Friday, 26 June 2009

Whoops! Famous last words

Who said, just last month, ‘I would trade my body for his tomorrow. He’s in fantastic shape.’

Was it:
a) Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest alter-ego, talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger?
b) Thobeka Mabhija, Jacob Zuma’s 36-year-old fifth wife, talking about her 67-year-old husband?
c) Promoter Randy Philips, talking about his late client Michael Jackson?

Yup, it’s (c), and we can safely assume that Randy is thanking god that actual body transplants aren’t yet possible, because otherwise, as of last night, he would be dead as a dodo.

We can also offer up our own thanks that we aren’t in the questionable hands of the doctors who allegedly spent five hours with Michael Jackson recently, taking blood and doing other tests to ensure his stellar health.

Of course, it’s always possible that the mega-super-dooper King of Pop isn’t really dead, but is at a roadhouse somewhere, eating tofu burgers (Jackson was a vegetarian) with Elvis (who wasn’t). It was obvious to everyone that he was reluctant to perform the 50 London dates he’d signed up for, but that he was in such deep financial dwang that he didn’t really have a choice. I must say, if I were Michael, I’d also have opted to kick the bucket. Or pretend to kick it, whatever the case may be.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, 22 June 2009

Winter’s half over – but don’t put away your boots yet

I’m not a huge fan of winter so it was with a sense of relief that I woke up this morning and realised that we’re halfway through – 21/22 June is the winter solstice, which in the southern hemisphere is the longest night and shortest day.

Still, in the western Cape the actual weather lags behind its solar equivalent by about a month and, in bleak years, longer – which you can clearly see on my 2008 weather tree (on which spring doesn’t really get going until into October). Which means that in real terms, we’re still heading into the worst of the cold, wet weather.

So there remain three months ahead of wrapping up warmly, keeping the home fires burning, and making soup and drinking wine. (Not everything about winter is bad!)

One of the things I dislike the most about winter (besides battling to get washing dry, putting out buckets to catch roof leaks, the mountains of mud tracked into the house by children and pets, rescuing shrews, frogs, snakes and gazillions of earthworms from the pool, and how my hair behaves at all times as if it’s having 10 000 volts shot through it) is the necessity for footwear. I have size 9 feet, so finding shoes of any description is always a battle for me, and I can just forget about elegant ladies’ boots.

We had a lunch gathering recently and three of us – T, G and I – compared footwear. Both T and G were wearing very stylish Doc Martens boots; I was wearing a pair of multicoloured Uggs (left).

The Doc Martens are obviously highly enviable footwear, but the thing about my boots is that they were made specifically for my feet – 22 years ago! My friend Stefan Genrich, a shoemaker who lived in Jeffrey’s Bay (like all good hippies) at the time, hand-stitched these sheepskin-lined leather boots from me from a drawing he made of my actual feet.

I was quite amused to read on Wikipedia that Ugg boots have been ‘a fashion trend for men and women since the early 2000s’. Stef made me my boots in 1987 (left – this pic was taken in Stef’s workshop). All I’ve done since then is have them resoled – and that only once.

I have worn them every single winter since Stefan gave them to me (and my daughter regularly expropriates them too), and although they’re now well worn in and bear stains of various kinds, the stitching has held, the eyelets have stayed put, and the leather ties are still as strong as the day they were made. Maybe most amazingly, they don’t release that awful old-socks whiff when I take them off – they still smell vaguely of lanolin and leather.

I’ve long since lost touch with Stefan, but I’d love him to know that his boots are still going strong, and that I plan to wear them for another 22 years (should I live that long).

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

My 75-year-old Dad bags a celebrity girlfriend

My father went off to lecture on a cruise liner in the Indian Ocean over the festive season last year and pretty soon began sending lively despatches home about an interesting person he’d met on the ship.

Back in South Africa, he developed a severe case of mentionitis, a non-life-threatening affliction that strikes all but the most reticent on embarking on a new romantic relationship. In my Dad’s case, it was ‘Catherine said…’ and ‘Catherine did…’ and ‘Catherine thinks…’ and ‘When Catherine and I…’.

My father is a dapper man of not inconsiderable means, so my own concern was that some inappropriately aged dolly-bird with plastic boobs and an eye on his bank account had ensnared him. I need not have worried. Catherine is 62 which, while technically young enough to be his daughter (Britain’s youngest known father, Sean Stewart, became a dad at 12 when the girl next door, 15-year-old Emma Webster, gave birth in 1998), at least puts her in my dad’s age bracket – that of being legitimately able to lay claim to a pensioner’s card.

But – as the man says on the Verimark ads – that’s not all. Catherine is also a bona fide celebrity, at least in her home country, where she’s Holland’s answer to Oprah. So even though I have entertained her on my very own verandah (pic above), and of course was dying to blog the fact, I had to keep schtum in case Prive (Holland’s oxymoronically named answer to heat) picked it up and ran it in their scandal pages.

But now Catherine has come out on her own website, with pic and all, so I’m free to spill the beans. (If for nothing else, read her blog for its glorious automatic Dutch-to-English translation.)

My father spent his 75th birthday with her in Europe, in a five-star hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. They’ve also spent some time St Tropez, where Catherine has a house, and in Cannes, where they’ve rubbed shoulders and shared foie gras with the rich and famous.

Now, that’s what I call growing old disgracefully.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, 5 June 2009

What’s on your fridge door?

It’s a mark of a productive, busy, lived-in household to have things stuck with magnets to the fridge door – school timetables, the occasional fun snapshot, an amusing note someone left us, reminders to do certain things at certain times.

