Sunday, November 19, 2017

potholes in the rust belt...

(Original image from Archives via Pintrest)

The name of the teller at Spar Tops in my home town, is Virginia. How is it that I’m on a first-name basis with her? Let me tell you.

I just came back from an unscheduled visit to The Rust Belt. As always, I approached the trip with trepidation for, as we all know, spending time with family is simultaneously exhilarating and excruciating. Despite knowing this, I am always surprised when things go Pete Tong, as I’ve always assumed that it is the natural order of things for families to “get along”.

For this trip, however, I was more anxious than ever, because a week before my departure I had a run-in on Facebook with an old school friend.  It went something like this: A mutual friend (Old School Friend No.1 - let’s call her “Smart”) posted a photo of a T-Shirt from MrPrice Sport. The T-shirt was sporting - if you’ll excuse the pun - a sexist message. She was enquiring as to whether it was only her that found the T-shirt sexist, or whether perhaps anyone else also found it also to be so.

As with all sexist jokes (if ever there was an oxymoron, that would be it), there were some people who were determined to see the “funny side” of the message, whilst others, like myself, reacted by bringing out their light-sabers, voodoo dolls and defence against the dark arts teachers.

I won’t bore you with the to-and-fro, but what I will tell you, is that I was told, by Old School Friend No.2 (lets call him MaNaS, #MaybeNotasSmart) that while us “liberalists” (yes, the kind that live in Cape Town, do yoga and sip on swan’s tears and only wear organic cotton) have no sense of humour, the “normal realists” are able to understand a subtle dig at the opposite sex. Furthermore, I was enlightened to the fact that it will primarily be up to MaNaS and those of his ilk to save the world from broad-mindedness, equality, and oversensitivity.  Phew. Hurrah, for that! What a close shave.

I was told, unequivocally, that I am exactly the kind of woman that men “run from”. RUN FROM I tell you!  And to think, for years Exotica and I did the *anti-mugging dance when walking around town after a night out when all along all we had to do was act like feminists. What fools we are! (*For those who don’t know, apparently acting like someone who is cray-cray is a brilliant deterrent against attackers. It’s worked so far.)

The point of this rather long-winded story is to explain why it is that you could find me, skulking between the aisles of Spa Tops in The Rust Belt, with a disguisatory look on my face, lest I bump into MaNaS. If you ever need to spontaneously disguise yourself, what you need to do is puff out your cheeks (as though blowing a vuvuzela), scrunch your eyebrows, and make your eyes all wild and crazy. That last bit came surprisingly easy to me.

Feminism and Liberalists aside, I should mention some other funny stuff about The Rust Belt.

The first morning I arrived in town, I went for a walk. This involved passing many houses that I remembered from my adolescence and recalling who lived there, what parties happened where, and who got laid in which bushes. Just trust me when I say that small towns are known for their drinkery and fuckery. I dare you to move to one to raise your kids in such a “wholesome environment.”

I digress. On my stroll, I noticed that almost all approaching cars drove as if they were drunk. Mystified by this phenomenon (drinkery generally only kicks off after 3pm, at least) I investigated, only to find that no one, in fact, was hammered. They were simply swerving to avoid the mammoth potholes that decorated the road. I opted to walk on the grassy sidewalk instead, lest I meet my doom.

On returning from my walk, I decided to do a spot of yoga on the lawn (because that is what us Cape Town-Yogi-Liberalist-Swan’s-Tears-Sippers do). Not long into my Breath Of Fire, I became aware of an on-going droning noise. It came from the neighbour’s side of the fence and went on and on without pause. I asked my dad what it was.

“Oh”, he said, “That’s the neighbour. He’s using his wind blower.”

“Then,” I was told, “he takes the vacuum cleaner up onto the roof, and vacuums up all the leaves that have fallen on the roof and in the gutter.” THE VACUUM CLEANER I TELL YOU!!! And this, dear reader, was all of a Sunday morning.

Later on that day, I went grocery shopping because as you know, groceries don’t shop themselves. As I drove into the parking lot I was nearly totalled by some old codger reversing out of a parking bay. Old drivers are dangerous. I have a theory on this. I think that old folk believe that we are only allocated a limited amount of movement in our lifetime. Accordingly, when old farts drive, they don’t want to unnecessarily “spend” any of their lifetime’s allocation of movement on mere driving.

