Friday, May 20, 2022

what I've been up to lately

Pretty much everything Lyndsay Rush lists here...


 ... her IG handle is @maryoliversdrunkcousin and she's the best thing on there right now.

I honestly couldn't love this list more. I'd get it tattooed down my forearm to read every day (if my friend Janine hadn't wisely declared NO WORDS as rule no. 1 for tattooing). 
Just making a fool of myself.

Instead I have it stuck up at my desk.
Making it happen.

It's my 47th birthday today and I have Covid. Well, my youngest tested positive on Tuesday and I've not been feeling very well so I'm going with I have it too.
Making a big deal.

47 weirdly feels quite seriously grown up! Not just as in the year sounding grown up, but I actually feel it a bit. It's hard to describe but I feel... capable of making big decisions. Is that the definition of a grown up?
Making it up as I go.

We've booked a weekend away, a cabin in the mountains with just us 4 and the dogs. I booked it months ago and I couldn't be more grateful, now that we're isolating and unable to see anyone else anyway.
...making a break for it.

The last few months have been fairly two steps forward, one step back. I should know by now that when I do a big optimistic beginning of the year post the universe is gonna have something to say about that.
Making a mess of things.

After my triumphant return to CrossFit I managed to slip a disc (old-fashioned term but a good description none-the-less) HANGING UP LAUNDRY. Way to feel like an old lady...
Booked off CrossFit for a long while, lots and lots of physio, lots of lame-ass walking for exercise.
Making a face.


But I did take advantage of the downtime to get a new tattoo. A paper airplane looping off my ankle surgery scar to show lightness and agility after that long time of infirmity. 
The irony of getting it now when I am once again somewhat infirm is not lost on me.
I've actually gotten really good at making a mountain out of a molehill.


Lots and lots of lame ass walking. Lame in comparison to rowing like a beast and busting out burpees and lifting huge weights that is. I've nothing against walking itself, I quite like it. And I do have some magnificent places to walk around here.
Making the best of things.


And after the walking, the resting. For a long while flat on my back was the only really comfortable way to be so there was quite a lot of that. Much to the joy of this floof.
Making my bed every morning.


We got away on a week long mini-break! It was delicious and affirming and super fun, it deserves it's own post. But it also allowed me to add a nice big thigh bruise to my list of ailments, after getting kicked by a cute but savage miniature horse.
I've really been trying to prioritize making a scene.


A beautiful autumnal visit to one of my favourite places with some of my favourite people.
Making it count.


And lots and lots and lots of lovely, rewarding, exhausting, hilarious parenting of these two prides and joy.
Making tiny, beautiful things I'll be proud to leave behind.


Let the birthday weekend begin!
Making my own luck.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

growth

Have you also spent this last month looking at your kids, your pets, your home, your things and thinking what the actual fuck would I do with all of these if we had to flee?

Then doom-scrolling some more about the devastation in the Ukraine, making a comment about Zelenskyy being the hottest short guy in the world right now and going back to living your hyper-blessed life in your own deeply problematic and damaged country on this here burning planet?

What a time to be alive.

Because we are. We are alive and the wheel turns in the same ways it always has - the tide ebbs and flows.

Stella turned 12!


She planned her celebration down to the last detail, the group and the activities and the timings. We went to an indoor trampoline park - and took this 'album cover' photo on the way out - and then home to ours for pizza and movies and cake and a sleepover. 
I realised halfway through the evening that she wasn't doing great but she fiercely batted away all my queries, only the next day having a big sob about how she'd missed us at her party (us who were there throughout but just in the background making pizza and beds in the lounge) and wished it had just been the family at home and felt sad about one day living without us.
12 is hard y'all, that bridge between childhood and teen-dom is shaky and unknown and excitement for the future still so tightly bound to nostalgia for something which is not yet even really in the past. This photo was more prophetic than we'd realised.

Frieda - further along that bridge - went to her first big proper outdoor party recently, with DJ's and multiple dance-floors and cashless food trucks and (temporary) tattoo vendors. 
It was 13 - 18 year olds only, obviously no booze etc and heavily monitored (these parties are big business these days), but her first time alone in a big crowd with just her mates, her wits and (hopefully) her mother's voice in her ears ... 'trust your gut', 'stick with your friends', 'call me if you need to' and 'most importantly have fun'.
We were being very cool about it all, but as I drove away from dropping her off at a friend's to get ready I was surprised at how emotional I felt, and later - much later - when I'd fetched them from the party at midnight - hoarse, filthy and shiningly happy - and we were back home for tea and toast before bed she confessed to also feeling a small wobble as I'd driven away that afternoon.

