Monday, December 28, 2015

books: 2015

I did it again! Managed to keep a list, and for the large part keep it updated. I completed it this morning, discovering that I read a total of 25 books this year (fewer than last, I blame Instagram), and a lot more 'girlie' books than last year.
It wasn't a wildly inspiring year of reading it must be said, and a high number of these I sailed through - interested enough to keep reading but not entirely absorbed.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
We are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Pratchetts, Adrian Mole and The Time Traveller's Wife (still one of my favourite reads of all time).

We're heading out of town for a few days ... see you in 2016 little blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Similarly to last year, I loved watching my children this Christmas.

They're good kids. 
We had the pep talk - not too heavy - about appropriate gift receiving behaviour. Reminders about thank yous and subtly-handled disappointments, about avoiding comparative analysis of received gifts and the definition of compromise (you know, that thing where no one is happy?).

They're the only children at both our annual family Christmas gatherings. Christmas without cousins is weird for me. But they are surrounded by adoring aunts and uncles - adults who are happy to spend time with them and listen and play - there is something kind of wonderful about that.

Stella is so independent now. She takes herself off when the adults get boring. Makes up her own games and rituals wherever she goes, claims her space. She has the sweetest thank-you, and she's generous with it. She spontaneously hugged a couple of relatives who'd she only smiled at shyly last year. She wore a pink floor-length princess dress of Christmas day. 
The length is note-worthy as she also wore no knickers.
She seems to currently be a Fruitarian.

Her favourite presents: a soft toy tiger, the robo-puppy above who is already driving us all mental with his barking, a volcano kit (the mould is setting as I write this) and a 361 part Lego Technic set
She aced the set in about 6 hours over 24 (starting on Christmas night and completing it at about 3pm this afternoon). It is recommended for ages 9-16. 
Charl sat with her, supervising gently, but she placed 95% of the bricks, 'reading' the instructions herself for every step.

Frieda read the whole of that book today. She's also read most of her new recipe book, Comfort, and made us a couple of simple dishes. She's been watching Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater at my Mum's house and the recipe book, plus some fun dessert glasses proved to be a well-received Christmas present.
She entertained the crowd (us, my parents, a few close family friends) on Christmas Eve with her no hands pants routine (she's pretty good!) and was just hilarious.
Yesterday, as my sister-in-law put her famous Christmas dessert on the table, Frieda grinned and mouthed to me across the table; 'There's layers to this shit player, Tiramisu, Tiramisu' - she cracked me up. We do love this video too much at the moment, but it's got some sass ....

My sister-in-law does Christmas very prettily (and her tiramisu is gorgeous).

As are my girls. And Christmas. And holidays.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

25 things about right now (including 3/5).

1. 3/5 didn't kill me, and it sure as hell didn't make me stronger. But it's done.
2. I hired an au pair.
3. I fired an au pair.
4. Life is too short for my kids to be unhappy. Especially not in the summer holidays.
5. Technically I have 2 days left of work, but I'm done.
6. So, so over it.
7. The big push tomorrow, the big 'putting to bed' of two, massive, growing projects until the new year.
8. The goal: out of office messages on the four different email addresses I'm managing - turn off push to phone for emails - no data use, just surfing on the home wi-fi. That's as off the grid as I can go.
9. And as I'm sizzling right in the middle of the effing grid right now, that's pretty far off.
10. I'm not sure I can do it in one day ...
11. I read this, and it reminded me to be wary of this in 2016.
12. I've developed a strategy, which presently puts me in exactly the same place I was this time last year - working hard, playing hard, pushing it. This year I'm working hard, playing hard, pushing it.

13. 3 nights on the jol last week: Thursday, Friday, Saturday - girls, girls, girls, wine, books, gifts, kids, food, clothes-swaps, G'nT's, laughing and food, and so much dancing.
14. And for 3 nights in a row I had some version of this conversation: 40 is fucking great. It really is.
15. But ja, burnout - let's not do that again.

16. Standing on the lawn in the dark with some mates, watching Kid TV.
17. TWO toad encounters in one evening and I didn't freak out! This is monumental.
18. Christmas started today. A family brunch as various people will be travelling over Christmas. (By people I mean my brothers, and by travelling I mean Thailand and Chile respectively. Bastards.)
19. We've gotten into the vibe at home too, in a nice low-key way. Mid-November. I thought this year I might just put those Christmas books out in a basket with the Xmas tree, but almost the next day Stella asked, with a sparkle in her eye, 'Are we going to open the Christmas books again Mum?'.
20. 'Of course my angel.'

