Friday, 27 April 2007

Front-bottoms and other silly words for private parts

So the other night my seven-year-old daughter finally popped the question. "How does the sperm actually get into the VJ, mom?".

I gave a panicked snort and hot coffee shot out of my nose. "Er, erm, I was wondering when you were going to ask me that, darling! Good question, darling!" I gabbled, trying to buy some time. "How do you think it gets in?"

She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started to draw. "Well, the dad lies on one side of the bed, and the mum lies on the other side. Then the sperm shoots out of his bollocks and then it goes Ping! Ping! Ping!". (She drew arrows whizzing up and down the bed and bouncing off the bed posts). "Just like a ball in a pinball machine. Then it shoots up the mom's VJ."

I quickly disabused her of this notion, using some (rather fetching, even if I say so myself) anatomic diagrams of my own. "You are KIDDING me!" she said. "Gross." And, thankfully, there were no more questions, and not a hint more interest.

Isn't the term 'VJ' delightful? It's just right. Not too clinical, not at all twee, but sensible, descriptive and matter-of-fact. ('Vagina' always sounds so, well, thrust-in-your face, so to speak; 'fanny' is sweet but a bit coy and old-maidish).

The term crept into our family lingo after I read Jonathan Safran Foer's enchanting book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last year. The story's narrator, Oskar, uses the word frequently in relation to his mother. Here's an excerpt from (Oskar's talking to Gerald, a limo driver, who's driving him to a cemetery:)

...And then I thought of something, so I said it. "Actually, if limousines were extremely long, they wouldn't need drivers. You could just get in the back seat, walk through the limousine, and then get out of the front seat, which would be where you wanted to go. So in this situation, the front seat would be at the cemetery." ...

...."Now that I'm thinking about it," I told Gerald, "they could make an incredibly long limousine that had its back seat at your mom's VJ and its front seat at your mausoleum, and it would be as long as your life."

Shortly after I'd read it, I heard Oprah using the word 'Va-jay-jay' on her programme.

Anway, the reason I'm going on about this is because a clinic nurse recently advised my sister not to refer to her baby's privates by anything but their strictly correct anatomical names, because it's important for kids to call a spade a spade in this day of rampant sexual abuse of children. All very well, but can you imagine the poor lass putting up her hand in class and saying, "Excuse me Miss, but my vulva is stinging?".

Some years ago, at a dinner party, the discussion turned to the names that parents gave to to their kids' privates. (Look, it was towards the end of the evening). Names for boys' equipment included (apart from the innocuous 'winkie' and 'willy'), 'tank', 'todger', 'percy', 'jolog', 'piepie', 'peter', 'ding-a-ling' and, incredibly, 'secret bit of flesh'.

For girls: 'daisy', 'fan', 'peanut', 'noo-noo', 'kitty', 'peachie', 'cookie', 'front-bottom' and 'muffin'.

Reading over this list now, and seeing how sugar-coated the girls' nicknames are, maybe the clinic nurse has a point.

Here's an interesting moms' discussion (titled "Teaching our daughter about her cheeseburger") about names for privates (hilarious reading) and a thought-provoking analysis by Mimi Spencer, from The Guardian, who concludes the piece by saying,

If girls are to be given a chance to normalise their relationship with, and develop understanding of, their anatomy, we surely need to get over the giggles and arrive at one term which fits. But, please, not Kipper. It gives me the willies."

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Live cancer sufferer advertises in 'Death' column

I was reading the hatchings, matchings and dispatchings in the Star classifieds today and saw this in the Deaths column:

Heim-Stafford: Marnie
Please help me keep my name out of here. I am 36 years old and should be looking forward to raising my three and a half year old son, Ayron. But I have breast cancer. The drug Herceptin will give me a chance to fight for my life, but my medical aid has refused to pay for all of it. So I am raising the rest of the funds myself. If you can help my fight for survival, please visit

Geez, that's a cheeky way to ask for money. But you've got to hand it to her (money, I mean), for originality. Good luck Marnie! Link

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Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Kids' parties: a competitive sport?

