Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ok, Kids: This is your Mother.

I’m getting a wee bit autistic savant. I’m finding myself trying to figure out how many minutes and hours until Neen gets back. Admittedly, this isn’t going to win me a Nobel Prize (except for perhaps endurance), but it’s good to be able to put a finite quantity to the amount of time left.

Unless… Last time she traveled to the States, I had older two children wound up: Mommy will be back in three… two… one more day! But then she missed a connecting flight and had to hang around with gangsta baggage handlers at JFK for an extra 24 hours. Try breaking that one to toddlers. This time I’m prepared for anything:

Sorry kids, mommy contracted a possible supervirus, and is quarantined for six months. You can see her, but we’ll have to sell the house, and wear plastic bubble suits.

Sorry kids, mommy wanted to come home, but she’s emotionally and spiritually vulnerable, and she decided to quit her decadent Western lifestyle when she met the Hare Krishnas at the airport. You can see her, only now we call her Bhakti Shrivaneenie.

Sorry kids, mommy got on the wrong flight and was accidentally sold into the harem of a wealthy oil sheik in Oman. The good news is that you are now princes and princesses, but the bad news is, Daddy is now the hired camel-hand…

I could go on, but I won’t… The clock is ticking…

A random quote from Hannah, 6:
“You don’t have to buy a friend, but you do have to have a sort of a license, because you have to know what to do with a friend…”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Clean Fun With Body Fluids

Encore! Once you get stuck on a theme, it’s best to keep on at it until it’s out of your system, so out, bodily fluids, OUT!

It bugs me that some mommies absentmindedly nibble on the same cookie/biscuit that their baby has been sucking. And that when you wrinkle up your nose at it, they say things like ‘Well he lived inside me for nine months, so I don’t get grossed out by him’ as an indictment on me for not wanting to engage in a spittle-drinking contest. In fact, the ‘well I carried him for nine months’ phrase can pretty much close down any argument. I try to suggest that that’s the way we are different, biologically, but then I picture a full-term baby being pushed through my nether regions, and I no longer feel like chatting much. About anything.

But surely we can be grossed out by babies? I see a mommy biting her baby’s toes, and I think, aaaawww, until I get closer, and fall back, reeling, with the sudden realization that at a certain age, a baby’s feet smell just like adult ones… That is not cute! Slightly rancid babytoes will not make my ‘special memories list’.

As I’ve already alienated mommies, the same goes for people who kiss dogs or cats on their snouts. Dogs with hanging pendula of saliva. Cats with easily dislodged fur. The occasional reassuring pat or stroke is fine for a domestic animal, you don’t have to treat it like an over-familiar cousin…

I like: Bathroom doors with locks on. I say bathroom, but I mean toilet. I don't want to be told ‘Hannah hit me and took my dinosaur’ during a private moment. At that point, it is me and my inner being, and I. Do. Not. Care. I also don’t want to see anybody else getting reacquainted with the contents of their bellies, thanks, so could everyone please SHUT THE DOOR!

I don’t feel the need to wash my hands after meeting people, or own economy-sized bottles of disinfectant, but I have my boundaries. Boundaries are good! They keep us from marrying direct relatives and stealing the cheese clearly marked ‘mine! skullandcrossbones’ from a housemate.
I have a mouthful of spit, but I am happy that it is my spit. I don’t want to have a mouthful of somebody else’s. Except Neen’s, but that’s different, right? Sorry Neenie… I won’t go into details…
Reminds of a joke I either made up or read (Soooorrry, can’t remember). Re: Jimi Hendrix: What’s worse than choking to death on your own vomit? Choking to death on somebody else’s.
Maybe this comes from having my older brother hold me down and try to gob into my mouth when I was a kid?

The spittle-related stuff stops, right here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Secret Life of a Spitball

It wasn’t a bad sort of day. It was the kind of day which inspires you to be glad that you aren’t an electrophorus electricus, the electric eel, which isn’t an eel, but who cares? (Even though it’s like saying an elephant is actually a mutant sheep)- erm, oh yes, the non-eel… The male has to build a nest out of his own saliva, which must be quite draining. Besides having to swim around intimidating other fish and amphibians with his 500 volts of electricity, he has to go home to his unfinished foundations and drool all over the place like an army recruit in a strip club.

Spit is very useful. It is well known to mothers across the globe that genetically-linked saliva will, when added to a tissue, act as a better cleaning agent than formally-bought store products in the task of cleaning a child’s face, but only when the mother is sitting in the front seat of the car, and she realizes that ill will be thought of her should she allow her grubby-cheeked cherub to enter the public eye.

It’s good for intimidating bullies- the old sideways-hawk is enough to wrest the biggest oaf on the block into submission, right? Well, no, but that doesn’t deter teenagers from doing it as part of a pre-fight ritual. Because everyone knows getting punched in the mouth when it is full of saliva is no joke, it could shoot out your nose and mess up your black T-shirt, which you insisted Mom dye because it used to say ‘I Ran in the Wholesome as Apple Pie Fun Run’, and that didn’t fit in with your sense of style…

Lastly, it’s a good thing babies can’t acquire interior or fashion design certificates, because, to a baby, no couch is good enough, no shoulder entirely finished, with out a wad of spit-up on it. This is not actually genuine spit, but regurgitated breastmilk, so this does not technically qualify, but it has sufficient traces of saliva for it to be included. In fact, if I could somehow extract the spit-up from my furniture, clothing and shoes, I could probably desiccate it and sell it to upmarket boutiques as an anti-aging powder.

You made it. Congratulations. I have no idea, either, but trust me, I prefer the term ‘Drama King’, as this seems to aid in the pointless wringing out of words. Don’t look for a deeper meaning. There isn’t one.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Four Pigeons of the Apocalypse

I’m a chronic doodler. Attention span of a gnat. If I’m on the phone, my hand, not my mind reaches for something to doodle on. Envelopes, bills, the phonebook… Sometimes I look at the drawings and scribbles afterwards, and wonder how they got there, what quarter of my brain they have been lurking in. Usually animals and birds, sometimes very depressed-looking people. Who are they? Do I have an army of them?

