thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “thoughts”

And on a lighter note… over to my mother

There was some big news going on in South Africa last week (6 to 10 February 2017). We are, as some people have said in the media, a ‘noisy democracy’.

In sport and popular culture circles, there was the death of Springbok rugby hero Joost van der Westhuizen on Monday after his six-year fight against Motor Neuron Disease, and then the build-up to his memorial service and provincial official funeral at Loftus Versveld Rugby Stadium on Friday.

South Africans around the world were invited to wear the green and gold Springbok colours in his memory, and depending on where you were, where you worked and even where your children went to school, I think the call was quite well heeded.

joost-memorial

In the political arena, there was the annual State of the Nation (SONA) address in Parliament in Cape Town by the country’s president on Thursday night. The State of the Nation tables a programme of action for the year and accounts for progress in the commitments made the previous February.

The fact that the Presidency announced the deployment of 441 soldiers in Cape Town during this time to ‘help police maintain law and order’ during the opening of parliament caused a great deal of anger. It brought everyone’s attention right back to the scenes in Parliament during the 2015 State of the Nation address that made the famously robust debates of the British Parliament (which I like watching from time to time) look like a kindergarten jelly-and-ice-cream party in comparison. So the general consensus was that our president was running a bit scared again this year as SONA approached.

And somewhere in the middle of all this, in the financial services sector, South Africa’s biggest – and previously only – stock exchange, the JSE, lost an appeal it had lodged with the Financial Services Board around issues it had raised against the granting of a licence to a new competitor.

Oh yes, and on the international news front, don’t get me started on the separate announcements by first Beyonce and JZ, and then Amal and George, about their pregnancies with twins, all right? I’ll just let the internet deal with that one.

celeb-twins-haha

And so when Friday finally arrived, I greeted it with an enormous sense of relief. I felt just a little tired.

We all went to work on Friday morning, of course, in the sad yet not surprised knowledge that the previous night’s SONA had again turned into an absolute farce, with scenes of violence erupting and communications being cut from time to time (real déju vu there). Let me hand over this part of the musings to Marianne Merten of the Daily Maverick, who writes, in admirably crisp prose:

“Parliament Violence Channel: EFF violently ejected from #SONA2017, DA walks out

It was a mess. Despite the ring of steel in and around Parliament for President Jacob Zuma’s 2017 State of the Nation, ugly brutal scenes inside building unfolded, again. EFF MPs were evicted by force by men and women dressed in white shirts, same as in 2015. The pursuit continued by police in body armour, riot shields and helmets in the precinct outside, but was short-lived. The DA walked out of the House. This was a re-run of the SONAs past and yet another ugly display of force in the people’s house.

…Inside the House, Zuma was told to start – “Finally” he said before his inimitable brief giggle.”

And so it was, once again, a farce of a Parliamentary affair in South Africa. I’m not sure, myself, what the official SONA speech actually said. I really haven’t been able to bring myself to read it yet. I mean, in the context of the above, does it actually matter what our esteemed pres actually said? I mean, he began his speech with his ‘inimitable brief giggle’, after all.

So by the time it came Friday evening, I was mentally and emotionally tired. Where, I wondered, was the joy? It was all getting a bit heavy.

I left work a little earlier than usual and went to fetch my children from my mom. I hadn’t seen her for a few days, as the children’s dad had been doing the evening parenting run this week while I was on the morning school-run shift. So my mom and I sat down at the dining room table for a short while, and I prepared myself for a nice little catch up of her week.

“I found myself watching something quite good on television last night,” said my mother, with a little glint in her eye.

“Oh yes?” I said with interest. My mother has never lost touch with her Scottish roots, so I waited to hear about a new BBC or iTV offering, and hoped that I wasn’t going to hear about re-runs of Victoria or Doc Martin – both of which I really enjoyed, the first time around, but I’m looking for something new from the Brits now.

Unless, I thought hopefully, my mother was about to tell me that there was a new series of Doc Martin just arrived? I do love his grumpy outlook on life and his social ineptness. I have days when I aspire to master his breathtaking rudeness.

doc-martin-437138

“Yes,” said my mother with a little smirk, clearly enjoying herself. “It made a nice change from my book to watch a bit of TV in the evening again.”

“So what was the name of the programme?”

(Was it or was it not a new series of Doc Martin!)

My mother smirked some more.

The Julius Malema Show!” she replied, gleefully.

This was just a little off-centre and I found myself racking my brains for a nano-second while I thought how progressive the Brits were getting with their entertainment programming. Then my brain caught up a little bit and I found myself saying, rather eruditely under the circumstances, “Er… what?”