There are only three* things that I've loathed about having kids, and at the top of the list is birthday parties. Please indulge me while I rant: I've been waiting for 16 years to find a place to get this off my chest and now I have my own blog (whhaah-ha-ha.... evil laugh) I can let it all hang out.

I have many axes to grind with the moneyed, over-indulgent helicopter-parents of Johannesburg, and this is the sharpest axe of all.

I'm tempted to bore you with a list of all the disgusting, boastful birthday parties I've been to in my career as a mother, but I don't have ten days to spare, so instead, I've composed a list of do's and don'ts for anyone contemplating throwing a party for Precious.

If you're planning a party, DON'T:

* Organise a party that is 35 km out of town. That's just rude. No matter how cute that Pony Club is, or how adorable that Party Farmyard, I don't want to do a 70-km round trip on a Saturday afternoon, when I could be vegging on the couch with a packet of chips and a bottle of wine, or on a Wednesday afternoon, when I have work to go back to, or other kids to schlepp around town. Find a venue that's within a 5-km radius of the school.

* Have the party at your local Country Club. This is offensive and tasteless on every level, especially if there are silver chafing dishes filled with manky old sausage rolls, and white-gloved waiters dispensing tea and Appletisers. I'm really impressed that you're a member of such a club, but does your kid give a toss?

* Have a barman, catered food, a sushi chef, performing poodles, a popcorn vendor and a choir at the party. If you want to impress your friends, have your own dinner party. I know this is a great opportunity to show off your kelims, your orchids, your imported French antique furniture and your highly trained gem of a maid, but please focus on the needs of your child. One jumping castle will do: no need to hire a train, bumper cars, a trampoline, a clown, a magician and a face-painter. Also, there's no call to give out party packs consisting of a R450 Lego set for the boys and a Gucci bag for the girls. A water pistol and a Fizzer will suffice.

* Invite 65 children. Your five-year-old can't cope with so many kids. All he wants is a few buddies, a cake, candles, sweeties, and lots of presents. But, at the same time, don't....

* ...invite only half the class, leaving out the losers and the fat kids. If you want to invite only a select few, do it via SMS or email and tell Precious to shut up about it. Please don't give her ten hand-written invitations and tell her to distribute them to her best friends.

* Combine the party with a lekker braai for all your buddies. You should not be serving, or drinking, alcohol while you're supposed to be in charge of 35 children. Bring out a bottle of wine (or ten!) when the parents arrive to fetch the kids, by all means, but please don't mix dop with jumping castles, foefie slides and farmyard animals.

* Expect me to make small talk about nappies, gyms, highlights, coffee shops and Precious's latest school report while I sit resentfully at the table with a bunch of mothers who have the collective brain power of a mosquito. Rather let me sulk in a corner of the garden with a newspaper.

* Forget to make Precious write a note saying thanks for the prezzie. Ok, it only cost thirty ront, which is about one-thousandth of what the party cost, but it really is the thought that counts. It is polite to write a thank-you note (and that goes for adults too).

* Get mad with me if I scone all the cocktail pork sossies and the jelly-orange wedges. They are so much tastier than the tuna sashimi.

* Let your four-year-old trash my house, and giggle at his "Fuck off, you old bag!" when I reprimand him for smearing cake-icing on my PC screen. Rather say, "I won't tolerate such disgusting behaviour. It's off to bed with you, lad, and NO party pack!".

If you're invited to a party, DON'T:

* Forget to RSVP. That' s just rude.

* Bring along extra kids, friend and relatives, without asking. That's also rude.

* Fetch your kids an hour and a half after the agreed-upon collection time. I'm not your babysitter.

* The other two things I've loathed about having kids: 1. Making lunch boxes. 2. Not going on cool holidays to exotic destinations.