None of them are close to approaching art, but they are my friends. I let them sit here, next to the phone, before I bin them. I do paint pictures, for fun, but those are very different- maybe I’ll post one or two. These things, the doodles, only exist in the mind of a distracted man. Imagine an artist who can’t create without a phone receiver stuck to his head. It has to be a landline, too. A cell phone takes too much concentration.

This blog gets like that. I sit down, my head gets emptier, the more I try to think of things to write. Eventually, at best, a word pops into my head, and I write, almost automatically, like a disembodied hand in an Arthur Conan Doyle story, scribbling across the keys. Sometimes it works, sometimes, well, see below for details.

I don’t edit, I may go back in and take out a typo, but this is as close as you will get to seeing bilge pouring forth from the engine room of my ship. Wait. Bilge is in the ballast tanks, right? Ah, well, bilge is weighing me down, and I need a place to pump it out. Splaaaaaat.

Very deep stuff. Welcome my four friends above. I call them the Four Pigeons of the Apocalypse. I wanted to name them, but their roles remained unrevealed to me. I think they control my mind... You can fear them or feed them. It’s up to you. Thank you to all of you for holding the receiver up to my ear, instead of throttling me with the cord.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Own Private Jericho

Ever punch a wall in frustration? I have. The wall wins, every time. Walls do what they are supposed to do, which is, stand there, holding up roofs. They are inanimate, and are designed to stay put for a long time. They get decorated, painted, and sometimes patched up, but mostly they are just the things around us, closing us off from the world.

If walls could speak… Well, they can’t. Neither can the flies on them. Walls don’t have very good problem-solving skills. They may whisper ‘punch me… kick me… bash your forehead against me…’ in the middle of a stressful time, but usually they maintain a stony silence- much the same as you will if you chose the Glasgow Kiss option. (Alright! A GK is a headbutt).

Walls don’t move, but they can close in on you. If you are sick, immobile, or depressed, they can crush you like the garbage compactor in Star Wars. They can be sinister sentries, utterly still, but menacing in that stillness.

Walls can be beautiful. Or run-down. Walls can enclose a loving family, or conceal a criminal. Walls can smother the screams of the abused, or echo the laughter at a family gathering. Walls are best with windows in them, so that light can enter, and darkness escape. Walls keep summer out and winter in.
Walls surround birth, and enclose death.

Cheerful, eh? Guess I have a little cabin fever after solo-parenting for nine weeks. I’m hoping to go for a long walk tomorrow, the only walls being the ones in my head, which will be pummelled with the mallet of relaxation, until I can see the sun streaming through the clouds again.

Nine days till Neen returns.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prehistoric is the new modern. (?)

What did Neanderthal man do with his downtime? Sure, a lot of his time was taken up with running after or from hairy things, and eating them, and working with sticks and stones in his workshop, but surely there was more to life?

No TV. That’s what takes up most of our lives. No sports. (Ever seen a fossilised goalpost?) (And a coprolite is not a soccer ball). No computers- so no time spent on hold trying to whinge at their service providers. No video games, no gardens, no decorating. It was all function rather than form. It had to do something, or what was the point. It is apparently a highly contested debate whether or not Neanderthals engaged in art, but if they were, it would have been sticks and stones again- no dissected sheep in giant glass tanks.

Sure, he may have been a little religious, but that religion wasn’t restricted to Sunday mornings. He probably didn’t bother much with trimming hair and a general beauty regime. What makes us human? Is it all the rubbish we do to fill our lives? Surely, if it is just about food, sex and sleep, then we are just animals with manners?

What’s strange is: The sound of running half-naked through the wilderness, and bashing rocks together is quite appealing to me at the moment. I think I’ve devolved.

Next, I will be wriggling helplessly through the primeval sludge. Sounds like heaven. No bills, responsibilities, pressure; just sludge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is my thumb

A second brief post:

I won't bore you with too much political information. We voted today. There's been a mood of excitement. It was a holiday, so everyone wandered around not knowing what to do with themselves afterwards. I did vote- I feel the history of this country makes it our responsibility to vote. But is was an angry vote, a vote against rather than for. And this indelible ink on my thumb really is indelible.

Just sticking this up here to capture a snapshot of a moment in time of this country's history. And becasue I like the stretchy effect of the photo. I'm not very deep that way.

Keep that elixir of youth away from me.

Lay around a lot today. Picked my nose and ate it. Scratched my scabs. Tried to draw on the lampshade with a pencil, and later, stabbed my brother with a fork and scratched a framed picture with the same fork. I screamed at bathtime, and refused to have a nap, until I fell asleep on the couch. Woke up. Vomited on the couch. Watched TV. Scratched my butt quite a lot, too. Cried, frequently. Was only happy when bribed with sweets.

My chickenpox blog, by Jonah, aged nearly three.

So you can see, when confronted with this, a Freaky Friday exchange is out of the question. Adults learn to do nasty bodily things in private, children have to do it in the open. I’m just glad you don’t have access to my webcam…

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By the time you read this, your life will be shorter.

It’s the little things that make up life. No! Not sperm cells and eggs, I mean the things that consume our time, fill in the gaps between birth and death.

It’s fairly easy to calculate how many hours are spent (wasted?) sleeping- average out a quantity over a month or so, and x by life expectancy. It should be easy, but whenever I do that, and include the amount of time spent cooking and eating, I always end up with a minus figure- I‘d have to live to the age of 150. Maths has never been a close personal friend- If mathematics tried to follow me on Twitter, I’d block it.

Small things: Whenever I have to cover school books, wrap presents or seal a garbage bag with a hacked up body in it, I kick myself for not owning a tape dispenser. Without fail, I have to search for the end of the sellotape with every piece needed. I try leaving a flap sticking up, or creating a small bulge, but it just vanishes. Those are minutes and hours I have wasted.

Searching for tools. I have a toolbox (I am MAN, hear me ROAAAR) but I always consider DIY finished when the picture is hung or the shelf screwed in. Tidying up afterwards doesn’t feature- in much the same way that men don’t fiddle around making salads for a braai (barbecue). What? I made FIRE! I cooked the meat! (ROAAAR).