21. We had 5 little friends staying over last night for the 'Slumber Party' the girls have been asking to have for weeks now.
22. My daughters' friends are becoming real people in my life - showing distinctive signs of the women they will become - I'm really enjoying it.
23. I was in a friend's teenage daughter's bedroom recently and I suddenly got so excited: teenage girl bedrooms - they are murky and marvelous, and I have two to look forward to! Secretly I still miss mine.
24. The last push - I'm going to whack it in 24 hours. I need to be on holiday. I. Must. Gather. Strength. for next year.

25. Must remain unfuckablewith.

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.

Monday, October 05, 2015


I only realised when I picked up my phone to check Instagram before getting out of bed that it was the 4th.

Charl had gotten up earlier with the girls (Sundays are my days to sleep in). I crawled into the shower where a small person found me and announced: 'Daddy's making scones!'

'Anniversary scones?' I inquired of him when I came downstairs.

He blanked, and then quickly recovered, 'Yes of course love, happy anniversary!'

So we had scones for breakfast, and mocked ourselves about how most people arrange weekends away and dinners out and fancy gifts for their wedding anniversaries.
We forget, and then recover and just have a normal day.
And then remembered that a normal day is the best kind of day to celebrate.

After scones there was some lawn-watering which turned into some child-spraying and screeching. Then there was some moaning and temper-flaring and wrangling into shoes and warm tops and collars and leads.
There was an epic forest walk with mud and misty mountain rain and coughing fits and dog shenanigans and poo on shoes and mushroom-spotting and pine-cone collecting.
There was some special treaty ice-cream after.
Back home there was a family Monopoly challenge which the girls eventually tired of and drifted off leaving he and I to fleece each other with much capitalistic glee.
Then there was TV time (for them), and meal prep time (for us).
There was gin & tonic and braai politics. There was an epic potato salad and another G&T and a salsa to which we may have added too many chilies to make it kid friendly. It was delicious.
There was sunset from the lawn with flying birds and cavorting dogs and wood smoke.
There was some hilarity over dinner which may have led to some vaguely inappropriate You Tube clips involving monkeys and smelly fingers.
There was hair-washing by Dad and hair-drying by Mum.
There was a small person who made a nest in our bed while her sister was being blow-dried and fell asleep there.
Later there was constructive input on my latest collage project and some deep and meaningful stuff about career paths.
There was some couch-potato-ing and some Monday prepping.

Last thing before I headed upstairs I freshened up the flowers I bought myself on his behalf last week. And while I did so I realised that it had been a perfect day.
A 'if-this-was-our-last-day-on-earth-it-couldn't-have-been-more-perfect' day.

A 'this-is-the-kind-of-day-I-dreamed-about-at-the-altar' kind of day.

It's been 12 years of days like this.

Monday, September 28, 2015

obligatory #supermoontotaleclipse post

I was old enough to understand the hoo-ha, the 'once every 76 YEARS', the importance of it all.

We took it seriously too. My parents loaded us up in a big old truck, with biscuits and juice, some family friends and 20 under-privileged children from the nearby 'coloured' 'location' - drove us far away from any distracting lights, high up a nearby mountain.
It was cold, and bumpy, the littlies all yawning, the bigger boys hanging off the back - whooping in excitement, out on a mountain top in the dark!

We piled out shivering and giggling, took a while to quieten down and listen, to follow my Dad's finger pointing up into the sky, to make out the tail and the distinctive smudge: Halley's Comet.

I was old enough to remember that forever.

Frieda's old enough to understand the hoo-ha now. She marked the auspicious day on our calendar weeks ago, and there's been lots of questions, You Tube clips and myth-busting 'round here.

I was tired last night, and loathe to set an alarm for 4am. So instead, I had a late cup of tea and didn't let the dogs out, relying on their bladders and mine to get a glimpse of the moon.
And yup, at 04:37 I woke to doggie claws clicking apologetically towards my room, and a blood-red, half-smudged moon peeping in the window.

I woke Frieda, she's old enough now to be compos mentis in the middle of the night, and she jumped straight out of bed to have a look. A brief look, a sleepy smile and mumbled thanks, I think she was asleep again before I'd left her room.
I, of course, took much longer. My girl will be just a bit older than I am now next time a 'Moon Super Eclipse' happens. What will her life be like, where will she be, who will she watch it with ... ?

This morning at 6 I got another glimpse, this time back to yellowy white, the eclipse waning fast as she dropped behind the mountain.
That would've been a great photo.
I'll store it away with the Comet, in that folder labelled 'Significant Things of an Ethereal Nature'.
I think Frieda's got that folder open now too.

