Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Awards, apologies and bending the rules

I feel like all I ever do on this blog is apologise for not blogging. But I don't like blogging when I'm in a bad headspace. And I have been fairly strung out and miz of late, so I decided not to inflict that on you.

Thankfully my sick bugs are finally starting to clear up, which means I am feeling a little less sorry for myself and not quite so pathetic today. Yesterday was the worst. Have you ever seen someone shucking oysters? You slide a knife in, wiggle it about (I don't do this - can you tell?) and then try to prise the shell open. Well, I felt like someone was trying to shuck my face (wow - that looks rude if you misread it). Explanation: I had such pressure in my sinuses under my right cheekbone that it felt like someone was trying to stick a knife in there, wiggle it about and prise my skull open.


Now that I've freaked everyone out (including me), let me move onto something more pleasant.

I have a blog award from the awesome Nes at Random Ramblings. She gave it to me ages ago, so apologies to her for the lateness of this post. And thanks, Nes. You rock.

Blogger is being its usual annoying self and not letting me post the award pics here, so you'll have to trust me on the fact that Nes did actually award it to me and I'm not making this all up. Or you can read the post yourself.

Now seeing I can't post the awards, I guess I can ignore all the rest of the rules too, hey? Hah - it's not like I usually take any notice of them anyway.

The one rule is that I'm supposed to tell you seven random things about myself. I reckon I tell you enough random things about me, so here are seven random websites I dig instead:

  • Improv Everywhere. They cause scenes. I could spend all day watching their Youtube clips. My favourite prank is the mute button.
  • Rotten Tomatoes. I've mentioned this one before. But really, I check out 95% movies on this site before deciding whether or not to see them.
  • My Potholes. This concept could be expanded on infinitely in SA with our steady supply of potholes.
  • The Neo Cube. I bought one of these for TSC as a graduation present. It's addictive!
  • The BBC Formula One gossip column. All the latest rumours from my favourite sport.
  • Blue Sky Resumes Blog. Great work advice (and really helped me writing CVs for clients).
  • Twitter. Awesome for F1 updates too.
The other rule is to pass the award on. But there are too many of you who deserve it to get started on that - I follow a ridiculous number of blogs and all of them deserve awards.

Instead I'll say thank you to everyone who reads this blog. And an extra special thank you to those who left comments on my last post. I really appreciate it.

Have a good Hump Day, folks.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The facts from this week

I'm off to Durban tomorrow for the weekend. I will visit my gran, who had a mastectomy on Monday. She only found out on Friday that she needed one, so it's been a shock.

The op went well and we're just waiting for the histology reports. My granddad has been beside himself - he lost his first wife (my biological gran) to cancer after a marriage of more than 40 years. I was still in primary school at the time. It was very sudden - she had a stroke, they found out she was riddled with cancer and days later she was gone.

Understandably, he's terrified that this could happen again. He's a little more relaxed now that the op is over, but he has bronchitis at the moment, which is no joke when you're 85. I need to see them to feel ok.

Of course, having booked flights, I've now come down with the head cold from hell and I'm worried about passing on my bugs to either of them. I have downed Med Lemon, Panado, Nurofen, Strepsils etc (not all at the same time!), but am just as miserably sick and battling to breathe. I am eating oranges (when what I really feel like is all the cheesy stuff that's especially bad and mucous-producing), rubbing on Vicks VapoRub and staying in bed. Hopefully I'll be ok by the time we fly tomorrow.

It's been an especially busy week, with assignments from old clients and an exciting new one (thank you, Jeanette - I owe you for this recommendation), which are all (of course) urgent. On top of that, there's other family stuff, friends going through really rough times and some other stuff that doesn't get discussed here.

On the bright side (and there is always one), I'm looking forward to spending my dad's birthday with him and my mom on Saturday, and TSC and I are busy planning a bathroom renovation (very exciting, but probably insane, seeing I work from home and will be witness to every bit of dust and noise). Our church small group is also partnering with an incredible adoption organisation to help them refurbish the homework rooms where the kids work. I love that sort of stuff.

Life is crazy. But I am still here. Until tomorrow. Then you won't hear from me till after Durban.

Have a good one.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Movie stuff

Lots on the go. What I thought would be a quiet week turned out to be very busy. Haven't had time to post anything of substance, but here's a bit of fluff for you in the form of two movie reviews and some cinematic thoughts ;-)

X Men: First Class

I'm not generally a fan of movies based on comic books. They tend to have lame plots, stilted scripts and simplistic characters. But the X Men movies have always been different. Yes, they are silly. But they are generally wellmade. The only exception for me so far has been Wolverine, which I hated.