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Are K-words funny? Inherently, apparently!

There's a wonderful article at Wikipedia about inherently funny words and numbers: that is, the notion that certain words are just hilarious, not because of what they mean, but because of how they sound - they may be funny because of onomatopoeia, sexual innuendo, cultural beliefs, etc.

The article gives lovely list of words and numbers (including many gems from Python, Douglas Adams, Gary Larson, The Simpsons, etc), among them Slartibartfast, 42, galoshes, cow, garbanzos, wankel rotary engine, 69, nonce, kumquats, and so on.

It also mentions that one H. L. Mencken wrote in a column published in the New Yorker in 1948 that "K, for some occult reason, has always appealed to the oafish risibles [oh dear oh dear] of the American plain people, and its presence in the names of many ... places has helped to make them joke towns ... for example, Kankakee, Kalamazoo, Hoboken, Hohokus, Yonkers, Squeedunk, and Brooklyn." I assume that the writer, by referring to 'plain people', means Native Americans, and I'm sorry if this quote offends anyone, but I include it here because...

...this got me thinking: are words that contain a K inherently more funny? In the case of Seffrican English, and Afrikaans, definitely! Consider these words: kakkerlak, klap, bok, bakkie, blik, befok, bliksem, boykie, jislaaik, kief, knyp, kussed, oke, plak, skyf, skollie, skelm, snoek, skaam, stukkie, swak, vloek and twak. (Thanks to Wavescape's Surfrikan Slang for some of these words)

Also got me wondering, are words containing the letter K also inherently funny in any of SA's indigenous languages? If not, what words are inherently funny, and why?

Here's a short list of words that make me laugh every time I hear them: broeks, pootle, fish, boeries, pants, perp, snout, pip, douche, pronk, doek, lappie, squat, squirt, klinker-brick, carbuncle, lunch, snotklap, spume, platypus, bollocks, scoot, littoral zone, fork, cleat, proxy, midge, undies, ditty, peckish, gizzard, puce, mucus, snood, jab, berk, nipper, totty, flap and pork.

Oh, and my friend C reminds me of the word "flange". Flange!!

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'Citizen journalism is fascism waiting to happen'

Columnist Ephraim Schwartz of InfoWorld reckons we should all beware of 'mob media'.

'Citizen journalism is a form of fascism waiting to happen.

Now I know fascism requires the centralization of power, and that would appear to be the opposite of citizen journalism. But think of dark historic times such as the Salem witch trials or Hitler's rise to power.

They both started with the rantings of individuals, but somehow those individuals became "thought leaders," and around them coalesced a central organization made up of like-minded individuals'. Link

Hmm... interesting argument, but I reckon we're all in more immediate danger of dying of boredom: read this rant by Dr Marcus, of 1000brownMnMs, who complains about the 'total shit' posted on SA's funniest blog.

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Muriel goes for a walk

The latest from my darling friend Muriel.

Cooking is not the same as wanking?!! Oh god, Mur, how I LOVE you!!!! Have just come back from a wonderful bracing walk with my friend Pete and his mad dogs (Honda and Rat Fink). For walk, read ‘stagger’. We had a gorgeous time wandering down a long farm road in the middle of nowhere, chatting our heads off and not realising just how much we were being aided by gravity, then turned around and clocked with immense disappointment that we had to walk back UP it. (Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tilt the world when you needed to?)

Still, despite the burn, autumn is astonishingly beautiful in the koontreh – everything is tan and purple, and distances elongate, and there’s an interesting icy woodsmoke frizz in the air.

