Thursday, July 21, 2016

a week in Durban

I've been in Durban this week - hosting a group of delegates to the Int AIDS Conference here. Running 5 events, managing their registration and hotels and arrangements, being their bitch really.
(I ran into an old client while here and said just that - her gratifying response: 'Well, you are the best bitch in the business' - ha ha.)

I've run into so many old clients, connections, colleagues, friends. It's been like a live walk through of my CV - filmmakers, activists, artists, funders - I've run into people I've worked with at all the various stages of my career over the last 16 years, including the guy I did my very first large-scale event with, back in 1999! We met for dinner on my first night here - I hadn't seen him since 2001 - and had such a great catch-up.

It's been really good.

Our boutique hotel is totally fabulous - comfy, welcoming, homely, extraordinarily helpful - the group I'm with are fun and relaxed and appreciative. Durban is WARM. The food is delicious.

It's been really busy.

The events have been big. The days long and the conference really frenetic. The body is sore and the feet are tired.

It's been affirming.

A week away, working, adulting on my own not for kids or home, has been restful (in that weird way when after you become a parent any time you're not parenting is restful, despite how busy doing other things you might be) and empowering. To go to sleep and wake up alone allows for rare moments of quiet reflection.
Appreciative clients, epic problem solving, well laid plans - the week has been full of those, and I thrive on them.

It's been sad.

The content is sobering, the problems seemingly insurmountable sometimes. So many people working so hard and, relatively, so little change in the lives of the people most affected by this disease. See this summary of Charlize Theron's excellent address on Opening Night - she's so spot on.
(I realise more and more I'm too cynical and too emotional to get any closer to the work done by the activists I work with. This shit upsets me so much and I have zero faith in governments and policy makers to make a difference. This is the stuff of another post probably.)

But overall, it's been fantastic.

My last event just ended, I have a glass of wine - I'm catching up here, overhearing conversations about harm reduction in intravenous drug users, about multi-drug resistant TB, about the next conference in Paris, about the latest shooting in the States - and goddamn, I'm grateful to be me.

But wait, I have one more job: I'm throwing together a Conference Wrap Party for later tonight. Because these people work hard, because their work is hard, because my body needs to dance and because ...

Thursday, July 07, 2016

adrenalin junkies

Two blonde ladies in their 40's, sharing a pot of Earl Grey in a Durban beachfront hotel restaurant.

Adrenalin junkies.

It's not often that I meet other people in my profession. Why fraternise with the competition right? But as the woman opposite me talked about how stressed she was - scribbling furiously in her notebook - how difficult it was balancing all her clients, how when she finally closed her eyes at night she had lists swirling over the inside of her eyelids, I began to suspect I'd met a kindred spirit.

And when she looked up and I saw the sparkle in her eye, I knew it.

'But you love it right?' I said.
'Wouldn't do anything else in the world' she answered with a big grin.

Adrenalin junkies.

The common ground between us sprouted flowers as we spoke.
How many people tell us they'd never be able to do what we do. Clients who get concerned at how calm we are. How inside we're screaming. Wearing so many different hats you can put your neck out whipping them on and off. The terror of the error, the thrill of the win. Behind the scenes and in front of the client.

The inevitable crash. The juggle. The struggle. The love of the game.

We spent 20 minutes together and I felt more debriefed than I had in years. More energised too, inspired and affirmed.

Yesterday a friend reminded me how a few short years ago I was still angst'ing about what I was going to be when I grew up, and meanwhile I was there already. Life is what happens while you're making plans or something like that.


To be an adrenalin junkie I reckon you have to either be over-confident or totally reckless. Maybe the 40's are the perfect combination of both. It's certainly working for me.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I like big birds (and I can not lie ...)