“Well,” said my mother, “I thought I would try watching SABC2 for a change and it turned out to be quite good!”

I really was lost way out in left field by now, and so could only reply, rather lost for words, “But you never watch SABC programming – you’re always on British stuff.”

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I was being a bit thick. It had been a long day and a longer week.)

My mother finally relented, this time with a downright cheeky laugh.

“I wanted to see what was going to happen with that State of the Nation Address,” she replied merrily, “and so I tuned into SABC2 to see if he would start his speech on time. And of course he didn’t!”

“Oh,” she continued brightly, in a way that reminded me suddenly of her irreverent Celtic heritage, “it was really rather good. They all started out arguing, and there was lots of usage of the F-word…”

Here she rather startlingly illustrated the point by suddenly raising her middle finger at me from across the dining room table. My mother NEVER waves her middle finger at anyone, and nor does she EVER say the F-word.

“… and lots of shouting, and the speaker trying to restore order by saying, ‘Honourable Malema! Honourable Malema!’ and then finally the police or the army were there disguised as waiters, and fists were flying and more name calling and eff-ing and blind-ing, and from time to time the communications were cut, and Julius Malema and his EFF, all in their red outfits, were roughed up and escorted out, and then the DA walked out too in protest…!”

849x493q70violence-eff-parliament

I was quite spellbound. My mother is normally a very good citizen who applauds law and order.

“…and so, all in all, you missed a right good punch-up!” she concluded brightly.

I think I lasted about ten seconds before I found myself weeping with laughter with my head down on the table. I had never quite heard the State of the Nation shenanigans described like this before.

“Of course,” she continued on a more sombre note, “what DOES the rest of the world think about us when they watch it on TV?”

I truly have no real answer for that one. I can only hope that the term ‘noisy democracy’ passes muster for a while longer. Otherwise we must just call it The Julius Malema Show next year, in advance.

 

PS

But thanks, mom. You made my day!

xxx

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Memories of MND: Goodbye, Joost van der Westhuizen

I couldn’t let the final passing of South African rugby hero Joost van der Westhuizen, after his six-year battle with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), go by without putting down a few thoughts.

Joost was part of the Springbok rugby team that won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and – with the input and support of our late, great then-President Nelson Mandela – at least temporarily helped to unify a nation.

madiba

Joost died on Monday this week, 6 February 2017, and since then I’ve had troubling memories of my own late dad’s suffering, with the same disease, rise to the surface of my mind at unexpected times.

And make no mistake: Motor Neuron Disease is a disease of true suffering, especially at the end.

joost-mnd

I am glad that today I saw and heard the eulogy given at the memorial service by his wife, Amor. (Technically I suppose you could call her his ‘estranged’ wife, but what does it really matter at times like these?)

She spoke in front of dignitaries who included members of the 1995 SA Rugby World Cup winning squad, South Africa’s Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, and Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby‚ who flew out from Dublin to attend the memorial service.

amor-on-stage

I thought that Amor was brave and dignified. She managed to say her goodbye to Joost at Loftus Versveld Rugby Stadium without breaking down. And she was honest in her admission that once, she and her husband had been in a fairytale romance…

joost-wedding

…which had then hit some serious bumps along the way. The scandals and the trying times are out there for all to search for and read and point fingers, if they want to.

However, Amor rose above that and thanked her late husband for the priceless gift of their two children, and for his fighting spirit and the memories of the good times.

They never did get around to divorcing, Amor and Joost, and whatever their reasons were for not legally finalising the death of their marriage, does it really matter?

What matters for me is that there was deep love, once, and there were two children created who had all this enduring love then poured into them.

And so now I wish the children and Amor, and all Joost’s other close family members, strength through this time, and finally peace.

For me, my father has been gone after his own battle with Motor Neuron Disease for 15 months already and I continue to miss him, at times, with an ache that is sometimes like a physical stab in the heart.

If I ever become a millionaire I will make it my quest to support today’s research into Motor Neuron Disease, to try to rid the planet of this scourge in the way that, once, we as human beings managed to eradicate smallpox.

Rest in peace, Joost.

joost

http://www.iol.co.za/sport/rugby/joost-believed-he-would-beat-the-disease-

7696858http://www.iol.co.za/sport/rugby/zuma-declares-provincial-funeral-for-joost-

7696476http://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2017/02/09/95-heroes-carry-joosts-casket/

 

 

In my next life I shall be a world-famous pop star or actress

I decided, during my drive to work in the Panda earlier this week, that I was doing something wrong.

Why, you may ask?

Well, it’s simple, really.

