Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nature Red in Tooth and Wing

My children are gentle-hearted. Apart from Jonah, who is a craven lunatic. But this isn’t about him. Well, only partially. Perhaps it is, as usual, all about him. If my memories of carrying him around the VERY BIG local zoo hadn’t been so fresh, we wouldn’t have opted for butterfly world.

Now, butterfly world is very entertaining, as long as your idea of entertainment is an enclosed area heated to tropical blasts (think: a small broken elevator in the Congo), with giant things fluttering just close enough to your peripheral vision for you to have to resist smooshing them into a rainbow-coloured smear…

I’m thinking with adult eyes (eh?) again. For children it’s quite impressive- the butterflies just flitting around like lazy social networkers, drinking at one flower, stretching their wings on the greenery. There’s an area with live spiders and snakes (in terrariums), and another with rescued parrots and lizards.

Last time we went, the large covered area with the tiny blue duiker, iguanas and marmosets was the most popular. You know marmosets, right? Tiny monkeys, little progeria-faces, Oscar night hairdos? Yeah. Those. They swing all over the ropes, and drop onto your shoulders as you walk. Being the dad, I have to take care not to let a soprano screech slip out when that happens, and I try not to think of all the bacteria and the potential for disease. You’d expect them to be as cute as their National Geographic specials spindoctors make them out to be.

Truth is, they are vicious buggers. I’ll be fair, if I were locked up in a caged area, and only allowed to drop onto the shoulders of people who have nothing better to do then muss my hair, I’d be thinking of colourful ways of revenge, too. They were trying to climb into women’s handbags-making them look like Paris Hilton with a primate fetish, and generally seemed more agitated than normal.

Perhaps it’s that time of the month. Monkeys-on-heat-time. Now James isn’t the ugliest kid in the school, and I can’t think why a sex-crazed marmoset would consider him a threat, but one minute he was holding the thing, the next it had bitten his face, and was holding his cheek in a bite-pinch. I couldn’t pull it off, for fear of tearing the skin, and I had to watch this thing then bite his hands too.

Don’t panic. He just ended up with tiny indentations and bruises. But it does rather spoil your day when you are tripping through the butterflies one minute, being savaged by a possibly rabid primate the next. Brave boy just wept a bit. I would have been heading to the emergency room, having every tropical disease test known to humankind.

All in all, a fairly typical outing. Next time we go, I’m taking a mini-can of pepper spray, or a tiny stun-gun. The fuzzy headed freak’s gonna get it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Life as an Emoticon

I like seeing: dogs running so fast on shiny floors that they skid into walls/the expression on a cat’s face when it realises it’s done something stupid/women who look like drunken flamingos when they wear high heels/men who make bad toupee decisions/babies tasting lemon juice for the first time/children getting distracted when they are cross and forgetting that they aren’t supposed to be smiling/cars driven by hat-wearing old people going so slowly that they are giving impatient people embolisms/rain washing the windows or the car so that I don’t have to/serving suggestions on food packaging completely unlike the product within/the ‘your message has been sent’ message after you finally send a work project off on email/pictures of our house made out of painted macaroni made by my children/and pictures they do of me looking pretty much like a twisted emoticon/a waiter heading my way before I wonder if it is impolite to snap my fingers and cry ‘garcon!’/a favourite movie for the fifth time and discovering new lines of dialogue/people taking fashion risks and not realising it/people taking fashion risks and missing the target/shiny things half-covered on the beach….

I like seeing those things. I’m thinking good thoughts, not wanting to return to this time last year when my mother almost died, and then did.

Back to my happy place…

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Couch Potato

Ball games never took off until real balls were invented. Rocks, while durable, had the annoying tendency to shatter fingers and toes, which is no joke when the nearest orthopedic surgeon is off playing golf, several centuries into the future. Rocks were also a pain to retrieve when they flew over the wall into the neighbour’s garden, especially since the neighbour was likely to be armed and not above a bit of killing for sport.

If you are a red-blooded male reading this, you’re probably rubbing your hands in expectation of a treatise on sports, and how they add value to life. Sorry. Prepare to be disappointed. In my opinion, the only things to which value is added by sports are couches. Who possesses a TV with a dedicated sports channel but doesn’t own a couch? You try sitting on a beanbag (or the floor) and watching The Game this weekend- you’ll soon find out what I’m talking about.

South Africa is sports-mad. I’m not generalizing. Sport infiltrates the psyche of the average South African to the point that they assume it has at least third place on the pyramid of Things That Are Important In Life, after eating and sleeping. I suspect that even that may be untrue for some. It’s rugby, soccer, cricket. The whole weekend, and weeknights too. Which would be great if we were all playing those sports- we’d be the fittest nation on earth- but we aren’t.

There’s a certain age when it becomes tricky to play team sports- when the team members start to have partners who don’t want them practicing and playing matches all the time, or their jobs and children absorb any extra moments they may have. Mostly sporting activities are limited to golf/cycling/running/gym.

None of those activities grab me. Nor does watching tiny people playing ball games on TV. Formula 1 is included in that.