The umbilical cord stretches, stretches very very far, but never breaks.

We rode off on our motorbikes last weekend for a grown ups trip up the coast.
As we packed the girls off to friends and grandparents for the weekend they both, separately, sincerely, and with no prompting, told us to have a really good time, to have fun, to enjoy the ride and the time away.
Is there any greater confirmation of parenting goals than your kids being lovely people - to you, their friends or themselves? I don't think so.




We spent the weekend at the edge of the ocean - reveling in the quiet and unstructured quality of time spent without any dependents, wondering at the luck of living in a place where even average middle-class folk such as ourselves can access places of such exclusive beauty, knowing that for the accident of birth us, and our children, could be leading totally different lives.

Watching the full moon Solstice tide ebb and flow, ebb and flow.. feeling tiny amongst the enormity of it all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

galentines

It's become a February tradition. Pick a day, inform all the partners and children that we'll be off, pack swim things and cold beer, get on the road.
Same gang, same route, same plan.
Same destination, same seafood platter for lunch, same wine.
Same ice cream, same beach.
Because we did everything SO PERFECTLY the first time that we can just redo it endlessly now. Until the end of time, or we all perish together in a tragic boating incident as we sometimes muse about.
We're a pretty irreverent bunch.

This time however, we did one thing differently.


We added a stop at this river for our pre-lunch swim, and it was sublime.
We're not opposed to adding new things, as long as they are EXCELLENT. This was.


As we relished our lunch - fresh fish, prawns, calamari, mussels, salad and the most excellent white wine with this view from our table, our friend told us about her prepan holiday in Italy in 2019.
The beaches and the views and the food and the wine. 
But you know she said, look at us here - we're in a tiny village an hour or so out of Cape Town, eating the best food, drinking internationally-acclaimed wine, swimming in wild rivers, off to sandy beaches with no access fee and hardly any people...Italy is magnificent, but this right here is GOLD.


And better than all this astounding natural beauty and the food and the wine and the silky summer air?
This bunch of girls and the aching abdominal muscles we have after a day of endlessly laughing together.
I'd love to visit Italy one day, but if it never happens I think I'll still die happy, be it in a tragic boating incident or not.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

we can do hard things

 ...but jeez, we will generally go to huge lengths not to.

Well, I do at least. When I have a choice, I'm all about that path of least resistance, min effort for max gain, keeping it simple, keeping it fun, taking the shortest way round.  


But already in these first few weeks of 2022 I've done some hard things - and it's felt really good.

I've gone on two group motorbike rides with total strangers. 

The first just me with a bunch of cool kids, but on my small bike on a route that I know well. The second with Charl, but on my big bike, a totally unknown route and at least 25 other proficient riders. Shooweee, my nerves!

Motorbike riders are cool right? And ballsy, and mostly all they want to talk about are bikes. This crowd is quite a bit younger than me, with hipper gear and better stories and way more experience. But I kept my nerve and un-wedgied my big girl panties and tried earnestly to remember my bike's specs for the coffee chat and not fall too far behind on the ride and to not forget to put on my gloves before my helmet like a newbie.

So rad.

How cute is my bike though?

I've gone back to CrossFit.

Six weeks short of two years later, I walked back in to a CrossFit box. With my atrophied muscles and my pandemic weight gain and my complete lack of fitness I've signed up to a box where I know no one. That first class I was a bundle of nerves, but I walked (staggered) out of there feeling like a champ and have been back and have signed up for more. What. A. Vibe.

How cute are my shoes though?

And then just today, another hard thing.

How cute is this though?

From motor-biking to CrossFit to puzzles which require reading glasses - 2022 has had some challenges already. But I'll take these over drought, death and disease - some of the challenges of the last few years - any day.

My wish for this year is to have agency. To not just be reactive to the shit life throws at us, but proactive in doing things which make me feel stronger and better and more in control. 