I work hard at my job: I strive constantly to improve my general knowledge and my writing skills. I keep a tidy and functioning house for my family’s comfort levels. I support my children with their general school work, their projects and their sporting interests (and here, of course, I must acknowledge my children’s grandmother and their father, who also play significant roles with homework and sporting interests: I can’t take all the credit).

But on an almost daily basis, I seem at the moment to be more stressed and tired than I would like to be. One of the major issues, I think, is trying to make time for me.

me-time

So yes, I am painting again, which was one of my recently stated ambitions.

Yes, I am writing my books again. (Note to publishers: #JustSaying.)

I always find time to read: it’s ingrained.

And yes, I just recently got back onto my bike to once again feel the joy that comes with riding downhill with the wind in your hair. (Okay, okay, I’ll get another helmet. Bike riding in Joburg sans a helmet is, granted, not a good idea.)

But sometimes I have to do these Me-Time things till midnight and beyond (not the bike, of course) just to fit some more of my own personal joy into the day. Which is tiring, to say the least.

“So what, exactly, am I not doing right?” I mused, as I negotiated my beloved Panda through the green, leafy streets of Parkhurst while heading inexorably towards that mecca of Africa’s business landscape, the golden, shiny towers of Sandton.

sandton-city-shopping

And then it struck me while I was still en route.

When my pre-earthly self was up and out there in the nebulous spiritual-world’s ether, some time before I was born, and the Creator Being was handing out gifts to all us spirit beings before we came down to our earthly lives, I think I stuck up my hand for the wrong things. (At least the wrong things for a life with abundant Me-Time.)

Oxygen Volume 14

Instead of asking for long, pretty hair that might or might not be blonde on any given day like, say, Jennifer Aniston; or legs that start under the armpits and bee-stung lips like Jen’s once-arch rival, the skinnier half of Brangelina; or the world’s sassiest booty to flash in gold lamé hotpants like Kylie Minogue, I stuck up my hand for other things.

In other words, I didn’t choose the options that would have allowed me to still have my (beloved) children as well as be sitting with millions in the bank so that I could pick and choose my work projects.

“No, no!” quoth my ethereal spirit self earnestly at the time. “I don’t want bee-stung lips or legs that start under my armpits or hair that seems to do exactly what I tell it to do, ALL the time. Although granted, it is tempting…

jennifer-aniston 1

“But no…That doesn’t seem to be quite the me I’m planning to be. I think I’m going to be more one of those ‘behind the camera’ people, you know: not one of those red carpet types. I mean, the pressure to be beautiful all the time, right?”

“What about the booty, then?” said the Creator Being, kindly. “You and your family are going to end up in Africa at some or other point, you know. Might help you when you are shopping for Levis, because the time will come when Levis is going to bring out that particular brand of jeans that suits curves.”

“Hmmm. Okay, maybe that’s a good idea, thanks,” replied my ethereal self. “But not too much on the booty, okay?”

I think the Creator Being ignored me on that front, but then I think He/She also foresaw the rise (and rear-end spread) of the Kardashians…

KimK butt

…Jennifer Lopez, Nicky Minaj and that incredibly fake blonde who’s married to Ice-T, forget her name right now but Chanel springs to mind (?), so today I’m kind of okay with it.

“So what DO you want, then?” said the Creator Being, with a pointed look at the time. “Your future parents are waiting for you. It’s nearly time to go. Tick tock…!”

“What’s on offer?” I stalled.

“Well,” said the Creator Being, “I think I should put you down for the misunderstood art of procrastination, because you seem to be doing that one quite well already. And being a bit pedantic and fussy about your options, I mean ‘extremely meticulous’, for the same reason.”

“Huh.”

“I can also offer you a spot of brains, a fairly decent claim to a face and body that won’t curdle milk, a great work ethic and a strong dash of kindness towards your fellow man. Oh, and a love of animals also, except for scorpions, snakes, slugs, snails and spiders. I’m saving that misunderstood section of my creation for the sometimes equally misunderstood Weirdy Beardies…

JB

…who are going to make programmes for NatGeo Wild and other environmental shows, if that’s okay with you?”

“That’s fine, thank you. I think I already don’t like scorpions, snakes, slugs, snails and spiders, so no worries. So what’s the overall picture then?”

“Well,” said the Creator Being, “here’s the overall package. You will, essentially, be kind to people of all ages as well as most animals, you will be good with words, you will look okay on a bad day and perfectly acceptable on a good one, you will have a great work ethic and a bum that comfortably fills your Levis, whether you like it or not. And in due course, your mothering instincts will be fulfilled by having two boys one day, to love and cherish and share with them your love of animals and words.”

creator God

“Will I be wealthy?”