It’s a lonely life: It makes it very hard to bond with other men around the braai/barbecue when the only thing you can add to the conversation is about an amusing herb you’ve found that does wonders to marinades.

But I don’t mind being friendless… These guys who live vicariously through team sports on TV, they don’t know the truth about me. I have the proof that I was once a gifted athlete. (See picture above). I was ten, it was 1981, and this was the inter-county Cub Scout sports day in the area of the UK where I used to live. That’s me, surging over the line. I don’t know if the photographer won a sports photography award for brilliantly capturing the tension, the exhaustion, the anticipation in my face, but he/she should have. Look how far behind me the other guy is. Looooooser!

I was active once, and young…

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Behave, or I'll smack you until you're happy!

This is what it isn’t: Best Father’s Day, Successful Father’s Day, Perfect Father’s Day, Faultless Father’s Day, Caring Father’s Day, Present Father’s Day, Employed Father’s Day, Non-depressed Father’s Day, Healthy Father’s Day, Emotive Father’s Day, Sporty Father’s Day, Incredibly Strong Father’s Day, Married Father’s Day…

In fact, the only real qualification for being a father is that his sperm successfully connected with an egg.

Maybe not. Plenty of stepfathers and non-biological dads are enjoying being spoiled, phoned, loved, cared for by their children today.

I went shopping yesterday. Almost every shop was following the pavlovian retail theme of a Father’s Day display. I’ve never seen such a large collection of things unrelated to being a father. At least, in my life. Golf-themed trinkets, multi-tools, ties, coffee mugs in every possible shade of brown or dark blue, sports gear and drinking paraphernalia. I can remember buying my own father things like tobacco pipes and beer for Father's Day. None of these things could possibly be used to successfully raise a child to adulthood. I did make certain that Neen knew not to buy me wine for today on their behalf- as much as I enjoy it, I don’t want them to see drinking as disproportionately special.

You may have been raised in a traditional nuclear family, or raised by one parent or another family member. You may have been adopted. This may be day when you feel strong feelings of love for a father figure, or possibly, a day which brings back deep-seated fears, nightmares even. It may be the day that you are powerfully aware that you are unable to have your own biological children.

My children are great. They have been thinking of me all day, and that is as much as I could ever ask from them. I’m not the best dad, but I am the only one they have. I’m not the super-hero of life insurance commercials, or the rugged man sweating it out in some competitive sport. A lot of the time I am here at the computer, or watching TV, or just living with my children around me. They don’t mind. They appreciate it when I sit down and build things with them, but not so much when I cook for them, or tidy up after them. They don’t like it if I argue with mom, and they don’t like it when I’m cross with them.

Families are supposed to be messy, ad hoc affairs. There is no norm. There is no manual. There is no standard. What you get is pot luck- a collection of personalities and varying social conditions attempting to find purpose and meaning out of life in the midst of keeping a house or apartment going, earning enough to pay the bills.

I really feel for those of you for whom today leaves a sour taste, a bitter taste, or a rising up of unwelcome resentments, anger and fear. Men have so much to answer for, not least the paralyzing passivity of most of us. Allowing mothers to grind away their personalities on the millstones of family life, while we allow the word ‘father’ to be draped over us as we do whatever we want to do.

I’m not a traditional Dad in the marketing sense. I don’t sit making fishing flies in my workshop after a day at the bank, I don’t have any interest in sport. I feel like a kid sometimes myself- feel surprised that the decisions and momentum sometimes lie with me. That I’m responsible for these three children. But I wouldn’t change that.

Somewhere in the rough and tumbles, the lego dinosaurs, the funny-voiced bedtime stories, the kidding and joking and dancing and hugs and tickling, fatherhood takes place. God help me from ever messing up their lives- that isn’t my intention, but should I ever be remembered as a good father, it’s because they are great kids, and Neen is a great wife. Otherwise, I’d just be some guy, living an unremarkable life.

The only thing that makes me a remarkable father is them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Married a Woman From Outer Space

A few years back there was a popular book, supposedly groundbreaking, in the field of behavioural psychology. It took three hundred or so pages to come to the conclusion that men are different from women. The book was Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray.

If I remember correctly, Oprah featured it on her show, and for months, previously bitter female partners were almost smiling as, for the first time in their relationships, they understood that their male partners were different. The male partners were also instructed to read the book, but mostly read the introduction, and then meekly submitted to their partner’s rambling on about inherent differences.

My guess is that those same women are now reading some other book that isn’t telling the whole story, and that Oprah has something to do with that, too. I remember my previous boss going on the Oprah diet, and losing half his sizeable bulk, before putting it back on in the same way she has. (Insert world-weary shrug here).

There are only so many times you can be told you need to embrace your inner whatsit, or cuddle your spiritual self. If you’re honest- you don’t even need to browse the self-help section in the bookshop. If the books actually helped, there’d be one for weight, one for general happiness, and one for learning how to get children to avoid becoming Satanists.

I ran a bookshop for a while. One customer was Michael Jackson, the troubled pop singer (I’ll avoid the less kind descriptions), who was staying in the huuuuuge hotel in the centre. He headed for the self-help section, and bought dozens of books. Kinda funny. Your name is the King of Pop, you are a living icon (or he was at the time), and you‘re buying ‘I’m Ok, You’re Ok’? He said he wanted to be left alone.