Honda created havoc that we could not control by leaping energetically into roadside farmlands and excitedly chasing sheep. Farmers quartering their properties in their late-model 4X4s do not take kindly to this, and will stop and freely threaten to kill you. Pete and I tried to purse our lips and whistle but couldn’t because we were panting too much. ‘Oh well,’ said Pete, ‘roast lamb tonight.’ (Not really.) Then drove back home in Pete's ancient Mercedes with Honda hanging over the back of my seat, dribbling saliva into my hair. Eau de Ridgeback. The Rat Fink is always in such a state of excitement that all she can do is stand on her hind legs like some sort of untidy circus trick and squeal. Pete gets very annoyed with her, but as long as my friends’ dependants aren’t whining, ‘Mom, I haven’t got any clean socks,’ I’m happy. I get enough of that at home.

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Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Wiccan symbol OK for soldiers' graves

CNN is reporting this morning that the pentacle, a symbol of the Wiccan religion, is to be allowed on the graves of fallen soldiers buried in national cemetries in the US.

'A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans adds the five-pointed star to the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers,' says the report.

'This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the Wiccans in the lawsuit.'

I'm no fan of religion of any sort, but jeez, I can't help enjoying seeing Dubya and his Christian cronies getting a good snotklap. Link

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Monday, 23 April 2007

Muriel: Do you smoke through a hangover?

The latest email from my dear Muriel (don't kill me for posting this Mur, but it's a good question):

Have to travel ALL THE WAY to town tomorrow fetch my mad gay friend Brad (who looks and acts like Freddy Mercury in his prime) because I didn’t do it on Friday, because he had a self-confessed unmanageable hangover. I know those too well to think that I could get the best out of someone I see only every seven years or so.

But tomorrow apparently I will have one myself. Knowing that I might not manage, I actually phoned the village's Parcel Post emergency line tonight and asked if they fetch and deliver people. There was a heavy silence on the line, then the person said, ‘Um. Are you joking?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘Um. Well, okay. But it will cost you.’

‘How much?’

‘Three hundred rand.’

‘You must be fucking joking!' I screamed. 'What you are, Wells Fargo?’

‘Wells what?’ he asked.

I can’t bear talking to people born after 1970.

Re Brad's hangover, he said, on Friday, ‘Don’t worry, I’m smoking my way through it.’

I am much in mind of smoking at the moment since I am on cigarette #1479. I have literally not drawn a non-nicotine breath since 11 am. I fully expect to die from emphysema within the next few days. Still, I can’t imagine how anyone can smoke through a hangover. I am always so thoroughly poisoned that even drawing God’s blue air is painful. (Post this question on your blog, please: do you smoke through a hangover, and if so, how?)

Comments, anyone?

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Joke: Madiba meets Bush

Nelson Mandela is enjoying a hearty breakfast - bacon, eggs, coffee, croissants, toast, butter, jam, etc., when Bush, chewing gum, sits next to him and starts a conversation:

Bush: "You South Africans eat the whole bread?"
Mandela: "Of course."
Bush (blowing bubble): "We don't. In the States, we only eat what's inside. The crusts we collect in a container, recycle, rebake them into croissants and sell them toSouth Africa."

Mandela: "Oh really?"

Bush: "D"ya eat jam with the bread?"
Mandela: "Of course."
Bush (chuckling and crackling his gum between his teeth): "We don't. In the States we eat fresh fruit for breakfast, put all the peels, seeds and leftovers into containers, recycle them into jam and sell it to South Africa."

Mandela: "Do you have sex in America?"
Bush: "Of course we do."
Mandela: "And what do you do with the condoms?"
Bush: "Throw them away of course."

Mandela: "We don't. We pack them into containers, recycle them, melt them down into chewing gum and sell it to America."

Thanks Ruth.

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Saturday, 21 April 2007

Zoo Lake Bowling Club: how I love my 'local'

Just returned from one or two pints of good ale (ok, maybe a few more) at the Zoo Lake Bowling Club, my local and all-time favourite Jozi eating spot. How is it that they still manage to serve the best plate of pub food in the entire province for only R25 per plate? (Their Portuguese steak, egg, chips and peppery sauce is just beyond delicious, especially if you're on a diet (har, har), and don't even start me on the bangers, mash and onion gravy, or the club's legendary sticky toffee pudding).