Now is probably a good time to point out that The Rust Belt could also be known as the Retirement Capital of South Africa.  It has no less than seven million retirement villages and almost twenty-six times that number of retirees. And while on the surface that may not seem to pose any kind of risk or danger, I’d like to remind you that retirees aren’t particularly well-known for using their side rear-view mirrors. They also aren’t known for turning their heads in any particular direction and are especially not known for turning their heads to look behind them. For this reason, when you take a drive in The Rust Belt, be prepared to kiss your arse goodbye in slow motion.

And that, dear reader, is why I am on a first name basis with the teller at Tops bottle store in The Rust Belt.

Monday, October 23, 2017

dog hairs and TEARS...

(Original unedited image via Pintrest
I. Went. Camping.

I know, right. Me, of the 3-star-is-camping Brigade. Me, the person who gets fridge magnets as gifts that say “I love not camping”. Me, of the why-do-we-have-to-holiday-like-refugees society.

I know what you’re thinking. It must’ve taken some persuading on BK’s part to get me to go camping, but here’s the thing: he wasn’t even involved in this particular camping expedition! Crazy right? And here's the even crazier thing: I LOVED IT!

I’ll back up a bit and explain. I recently offered my services to TEARS, an animal welfare organisation in Cape Town. At one of my first meetings with them, Luke, their Animal Care Manager said “Hey, We’re having a Sleepathon in October. You should totally come and spend a night in the kennels.”

Had he known me better, he would have known better, but as it was, I felt it would show a complete lack of dedication on my part to turn down the offer. So while my mind was saying “Hell no!”, I heard my mouth say “Wow! That would be totally awesome!”

And so it was that I found myself at TEARS in Lekkerwater Road on Saturday afternoon with: my duvet (I’m not the sleeping bag type),  two camping mattresses (clearly made for people half my width and half my weight), pink-bomb painkillers (it’s all about pain management at my age) and a six pack of Smirnoff Spins (my “natural remedy” for peri-menopausal insomnia).

I’d arrived early to lend a hand with the preparations. This mostly involved me flitting from one group of volunteers to another saying “Need a hand with anything?”  I eventually found two awesome old ducks involved in food preparation (I know right, the irony. I hate cooking almost as much as I hate camping) and I think did a rather splendid job on the roll-cutting end of the assembly line.

For those who have never been to TEARS, it’s set amongst a whole bunch of trees, so the light that shines through is dappled and, at that time of day, golden. My favourite. The dogs had all been fed over lunch instead of in the evening (as they normally are). This was to curtail the pooping business. The dogs were all pretty excited but in a fun small-barking kind of way, not in a loud what-the-heck-are-you-doing-here kind of way. Life felt good.

As I walked through the facility, I was amazed by how spotlessly clean all of the kennels were. I swear, they are neater and cleaner than my home (which isn’t that hard, actually.) At almost every kennel I thought, Oooh, that’s a cute one! I hope I get to sleep with her/him. (Just as well I wasn’t allocated to sleep with the puppies or else I might still be there.)

I was eventually led to a kennel with two dogs, a boy, Zeke and girl, Neytiri. It took a few tries to get the girl’s name right, but she didn’t seem to mind me getting it wrong. On the contrary, there was lots of affection and licking regardless of what I called her. It was suggested that I don’t leave my bags and stuff in the kennel just yet because the dogs are inclined to get overly sniffy and scratchy when they see new stuff and may sniff and scratch my mattresses and bags to pieces. Fair enough. I get it. It’s a dog thing.

I was unreasonably excited to see that they were serving Old Brown Sherry and hot chocolate at the Bow Wow Bar. Alcohol mixed with sugar…they must have known I was coming. I was equally excited to see that they were serving dinner as I didn’t realise that dinner was included. Olympia bakery had donated ciabatta rolls that some marvellous people were serving up with delicious fillings. I inhaled mine and thought of making a T-shirt, which would say WILL CAMP FOR FOOD.

At this point, dear Reader, you might be wondering why I have this obsession with animals – or, as my Facebook timeline will attest – with dogs in particular. (My sister said to me, Li, I’m not looking at your Facebook posts anymore because it’s all just dogs, dogs, dogs.)