Not to belittle you if you have problems (hell- I’m a non-emotive man from Uranus, so whadda I know), but you could probably do as much positive self-reinvention by doing things you enjoy (no, not shooting snails with pellet guns or trying to improve your best-spitting-distance EVER)- I mean, a good book, relaxing, being around happy people…

You can take this with as much of a pinch of salt as you would the self-help section of the bookshop- I get needlessly depressed- guess it’s a physical thing- so I’m no authority. It’s just so much better when people are happy. I won’t become a cynic- despite what you’ve just read. Promise. Things like the conversation below give me hope and laughter again.

Hannah and James got into a serious conversation this week. For a six and a nine year old that can be very intense.

Hannah: What’s it called when you don’t eat meat?
James: A vegetarian.
Hannah: But what do you eat then?
James: Well, you can’t get your protein from meat so it has to come from soya or nuts.
Hannah: No! I’m allergic to nuts! I’d be dead!
Hannah: What’s it called if you just eat meat?
James: A carnivore.
Hannah: And if you eat meat and ven-getibbels?
James: An omnivore.

Enter Janine…

Hannah: Mommy, are you a meteor?

Love the way that kid thinks…

Monday, June 15, 2009

From Pong to Wii

What is this generation going to do when they hit old age? If we’re all living on computer screens and mobile devices, we’re all going to be left immobile by arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, monitor-blindness, withered and atrophied limbs…

At some point, mobile technology is going to have to acknowledge that the sunset generation are still addicts. While they may no longer be the early adopters they once were, they’ll still want to keep up with their great-great-great grandchildren in some ways. (I’m being optimistic, and hoping that despite having useless bodies, medical technology will have advanced to the point where disease won’t kill us).

Will we return to giant screens? Or will the information be relayed to us through direct retinal intercourse? (Hehe, I said intercourse). Of course, when we’re 95, retinal intercourse will be as good as it gets.

People won’t live forever, of course. We all have that charming built-in obsolescence, but it would be good if we aren’t all left behind like aging zebras nervously skirting the periphery of the Serengeti's of society, waiting for the lions of technology to chew us up and spit us out for nearby scavengers.

At some point, you’ll pack it in. Your computers and phones will no longer be replaced at a rate fast enough to stay in the game. You’ll be as useful as a ZX Spectrum. Even in my lifetime, we’ve gone from Pong to Wii (which also sounds vaguely obscene), and the pace is picking up. Best I design all my updates, entries and comments now, and set all my software to automatically publish them over the course of the next hundred years:

@Tertia: Congrats on the birth of your great-great-great grandchildren.
@Neen: Hope you recover from your hip replacements and your hand transplant.
@Divinebee: Sorry to hear about the death of your Ginger the cat, but 80 in cat years is 560 in human years, so that is a good innings.
@MyDailyList: 100 years of lists is 36, 500 lists, which is admirable, but frankly, the material is becoming stale.
@BrianeP: The Best of Everything? Feels like someone’s been having some reruns since about 2087.
@SassyMissP: Remember books? You used to like those before the government went all Fahrenheit 452 on us.
@AngelsMind: Congrats on your’s and Glugsters’ triple platinum anniversary.
@everyone else: Ran out of inspiration, but you get the drift…

See you in the rocking chairs, bickering over the jelly and weak tea.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An Outing That Shouldn't Have Been

I am starting to baulk at taking the children out in public. We’ve gone from attempting a pleasant day at the mall/park/anywhere to just keeping them in our egg-carton sound-proofed lounge. The sound-proofing doesn’t work. We can clearly hear the neighbours dialing Social Services at least three times a day.

But staying at home in winter turns Neen into Sylvia Plath, and me into Vincent Van Gogh, so, rather than go for the gas oven/pistol in the wheatfield options, we try and do something that five completely different personalities will enjoy. At the same time.

Today we tried to do the Cape Town Book Fair. Touted in the magazines as being child-friendly (that means- expensive merchandise aimed at placing the parents in the delightful position of feeling extorted), we took the two hours it takes to get ready, and headed out. Clearly, the advertising was effective- I’ve never seen so many children outside of a remake of Bugsy Malone. The gangster analogy is not an accident.

Something about certain kinds of parents- they desperately want their children to get into books instead of, say TIK (methamphetamines), or camel porn. The children seemed to be indulging them- leading the bending servants around, either carelessly nodding assent at the next treat, or denying the parent the chance to spoil them once more.

I can be critical in this way, because we were the parents from hell. James has a cough which could send him to one of those tuberculosis ‘hospitals’, Jonah’s eyes have spontaneously swelled up to look like giant red plums, and Hannah is, well, off her head.

In between the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a screaming fit about nothing, and seeing the ‘real’ spiderman’ (some unfortunate dude in a costume with, it appeared, an acute priapism. Google it. Or don’t), we managed to avoid doing anything of any interest to an adult.

I worked in the book trade for twelve years, so I spent most of the morning avoiding ex-colleagues and associates- publishers and so on, not wanting them to see the whirlwind of destruction that is my family. Felt like we were taking the Addams family out, rather than the flaming Waltons.