The Creator Being checked His/Her notes. “I can’t promise that it’s on the cards, although it’s not impossible with the mix we’ve agreed on. But I’m afraid I must warn you that most of the really big money goes to the girls that have always-pretty hair, legs that start under their armpits, bee-stung lips and a booty that looks great in hotpants.”

The Creator Being then gave me a sneak preview of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Spinning Around’, which of course is the reason she introduced those gold lamé hotpants to the world in the first place.

Gold lame hotpants

“But that’s not fair!” gasped my ethereal pre-earthly-body self. “The lyrics are rubbish! The song is just an excuse to waggle her booty around!”

The Creator Being looked a bit annoyed. “Agreed re the song lyrics, but you must admit the tune is catchy,” He/She retorted. “And you must also admit that that booty is a work of art! But we are getting side-tracked…

“Now listen here, time is ticking… are we agreed on the final parameters of your earthly bodily self? Because it really is time for you to head off to earth now, where you will promptly forget all about this conversation until some time in your future when you are driving a silver grey Fiat Panda en route to work. And then, in any case, you will most likely think that you just imagined it all, or that you need to make enquiries about stress medication.”

“I guess that’s fine… thank you, O Great Creator Being, I can see you’ve put some thought into this.”
He/She smiled kindly.

“Have fun on earth and don’t forget about the Me-Time when the children are getting bigger. You can find ways. And don’t worry about the money, if it doesn’t come in supreme abundance. It’s not everything, you know.”

the-universe-carina-nebula

And then I imagine that we must have said goodbye, because I don’t remember much else until I was about three or four, when we lived in Port Elizabeth for a while and I shared our garden with a pet tortoise, and from then on memories and life started moving forward.

So now here I am today: a bit tired and stressed and not yet abundantly blessed by the Money Fairy, but I guess that’s okay. I have many other blessings to be thankful for.

Although here is just one last, random thought.

Perhaps, if I keep on cycling regularly and cut way, way down on the carbs, I could eventually go and look for some lamé hotpants the same size as Kylie’s.

Just in case she becomes ill with a gastro bug some day while filming her latest video, conveniently around the corner from where I hang out, and suddenly needs a body double. That could be worth some decent moolah, even just for a couple of days?

Not to mention… fun!

MAIN--Kylie-Minogue-Bottom again

The joy of frogs

We’ve had a pretty dry, hot summer here in Joburg and so, somewhat unusually for us sun lovers, the rain – when it fell – was almost uniformly welcomed, rather than receiving its more normal reaction of mutterings, grumbles and epithets.

It really has been quite unbelievably hot at times, so the cooling rains made us feel as though we could all breathe again.

I was driving back from work recently during a really brilliant rain storm and I chose to take a scenic detour past one of the city’s big parks, which fortunately for me is on one of my possible routes home. To my great delight, the frogs from the park had come out in force from their usual hiding places, so I spent a particular section of the road driving carefully in the gloom to make sure I drove around and not over them.

frog sitting in road

They don’t have much road sense, frogs. Luckily it’s usually a fairly quiet road.

I thought they looked so sweet sitting in the puddles soaking up the water. At that moment, it seemed that every fibre of their little froggy beings was devoted to staying plonked on their haunches looking up at the falling raindrops, as if to say, “We love you! Where have you been?”

frogs in rain

I was similarly thrilled when I was at home one night during another recent downpour and I suddenly saw, through a window, our resident froggy shuffling along in a dignified manner just outside. So I went out into the darkness to say hello and get a closer look at him (well, in my head it’s a him), and again I watched the joy that frogs display when the rains bucket down all over their bodies.

I understand that the presence of frogs tends to be a good barometer of an environment’s overall health, so as a family we’ve always been thrilled to find evidence of a frog or two in our garden. On an infamous occasion a few years ago, Frank even scolded our then-tenant for getting in the frog’s way and inadvertently scaring it: “K! Don’t hurt my frog!”

As our young tenant had got an enormous fright herself when the silly frog unexpectedly jumped up on her leg in the gloom of a summer dusk, she was not impressed at playing second fiddle to an amphibian. But she did laugh at the incident a bit later (when her adrenaline levels were back to normal).

On a more serious note, I am always saddened when I read about frogs dying en mass in different parts of the world due to factors like pollution, vanishing habitats, alien predators and strange microbial illnesses. While I don’t necessarily want to pick up a frog and pet it…

tiny frog on finger

…in the same way that I don’t necessarily want to stroke a Great White shark on the snout, I like the idea of the presence of frogs in our world (and Great Whites in our oceans: I don’t want one in our local public swimming pool, thanks very much).