So here’s the deal. I’m at the stage of my life when I really want to help others where I can. And, while dogs may poop in public, they’re not nearly as full of S%$T as what humans are.  There are no “Dog-Harvey Weinsteins”. There are no “Dog-Hitlers”. Dogs don’t kidnap. Dogs aren’t cruel and mean. Dogs aren’t demanding.  Dogs don’t say they’ll come to your party and then cancel at the last minute because something better has come up. And, helping dogs doesn’t spawn spinoff problems in the same way that it can when humans are helped.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that humans shouldn’t be helped. Of course they should! But humans can help humans, and there are already a lot of people doing just that. But, here’s the thing: animals can’t help animals. Animals can’t set up their own clinics and hospitals. Animals can’t take themselves off to be sterilized. There are no animal police who can step in and save the day. You get my drift: animals need humans.

But back to the Sleepathon. After dinner and a short movie about the work that TEARS does, it was off to the kennels to hunker down for the night. Every person was issued with a goodie-bag which had info on “your” dog, dog treats, and a dog toy. Zeke and Neytiri immediately sniffed at the bag of treats and I showed the same restraint with feeding them as I do with myself when I have chocolate in the house. In other words: no restraint at all.

Zeke “discovered” the tennis ball and proceeded to chew it to pieces. Like literally, to pieces. He then discovered the rope-toy and alternated between delivering it to me and snatching it away when I tried to hold it. He wins at persistence.

I should point out that TEARS is situated alongside Masipumelele. And let me tell you, those folk sure know how to party. They’d obviously heard about the Sleepathon and decided to a “Lionel Ritchie” and keep us up and awake with the dogs. All. Night. Long.

Pfsssst. That was the sound of me opening up my first Smirnoff Spin.

Zeke: Here. Rope. You take. No! Don’t take. I take. Here rope. You take. Give back! Tug, tug, tug. And again and again.  I can’t tell a lie. Zeke sorted out my stiff shoulders in no time.

Neytiri must have been pre-menstrual or something because she would not let up with the treats. Who am I to stand between a girl-dog with cravings and her treats? My lack of restraint would bite me in the bum at around 3am when Neytiri did an impressive poop (I’m guessing they put a lot of bran in those treats.) Thank heavens she had the modesty to do it at the other end of the hutch.

After a few more rounds of tug-of-rope, snack-treat-snack, and pfsssst, we curled all up and went to sleep. Zeke found his way into the crook of my knees and Neytiri slept on my bag near my head. I’ve never felt safer and more loved.

I should mention that Lola, two kennels down, won the unofficial prize for being the most barky. Her human won at shushing. Sam in the kennel alongside, won the prize for the most humpy, and his humans won at saying “Sam. Dis genoeg. Sies. Dis onbeskof” *

Even for a non-camper like me, it was pretty awesome. In the morning, all the Sleepathoners felt bonded in our mutual stiffness, lack of sleep and, to be a sop, in our common love for these furkids.

And now BK knows that he doesn’t have to persuade me to go camping anymore. He just needs to bring along Old Brown Sherry and make sure that there are dogs at the camping site. Preferrably shelter dogs who know a thing or two about cuddling and unconditional love.

* Sam. That’s enough. Gross. That’s rude.

Monday, August 14, 2017

VB is for very boring...

(Original Image via Pintrest)
Dear Reader, I think I might have made a mistake.

This time last week, BK, Mr Chilled and I decided to watch a documentary on Netflix.  I think it was called What The Health and it’s made by the same guy who made  Cowspiracy. After watching it, BK and Mr Chilled decided to be vegetarian for the month of August. TFTF didn’t decide to do anything. To be honest, both BK and Mr Chilled looked pretty bummed about it. No Sunday night braai. No bolognaise. No lasagne. In solidarity with them I decided that August would be my Vegan Before 6 month.

You might ask where I got this crazy idea from. Well, I heard it on a TED Radio Hour podcast (podcasts, by the way, are my new crack). Anyway, this guy Mark Bittman has written a book called VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health for Good… (his ellipses not mine. For a change). I have to point out that when you listen to the podcast, he just says “Vegan before six” and doesn’t mention that while losing weight, you might also lose your mind. Or your sense of humour.