The thing I like best about the bowling club is that it's so old-fashioned: rickety tables, clunky white plates, guttering candles, and cheap drinks that arrive in five minutes. The food's hot, fresh and eye-wateringly good, and it's arranged FLAT on the plate (no vertical arrangements or tottering salad towers here; no mushroom foams or parmesan farts or flash-frozen toothpaste, or any such wanky flights of fancy masquerading as cooking). I also dig the noisy drinking crowd (nice, at my advanced age, to mingle with a student or two) and the fact that you don't have to put on your Manolos to go there. A tattered pair of trackie-bums and your filthy old Crocs don't even raise an eyebrow.

On the subject of bowling clubs, my Ozzie sister tells me that bowling and bowling clubs (or 'Bolos' as they're called down under), are getting more and more popular. As the traditional membership of bowling clubs begins to age, she tells me, bowling clubs have been forced to throw open their doors to a younger audience. Tonight I was astonished to see a group of students (black students, nogal) enjoying a sedate game of bowls on the floodlit green: not an old white-hatted tannie in sight.

(Actually, there were a few old tannies hoovering up G&T's at a neighbouring table, and that's what makes the ZLBC such a venerable Jozi institution: everyone's welcome)

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An atheist's take on Virginia Tech

Take a look at this interest exchange of words between an atheist professor at Virginia tech, and Dinesh Souza, of Stanford University, who wants to know "where atheists are when bad things happen".
Souza comments that, "to no-one's surprise, Dawkins [Richard Dawkins] has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community."

This and other comments made by Souza have unleashed a flurry of rebuttals from grieving atheists, and some tart remarks by the atheist professor.

Could this atheist professor be a South African? His blog is called Daily Kos and his username is mapantsula (dead give-aways if you ask me). Link

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How thin do you have to be to qualify as 'Large'?

Lekker story in Friday's M&G by Nicole Johnston about how SA clothing designers haven't cottoned on to the fact that girls have tits and bums. Johnston sent a swat-team of gals into The Zone to try on clothes, and confirmed what any girl of substance already knows: sizing is a joke and clothes are made to fit pencils. The only exceptions that spring to mind are Woolies and Hip-Hop (now those girls know all about lumps, bumps and busts).

(Link: Can't find online version of story).

So here's my guide to deciphering what clothing designers actually mean when they sew a size label into a garment:

Size 18: Huh?
Size 16: Get the fuck out of my shop, elephant.
Size 14: Clinically obese
Size 13: Fat
Size 12: Extra-large
Size 11: Large
Size 10: Medium
Size 8: Foetus

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Muriel and the amorous waiter

Here's an email my friend Muriel on the subject of a waiter:

Very oddly (and very goodly for my shattered self esteem), our favourite waiter, Dawid, (20, jet-black hair, ready smile, wiry shoulders, long strong legs, etc etc etc – the beauty of youth, you know), took it upon himself to shower unwarranted and, eventually, rather embarrassing attention down on my good self.

Since I was elegantly clad in tracksuit pants with a large hole in the bottom and a ratty jersey, no makeup and hair yanked fiercely off my face, I experienced this as something you might have a dream about. By the fourth time he’d crouched down at my side, a concerned hand on my thigh (and, once or twice, rather higher), whispering sweet nothings (‘So… will it be the ice cream and chocolate sauce… or can I tempt you to a wicked shot of Jameson’s plunged with abandon into a strong, rich black coffee…?’),

I was wondering who’d paid him. Nobody else seemed to notice, however, that anything odd was going on, and I assumed that I was having some sort of pleasant personal hallucination. Until, on our way home, P asked, ‘Mom, I don’t want to pry, but is there something going on between you and Dawid?’