This love for literature stuff is hard to inculcate. So. If you were one of the people who, having paid good money to have a publishing experience, only to have it ruined by deranged children, I apologise.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bow down, loyal subjects

I’m considering a career change. Well, not exactly an actual change, just a more impressive way of describing myself. At the moment, owing to a variety of reasons collected under the banner heading of ‘life’, I have the self-esteem of algae cowering on a rock off the coast of Antarctica. When you’re a teen, you assume that fame, wealth and an endless supply of snack food will slip into your lap like a spilled milkshake at the Wimpy, but, as you grow older, and bills/responsibilities creep up on you and bite you in your vulnerable parts, you realize that life is what happens in between the parentheses of bodily functions and sleep.

So. Here’s an exercise you can all take part in: No longer think of yourself as the titles in your ID book, passport or CV- lets’s get started:

  • Always add the word Guru to your current role. You are no longer a parent, you are a Childcare Guru. You no longer manage an office, or work in marketing, you are a Management or Marketing Guru.

  • This next one is similar: If you have a FB or Twitter account, you are a Social Networking/Media Maven. It doesn’t matter if all your updates are about the contents of your sandwiches, and your contacts are either people you’ve never actually met or the same classmates who drove you to therapy, you are a Maven.

  • You own a run-down semi in Slumsville, Cape Town? Well, technically, the bank owns it, but that shouldn’t stop you from calling yourself a Real Estate Magnate. Being a Magnate is like being a magnet- you’ll draw success to yourself! (How’s that for a vapid statement?)

  • You may be out of work, but you get up in the morning, right? Therefore, you are a Director. You direct yourself to the couch, and you watch TV, or direct all your mental energy into downloading pictures of opossums with amusing captions. That takes energy and consistency. Both vital directorial attributes.

  • DNA and genetics are complex things, but common sense says that at some point in your heritage, you were connected to a royal family. (A relative may have been the unacknowledged bastard spawn of a defunct Baronetcy, but just feel the blue blood. Let it flow). You choose the title most suited to you. King may be ambitious, initially, but each of us can be a prince or princess, particularly if you have an over-fondness for Nina Simone and the feeling of lace against your skin.

  • There are many experts in the world, but nobody knows as much as you do about YOU. Grant yourself a PHD in you-ness. Feel free to start a blog about YOU, so that others can share in YOUR world. Shared knowledge is a marvellous thing.

    I’m hoping you are starting to catch on. Feeling the me-ness, the we-ness, the inner power spilling over the meniscus of your limitations. Feel free to comment (I’m not above mingling with commoners), only, please address me as: King Scott, PHD, Director of Private Company, Social Media Maven, Real Estate Magnate and Childcare Guru. (King Scott, PHDDPCSMMREMCG).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I could write em on the back of my hand.

You've see the scene: Megalomaniacal genius watches proudly as his protege destroys the innocents. The younger looks to the elder: You taught me everything I know......
(Ok, be a nitpicker- megalomaniacs don't have proteges, blah, blah, blah)

Anyway: School had its uses (one of which was not being able to find the accent for the word 'protege' on my keyboard, but teaching me how to write it longhand), but really, I have learned so many more vital things through observing people...
  • How to tie a noose (Thanks, CubScout Movement)
  • How to roll when you hit the ground as you fall off a truck
  • How to make a bomb using swimming pool chemicals (Note: Feds, I am not publishing that, ever...)
  • How to run like the wind when said bomb goes off prematurely in neighbours garage, destroying it, and all the stock for his business.
  • How to pick the biggest bowl of pudding at one glance
  • How to fall off a plate, butter side up. Oh, wait, haven't learned that one yet...
  • How to control the urge to throttle bigoted people. (Still not mastered)
  • How to wipe off hand-clam when you meet new people without them noticing
  • How to do a zerbet (Note: this is a subtle thing- babies teeter between crying with laughter, and just crying).

I could go on, but perhaps you'd like to add some tricks of your own. Things that have helped you, that you didn't learn by putting on a uniform and flunking exams for...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A little introspection is a dangerous thing

Part of my job revolves around the concept of Traditional Knowledge: The way indigenous communities are the initiators and owners of ideas and lifestyles. TK could mean the way a specific type of plant is used by a small people group, or the way another group manages their lands or livestock.

It is a heavily contested field, legally, as indigenous communities fight to protect their right to be compensated for the use of their resources and knowledge.

Which makes me wonder about invention and discovery. Who was the first person to discover that milk could be transformed into cheese, and that cheese would go well with pizzas? “I’ll have a, er tomato sandwich, please” does nothing for me. What did people call a bad joke before cheese was invented? A milky joke? You can churn up milk and wrap it in muslin, add a bit of rennin and maybe a dash of lemon juice, and there you have cheese. Or you could add all sorts of other stuff, leave it on a cool shelf for a year and you have stinky cheese. Who decided that that would go nicely with water biscuits after the coq au vin?