Anyway. Finding the end of the toilet paper, looking for sharp thingies to take the metal seals off wine bottles, picking up lego which has just pierced the sole of my foot, picking up socks which fall on the ground when I’m hanging up the washing, waiting for the menu screen on DVDs…

My life has vanished into that black hole.

I won’t even mention the personal hygiene stuff: washing hands, brushing teeth, weeing, washing hands again (see?- not a complete slob). Then there is just tidying, washing clothes, ironing, ironing, ironing, changing nappies (lost about a year on that alone!), walking to the station, travelling by train, going to the shop to get groceries, going a second time because I forget stuff.

All this adds up. Which leaves me with approximately twelve seconds of ‘free’ time per day: seven to write stupid stuff on the internet, 4 to work, and one second of totally free time to just sit and enjoy life.

So in total, over my lifetime, I will (optimistically) have one minute and twenty seconds of metime. Unless I buy a tape dispenser, in which case I will gain approximately 52 years.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shaved Head, Black Clothes, Loves Black People

I didn’t write about it at the time, because I was doing it, but here’s a post for posterity:

Last year, Cape Town had an outbreak of violence against (mostly) Africans from other African countries. There were lootings, rapes and murders. Local people, the primary theory is-driven by extreme poverty in informal areas, attacked people not from South Africa. In a week, over a hundred thousand people were displaced from homes and communities, and sought refuge in safety camps, community halls and churches.

I volunteered at an NGO which was coordinating relief efforts, and was, after a few hectic days, offered a contract job as communications person. This was because I had said I need to get back to work, and said I do write magazine articles sometimes. On the strength of that, I was hired.

So, I went from writing humourous bits for parenting magazines, to organizing massive press conferences, appearing on TV news, and blabbing to the radio stations, sometimes half a dozen a day. This went on for six months. I was the person providing press statements. My name got in to all sorts of compromising places. But we, as civil society, pushed government to look after these people, even f they didn’t want to, taking them to court twice.

Some highlights, behind the scenes of an accidental activist:

  • Getting food to 80 000 people, using donations alone, with a team of about twenty people in the war-room.

  • Phoning political heavyweights, and I mean household names, to get them to back us up. (Who am I talking to? Scott who?)

  • Indulging in a public fight with government, the mayor and the UN in the newspapers and on the radio and TV.

  • Meeting some of the most amazing refugee leaders and activists you could ever hope to meet.

  • Working for this guy. Awe inspiring- becoming his friend.

  • Doing a TV interview and realizing the newsreader was smartly dressed above the desk, but wearing old jeans and trainers below.

  • Swearing during a radio interview with a muslim radio station. It was recorded, so they could edit.

  • Writing a memorandum, and organizing a march of thousands to the Provincial Legislature to hand it over to the Premier- I managed to get her to accept it on her first day in the job.

  • Writing the first civil society complaint in the world ever to get a delegation sent from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to carry out an investigation- but only after I organised the BBC to blow the story in Geneva. A team was sent from Geneva and Canada to interview almost every important government agency and NGO in South Africa. Whoops. I kept a low profile after that. Hahah, Me. Writing to Ban Ki Moon.

  • Having to then sit before the equivalent of the UN Internal Affairs commission and get cross-questioned.

  • Taking government to court, and winning.

  • Finding out that people I was working with were getting arrested and followed, forced off the roads and threatened by spooks.

  • Discovering that government really couldn’t care less if people are getting raped in safety camps, murdered in their homes, or if babies have no formula for weeks on end. Their official line was ‘there is no problem’, and ‘we can’t acknowledge it, it will damage SA’s reputation for the soccer World Cup next year’.

  • Meeting with the heads of Medesins Sans Frontieres SA, Amnesty International and others.

  • Taking a phone call from a British charity offering R5 000 000. ($500 000).

  • Making a difference, in the City I love.

    So all this is not meant to say how wonderful I am, but just that it was an historically important time (not that it is by any means resolved), and that even normal people can get involved. I still am, having been part of a small group which started at the time: The Social Justice Coalition, which now has the support of Desmond Tutu and others. There were maybe fifty people at our first meeting.

    It isn’t about politics, but about wanting to do something rather than bitch about bad news. This country needs everyone to get involved in some way in our communities. Government won’t do it.

    Some of my best friends are black. I like saying that. Some of them are white, too. Racism and xenophobia are totally evil. Rant over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Three living children. Shoulda given them today's newspaper to prove it.

Seeing as I am not a husband at the moment- Neen, gone for two months for ‘work’ to the States, me, sadly mooching at home (whoooohoooo- quite enjoying doing things my way!), and longing for her return- erm, guess I could tell you a pack of lies about the children that will make you jealous of my 5-star fathering.

James is the oldest at nine, happy with snack food and a good book. Occasionally gets creative with his homework completion. But he’s been ok without his mommy.

Hannah, six, is the crazy one- wild ideas, constantly singing songs she makes up, and over thinking things: Like tonight: the burgers I ordered after the rain forced me to call off the braai (barbecue)- Hannah picks up the little seasoning sachet, and says DAD! I will never, never eat this! Why H? Because it is deadly poisonous! Eh? You get it in shoes, and boxes and things! Oooooohhhh! I get it. She means those silicon sachets that come with goods to stop them from getting damp. Must have warned her about them a little too strenuously. See? Crazy. She sometimes weeps for mommy, and has, by my reckoning, made 2396 drawings and cards for mommy ‘for when she gets home’.

And Jonah. At almost-three (in May), he is one tough kid. Normally really good looking, too. Gets his way, every time. He has missed mommy, but mostly he just can’t understand why he can’t really interact with her on Skype video. Tries touching the screen. Anyway. He has the worst chickenpox blisters I have ever seen right now- scalp, lips, eyelids and everywhere else. Huge ones. He’s hardly complaining, but he looks terrible. Poor child.

So they are all still alive after eight weeks without mommy, and so am I. Two weeks to go today!

You really don’t need to see photos of me. Generic bald guy. Ok Just one. Hey! It took me less than five minutes to shave my entire head and face this morning with a safety razor. No cuts! No mirror to check back of head! Pretty damned impressive, if you ask me. You are welcome to try and beat that time, if you have what it takes…

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Green day, black heart.

