Thursday, November 26, 2015


Jo'burg for 3 days.

Jo'burg is hot at the moment. Still and hot and buggy. I spent a fair amount of time photographing ants and sending them to my Dad. He sent back sketches from his growing portfolio. My Dad's a myrmecologist and it's hard not to catch the um ... bug.

Winged things flew into my hair a lot as soon as it got dark. It gets dark early in Jo'burg, and at the same time, every night.

The first night we sat out late, on the stoep of our guesthouse, planning the next day and flicking bugs out of our hair.

Two days of meeting, 40 participants from all over.
Day 1 started with a ridiculously childish request at 5am (which I ignored), and ended with Baklava Cheesecake (it got my full attention).
Day 2 was soured by transport company fuck ups (I had to throw some toys - it wasn't pretty) but sweetened by a tour of the remarkable place where we were meeting.

It was sobering, in session, to listen to our participants speak of police brutality now in a place so representative of the heinous acts of the apartheid secret police service then.
But it was moving and evocative, out there, to visit the cottage where Madiba lived while posing as a gardner and forming Umkhonto wiSizwe. To stand in the living room in which the Rivonia trialists were seized.

A quick meeting for job 3/5 (it all starts again on Monday), and a terrifying foretaste of the drama which will be job 5/5, a mad dash to the Gautrain and a nearly full moon over OR Tambo Airport.

Home to my dear hearts.

A brief respite, and then I pick up the reins for the next mad sprint. Life is full, life is full-on.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

the week that was

Big, crazy week of work work work, no childcare outside of school hours, total disintegration of house and home, complete neglect of pets and plants and laundry and really anything outside of the work and the most pressing of family functions.
(Apparently we must eat and have vaguely clean laundry and conversation every day - crazy innit?)

My poor children. Naturally with the Work comes the Guilt.

It's interesting how I'll happily tell my kids to bugger off so I can read my book, or have a shower, or cook a meal - I have no real problem with doing that (if they're happy and fed etc of course) because it's looking after me - which I think is good behaviour to model - or looking after the family - which is part of my job as nurturer. But I hate having to tell them I need space to work.
Then I'm looking after other people, and that feels like a betrayal.

It could not have been a better week to stumble across this online ...

.... how totally and terrifyingly true is this?

This week I have been reminded again how immensely lucky I am that this is not our permanent reality.
I work in these fits and starts, I work from home - and in some ways I think the broken rhythm of my work days might make it harder on the kids to settle into a routine, and sometimes I think it might be easier of I was gone - away in an office - rather than here and so very distracted.
But at least if I'm here I can keep contextualising for them what's happening - they can see I'm working, they hear me on the phone (while I glare at them to shut it), Frieda reads my emails over my shoulder and asks me to explain a movement order - and because I'm freelance there's an end, a point in the future in which I'll stop, push away from my desk and my phone won't ping every 5 minutes.

But for now .... 3 days in Joburg next week, new au pair starting 1 December ... 4/5 left to go!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


It was never going to be a particularly easy day.

Husband had to leave for Joburg at 5am, and we'd both only be home after 8 tonight - him from up there, me from my first of 5: 5 events in 4 months.

Luckily (so, so luckily), Granny was on hand to help out - collect girls from respective schools, feed them, take them to swimming, feed them again, have them sleepover and then get them up for school tomorrow.
Last night we packed multiple outfits, snacks, the bizarre assortment of paraphernalia two little girls require to function over 24h.

We both worked late, we both struggled to fall asleep. But only one of us woke at 1am to a daughter with a sore stomach, at 3am to two dogs with full bladders, at 4am to a daughter (the same one) with sick in her hair, at 4:30am to fly across the country (okay that one was him) and again at 7 to a daughter (still the same one) with more sick in her hair.

What is that word, I pondered to myself this morning, for that thing where you have a massive, important work commitment and you find yourself scrubbing sick off a carpet? Oh right, I remember: motherhood.

