Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The thing about things

Things! Things! Things! A plethora of things. Things wherever one looks. Things one doesn’t have space for. Things one doesn’t really need but thinks one might at some time or another. Things with a funny widget on that you’re not really sure of the function of, but might find out someday.

Its amazing how things multiply. I’m sure they do it all by themselves when I’m not looking. Things also have a malicious tendency to hide away just when one needs them and then reappear just when one doesn’t. Have you ever noticed that you always find things when you are looking for something else?I am vexed by things.

Every now and then, life dictates that I divest myself of things, and I find myself with a suitcase of clothing, some books and little or nothing else. Then someone notices my dearth of things, and gives me things which I might as well use since I don’t have any, and anyway, it’d be a pity to throw them away and: voila! Once again, there are too many things, only they’re not the right ones, so I buy one or two more, and then there are even more things, and so on.

Things rolling around under the bed, things on the table, things in cupboards, things that require me to get more things to put them in so that they’ll be out of the way: a tottering mountain of things.

I’m in the early multiplication stage of things right now, and already it begins to get out of hand. I am saying ‘No thank you’ to things, I am giving things away, I am throwing things away, and I still can’t keep up. Soon, I shall disappear under an avalanche of things and lovely St Bernard dogs will have to come and dig me out (hope they bring brandy) and I’ll be on the news for surviving my ordeal.

The thing about things is that they are often regarded as important.

Todays' pic: something uncluttered.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Innit deep?

You know what? I’m thinking that people can be good sometimes. This is the thought of a lapsed cynic who used to be lapsed idealist and is now neither extreme.

I assume (correctly, it turns out) that somewhere in the world, people are being horrible to their fellow-creatures and that it happens a lot.

At the same time, people (not necessarily the same ones) are very good in big or small ways: they do things they don’t have to do and make the world happier for it. I like that. I want to do it too.

However: if it means I have to be a little ray of sunshine all the time I shall make myself ill, I know it. One can have too much sweetness. Besides: I can’t do it. Not all the time. So there.

So I return to considering myself and my fellow-man (a pursuit that is both elevating and depressing) and conclude that everybody is more-or-less of anything, even if those things are contradictory, only some more than most, but never absolutely anything, just relatively so and sometimes extremely, only that’s rare, because its... well… extreme.

Innit deep?

** Today's pic: another view from the cottage where I construct these convoluted sentences. What it is to be an intrepid and adventurous photographer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

... and here is the news...

I used to have a TV, but I think that the News is the reason why I haven’t had one for the last fourteen years.

Alright, the programming was, on the whole, puerile, and I objected to the fact that owning one is tantamount to inviting a bunch of salespeople who you don’t really want to listen to into your house to sell you things you don’t need (advertising), but the News took the metaphorical cake and made off with it at full speed, too.

The primary thing about the News which upsets me, is that its ‘entertainment’. Thrill as you watch missiles launched on some third world country, shudder as you listen to the latest crime reports (in gory detail and reported with thinly-disguised horror-movie relish). Experience the shock and horror of bomb-blast injuries as our cameraman shoves his camera up the victims’ noses thereby hindering the paramedics in their work. There’s a total lack of respect for human suffering – its all about what will be sensational, what will ‘sell’.

The second thing, the one which is becoming more important to me as the years go by, is realizing that because the News is ‘entertainment’, fringe behavior gets much more publicity than people trying to be sensible (which is what most people do – extremism is a rarity). Its more interesting observing gibbering maniacs, than people being reasonable, after all. It will make folk sit up in their armchairs. That it creates a skewed perspective of what is actually going on has nothing to say in anything, except that it can be useful when trying to shape people’s world-view.

Let’s try you bloggers out on this South African example, for instance: You will probably have heard of the murder, some months ago, of Eugene Terreblanche, the controversial leader of a far right wing organization known as the AWB. He ran a bunch of khaki-clad yahoos replete with swastika-like emblem, and was something of an orator after the ‘Hitler’ school of public speaking. He also engineered a failed ‘coup’ back in 1994 and went to prison for maiming a black security guard who fell asleep on duty: all in all, an ugly customer.

That he’s almost as famous as Nelson Mandela, is a crying shame because at its height of popularity, the AWB had only three thousand members. The result of all the publicity is that people elsewhere in the world credit White South Africans with a klan-like virulence which most of us don’t possess, and never did: but you have to admit, it made a good story.

The truth can distort reality, and trying to turn it into entertainment distorts both. Oh, I read the papers now and then: its good enough. I can skip the Technicolor sensationalism and without the sensory bombardment, it’s a lot easier to evaluate the significance of the offering. The headlines tell me if there is any 'real' news for the day, and very often, there isn’t.

Today's pic: perspective is everything... Looking forward to hearing yours!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Learning from Africa

Last time, I was discussing culture and the borrowing thereof and was about to get stuck in to the really African stuff as follows:

From my African cohorts I have learned that all African people regard themselves as a sort of extended family. At its best, this can be very beautiful: only imagine! All older men and women are addressed as ‘father’ and ‘mother’, and people of your age or younger as ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ etc, etc. If you buy into that … that… mindset, then surely it must bring one to treat all humanity with respect. Its not just a matter of language usage, its an ideal. A philosophy. ‘Ubuntu’ – brotherhood. Like all ideals it isn’t often lived up to, but you have to admit: it’s a fine one. I think I'd like to live up to it: the ultimate in caring.