And wine- we have indications that it has been around for thousands of years, and yet it seems an odd discovery. Fermented (rotten?) grape juice. Some insane primitive sitting on his rough-hewn stool, deciding to drink some rotten grape juice, and eat lumpy milk which has been lying around for a year? He deserves to be compensated for that act of bravery. Traditional Knowledge? Traditional Insanity.

King Henry I of England was said to have died from a surfeit of eels. Anyone who can eat so many of the hideous fish deserves to have a life-threatening experience. Who decides that eels look tasty? A surfeit of fillet steak? Sure. Eels? Nope. Leave ‘em to the taster.

I defy you to wander around your local supermarket and look at the food (Note: Push a trolley, put some stuff in, or you’ll be followed by store security). Think about the long road, the endless timeline that has brought those packaged boxes to your corner of the world. Imagine the wealth of discovery, even the ill-guided, sometimes fatal, mistakes which led to food being available to you.

Right now, I’m tasting some wine, and it seems alright. Presently, I may have some cheese-flavoured chips. Between the two foodstuffs, I am spanning the whole of Europe, possibly even the Americas and the Middle East. I feel wiser and more knowledgeable already.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I stand corrected...

To balance out the previous entry, which seemed a leeeetle self-serving:

  • The kitchen lights don’t work. The switch spits blue sparks if you touch it.
  • The bathroom ceiling has a badly covered hole, about the size of the Eskom contractor who fell through it two years ago.
  • The lounge blind looks like something which has been used to flagellate, er, people who like flagellation.
  • One of the kitchen cupboards keeps falling off, and needs to be replaced.
  • In fact, the entire kitchen could use some new cupboards and counters.
  • I never dust. I’m allergic to the stuff. Neen does, but she can’t move the heavy furniture.
  • Never cleaned under the fridge.
  • Haven’t weeded the paving in a year. In the flowerbed, there is a collection of the flowers sent in sympathy after my Mum died in August last year. Not growing flowers, just flower arrangements I chucked there.
  • I’m too sacred to move James’s and Jonah’s bunk beds. I think things live underneath. Furry things.
  • There are chunks of wall which need patching and replacing.
  • The desk where we keep our computer is falling apart.
  • I never quite get rid of mildew on the ceilings. Have painted some now, but some still have grey patches.
  • We need new furniture in the lounge. I did buy a bright throw for the couch, but it has since shed fine red fibre over the entire house. Also, putting a throw over that couch is like sticking a corpse in a shallow grave.

    I could go on, but Neen reads this, and it could mean I’ll never have a weekend to myself again…

Real Men Shop For Interior Accessories

You’ll have to take my word for it:

While Neen was away earlier this year (10 weeks in the States), I had a project on the go. Her sister came to sleep over one weekend, and slept in my bedroom (I was on the couch- this is not Jerry Springer’s blog). The following day she tactfully suggested that the bedroom needed some attention.

She was right.

Since 1999, more or less, we have had three people sleeping in our bedroom. The ‘Oooh, that’s such a good gap between your three children’ may have been true for some reasons, but definitely not when it came to having our own space in the house.

We’d done one or two things to the lounge, where we spend most of our time. (Again: Three children means a bed is pretty much for sleeping/lying awake in and fretting about bills/jobs/world peace). Not much romance happening. I don’t mean that in a nasty way, just a ‘life goes on and you go with it’ way.

There were piles and piles of papers and magazines, boxes full of old clothes and random crap, bookshelves completely spewing extra books from every inch and some horrible furniture. A tiny vanity chest Neen had used since she was at school, and, on my side, a stool groaning with books.

We tend not to throw things out. Neen likes to keep papers for reference- she writes/reads loads of technical stuff. We both tend to cram all the surplus rubbish into the cupboards, and then let it take up the floor space.

So: In the space of a few weeks, I took what could laughably be referred to as a budget, and, with Bee, shopped like crazy. I painted the walls, having filled the cracks, a lovely pale wheatish colour, did manly things like window treatments (blind, pale blue organza curtains and mirrors and crap hanging down). I bought real bedside tables and a matching long table- both with drawers, and painted those, too. I painted some picture frames, and framed some lovely pictures, and also painted two paintings for the walls.

I bought linen and scatter cushions, candleholders and vases, and even plastic flowers (trust me, Bee made me do that, and they do work). We have a magazine rack and floor space, and the baby stuff is mostly gone. Just a changing mat and nappies, which we hide away. I bought lovely lamps, which have three dimming settings – all you have to do is touch the silver base, and a large throw for the bed.

Shelves went up, and the bookcases got tidied. The incense was ready, and the room looked like a damned hotel room (in a good way).

I also did a couple of things to the back garden, geraniums and other plants, and painted the kitchen and Hannah’s room. I put a row of mosaic tiles around the bath, and hid away all the clutter.

This was all done without Neen knowing, and she was totally amazed by it. I think it’s one of the best surprises she’s had, and she deserved it. I’m not writing this to make myself look good, though- this should have been happening all along, I just let things slip a little…

It wouldn’t have happened without Bee’s tactful suggestion. Thanks, Bee! Now, the youngest child is slowly starting to spend more time in his bed rather than ours, and we’ll finally have our own room again, after ten years of parenting. Madness. Finally, a place to go and read, or sleep, or snuggle. I can recommend a makeover- it does add a new dimension to what has become invisibly normal.
*There are no before pictures, and no after ones- we’re not big on cameras in the bedroom :-)

Monday, June 8, 2009

I See Great Wealth: Nose Tradamus

I know it isn’t wise to share entrepreneurial endeavours before they’ve been signed of or patented, but, fool that I am, I trust you guys. You’d never steal my ideas and my children’s birthright, right?

