Tuesday, August 30, 2016

strange showers...

(Original image via wwwludlowcollection.culturenik.com)
The year after I left school I decided to travel to Germany. It was a terrible idea, not least of all because I had somewhat unwittingly hitched myself to a dodgy German man who seemed charming upon first meeting. Turns out he wasn’t charming at all, but that’s another story for another day. The story today involves me, a shower, and some soap.

Just to put things into context: I grew up in Howick, a small town in the KZN Midlands. It was the 80’s. Both the region and style of the era didn’t boast things like fancy interiors or, say, fancy taps. In fact, all the houses that I knew (which was quite a few, I can tell you) were strictly standard-Cobra-tap-type houses. No one I knew had a mixer tap in their bathroom, and the ones in their kitchens were, yes, very standard-Cobra-tapish-type mixers. Linoleum floors abounded (this may still be a standard fitting today) and light fixtures, well, let’s just leave it at that.

But back to the taps. You can imagine my surprise then when I arrived in Germany to find all manner of different styles of taps. In fact, the entire plumbing and bathroom scenario was totally different. Shower/baths (or bath/showers – whichever way you like it) were trending in most homes, and separate showers and baths were uncommon. The toilets also had a funny shape to them – quite unlike the streamlined, funnel-shaped loos back home. The German loos had a kind of  ledge, or shelf, upon which your business would land. I found this to be most upsetting because I don’t really want to see my business. Ever. I prefer it to be funnelled away as quickly as possible, as though it never happened in the first place.

One evening, DG (short for Dodgy German) had tennis practice at an indoor tennis club. I decided to tag along and go for a run while they practiced.  When I returned, I was in desperate need for a shower. It wasn’t that I’d worked up a sweat so much as I was freezing cold from being outside (bloody European Winters). I made my way to the change rooms and by this stage, no one else was around. This turned out to be a blessing, as you’ll see.

I stripped off and stepped into the shower cubicle. Shit, I thought, where are the taps? Though the spout and shower head were in plain sight, all I could see was a kind of metal lever that stood at waist height. Testing the waters, so to speak, I decided to pull at the lever to see if that was “the tap”.

Mmm. Nothing. As I did several small circles of the cubicle, searching for some kind of switching-on device, my butt brushed up against something (this happens a lot – it’s quite a butt). Hurrah! A steady stream of water rushed out and I proceeded to soap up a storm. Then, just as I finished slathering my face with soap, the water stopped coming.


I pulled the “magic lever” to and fro but still no water came out. By now the soap had started to run into my eyes and burn the crap out of them, so I couldn’t see shit. The world became all misty and I knew I had to rinse my face before I became blind.

Glancing around (why I bothered to even look I don’t know – there could’ve been a band of marauding Indians in the bathroom and I wouldn’t have been able to see them though my burning eyes), I decided to run to the basin – which at least had taps that were familiar to me - so that I could at least wash the soap out of my eyes.

Sensing, rather than seeing, no one else around, I felt safe enough to make the dash, in the nude, slippery with soap, to the basin. Relief! My eyes stopped burning a bit, although I was still blinking wildly to get the residual sting out them. But now I had a dilemma. Do I go back to the “mystery shower” or do I stay at the basin and rinse there?

I knew that should anyone else come into the change room, they would find it most odd that I was standing at the basin rinsing myself and getting water all over the floor when there was an empty, perfectly good shower standing right there. I decided to try the shower again and dashed back over what had now become fiercely slippery tiles.

Lever, lever, pull, pull, push, push. Circle, circle (in the hopes that my bum will mysteriously activate the flow of water again).


And so it was that I found myself dashing to and fro over the slippery soapy tiles to the basin to rinse, then back over the slippery soapy floor to my clothes, to cover whatever parts of my body were de-soaped. Dashing back to the basin to finish rinsing, and dashing back to my towel and clothes.

Needless to say, I finally got a good run in.

When I emerged from the change rooms looking all flushed and out of breath, DG asked me what on earth happened. I patiently explained that there must’ve been some kind of shower-water-only malfunction because although the water in the basin worked just fine, the water in the shower wouldn’t turn on again after the first go.