 

These gutsy amphibians are so varied, for starters: we get little delicate tree frogs and big ponderous bull frogs; sombre-coloured grey and brown frogs versus multi-coloured frogs that are tinged with blue, yellow or red; and frogs that actually lay nests for their tadpoles in trees.

blue frog

Frogs and toads have been around for such a long time on the planet that I think it’s our collective duty to cherish them when they do come out to say hello.

frogs crossing sign

I would really hate to think that one day in the future, my children might look around in a rainstorm in a park for the frogs that should be jumping all around their legs, and say, into a deafening absence, “We love you! Where have you gone?”

frog peaking water

 

Going to the gypsy fair

My boys are slightly annoyed with me at the moment. I recently changed the CD in the Panda when they weren’t looking, which caused a certain amount of consternation.

For now, it’s au revoir American rock, in the form of Journey and Steve Perry’s famously-ranging tones…

steve perry journey

 

…and hello to Irish rock and soul band Hothouse Flowers and the heartfelt vocals of Liam Ó Maonlaí. Life is about change and variety after all, is it not?

Liam Hothouseflowers

 

I tried to tell this to my children, politely and diplomatically, but they weren’t impressed. My response was to be greeted by two very mulish little faces. Ah well, they’re only ten and eight, and to their great credit they really do like the music of Journey.

When diplomacy didn’t work I simply reminded them that it is, actually, Mom’s taxi. Therefore, Mom’s music rules, she has final veto powers and she will turn bear-ish if pushed too far.

polar bear

(I know – I’ll tell Liam that this new lead singer shares his name! Maybe that will impress him.)

Anyway, that was a short while ago. We’ve since had a few instances when the CD was sneakily changed back to Journey when I wasn’t looking, but we managed to keep these at ‘instance’ level and not ‘international incident’ level.

So now the boys are starting to thaw just a little, having finally permitted themselves to discover a couple of tracks that they actually like.

My own current favourite Hothouse Flowers track, during my drives in my Panda, beckons sweetly and enticingly of running away from current responsibilities:

bareback horse

Blazing eyes, bareback horses
And a redhead smile
I’m tempted strongly, strongly tempted
By the call of the wild

Going to the gypsy fair
I’m gonna find some freedom there
I wanna dance ’til I don’t care
At the gypsy fair.

Because, you know, sometimes a girl just likes to dream of a brief hiatus with no responsibilities for a while. However, that’s not on the cards just yet, and so I will look for other inspiration from my desk area at the office, where I have an image stuck up that reminds me to ‘Look up, get up and never give up’.

But I think I could be allowed to permit myself one heartfelt sigh before I get back to work. And then I’ll put my nose once more to the grindstone, with just one proviso: every now and then, I plan to look out of the window and dream of the time when I will be free to go to the gypsy fair.

And I will dance till I don’t care.

dancing gypsy

 

Walking up the hill in your absence

My dearest dad

You’ve been gone for about 36 hours now and we are all still getting used to your final, definitive physical absence.

This morning I walked the children to school.

The way back, as you know, presents a slight incline. I’m sure that clever engineering mind of yours would easily have been able to tell my less mathematical mind exactly what the gradient is.

All I can tell you is that walking back up that little hill to the house suddenly seemed like climbing a mountain.

But life goes on, doesn’t it? And we have to do the things that we have to do. Sometimes we just have to get on with it, while being as kind to ourselves and others as we can.

You and my mom taught me that.

Linda and Ralph in St Peter's Square

So I stopped a few times en route and looked at the view of the nearby Melville koppie under a beautiful clear blue early-summer sky.

Melville koppie

I felt the cool breeze on my skin and I even stopped to smell some lavender in a neighbour’s garden. I thought of you every step of the way.

For now, it is enough just to see your face in a patch of clear blue sky when I need to keep on moving forward.

Flower-sky-clouds-sunshine-mood-485x728

Dear God, we’re OUT of sherry!

It has been such a week on the homework front. With both children, it seemed like the homework load was just spiralling off into semi-unmanageable territory.

On a daily basis it has been h-e-a-v-y. I kid you not – daily.

 

H

E

A

V

Y

We are talking projects to run with, both big and small.

boys projects August 2015

We are talking weekly tests and the need to crack the revision whip for Liam, who is blessed with enough brain cells that he has already mastered the fine art of ‘coasting’, and now needs to have this habit corrected.

We are talking newsletters from the school that need to be read and forms that need to be returned: Matthew, following in his big brother’s footsteps, has made the Under 8 hockey team and while this is a cause of celebration, Well done sweetheart! it comes with a lot of info to p-r-o-c-e-s-s. Maps. Indemnity forms. General information.

Argh.

 

A

R

G

H

 

Sometimes it all just seems a bit much, especially at the end of a long day.