I slept over at my SIL’s house, and inadvertently (ok, ok, there was a large amount of gluhwein involved) used a pillow favoured by a dog living in the house. Woke up to the mother of all allergies, and luminous snot oozing from my head.

Went through two handkerchiefs in a matter of moments- so much so that my back pocket was damp from keeping them in there.

Later, as I loaded the washing machine, the brilliant idea came to me faster than you could say ‘atishoooo’. Faster than said luminous snot could fly out my nose- You may be interested to know that my hand-nose co-ordination is quite good, and only a little escaped.

Without further ado:
Green handkerchiefs. Why the heck do I buy white ones with a little blue border trim? Because those are the only ones I ever see. But green ones- they’d be much better at the art of concealment, and could be reused far more than standard white and blue ones. ‘S not rocket science: The nasal economy would prosper from having a hankie which would only have to be washed every third day.

I figure: If each person on the planet buys two, I’ll be a multi-billionaire within weeks, They’ll call me The Bogey Baron. The Mucus Millionaire. My children will go through life with ease, they’ll just follow the green bricked road to utopia. And you will be able to say… I knew him when…

Now, I just need to figure out a way of keeping my pockets dry.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Slam, slam, slammin on heaven's door

Early man had no need for anger management classes. I can prove it. The most satisfying thing you can do in the midst of an impotent rage is to slam a door. Now, I could be wrong, but giving the mammoth skin draped over your Pleistocene domicile a good shove was going to do nothing for a red-eyed glimmer of violence. Perhaps this lack of need for violence against domestic furniture and appliances had something to do with running on thick-skinned feet through the quaggy plains and plunging a flint-tipped stick into a giant toothed beast. Next time you feel tempted to hurl a plate across the kitchen, how about knapping a stone until it has a point, binding it to a piece of wood using strips of leather, and heading out into the neighbourhood looking for something to brutalise?

Why do some bosses claim that an open-door policy is better than a closed-door one? Frankly, an open-door removes the boss-ness you should be striving to keep in place- the ability to keep the employees worriedly glancing at your door handle while they filch paper clips and send scanned pictures of their butts to rude clients. As a matter of courtesy, the boss’s door should be kept snug within its frame, the threat of suspension or unemployment walled up within like the freakish inbred son of some distant twig from the royal family tree.

Bathroom doors are great- although it is disconcerting to find your children peering through the keyhole. They aren’t used to closed doors, so curiosity gets the better of them. It’s a habit you hope they grow out of. In some societies (and prisons/military camps) it is considered normal to have communal toilets. Which is why I am careful never to commit crime or volunteer for the army. One gets stage-fright.

Doors are best slammed after being inspected thoroughly. In order to get the full satisfaction of a doorslam during a moment of rage, you need to:
a) Make sure that it doesn’t have a rubber frame protector which can cause it rebound and strike you in the face
b) Inspect for those slow-closing hinge mechanisms, or it will not slam, so much as go whoooooooooosh.
c) Make sure that you have alternate access to the room- if the handle breaks off owing to the force of the slam, you could be stuffed. (That may or may not be based on personal experience).
d) Above all: NEVER, EVER slam a revolving door. It isn’t satisfaction repeated, so much as the sense of being stuck on the fast-spin cycle of the washing machine.

I love the way that the exotic island of Zanzibar was once famous for the incredible carved wooden doors. So popular were these doors that wealthy westerners bought most of them, presumably so that they can get the sensation of what it feels like to slam a door in Zanzibar whenever they are cross. The people of Zanzibar, curiously, have been much, much calmer, with the delicate island breezes blowing through their ravaged door-frames.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The OTHER Stages of Grief

  • Uhmming and aaahing about deleting the dead person’s number from your phonebook or contacts list. Because you really want a corpse to skype you?
  • Uncontrollable laughter: When you get together with family and laugh until you cry, sometimes even losing control of your bladder slightly.
  • Temporary alcohol abuse: And ANOTHER toast to the deceased, the hangover won’t matter- we’re aliiiive!
  • Rooting through CD/book collections- heck it isn’t like they need this stuff anymore, and, besides, they borrowed stuff and never returned it.
  • Trying to find suitable clothes to wear to the memorial service, knowing that you’ll forever think of them as ‘the death clothes’ and not be able to wear them.
  • Disappointment: The inheritance left to you was scarcely enough to cover the cost of the Death Clothes.
  • Amateur genetics: Wondering about the likelihood of you inheriting that one rogue gene which felled your relative.
  • Supermarket Syndrome: Isn’t that XXX squeezing the mangoes in the fresh produce aisle? Because all dead people love to hang around supermarkets.
  • Meteorology: Finding a patch of mountain/ocean where the wind is not blowing in such a way as to coat you with scattered ashes.
  • Mortal politeness: Realising that you are elbowing your way to the front of the family queue in terms of expiration eligibility, and really wanting someone else to go first.