Monday, September 14, 2015

winged things

I was just out on the lawn, minding my own business, when a shadow passed directly over me. 
A huge bird of prey (research suggests a Yellow-billed Kite - a large one) swooped over my head, across the channel in front of us and up into a palm tree opposite, immediately beset upon by seagulls and Egyptian Geese.
Two Pied crows joined the mob and they circled and screeched as the Kite bided his time in the tree - feasting on baby birds? hiding from the crowd?
After a bit he swooped off again - silent and proud with the hagglers nipping at his wing tips.

There's a Sparrow Hawk 'round here with a similar modus operandi. 
You can tell she's about when a still afternoon suddenly erupts in a cacophony of doves and sparrows, hurtling themselves up and away as the hawk swoops through.

When a Fish Eagle calls I can't not step outside to look for it (sometimes with dire results). 
Often just a speck circling up high, sometimes she's close enough to make out her creamy white head. Always she's tailed by a bunch of bad-ass sea gulls. God, it must be irritating.

The flamingos have been here for months, a much longer stay than any other time in our 3 years here. They all 'sleep' together on the lee of the opposite island, squabbling all night long - clucking and chortling like Monday morning assembly at an all girls school.
At sunrise and sunset they redistribute round the lake, great wheels of awkward pink arrows careening around.
On weekend days, when there's more traffic on the water, they regularly explode upwards, a fireworks show of pink legs and wings.

The Pied Kingfisher is a regular. SO loud for such a very little thing.
Last week, making the bed upstairs, I looked out the window at one almost directly opposite me, hovering in the air, wings a-blur, body completely still, the depth of concentration discernible in the rigid downward-facing bill.
Then plop, he dropped out of the sky and into the water, champagne-corking back up with a silvery flash in his beak.

Great flocks of black cormorants swoop down the channel.
80-strong, they ink by low and fast, their wing tips clapping hands with their shadows on the water in silent applause. They're Top Gun, stealth bombers, cooler than cool, completely without noise.

In stark contrast: ducks.
Clumsy, awkward, loud and ill-mannered - Spring is duck season. Horrific scenes unfold on the lawn: single females cornered up against the fence as mobs of males have their way with her. The girls find it fascinating, Husband and I are left feeling deeply disturbed and vaguely ill.
Ducks are incapable of flying without emitting a soft squeak-squeak-squeak. They often fly by in iconically recognisable threes, squeaking like plastic bath toys. Ducks are such a cliche.

Tiny bejeweled Sun Birds keep our palisade fencing clean of dead bugs and spiders.
Methodically they go from pole to pole, poking their curved beaks into each nook and cranny, twittering away to each other as they go. I've always thought of them as cheerful feathered folk until this female (not bejeweled, just drab and functional poor dear) decided recently that my parked car was Highly Offensive and did her best to intimidate me through the shatterproof, hijack-proof glass.

Recently, very early, very still, Stella and I stood at the water and watched Coots, White Egrets, African Spoonbills and Grebes having their breakfast in the shallows.

All of this (and much more) is happening, all the time, just outside.
Any time we want to pause our day and open our eyes to it, we can. Nature is awesome and we are still, 3 years on, eternally grateful to be living somewhere where we have so much access to it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

getting on

My Mum's gone to the UK, to the bedside of my (f)ailing Granny. Granny Jean will be 98 years old on Saturday and has finally succumbed to her age - only recently moving out of her own home and into an assisted living facility.
As so often happens, her mental and physical health has rapidly deteriorated since the move, she's ready.
A few years back my Mum came home from one of her annual trips to England and said Granny had noted how no one uses her first name anymore. Having outlived her husband and all her peers, she's either Mummy, Granny or Mrs S to most people in her life these days. I'd never even imagined that possibility before.

I recently went to the premiere of this fantastic documentary about a community of Afrikaans-speaking Argentinians living in Patagonia, longing for Africa - watch the trailer here

- and these old guys getting emotional about going 'home' before they died had me weeping during the screening.
(Admittedly I was terribly pre-menstrual that day but I still get prickly eyeballs thinking back on it.)

Then there's this article I read today - the last few lines particularly - and this Instagram account I spent some time on this morning, a quiet depiction of losing her parents to death and Alzheimer's, taking over their decrepit pets, putting their home to rights.

I've been having some very weepy moments about aging and dying of late.

Is this what 40 looks like?