It was then he explained that all public showers have a timer button to conserve water and that you just have to keep pressing the button when the water turns off after a couple of minutes. I realised that it was this button that my butt must have “switched on” as I circled the cubicle searching for the taps.

And since that day, I always make sure of the workings of showers before I soap myself up.

Friday, August 12, 2016

food shaming and other musings...

(Image via www.splitsider.com)
I’ve got something to tell you guys. In fact, I can’t keep it in any longer… OK, here goes, here’s the truth: I like white bread. There. I’ve said it. But how wrong am I to actually like white bread? After all, Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us that Marie Antoinette actually meant “brioche” when she said “cake” – and we all know that brioche is actually white.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to say that I just love, love, love brown bread. But I don’t. In fact, I would rather stick needles in my eyes than eat government brown. Seed loaf, on the other hand, I happen to like. But please understand that this is completely by accident and not because I have been pressured into liking it because it is healthy.

Why am I compelled to make this declaration? Well, were watching the Olympics and Mr Chilled says to me “Mom, so do you know what Michael Phelps eats in one day”. 

“No”, I say. Because I don’t. And because I suspect that he eats homemade granola made from seeds, quinoa, and goji berries, I hope the conversation stops there because I don’t want to feel bad about eating Wheatbix.

Not wanting to be left out of the conversation, TFTF asks Mr Chilled,

“Well, what DOES he eat in a day?”

“Yes”, I say, without much conviction, “lets Google it”.

You can imagine my surprise when the image that came up of “what Phelps eats” revealed the following:

Pizza (big fucker too, no smallness here)
2 monster sized servings of pasta (looks like spaghetti with mystery meat)
6 – yes 6 – milkshakes (they could be smoothies, but who can tell?)
3 Dagwood type sandwiches (also, big fuckers – I believe they have egg on them)
3 pieces of French toast (very, very chubby slices)
3 chocolate pancakes (OK, you know what, if he’s able to eat that, I’m hitting the pool)
1 bowl of um, something white (on investigation I found out it’s grits/oatmeal)
A 5 – fiiiiiiivvvveee - egg omelette (and that’s the only thing that looks flat on his plate)

This revelation has made me love Phelps all the more. Should he apologise because he lives mostly on refined carbohydrates? No! He doesn’t. Apparently the world thinks he’s redeemed himself enough through hours and hours in the pool. So much for the “it’s not what you do, it’s what you eat” theory.

But back to the title of the post. Food shaming. We’ve all seen those foodie pictures that people post on Facebook and Instagram (why, oh why do I follow “FitGirls”???? WTF?!) My worst has to be when people post photos of fruit and then hashtag it #naturescandy. 

Let’s get one thing straight. Fruit is fruit and candy is candy. You can eat fruit and you can eat candy but don’t try and fool me with fruit when what I really want is candy.

I was once fooled by a “fruit-candy” type of video that someone posted on Facebook. It showed a beautiful cake that looked like a mammoth carrot cake with shedloads of frosting. Just as I was about to jump into my car and rush over to Mugg & Bean to go-get-me-some, it was revealed that the “cake” was actually a watermelon that had been peeled whole, cut in half and then smothered in plain yoghurt. I think the strawberries that were dotted on the top were supposed to pass as glace cherries.

Disappointed is not the word. Tricked? Yes. Cheated? Most definitely. The person who posted it commented that it was a “super” idea for their kid’s birthday party. I was once severely reprimanded by a 4 year old for not having party-packs. One can only imagine the wrath that would ensue if one was to serve a watermelon cake at a kid’s party. (And also, you can only use the word “super” in relation to things that really ARE super … like Olympic swimmer’s bodies).

Of course, the sub-text of posting fruit that’s dressed up as cake is:  a) Look at me I’m so healthy and b) I can’t believe you’d put real cake in your body.