We can do hard things, and not all hard things have to suck.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

2 Feb 1990

Facebook just gave me this - the memory of something I wrote on 2 Feb 2015.

I'm reposting it here because I'd like to preserve it, and because I can still remember that hot, hot afternoon and the miraculous events which played out from then.


25 years ago today I was sitting in the school bus, in the sweltering heat of Napier on a February afternoon.
It was a Friday, and I was to spend the night at a friends house. The only reason I was in that school bus was that I, and the teacher who'd driven us there, were waiting for my friend and the rest of the school tennis team to finish an Inter-School match so that the weekend could begin.
The radio was on and suddenly programming was interrupted for a special announcement from Parliament.
Then-President FW de Klerk came on and addressed the nation, announced the imminent release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC.
I was privileged to have been brought up in a politically aware household and despite being a flighty 16 year old, I knew immediately what a massive, MASSIVE, moment this was for South Africa.
I had no one to share it with.
The teacher I was with - a total doos* - rested his head on the steering wheel and said nothing.
The small conservative village of Napier buzzed in the heat around us.
The tennis balls knocked back and forth on the courts.
I wanted nothing more than to speak to my Dad, and sat there with tears of excitement rolling down my cheeks as I pictured his face, his joy, and wished I was with him.
Dad said afterwards he'd never thought it would happen in his lifetime.
I will always be grateful for having witnessed a real life miracle, and will never forget that hot sweaty afternoon when the world changed forever.


*dickhead, but I think you got that.

Monday, January 24, 2022

the hottest place on earth

Well, so it was predicted on Friday, a day when we couldn't really even comprehend of how hot it would get. 

It got incredibly hot.

This last weekend Cape Town surpassed its own hottest recorded temperature ever by 3 degrees Celsius and clocked in a whopping 45.2C on Saturday.

It's been confirmed that we were the hottest place in southern Africa and you know, we'll take it. No need to go into direct competition with mid Australia ffs - Saturday and Sunday were hot enough and scary enough, we don't need any more accolade than that.

It was a weekend for lying down and avoiding really. And that's mostly what we did. 

Lying down and napping with the blinds closed. Drinking litres of water and moving slowly and mainly trying not to think about climate change.

Our children might never live on the same planet as polar bears Frieda tells her sister over dinner.

Yeah but, people told us that when we were younger too I say, and you do. 

Now recycle that container and don't use too much water rinsing it out.

Balancing the messaging is hard.

Then on Sunday we received a clip from family in the UK, a short capture from The Green Planet - Sir David Attenborough's latest series on BBC. It features an interview with my little brother.

My little brother as a whole ass PHD on ecology change being featured in an Attenborough series. Five year old Frieda would have EXPLODED with wonderment and joy. Fourteen year old Frieda was pretty damn excited. As were we all.

The clip was on fire (our fynbos needs it) and particularly the fire lilies which lie dormant for years (and years) waiting for fire and then blooming within days of one - making themselves the only source of nectar for miles and guaranteeing pollination (seems rather dramatic but then, nature). The takeaway was that fires are getting more frequent, hotter, faster and fragile ecosystems like this are in real danger.

Sobering stuff. And yet also, miraculous.

As is life.

PS, while writing this post I came across this one, and it seemed an apt reminder that we've been at the brink of societal collapse before... and also, jeez we've weathered a LOT in recent years.

Monday, January 10, 2022

weathering it...

I cannot explain how much better the first week of January feels this year in comparison to last.

Last year there was so little light coming down the tunnel, so little reason to feel optimistic. And I'm not even talking about Tr*mp and the storming of the Capitol, just about Cape Town and lockdown and how we never thought we'd get vaxxed or back to any semblance of proper life ever again. We'd never started a year so glum and uninspired.

But here we are. Things are easier. And whatever fuckening might be waiting just down the road, I'm having a moment of deep gratitude for how far we've come and how much easier and lighter things have been this holiday season.

We spent two 4-day stints on either side of Christmas in our favourite Onrus with some of our oldest friends.

And Christmas, Christmas was glorious.








All the sweeter for having spent last Christmas all apart, for being our first time hosting, for everyone being well and relaxed and happy. Magic.

We've weathered this storm alright, all things considered. As have many of my dearest friends, who for a time there looked like they'd never come out the other side.