I’ve also learned to understand some things that might seem strange to a more Westernized mindset: like the bride price.

The logic is this: the family have invested time, love and money into producing an accomplished, remarkable young woman, who helps the household in a variety of ways. If she marries, her contribution is lost. It is only respectful for the man who takes her to wife to compensate the family in some way for their ‘loss’ of a productive member.

To be honest with you, I think that’s much more liberated than the not too historically distant idea of a dowry, where the bride’s family, instead of receiving compensation for their ‘loss’ of a daughter, had to pay up for the gentleman to take their daughter ‘off their hands’.

In this country, white people often complain because ‘black people talk loudly’. The truth is, that there is a traditional distaste for gossip, even the idea of gossip. One speaks loudly to show that one is not hiding anything. This is ‘good manners’. I don’t know if I’ll adopt this particular one, but its food for thought nonetheless. One shouldn’t say anything one’s ashamed of, should one?

I learn every day. The more vernacular languages I learn (and forget, and get mixed up... we have eleven official languages by the way), the more I begin to understand the speakers. Not in the conventional sense - it’s the way you put words together, how you express ideas - then you begin to see a new perspective.

I learn from the people I work with and have worked with on farms for the last twenty years or so. On one of them I had a hundred staff and only four of them had a language in common with me. One gets by. One begins to understand. One is lead to think. One begins to love. It was fun. It is fun. I’m still learning from all sorts of people, I’m enjoying the ride. Sometimes, I even learn something from the more ‘sophisticated’ ones.
Today's pic: An old and talented friend who has taught me an African approach to music.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hybrid children

As a white, French / Dutch / English / Swedish / whatever else happened along South African, I have to admit, I sometimes feel pretty rootless. I have, on occasion, said that I have no culture, but that isn’t semantically correct. The word ‘culture’ has to do with growth and learning, and the influence of one’s social environment. I borrow what I like: I suppose everyone does.

I say I’m African. An ‘Afrikaner’ who speaks English. The first Vrijboere (free farmers) here… oooh… late 1600’s... objected to paying tax to the Dutch government (they would wouldn’t they?) and declared that they were Africans. That’s the source of the word ‘Afrikaaner’. There! Told you something you didn’t know. Much good may it do you.

Anyway, I’m not a proper Afrikaner in the traditional, cultural sense either. Nor am I black. Some of my brethren take exception to me declaring myself African because I’m the 'wrong' colour. Not all of them, mind, and the people I’ve had this discussion with weren’t debating with any particular heat. They say I’m a European.

That’s funny! Europe definitely thinks I’m an African. I’ve had to get visas twice haven’t I? At some point you start thinking ‘Look, if you don’t want me to visit your country why don’t you just say so.’

Every step of your itinerary has to be planned. Every hotel has to send you a letter of invitation, every train ticket bought in advance. You have to say why you’re visiting their country (I want to blow it up – what do you think?). Your bank statements for the last three months have to be shown, your parents’ names and dates of birth, my brother’s (I hardly ever even speak to him), a letter from my employer stating I’d have a job when I got back (after a five week visit, for crying out loud) and I forget what else. It’s a saga. They definitely think I’m an African. So do I.

At all events, I’m not going to sit in the middle of the sea and cry because I’m not African enough to be properly African nor yet European enough to be European. I borrow what I like, don’t I? There are things I like about all the cultures I’ve been exposed to, and I’m a hybrid, not a mongrel.

I have classical music (thank you, Europe). I have the English language (so useful!). Afrikaans isn’t too bad either: you can sort-of read the signs in most Nordic countries, and even understand some of what they say. I have poetry and literature and Monty Python and Hollywood (if I’m in the mood). From my hybrid ancestors I have milk tart, and biltong (dried, spiced, salted meat: the chief obstacle between me and vegetarianism) and Calvinism (I wish I could give that up – doing quite well, but the influences remain).

From Africa, I have some interesting ideas which I will expound tomorrow. Yes, folks, its another serialization! MM’s on a roll!

Today's pic: a cultured individual from whom I have learned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A talent for laziness

I admire people who have one particular talent, and I’m a bit envious of them too. It’s a really nasty sort of envy, because, quite frankly, these people have worked hard in order to excel and I haven’t.

I may envy them their achievements. I don’t envy the hard work that goes into it, but does that stop me from saying ‘I wish I could write / paint / play the guitar as well as you!’ for example? No it doesn’t and I do wish it.

The fact is that I wish that talent was just bestowed on me together with whatever technical proficiency its possessor has acquired and that I won’t have to actually work for it. Don’t you think that’s a trifle insulting? Its like saying you think that what they do is and has always been effortless, and nothing is, is it?

Over the years, I have discovered that though there are things I could become particularly good at, I’m far too lazy to do anything about it. In today’s competitive world full of people clamouring for attention and recognition, you have to work really hard just to be comparatively good at something. It’s a bit depressing, really.

I make excuses for myself: I’m a generalist, I can do a little of everything, I haven’t poured myself into one facet of my learning or development, everything’s interesting, so I haven’t focused on anything in particular, and so I’m well-rounded – but I’m just making excuses.