Jackal Buzzard at Eagle Encounters last week.
Jackal Buzzard in the tree in our garden this week.
Holding a 13kg Cape Vulture aloft.
Cleanest Vulture you're ever going to see - that neck hasn't buried inside a rotting carcass ever (at Eagle Encounters)
Hadeda's - most hilarious noisy birds - in our tree.
Sooty Gull (and friends) trying to pilfer off a seal currently enjoying a little break from dodging sharks in False Bay (by hanging out in our lake).
Magnificent graffiti by Sonny in Woodstock, Cape Town (not my pics). I drove past this recently and fell in love.
... I'm hooked and I can't stop staring.

Monday, June 27, 2016

travelling without moving

Last week I organised an event in the City. The schedule necessitated my being there at 08:30 for a couple of hours, and then not being needed again until much later that afternoon.

It seemed silly to travel all the way home, and back, again so I went in search of breakfast, and somewhere to work for the day.

It was a crisp winters day in the Company's Garden, where I had brunch with this cheeky fella.

(And yes, that is a giant weaver bird nest in the background. I didn't go in, it was still damp from the morning dew and distinctly pongy.)

Then I headed to Sea Point, a part of town I very seldom visit - even less so since we moved to the other side of the peninsula - and spent the afternoon there. Visiting deli's much lauded on Instagram by the Cape Town hipster community (only to find them full of Jewish pensioners having lunch) ...

... and drooling in decor shops I'd only read about in magazines.

Eventually settling in a bakery with wi-fi and big glass front windows, where I spent a productive few hours working and watching a different part of my world go by.

An impromptu business trip to the other side of town - quite a welcome change for a work-from-homer such as myself.


This girl turned 9 and I can't comprehend it.

Babyhood, the delights of 1, the terrible 2's, the fuck-you 3's, the peace of 5 - these are all well-documented stages that one reads about as your child grows. One anticipates, prepares, lives through them when they happen like that, fret if they don't because why is yours doing it differently?
Then there's tweens and teenagers and in fact, tweenagers these days apparently - all of which seem some part of a murky undefinable future.

But right now it feels like we've wandered off the map, into uncharted territory where anything is possible - and it's kind of lovely.

She's still a kid, very much, still playful and innocent and prone to flights of fantasy. But she's also reading 700+ page Harry Potter books and asking big questions about the world and occasionally falling victim to hormone-charged outbursts and irrationality. She's a growing, learning, questioning human being, and she's divine.

Frieda's birthday wish was to take a small group of friends to Eagle Encounters.

It was really fun hanging out with her buddies - entertaining and kind, this age is good for that too -  no one needed their bum wiped, no disputes needed parental arbitration - just sweet kids full of chat and laughs and opinions.

We had a great time roaming the grounds in the winter chill, having a picnic in the car park (because we're too stingy to pay for the over-priced picnic baskets full of things the kids won't eat) and dodging the intermittent showers. During one of them we sheltered under some (luckily not-whomping) willows while Frieda's friend Seth serenaded us - A Wonderful World sung by a completely un-self-conscious 9 year old boy. It felt like a magic moment in time.

And of course, the birds! The birds were magnificent.

An enormous collection of rescued and rehabilitated birds - some of whom will be released into the wild, some of whom are too damaged or tame to make it on their own. It was such a privilege to see these magnificent fowl up close, many of which live among us but we hardly ever see. We learnt so much and ALL enjoyed it thoroughly.

Then home for owl and eagle cupcakes, a romp around the garden and the now traditional G'nT's and snacks for the parents long into the evening. A different kind of party from the ones we've thrown in the past - but just as lovely. Uncharted territory is fun!

Monday, June 06, 2016

duck duck duck cake

We took our (very dirty) pedalo for a spin around the lake yesterday. It was a lovely, sparkly, sunny Sunday afternoon with a nippy breeze and clear green waters.
We also took our end-of-week stale bread collection and boy were we popular!

Cheeky buggers even boarded us. Don't those magnificent orange feet look chilly?

And then we came home and ate cake. Birthday cake, because I never got round to one when it was my actual birthday and everyone knows a cake credit is a cake credit right?