I laughed in a cracked har-har-har way and said, ‘Don’t be silly, darling, he’s only a few years older than you,’ but that didn’t stop me having some seriously pornographic thoughts. Quite frankly, I don’t care who’s paying him, next time I see him I’m going to whip his trousers off and make him earn his money.

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Friday, 20 April 2007

Trends in logo design

An interesting post at LogoBlog analysing logo trends of 2006. The writer points out the popularity of what he calls 'Embellish' and 'Filigree' logos - like these ones. Ah, so that's what Coca-Cola's been up to with all their flourishes and swirls. Link

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Thursday, 19 April 2007

Family lingo: your tribe's invented words

I was thinking today (after having returned from a holiday with 17 members of my immediate family) about all the words, phrases and sayings that are peculiar to my tribe. Every family has its own lexicon; a miscellany of invented or borrowed words that everyone in the clan understands, but that are completely mystifying to outsiders. Here is a short list of some of ours (the word first, in bold, then the definition). Please post your own family lexicon!

snifter-face: ugly hungover look; read more
pakkinellika (pronounced puck-i-nell-ica) or pak: All the assorted bits and pieces you are packing for a trip, or schlepping along with you on a trip. I think this may have Norwegian origins, and that the word came via my Norwegian grandmother.
tit-tot seat: the elbow-rest that folds down on the back seat of a car. Kids in my family always fought (and still fight) to get the tit-tot seat
doench (pronounced doo-oonch): A crocodile clip that pins back your hair, or a scrunchie designed for the same purpose
hall..eeeu! A general, all-purpose greeting
crocodile clampers: kitchen utensil or braai tool: tongs with toothed spoon-bowls and a spring mechanism
zapper: the remote control thing that opens your gate
puss-flaps: sounds terrible, but these are the flapped pockets you get on handbags, backpacks and coats
cheers, big ears: how you say good-bye, in person or in an email
braai-meister: the person who gets to braai the meat
budgie-smugglers: tight Speedos worn by men. The term is imported from Australia.
smook: bug-spray
weak thin legs: what you get after a long period of extensive jorling, or illness, or stress. Taken from an advert for a lost dog, stolen off a noticeboard many years ago, copied and sent out as a Christmas card. The missing dog was called Bunchie, and was described as having 'weak thin legs'.
fluff: a fart (also baff and niffer)
drive-by shooting: taking photographs surreptitously
buffet-bot: the consequences of having eaten too much at the buffet the night before
toils: toilet
P.L.U.s (pronounced Pee-El-Yews): People Like Us.
elephant bogroll: paper kitchen towels
V-H bot: any woman with receding or disappearing buttocks. Named after the initials of an actual person.
cat-meat: what hangs out of the sides of a pair of shorts worn by a man who is sitting with his legs open, and who isn't wearing underpants
undercarriage: a generic word for the nether regions
visky: whiskey
Who diefed? ( pronounced 'Hoo-deefed'): From Afrikaans. Means "Who stole? ". Used by anyone in my family who can't find something. For example, "Who diefed my razor?"; "Who diefed all the viskey?"

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Chihuahua beheaded by mad teen

On the subject of dogs... only in South Africa: a teenage boy from Pretoria was arrested after severing the head of his grandmother's 13-year-old chihuahua.

I don't have any affection for chihuahuas (see pic right if you're wondering why) , and a well-aimed kick at a yapping one is occasionally called for, but cutting off its head?. Link

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Cats and dogs

I know it's seriously dodgy to post a picture of cute pets on one's blog, but indulge me just this once. This my cat Alice, who is a stuck-up loner who hates everyone (she only barely tolerates being stroked), everyone, that is, except my hound Velvet. Snapped them this morning lying on the bed.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2007

School fees: per anum?