Anyway, this is for those of you who really are talented at something: philosophy, writing, music, art, or just being a wonderful human being: I respect you. I’ll never be as ‘good’ as you are. I’m lazy. That’s all.

Today's pic: a flower for you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

LOLling around

When first I communicated by means of the electrical, steam-age internet with the aid of Email, I was startled by a most peculiar acronym. I wasn’t sure if it was an acronym either, because some people did it in lower-case letters.

I received a message from a friend: a joke forwarded to me and bearing only the letters ‘LOL’.

I wrote back. ‘What is ‘LOL?’’

No reply.

This happened several times with messages involving different people and yielded the same result. While these people were all ROFLing so much at me not knowing what ‘LOL’ was that they couldn’t type, or possibly, assuming I didn’t get the joke (sacrilege!), someone explained.

It was disappointing. I’d been most curious, and now I knew, and it was… well, I’ll be honest with you, not very interesting. I don’t really like ‘LOL’: its so… so.. suppressed and so… automatic? Besides, it reminds me that lolling about is bad for one’s posture, and one should sit up straight or get backache. Maybe its just me.

I’ve since met with a few other ‘laugh’ acronyms, but I think that I can contribute to the lexicon of laughs abbreviated. How about GGL (Giggle) or TTR (Titter) or even SNGR (snigger)? They’d be a lot more expressive of some of the stuff currently designated ‘LOL’. A sort of ‘You’ll find this mildly amusing’ indicator.

On the other end of the scale, how about GFW (guffaw)? There never was a heartier laugh, and whatever its attached to had better be good, you hear?

So I ask you, if you are reading this: Let us join in a conspiracy to increase laughter, the means and methods of it and the way in which it is expressed, even in text. Only think: how we shall mystify the masses to start with! Your friends will write: ‘What is GGL?’ and you may reply, or not… as you choose.

Once again, this pic has nothing to do with the post. Tch! What's to be done with me?

South East of West and West of East

Pamo remarked on the landscape photos I sometimes post, so I thought I’d depart from my usual incisive commentary on nothing-in-particular and play tour guide today instead.

Lots of people think that Cape Town is the Southern-most part of Africa. Go on, admit it: you did, didn’t you? It is, in fact slightly to the West, and the area that I live in is known as the Southern Cape, with Cape Aughulas being the Southern-most point of Africa.

The province is known as the Western Cape, so I live in the south-eastern area of the Western Cape, just West of the Eastern Cape province. Are you getting all this down? Don’t get lost or you’ll end up in Australia.

The ‘Garden Route’ (another name for the Southern Cape which is in the Western Cape, but only West in that it is West of the Eastern Cape), named for its garden-like beauty, is rather sparsely populated and George (my nearest town) is the largest in the area. Town, though good for shopping, is probably the least interesting of the things to be seen here. The best thing is space, tons of space and unspoiled, uncrowded natural beauty at every turn. (no silly, not me, although I’m pretty gorgeous, really).

For veracity's sake, I haven't posted any picture taken more than 20km from home. Innit luvverly?

Saturday, June 19, 2010 off!

I'm one of those people who can't resit reading everything. I read the back of shampoo bottles (including the instructions for use), I read signboards and adverts - the lot. I love reading the chinese - english instructions for use on things, and I adore the warnings and disclaimers that get printed on packaging.

I recently bought myself a kite, for instance. Did you know that kites are potential choking hazards? I was careful to fly it with my mouth closed. Oh, and my plastic kettle should not be placed on the stove. Just as well they told me.

I think the best shop in my town is the 'Frozen Fairy Factory shop' - what an image that name conjours - and in Copenhagen there's a hairdressers' salon called 'Nasty and Gross'. What a wonderful world!

One of the chief hazards of being such a compulsive reader, is reading things too fast, or mentaly filling in gaps in the text. Only this morning, I beheld a partly obscured advertising hoarding that read : ' off!' from where I was standing. I did a double take - wouldn't you? But on inspection from another angle, it was just another football-themed ad with the slogan 'Kick off!'. Rather dissapointing, really.

Today's pic: snow on the Swartberg. Yes, I know: it has nothing to do with this post.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Naughty words

I was rather daring in making use of the word ‘pussy’ in my previous post, and it led me to thinking about the uses of words and how they change, and about colloquial uses of words in general.

When I was a kiddie, ‘pussy’ meant ‘cat’. It didn’t mean anything else, or at least, my mum didn’t tell me it meant anything else and didn’t discourage me from using it, which she would have, had she known it had an alternative usage. I used to sing ‘I love little pussy’ at the top of my voice, after all. Any parents out there? Did you teach your kids that rhyme? Hur hur hur. I thought not…

Then, of course, there’s the word ‘gay’. One still comes across its original usage in old books… go on... admit it: it makes you giggle, doesn’t it? ‘The Gay Adventures of Peter and Paul’ would go in the adult section of the library before you could say ‘Pansy’ (which, thank goodness is still a flower in some people’s estimation, even if they smirk when they say it) these days.

‘Nonce’ used to be ‘in the mean time’, but nowadays, it means ‘pedophile’. I was actually quite shocked to discover that. So now ‘nonce’ has to be left out of the lexicon of words I use. Sigh. Whatever next!

