Thursday, July 29, 2010

Catalogued and classified

The current 'work in progress' is a catlogue of over 600 plant species that's to go to the printers tomorrow.

It rather saps my writing ability, especially since most of my colleagues say that they 'can't write', so I end up doing all the descriptions. The ones who think they can write, spell even worse than I do, or launch temselves into passionate declamation that excludes punctuation.

Given that I am now in plant describing mode, I seem unable to come up with anything else, and so I've written a description of my fair (and occasionally unfair) self.

Maunderus mutterus (Lesser spotted horticulturist)

A slow-growing, occasionally aggressive but ornamental perennial to 1.53m that likes to learn the hard way.

Tolerates adverse conditions but thrives on occasional feeding and regular attention. DO NOT PRUNE although occasional cutting down to size does no harm.

Ensure plenty of sunshine, but thrives in shade during the summer months. Although continually in bloom, best results are achieved when suitably admired.

Propagation not recommended owing to the possibility of becoming invasive and taking over the planet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In the Belly of the Beast

Or back at the salt mines, or whatever you'd like to call it. Shoulder to the wheel and all that. Three days off and I get to work a twelve hour day. Then again, I decided I was behind after spending the last few days on my behind (and walking and swimming) and got 'stuck in'.

Stupid thing to do really, which is why I am writing my blog now and not, not, not working. Enough is enough. I quit. At least until tomorrow at 7:30 AM. Then I'll be all bright eyed and bushy tailed (in the metaphorical sense), and punching the air and yelling 'Up and at 'em!' and other hearty phrases.

Hee hee: got you going there didn't I? No! Come back! I promise I don't do stuff like that in the morning. You have no need to hate me!

At one time, there was a motivational speaker on what was then the only TV station. He used to come on at 6:30 in the morning and do the air-punching thing and say 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'. It was awful. I heard that he comitted suicide eventually. Just goes to show. There's nothing like a slow start.

For now, I have a slow wending home, to rest, to sleep, perchance to find inspiration for a decent blog post (but I keep dreaming about work anyway: boring!)

Today's pic: Lichen on a rock - a metaphor for getting up slowly in the morning and why? Because I say so.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Return of the Mutterer

Yes its me. Now where did I put my specs? Crikey! Oh there they are… right on my face. Now why on earth did I put them there? One’d think I’d know better (removes specs). Where was I?

Oh yes. That’s it… I’m back. And where, you may ask, have I been? Ah! Now that would be telling. Whatsat? That’s what this blog post is for? Now why on earth didn’t I think of that? Yes, yes, I’m getting around to it. I just want to have a good mutter first.

As you know, I did things involving hot beverages to my computer which wasn’t as thankful as it jolly well ought to have been. On receiving both Teutonic (a colleague of mine) and technical advice that involved a blow dryer, I added three melted keys to my woes, and things still didn’t work.

Right so… on leaving my computer marinating in coffee at the repair place, I had to get through a couple of computerless days at work, and then I was in hot water.

No, really. Hot water, and very nice it was. Boiling hot (well, nearly), iron-laden water bubbling out of the ground and piped into pools where you can swim about to your heart’s content and turn orange from the iron while you’re at it.

Then, when you’re good and orange, out you go into the little karoo (that’s a sort of semi-desert) for a bit of clambering on rocky trails through the kopjies and sere grass among the orangey rocks with your camera chasing springbuck that turn out to be goats. Its my idea of a good time, anyway.

Nice landscapes: more typical of this country than the forests and mountains around my home. Good thing its winter though. No shade. Wide open spaces that match what’s between my ears just at the moment.

Get back, get computer and now, with the world of words at my fingertips I haven’t a thing to say. Which is why I wrote this.