Bumped into a guy I knew at school today.
Had the best BMX.
Was really good looking.
Had a cool name, which I won’t mention here.
Once half killed me by tackling me during rugby.
(I half killed someone else twice my size in response. Someone huge and gentle, but very satisfying to pick up and dump in the mud). Sorry, so He:
Used to call me and my best friend gay. Mocked us mercilessly.
(My best friend was, and had a nervous breakdown, ended up in a clinic). He:
Wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer- he failed his matric.
Which I thought was funny, because I passed.
He went on to become a successful businessman because of his rugby connections.
He lives in the best area in Cape Town.
He isn’t a bad guy, after all.

South Africa is a weird place: It’s all about who you know. That’s how you get jobs and contracts, fame and fortune. It kinda pisses me off that this guy who was quite an idiot at school could have made it (in purely material terms). But then, I can always take the moral high ground of being a wonderful person. Not.

It also pisses me off that I should care a flying hoot about what happened between teenagers twenty years ago. I need some affirmation here, and fast.

On a separate and unrelated note: Am I alone in feeling a deep sense of shame when standing in a queue for fast food? I feel like people are checking to see if I have crappy skin or greasy hair, or webbed toes or something. Mainly because I look at other people like that. Gross, dude- you seriously did not need to upsize anything, pal. Yuk, lady, is that a tailored marquis you are wearing? Hey! Funny looking couple! Your kids are badly behaved, try giving them some greens once in a while!

Damn, the inside of my head can be nasty sometimes. I loathe criticizing others. Mainly because I am so insecure myself. I really don’t give a hoot about the way you look, and yet I hate people looking at me, assessing me. Hate it. Part of me thinks that compliments are just well-worded lies- to distract me from what they are really thinking…

I need to sleep, have Neen back, and chill out. In that order.

Here's a picture of the bicycle I always wanted in the seventies, but wasn't allowed. Apparently, rough children rode them. I am sooooooooo that Steven Spender poem: My parents kept me from children who were rough...'

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hark! What Light Through Yonder Window Beckons...

They are like family. Well, they are both Lepidoptera, but why are they so different? Most people love the image of a brightly coloured butterfly, reeling through the dappled summer sun to alight on a pollen-heavy blossom. So why the different reaction to a moth? When he staggers drunkenly through the darkened alleyways of the night to tear himself to pieces on a lightbulb? Moths are the Mickey Rourkes and Shane McGowans of the insect world. Butterflies, the Paris Hiltons and Lindsey Lohans.

According to Wikipedia (which is as academically sound as saying according to People Magazine), moths navigate by a particular kind of celestial navigation known as transverse orientation. Basically, bright light to them is the equivalent of somebody doodling on your A-Z map of Cape Town. They have no idea where they are going. Bang goes that mystery. Bear with me, this is about to get good…

But you seldom see moth caterpillars hovering in mid air over your reading lamp, so what happens between moth infancy and adult moth-hood? Silk worms are moth larvae, right? They are active during the day. Probably the night too, haven’t done empirical research here, this is just a blog.

Anyway, moths get a bum deal. They have far more beautiful antennae, and seem hardier than butterflies. Then again, few people hit butterflies with a rolled up People Magazine. Sure, they can leave a trail of scales as they disintegrate all over the house, but we should cherish those as living sacrifices.

Butterflies? Flower parasites. What the heck do moths eat? Probably the residue left by new trainers in a laminated floor. Who knows? Butterflies do it all out in the open- We could learn far more by studying moths. Everyone, grab your magnifying glasses and your torches.

Just couldn’t find a good moth metaphor for parenting, but at least you learnt something, right?

Wonderful news today! Jonah, who is threeish and in day care, was sent home for the next week with chicken pox today. Love it. Had to charm Father In Law to stay with him next week, as Neen is still away for two more weeks, and I am working terribly hard. These blogs don’t update themselves, you know. Neen has been gone eight weeks already. It is high time she came home to all this chaos- moth-nonsense, sick children, the usual. I’m beginning to suspect she has changed her name and slipped off the grid. Neen? NEEEEEEENNNNNIE!!!!!

Right. Time for me to put on my safety helmet and run repeatedly into a lamp.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fishsitting, or, don't tell your mother...

In the news today: In the US, the rate of child abuse has shot up at almost exactly the same time that the economy has foundered. Analysts are linking the two.

So… you get laid off, or you lose some of your ‘value’ on the stock exchange, and you think to yourself ‘Hell. May as well abuse a child’???

In the news this week in Cape Town: Teenager kills dad over argument in kitchen, girl kills mom, mom goes to prison for killing stepdaughter, former policeman pleads stress and amnesia after killing his three children, child’s body found in bushes… These are just the ones with enough news-sex-appeal to get into the papers.

Reading a favourite bedtime story tonight: First time I’ve read it to Jonah- the other two have had it dozens of times- reading The Cat In The Hat out of the original copy I got 36 years ago. The cover is falling off, and Dr Seuss’s crazy colours are fading, but it is one of the best children’s books ever written. I could probably recite it for you…

So all the crap news is in my head, and I’m thinking, what kind of mother (the father is only mentioned in the sequel- so he appears to be a rock star or a bible salesman) goes off to town ‘for the day’ and leaves her two pre-teen children alone? It was written in the fifties- well after the Great Depression of the thirties- when, according to the news today, people must have been abusing kids like chickens peckin’ corn, and well before the General Depression of the Sixties when mothers started chugging pills like tic tacs- so where was she?

Is this window period of history the perfect time? An idyllic environment, where children could be left to fret about tidiness and order? Would be great to have that back. By my calculations, it will return in a cyclical way in 2023. Just as my children have finished growing up.