Ah, but then there’s ‘grooming’. It used to mean ‘looking after oneself’ or ‘looking after a horse’ (as close as I can get), but nowadays it’s the way a pedophile prepares his prey. Oh hell! There goes ‘grooming’ along with the rest, unless I say ‘horse’ very loudly straight afterwards. I assure you: I’m not in the least bit well-groomed!

There are words that irritate me, and I’m not even sure why they do. ‘Awesome’ is one. I know all about ‘awful’ and ‘awe-inspiring’, but ‘awesome’ gets my goat.

I think its because my cell phone provider sends me texts when I recharge my account that read ‘Win with guaranteed awesomeness: SMS (whatever the number is)’ and then you get three free text messages. Wow! How awesome is that? Perhaps its because its considered ‘cool’ to use American slang when we have perfectly awesome slang all of our own. Sorry, Americans, you’re entitled to your language use, and I'm sure you are cool, but ‘local is lekker’ (nice, awesome, delicious, fantastic, fun) to me.

Hey! Who can remember the days when having a cell number meant you’d been institutionalized? Don’t laugh, I might get one soon!

Todays pic: an old bitch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sex! Sex! Sex! (this is known as sensationalism)

Blogger Julius recently wrote of the sexual double standard that is still common, even in today’s world. I refer, of course, to the idea that men are admired for the same sort of sexual behavior that women are despised for. There is, for instance, no such thing as a male slut. The only word with a negative connotation used for describing a promiscuous male is ‘Lothario’ at least as far as I can remember, and that isn’t in common usage.

There's also the silly idea that women who enjoy sex are likely to 'do it' with just anyone. One has to admit that B is unlikely to happen without A in this case, but it doesn't necessarily follow that A implies B. I was reminded of a rhyme I wrote some time back. Its recipient wasn’t as amused as he was supposed to be, but perhaps it’ll raise a smile here:

If you would have a man believe that he can really trust you

Then cross your legs and look resigned, and say 'Oh darling, must you?'

If you would have a man believe you affections are secure

Then pull a face and say 'Try that? I never would, I'm sure!'

'Desire? You must be joking man!' and 'Fantasies? Not I!'

'It is with great long-suffering if with you I choose to lie.'

'My favours are just that, you see. It never is a pleasure.'

'I'd rather have a cup of tea if I had the leasure.'

And so your love will be amazed, think you a lady fine.

So virtuous and upstanding! She really must be mine!

But if you would lead him to believe you really are a tease

And that you'd sleep with anyone, than only say 'Yes please!'

On a totally unrelated subject: five hundred penguins died of cold off the Cape coast this week. I kid you not.

Todays' pic: Ah yes, a pussy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The agony of art, the bounty of blogging Part 2 of 2

Like every frustrated wanna be writer, I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I give up. I can’t: my respects to those who can. I get bored - same old story. I already know how it’s going to go. Ho bloody hum. It takes ages. It’s too much like work. It is work. I’m lazy. People who write books are demi-gods who actually dedicate themselves to writing. I kiss their feet (metaphorically speaking, please note. I’m not actually kissing any actual tootsies here).

Short stories: I’ve written a few. Some of it is quite pretty: twist in the tale, that sort of thing, but I don’t know…. I’m never quite happy. I tend to get terribly serious when I write that sort of thing. I’m not a very serious person, but I’m also only really funny when I’m not trying to be either serious or funny. Honestly: anyway, the result is insipid on the whole.

But here we are in the bloogo-whatsit and we can say anything we like. Oh wow. We can write about something different every day. Double wow. Triple wow. It doesn’t have to be so many words long, with information presented in such and such an order: we have total freedom. The power! The power!

Oh yes, and affirmation too. Sometimes people actually comment. I like that. It doesn’t matter what they say, they read my scattered scribblings and actually made a comment. Thanks to those of you who have, and to those of you who haven’t, but read from time to time anyway.

So this is it: not my finest hour (sounds like work, once again), not the most beauteous words ever to spring onto a page (couldn’t possibly. Sorry), not the funniest (although I hope for the odd smile. Smiling is good), nothing superlative whatsoever, but I’m writing. I’m enjoying it. I hope you do.

I blog therefore I am totally self-indulgent

(I got carried away with this one, so I’m posting it in two parts. I post daily. This serialization spares your eyes and saves me thinking of something to write tomorrow. Thanks.)

I want to write. I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve always despised myself a little because I may say I want to, but I don’t, not anything I like anyway. I’ve prostituted this steaming art of mine for money (Yus. I actually got paid for it.) and I’ve written tens of thousands of words for publication without being paid (so noble of me), and I’ve hated every moment of it.

I used to play a game with my editors that I called ‘spot the funny’. I’d slip in a joke or whimsical reference somewhere, and they’d edit it out so fast and so thoroughly that one’d swear I’d said something obscene. As a result, I’ve written some really boring, twee stuff.

The worst thing I ever had to write was the ‘About Us’ page for my company’s website. I actually felt ill. Its not that I don’t work for a nice place: I do. I’m proud of it. I’ll say any number of nice things about it without turning a hair, because its all true, but I hate, hate, hate making sentences like: ‘ We are passionately comitted to the continuous development of our human capital through ongoing training and dedicated upliftment programs.’ Or whatever it is I wrote. I can’t remember. I went into shock and forgot. I visit our website, but I never actually read that bit. Gross!

