Tuesday, January 09, 2018

house of eels: july 2017*

It's officially a thing: our annual weekend away with this lot.

One of our party (not me, which is part of the treat) is ace at researching and finding out of the way yet fully lux and intriguing venues and, crucially, taking charge of rallying us all to find a free weekend, paying the deposit and getting us all to commit.
Another (again, not me!), takes on planning a menu, doing the shopping and packing and arriving with all the scrumptious supplies we'll need for 3 days of feasting and drinking like kings and queens.

Always dog and kiddie friendly, always comfy and a little decadent, always perfectly structured to accommodate our growing gang.
This year we had babies, one human and one furry ...

And this year, as with the last two, we had the best time - full of wine and friends and magnificent meals and adventures, and did I mention wine?

And hangover strategies ...

... and enough wholesome outdoor activities for us not to feel too bad about them.

*After my last post I've done a lot of thinking about all the wonderful moments 2017 gave us, and feeling amiss for not recording them here. I'm going to play catch-up a little, because 2017 wasn't all bad, and it'll do well to remember that.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

into the wild

I really have no idea what to expect from 2018. I probably feel like this every year, I don't recall - but this year I feel it stronger than most.

2017 was so full of blindsides, left field curve balls and side swipes. 2017 shook my default optimism, and taught my heart to be cautious. It ripped me open and it left scar tissue - some still raw and wary, some hardened and tough. In places the wounds are still open.

This seems like overly-dramatic, symbolic, talk - but it has been an intensely physical experience for me, managing grief and stress in a way I've never had to before. I have felt it, in my heart, in my body, as present as an actual bruise or graze - it hurt.

I am mistrustful of 2018.

I am expecting some career flux too. Parameters may be changing and I might need to tackle that at some stage this year.

I'm feeling okay about that. Calm. Not quite unfuckablewith (sometimes, if I'm lucky, I feel like that when I'm hell-for-leather working), but good.

And there will also be home.
For this part, I am excited.

The last couple of years I've managed to tackle sizeable home projects (usually in a big rush at the end of the year ...) and am looking forward to maintaining the momentum. We have so many huge projects we'd like to get to, but there are plenty of baby steps to be taken in the interim, I'm planning to take more.

But most importantly, of course, is that home is where my people are.
The girls are just getting more interesting every day - this holiday there's been snorkeling and piano-playing and a milkshake date with a boy (and mother and younger sister, oh and bestie for good measure), and discovering Keeping up with the Kardashians (how crap is that title actually, besides everything else), and game playing and long chats and cuddles ... Before Christmas we were at a friends and for a few hours it was just the 4 of us on our mate's deck, in the pool, in the sun - we joked and laughed like old friends, friends who knew each other well but still enjoyed being surprised. It was a golden moment, with so much promise for moments to come.

2018 can be full of those please.
Here we go ...

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

end-of-year staff party for 1(000)

This year I'm throwing a staff party. I've not had one before, being just little ol' me (and the dogs) in this cavernous office filled to the brim with utter crap.

I don't get invited to Husband's either anymore - since 'the recession' most corporate do's are sans partners.

But this year I decided I especially deserve one, and so I've planned (disclaimer: not 'planned' in the professional sense, just in the sense of bought a ticket - in JULY I might add!) a little soiree ... just me, and about 1000 other crazy cats seeking oblivion and a serious change of scenery ...

Pic from Vortex website - I'll have my own soon :-)
It's been some years since I've been to an outdoor party - probably about 15 truth be told - but I'm sure it's like riding a bike right? Right?

And these days darling, I'm all about the creature comforts. No slumming in a badly-erected 2-man tent in the full sun with nothing but (cheap) vodka and (stale) Niknaks to sustain me. This time I'm creating a boudoir (or should that be a boud-car?) in the back of our Jeep: a proper mattress, throw cushions, fairy lights, I'm still thinking frothy white bedding although I've been told that I'm mad.

Something like this ...

A fridge for fresh milk and salads and beer (I'd love to take wine but there's a no-glass policy and I have standards these days, standards).
A stack of books, mozzie repellent and a good night cream.
A comfy camping chair, a parasol perhaps. A week's supply of wet wipes ...

If I'm going to be the old lady of the party I'm going to reap the benefits of my experience and spending power by being the enviable old lady - the one who is having a blast, and then retiring to her boud-car for an ice cold drink, a fresh little snack and maybe a nap.

This is how I envisage it anyway ... we shall see ...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

pincushions + memories

We recently spent a weekend with all my family on the banks of a river which, I think, possibly makes up part of our DNA.

Thirty years ago we were the children immersed in this river, hunting tadpoles, logging hours of exploratory water therapy, learning to swim and navigate rocks and rapids and the boundaries of our own imaginations.

We know its wide still pools of quiet introspection, the deafening thrills of adrenaline-fueled rapids, the places where the reeds close in and the river fills your ears and you could be all alone on the planet with just the dragonflies and the occasional plopping frog for company.

We remember how just up from the river bank the air instantly warms, the scent changes to that of the heat-baked fynbos and ones ears fill with the buzz of cicadas and the wind through the proteas, the river a distant murmur.

Everything is still just as our childhood selves remembered it, but this time with a few additions.

New members - sisters-in-law and grandchildren - new family dynamics, and new cottages in which to dry out, refuel and suspend time.

My parents realised while we there that it was almost exactly the 40th anniversary of the first time we camped there - under a tarp then. Stories of leopards and friends and fires and floods, 'do you remembers' and 'who was that' and 'no I didn't!!'.

The river remembered us, we remembered each other in a different time. We beamed at each other over cheesecake and pincushions and, again, counted our lucky, lucky stars to have grown up in such a beautiful place. To be here still.

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


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.