Monday, August 31, 2015


Frieda stayed in her pyjamas all day Saturday. A couple of times we suggested she get dressed but she wasn't having it.
Pyjamas. Roald Dahl on audio. Colouring books. Toast. It was that day for her and I get it, I really do.

I decided recently on a title for my autobiography. You know, the one I'm continually living, I mean writing in my head.
'Pyjamas 'til Noon'
Sounds enthralling doesn't it. A MUST READ.

Also on the action-packed weekend line-up:

~ winter walks.

(you know, they speak of spring but where they get this thing I do not know because it has not sprung and winter's icy song is not yet sung)

~ 6 hour slow-roasted lamb.

~ hertzoggies.

Future title for autobiography, part 2: 'Baking 4 Eva' (gang sign with pudgy fingers)

Fuck you Monday.

Friday, August 28, 2015

love has no labels

This kid has issues.

(So has my 1970's kitchen but let's just look past that for now - we've managed to for 3 years ...)

My small girl, who has spent much of her short life rejecting labels - she's a boygirl then a girlboy then a boyboy then a 'girliegirltoday' - also has a problem with the physical kind. This girl hates a label.

Too scratchy, too silky, too big, too small - ALL LABELS MUST GO.

To get her to try a thing on while keeping labels intact in case of a size change is a negotiation. I generally cut swing tags off regardless as most stores will accept returns without them attached, but actual care and brand labels have to stay on 'til we're sure we're keeping things, and that's never easy.

Pajamas her sister happily wore for years come out of the hand-me-down suitcase and must instantly be purged of all labels, hang tags, loose threads etc before worn.

Shoes must be practically turned inside out for that one sneaky 'made in sweatshop' tag which might be lurking in the instep.

A beanie with a cool surf badge must be unpicked and exorcised of any branding before worn.

I was casually telling some friends about this recently when one of them asked if I was taking her to occupational therapy for the issue.

OT? The issue? No I most certainly am not, and actually I'd never even thought of doing so.

Immediately of course the voice of parental questioning and doubt piped up: 'Why not? Shouldn't you be helping her fix this problem?'
And then my real voice promptly drowned that the hell out -

Just like we've given her perfect freedom to explore her gender labels in a safe and supportive environment, I'm just as happy to tolerate this little personal hangup too. So she doesn't like labels, so it's a pain in the ass - this is not an issue, this is not a debilitating handicap (are we allowed to use that word these days?) which will impact on how she operates in society. This is not a problem.
This is a personality quirk and by god those are for celebrating in this rapidly homogenising world we live in.

I will not add another weekly appointment to her life - one for which we will be perpetually late and she'll probably have to wear shoes (sans labels of course) and will cut in to her valuable 'playing with her cheetah family' time.
I will not make her conscious that she has something which needs 'fixing' or shine a negative light on a personal preference she has.
I will not spend time and money to make her just like everyone else.

We know someone, an adult, who will not eat RED food for god's sake. Let's save the valuable OT appointments for that level of quirk if we must!

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe as an adult she'll have wished we'd taken her label thing more seriously. Maybe she'll become a merciless serial label killer, maybe she'll be a seamless technology millionaire, maybe she'll become a nudist.
Maybe she'll just be an ordinary person with a few cute quirks/annoying habits.

Oh wait, she's that already.

You've all seen this video right?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

25 things about right now.

1. I went to see West Side Story a couple of weeks back. An all-local production, 2 years in the making, performed at our big City theatre - it was astounding.

Pic stolen from the internet - see more here.
I'm not a big fan of musicals, but this was magic - thank you to the friends who persuaded me to go. I'd loved the 1961 movie as a child, the soundtrack was one of 3 or 4 cassette tapes on repeat on our family holidays and most of the lyrics have stayed with me.
The morning after the performance I gave the girls the plot rundown as we dashed through the hardware store and we left with them singing 'When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying daaaaaaaay'!
I borrowed the soundtrack from the library a few days later and much to Husband's consternation it's been an all out WSS FEST to and from school recently.
Some stories are just timeless (big up to Shakespeare!).

2. The other soundtracks which contributed to the theme songs of my childhood were The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat, Hair and Grease. (My parents were hippies.)

3. In addition to West Side Story we're all about Inside Out (the movie) and talking about our emotions. Also - STILL - How to Train Your Dragon. Us big kids just finished Game of Thrones S5 and I for one am DEVASTATED by the final scene - what?? I'm rapidly catching up with Downton Abbey too, and we finally gave House a bash and are enjoying it. Can you tell it's winter?

4. We also went to the Zip Zap Circus. If you think it's nerve-wracking watching adult trapeze artists, watching kids do it is terrifying. And exhilarating!