And what is the word, for when you have to drop your grey and droopy child off at someone else's house because you have to go to work? Oh ja, guilt.

But in her words: 'Mum, if I can't be sick with you or Dad then Granny is the next best person in the whole world.'
Rare praise.

Poor lamb.
Apparently however, according to the text I got from Mum as my book launch babbled away successfully in the background, she rallied enough to eat some chocolate mousse before bed.

1 down. 4 to go. Oh and that thing called Christmas slap-bang in the middle. And still no au pair person.

Thank goodness I love my job!

Monday, November 09, 2015

'braaibroodjies' as a metaphor for us

We had a braai on the weekend (that's a barbecue remember?).

In South Africa (well, in lots of families in South Africa) a braai will never happen without braaibroodjies (aside: the best autocorrect can offer for this word is 'broodmares'. Not the same.).

I'm sure I've spoken about this before, braaibroodjies have been one of those tropes of our relationship.
It took me years to take them seriously. I mean, who has essentially a cheese & tomato toasted sandwich as a side dish to an otherwise perfectly satisfying and fulfilling meal? We do apparently.

Husband confessed some time ago that he only really, deeply, fell in love with me once I embraced the braaibroodjie.
Which I have done, in all its smoky, cheesy, extra-unnecessary-carb glory.

There are different ways of enjoying the braaibroodjie, and on Saturday I realised our family, of 4, each require their own, taylor-made, version. And the conversation which ensued made a whole lot of sense.

Me, to husband: 'So I'm making four different types of braaibroodjie??'
Him: 'Why, how are you and Frieda different?'
[Interesting. How are we different, this child to whom I so deeply relate? Well, in lots of ways obviously, but in some not at all. To answer his question, I have tomato, she doesn't, but bigger picture we're similar in that, if she was served a braaibroodjie with tomato in it she'd just turf the slices out and carry on eating it. We're not hugely particular, she and I.
It's weird when your kid gets to an age you remember being. I look at Frieda aged 8 and I think I know what that feels like, I think I see myself in there.
Another aha moment is that I think sometimes I want to believe I'm a lot like Frieda. Because she's pretty cool. I like her world-view, I'm sure she gets it from me. Right?]

Husband to me: 'This onion is so mild you should put some on Stella's one.'
To which the only conceivable response is: 'Are you high?'
No really, are you actually stoned?
[No idiot puts onion on Stella's braaibroodjie when Stella Does Not Like Onion. The very notion is impossible to compute.
Yes sure, 'try something new' and all that, but not Stella. Stella will decide when Stella would like to try something new. Stella will decided when Stella will eat onion. Stella is not interested in change, deviance from the way of Stella and certainly not suggestions from mere other parties on how she'd like to reform her braaibroodjie. Seriously, are you smoking something? And if yes, why are you not sharing?]

Me, to husband: 'Do you know the most concentration I employ while making braaibroodjies is when I make yours?'
Him: 'Good.'
Me: <flat stare>
But no seriously. Husband's sandwich construction is like a work of mathematical genius. A calculated feat of engineering. A creative construct in which every bite is to perfectly encapsulate the very essence of braaibroodjie.

So, here goes:
Husband: Onion. Cheese, Tomato, Italian Herbs.
Me: Onion, Cheese, Tomato, Italian Herbs, Chutney. Or whatever.
Frieda: Onion, Cheese, Chutney, Italian Herbs.
Stella: Cheese. ONLY CHEESE.

Construct. Butter the outsides only. Intricately code to discern one from the other. Toast over coals in grid recently vacated by sizzling lamb chops or perfectly spiced chicken thighs.


Viva la difference!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

the lurking disquiet

SCENE IN CREEPY MOVIE: heroine breathes a sigh of relief, puts weapon down on hall table and leaves room.
Camera lingers on weapon for a couple of seconds longer.
Not subtle message to audience: she shouldn't have done that.