I quite enjoy writing ironic-polite letters to suppliers that have done us down, or clients who are being plain daffy but shouldn’t be offended, but that’s because I’m a cow. Sometimes I go back and re-read them just because I need a kick. Oh MM, you’re so formidable!

Here ends Part 1: Exit while emitting dreadful villain-type laugh. Next up: the gripping account of my forays into fiction and the not-forbidden delights of blogging! I post a picture of … um… oh something pretty.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Attack of the killer bees

Being South African, I should probably say something about the World Cup, but although I’m happy that SA’s hosting the event, it doesn’t interest me that much. For anyone who’s been watching games: have you heard the continuous buzzing sound in the background? Those are vuvuzelas – a noise-maker which should be classified as an offensive weapon. By this time I can think of several things to do with one that doesn’t involve blowing it, but I will draw a veil over that to spare your sensibilities.

Buzzing, though, brings me to a matter of far more immediate interest to me: the bees are back. Maybe I should be exotic and dangerous and point out that these are ‘African Killer Bees’ because they are, but they’re only really dangerous when they’re swarming (which is what they were doing).

I was sitting on the veranda, enjoying the winter sun and the view over the fields to the mountains, when the swarm appeared. At first, I could only hear an angry buzzing, and wondered if I was being stormed by a vuvuzela toting mob for not following the Event (guilt: its probably un-South-African not to), but soon I could see the swarm approaching.
It moved slowly but purposefully, and soon the veranda was abuzz and I was indoors (as you can imagine). They’ve moved in under one of the windows, having found a gap that allows them to build their hive between the wooden exterior wall and the dry-wall inside. They settled down quite quickly, and they seem pretty peaceful, so I’ll leave them to it.

Has anyone else got interesting uninvited tenants?

The sky was wonderful this weekend: look!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The bloggicide

I recently caused someone to commit bloggicide. I'm rather shocked that I could do that, but I did. I regard myself in awe and say 'Awwww. He was out of his league, poor thing.' and I feel a bit puffed up and rather sorry at the same time.

I suppose the truth is that the poor fellow was goaded. He used to blog about his personal life, and as long as your opinions were approving, he'd lap it up. Then he did something I didn't approve of, and posted about that, and thus the trouble began. To tell you the truth, I think I was quite mild, though earthy, in expressing my criticism (in a private email), and I did add that it was none of my business anyway, but I got quite the tirade back. I was sticking my nose in where it didn't belong, I was making 'demands'. I should mind my own business. A four line paragraph warranted about two pages' worth of self-justification. I was called obnoxious and asked to abide by certain 'parameters' (unspecified).

I suppose this is the unfair bit, because apart from pointing out that I hadn't made any demands whatsoever and that I knew very well it wasn't my business and was thankful for it, I told him that putting his private life on a public forum made it public business. Opinions are formed, and they're not always flattering. Furthermore that his 'public' were entitled to evaluate him according to his self-made, self-expressed image, and remark on it, and that reading his blog was hardly 'sticking my nose where it doesn't belong'. I recommended that those who wish for privacy should be private.

I don't think it was very long after getting that mail that he bloggicided - deader than a dead blog - not abandoned, but deleted. Have I been wicked? Sigh. I suppose I have.
Here's a picture of me being wicked and obnoxious. Feel free to disapprove.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ladies, Ladies, Ladies

Won’t any of you follow my bog? I see I’ve got a grand total of five ‘followers’ now, but oh horrors! With fame comes notoriety, because they’re all fellas, oh dear! Some of them are so good looking, too (yes you, the silent one with the kitty cat face). What will people think?

Ladies: I assure you, I have not had verbal interc… I mean… ‘talked’ to any of them, other than in bloggese, which is generally politer than the mail I sent you, Ern (oops, yes, well I have written him a few mails, but I’m strong medicine, and the chap can’t take it. No worries, not everyone can: my metal is brutal.)

Thing is, having begun to blog, and coming to the party late (which I usually do) I have been in search of interesting blogs to read. Its no easy task, but I’ve found occasional gems. When I see something I like, I comment, and if I think I’d like to know what’s new, I ‘follow’, sometimes publicly, but more often anonymously.

People, being courteous and curious, and having noticed my comments, visit my blog. Presumably those who like it enough to want to know what I’m muttering about and when, ‘follow’, and voila! Followers! Now the point (yes there is one, really there is) is that I’ve found interesting blogs that are written by women: but… but…. The very best ones hardly blog at all any more (no updates, I’ve been following).

Admittedly, I’m a bit picky and weird and proud of it too so I avoid: religious blogs (I might offend or be annoyed), mommy blogs (probably ditto), family-of-however-may-it-is blogs (horrors!), cooking blogs (I cook to eat now that I’ve got a stove, and it helps if its nice, but I get bored talking about it), tatting blogs (What? Tatting? Me?), ditto crocheting blogs, knitting blogs, sewing blogs, fashion blogs, home renovating blogs and so on.

I’m cautious about commenting on any blogs which seem to be written by people who might take my opinions amiss. I don’t want to offend anyone, and to some, my opinions might be offensive. Visiting my blog to see who the person who commented is, might come as a shock, and I’ve no wish to shock.

Of course, I haven’t written anything particularly offensive (yet), and I haven’t used any strong language (but you never know). I’m writing this in the hopes that my bemoaning the lack of interesting female bloggers who actually post fairly regularly will herald me finding a trove of them. Its called ‘tempting fate’.