There’s just something innately amusing about death. Birth? Sure, everybody treats it with the awe and mystique it deserves. Death- Well, you can’t take it too seriously, can you?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Paying it Backwards

I’ve probably stolen from you. Definitely, in fact. You left it lying around, and I slipped it into a mental pocket. That’s what social media can do. Takes away your ability for original thought.

I’m not saying I’m a plagiarist, in the cut-and-paste manner, but rather that your thoughts, your writings, your links, your experiences all feed into mine. The wealth of information online means that there’s a subtle assimilation process going on. You read. You think. You click. Before you know it, your mind has stored a couple of points.

I wouldn’t try to pass somebody else’s work as my own- that’s just tacky. But sometimes, I’ll sit, thinking about how to kick off a post, and a word will slip into my head. Perhaps an image. It would be too dull for words to acknowledge every thought process. For example:

Well, Neen was online this morning and she was reading Tertia, who later tweeted something about sleep, and somebody else commented that they like to count winegums in bed, and then I remembered an article I’d read about sweets- not winegums, but who cares- Smarties, that’s it, and how they are using new types of food colouring because the old type is harmful, but there will be no more blue smarties, which is a pity: my younger brother loved those. Guess I’ll blog about how we shared things, or not, when I was a kid…

You see, it could get tedious. The whole point of reading your stuff, commenting, following links means an acknowledged share and interest in what we are doing. Of course, if I quote you I’ll say so. If you get paid for something I wrote, I’d get angry about it (fortunately: no likelihood of that!). Oops. I admit I trawl google images and never acknowledge the source...

But a good way of acknowledging those whose comments, words, writing and links get you going is to let others know about them. I’m not very good at remembering sources, but I’ll go with just passing it on…

Here are a couple of funny/poignant ones…

Crotchety Old Man Yells At Cars http://crotchety-old-man-yells-at-cars.blogspot.com/
The Screaming Me-Me!!! http://madmadmargo.blogspot.com/

bad, bad, bad short story

This is a response to
The Ultra, the Fabulous, the only, Miss P!
Who is running a competition with lovely prizes... (follow the link!)
What follows probably won't dazzle you, but tough bananas- I can't write short stories.

It Was Just a Job
Mark hadn’t had time to go through the list this morning. Last night had bled over into the early hours- although time no longer ordered his thoughts. It had been sometime between dropping the car keys on the floor next to the bedside table, and colliding with the medicine cabinet that he’d forgotten to set the clock.

It was the cat that woke him, looking over her shoulder as she kneaded his chest, pumping him out of a dream-landscape of fumbled handshakes and unbuttoned coats. He pulled on his clothes, and searched the chaos on the floor for the folder. It was there, next to a pile of loose change which had slid out of his pocket last week.

Manilla. A printed label on the corner. So small it could be almost concealed by a pair of socks, yet pregnant enough with information to send him kicking and screaming into a brave new world. Distracted by the decision not to attempt a tie, he snatched a look in the mirror, ignored the face looking back, and left the room, patting his pockets for the familiar sounds of the accessories he’d need.

The meeting had been arranged for him at a health food café across town. He arrived early, this being his habit, despite the late start, and selected the stool in the corner, facing the street. Twice, he stood to measure his line of vision, and twice he sank to the chair. The folder rested beneath the menu, as innocuous as a file of paperwork on employees, or a financial report.

The messenger arrived on time. Unremarkable, but obviously attached to the Agency. He had the look: worn-out civil servant with eyes full of resignation, but as lethal as an inactive laser. He sat down. Placed his gloves on the table and leaned over the menu.
Hello, Mark. You ready for this?
Mark, his eyes dipping to the folder, knew it was time.
Yes. The arrangement still stands?
The messenger sat back, finally taking in Mark’s appearance. Mark followed his gaze as it slid to his hand, which shook, fluttered.
What’s wrong? You seem nervous. Don’t worry, we have your package all resolved.
The messenger leaned over, shot Mark three times. As the contents of his head slid down a poster of a blueberry muffin, Mark’s face did not alter expression. He looked like the cracked bust of a Roman general.

The messenger sensed that there was movement behind him, turned, tilted a table and left the café.

As he sat on the bus, heading home, he opened the folder. On the top was an unexpected envelope. Looking around the bus once more, he lifted the unglued flap, and slid out an unaddressed letter.

You know who I am. You know who I have been, and what I’ve done. Guess you could say that I know where the bodies are buried. I’ve long since gargled that mouthful of crap and spat it down the sink. Truth is, I’ve never felt guilt, always managed to do the job without letting any stress show on my face. I’ve sat impassively as people have begged for forgiveness, a reprieve, and then killed them. For you. I’ve always kept my emotions in check. Seen it as a job, something necessary to be done, checklists and money transfers. It’s funny: my impassivity and perceived lack of emotion came through years of training myself. It’s a fact- killing people has always made me want to laugh at how pointless it all is. Death. Life. So I’ve put this mask on every day for twenty years, choosing to smile behind the taut stretched skin, allowing my flatness to be scorched into fading retinas. Hilarious, actually- another name for a target is 'the mark'.