Today’s pics: the inside of my head: the green bit in the first one bothers me a little.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

coffee error


So, middle of comp does no work. Coffee error. Sure readers know. Coffee and compuer. Does no work. difficul. Problem. Mos inconvenien Apoloies. Reduced o morse code. No more blo for now. Sob.
back wen fixed. :(
can laff if ou like.
I will laff, nex week or so wen compuer is fixed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


HWfaber’s blog made me think about self-portraits, of the photographic variety. Up till now, I’ve called it ‘mucking about with my camera taking pictures of myself’, but thanks to him, I now realize its an art form! Yay! No more guilt!

The fact is, that if you want to try things with people pictures, one needs a willing model, and for some reason all my friends are of the sort that you have to creep up on if you want a photograph at all. You certainly can’t say: ‘Hang on there, hold it.. I want to see what happens if I take this from under your chin.’ They’ll be hiding away under the table before you or your camera can say ‘click’.

So I’ve decided to make this a ‘me messing around taking pic..’ oops, I mean ‘self-portrait art’ post.

First up is the one I’m currently using for my blogger profile – a bit harsh – I boosted the contrast to hell and back wanting something ‘moody’ and weather-beaten. Well, I must say, this one looks pretty darned dangerous. Woohoo! Mission accomplished. Don’t mess with me, especially not in a high wind.

One of my earliest attempts was this very out of focus little number. I do like being out of focus - does me the power of good, I tell you. Who’s a pretty little smudge then?

Then a year or two back, a reflection in a café window in Copenhagen. I like this one a lot. I look spooky, and you can see right through ‘me’ to the knives and forks on the window ledge and the sofa inside the café.

Then my more recent monster.. I mean.. ‘master’ pieces. I adore the one I titled ‘Kiss the Sky’. I turned it into black and white for a recent post, but its even better in colour. It was sweltering day in February and I wanted a silhouette with the occasional gleam of sweat against the fierce blue sky. Mission accomplished!

Last but not least: a smoky, hazy one taken during my recent move. I didn’t have a thing in mind, just trying some new and, strictly speaking 'wrong' camera settings, but I think the result is interesting.

I’m an ‘artist’ only in my dreams and desires (and without enough desire to actually make an effort). Photo’s are a bit of a cheat – so quick – so little effort involved, but there it is and I shall call it ‘art’ and since that is me in those pictures, I suppose I’m art too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I am a bask-ard

Warm winter's days should be outlawed. For one thing, they're just too darned nice. Anything that nice has to be questionable. Then too, they make one ever so lazy. It shouldn't be allowed. I managed to drag myself from the back veranda to the front veranda to get this susnet shot over the sea and cliffs. Its also the view I have from my bedroom window. Awful isn't it?

Most of the day was spent on the other veranda. Which looks like this in terms of sunshine if not bees. The hive is still there, and very busy on a warm day, but in this picture the swarm arrives, so its a lot more intense.

Half of the veranda is roofed over and there are big windows facing the mountains, so when the sun gets a bit much, its easy to find a more comfortable spot. I love the colours you see from here: the golden field, a distant green meadow and the mountains march onwards as far as the eye can see until they fade into blue. Cradock peak has snow on it and looks almost Alpine.

Can you blame me if I folded my hands and did next to nothing all day long? I just basked like a lizard in the sun.

At leat I took that sunset shot!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A job in Vice

… and so it was that I decided to study Agriculture, or Agricultural research, or anything that would get me as far out of town as possible and under the sky.

By that time, my mother could no longer afford to send me to uni, so I decided to work and save up for it. This time, I applied at a hotel in the middle of Pretoria – rather a smart one, and got a job as a bar waitress.

I may have been saving up for an education, but I certainly got one at the bar. Aged eighteen I learned how to get rid of obstreperous clients, avoid getting my backside pinched, and learned how to get revenged discreetly if my backside did get pinched -you kick them hard on the shins, no-one notices and they won’t complain. A slightly less discreet revenge, is to serve their next drink onto their laps. A definite cooling of ardour (among other things) results.