X Men First Class is slick, fast-paced, filled with spectacular special effects and actually contains some pretty decent acting. It's fun to watch and is perfect Hollywood entertainment that doesn't require too much thinking. Of course it's not perfect - there are some daft lines, some OTT moments and the story loses momentum in parts. But it's honestly not too bad, which surprised me, especially when I saw that the character of Professor X was being played by the sweet but in my mind sappy James McAvoy. He actually did lend a touch of humanity and humour to the character. Michael Fassbender was perfectly cast as Erik / Magneto.

All in all, a not too shabby 7 / 10 from me.

Jane Eyre

I loved the book. I'm a big fan of the classics. But as long as the basic story and "feel" of the book is translated into film, I don't mind some smart editing that may cut out a few bits here and there. And that's exactly what this film did.

Instead of plodding along, following the exact path of the book, director Cary Fukunaga played a bit on the sequencing of events and cut out some details that, although charming in the book, were not essential to the plot.

Imagine my surprise though, having been suitably charmed by Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre, when Michael Fassbender showed up as Mr Rochester. Two movies with this man in one week and really - he is the only thing that X Men: First Class and Jane Eyre have in common. But more on him later...

Jane Eyre was one of my favourite movies of the year so far. The acting was incredible. How to play Mr Rochester so that he is rude, abrupt and awful yet still someone that one wants to fall in love with is always a challenge, as is the character of Jane Eyre herself - how to convet her spirit without imposing our modern feminism on that time period?

Both situations were navigated exceptionally well. The drama was intense; the landscape ideal. The chemistry between Jane and Edward is beautifully conveyed.

Once again - it's not perfect. But to me (and maybe it's because I love the book so much that I tend to be quite generous to any recreation of it), it scored 9 / 10.

On movie-going and then Michael Fassbender:

If you've read this blog for any great length of time you'll know that I LOVE CINEMA. I studied film at varsity and everything about it (aside from the celeb stalking) fascinates me. There is so much that goes into making the final two-hour movie that we watch. Everything on that film is included for a reason. Lighting, props, camera angles... they all contribute to the mood and our understanding of a film.

Needless to say, I enjoy watching a movie at the cinema. I also enjoy watching films at home, cuddled up on the couch, but for me a trip to the movies is a favourite outing. TSC and I probably watch a movie in the cinema every two weeks. I love everything from getting dressed up to go out to getting my popcorn and slushy (my movie ritual), watching the previews to plan the next films I'm going to watch and then the actual cinematic immersion experience of the big screen, surround sound and the group reactions itself.

Now here comes a rant...

I'm really tired of having my happy bubble of cinematic pleasure burst. Sterkinekor's latest catchphrase is "Your happy place". For me it couldn't be more apt. But the Sterkinkor movie theatres near me are definitely NOT my happy place. At Fourways Mall, we've had shockingly warped sound at two movies (so every bit of background music sounds like Dory speaking whale in Finding Nemo) and the most disgustingly stale popcorn I've ever tasted in my life the last time we were there. And fighting with management hasn't got me anywhere.

So we moved on to try Cedar Square. And the whole way through Jane Eyre, there was a bright green vertical stripe of light down the right side of the screen. It's very hard to concentrate on the scene with a big fat stripe down the actor's face!

Anyhoo... onwards to my comments about Michael Fassbender.

Seeing him in X Men: First Class, I was instantly struck by how much he reminds me of my brother. They have the same high cheekbones, long nose, dark hair, bright blue eyes and a sort of "hardness" about them. TSC and I chatted about it afterwards and I said how weird the resemblance is.

Then, just a few days later, we saw him again in Jane Eyre. He's a very versatile actor. But the trouble is that he's also playing the lead romantic role in Jane Eyre and he is a rather attractive man. So I found myself empathising with Jane, admiring Fassner as Rochester and feeling my heart melt, and then stopping suddenly with that "eeuw" feeling when he did something or said something that made him look exactly like the older version of my brother.

It was very disconcerting.

And, as Jeremy Clarkson would say. On that bombshell, it's time to say goodbye!

Have a great weekend, computer people.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Joburg is meant to have summer rains. We don't expect a drop of the stuff in winter. But in the last few hours it has bucketed with rain. And then some hail, just to really confuse us poor Gautengers.

TSC and I didn't sleep very well with the storm raging, so both of us were wide awake when we heard water trickling somewhere inside the house at about 3.30am. We flicked on the light switch and were greeted with the sight of little rivulets of water pouring out of the ceiling in the corner of the room and running down the walls into the carpeted floor.