It's ironic. The mask has been my undoing. They say the symptoms vary, but Parkinson’s Disease has turned my face into a mask. I can no longer smile, or wince. The shaking has taken away my effectiveness as a killer. I may just as easily put a hole through a light fitting as a targets’ brain pan, and that, in this game, is where you have to check out. I’ve spent my adult life pulling those masks off carnival celebrants. Masks are like onions, the more you peel them away, the more your eyes water.

Guess this is the final exposure. I know you have a job to do, and that the rumours about my ineffectiveness have spread. I don’t mind too much. Rather this way than doing a Muhammed Ali shuffle around Windy Pines Retirement Village. I’m ready. In this business you have to make a mess to clean one up. I’m glad it worked out.

The messenger looked up, out of the window at the street below. He wasn’t lost in thought, but wondered how he would take it, when his time came. He considered the café, the poster, the lurid muffin dripping with matter, and decided that he preferred steaks, second chances. And plastic surgery in Bolivia. He pulled out his cellphone. Booked a full physical. He had to do these things immediately these days.
He’d started to forget things.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Short delurking post: Sexual non-secrets shared.

I never actually write about my sex life. You’ll be glad to hear that. As will Neen. Despite the title of this blog being ‘husbands anonymous’, I don’t write about that which is surely one of the more popular roles of a husband- the lover. (According to the googled phrases used to get here, the word husband is most often associated with unfaithfulness, spousal violence, abuse or weird pasttimes and bed habits)

The name? I was trying to register a name for this blog nearly five years ago, and the one I really wanted didn’t fit into the previous server’s system. I can’t remember what it was, but it was brilliant. I was too impatient to spend time thinking up something witty, so I just typed ‘husbands anon’ in the field, and it became this.

I’ve overshared about poop, vomit, body-parts, heck, pretty much everything. I’ve alluded to sex on several occasions, but usually for the purpose of writing about something completely unrelated. I don’t talk about it for Neen’s sake. The only thing I’ll ever admit to is that we are married, and we have had sex at least three times. (Actually, we have had three miscarriages as well as three living children, so make that six times).

I like reading the variety of things other people write. I love your overshares, your undershares, and your silliness. I really feel it when you guys are struggling through the swampy stuff, the painful stuff, the agonies of life. I’ve been helped through some hard times by blogging friends, and the cathartic act of blogging itself. I’m about to develop a blogroll which is more public- at the moment I’m following loads of you, but that list is a page within a page. But if you’d like to be added, or I don’t know about you, I’d love to do that.

I’m not looking to win blogger of the year contests, I just like the community that is around here. I’m still iffing about organizing a local event to meet some of you- the virtual world is so much easier to control. Like many of you, I’m an introvert, who happens to enjoy this forum for exhibitionism. I’m a voyeur, but in a social way.

Catch ya on the net!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Not Exactly Victoria's Secret

I haven’t owned slippers since I was maybe eight years old. Not that slipper styles have improved much. I found myself in horribleshopfromhell this afternoon, trying to figure out which pair I liked the most. Or less least. Or at all. Trying to put an emotional value to a possible purchase. Trying to imagine my cold feet slipping into the toweling warmth. Failing.

My life is over! I nearly bought Stokies. Might as well buy a pair of those grey padded soft shoes that old people wear, and a pair of brown slacks with a high waist- you know, the ones which sit somewhere between your manboobs and your navel.

I’ve never paid much attention to nightwear. In South Africa (if you aren’t here- if you are, then you know this) it is usually so hot in summer that a man can get away with some shorts, maybe a t-shirt if it’s really chilly. In winter, we don’t have central heating, so it gets very cold (the very being relative to where you are reading this). The temperature can plummet to three degrees Celsius in Cape Town. (Yeah, I know, I’m a lightweight). I grew up in Scotland/Canada and England, so I do know cold.

My favourite pyjamas as a boy were sort of like a modified Elvis Karate suit- a bed-ghi. These were cool. Many’s the evening I spent prancing around the lounge, feinting powerful kicks at the settee, and slicing open-handed arcs through the air onto my younger brother. Pjs were part of life. I’d have a bath, put my pajamas on. Easy.

For some reason I now associate pyjamas with very old men, or children. I could tell you what Neen wears to bed, but perhaps she’d rather I don’t. I usually wear the horrible t-shirts you get given at conferences or launches (the ones they insist on producing in sizes XXXL to GLOBAL. And some shorts, or, in winter, a revolting pair of tracksuit pants with elasticated cuffs.

Why is it that men think they can get away with not bothering to wear something stylish, heck, maybe even sexy, to bed? Is there such a thing as hot pyjamas? I’m seriously considering buying pyjamas- last night I wore a t-shirt with a picture of Andre Brink, the author, on it. He’s about 75 years old, so it was just not a hot look.

I have no idea what other men wear to bed- Don’t co-sleep with many. I feel isolated, unsure of myself. What do you think a man should wear? This is not a sexually-driven post, purely form versus function, the function being sleeping.