The mother (we only ever see her hand and feet, seems pleasant enough- but juxtapose that with the fear on her children’s faces. She could be a high-class prostitute, out scoring opium for her clients, or merely meeting the gals for cocktails. As Seuss is dead, we’ll never know the secret behind what the mother did, the horrors of the Cat House.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My boss is kinda hot

My boss is really good looking. I mean, hooooot. I went to a business lunch with him yesterday, and these lanky model-looking types kept hugging him hello. He looks like an Indian version of Joey from Friends- the winningest smile you’ve ever seen. The woman we had to meet for lunch blushed nearly crimson when she saw him. She was about 35, but blushing like a teenager.

I don’t blush, but my ears go red. Not when I see my boss, but if I am embarrassed. I also get occasional pimples. Really, isn’t that supposed to pass when you are twenty years out of school?

I sometimes envy teenagers their confidence- here I am, 38, and hating social situations. Where did the swagger go? I had it, once, but now I know better- circumstances and fears can rob you of who you think you are, and condemn you to the shadows.

If I met any of you, my ears would definitely redden, and I would make a series of manic jokes to distract you from my discomfort.

Am I the only person who suffers embarrassment like a teenager, but lacks the spirit to project confidence? How are you with social situations?

Going to school, you act real cool

I have to go back to school. I’m 38. I have what could be a real opportunity to do a Masters program through distance learning (and yes, it is an actual English University, not a spam degree). Trouble is, I don’t have degree of any sort. Apparently, I may qualify on the strength of my personality, er, that is, by equivalent experience, for this scholarship.

It is aimed at African citizens working in the area of community development and communication, which I am, but with a name like Scott, I may not convince them that I am African enough…

Studying and I have never been close friends. My previous system has been one of procrastination and scraping by. But this time, it will be different- more relevant than, say, the Latin and Geography I did at school.

I am still recovering from being forced to wear a chiffon dress at clothing design college by the lecturer- we had to model our designs- which for that course, was evening wear. I’d spent all my money on fast living, so I made a dress out of my curtain lining. Had to model it in class. Eventually I dropped out, because the teacher had said my deskmates had complained I smelled of alcohol (I was a barman in a nightclub, and frequently staggered straight to college).

I won’t take you back to school: Suffice it to say that a boy wearing floral blouses and make-up at a rugger-bugger boy’s school put up with a lot of crap.

I did study advertising fairly successfully, but hated the advertising world. In Cape Town, as with any big city, it involves snorting mountains of cocaine and schmoozing with vapid people in order to get the account to write pithy ads about chutney and soap.

So. Back to school. Lunch box, exercise books and assignments. No smoking in the toilets. At least I am over the stage of brace-tangling snogging at the disco.

I did panic a little this evening, when my nine-year-old asked me to help with his homework, and I had no idea what to do. Ah, well, you’re never too old to learn, relearn and learn by mistakes. I’m an old master at that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Somehow we go from cabins to barbed peni. Don't ask.


For me, the best book ever is always the one I am reading. I’m currently reading A Place of My Own, by Michael Pollan.
Precis: Guy with midlife crisis builds cabin in woods to escape reality.

There’s a lot of quoting various philosophical streams of thought, he practically makes verbal love to Henry David Thoreau, but mostly it is about a guy channeling his primal scream into nailing cedar shingles onto a purpose-built cabin. While his wife gives birth to their first-born.

Men should be more like peacocks: Show up once a year, flash your colourful butt, and off you go, squawking into the distance.

Or lions. All you have to do is do some leonine porn whenever the NatGeo camera crew is around, otherwise, you pretty much chill. (Aside: In the Lion King series, when Simba’s father dies, and he eventually becomes king, does that mean his mother, Sarabi, becomes part of his harem? And why does he appear to be a perfect dad, when male lions seem to enjoy infanticide more than should be socially acceptable?)

It takes dedication to be a man: Could Gloria Steinem spend two years building a structure in the woods solely for the purpose of scratching her butt? Could Germaine Greer turn a couch into a mini-habitat, with all life’s comforts within arm’s reach?

Next time the children beg to see the Lion King, I’ll put on a NatGeo DVD instead- reveal the full, uncensored nature of lions. (Ok, maybe slightly censored- they always talk about the male lions having a barbed penis which is difficult to extract. I mean. Do I need to be THAT educated?)

In the meantime, I’ll be out in the woods, with a hand-axe and a mouth full ‘o chaw, thinkin’ about soft furnishings and window treatments for my rough, hand-hewn cabin.

One day, walking past an Adult Interest Retail Concern

Had an interesting lunch, complete with floorshow today. Not strippers. I was with a colleague and two business acquaintances for a lunch meeting. We sat outside on Greenmarket Square- a busy tourist market area with lots of outside restaurants in the centre of Cape Town. In the middle of lunch, there was a YEEEEEEEE noise, which in Cape Town means people are yelling to warn of a crime taking place. A teenaged street-kid sprinted past our table pursued by at least six security guards. Hundreds of luncheoning tourists got to watch the kid trip, and slide on his face. He stood up and looked ready to take the security guards on- in Cape Town, most of the security guards are former businessmen or professionals from other African countries who came here as refugees- they can’t get work, so they work as security guards for minimum, and I mean minimum wage (say $150-200 per month).

So the security guards are fast, but not violent, and it looked dangerous, until a cop appeared. She was vast, and clearly hadn’t broken into a run since cadet school. She walked up to the raging kid, berated him like an angry mother, scolding him and waving her finger. (In the old days, the cops would just beat the living crap out of a guy like that- but there were tourists, with cell-phone cameras, so one has to be cautious). The kid calmed completely, and she gently led him away to his pointless night in the cells.

I turned to my semi-tourist colleagues, and said ‘He does that every day at 13.30, just for the tourists’. He probably does- It is what tourists expect to see- the rampant crime. Maybe he is a professional actor. Who knows? It was all very unobtrusive and amusing*. Stupid crime. *Being flippant- The kid will, statistically, end up on heavy drugs, go to prison, get raped in prison, and die of AIDS-related illnesses. Statistically.