A friend who got retrenched back in April 2020 has found a new, rewarding, fulfilling, bill-paying job after nearly two years of hustle and high stress.

Another who was facing a failing relationship back then, exacerbated by lockdowns and general weirdness, is happily blissed out with a new partner, after a long time of heartache and self-doubt and pain.

Friends who very nearly lost their home are clawing their way back up the credit-rating ladder, finally able to relax their jaws slightly and step back a bit from the daily anxiety of trying to keep their lives together.

The girls are back to full class, full time, in person school in a couple of weeks. Our curfew, the last of the Covid restrictions, was lifted on 31 Dec. Our National State of Disaster, 666 days old today, is most likely to be lifted soon.

Cautiously, cautiously, optimistic.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

in the African night

On Sunday evening I did a most beautiful thing with a dearest friend. 

Another outdoor movie. This time on a picnic blanket in the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens, still one of my favourite places in the world. 

This time Out of Africa, possibly one of my most watched films of all time. But not for years.

Out of Africa is so precious that I'd trust few people to watch it with me. I will not tolerate any eye-rolling, sighing at its length or critical analysis of its historical facts. You must be invested, all in, to share this cinematic experience with me and as the opening credits rolled and we both snuggled down on our blanket with instantly dewy eyes, there was no other place in the world I would rather have been.


The dreaded South Easter wind had been howling in Cape Town for 10 solid days. The end of year pressure of school and work and Xmas madness mounting. The 4th wave, Omicron, travel bans looming. Friends in distress and friends in despair. Loss and betrayal. It had been a really tough week.

But the wind dropped that evening. The velvety-darkness fell as that haunting opening music rolled across the lawn towards us. 
And as I watched, past versions of myself crept out from between the scenes bringing with them memories - of outfits I constructed in my childhood bedroom to dress like Karen Blixen (the white cotton blouse, buttoned at the neck and pinned with a brooch, the striped African print scarf tied over one shoulder, the khaki skirt I rolled at the waist to get just the right length on my shin), of standing on the dewy lawn in Swaziland in 1994 looking out at the mist lying in the valleys and channeling Meryl Streep, of years and years and years of yelling 'Hello the house!' when arriving at my bestie's (she who lay next to me watching this now). The way that music had always made me feel, the yearning for adventure and the happiness of thinking that even if I wasn't living her life, I lived in Africa already and that was a good start. 

As the film rolled on the sky got darker and more dramatic, and I found myself gazing away from the screen to take in the enormity and beauty of it, and have one of those lucid moments of perfect clarity one occasionally has, where you can stop within an experience, to realise that this is one of the best things you'll do in your life.

Time slowed and exhaled, we wept and laughed. On screen the sound of crickets chirping filled the African night, as around us in the gardens the sounds of crickets chirping, filled the African night.

Bliss.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

in the middle of the middle?

But when it comes to time, where is the middle?

My friends and I, as we have our second round of pandemic birthdays and are still, each year, amazed to discover that apparently we are 'grown-ups' now, have been pondering the particular complexities of reaching middle-age in the middle of a pandemic.

It stands to reason that every age will feel the effects of lockdown etc in relation to the age they are during this, and no one can really claim their experience to be worse than any other's (except maybe that poor 20-30 crew, I do really feel for those guys), but I think us of the middle-age are having a particularly interesting time of it for a couple of reasons.

Growing acceptance of one's own mortality and the inevitable death of your parents and loved ones?

BOOM - global flu pandemic to just really drive that home and place the risk of it literally around every corner.

Growing realisation that you might run out of time to visit all those far-flung destinations on your 'bucket list' (horrible term)?

BOOM - travel restrictions starting from your front gate to extending to most other parts of the world.

Growing unease at whether you've made enough provision for retirement / your children's future / the medical costs of growing older?

BOOM - total loss of career and all prospects of it ever picking up again PLUS flooding of the dwindling jobs market with thousands of younger and more relevant jobless candidates.

Growing independence from your children and freedom to plan around them and return to a bit of your own life?

BOOM - homeschooling, a thing you SWORE you'd never do, becomes your reality, school days shorten in the absence of extra-murals, kids are at home all the time.

Growing determination to get healthier and stronger and counteract the aging effects of weakening bones and muscle degeneration?