I could write pages about the parade of faces, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, but on the whole, barmaiding is very humdrum. You spend hours waiting for a customer, and then you’re run off your feet, you hear the same jokes – sometimes several times in one day – and some men will try to ‘buy’ one. I never could ‘get’ that.

Ask for a date, sure. I’ll turn it down, that’s fine – but some thought to clinch the deal by offering me money. If they only thought, they’d realize it: if I was selling sex, I sure as heck wouldn’t be working from ten in the morning till after twelve at night serving booze. I’d be making oodles of cash lying on my back (or in some other position which is, with luck, fairly comfortable). I wouldn’t be mopping up beer slops (or worse) and running about like a maniac for three rand an hour and whatever small change I got in tips.

As at the hairdressers’ I found many of the things that my management considered to be important rather trivial, but I was a good barmaid – I served my clients politely, never got drunk and my stock and till always balanced. Besides, the MD really liked me, so I was able to get away with occasional insubordination with impunity.

In the end, I decided I’d saved enough to begin studying and gave my notice to the MD. While I was working out my final month, one of the more junior managers tried to fire me for telling him to get a move on and help me cash up.

‘You can’t fire me.’ said I, laughing.
‘Oh yes I can!’ he riposted with great wit and a certain amount of asperity.
‘Oh no you can’t!’ said I, matching his repartee with ease. Eventually we got as far as:
‘Why can’t I fire you?’
‘Because I resigned two weeks ago.’
I do hope he’s seen the funny side of it by now.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My distinguished career (continued)

… so then I went on to my second job. A friend of mine used to work in a little kiosk which sold the leather work of an informal consortium of crafters. She was a fantastic sales lady of the ‘Oh my heavens, did she actually say that?’ school.

‘This’ she would tell prospective buyers ‘is a f***ing good pair of shoes. You won’t find a better f***ing pair of shoes. Just try them on! They’re f***ing comfortable – and f***, they look nice besides the fact that they’ll f***ing last you for years. Hand made! Just look at the f***ing stitching!’

They say sex sells. I don’t think this is what they meant. Anyway, she had to leave to do something else, and I got the job in her stead. It was in a dark little arcade which had a row of tiny glass kiosks down the middle of it: two paces to the door, and about a pace and a half from side to side. It was like being in a fish bowl.

My bohemian employers had no idea of keeping stock, and I was the one to introduce this innovation. Other than that, they were perfectly happy that I should turn up for a day of shoe-selling barefoot with rings on my toes and bells in my hair, burn incense and play the guitar most of the day. So I did that. The shop had never made more money, so everyone was happy or at least happy-ish in a hippy-ish sort of way. Far out, man!

In the end, the head of the ‘consortium’ skipped the country to Israel with a culpable homicide charge over his head, pocketing the rest of the crafters' money and failing to pay me for my last month’s work.

He’d been telling everyone who’d listen – even complete strangers - how he was going to abscond, but when the police arrived to question him and confiscate his passport, he decided it must have been me who reported him because I’d refused to continue taking deposits from clients for shoes to be made and openly expressed my disapproval of his plan.

I was very angry about my money, but I heard a year or two later that he had committed suicide, so perhaps I was better off than him after all.

I learned some things from this job:
A city job without any sunshine is not for me.
Sometimes you’re better off than you think you are.
And it’s a funny old world, isn’t it?

My First Job

I was sixteen, just out of school and didn’t know what on earth to do with my life from there on in. For some time, I’d thought of being a psychologist, but I decided against it. I really don’t fancy the idea of ‘classifying’ people, even though it does make things simpler, and I couldn’t think that my ‘wisdom’ would be of benefit to anyone.

Besides, my mum wasn’t too worried what I actually studied at uni, as long as I found a ‘nice man’ who would have a good job. Given the divorce rate in this country, it seemed like a shocking waste of time, besides not wanting to ‘prostitute myself’. So I obdurately declared that I would be a hairdresser.