A few days into this new eating regimen, I suddenly questioned my understanding of Bittman’s phrase “vegan before 6”. Could he have meant that we should eat vegan before we’re 6 years old? If that was the case, I would be home-free as I’m slightly past 6 years of age. Or, I pondered, was he suggesting that we should eat vegan before 6am? This, I felt, would be quite easy because I’m very vegan when I sleep.  But nope, that wasn’t it. After doing some research I found out that what he actually meant, was that we should eat vegan throughout the day UNTIL 6pm.

Just a bit of background here. Throughout my life I’ve periodically decided (normally after watching a documentary or reading a magzine article titled something like The Crime of Being a Carb) to give up some or other food stuff. Giving up carbs is particularly torturous, simply because the minute you give it up, you start dreaming of all manner of carbs that you don’t even normally eat and that maybe haven’t even been invented yet. Like donuts spliced with chocolate eclairs or bread infused with bread. It really is the weirdest thing. I’ve even caught myself doing scratch-and-sniff with pictures of cakes in recipe books – just trying to get the aroma of carbs, you understand.

And so it went with me eating vegan. Every single meal I thought of making somehow included an animal product. To be specific, either cheese, butter or milk (apparently they’re in EVERYTHING!)  Oh, I’d think, I’ll make a baked potato and have cottage cheee.. Ah, shitballs. Nope, I won’t be having that. What about a delicious broccoli and cauliflower bake with cheese sau…. Oh flaming shrimps! I can’t have that either. Or my all time dinner–saviour: I’ll have a feta and mushroom omel…. Oh for fucksakes, I can’t have that either!

And so it went.  And so goes.

When I decided to go VB6, I suffered three critical oversights. Firstly, my day simply cannot begin without a cup of tea. It must be Ceylon and it must contain milk. It’s just the way it has to be. A law, almost. The way around this was to buy milk alternatives but when I saw that almond milk costs nearly as much as a villa in Spain, I had to opt for PnP’s house brand of soya milk. I figured that since my hormones are in such a dreadful state, drinking soya milk couldn’t possibly disrupt them any further, and therefore drinking it would be OK for my health. I’m currently drinking my body weight in soya milk so if next time you see me I look slightly on edge and am in the shape of a soya bean, you’ll know why.

Secondly, and this is truly a tragic and critical oversight, I didn’t factor in that I’d have to give up chocolate and rusks. Both  of these are my go-to foods for problem solving. It’s a universal truth that if you have some chocolate – no matter how small or big – you can solve the problems of the world. Not only that, but both chocolate and rusks are well-documented “harmony foods”. It’s a scientific fact. After all, have you ever seen two people eating chocolate or a rusk and having a fight?

The final oversight is that the VB6 plan is inherently flawed. That is, of course, if you take my whiskey drinking tendencies into account. It’s all very well saying you can eat animal products after 6pm, but then how, dear Lord, do you stop? It’s impossible. It’s Sweeney Todd’s pies all over again, or that mayor in Chocolat who OD’s on confectionary: once you get the taste of something, you simply can’t stop yourself coming back for more. Consequently, I decided screw it, I’m going VA24, Vegan All 24 hours. I cannot begin to explain how very boring I am (BK concurs) and how very boring I feel.

You might ask yourself, as I regularly do, what can vegans actually eat? The short answer is: vegetables. The long answer is: there is a lot of toast with avo and cocktail tomatoes going down. Broccoli soup with coconut milk is a big thing. Hummus is being consumed by the tuckload. Breakfast consists of oats with water and soy milk and a teaspoon of pea protein powder and a teaspoon of chia seeds (oh, the crazy hedonism of vegan breakfasts!) I went all out and made a stir fry with vegan chicken strips, which was rather OK. I added pineapple pieces - just to be fun.

It’s not that I don’t want to do it, truly. It’s just the lack of food variety brings me closer and closer to my 6… erm, 5pm whiskey. And to think, for one crazy moment I considered giving up alcohol at the same time as animal products. (And she laughed and she laughed).