Later, walking to the station, I passed Adult World, the, er, shop where adults go to buy adult stuff. (My repressed nature has kept me from going in, so I have to go by the imagination a little). Normally, there is a mannequin wearing a feather duster in the window, but today, for the first time, there was a bouncer. Not some odd toy, but a doorman, a huge depressed looking guy- admittedly, he can’t have dreamed of THAT job, growing up, and it made me wonder, what could they possibly have going on in there that needs the services of the sad giant? I thought they just sold rubbishy German magazines, and scary DVDs? I am now even more convinced that I will never cross that threshold. Rereading that paragraph: It is a sex shop, ok? See? Too repressed to say the words sex shop. SEX SHOP SEX SHOP SEX SHOP. There. Out of my system.

It’s difficult to find silliness out of these things, and I don’t, really, but I am glad I don’t live in a dull place.

Apropos of nothing: I saw a grandfather hitting his four-year-old grandson this weekend with a belt. Really hard. I was too surprised to intervene. Surely this is way out of line? The kid was beaten for shouting while playing in his own garden. I know these people- they are not strangers.
I’m sick of violence. Sick that our society seems to approve of it. I wanted to make the old man feel really small using words, but instead, I pretended as though I hadn’t seen.
I wasn’t heroic today. Clark Kent went to the phonebooth, and all he did was dial his mobile server to check for messages. **Found the picture after I'd written this- you can steal almost anything from Google Images- does that endorsement exculpate me?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Excuse me, have YOU thought about eternal damnation today?

At some point in my distant past, I used to be a joiner. Gimme a five-minute-talk by someone with a story hook and a sense of humour, and I was signing on that dotted line. I don’t mean for magazine subscriptions or odd cults where you are required to wear banana boots and whistle arcane themes through your ears, I mean clubs, causes, those kinds of things.

As an example: When I matriculated (in itself a minor miracle), my testimonial from the headmaster dredged up the small fact that I had been part of the Yacht Club at school. I must have signed up for it in the first year, daydreams of salt-spray lashing my wind-reddened cheeks… But I never actually made it as far as being on a yacht. Apparently, although I never went to meetings or convened them, I was the secretary of the Creative Writing group, the Head of the school’s chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a member of the film club and also an active member of the Scripture Union.

That sounds like a pretty cool kid to be friends with. But it wasn’t me! I signed up for those things and never went to the actual meetings.

I did get honours in the English Olympiad (despite never actually reading the Shakespeare plays we were tested on) and sang in plays and two choirs.

But mostly I practiced becoming cynical, and smoking behind the tennis courts. (Or up trees- teachers never look up!)

But now: All somebody has to do is look at me hopefully, and I have my refusal speech in place: Too busy/poor/mentally ill to participate in your club/fundraising drive/crocheting circle. I am the anti-joiner. But, with the anonymity of the internet, I can follow your pages, join your sites, without committing myself in any way. I do try and keep track of anyone who passes by and leaves a comment. You don't have to join- just smile and wave...

In the past few weeks, with Neen away, I have refused loads of invitations from friends to bring the children round for supper- mainly because the effort in preparing them, then tidying the house for when we are collected, is just too much. Evenings are a time for tired children to meltdown in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. No waaaaay am I chancing taking this circus out in public without the benefit of a partner to distract people from moods and bickering and, sometimes yelling. Short of me faking a seizure, my children would be on display. People will say I wonder how he’s doing on his own- and it is much easier to say fine, than to let them see the occasional polar opposite to fine.

I can handle them, this- but I don’t particularly want to share it with anyone outside immediate family. My sister-in-law gets it. That’s about it.

Accepting those invitations would be tantamount to sailing imaginary yachts again.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Holidays, a time for families and silent screams

Nothing like waking up on a strange floor, carpet imprinted on your cheek. Glad that this wasn't accompanied by blackouts and a short ride in the back of a police van. Fortunately, no bloodstains or shallow graves (this time)- just extended our stay at my sister-in-law's house- must be mad- spontaneous holidays with the children. Children who are unhinged by chocolate molded into amusing rabbit shapes. So I have missed out on catching up with you all.

I'll be back after a lunch with Neen's extended family this afternoon- normally this only happens at Christmas, and Neen is there to shield me from their genetic whirlpool. Even then it takes six months to recover, so today, with Neen still in the States (yay- entering week eight of ten and a half weeks!)- it's just going to be me. Let's hope we don't create yet another legend to enter the family history...

There's a reason I call them Munch-kins.

Friday, April 10, 2009

yet another badly drawn bunny

I don’t have officially diagnosed leporiphobia, but I have a healthy fear of them. Once bitten, as they say, and I was. My friend had a mommy rabbit with cute baby bunnies, and I got between the doe rabbit and her babies. She drew blood with her rabbitty fangs, and gave me the most furious look- furious looks seem much worse with albino-pink eyes.

Come to think of it, I also got my first dog-bite and first bee sting at that same friend’s house circa aged five.

I digress. Rabbits do, however, possess mystical powers. They do not, in reality, exist. I can prove it: I once spent an entire holiday attempting to photograph fields teeming with them from the window of a moving car, they were running really fast- my family saw them, too, and yet, not one photo shows anything approaching a rabbit! Just blurry fields. Now YOU explain that!

Tonight, he will come, lurching through the neighbourhood, with his strange elongated paws, and his staring pink eyes, looking for children, seeking them out… Lock your doors people, I tell you, evil is afoot!

*Could be payback for the ‘indian’ headdress I got when we lived in Canada as a child- had real rabbit’s feet on either side- they were considered lucky, but for the rabbit? Not so much.

The World's Horniest Mammal

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, which I read at story time tonight, the world's horniest mammal is the four-horned antelope (tetracerus quadricornis). It has four, yes, count 'em, four, horns.

Which is very useful information.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Counting to ten, punching walls

I used to relate better to Tintin, but, lately, I’m veering dangerously towards Captain Haddock.
I once used to think of myself as a peace-lover, but lately, I seem to be more like a war-monger.
I used to be able to control my temper, but now when I see RED, I am almost certain my eyes bulge a little.
I must practice internalizing my rage more, or I could end up imploding.
I feel like I am standing in wet concrete, and I would love the footprints left behind to be happy ones, skipping a merry jig through life, but at the moment they are leaden and dull impressions.I used to relate better to Tintin, but, lately, I’m veering dangerously towards Captain Haddock.
I once used to think of myself as a peace-lover, but lately, I seem to be more like a war-monger.
I used to be able to control my temper, but now when I see RED, I am almost certain my eyes bulge a little.
I must practice internalizing my rage more, or I could end up imploding.
I feel like I am standing in wet concrete, and I would love the footprints left behind to be happy ones, skipping a merry jig through life, but at the moment they are leaden and dull impressions. When you are mostly around children, especially wound up children, it is incredibly hard not to respond to their chaos with your own inner-brat. Time for me spank myself/stand in the naughty corner/lose my pocket money privileges.