At the time, I had hair down to my waist, and for the very good reason that I never so much as went near a hairdresser’s. I said it to shock her and make her leave me alone, but she was ‘supportive’ instead – the last thing I wanted, but how could I say so? So I decided to give it a bash.

When I decide to give something a bash, I go at it hammer and tongs, so before long I had a job as ‘apprentice hairdresser’ in a smart-ish salon. I very soon learned a number of things: everything in that salon was about appearances. You stand even when there aren’t customers, your boss has to approve of your looks and grooming, and everything you do is vitally important.

Its not enough to hand your boss the perm papers, you have to do it as if your life depended on it. No surgeon’s assistant could be more alert: paper, curler, paper, curler every time he stretches out his hand, you’re there. If you’re not…

The worst part of it all was that I found that I was allergic to the chemicals they used. They blistered my hands, they made my nose and eyes run. It was hay-fever all day every day. I suppose that it can be said that I know when to quit, but sometimes it takes a boot up my derriere to get me going.

This happened when my boss pulled me in to the back room and piled in with the metaphorical gloves off: I was the worst apprentice he had ever had bar none, I looked miserable all day, and my puffy eyes were an indication of some pretty hard living on my part, probably drug use.

That evening, after several drafts, I came up with the following masterpiece:
Dear Sir, with reference to our conversation yesterday, I would hereby like to tender twenty-four hours’ notice of my resignation. Yours faithfully…

It may not be the best letter I ever wrote, but it ranks as one of the most satisfying, along with the one I wrote to the Broadcasting Corporation: 'Thank you for your final demand letter. I do not have a television, have never had a televison, will never have a television, and I should like very much to know where you got my address.' But I digress

The boss was surprised. He’d never meant to push me as far as resigning, would I reconsider? So I told him about my allergy and showed him the scabs and told him about the runny eyes and said I was miserable, of course I was miserable and I’d be going now.

So that was my first job. I think it taught me not to make assumptions about people and turn them into accusations the way my boss did, and it taught me that all work is deadly serious – I just have trouble taking all of it seriously.
Today's pic: Hair of course!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A good place

So we're out of apartheid and conflict and all the awful things that various groups did to other groups becuase of it. Thank God. Enough is enough. South Africa (despite reports to the contrary) is actually quite a nice place to live. I like it here. I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else, and its not that I haven't been anywhere else. Alright, I'm not so widely travelled, but I don't think that there will ever be any place quite like it. I bristle like a porcupine when people fail to recognize its many virtues.

We've got fabulous weather, wide open spaces (not only between my ears), good people of all races and backgrounds (some bad ones too: it happens), economic growth (despite the recession elsewhere) and a government which, while at times cringe-worthy doesn't mess folks about too much. I'm not complaining.

We've got some of the most progressive legislation in the world: the laws relating to paternal rights, labour rights and environmental conservation to name but a few. We've got natural wonders, a low cost of living (with matching salaries - I'd 'earn' more being unemployed in Europe - so bring your small change and have a blast) and friendly service in the shops (I never could get over the 'we're doing you a favour' attitude in the 'old world').

Its a nice place. Most of it is pretty 'safe' (unless you like exploring slums) and the diversity both in its landscapes and its people is staggering.

Come and see! Enjoy! I do. You will.

Today's pic: The valley of desolation.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Uniforms and men with guns

Yesterday, I thought I might enjoy this post more that the others in this rather uncomfortable ‘Aparthied’ series. I always find uniforms vaguely digusting and amusing, but on second thoughts, I probably won’t have that much fun with this. Guns get shot, people get hurt. The person who shoots also gets hurt. Let me explain:

Pretoria was full of uniforms. Cops (pigs), men in camouflage (Bush pigs) and army. Uniforms were everywhere. The problem with uniforms is that they make people into an idea or the representative of an idea. It might be a bad idea. They’re not necessarily bad people.

Probably the nastiest thing that happened to people in SA if they were white and male, was conscription.