I was on a plane back to Jozi last week and bought several UK newspapers from the duty-free bookshop. One of them, The Times, I think, had a letter with a delightful anecdote about school fees. I'm paraphrasing it here because I can't remember exactly how it went, but, in a nutshell:

A headmaster wrote a letter to all the parents of a prestigious and expensive UK school, informing them of a change in the method of paying for school fees. From now on, the headmaster wrote, they'd have to pay their fees not monthly, but per annum. Unfortunately, a typo crept in and in his letter he wrote 'per annum' as 'per anum'.

A parent responded, "Thank you for your suggestion, but we would prefer to continue paying through the nose."

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Introducing Muriel

My darling friend, the fabulous Muriel, another forty-something freelance writer, editor, jorler, mother, thinker, drinker and all-round Amazon, sends me the best emails in the world. She's a writer of exceptional talent, and her letters are so good, so deliciously funny and so riotously entertaining, that I can't resist sharing bits of them with you. Now, I haven't exactly asked her permission (sorry, Mur), but I have promised myself that I'll leave out all identifying information*

She's an all-rounder, my Mur. Here she is on the subject of bird lice and doing the washing:

My challenge this week has been bird lice. When I noticed that one of my cats seemed to be shedding liberal quantities of strange little creepy-crawlies (mainly into my bed, as she is the cat that sleeps on my head), it was hey-ho, hey-ho, and back to the vet we go. I went armed with some Google-supplied information on ear mites in cats, as this is what I assumed them to be. The vet’s diagnosis: ‘Sies! Those aren’t ear mites! Those are bird lice!’

The horror, the horror! And finally the inexplicable bites and rashes we’d all been battling with for the last few weeks came clear. Those fucking fucking FUCKING chickens had kindly passed their lice to the cats (well, I suppose I will have cats and chickens that play together), and the cats had brought them into the house. Yeeeuuugghghgghgh!

Fortunately, bird lice, although they do bite humans, don’t live on them, so we didn’t have to worry about bodily infestations – but they do move into houses and hang about in corners, waiting for a warm blood supply to wander past. So yesterday was spent doing the following joyful work.

1. Catch and dose four cats with a parasiticide – way easier said than done, since the minute one cat is caught and dosed, it transmits this information to the others via a series of bloodcurdling yowls, and all the remaining cats flee for their lives.

2. Hot-wash every single bit of linen (sheets, duvet covers, pillowslips, blankets, cushions, throws, towels, etc) in the house – the washing machine is this morning on its 12th cycle and the bathroom still looks like a Chinese wash-house.

3. Spray every single surface in the house with an eye-watering insecticide.

4. Clean out the hen-house – and, really, you don’t want to know how thoroughly revolting that was – and spray it down with the same insecticide.

5. Spray with insecticide every single place the chickens have ever been or are likely ever to go. And...

6. Spray the chickens themselves (this last we haven’t yet managed to do successfully – unutterably stupid though those birds are, it is really amazing how quickly they cottoned on to something unpleasant happening in their vicinity, and how fast they made themselves scarce).

So that is what I’ve been doing for the last 24 hours. I must say it’s worked bloody well, though – although the house smells like a chemicals plant, for the first time in weeks, we woke up this morning devoid of mysterious bites and bumps, and Maui is now officially bird-lice-free.

But God works in mysterious ways… and this is a good segue (pronounced ‘seg-way’ – did you know that?) into my Tale of the Washing Machine. My washing machine broke down about two weeks ago, which is a very real bugger, as you know, when you have teenagers in a house – teens seem to have a secret weekly ‘laundry limit’ (10kg, unwashed, isn’t unusual) they have to reach in order to satisfy their need to drive their mother completely crazy, and my teens take this task very seriously. P's modus operandi is to allow his dirty laundry to pile up in a corner of his room and then, on a randomly chosen day – usually when he finally runs out of clean underwear, and usually also the day on which I have finally emptied the laundry basket – he brings it all through at once. J, on the other hand, considers it far easier to just chuck into the wash anything she tries on, wears for three seconds, then discards, than to refold these garments and replace them in her cupboard. And then there’s all the usual linen, towels, etc – you know the thing.