Spot of doggerel

... or possibly spotty mongrel. I wrote this when I was fourteen, so be kind!

For everything there is a price and all through life you pay
For every time you cast the dice, for everything you say
For every bit of happiness you pay the price in pain
For everything you'll ever want, you pay and pay again.
Tread carefully tread cautiously, for every step you pay the price
Tread carefully, tread cautiously and one day, you'll be wise.

Sod! I was wiser when I was fourteen than I am now, that's sure! Pity I didn't always follow my own advice. Do you?

All my own work

I don't suppose anyone is completely independent. No man is an island, but one can have a go at being something like a peninsula, at least. It gives you a handy isthmus that allows you to benefit from being part of the human race without being utterly surrounded and possibly overwhelmed.

At sixteen, I began supporting myself, and I've been doing that ever since. Mom wanted me to marry a nice, well-off chap and participate in the suburban nightmare, but I decided that I didn't want anything I hadn't earned, and I wasn't going to earn anything on my back because there's a name for that.

The other thing that bothered me about this type of material dependence, is that I feared becoming used to a life style that I wouldn't be able to maintain unassisted. I was probably right, but like the girl in the awful Marianne Faithful song, I'll never ride through Paris in a sports car.

I don't think I really regret that or any of the other things that people want and I've never had: things like matching crockery and lounge suites and new(ish) cars. Of course, being materially independent has lead me through some rough waters, or rather, the lack of any water at all. I've lived without drinking water on tap for easily ten years of my life. Mind you, I've also been through at least five floods and two fires. Living in the country isn't all birdies and flowers, you know.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I mayn't have much, but what I have, I've earned, and it makes me fiercely proud. I've paid for my education, housing, food and even my mistakes and I can stand back and say: okay, so maybe it isn't wonderful, maybe I haven't much to boast of, but at least its all my own work. No-one carries me, so no-one can let me fall.

I manage a few spectacular wipe-outs all on my own nonetheless...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grandma's Apple Pie

We seem to spend a lot of time thinking about things that aren't really important, and no, I'm not referring to those 'Where are the car keys?' brainstorming sessions. Those are important, and so is 'What shall we have for dinner?'. Alright, they're subjectively important, but ultimately, that's the only way we can perceive the world. Besides, I need dinner, don't you?

The things that aren't really important are contained in the 'big' questions such as 'What's it all about when you get right down to it?' and 'Is there a God'. I must say, they're fun questions, because one never has to produce proof, only opinion. They're also the type of questions that people argue about the most. Sometimes, they even cause wars - at least if one looks at it superficially.

The fact is, that no-one's going to start a war about intangibles like matters of faith. It just seems more noble forcibly defending the logically indefensible than squabbling over what's for dinner, which is what war comes down to if you boil it down to the nitty-gritty.

The only problem with pragmatism is that its not particularly inspiring, whereas intangibles are mysterious and therefore much more interesting. Oh yes, I've heard the old saw about fighting for 'Grandma's apple pie', but unless you take the pie as a symbol of something else, it doesn't seem like a good way to motivate troops. I suppose it depends on the pie. It'd have to be to die for.

I don't know how many of the nonsense thoughts that we're fed to make us believe that A is really B I've swallowed over the years : probably quite a few. I'm not in possession of all the facts, so I'm sure that there are things that I believe just because most people do. Fortunately, it doesn't matter too much. No-one's asked me to die for anything, and I'm making stew for dinner. How about you?
Don't know why I think this pic appropriate: Running off at the mouth? Ja, I'm good at that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

There is no free lunch

There is no free lunch... and if its too good to be true, it probably isn't. Everybody wants something, and sometimes they offer you what you want so that they can get what they want, only they don't always say so, do they?

I've always maintained that I'm naive, but I will say that I've a healthy amount of suspicion. If someone offers me something on a platter, I want to know where the catch is: I peep under the napkin, as it were, and look for the suspicious ingredients. (Eyeballs are a dead give away, but given that this is a metaphor, one's never sure what's metaphorical offal and what's metaphorical meat).

When I can't see the price for something, I don't imagine that that its not there: I mean, anything without a price tag in the shops is sodding expensive, not free. The more they hide the price, the more it costs, its like seeing 'SQ' on menu's.

Just because one can't see the 'catch', doesn't mean it doesn't exist, so I always ask myself: 'What's in this for me?' and more importantly: 'What's in this for them.' and even then, I often don't see the 'catch', so I just assume its there and that the less I can see it, the bigger it probably is. I mean, one doesn't notice the universe unless people point it out, and that's the biggest thing there is, really.

Sometimes, very occasionally, people do things for altruistic reasons, which is to say they're doing it because A) it'll make them feel good, or B) superior, or C) they expect you to be grateful. I'm not sure I trust that either - how about you?

There's something that's bothering me here: Am I cynical, and does that mean I have to stop saying I'm naive?


Finding a picture of something I really want to illustrate this with, was pretty difficult, but I'll settle for that, alright!

A thorny issue

You know, I never thought growing up without Dad bothered me that much or that I was 'emotionally scarred' in any way as a result of not having a present father, but its odd how the emotional reaction kicks in when there's prompting.

When I was a kid, I used to be a bit envious of friends who had dads, and if they were nice dads, I used to 'borrow' them, joining in the family activities. Apart from the occasional gnawings of jealousy, I remember being a happy child and feeling as if I had a full and nurturing family.

