all).

The pictures are disturbing, the text worse and the most awful thing for me is that you will end up trying to explain to your kid what the word faggot means as it features prominently. Lovely stuff this.

For more books to avoid like the plague, check out this link.

On a happy note, if this post caused you a bad boo-boo, you can fix it with a bacon band-aid. Gotta love Amazon.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Poor Roo

My colleague Roo drives her mom's car to work everyday. Last week, after Boss chick's birthday drinks, she was driving home in the rain when the car in front of her, a Merc, braked extremely suddenly (the car in front of the Merc turned into a driveway without indicating or slowing down). She braked too, but the brakes locked and she hit the Merc. She was a bit shaken and broke a fingernail clean off, but other than that she was ok. The car's front is smashed up, but there's not too much damage.

Seeing her sister is abroad on holiday at the moment, Roo started driving her sister's car, a sexy little Audi A3, to work while her mom's Toyota Yaris is at the panel beaters. This morning, as I was leaving for work, I got a frantic call from Roo, who was in tears. Someone had driven into the side of her sister's car. This time the damage was worse - the car was crumpled and the airbags had deployed.

She asked me to tell Boss Chick that she wasn't sure if she'd be able to get to the office today. We were all more worried about her. She says she's fine, but the medics have taken her to a nearby hospital to check her out. She is more worried about the fact that her sister will want to kill her.

Poor girl. It's such a horrible thing to happen to anyone and twice in two weeks just doesn't seem fair, especially seeing neither accident was her fault.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A step in the right direction?

I have signed up to do a creative writing course online with the aim of producing a novel. Eep! I must admit that I'm terrified.

What if everyone else is an incredible writer and I'm the loser of the bunch? What if I have spent all this money as an investment in me and a step towards giving up the PR job and I can't finish the assignments or my novel is a flop or the course is rubbish or they tell me my idea is stupid or...

These are some of the things going through my head at the moment. But I am trying to be wise and rational, so I'm telling myself that there's no reward without some risk and that no matter what happens I'm sure to learn something from the experience.

Then I go back to compulsively chewing my nails.

Oh well, it's too late to go back now. I have taken the plunge so I'll just have to get on with it. I get my first assignment on Mon. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Some thoughts

Funny how running on a treadmill can invigorate you and lying in bed stressing can tire you out.

My money is in my account today. I feel... a mixture of relief, the dying embers of white hot anger and a wee bit emotionally exhausted.

Had a little breakdown yesterday when TSC got home. I can soldier on bravely on my own, but when someone's nice to me and I'm upset... Well, it's a tearful, messy scene. So much for waterproof mascara, by the way. It's about as effective as transparent window blinds.

It's not so much the late payment that upset me, but the way it was handled. And the fact that the cracks are seriously starting to show here at morning job. I don't think I can do this anymore. Lay awake last night and mulled over the options, from physical violence to finding a job flipping burgers. There were a few sensible thoughts in between too. Pity I can't remember most of them this morning.

I can, however, remember one of my dreams, which was like an episode of Scrubs. That could be because TSC and I watched a few last shows night to make me laugh a bit. Alternatively it might be because I dream of having a good old Dr Cox style rant at *ahem* certain people.

"Dr. Cox: [explaining he doesn't care it's JD's last week of residency] I suppose I could riff a list of things that I care as little about as our last week. Let's see... low carb diets, Michael Moore, the Republican National Convention, Kabbalah & all Kabbalah-related products, Hi-Def TV, the Bush daughters, wireless hotspots, the OC, the UN, recycling, getting Punk'd, Danny Gans, the Latin Grammys, the real Grammys, Jeff that Wiggle that sleeps too darn much, the Yankees payroll, all the red states, all the blue states, every hybrid car, every talk show, everything on the planet, everything in the solar system, everything, everything, everything, everything, everything, everythingj every-everything that exists past present & future, in discovered and undiscovered dimensions! [turns away, then turns back] Oh, and Hugh Jackman."

Why Hugh Jackman? K, I'm outta here.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Mixed bag

It was a weekend of good and bad.

Let's get the bad out of the way first. Once again, my company has not paid me my salary. So, once again, I have had to transfer money from another account into my bank account so that my debit orders don't bounce today. I can't afford to buy groceries or put petrol in my car. My colleagues (who are both younger than me and live with their parents - no rent, food or bills to pay) are complaining that they can't hit the sales at the mall. I'm stressing about paying my insurance. It's a bit different.

The newest addition to the company, let's call her Vicki (not her name, but she idolizes Victoria Beckham for some inexplicable reason), resigned this morning. It's a new record - she's only been here three weeks. Sweet girl. I'll miss her. But I'm used to this saying goodbye thing now.

I had a meeting scheduled for this afternoon for possible freelance work, but when I phoned to confirm this morning, they said they've found someone else to do it. So bleak! I desperately need to find ways of bringing in more cash every month if this morning job is going to crash and burn. I've been trawling the net for freelance and part-time work, but it's in scarce supply.

My Ella (she's my car) has to go back to Honda sometime soon for a window check-up. There's been a safety recall on all Jazz models made between 2002 and 2008.

And that's the bad news done. Now, the good bits...

On Friday we had supper with four awesome friends. The one couple we know from church and the other couple are friends that they introduced us to. We had to mission out in the mother of all storms that hit Joburg on Friday evening to get to their house (our road flooded so fast that the manhole cover popped out), but it was well worth it.

On Saturday, I hit the gym for an aqua class and then TSC and I watched a few episodes of Scrubs and ate poached eggs on toast. I had planned a big day for us, starting with a nice home-cooked brunch, but seeing I had almost no money left over after buying my mom's birthday present, that didn't happen.

I had, however, found something to do in Joburg that cost less than R50 and would keep up entertained for the afternoon - SAB World of Beer. Now I am not a beer fan, but I must recommend this tour. Seriously good value for money! It's R25 per ticket (and R20 if you have an Edgars Club card), which includes the 90-minute tour, a small souvenir glass (filled with beer) and two drinks of your choice (beer, cider, cold drinks etc) with chips and peanuts at the bar afterwards. The tour shows the history of beer, from 6000 years ago to the present, as well as how beer is brewed at SAB today.

While there are some corny bits (like the "comedy" 3D clip showed at one point), we loved it. Good fun! There's also a shop selling SAB merchandise and a pub offering lunch and snacks on site. Very kewl.

Yesterday, we met up with my mom (who tells me she's now a lurker here too. Awesome), dad and brother to celebrate my mom's birthday, which is today. We had lunch at Mythos in Design Quarter and it was divine. I have leftover Mousaka for lunch today. Can't wait!

I love my family. They make me laugh.

After lunch we all went back to our place for some of my crowd-pleaser ice-cream (must post the recipe sometime) and coffee. It was so good to sit on our veranda and look out on the sunny garden while we chatted. Happiness, I tell you.

Wish I could stretch it out into today. I feel so helpless with this whole work situation. I don't know what to do, but I can't take this anymore. Anyone know of part-time / freelance work?!

I suppose there's no point in moaning about it, so I'll get back to work. Mom, if you're lurking today, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are the best mom I could wish for and I love you more than I know how to say.