Anyway, so I phoned the local handyman, who told me he wasn’t keen on working on washing machines, particularly old ones. ‘How old is yours?’ he asked. ‘Um… old,’ I said. I didn’t want to say the words ‘fifteen years’ because then I knew he would run screaming into the sunset. He ran screaming into the sunset.

I then phoned various repair companies and was presented with a variety of stymies: a callout fee of R350 regardless of the problem or its solution; a long waiting list (two weeks was the shortest); spurious advice about throwing away my old machine and buying a new one, etc.

Well, fukkit, I thought. The machine’s already broken, it’s not as if I can break it more. So I turned the washing machine upside down, using chair and ladders and towels as stops and pulleys and brakes. Then I uncoupled every pipe I could see and, using the garden hose, flushed them all out (flooding the kitchen, but who cares). Then I took out the pump and vacuumed it (yes, vacuumed it). Then I put everything back together again and, swearing and sweating, set the washing machine back on its legs.


Mur, darling, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of myself in my life! I fixed my own washing machine (even if I don’t know how I did it)! Verily, I am a domestic goddess!

And truly, she is.

* Ms Sally Forth, 69 Pinotage Lane, Nicotinefontein, Western Cape.

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Gotta start somewhere 2

I'm very interested (for some bizarre reason) in playground rhymes, skipping songs and the games that kids pass down, over the decades (or even centuries), during break. Here's a lovely little rhyme from Australia, passed on to me by relatives who packed for Perth.

The fart is a wonderful creature
It lives in the valley of bum
It travels around in your undies
And comes out with a musical hum.

Oops, erm, I hope this doesn't set the tone for my new blog. I promise, honestly, not to be overly lavatorial in my humour.

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Gotta start somewhere

So I set up this blog because I was testing Blogger for a story I was writing about blogging in South Africa.

I ended up not writing it, because the magazine changed editors and my column was canned. I don't have hard feelings about this because it was a ball-ache writing it, and it didn't pay much. But isn't it alarming how the very first thing a new editor does on a magazine is to wade in with a chainsaw? You'd expect they'd lurk for a few months getting a feel for the mag before changing the layout, the masthead, the slogan, the staff, the job titles and the size and prominence of their own photographs on the 'Letter from the Ed' pages. (In my experience, the bigger and glossier the editor's picture, the crappier the contents of the magazine.) Reminds me of an incident a few years back when a newly appointed editor of Fairlady suggested painting all the walls in the offices a violent red. The idea, suggested the pissed-off staff, was that you wouldn't be able to see the blood on the walls.

Anyway, now that I've made Salmagundi, I'm going to try this blogging thing and see what happens. I hope to write about a big passion, eating (and cooking), and also about the things that interest me. In no particular order, these include: books, reading, friends, gossip, politics, gardening, parenting, crossword puzzles, archaeology and pre-history, teen culture, literature for kids (I hope to write adolescent fiction one day), art and design, words and word-play, atheism (I'm a full-blown heathen; leave now if you don't think Richard Dawkins rocks), innovation, idea-mongering, walking, complaining, swearing, and drinking a great deal too much wine. I am crazy about the Net and pop culture and spend many hours online (on the grounds that I'm doing research for articles I'm going to write, although that excuse is now dead in the water).

Here's everything about me you need to know: I'm a forty-something freelance writer and editor. I work from a home office in Jozi, I'm married with three kids, two of them teens, and in between trying to earn a living, running the house in perfect Martha-Stewart fashion (hell, no) and schlepping the kids all over town, I make desultory attempts at being an entrepreneur (I have two small business; I also design the odd website). Emotionally, I veer between being deliriously excited and positive about life as I dream up the grandest ideas; and being a gloomy, cynical old bag with many axes to grind (as you will see). I'm left-handed, prone to road-rage, almost always on a diet (and need to be); and I'm a chronic insomniac. Enough said.

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