This was a combo of two of my favourites: a carrot cake cheesecake. Yes, it sounds weird and yes, it was DELICIOUS and if you saw me yesterday and I didn't mention I had cake then yes, I am a bad person ... but I'll definitely be making it again!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

this time I took the girls

Johannesburg in May seems to have become a thing, a thing I do most every year. This time I took the girls.

Crazy static plane hair
They were such excellent travellers.
I bought Frieda a book at CT Airport and she basically read all the way from there 'til we got to our friends house, only stopping when feeling a little queasy (we decided reading while landing was not a good idea).
Stella and I played travel dominoes and chatted and ate chips. And laughed at her crazy static hair.

From OR Tambo Airport we took the 'Cow' train to our home for the weekend, bathed in lush, gorgeous, winter light.

Johannesburg is so pretty this time of year.

A birthday party for a special little boy, rough and tumbles in some of the City's beautiful parks. Pizza and bubbly (so much bubbly), sushi and chocolate cake.
A lovely weekend in a beautiful home.

I'm not sure whether the mythical Joburg lived up to the girls' expectations, this place their Dad and I go to for work, and sometimes play. I don't know if they expected more, if they thought it would be different, but I do know they had a great time, as did I with them.

I do know that they were wonderful travel-mates, and I feel more than a little sad that I can't take them further afield right now - they would love it so.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I've had one of those totally wonderful, life-affirming birthdays. One of those ones which just makes you feel like fuck yeah, I've got this.

The day before - Thursday last week - I snuck off from my mad work schedule to have a very lovely and sophisticated lunch out with my wonderful parents.
We had a magnificent 3 course meal, a glass of delicious wine, lots of silly chat and beamed pride and love at each other for a couple of hours. I'm so proud of them, for being such present parents always, prioritising us and family life for so many years while really finding fulfillment in their own lives too, and I think they're proud of me for many of those same things.

It's a good feeling to turn 41 in the company of both my parents, all of us so very pleased with each other.

It was a mad busy work week - I'm doing multiple jobs again (as you've probably gathered from my absence here). Not nearly as bat-shit crazy as earlier in the year, but different events and clients and priorities - juggling it all. Juggling it all well in fact.

It's a good feeling to turn 41 busy and productive, to feel the marked progress in my career from this time last year, and markedly from the year before that, to feel validated and appreciated and - dare I say it - a bit like a grown-up really.

But despite the work (or maybe because of) and despite a week of sick husband and daughter (or maybe totally because of), we threw one hell of a birthday party on Friday night!

Early that morning I popped to the flower farm not far from us and filled the house with flowers. I called ahead to hire a standing gas 'mushroom' heater for the evening. And then I worked and worked and worked.
At 14:30 I slammed shut my laptop and rushed to the shops. 3 stops, plus one to collect the heater, and by 16:00 I was home - my car full to bursting, my party taken care of.

Mums and kids from early on - the house full of running and shouting, the stoep full of laughing and goss - later the grown-ups started arriving and after a while most of the kids got dragged yawning home and the adults dug in deeper outside.
There was tomato soup and doughnut cake, bubbly and loads of gin. There was pizza and hysterical giggles and spangly tops and cheeses and home-brewed beer (not by me). There was friends of friends - unexpected party guests welcomed with wine and chicken pie. There was music - and dancing in my lounge with my besties and my daughters. Lemon meringue and shots and illicit cigarettes and fairy lights reflected on the lake.

It's a good feeling to turn 41 with the resources and the confidence (and by gum the venue) to throw myself an epic party, to have so many dearly valued friends come and share it with me, to feel so very loved.

My people know me well ...
It was a very lovely birthday and I'll say it again, because I never for a minute stop appreciating it, I'm a very lucky girl.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

oh april

You are predictable.

You are a month of transition and changing gears. A shape-shifter morphing from hot, still perfect summer days to gold-tinged awetumn, stabbing us in the ribs with some fierce winter storms, chilling us through with your sudden icy evenings.
You are a month of sunsets and rainbows.