It used to make me cross when teachers and school psychologists referred to me as coming from a 'broken home', a circumstance to which they used to ascribe all my intractable behavior (and I was very intractable). I wanted to take credit for my own behavioral aberrations. I was proud of them. I didn't think my parents deserved any credit, and I still don't. I honestly don't think I'd have been a 'good' child even if Dad had been around.There's no way of knowing for sure, because he wasn't.

He used to visit sometimes, and the frequency of the visits increased after I called him 'Uncle' when I was just five or six. Its the most manipulative bit of behavior I can remember being guilty of. I definitely knew what I was doing and why, and it worked. People just don't realize how clever kids can be. Kids are supposed to be all innocent and a bit gormless. They know it, and they use it to advantage on occasion.

Then Dad married again, and his new wife had two children of about our age. The visits all but stopped, and he used to talk about 'Our children' (my step brother and sister) and 'Your children' (my brother and I, now the miraculous result of human parthenogenesis). I suppose that hit me on the raw a bit, it still makes me squirm, but it was hardly traumatic. Kids are resilient. They take life as they find it.

I was thinking about growing up without Dad recently, and suddenly, I got all emotional about it: angry, my hands were actually shaking. Its ridiculous that something I've never thought bothered me that much should affect me so strongly at an age when it honestly shouldn't matter to me any more. I'm not really angry with him, but I'm angry about being without him even though I understand why he wasn't there.

Once again, I find myself thanking God (who I don't believe in) that I don't have kids. I'll never be 'mature' enough. I don't think anyone is. Grown ups are just big kids with more issues and worse habits. Its a pity kids don't realize it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The last of the peaches

I'm thinking. I'll write about it when and if I see the funny side: other people's problems reminding me of mine. Its not entertaining, its messy and I'm not going to rant about it here. Instead we have:

The smell of Peaches: part the last (and yes, this really did happen to my grandfather)

The farmer fiddled with the lid of the first of the churns and flicked it open exposing milk, innocent and unsullied in its whiteness. He stood back, innocence once again written large on a face made for mischief. The traffic policeman was piqued.

‘Open them all, sir’ he rapped out in his best ‘Don’t argue with me, I am the law’ voice. Can after can was flipped open, can after can contained nothing but milk.

The traffic officer scratched his head. ‘You’d best move on sir.’ He hesitated, wanting to make some remark about the aroma of peaches and alcohol, but what was to be said? Heaven knew, he’d been in the sun for long enough, long enough to doubt his senses... almost. He bit his lip in frustration as the antiquated engine roared into life and the pickup chugged off accompanied by sundry bangings and rattlings.

The farmer sat back in the driver’s seat and grinned through his beard. Wartime rationing was hard. There wasn’t ever enough diesel for a farmer, but the good peach moonshine kept the machines going well enough. He felt almost sorry for the traffic officer standing by the roadside in his dust and sweat with disappointed puzzlement writ large on his features, but it was funny too. He began to laugh, a laugh beginning deep in his belly and working its way up till his whole body shook before it burst from his mouth, uncontainably, uncontrollably.

The traffic officer turned to watch the pickup as it disappeared over the brow of a hill. Was that a howl of laughter? And… yes... the smell of peaches.


Here's a pic of what that pickup might have looked like: not too good with auto dates, so it could be all wrong...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wherever you are, there you are

There are a few phrases in English that make me cringe, but this one never fails: 'finding oneself'. As in: 'I'm off to traverse Africa barefoot while living on a vegan diet and whistling the national anthem backwards. I'm going to find myself'.

Heck, if you have to go off looking for yourself you must be pretty dysfunctional, you know? Yes, I know its rude to put it like that, but really! I know where I am. I am here.

Sometimes I'm none too sure where everything else is, but me? No worries, mate! I always know where I am, and the answer's always the same. I'm probably one of the most directionally challenged people alive and I don't even have to look to find myself.

When people talk about someone 'finding themselves', they always make it sound so noble and challenging and wonderfully adventurous and deep, and people go to all sorts of lengths to find themselves: trips through the amazon, climbing mountains and all sorts of things which might or might not be fun, and fun is good, of course, although not necessarily noble or 'deep' or any of those things.

One thing I can tell you, and that's that they'd find themselves so much more easily (and economically) if they just remember the directions: 'Wherever you are, there you are'. Even I can follow those.

And now for more from the great literary mind which I possess (pickled in a bottle):

The Smell of Peaches (part the second)

The rusted vehicle was put through its paces: check lights, check indicators. Seemingly against all odds, everything worked. But what was that? A smell of richly fermented peaches emanated from the vehicle. Moonshine! He’d know that smell anywhere. That his knowledge had its origin in his own clandestine imbibitions mattered nothing. He was on duty now, and if this car or its driver was loaded with moonshine, he was in luck. He motioned to the driver to get out, and with a certain amount of huffing and puffing; the farmer did as he’d been commanded.

‘What’s the problem, son?’ quoth the greybeard without much concern, as if he thought it was the polite thing to say under the circumstances rather than anything to worry about. It was difficult to tell whether he was under the influence or not, for he spoke quite clearly and looked alert enough despite his relaxed attitude. Still, if the smell was issuing from the man, he must have more alcohol than blood in his system – the aroma was still there, more than a passing whiff of it too.