This is what I was thinking to myself this morning when, for the first time in (apparently) quite a long time, I actually took a good, hard look at my fridge.

It is, not to put too fine a point on it, festooned.

The door is practically full, so without batting an eyelid, myself and other household members have moved around to the sides. There is now hardly a square centimetre on the entire fridge that doesn’t have something stuck to it.

I looked quite carefully at the things that were stuck to the front this morning, because I was certain I would find among them useful items that had been put there for a reason. Alas, I did not. There were two toy spiders and a bird and a chameleon and a dolphin and a large, rather disturbing, furry bee. There was a frightening artwork created by my daughter out of a particularly nasty passport photograph. There were several photographs and postcards and items torn from magazines and newspapers. There was a municipal reminder, hopelessly out of date, and a little plastic bag, empty, bearing inexplicable Japanese-English instructions (‘Add water 400G on the product. About 4 hours it will grow up. One clear beauty satiety face will grow up. When the flower want to oxygen and nutrition, I will help you too much.’ Charming but puzzling).

Not a single thing on the front of the fridge was either current or useful.

On the bottom door was a set of magnetised Barbie clothes and (not in this picture, but modestly out of sight) a magnetised Barbie clad only in lingerie. I stared at these for quite a long time, trying to remember when I had put them there, and finally worked out that it was about 10 years ago (for my daughter, then aged 8). I am really not making it up when I tell you that I have not actually registered this little wardrobe in at least the last nine years.

There was also a piece of string tied to the door, which my daughter informed me I had ‘put there for the cats to play with’. (I can’t remember this; and I can’t recall ever having seen a cat play with it.)

Intrigued at how so much junk could accumulate without anyone noticing (or, you know, actually doing anything about it), I looked at the left side of the fridge: every bit as bad. A rewards system for my kids’ school marks dating back at least five years (and now, obviously, defunct). A feather. A tatty magazine cover (with me and the kids on the front) dating back to 1997. Yet more postcards and pictures. Yet another municipal reminder, as hopelessly out of date as the one on the front. Instructions on how to use a Cadac. A cartoon strip that I assume had relevance at some stage but means nothing to me now. A plastic bag that once contained prescription pills, now empty.

Again, with the possible exception of the Cadac instructions, nothing either current or useful.

Now in a state of some consternation, I moved around to the other side of the fridge. Here were more photographs, children’s drawings, an article torn from a National Geographic magazine and a map of the local winelands. Under this, written in various hands in indelible ink, was the growth chart of my children dating back to 1996. Aside from the growth chart, which at least has some sentimental value (although heaven knows why I chose to mark it on the fridge), only the winelands map was of any use – and it was mostly obscured by other, non-useful things.

And that’s not even to touch on what’s on top of the fridge (I’ve actually been too afraid to look).

I want you to be honest with me: does your fridge resemble mine? Even a tiny bit? Are there things stuck there that have been there for so long that you no longer know what they mean or where they came from? Do you just keep adding to the chaos (as, clearly, we do) or do you remove useless stuff and replace it with relevant items?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

What do you give the boy who has everything? A snail house.

My daughter and her friend were invited to a 24th birthday party last weekend. They discussed at some length what to give the birthday boy for a gift, but couldn’t come up with anything they considered exciting enough that they could afford.

So they sat down and made him a Snail House.

Painted a cheerful orange and with a stylish pebble-dash floor, it contained a heart-shaped bed complete with cabbage-leaf cover, a tiny hi-fi system and a computer workstation (with a screensaver that read ‘pleasure in progress’). It had framed botanical prints (fitting for a snail) on the walls and cheerful dolphin-motif curtains at the windows.

I couldn’t wait to hear what the birthday boy had thought of his gift. When I asked my daughter the next day, she said, ‘He liked it, but he was a bit confused by it. He said, ‘‘Did you make this yourself?’’’

‘And you answered?’ I asked.

‘Well, duh,’ she said. ‘We said, ‘‘No, we ordered it from the Snail House Construction Company.’’’

Talent and wit!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

We’re living in the wrong era. Or are we…?

My friend T sent me a very interesting email this morning, detailing over-the-counter medications that could be bought for little readies – if you were alive in the early 1900s.

There was, for example, Bayer’s heroin, marketed as a ‘non-addictive substitute for morphine’(?). It was also used as a children’s cough medicine. What happy, hack-free kids those must have been!

If cocaine was more up your alley, there was always Metcalf’s coca wine, a ‘pleasant tonic’ that was recommended for ‘despondency’, among other things. No doubt it worked a treat.

And if you (or, again, your child) had toothache, you could always just drop a couple of cocaine tablets for an ‘instantaneous cure’. I’m sure!

Finally, for peevish infants, there was the kick-in-the-head relief of Stickney and Poor’s Pure Paregoric, containing not only opium but a whopping 47% alcohol. I know who I would have been giving that to if my baby were fractious, and it wouldn’t have been the baby. (‘Adults, one teaspoonful’? What, didn’t they have glasses in those days?)

I found this all very quaintly enlightening and passed it on to my friend Ronaldo, who immediately shot back with an article published today about… cocaine having allegedly been found in Red Bull Cola. Red Bull, as anyone with a TV knows, ‘gives you wings’, and now perhaps we know why. (Although I find it surprising that they haven’t given their ad-agency writers more of it to drink – the TV ads, although cutely animated, are always so embarrassingly lame.)

The cocaine was apparently present in ‘tiny amounts’ that ‘posed little health danger’, and Red Bull flatly denied the allegation. But demand for Red Bull is now soaring in those countries in which they've been removed from the shelves. As another TV ad once famously said, makes you think, doesn’t it?

Stumble Upon Toolbar