Wednesday, August 30, 2023

you wouldn't believe me if I told you...

The radical change of pace which this surgery recovery month has afforded me has finally given me time to mull.

I've long thought, and been told, that I should write down some of the weird (truly fukken weird) things I've experienced in the last 20 (TWENTY!) years of freelance events work.
Did I ever tell you about the time an actual princess grabbed my boob for example? Or when a sex worker soiled themselves in the foyer at a black tie event? Have I shared about throwing an over-flowing dustbin over the front desk of a fancy hotel in front of senior reps from the World Health Organisation? Have I told you about the time we lost a billionaire? Or about the missing elderly Mozambican man with no English as Cape Town went into lock-down for the opening of Parliament? About the time I pulled a woman from the car of her ex-husband against whom she had a restraining order who had ambushed her at a dinner in Johannesburg?  
Good times...

Earlier this year I worked on a huge and multi-layered event in Johannesburg for international clients. It was an amazing project, I was collaborating with my eventing soulmate, met some incredible people, huge budget, really stimulating work and holy shit, did some strange stuff go down...
In no particular order, and with some details changed to protect the innocent...

Welcoming guests to the Closing Party at a swanky venue in the Joburg business district, and finding a baby bunny lost in the parking lot. This was a fun photo to drop on the group chat... the wabbit was set up in a side room with water and some salad from catering, later that evening the sound guy's mother came to take it home and try and find the owner...

At the beginning of the week, ER at midnight (still not sure why they had us in a pediatric room?) with a virtual stranger (now good mate of course) who had her tampon string break just before boarding at her departure airport and flew halfway round the world trying to extricate the stubborn thing only to have to request assistance within a few hours of meeting me the poor woman. Luckily sisterhood holds no international boundaries.

The fools in matching outfits was a good one. Believe it or not they were our professional security detail, hired to escort us to the bank to collect an inordinately large amount of cash (this was Johannesburg y'all). I was so excited about this, picturing sharp suits and dark shades and imperceptible radio comms, these two in (literal) matching plaid shirts were a huge let down. They were attempting to 'look casual' and their game plan was for us to walk through the shopping centre 'as if we were friends'.
I was frankly insulted.

And then the hotel safe which was housing all that cash failed, and I had the great pleasure of watching this guy, in no protective gear, cut it open with a flame cutter in the dank underbelly of our luxury hotel, setting his own pants on fire as he did it.

Just a short list of some of the unexpected highlights of a week which had us hosting 100 people over 6 or 7 venues, biking in Soweto, art walking through Maboneng, crying at Constitution Hill, and at the Apartheid Museum and at our emotional debrief after a long week of working so hard together. We hung out with celebrities and war heroes, we ate so many different kinds of local cuisine, we did theatre and art therapy and drumming and ad lib. We did this in 4 different languages and with a transport schedule like a battle plan, with too many cooks in the kitchen and the best team of foot soldiers on the ground.

It was a career highlight for sure (and this even before I went to Brazil for the next one!), and some weird stuff went down, but not the weirdest I've ever experienced, and - hopefully - not the weirdest I ever will.

Friday, August 25, 2023


Oh look, another post all about me.

I had ankle surgery 3 weeks ago (yes, again, this time the other foot - what the actual....?), and the evening before I took off all my jewelry and marveled at the amount of hardware I carry around on a daily basis.

Bangles (all on my right arm), earrings, finger rings, toe rings.

The toe rings I've been wearing since 1998 and in all that time they've only come off for surgeries and late pregnancies.
And I have one solid silver bangle I've been wearing for decades which won't come off. I left it on with instructions to cut it off me if necessary.

The point is, I like to decorate myself. And in recent years that has extended to tattoos.

Have I been teased about having a midlife crisis, just like if a man my age brought a vintage red convertible sports car? Yes, yes I have. 
And you know what, while an overly dramatic term (a 'crisis' for gods sake), the concept is pretty sound. Yes, one hits a stage in one's life when one realises that if there are things you want to do you should actually do them now. Because yes, life is short and you never know what's around the next corner (so burn the fancy candle, use the good dishes, eat the imported chocolate etc etc), but also because the longer I stay on board this earthly ship the more I realise that what's important are very, very few things - love, family, friendship, happiness - and what's not important is really just for fun.
Painting a picture on my calf is for fun.

Which leads me to my next point. 