You bring otters and owls and flamingos. You bring the stillest, stillest nights for us to hear when they're about.

You, recently, have brought my return to work after a month of rest/illess/disability.

You also bring plague.

Frieda's had her third lurgy in almost as many weeks. This one a radical 'flu thing - high fevers, night sweats. THANK GOD the child can read. The Prisoner of Azkhaban, Little House on the Prairie and Ramona Beezy have all been consumed in a feverish frenzy on the couch.
I can't imagine her dreams.
She's been floppy and docile and ever so sweet. I had to confess to a friend that it has been lovely to get a chance to baby my big girl a bit. There was some back chat this morning though so she's on the mend.

You are the start of waking in the dark, cardigans at 4 and slippers by 5 all day. I came downstairs in proper shoes yesterday and Frieda immediately asked if I was going to a meeting. Working from home is so louche.

The door to the stoep stays closed more and more. Letting pets in and out consumes vast quantities of time and bargaining chips.
I start longing for winter curtains, for 'drawing in' and all those fun-sounding Northern Hemisphere autumnal things.
I might make an apple crumble after I post this.

April does like to bake.

You are also the month which houses our greatest day. Our shining hour. Today, Freedom Day.
But this year I'm not really feeling it. This year Freedom Day feels a little tarnished, our country feels tired and sad.

Quick: puppy!

April has brought us one of our favourite things.

You're an interesting month, April. I'm ready for my birthday month now though!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Last month's full moon I saw from the plane, as we took off from Cape Town in the middle of job 5/5.
After two full (so, so full) days in the city the whole circus was moving to Joburg for the last day of our programme.

A few hours earlier we'd raced across town from our last meeting, I'd escorted the VIP's through check-in and security checks (the group split in two so as not to risk losing them all in case of air disaster, the Princess boarded despite the ambiguous diplomatic wording on her passport, the diplomat successfully checked through with his travelling pharmacy), phoned ahead to make sure the reception committee was standing by, checked that everyone else was where they should be, dismissed drivers, signed payment orders, found a safe place to leave my car. 
Now I was on my own flight, and never more excited to turn my phone off for 2 hours and be completely uncontactable for the first time in months.

Midsummer, the sun had already set as we took off and the peninsula was virtually in darkness, but as we banked and turned south, the mountain line below us showed a fiery orangey-red outline, like one continuous volcano rim circling the city. With the lights still off for take-off the whole inside of the plane reflected orange, everyone in silhouette and gasping in wonder.
Then we turned inland, away from the last of the sun and flew, as if directly, into a giant, full, heavy golden moon.

It was the most beautiful take-off of my life, a balm to my tired and distracted soul, a perfect reminder of the beauty in the world after two days of heavy meetings discussing all that is wrong with it.
It was a welcome moment of peace and stillness.

This month the full moon greeted us in transit again. Barreling through the Karoo at dusk, listening to dodgy trance music and hoping to get to our destination before full dark, we spied a light on the horizon, casting a rosy glow through the dust.
We rushed to meet each other, and she rode besides us for the rest of the way.

We'd spent 4 days camping with friends and dogs and canoes and a ridiculous amount of good food.
4 days of lazing and reading, starting conversations and fires and happily wiling away an afternoon tending them.
Camp life is the best life.

So when it was time to leave, and our friend mentioned she was pushing on to her cabin further up country for a few nights, it took us all of 15 minutes to decide to join her.
Why go home to the laundry when we could stay on holiday for a few days longer?
Spontaneity is almost a bigger luxury than free time these days so hell yeah, let's turn left instead of right at the end of the dirt road, let's chase the moon further into the backwaters, let's unwind just a little bit more.

It took a full lunar month to recover from 5/5, it really did. But I'm here, new moon, new me.

Big meeting for the next one today, plans afoot and ideas flowing. Rested, ready, recovered and grateful.