As soon as a lad left school (which he may do in the year that he turns sixteen) he used to get conscripted: only the whites, of course. There were black soldiers and police, but they were employees. Conscription is another matter.

The only alternative was to be a ‘conscientious objector’ and go to a military prison for four years (or was it five?). You could forget about getting a job after that.

Imagine having that ‘choice’! Four or five years in jail, and most of those boys were between sixteen and eighteen, raised under apartheid and with the ‘official secrets act’ preventing them from hearing anything other than the lies the government propagated.

Then too, there’s always the possibility of getting a ‘non-combatant’ position. Maybe you won’t have to kill anyone. Maybe you get away with two years instead of four. Four years! That’s an eternity to a sixteen year old! Besides, just how much social awareness can one expect from someone so young – even without the government censoring the news.

They took those boys and put them in ‘basic training’ – three months with no contact with the outside world, and they broke them and re-made them as order-following machines. They really broke them. I’ve heard the stories from too many people not to believe it.

Then you take these children, and send them to the border to battle or into Angola or Namibia (then under SA jurisdiction) worse still, you send them into the townships.

Imagine: raised to fear if not hate, driving through a place where people hate and fear what you represent, and there are more of them then there are of you, and you just want to live through this day. Can it be wondered at that shots were occasionally fired when people threw stones? There were guns out there too. The boys were afraid. They had every right to be afraid. Try and explain ‘reasonable force’ to someone who is scared out of his mind! Try and combat panic with reason! Try and tell a mob that the boys in brown are just boys.

And afterwards: they’re traumatized. They come home and no-one knows them. They have nightmares. They hit people who walk up behind them. They become strange… I saw it happen with so many of my school friends, luckily not all. Luckily.

No, the uniforms aren’t so funny. They de-humanize. They hurt people.

There’s so much more: the ‘state of emergency’, the censorship of news, the terrible things that used to happen in the townships: things driven by the ‘powers’ and carried out by boys.

I know it almost sounds like I’m sorrier about how apartheid hurt whites than blacks – but that’s all I‘ve experienced for myself. All I really know. I can outline the ugly shape of oppression looming over ordinary black families, but I never felt it. How can I speak of it with conviction?

All I can really tell you is how that stupid system hurt white people, because I know that at first hand, and I’m talking about it because its less widely publicized, and also because maybe it was more of a trauma than I realized at the time. Its time it got out.

At the same time, I’m getting tired of remembering. Its depressing, I’m back to writing on lighter topics from tomorrow onwards, at least for a while. This doesn't get any prettier, no matter how one writes it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blasts from the past

I’m saving ‘uniforms’ as a topic for last. It’ll amuse me. This part of my subjective experience of apartheid is going to hurt. Remember, I grew up in Pretoria: Capital city: a ‘white’ city brooded over by Union Buildings, the seat of government..

I don’t feel like looking up the exact dates, but I was in my late teens. I think I was already out of school and working, a number of years… somewhere between ’86 and ’94.

There was the bomb at the cinema complex – a Saturday matinee – the only movie house in town at the time: a great place to kill people, especially kids. I heard the blast. Mostly injuries, one man dead. Black. They said he was the bomber. They would, though.

There was the one outside my mother’s work: in the street in front of the public library. Quite a bustling street, and more black people on it than white – not that it matters except in that it doesn’t make sense to battle the oppressor by blowing up the oppressed. People died. Fortunately my mom was in her office and not near the window.

There was the one at the municipal building: a bunch of office workers and people who went to pay their bills. Yes, sometimes I want to murder municipal clerks too, but I wouldn’t, really I wouldn’t. Not like that. The government built a memorial. Wow.

There was a big office building: I once applied for work there. Thank heavens I didn’t get the job – it was tall, all glass, and a busy pavement beneath it – hideous I don’t have to draw you picture. Can’t, it will take too much red paint. I heard that one too. It was a biggie – probably the worst of the lot.