Last night we got home well after dark and had to do a lot of cutting up of cardboard and sticking of pictures. In short, we had to make up a set of cards for a memory game as part of Liam’s English curriculum. And Matthew had a speech to practise: ‘My life as a mosquito’ (yes, really).

And this was all over and above the homework that they’d already completed during the afternoon – but you see, Mom, aka moi, is the ‘speech expert’ and the ‘projects expert’, and fair enough: I do, mostly, enjoy these lateral moments of advanced learning.

 

Mostly.

But not so much last night.

 

It was fast approaching 8:30pm and I was wearily aware that I had not had a break since getting up many, many hours before. It was the third heavy homework night in a row. It was all just getting a bit much. Luckily, there is always Frasier to fall back on in a crisis, and so we did.

In our house, we love watching the Frasier series. We have every episode from season 1 to 11. And even though Frasier and his brother Niles and all the rest of the gang have been off air now for over a decade, in our house the humour still rules. It’s just so clever and the boys have grown up on it. (Winnie the Pooh who? Just kidding.)

 

So we put the cardboard away with the intention of finishing the mini-project in the morning (which we did).

And we put on Frasier once the boys were both bathed and ready to pop into bed.

And we watched an episode from one of the later seasons, and we laughed and we restored our energy.

 

frasier niles

 

The extract below shows why I like watching Frasier so much – this particular line just kills me every time!

 

Frasier: My show today was a fiasco. For the second day in a row,

we had virtually no callers. It’s getting harder and harder

to blame it on Roz.

Martin: Well, maybe you fixed everybody.

Frasier: Oh wait, there was one caller. My date for Saturday night

called to cancel because I am not her type. Oh, and guess

what? Her honesty was not refreshing.

 

Frasier picks up a bottle. It is empty.

 

Frasier: Dear God, we’re out of sherry. Insult… [placing the bottle

         down] made injury.

 

He goes to the kitchen. Martin follows.

 

(a little later in the episode)

 

Frasier opens the door to Niles.

Frasier: Niles.

Niles: Oh, Frasier, I have had… the worst day imaginable. I need a

sherry.

Frasier: Brace yourself.

Niles: [noticing the empty bottle] You always think it’s going to

happen to someone else…

 

 

And there’s the point. Sometimes bad days do happen to good people.

And when you are out of sherry, as I have been for some years now actually, wine is a marvellous plan B.

 

But if any of my friends would like to buy me sherry again at any point, I seem to recall that I liked that expensive stuff from the UK that came in that beautiful blue bottle… #JustSaying

 

 

 

 

Precedent setting

“Mommy,” said Matthew, gracing me with his most winning smile and then flinging his arms affectionately around me, “Can I please have a three-day birthday this year also? Like Liam did? Pleeeeeeeaaase?”

He was, of course, harking back to what had turned out to be our three-day birthday celebrations for his big brother a few months before. I noted with some interest that Matthew was also admirably demonstrating his solid grasp of the concept of ‘setting a precedent’.

Considering that he was turning only seven, I thought this was quite sussed. Not entirely unique – I think all children who are over three and have siblings pretty much get the concept. It lurks under the umbrella of general fairness, usually prefaced with remarks like, “Well, he/she has already got an XYZ and so I think you should buy me one also otherwise it’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr.”

My real reason for being amused at Matthew’s understanding of precedent-setting lay mainly in how he’d presented his request.

Frank and I have long been aware of Matthew’s uncanny ability to turn on the cuteness factor when he wants to get his own way. We believe he went to a charm school for babies when we weren’t looking.

 

Matthew sunglasses

We have no idea where he gets it from but when he wants to be, he is a winning flirt. This includes flirting, as may be required, with his parents.

Under the circumstances, we had no option but to acquiesce. It did seem only fair. We were slightly disadvantaged in accommodating Matthew in that Liam’s birthday had fallen this year on a public holiday, and I’d then been obliged to take two days leave from work straight after that because it was school holidays. And thus had occurred the ‘three-day birthday’.

So, in the absence of a convenient public holiday for our second-born, we started a few days early with Matthew. The weekend before his birthday we went to Bambanani to spend his birthday voucher. Once again the children ate spare ribs (not an everyday treat).

So all good.

Then came his actual birthday on a normal weekday, and cupcakes went to the school to be shared out among classmates and teachers. Presents, of course, were also given out in the morning before school, the big one being the PSP. We didn’t really have an option here: Liam had been given a PSP four months previously and there was no way that this particular gift could NOT be repeated for Matthew.

Happiness is… both your children engrossed in their portable electronic games while their parents get to read books/chat/catch up with chores/watch favourite TV programmes without being interrupted by the sound of piping voices from the small beings in the house.