BOOM - all gyms and exercise classes close, or remain open and become cesspools of contamination.

So no, I'm not saying we're having it worse off than anyone else. I'm just saying we're not having it any easier. No one is having it easy.

It just feels like it would all be more manageable if we knew where we were in these things... are we in the middle? Of life? Of the pandemic?

Maybe the advantage of living through this in middle-age is the acceptance we've come to that we'll never know what's coming next. We've seen friends die unexpectedly, we've seen towers fall and countries burn, we've seen fax machines come and go... maybe we've got a better handle than some on the truly unpredictable nature of life.

Maybe we should know better than to overthink this.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

august things

It's an odd month, August.
Never a favourite of mine I'll admit. It's kind of neither here or there really, winter grinds on... we hit term 3 running (even faster this year as the winter holidays were extended due to our 3rd Covid wave) ... the year is halfway gone, one ponders what one's done with it.
Little bit of midyear crisis perhaps?
Though honestly, crisis sounds far too exciting for August really.


I've been riding my bike. With an eye to possibly returning to gym soon(ish) and a desire to not be entirely pathetic when I do, I thought I'd better put some effort in.
What August does have going for it is the stillness - between winter storms that is - and when the bitter South Easter starts blowing again it'll not be nearly as fun out there on a bicycle.

I've been riding my other bike too. I had a fall last November, two actually, on a day out doing off-road motorbike training. Some bruising and a snapped front brake handle were the only two immediate casualties, but my pride was much more badly wounded, and my confidence. It's taken me a while to get back in the literal saddle, but I've ridden 3 different types of motorbike in the last month and that felt good.


We've spent a lot of time with Layla, Zahida's daughter. She and Stella are still thick as thieves, and despite having seen so very little of each other in the last 18 months they just pick straight back up again every time - there is no other friend Stella can spend as much time with, as easily, as her.

Layla and family are moving to the UK soon. Zahida's husband Sam has done so incredibly, wonderfully well these last few years, but he needs a change - and this is the one they've chosen. We're trying hard to be encouraging and excited, but we are sad, for us.


These two punks turned one on 20 August and my god we love them. They live almost exclusively upstairs when in the house, with their own secret routes down to the garden (ours and the absent neighbour's) to avoid the dogs.
Minnow (although Frieda insists she's Mino) is the house cat, always on a bed, always up for a nap with a human. She fishes hairbands out of a basket on my dresser (which naturally we keep stocked up just for her) and chases them around the rooms, she vocalises a lot, likes to drink from a tap, is soft and malleable.


Prince is 100% dude. Playful, curious, often out on an adventure, a total clown, straight-forward and uncomplicated. Not super affectionate - until he is, purring and bumping you and rolling and drooling - Prince spends his days collecting litter from the gardens and often the lake, bringing in 5-8 pieces a day sometimes, some dripping wet, some tiny, some big. Saving the planet is his important work.


August is dramatic skies. The acacia trees are coming back to life after winter and the sun on those green shoots against a brooding sky is one of my favourite things to see.


I have two friends who wrote novels during lockdown. Others who've picked up impressive new habits such as committed cold-water swimming, or weight-lifting.
Part of my midyear crisis was a small what-have-I-done-with-lockdown moment, until I reminded myself that I started a whole new job!
Events are dead (although I am also currently working with clients who are desperately trying to do one - March 2022 maybe...) so I am managing sales and marketing for a family business, a business I've grown up around and had extremely little to do with before, but I'm really enjoying being part of.


To be fair, August has allowed us some magnificent weather for outdoor socialising, which in the global scheme of things for mid-winter mid-pandemic, is pretty generous.
We have been for walks, and outdoor lunches and a couple of dinners - working around people's exposure and the national curfew - and lots of garden/beachside/roadside chats. 
Then last Saturday, a drive-in screening of The Witches, with cuddly car-beds and popcorn and candy-floss for the children and sneaky wine and hilarity for the grown-ups. 

It was bloody cold, snow on the mountains and frost-bitten toes, but the company warmed our bodies and our hearts and it was a good send-off for the month.
I will always be grateful for having so many loved ones so close during this shitshow.

And tomorrow is the first day of Spring, so there's that, but more excitingly - my second Pfizer shot, and that is a real turn towards the light.

See ya August, let's move on.