There was one in Church street too, the main street. As usual, it was more likely to kill black people (there were more of them than us, for crying out loud and where else were they to do their business but in town?), doubtless a fine gesture of defiance.

There were other blasts, but these were the worst. I don't like remembering...

In the same town, the infamous ‘White Wolf’, a psychopath with illusions of grandeur, took up a gun and began to shoot people discriminately. Only black ones. I was working about 500m away. I heard the shots. He was overpowered and arrested before long, but you can shoot a lot of people in a short time. Madness. More blood, and to no purpose.

To tell you the truth, I often thought that if the ANC really was properly organizing a campaign of terror (they ‘took responsibility’ for the bombings, but did they do so because they were responsible or because they wanted publicity?) they could have done a darned sight better.

An organization that big could have several bomb blasts a day if it organized itself, and although security was tight, it wasn’t so tight I mightn’t have managed a few bombs a day had I wanted to – and that’s me on my own! Their hearts couldn’t have been it – I suppose that if they were involved at all, the ANC just let a few hotheads go their length. Or perhaps they found out about some secret cell’s actions afterwards and thought they ought to approve on general principles. God knows. I don’t really want to.

At the end of the day, Nelson Mandela was right. You have to leave things behind, and if he could fail to punish PW Botha and his ilk for their wrongdoings, then I suppose its fair enough that others should go free too. Personally, I’d have put PW and a few others away and thrown away the key, and every bomber and every other idiot that did this to our country, but then I’m a hothead and I’m not Nelson Mandela. He’s right. Leave it be. It hurts enough. It hurts on all sides and it hurts all people. Don’t mess with it. Move on.

So we’re doing that.

Today's pic. Something more pleasant than this blog topic! Happy people dancing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Educated in apartheid

During the apartheid years, I was privileged to attend a rather smart private school as a ‘bursary girl’. The best thing about private schools was that they had both black and white pupils. Its difficult to hate and fear the same people who you play skipping and share your sweets with.

My black classmates were even more privileged than I, because if they hadn’t been at that school, they’d have been drawn into the infamous ‘Bantu Education System’ which was designed to turn out maids and gardeners – the sort of black people who white people would approve of. The Soweto uprising of 1976 happened as a result of black pupils protesting against the education (or lack thereof) that they were getting. They got shot. Terrible times.

I lost my bursary because I was a lazy child who didn’t like school and refused to work at it and so ended up in a cheap, all-white government school. In one class (I think it was history), the teacher seemed determined to informally indoctrinate us in the ways of apartheid and fed us all the lies: ‘Black people are stupid. Black people are primative. Black people are not fit to be part of our white society.’

Given my background, I protested. I’d been at school with black children, and they were just like other children. After many classes and debates the teacher leveled what he thought was an unanswerable argument at me: ‘So would you marry one?’

I must have been about ten or eleven years old, but it seemed like that one had an obvious answer: ‘Yes. If I thought the man was right for me, I’d marry him regardless of race.’ I would probably have been in less trouble if I’d let off a hand grenade in class.

In those years, intermarriage was illegal, and the law in which this was stipulated was known as the ‘Immorality Act’. I had therefore postulated something that was both illegal and ‘immoral’. I was dragged off to the principle’s office. My mother was phoned. If I’d been any older, they’d probably have phoned the security police too.

Getting back to class was even worse. The other children, secure in the knowledge that the ‘Powers that be’ supported them, gave me hell. From that day on, I was something of a pariah. My mother shrugged and said that I should stand up for what I thought was right. I think she was secretly proud of me, but there wasn’t much she could do about it.

Its funny though, that an immoral law should be called the ‘Immorality Act’ – a few more years and I’ll be able to see the funny side more fully. For those couples who found their soul mates ‘across the colour bar’ in those years, it must be more difficult. I doubt they’ll ever see the joke.

Coming soon: bomb blasts and uniforms (I haven’t forgotten)

There's trouble with the internet, caused by the sea-line (lion?) internet is very patchy in SA and will be for some time. Bah!