SCENE IN CREEPY MOVIE #2: hero closes door and goes to bed.
Camera lingers on unlatched lock for a couple of seconds longer.
Not subtle message to audience: he should've locked that.

SCENE IRL: person leaves home to go and buy groceries. Gets to checkout, finds she doesn't have wallet.
Minds eye lingers on wallet lying on desk at home.
Not subtle message to self: asshole.

We've all done it right?

As mentioned I'm working 3 events. I have no formal childcare. The plates spinning above me are many and varied.
It all seems under control at present. Shaky, but under control.

But each day I imagine that loaded gun, that unlocked door, that forgotten detail lurking in a sent mail, in a note taken and then forgotten, in a commitment made but not recorded.
The potential for fuck up is huge here.
I hope that when I look back at the movie of these busy weeks I won't recognise the shot that was the harbinger of doom - the lingering gaze on that incorrect detail in black and white, that oversight, that one wrong digit in some VIP's flight number ...

I'm not a religious person, but if someone were to tell me right now of a God of Lists I might just have to revise that.
Because god, lists are currently my religion.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

paying the price for paradise

Ah, an astoundingly beautiful evening at the lake.
The kind of picture one is loath to post on FB lest one invoke any haters.
The still, pure, air. The gentle bird calls. The pinking sky.

But what's this? This persistent buzzing, this cloud marring my perfect sunset?
Jesus Christ, there's something in my eye!

Quick! Indoors! Close windows, turn off lights, seal the cat flap!

Every year at the neighbourhood Christmas Carols us lake-dwellers sing a reworked version of the '12 Days of Christmas'.
We trill through it, subbing pelicans for partridges and dancing grebes for maidens and then come together in gusto for the favourite line:
'Five Thousand Miggies!!!!'

It is miggie season at the lake. Great columns of them hover in mass orgies of procreation, buzzing in disgusting sensual miggie delight. They just live for a day, dying in ecstasy and hemorrhaging their insides all over our white walls, garden furniture and any sad towel or item of clothing foolishly left outside.
They bring with them spiders, toads and giant cobwebs. They pollute our wine, our nostrils and the very air we breathe.
They are the proverbial fly in our pie.

Luckily they don't bite, and they only last a few weeks. But yeah, paradise could do without them!

Monday, November 02, 2015

24: our crown anniversary

24 on the 24th! Of October that was.

Yes, I know we just celebrated 12 years of marriage (if scones for breakfast, a walk in the woods and a Rooibos Chai ice-cream maketh a celebration - which in our world it totally does), but in October we also celebrate our real anniversary.

It all started here. (Well actually it started on my first day of high school but I've told that story before).
But the actual relationship started here, on this bench in September 1991.

And yes, I have a photo of The Bench - weird huh? Even weirder: I lifted it off a friend of a friend's Facebook page in September this year. The same bench, at the same time of year, 24 years later.
The dog has no significance..

Back to the story.
There was a beach party. There was a big fire and a big crowd, there was a boy home from his obligatory one year military conscription (this was 1991 remember?) and there was a girl who really liked that boy and was really hoping tonight would be the night he'd notice her.
He did.
There was a walk to the bench and an awkward silence and an awkward kiss and then some even greater awkwardness when a bunch of assorted friends swooped in through the darkness to tease the young couple. It was awkward and silly and yeah I'm cringing a little right now.
But I remember what he was wearing. I remember the sound of the sea in the blackness. I remember those white West Coast daisies scattered about like little stars underfoot.

And I will never forget how, a month later, he came home again, and phoned me at home on a Friday afternoon and asked if he could come over. How we went for a walk and he said he'd not stopped thinking about me since that night at the beach. How he asked me to be his girlfriend (it was 1991 remember??) and then came back to mine for dinner.
I remember my youngest brother (the one who got married this year) was little enough to be in his pyjamas at the dinner table. I remember (and still appreciate!) how cool and relaxed my parents were. I remember we had potato salad and there was an enormous bunch of chincherinchee on the table.