5. My new sister-in-law and her siblings were in the Zip Zap Circus for years - also trapeze! - and my girls loved imagining that was her up there. I don't know how her parents could bear it!

6. Everybody seems to be traveling at the moment - friends to UK, friends to Reunion Island, my brother and SIL off on their delayed honeymoon trip to Bali. Brother plans to visit Chile later in the year. I'm seriously envious.

7. But did go for a long overdue motorbike ride with my Husband.

8. And his brothers and one of our sisters-in-law. Sweet story: I'm sure I've mentioned before that my husband is much younger than his brothers (17 and 15 years between them respectively). They were both in boarding school when he was born, then the army and life - and he pretty much grew up an only child. But now, as adults they've developed a real connection over shared hobbies. Currently: motorbikes. Their mum is so pleased. Well, maybe not so much about the motorbikes ...

9. It was gorgeous to be on the bike again and to do a nice wintery landscape ride on an overcast Sunday afternoon. The orchards were all still stark and sculptural, with occasional mad outbursts of blossoms, the verges were green and lush, ditches filled with arum lilies and wood smoke drifting from farm cottages. I'm glad we got out there.

10. Signs of Spring abound though, and suddenly our morning commute to school looks like this ...

... sun! Glorious golden dawn on those mountains so ravaged by fire 6 months ago. The winter rains have brought the first flush of green to those slopes too and we've been enjoying watching that change as the months pass.

11. On the subject of rain though, we've not had nearly enough this winter. On our ride we drove past some of Cape Town's major dams - soberingly empty. I fear for tight water restrictions and price hikes this summer.

12. Strange to think of water restrictions when one lives surrounded by the wet stuff (albeit undrinkable and too brack for the garden even). We've had amazing water wildlife experiences lately. Flamingos have been resident for the last couple of months, African Spoonbills have been around, two different types of kingfishers, pelicans, our first sighting of coot chicks and ... a seal!

This is s/he - top of the food chain, catching massive lake fish and tossing them around with happy abandon. S/he's been around for weeks now - too fat to get over the weir and back to the ocean probably!

13. Then on Sunday evening, just before dark, Stella met her first otter. A curious be-whiskered cheeky young 'un, practically touching noses with the dogs on the front lawn.

14. We've been here for 3 years next month and the wonder of this place still resonates with us every day.

15. NOT currently enthralling me is my work, or lack thereof. This has been a much slower year than last with lots of false starts and annoyances. I keep thinking 'oh it'll pick up' and then some small child asks me how long 'til Christmas and I realise the answer is FOUR MONTHS (today!!) and look at my credit card statement and feel slightly nauseous.

16. The small job I'm currently on is in complete stasis as we wait to hear whether our Very Important Guest will get her SA visa in time to depart the States tomorrow morning. If she does the next 3 days will look like a shit storm, if she doesn't I'll send off a bunch of apologetic emails and meekly submit my invoice for a job half done ... chalk this one up to another false start. Blerk.

17. Can I just say it is annoying, when whiling away semi-productive time in front of the computer, that all one's favourite northern hemisphere bloggers are far more occupied with being summery then writing insightful and witty material on the internet for those of us with time to kill to read. Happens every year. Not appreciated at all.

18. Even actual books are not weaving their usual magic for me. I've updated by 2015 reading list by the way, and have this situation happening on my bedside ...

... which freaked me out so much that I inexplicably did this ...

... and I'm actually moving through them quite fast right now, but I'm restless. I can't settle, I can't get enthralled and more and more I suspect that it's not the books to blame - but me.

19. Should I blame Instagram?

20. Thank god for Instagram.

21. I have however been having good cooking mojo recently - a first for the year really. I've been cooking healthy varied meals, consciously using things we have lurking in the fridge and the pantry. Planning meals and cooking ahead and testing the girls tastes and textures. It's an immensely satisfying feeling. It's good to have one of those in these somewhat dissatisfying times ...

22. But damn, food is expensive y'all. And getting more so all the time. We have a monthly grocery budget which we pretty much total every month but I'm kind of tempted to keep an actual spreadsheet of what we spend on what for a month - how many eggs, how many litres of juice, loaves of bread, litres of milk - or is that a really bad idea?

23. Something else which is expensive: dogs. This boy is eating twice as much as he did a few months ago.

Worth every penny. Don't we love him more for sleeping like a cat?

24. My brother just phoned to remind me that I need to submit my provisional tax by the end of the month. Fuck.

25. And I got word that she got her visa! Tally-ho!