Consistency is not easy. James asked me what ‘tilt’ means in pinball- well- that’s how I feel- tilted. I was bouncing in one direction with painful ease, and suddenly… Off again, never quite hitting the bells I want to. When you are mostly around children, especially wound up children, it is incredibly hard not to respond to their chaos with your own inner-brat. Time for me spank myself/stand in the naughty corner/lose my pocket money privileges.

Consistency is not easy. James asked me what ‘tilt’ means in pinball- well- that’s how I feel- tilted. I was bouncing in one direction with painful ease, and suddenly… Off again, never quite hitting the bells I want to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I am a baaad man with a heart puckered with evil

Things I should know better not to do, but do anyway:

Swear in foreign languages: It both exculpates you when you do it, and feels completely satisfying. Unless a speaker of that language happens to be nearby. A great favourite is ‘twak’ which could be translated from the Afrikaans as tobacco, but also means, gently put, nonsense. And ‘Strond’, which is an even stronger version.

Sniggering at people with hairpieces. I have a bad habit of being able to spot toupes. And, rather nastily, feeling superior when I stand next to someone wearing what looks to be a badly trimmed muskrat.

Littering. You can try and convince yourself all you want that it is actually a form of job creation for the sanitation industry, but really it is just making the world a horrible place. I mean, I actually don’t enjoy seeing litter, so why do I do it?

Tripping up rude toddlers. Ok, I only did this once, but the kid was bullying all the other children. And no, I didn’t feel like Superman protecting the tiny people afterwards, I felt like a doos.

Telling myself that ‘another glass won’t hurt’. It frequently does.

Smoking. Say. No. More.

Continuing to watch Nicholas Cage movies in the hope that one will be as good as Raising Arizona. I am so glad I don’t go to his hairstylist. Or Al Pacino’s. Or Donald Trump’s.

Buying ‘Best of’ CDs. They always, always miss out the one song I want to hear, and then I can’t justify buying another CD, as most of the songs will be duplicated.

Buying clothes without trying them on. Apparently, I am not as good a judge as I think of whether or not something will fit, just because it rashly claims to be in my size.

Not exchanging stuff, because I am too self-conscious.

Throwing away food in a country where people are starving.

Watching political debate, thinking surely, SOMEBODY will make sense.

Making my children cry by overdoing what I think is funny, and they do not. Anyone who can tell the joke ‘knock-knock…who’s there…cows go…cows go who?, silly, cows go MOO’ ten times in a row is not reading the same humour script as me.

And those are fairly harmless things. There are worse, much worse, but I don’t feel close enough to you to tell you… What do YOU do, that you know you shouldn’t?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And Lo! They came with flowery bonnets and sacrificial virgins

Its complex- watching a DVD with a three year old, and having him ask me to explain everything, and then having him disagree with me. Like this: On seeing a huge head statue, he asked me what it is.

Why, that's an Easter Island head, I explained.

It's not an Easter Island head, he says, its an Easter Bunny.

Oh, the rituals of this time of year. The ancients slaving away with their flint chisels and unknown pulley systems to create a giant Easter Bunny, in effigy. I'm guessing the island was first discovered by the West at Easter, and has little else to do with bunnies, chocolate or the resurrection. Whatever the background, it's a difficult holiday to explain to a kid who thinks he knows it all.

I apologise for my poor cartoon- couldn't face trying to steal a google image...

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Case of the Vanishing Underpants

Basically, that post was too horrific to leave up! Something frivolous and happy will appear soon. It was so bad I nearly flamed myself. If you commented, well, I hope you manage to erase it from your mind...

The picture of innocence

I think babies are very poorly designed. If I was in charge, I would make them more like naked mole rats. It takes a very special person to look at one and come out with anything other than a strangled ‘uuuurrrrgggghhh’ sound. Which does indicate that people do have fickle and shallow natures when it comes to the concept of beauty. I mean, what if the naked mole rat had a heart of gold, a generous spirit, and a great capacity for unconditional love?

Human babies, on the other hand, elicit coos of joy, and spontaneous upwellings of tears. And yet they cannibalise their mothers, vacuum every minute of every day in to a sleepless, thankless butlering lifestyle. They demand, demand, demand. Oh suuuure, they have disproportionately large eyes, and velvety complexions, but if you look within, the monstrous nature of the human infant is revealed.

I’m immune to their manipulations- had three, and have realised now that the youngest is three, I’m almost out of the psychological solitary confinement that is parenting a baby. You can’t twist my arm into thinking we should have another, just to even out the numbers, or to ‘keep us young’. Ha! I WAS young, before I had babies.

And that goes for domestic animals, too. So what if puppies and kittens are furry and have huge eyes? So do baby spiders (spiderlings?). Nope, no bundle of fur in a wicker basket is going to fool me. All I can hear in my head, when the children ask me for an animal, is those same voices calling me in the night – ‘Daaaaaaddddd, the cat/dog has just weed/pooed/vomited/keeled over dead!’ and it will become my duty to clean/wipe/hose down/bury.

I’ll resist all attempts to persuade me to cave into demands for anything based on a popular view of ‘cuteness’. Next time they demand a baby pet, they are getting a baby naked mole rat…

It’s all about instilling healthy values.

*Call it a cynical morning. I can’t say that these opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the writer, because that is insane, but I am not normally as uncharitable towards cute things.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Don't show that you are impressed, it'll just go to her head

We've never been big on chinese food in the household- Not proper Cantonese dumplings, but I mean the Chow Mein etc that passes for Chinese food in most Western countries. Mainly because my daughter has a nasty peanut allergy, and often peanut oil is used to stir-fry the veg.