And then, on the Friday afternoon after his birthday, Matthew, big brother and some of his friends went to play battle games. After putting on a cool jacket over the child’s normal clothes, the aim is to shoot laser guns at each other in a dark maze-like place that I personally find to be claustrophobic and frightening, but then I’m a girl so I suppose I have an excuse. (Apparently this game has been around for years and years but I missed it because I was perennially reading.)

WorldDominator and DeathStar

Code names like ‘Armageddon’, ‘World Dominator’ and ‘Death Star’ (well, something along those lines) are given out and you can watch the children climb up the rankings of the games on screens outside the Battle Zone. The birthday package includes three games in total, each lasting 15 minutes. Besides a brief scare during which Matthew skidded and fell onto his laser gun while running gleefully out of the second session because he was so pleased with his performance, all was, thankfully, incident-free.

incident free

After the Battle Zone, eight happy small boys plus assorted parents and family members then moved on to a nearby restaurant for the pizza and birthday cake part of the birthday celebration.

This included handing out a small gift for each child in the form of a brilliantly simply flying object resembling early helicopter dynamics, apparently based on a long-ago Da Vinci invention.

Well, actually, this particular theory is absolute surmise on my part, but the 21st century’s ability to borrow from the past in the name of reinventing the wheel never ceases to amaze me. Just look at how legwarmers and clogs occasionally pop up again, albeit briefly, and don’t get me started on the bubble skirt (and really – who would EVER have predicted that?).

So in between munching on pizza, pasta and birthday cake, a happy time was held by all children while they played with their unidentified Da Vinci-esque objects in a safe place outside.

birthday cake Matthew

And so the birthday party officially ended shortly afterwards, and I was very grateful that the next day was Saturday and I could have a bit of a lie-in and relax, in the sure knowledge that all parental birthday duties were now over – and, moreover, fairly executed.

“Mommy,” said Matthew early the next morning, when I was still waking up, “you know how I’m having a three-day birthday this year like Liam did? I still have one more day to go…”

He said this while flashing me his most winning smile, and while I was still a bit vulnerable and not quite compos mentos.

“Okay, my love,” I said absentmindedly.

“…Wait a minute!” shouted my brain synapses as they finally started firing on all cylinders again. “Oy! We have actually fulfilled the mandate here!”

So nice try, little man. I am NOT setting a precedent for a four-day birthday celebration next year.

Unless it begins with mine.

 

 

 

A feast of birthdays or a birthday feast?

Happy belated birthday Liam!

I haven’t written for a long time (clearly). Since my close encounter with rock stardom, as described in my last entry, Liam has turned nine years old and we celebrated for what seemed like about a week, although it was really only three days.

The Monday of his actual birthday was a public holiday, so we were able to go out for sushi as a family (the sushi was the birthday boy’s request). I am always so proud when my children use their chopsticks. Such little sophisticates!

On Tuesday, I took a day’s leave and the boys and I went off to Bambanani, where the little gourmands then chose to tuck into spare ribs.

Wednesday was the really big day: another day’s leave for me and I took five little boys to the games arcade and then a third birthday meal. It was a bit like herding cats, only significantly more difficult.

Imagine: I stayed cool, calm and collected throughout. My occasional alter-ego, Shouting Mommy, was nowhere to be found. I am quite proud of this.

 

incredibles mom and dash

But it was worth every moment, not to mention every rand spent on every ride and electronic diversion. I have never seen such joy on a child’s face as when my birthday boy and his friends came off what I can only describe as the ‘disco-ball bumper cars ride’.

Matthew spinning

For this, you must imagine five little boys riding around on circular hovercrafts, complete with their own individual controls that could move the hovercrafts not only in any desired trajectory, but which could also make them spin on their own axes.

 

Matthew spinning fast

 

Matthew spin grin

Add in flashing lights on the floor and loud music, as well as the stated purpose of barging into all your friends as often as possible for five whole minutes, and you can imagine the delighted squeals and giggles.

 

hovercraft bang

Yes.

Little boys, when given access to a collective hearts’ desire like this, do indeed giggle and squeal.

I am stating this for the record while my boys are nine and six, and plan to remind them of this fact should they get uppity with me in the future, after their voices have broken and they’ve started shaving.

But back to when Liam turned nine.

Restaurant-wise, the children then deigned to lower their standards a tiny bit and we hit the Spur for a late lunch/early supper, where burgers were the order of the day.