I have so many marks upon this 48 year old body that I have not chosen. Scars from childhood, child birth and more recently TWO (seriously, what the actual....) ankle surgeries. Eczema, acne, weird moles, insect bites, cat claws, that one time the nail which scratched me was rusty... let's not even talk about wrinkles.
Choosing some art to live alongside these feels like quite an empowering thing to do.

This is my modernist take on the fynbos I have lived amongst my whole life. A homage in part to the delicate ink dot cartography I watched my father do by hand when I was a child. A Miro inspired floral bouquet with a small nod to Orla Kiely.

This is my leg and this is the art I have chosen to adorn it with in this, my mid life.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

when I grow up I want to be an old woman

There was a woman I followed on IG for quite a long while. A white American woman about my age, she is an illustrator with a big brain and often posted really insightful things.

She had very good posts in 2020 about George Floyd and the BLM movement, about allyship. She went to the Ukrainian border when the invasion happened and worked on the ground to assist fleeing Ukrainian refugees. I have a lot of respect for her. In most things.

I also followed her for her hair journey. She had, as I have, decided to stop colouring her hair and embrace the crone (my phrase which I employ more often and with less humour with every passing year). She has fairly wild hair like mine, hair with a mind of its own which requires a LOT of work if one has any interest in keeping it 'presentable' and a fairly tough skin if one doesn't care for social norms of presentability.

I have spent my whole life vacillating between the two. (The caring and the not caring, the work I've never really stuck with. I just ... can't.) 

Anyhoo. Emily and I were growing out years of hair colour and going grey together and feeling empowered and strong, she would post updates after hair dresser visits about not colouring her hair and how the grey was growing through and generally overshared in a way quite common to Americans and very gratifying to those of us more filtered but deeply curious.

And then one day, Emily appeared in a new headshot. With a bouncy head of styled curls, meticulously high-lighted and low-lighted in strands of multiple shades, woven together in a delicate and pleasing dance, and declared that she had decided to go back to colour because she 'didn't want to be seen to be giving up'.

Giving. Up.

Well fuck you Emily.

The irony of a B&W photo does not allude me. I went looking for a picture and found this one from exactly 1 year ago - 6 June 2022.
That felt like a synchronicity I couldn't ignore.

I no longer follow Emily, but I am still enjoying going grey. And every time I find a new silvery streak I sing Michelle Shocked to myself and think maybe, just maybe, if I give it enough time, my hair will come into its own in a full head of enviable silver locks. Maybe this is the glory it's been waiting for these last 48 years...

My grey hair, and this song lyric, is my daily reminder that aging is a privilege. One not afforded to everyone as I well know.

When I grow up, I want to be an old woman.

Monday, May 15, 2023

a brazillion miles away

 I remember a friend, back in the thick of hard lockdown, saying something like I don't know when this will end, or what that will look like, but I'm pretty sure we'll come out of it running.

To be honest it's taken a long time for those words to ring true, but boy have they been clanging around my head these last 6 months. 

A couple of weeks back I was in Rio. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That's how far, and fast, I've been running.

Working with my oldest client (we've been doing projects together for 20 years!), putting together the logistics for an international meeting of climate and health justice activists.

From moments during the pandemic when I genuinely thought I'd never do events work, or travel, ever again, to an event on the other side of the world. Life is weird and unpredictable and beautiful, none of this is news and yet it catches me every time.

Rio was magnificent. A little grungy, grimey, crimey. A little stinky and crumbly, you had to watch your step and your back. 
But I know these vibes right? And I know that a city like that also has layers and textures and immeasurable beauty if you know where to look for it.
People's faces, aging architectural beauties, innovation in the face of adversity and everywhere nature - holding her own and claiming her place.


This lushness in the city... I loved the iconic beaches of course, and the classic monadnock mountains like Sugarloaf, the islands in the bay etc ... but the narrow city streets bursting with greenery really captivated me. Tropical trees jostling with apartment blocks and claiming space on narrow sidewalks, the subtleties of the dusky, cool, quiet side streets in comparison to the bright, colourful, hot beaches and open spaces. I could have walked their shady silence for days - and I did!

I walked and walked and looked and looked and really just loved every minute. The Brazilians are lovely - completely friendly in a totally disinterested and unengaged manner. No one goes out their way to greet you (unless trying to sell you something), no speaks English, no one seems to notice you at all, but the vibe is peaceful and welcoming and if you make contact it's always warmly reciprocated.