That was the 24th of October 24 years ago.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Hallo 'ween, you kinda rocked this year.

After being so grinchy about Halloween last year I'm a little embarrassed to admit how much I enjoyed it yesterday ....

I stand by all my reasons for disliking it in the past, and none of those have changed. But the way we spent it this year changed a bit - there was less candy and less trick or treating - and ... the wind didn't blow!!

But even besides all that, this year the preparation was more fun - maybe because it fell on a Saturday and we had more time - we planned costumes, and made stuff and got crafty.

Lanterns and candy-collecting jars.
My first Halloween decor ever! It's huge, in the entrance-way and yet husband, who has a deep dislike for spiders, was home for TWO hours on Friday evening before he noticed it .... !
I finally made a cat tail (I suspect attempting to do so at the last minute last year was what tipped me over the edge into hater territory), a set of ears (by ingeniously modifying a cheap Minnie Mouse alice-band I picked up at the Crazy Store), a woefully under-appreciated swan headpiece AND got myself into a pretty good costume too!

We had some fun with marshmallows and edible pens and then headed out to a gathering with friends - food, wine, some candy, more wine.
A walk down to the beach for some romping, a wee spot of trick or treating on the way back and it's a wrap!
'Til next year Halloween, you're kinda cool.

There's always that one friend who next-levels it. Thank goodness for that friend.
Bad dusky phone pic but how lovely really?
Spooky window walking back through Muizenberg after dark.
The littlest witch and her familiar.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

paddling out

Last weekend Frieda broke out her paddle-ski for the first time this season. A gift from a dear friend, her board took him to the SA championships many years ago, now it has retired to the lake, to be paddled around by small children hoping to spy coot chicks and other interesting water creatures.

I carried it down to the water for her and she hopped aboard - no life-jacket required this year - and confidently stroked out into the late afternoon sun.

After a while Stella asked if she could have a go - a first time request.

Firmly strapped into her life jacket (although she is becoming a very capable swimmer), she got her balance and managed to wield the heavy and ungainly paddle with no small measure of skill.
She very quickly set out into the middle of the lake - all on her own.

We started untying the pedalo. Calmly cooing encouragement to her as we hurriedly readied ourselves to launch and follow.

On Friday I had my 3rd upcoming event confirmed. That's 3 contracts I've currently got going.
There are another 2 waiting in the wings to be imminently secured.

Our completely amazing and reliable nanny/au pair quit at the beginning of the month. (She was offered a chance to manage a small office - orders, book-keeping etc - a position she's totally ready and capable for - I'm so happy for her. Sob.)

I'm taking all the work.

I'm blithely and confidently paddling out into the middle of the lake - trusting my skill, hoping my balance will hold, hoping the paddle doesn't become too heavy for my arms.

By the time we caught up with Stella she looked very small indeed, drifting far off shore - she was sitting still, one hand trailing in the water, seemingly enjoying the sunset and the water lapping gently around her.
It was only as we drew alongside and she turned to us that we saw the big heavy tears rolling down her cheeks, and realised her stillness concealed pure trembling fear.
Out of her depth and terrified.

Let's hope no one finds me in a similar state in a couple of weeks time.

Friday, October 09, 2015

new work

On our school run we pass a fence, at the sea, on which we often see a series of seagulls, one on each pole, biding their time and watching the world go by.

'How lovely,' I think every time I pass. 'If I was an artist I'd paint that.'

Last Thursday I thought 'Fuck it, I am an artist.' And came home and started this.

The most frustrating part about collage, and probably the best part for me in terms of personal growth - both in the medium and in life - is that one has to do the background first.
I suck at patience, prep work and foundation laying.

But with this medium I have no choice, and am forced to think, to plan, to wait, to grow.

I did all that this time, and I love how it turned out.