At this point, I’d invited my friend Anne to join me in a glass or two of wine. She accepted my invitation most graciously – even though it was the Spur, where the waiters break out into odd line dances around the restaurant from time to time – for which I was very grateful. I was starting to feel Shouting Mommy stirring in her sleep and I wanted to keep her in her box for the day and not come out and spoil things.

calvinsmom1

 

And on Thursday, with the three-day birthday celebration over, I went back to work for a comparative rest. But the look on my little birthday boy’s face will stay with me for a long time.

 

Birthday boy smiling

Now, if I could only work shorter days and spend more time with my children and more time writing… that would be a dream come true.

Working on it, dear readers. It’s in the three-year plan.

 

Rock stars and superheroes: cut from the same cloth?

On one of my recent trips in the Panda, I announced to the other occupants of the car, rather grandly and with some pleasure, that I was going to see Bruce Springsteen performing live in Joburg.

 

Bruce Springsteen

 

However, as I made the announcement to my two children, currently aged 6 and 8, it was not received with the awed admiration I’d been expecting.

“Who is Bruce Springsteen?” said Liam baldly.

I had not quite foreseen this, but made a quick recovery.

“Bruce Springsteen is a world famous ROCK STAR!” I informed him, reverently.

His response was deflating as he said with childish indifference: “Huh. Well, IIII haven’t heard of him!”

“That is because you are still young,” I replied, somewhat coldly. “If you were a bit older you would know exactly who Bruce Springsteen is. He is a LEGEND! And my lovely friends Anne and Mel bought me a ticket to surprise me, because we all used to listen to him when we were young. I mean younger.”

“Yes,” interjected Matthew, ever-supportive of his big brother, “but he’s not a SUPERHERO.”

This lack of respect for he who is also known as The Boss was starting to grate a little.

“There are many people in this world,” I responded, still with a hint of ice in my voice, “who would argue that he is indeed a superhero. Many people think that rock stars like Bruce Springsteen are also superheroes.”

(I refrained from adding in, ‘So jolly well sucks boo’, but at that moment, I dearly wanted to.)

Now, Matthew and Liam are both very literal young men and they still tend to see the world in black and white. However, they do also try to be fair and humour their ageing mother from time to time when something is patently important to her, even if they don’t quite understand why. 

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So they started to think about it and I watched from the rear view mirror as the cogs began to turn in their young minds.

It was rather endearing, seeing them trying to equate my concept of the rock star with their cherished concept of the superhero.

Matthew got there first.

“We-ell,” he said thoughtfully, “if you changed ‘Springsteen’ to ‘Wayne’ then he would be… Bruce Wayne! Who is Batman!”

Liam nodded in enthusiastic endorsement.

“Maybe Bruce Springsteen is also Bruce Wayne!” he chimed in excitedly.

BATMAN_zpsf64d24a6

 

Upon which I managed to keep a straight face – and also carry on driving in a straight line – while simultaneously clarifying that Bruce Springsteen was not actually Batman in disguise, even though they both have seriously good physiques.

(At least, I don’t think so: mainly because superheroes always have less flamboyant alter egos as part of their disguises, right?)   

Later at the concert…

20140201_181154

…I decided that even if he wasn’t Batman, Bruce and The (ever-inspiring) E Street Band were indeed superheroes. As they started their three-hour plus concert with a tribute to our beloved late great Nelson Mandela

Madiba

 

…I remembered how, around the globe, musicians – famous and less famous – have always helped to draw attention to rampant injustice; promote a worthy cause; raise money to feed the starving.

The entire concert was a fantastic experience. I didn’t know all the music, but  if I wasn’t entirely familiar with all the songs, the sheer mastery of the musical moments made up for it. Even the heavy rain that fell later didn’t (if you’ll pardon me for this one) dampen our enthusiasm. 

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And The Boss smiled and smiled as he played and sang and bounded around the stage. I have never seen a rock star of his calibre (and I’ve been lucky enough to see a few) have so much fun while performing. Joburg rocked in the pouring rain that night, and Bruce was our leader.

At the end of the show, when he’d played his second (or was it third?) encore and finally left the stage, he was humble enough to end with another great musician’s tribute to another departed South African freedom fighter.

I had goosebumps going up and down my spine when I realised that Peter Gabriel’s heart-wrenching anthem to justice, ‘Biko’, was playing us out of the stadium.

Peter Gabriel

 

“Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko

Yihal Moja, Yihla Moja

The man is dead

The man is dead…”

And the eyes of the world

Are watching now

Watching now…

Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko…”

Such humility in your greatness, Bruce, by playing out your fans with another musician’s tribute. We don’t – often enough – see humility and greatness combined, and yet I feel that the truly great are always humble.

Bruce 2

 

So I really do think that some rock stars are superheroes.

And jolly well sucks boo to anyone who doesn’t agree.

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