When this job was confirmed last year I started studying Brazilian Portuguese on Duolingo (subtly different to European Portuguese which I had not known), putting in my daily practice with bizarre sentences like I am not a turtle and Horses love us, really not knowing how if at all this was going to help me. But it did! My very limited, very poor grasp of the language helped immeasurably - on my second night there I ordered salad from a salad bar, and could ask for onion, tomato, cheese, tuna, seed sprinkle and dressing - I could ask for a fork and establish whether I could drink beer in store - ask for the bill and a bag for my other purchases - but more than that it eased all my interactions with Brazilians - just being able to explain apologetically that I only speak a little bit of Portuguese immediately made people more patient and helpful, more open.

And despite my preference for the dark shady streets, it has to be said the beaches are magnificent. I had one proper beach day, walking 15km in total between Ipanema and Copacabana, having an acai ice here, a beer there, sitting and watching and walking and looking. 

All the quintessential Rio things - people promenading, biking, skating, flags on the beach, fresh coconuts and cocktails, lots of flesh on display, hawkers and surfers.
I had a deep, long, warm swim and watched the sunset from the Arpoador rocks - a Rio tradition where everyone claps as the sun disappears. 

Two weeks flew by in a blur of work and sights and sounds and smells, but I soaked it all up and still have so much Rio floating around my head and heart to mull over.

Who would ever have thought back in miserable 2021?

Monday, December 26, 2022

my year of bike

One evening in January I was on my second (maybe third, it was January) glass of wine when Husband saw a notice for a 'Small Bike Ride' the next day. Bikes under 250CC only.

That's perfect for the Madass he mused...

I messaged the organisers and signed up for the ride, woke the next morning feeling queasy and silly with apprehension and then got on the road and met a team of scooters heading south for coffee.
It was weird and nerve-wracking and I spent most of it feeling like a little old lady, but by later that day I'd had lots of compliments on my weird little Sachs Madass 125, met a bunch of fun people, and was on a whatsapp group of women riders.

For the next couple of months I joined them on the occasional Tuesday for a glorious ride after work, in the late summer evenings.

One of the most memorable taking us to Hout Bay harbour where we met this tame seal and the dude who wrangled him to pose with tourists or in this case, bikes.

In March, a bike weekend away! 150kms out of Cape Town - all tar - and with our friends meeting us there by car so they ferried our luggage - a cheat by real biker standards.

Getting more confident every day I more consciously started working bikes into my errands and meetings schedules - looking for those gaps where I could take a bike - a magical trifecta of no kids, no groceries, no wine...

I even, in a desire to improve my confidence off-road, got talked into buying a mid-size, lighter scrambler... turns out it's much too tall for me - even after adjustments - but weirdly it's still in our stable, being ridden by Husband and loaned to friends - and giving our eldest ideas...

Later in the year we took the Triumphs all the way (by trailer) to a friend's Karoo farm and I had some fun practising offroad and bashing around on the farm.

The best (bike) fun was on our return though. We had car trouble (not fun) and limped into town until about 15km from home, where we decided we couldn't push it anymore and pulled over to call for tow truck support before it got dark.
But we did have two motorbikes.
Leaving Husband with the girls I got my bike off the trailer and tore home through the traffic, to collect our other car to tow the trailer in and ferry girls and luggage home.
Mummy hero!

And then the best ride of them all...

Clarence Drive is biker heaven. A beautifully built, winding coastal road with a smooth surface and perfect design.
It was incredible riding it. Miraculously we had no traffic going our way. No cars to come up behind or anyone breathing down my back to get moving. I took every corner just the way I wanted to - fast or slow - and could really settle into the moment in all it's scenic glory. 
I feel like it was a moment I'll remember forever.

That ride was on the way to our raffle-ticket-win weekend away. 180km this time, a mix of fast, busy national road, beautiful coastal riding, through small towns and across bridges, and down a steep gravel section - me paddling down it at one stage, yelling at Husband why am I such a pussy??! while he giggled gently through our helmet comms and murmured encouraging words from the bottom of the hill.

We had luggage this time. Packed the bare minimum from home and stopped twice - once for a massive steak and then in the last closest town for necessities like milk, chocolate, beer and mince pies, before riding the last stretch through sunset weighed down with goodies, heading to our lux cabin in the fynbos for two days of bliss - all the cliched free as a bird biker tropes playing with the breeze through my helmet.

I've had my license since 2018, but just this year I feel like I got my wings.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

lucky draw

My Dad turned 76 today.

My brother is 44 next weekend.