Nowadays you can find almost any food that has been demonised by someone. Gluten? Colon cancer - that shit’ll kill you. Cream? Clogs the arteries – that shit’ll kill you. Dairy? Sinus and allergies – that shit’ll kill you. Carbohydrates? Obesity and depression – and oh, that shit’ll kill you.

This brings me to recent commentary regarding sugar. I’m sure you’ve all seen it: sugar = cocaine. Actually, Mail Online reports that Sugar ‘is the new CRACK cocaine’. Fuck. If watermelon cake disappoints cake lovers you can only imagine a drug-taker’s horror if you were to serve them sugar instead of cocaine. The way I see it, many folk have a glass-half-empty approach when confronted with this sugar/cocaine argument. We should rather be thankful that we have sugar or else we’d all be doing cocaine.

On that note, perhaps you’ve also seen the research that was done on spiders that were given different drugs. (Mmm, a complete aside, I wondered how they administered the drug? I mean surely these spiders have seen the anti-drug campaigns? Must’ve taken some persuasion. Perhaps all their friends were already doing drugs and they felt peer pressure…).

This particular research revealed that while on no drugs  - surprise-surprise -  the spider made a kick-ass web. Curiously, the web it made on LSD was pretty damn fine too. On Peyote it wasn’t that great – probably spent more time communing with its spider ancestors. On Marijuana (I feel so pompous when I use that word), it was pretty sloppy – lots of holes and stuff, and on Benzedrine (I think that’s speed), it did lots of lines that were kind of untidy. No surprises there. The scopolamine web was unfinished business. I think the spider must’ve nodded off. 

Anyhow, the point of this is that the web the spider made while on caffeine was a cluster-fuck of biblical proportions. Hell, I’m not sure you could even call it a web. What is the point of all this you might ask? Caffeine shaming. People have been calling on this research to back up the fact that caffeine is bad for us. Now far be it from me to critisise researcher Mr Witt’s efforts, but I for one see a few flaws in equating spiders with humans. To begin with, I’m inclined to think that six legs require a much more sophisticated sense of coordination than what two legs and two arms do. That, and that not many humans ever really need to weave a web.

I was recently asked – as I often have been since becoming a “reborn” vegetarian – whether I am “still vegetarian”. As though vegetarianism is a temporary setback that one just needs to overcome.  What I’ve found with being vegetarian is that no food shaming is needed. People tend to just launch in and shame the fuck out of themselves. It’s the weirdest thing. They often vacillate between apologising for being a meat-eater and justifying why they still eat meat. Someone recently told me that they still eat meat because  “all the documentaries about meat-eating are actually ‘Americanised’ and are therefore not applicable to us here in South Africa.”  And then I feel obliged to apologise for being a vegetarian so that they don’t feel so bad about not being one. It’s all very awkward.

Funnily enough, although food shaming would be perfectly understandable in the context of vegetarians (and especially vegans), if I personally was to go in for food shaming in a big way, I would target chemicals.

Call me crazy but if I’m going to ingest chemicals, they’d better be fun, darn it. Yup, I would choose cocaine and whiskey over aspartame, psychedelic food dye and all those E numbers anyday (which might actually be why I have the junk that I do. Mmm.) Whereas most of us can generally agree on the food dye and E numbers, the aspartame vs. sugar debate is almost on a par with the HFLC vs. FAT FREE debate (and the margarine vs. butter debate for that matter). Heaven knows, heated shit goes down when the aspartame issue is discussed. Ask Dr Mercola and he will tell you that, “Aspartame is by far the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods”. And then you will find theorists that weigh up the damage caused by aspartame with the damage caused by cocaine (a.k.a sugar) and will find aspartame to be the lesser of the two evils.

So basically, I think you should eat what you like without making other people feel bad about eating what they like. Because after all, we all eat and do things that are unhealthy for us and when we do, we don’t want to feel even worse about it than what we already do. I also think we should stop tricking people with fruit and that we should all do the best we can with the caffeine we’re given. 

And that’s my cue to go and make myself a white bread peanut butter sandwich, or as Marie would put it, “peanut butter cake”.