Today's pic: a thorny one!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pre-liberation Pretoria: Petty apartheid

Apart from Nelson Mandela, Gold, and more recently, the World Cup, South Africa is famous for something far less pleasant: apartheid.

I didn't engineer it, and I was glad when it was over, but I did witness some of it, and thought you might wonder what it was like from the perspective of the opressor. I hate putting it that way. I'm sure I've never opressed anyone in my life, but people are grouped, and there's no denying that I belonged to that group of opressors whether I liked it or not. I was born into it.

I probably began to become aware of apartheid when I was five years old. There was a railway station with two bridges crossing the lines: a 'Whites only' bridge and... the other one. As bridges go, they were probably equally good, but no person of colour was allowed to set foot on the hallowed bridge reserved for those of paler skin tone.

Once, in a fit of mischief, I ran across the 'wrong' bridge and was stopped by an angry black woman who grabbed me fiercely by the shoulder and instructed me to make use of 'my own' bridge. I couldn't understand her anger, but then, I didn't know what it was like to have to have a 'pass' just to be in town, or perhaps to be forcibly moved becuase one's home was in a 'white' area.

She wasn't really angry with me, but at five years old, one doesn't understand that - all one sees is the fury. I remember being very glad that I could walk across the 'White' bridge then - thereby avoiding that fierce woman. I wonder now what her history was - she must have been very embittered to take it out on a small child, even in such a trivial way. Terrible things must have been done to her.

Petty apartheid (the sort applied to bridges, benches and busses) would be funny if it wasn't so downright stupid. Stupidity can be funny, I'll admit, but not in this case. This is just sad. Some white people wanted to pretend they weren't in Africa at all, and the solution was to hide all black Africans (unles they were serving one in some way) from view. If they'd had enough money to build subways underneath the pavements, I suppose they'd have done it in order to contribute to this illusion. Sad. Stupid.

I suppose it can be an allegory for other things: things we'd rather not think about, which we relegate to the mental equivalent of the 'Other' bridge - out of sight, out of mind, something that should be attended to, but isn't. Maybe that's part of the reason I'm writing this

Coming up: schools, pass-laws, uniforms and bomb blasts (that should cover it).

Today's pic: I just like it, that's all.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I am frightening

I've always seen myself as being individual, intense, extreme - but then I didn't know many other people.

Last night I went to town to meet some friends. I haven't been off the farm in quite a while, and the group ended up being quite large. A few friends of friends and unidentifiable folks that didn't seem to belong to anyone tacked themselves onto the group, and all was merry. I was merry too, even though I was designated driver for a few of them. Its amazing how amusing company makes you merry, even if they're sipping beer and you're on mineral water.

It was fun observing the group too. Heidi, who is gorgeous but blissfully unaware of it, was having her usual effect on the unattached men. Two of them informed me in private conversation: 'Your friend is HOT!'. I bask in reflected glory! Its sort of nice being the comfortable older woman that young men confide in. It's cute... although... it doesn't quite fit in with my self-image. Didn't I say it? I'm wild! I'm extreme!

I always thought myself talkative, but I'm positively quiet compared to Shannon and Candice who rattle on merrily and in a very entertaining way and have everyone in stitches with their humour. Wonderful ladies! I love it! Only.. well.. one more thing about me that isn't all that extreme -unless I want to try being extremely quiet, but that's not 'me' either. Sigh.

I thought I had some pretty avant garde ideas, but I encountered stranger ones. I think myself a bit 'clever' (admission: isn't it beastly?) and met people much cleverer. You know, I really loved it. It was interesting. It was fun, and I discovered that I'm still one up on everyone else in at least one respect.

Its my laugh. People have remarked on it since I was a teen. They still do. It used to make me feel a bit shy when they did. It still does. I know its a big laugh. It stands out. I don't think it irritates, becuase people always say nice things about it, but the fact of it being remarked on makes me worry sometimes. Then again I think that if I'm to be remembered for laughing heartily, perhaps its not a bad thing.