We made them a half carrot, half chocolate cake to celebrate their 120 years of combined magnificence. 

Meat, potatoes, salads and wine. Cake.
These things that can be grounding, pedestrian, reliable, bask in the realm of miracles and wonder when you get old enough to understand how damn lucky you are to have them, to be here now.


31 years down the line with my man.

He turned 50 in July, we've been married for 19 years this month, together for 12 before that. So many numbers, just numbers, but translated into years and months and days together? I mean, talk about miracles.

Keeps the home fires burning, makes it home wherever he is.

On the subject of numbers...

Two weeks ago I bought a raffle ticket at a local fair. Standing in the queue to fill in my details on the sheet I overheard two ladies behind me. One was very concerned that someone else would take her lucky number before she got to claim it on the form.
This got me thinking about what number I would choose - I don't really have a 'lucky' one.
I was handed the sheet open in the 40's. I'll take 47 I thought, it's my age this year so why not.
Then I heard the whispering behind me again and I turned to the worried woman: What's your number? I asked, so I don't take it accidentally.
47, she said.
You know that moment when the world just slows a little? This is so weird I thought. So weird!
Then I filled in number 48 and we joked about her winning and I went about my day.

This afternoon I got a phone call. 48 drew for the main prize.
It's a romantic weekend away in an amazing location.
I mean, what benevolent karmic gods of glorious fuck did I awaken with that one??

Sunday, July 31, 2022

winter layers

 Winter layers - as in vest, shirt, jersey, scarf, coat you ask?


Well, a little bit coats. If you mean multiple coats (and so many hoodies) laying draped all over the place as the temperature fluctuates and different weather systems require different weights on different days. Add to that an assortment of beanies, but also caps because the winter sun can still be hot and biting, so low on the horizon.

Shoes also, in abundance at every junction of the house. We can't pretend that this is seasonal, but in winter these shoes are heftier. 6 pairs of discarded flip-flops in mid-summer don't hold the same sway.

Sports gear - also bulkier. Winter bike jackets collapse out the hall cupboard, too hefty to remain on their slim hangers. Two different weight riding gloves in circulation, naturally always pairing with an incompatible partner, like some of those friends one had at varsity.

Winter is hockey, which is shin pads and different sticks, used too regularly to be put away properly - apparently. Even the smaller accoutrements - gum guards, long socks - clutter about the place adding to a smaller but no less insidious layer.  

Hand creams play a big role on the hall table. Lip balm also. Our skin is dry. One half-hearted bottle of sanitiser remains there, jumbled amidst half-empty (half-full?) water bottles, notes from school, discarded rings, spare keys, a motorbike glove (a 5th one, how is this possible?), ancient post to Return To Sender and, like a cruel joke, some pretty knick-knack which was supposed to look elegant and nonchalantly curated, alone on that surface. 

Let's move on.

Winter is a time for Projects. Ongoing projects. Projects for which nothing can be thrown away.

There is macrame, 3D scanning, tail-light rebuilding, cardboard construction, Lego, puzzle-building, clay sculpturing and collaging all going on in our living area RIGHT NOW. Of course no is actually doing any of these things in there right now (15:20 on a wintery Sunday afternoon, what better time one asks oneself) but apparently they are all Very Important and Vital Projects which must remain active.

I think you can imagine that layer.

Let's talk pets. Pets need thicker blankets, and more of them, at this time of year. Dogs ask to be covered in said blankets but then 5 minutes later burst from their nest to bark (generally at nothing) and leave their blankets strewn across the floor. We've tried to train them to drag them back to their beds but those of you who know our dogs will know how ridiculous this notion is.

Also shedding. Winter is all about shedding. We have FOUR pets currently shedding.

And that's not even LOAD shedding, just fur shedding. Load-shedding requires its own fair supply of crap. Rechargeable solar jars must be put out for the sun during the day, but g(l)o off (see what I did there?) to far corners of the house with various members when the lights go out, to seek their fortune in new layers of clutter upstairs. Boxes of matches, burnt and otherwise, adorn the place. Saggy candles abound. The fireplace has its requisite crate of wood dropping bark and twiglets around and about, the tongs are always active, firelighters in a tin inexplicably on the other side of the room.

In winter our cave gets layered-up to pull through the cold. Three weeks of school holidays spent largely at home, 4 busy people, 4 crazy pets. The 8 beings, trundling through their layers of clutter and crap and lots and lots of love.

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


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


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.