‘Have you had anything to drink, sir?’ he asked, playing it ‘by the book’ as he had been taught to.

The farmer’s grin spread even wider until it seemed likely that the top of his head would fall off if he grinned any wider, ‘Nary a drop son, have a whiff. You’ve been too long in the sun more likely’

He leaned forward and puffed into the traffic policeman’s face. His breath reeked of tobacco and rotten teeth, but that was it. If a man could be arrested for halitosis, then this one should be thrown into the darkest, deepest cells and the key thrown away. Sadly, bad breath is perfectly legal, and there wasn’t so much as a hint of booze in the cocktail of odours. The smell of peach moonshine still hung on the air though, and running booze was illegal.

‘So tell me, sir: what’s in those milk cans I see on the back of your pickup?’ there was good arrest afoot now, he was sure of it. The farmer had stopped grinning, and his face, as far as it could be seen behind the wild, grey beard, became earnest before settling into a mildly puzzled and aggrieved expression.

‘Milk’ he said shortly.

‘Open them, please sir’. This was going to be a find for sure. Moonshine enough to make an arrest, and a bit to spare for the lads at the office.


Ah! How you persevere! Next and last installment tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Things with teeth and peaches

I've always liked big machines, especially ones with teeth. I love the way they roar and I love the power. Wahahaha! The power! (recovers sangfroid with an effort).

I once did an interest test that said something like 'She is highly motivated to operate large machinery'. The same interest test (done in my teens) didn't seem hopeful about me becoming a domestic goddess and recommended outdoor work.

Well, they were right as it turns out, and I'm still highly motivated to operate large machinery. Its just as well that the machine operator removes the keys from the large orange machine currently decorating the back yard of my house or I'd demonstrate that motivation. The dam is being enlarged, and every evening, I stop for a bit and admire The Machine (note capitals).

If the keys were in it, I'd take it for a spin for sure. What do you mean, that sounds dangerous? Oh alright it is, especially if I get it onto the freeway (don't argue with me in traffic, creep...) but I suppose it won't happen, so there's no need to worry.

On a completely different subject, I have decided to use my extensive knowledge of South African country lore for your benefit, gentle reader, and thus I will inflict... I mean 'present' a short story that was based on something my grand dad did. To spare your eyes (and stretch the story) you'll get it in little bites (a trick I learned from another maunderer: thanks, mate).

The smell of peaches (part the first)

The traffic policeman wasn’t in a very good mood. What he’d like to have been doing, was sitting in his parked car under the shade of a roadside bluegum tree from which shady vantage he could watch the road for transgressions of the Road Traffic Act while idly chatting to his partner. Instead, he’d been instructed to pull off all passers-by to check their vehicle licenses, check basic roadworthiness and look into anything suspicious.

It was the hottest of days, and the heat waves shimmered on the tarmac so that it looked like a molten river. The heat seeped up through the soles of his boots while the sun beat down on his head. He’d stopped numerous cars today representing a cross section of road users: smart cars with sleek owners that looked down their noses at him, rattling farm pickups driven by ruddy complexioned farmers and everything in between. He’d found a few minor transgressors and fined them, but he knew the Captain would be far from satisfied that so many of the drivers were adhering to the letter of the law. It was bad for revenues.

The sun was past its zenith now, but the discomfort of the day was undiminished. His bottle of drinking water had become luke-warm and his head ached. Dust kicked up by vehicles pulling onto the road verge encrusted his skin except where new runnels of sweat had trickled down his forehead. The back of his shirt was dark and damp with perspiration. He could feel it sticking to his skin. His partner was as taciturn as he was today. No driver was getting off with a caution today, that was sure. If it wasn’t for them, well, he wouldn’t have a job, but he wouldn’t be standing here in the blazing heat either.

A rattling over the crest of the hill heralded action, and he stepped wearily into the road as a battered farm pickup hove into view. It clattered noisily to a halt, rich with the promise of questionable roadworthiness. A beard emerged from the drivers’ window, followed by a face shaded by a battered hat. It grinned at him. He didn’t feel like grinning back. Shrugging off the cheery greeting with a gruff ‘Afternoon’ which didn’t specify whether it was good or bad, but sounded like being the latter, he bent to inspect the license disc which, to his chargin, was in order.


You read that? Oh good for you! More tomorrow then...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bumptious Baboons

They say that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, well, it certainly was foolish to walk towards such a large troupe of baboons, but I trod quite slowly and believe me, I was scared, so I conclude that I'm an angel after all and should probably do something about that.

They were all over one of my fields, and I know they're munching water lily bulbs as if it were every feast day in the year rolled into one. They're 'my' bulbs, so I strolled toward them, and they, not wanting trouble, moved away towards the dam and the neighboring meadow.

You may think a baboon is small, but he isn't really. He's also very powerful and has awful fangs. Sometimes, it can be fun to watch them from a distance, but distance is a good thing to maintain.

They're so like people, apart from the fangs and the fur and the tails and... alright then, they're so like people in their behavior, that its frightening. Mind you, I know some people who are so like them in their behavior that they're almost indistinguishable from baboons. Now that's frightening.

On a totally different subject: I have a pimple therefore I am.


Sometimes, there are no words, and sometimes pictures don't need editing.