One other good thing: by the end of the evening one of Heidi's suitors had declared me 'frightening'. I was impressed. I was pleased. I don't know what I did to deserve it: perhaps its the laugh, but there you have it: I am frightening! Yay!

Today's pic: me from a frightening angle.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weather is not trivial stuff

Weather, as I have often said and still maintain, is important stuff, especially when you’re standing in it. It’s a bit like doggie –do in that sense: doesn’t matter a damn unless you stand in it, and then you can’t help noticing.

I’ve often been told that I’m very fortunate to have a (partly) outdoor job: this is said by people who can go indoors when the weather is less than clement. At the same time, it was a consideration in my career choice, so I do see their point while simultaneously realizing that they’ve never stood over a batch of plants with the rain dripping off the tips of their noses in a howling wind.

Of course, nowadays, there’s a great, intellectual-sounding, environmentally educated, current-affairs way of saying ‘We’re having funny weather lately’. Instead of just saying ‘Gosh its hot/ cold’, or ‘Goodness! Its raining a lot this year’ or ‘My, but its dry these days’ we can then look wise and say ‘Global warming, you know’. Wonderful stuff, science.

Oh, I’m not denying that global warming is happening, but the whole point is, its global, and no-one seems to be sure exactly how it will actually affect the weather. For every theorist, there is a counter-theorist, and weather hasn’t been accurately recorded for any significant length of time in the big scale of these things (say a thousand years or so – a blink in the eye of time) to observe its larger patterns. I’m reasonably sure (although of course, this is a theory too) that blaming all weather's vagiaries on global warming is a bit overly simplistic.

Mind you, we can always go back a few hundred years to when people regarded meteorology as the province of deities who made the sun come up etc, so over-simplification is, at least, not new: the thunder storm is no longer caused by the anger of the gods, but by global warming.

Anyway, weather, as I was saying, is important. One has to have it. Its obligatory.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An indigenous charlatan

I thought I’d tell you a little more about what I do. Oh, you already know I’m a verbose and opinionated South African of forty summers, but I’ve been fairly reticent about what I do for a living up till now (except that it involves farms). That it gives me something to talk about on this, a day when my head is perfectly innocent of thought, is convenient, I’ll admit.

Have you ever noticed that when you have some sort of skill you feel like a bit of a charlatan? The premise behind this is ‘I know this because I learned it, you can learn it too, so I’m not all that wonderful’. Its perfectly true in its way, but of course it ignores the fact that I (or you) know something that the other party doesn’t, whether they could actually learn it or not. Anybody suffer from this syndrome?

With this in mind, bear with me when I tell you that I am regarded as something of an expert in the field of South African native plants (although I certainly don’t feel like one). I’m not a botanist: haven’t a methodical enough mind, but I can oversee the production (it involves chicken manure, among other things) of a large variety of native plants. I can talk about plants: to audiences of any size, and I can write about them (although I prefer not to) I know the Latin names too – thousands of them, and I even understand one or two of them. Here’s a goodie:

You will no doubt be acquainted with the Maiden-hair fern (genus Adiantum). Its an almost unbelievably soft textured plant and so is well-named. I recently had to grow a species for a local development. It, too, is a Maiden-hair fern, but with a course texture suitable to dry environments. Its name is Adiantum capillis-veneris. Think about it: Maiden-hair fern (Adiantum), hair (capillis), and if you can’t think what ‘veneris’ is, I ain’t going to tell you. You may now say that you are acquainted with someone who knows how to grow pubic-hair ferns. Who says science can't be fun?

I think I like my job. It doesn’t pay that much, and I have to do all sorts of things that usually go under the heading ‘Management’ which aren’t really my cup of tea, but on a balance, though rather more pressurized than most people expect (‘You’ve got an outdoor job with flowers, how nice’) I quite enjoy it.

So I suppose you get another flower today….