So why, when I made a chickenish dish this afternoon, did I catch her eating with chop sticks? And not fumbling, eating like a sage? Perfect grip! I can't eat with chopsticks like that!

I was very impressed, until later.

We'd finished the main course, and were on to dessert- store-bought icecreams, and I found myself choking up over the words 'Hannah! You can't eat icecream with chopsticks!' But she could. And she did. I can't even play chopsticks on the piano.

How the heck does a child learn spontaneous chopstick grip? Surely she could be bestowed a more useful gift, like unravelling mysteries of physics?

I could try and pimp her to a chinese advertising agency, make her weight in yuan.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm going to eat his liver with some fava beans and an amusing chianti

Quid Pro Quo, Clarice*

Recently I fell head over heels in love, with what is the best blog in the world. No, the second best after mine. Or third, after my wife's... ok, somewhere near the top after bloggers who still bother to visit me, and people I owe money to...

Anyway, The Best of Everything has to be one of the most detailed blogs I've ever seen. And not all of those details are pointless- some of them are funny AND pointless. And before Briane P. Gets cross with me for dismissing him- I do believe that we can have very deep thoughts while considering the pointless. Also, he has linked to me, so you can skip those posts and read something else he has written. There seems to be very little he hasn't written about, apart from his short stint in a makeshift cell in Tijuana. Prepare to enter a world within a series of other clickable worlds, link after crazy link.

Just been out for supper, so this is blog unplugged, as played for easy listening on the Pan pipes- ie- I am too tired to write.

And thanks to *Sam, I'd been thinking of a Silence of the Lambs reference, but you reminded me before I could post...

**And if you want one of those masks- PLEASE don't tell me why- you can get one!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Which Kevin.... are YOU?

You are whom you choose to watch… This simple, yet effective analysis of the four personality types according to Kevins will help you to make invaluable life choices, and, ultimately, to find inner peace and eternal joy…

All you have to do is answer three easy questions, and then read the custom-made analysis, in order for YOU to find your inner Kevin.
1. Do you prefer: a) Wearing suede tasseled clothes
b) Leering at people and shopping for purple suits
c) waxing your moustache
d) Who cares? Let’s JAM!
2. Would you a) rescue a damsel in distress
b) Shoot her
c) Rather rescue a damson
d) Who cares! Lets Paaaarrrtttyyyyy
3. Are you a) Monogamous
b) Bigamous
c) Polygamous
d) Bring me that gamous, let’s see what it’s made of!

If you chose: A bunch of as, then:
You are Kevin Costner- You had a brief heyday in the nineties, when people were touchy-feely, but now they prefer the sport channel. You need to try other things, like producing, or lawn tennis.
If you selected bs, then:
You are Kevin Spacey, just because. You can still make people feel small, for fun, and you are able to get a way with outrageous crap. You have a gift, but the wrapping isn’t always right.
If you chose cs, then:
You are Kevin Kline, your whimsy will not take you much further. Best you take up crocheting soft-furnishings.
Finally, if you chose ds, then:
You are Kevin Bacon, You never sleep, and you turn everyone into a friend. You are free to do what you want, any old time.

*I have no idea where this comes from, and, should any of the Kevins mentioned read this, well, who cares?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Take it to the Mattresses, Vinny

Had the first term PTA today. Tiny chairs, teachers who don’t know my children, both telling me what a pleasure it is to have them in the class. Mystifies me- how those two horrors who can lay a field of destruction in this house within five minutes can be seen as studious and considerate.

They’ll have a good career as grifters at some point, scamming people into buying tracts of swampland, or real estate on the moon. I can see through their little tricks- I was trying to raise problem areas- which I know exist, and the teachers kept on cutting me off. They must have some dirt on the teachers- maybe an ill-advised ‘romantic’ video with a partner, or a small foil package they caught them with in the staff loos- whatever it is, those teachers are in my children’s pockets.

Maybe James called up some of his buddies on one of the paper cell phones he makes – shame- deprived kid, and asked them to make teacher an offer she couldn’t refuse. I looked around the classroom for a box of severed fingers, or a horses head, but all I saw were really badly drawn pictures of what I think were jellyfish. Those kids can’t draw for toffee!

So after two VERY perfunctory meetings- teachers looking anxiously over my shoulder, alternately at the clock and the door, I left, satisfied that my children have found a safe path through the scholarly life: The Classa Nostra.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Any resemblance is strictly coincidental

Interesting morning, if rather excruciating: I’m secretly and anonymously involved with a group of political radicals (Ohhhhh crap, guess that’s out of the bag…), and today I had two tasks: My real boss asked me to price juicing machines (because they are all traveling in Paris, and I am a doormat, I mean, willing employee), and my other ‘boss’ asked me to get hold of Desmond Tutu and some other political notables (We’re kickin the government’s ass for refusing the Dalai Lama a visa). Well, the store where I needed to price blenders was closed, because their till uses the same damn useless internet service provider, and the Arch is really hard to contact without email. Virtual Interruptus.

Are Hollywood moguls in league with publishing mavens? I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, and it kinda irked me that it was both similar and different. Now I’ll have to rent the movie again to compare, and then read the book again (bad memory). It may have been because I’d just read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Jonah, and my concentration was out, but I have no idea what the hell happened in the end of NCFOM. But I did enjoy reading it- especially the frequent descriptions of boots. Even found myself looking wistfully at a pair of tooled cowboy boots in a shoe shop this morning. But I’d pretty much just look like the cowboy in the Village People, so you’ll be glad to know no purchase was made.

Bad Dad: Realised my eldest son has no long trousers- it’s starting to get chilly, and his ONE pair of jeans was so messed up, he looks like James Ramone, the lesser known spoons player from the famous proto-punk band. Bought him a pair of cool black jeans. Then the same day he loses his school shoe- yeah just one- he does have two legs. And also reveals that the expensive trainers I bought for him last month are completely stuffed- half the sole missing, smell like ferret musk. So. Off to the shoe store. But only after I rather viciously told him he would have to hop his way around school until he found the missing one.

Just blew my chances of being nominated for a ‘Great Dad Blog’, eh?