Great way to start the day. And nothing can be done until the rain ceases and TSC gets home from work, so we have put down some old towels to soak up the worst of it until then. Joy.

But it could be far worse. My heart goes out to all those who don't have a roof over their heads at all, not even a leaking one.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Monday morning thoughts

That was a pretty good weekend. Some highlights:
  • Watching Defending the Caveman at the Pieter Toerien Theatre - hilarious! TSC and I are still laughing about it.
  • Supper club breakfast (oxymoron, I know. But we decided to do something different this month) at my favourite breakfast restaurant in Jozi - Grand Central Cafe.
  • Watching ancient movies in front of the fireplace with a hot, home-cooked meal and a glass of wine.
  • Relaxed lunch with my folks at Cafe Blue with good food and conversation.
And this morning I remembered that when we helped my gran clear out some stuff last year, she gave me a pair of never-worn slippers with microwaveable heat-bag inserts. So I'm sitting here with warm feet, possibly for the first time this winter. This makes me very happy. And a little bit sleepy.

Lots to do though! Off I go.

Friday, 3 June 2011

My life is a pie chart

Is it just me or has this week gone on FOREVER?

I am so glad it's finally Friday. Bring. It. On.

In other news, I found a graph that describes my life:

Have a wonderful, warm weekend, people. I will be spending mine avoiding emails, consuming hot food and bonding with my fireplace.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Celebrating one year of self-employment

Today is exactly one year since I took the plunge and gave up my half-day job for fulltime freelancing. Lots has happened in this year (clients have come and gone, I've ghost written a book, TSC has found a job) and lots has stayed the same since my first post about it (I still work in my slippers, spend too much time on the internet and stress about my tax stuff).

Here are a few things I've learnt from the experience so far:
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Even the most reliable of clients and partnerships may come to an end unexpectedly.
  • If you are looking to procrastinate, the internet offers un unending supply of strange videos, annoying songs, and incredible projects by creative people. You will never get to the end of the awesomeness. You will also never get any work done. (Btw, these links are SO worth clicking through!)
  • I need to get out the house. Otherwise I get cabin fever. I schedule meetings at coffee shops, pop out to do the grocery runs (so I can avoid the shops on weekends when they're crazy) and occasionally, when work is slow, I do lunch with an old friend. Having this flexibility means I have to have discipline though - if I take a morning out, I may have to put in the time in the evenings. And that's fine by me.
  • My boss is a real cow sometimes. Working for myself means being on my own for most of the time. And I get sick of myself. Which refers back to the point above - get out; see people; maintain a semblence of sanity.
  • I'm it. I can't pass along the boring work to someone else. And when deadlines are crazy (as they tend to be in journalism), I sometimes have to work through the night to get everything done. There's no passing the buck. I don't think you can survive being self-employed if you don't have a sense of personal responsibility.
  • Even when there's not many jobs on my plate, there is ALWAYS something to do - admin, filing (blergh), marketing, following up, invoicing, networking (haha - not so good at that) and, of course, blogging :-)
  • People tend to think that because I'm self-employed I either have no life and will be able to take on jobs with no notice or ones that fall completely outside of normal office hours, or they think that I just sit at home and twiddle my thumbs. In the latter case, they try to get me to join committees and clubs or they try to fill my hours for me with tea parties and shopping expeditions. They don't realise that I'm actually much busier than I ever was when I was employed by someone else because now I am my own office manager (suck at that), accountant (suck at that even more), marketing department (wow, aside from writing I'm not actually very good at any of this stuff) and tea lady (ok, I can do that).
  • Clients often think that because I'm a one-person business they can pay me peanuts and pay me late. I don't get that - surely I'm more vulnerable than a big company? Paying me late messes up my cash flow completely. And I don't have a salary to rely on, so it's important that I charge properly, otherwise I don't eat. Wish I could get them to understand this fact.
  • It's important to unplug. Working from home and for myself means that I could easily get carried away and never switch off from work. I make a point of "closing shop" for the day and I've taken to turning my phone off at night (seeing I have clients who call me before 7am). It's healthy to get out of work mode and spend quality time with TSC and also on my own doing stuff not related to work - gardening, cooking, taking a long bath, going to gym and cuddling my cats.
  • I couldn't do this if I didn't love writing. Self-employment for me is only an option because I love what I do. If I were trying to make this work as a book-keeper (wahahaha... as if!) or a freelance PR officer, I would fail because I am not passionate about those things and wouldn't have the discipline to get the work done without a boss looking over my shoulder.
So that's what I've learnt in year one. I look forward to sharing what I've learnt with you at the end of year two. But for now it's off to get some work done!