On a very exciting note, which I’m sure is totally not the point, #veganslikeme can eat hot chips and… wait for it… jelly tots! I only know this because I was craving something sweet (not #naturescandy a.k.a fruit), something rudely sweet, so I bought a bag of Liquorice Allsorts. I was really cheerful until I read the label: they contain gelatine. Fuck. Mr Chilled had to scoff the whole bag to get it out of my sight.

So, instead, I hunted me down some jelly tots (which I last ate in the 90’s), ate an entire bag, and then got heart palpitations from all the E-colourants.

And that, dear reader, is a cautionary tale about why, when you go vegan, you should employ a chef and stock up on booze.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

no, can do!!!!!

(Original image via Pintrest)
So this week I saw a sign on Facebook that brought me to my knees with mirth. It read "Do not insult a crocodile while your feet are still in the water". Of course, the first thing I did was think up crocodile insults: "Your breath smells of dead deer", "You have a long bum", "What's with the goofy grin?", "Dude, you have T-Rex arms" and "My, what big teeth you have".

After I'd finished laughing at my own lame jokes, I remembered some photos I took while Exotica and I were in Italy. I don't know why, but, they seem to have quite a diverse array of NO and DO signs. Who knows why. Perhaps when people travel to Italy they lean towards risky behaviour? Or, perhaps Italians themselves like to court uncommon activities, and for this reason, need constant reminders of what's allowed and what's not.

Anyway, it's not often I do image driven blog posts (they don't translate well to audio books. Haha.) but I felt these were too funny not to share. (I must add, however, that my only other image driven post, "Hot and Furry generates nearly as many hits as my "Africa Burnt" post. It used to be called "Hot Fuzz" but I had to change the name because I think that visitors to "Hot Fuzz" may have been looking for something else...)

The image below clearly shows a man in a 1920's bathing suit with a big fat red NO line cutting him diagonally in half. From this, we can only deduce that 1920's bathing suits aren't allowed. Never. I have to wonder why. Maybe it just means "No Men In Tight Lycra". Who can tell?

This next image doesn't so much denote a "NO" as it does a "DO". As in "DO POLE DANCING HERE" and "GROIN GRINDING MUST BE AT THIS POINT". It's quite sweet when you look closely. The little black guy seems to be having the time of his life - arm waving out to the side and everything.

I literally stared at the image below for ages and ages before I figured out what it is. We found it on all the trains and clearly, it states that a little fold-down table and X-stand is available, should you have brought your wine bottle along. This is Italy after all. Again, more a "DO" sign than a "NO" sign.

I found the sign below outside the Collus...Colles....Colosseum (Yip, I had to Google how to spell it correctly.) From this sign, we can be certain that men with hats and abnormally large hands are NOT ALLOWED in this area. I don't know what they do with their big, black hands. But they're not allowed. Not ever.

The next sign is neither a NO, or a DO sign, but rather a sign that reads "WE MAKE NO APOLOGIES FOR DRAWING ATTENTION AS WE DANCE ON THE TRAIN". The words non appoggiarsi clearly mean "No apology", and attenzione allo spazio most assuredly means "attention in the space", and tra treno e banchina definitely means "to train dance" (banchina derived from the word "Ballet", of course.) Furthermore, I know exactly which dance he's doing: the dance that Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci do at 1min32sec in the "Shoop Shoop" music video. I shit you not. Just check it out.

We found the sign below at all train stations. Obviously, Uscita with an arrow means that "U Shita that way", indicates where pooping is allowed. We never saw a U Peea sign, which was a little disappointing.

We also saw the sign below just about everywhere. It shows a man running full tilt at a door. Without a shadow of a doubt, he is doing the same run that Harry Potter has to do at Platform 9 3/4 in order to board the Hogwarts Express. Exotica and I wanted to try it too, but we could never find a white door to run at.

The last two signs are my favourites because they are imbued with all the affection that we associate with Italians. The first sign implies that if you are a pick-pocket, you are allowed to hold hands with anyone holding a cheer-leading pom-pom. And berets, as you know, are an integral part of the official pick-pocket uniform.

The last sign is totally cute. It reads "Attention all lads". The drawing shows a red arrow, which points to the exact spot you must tickle someone under their arm, but, you must be wearing swimming goggles when you do it. You just must. 

So, dear readers and lookers. If you go to Italy, please take along your wine bottles, berets and swimming goggles but leave your 1920's swimming costume behind.