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?