Monday, 28 December 2009

Remember the original MCQP parties?

A friend of my son’s recently gave me these pics – her dad’s, taken of him, me and friends about 15 years ago (!) of our first outings to the Mother City Queer Project parties. (For her, they are no doubt an oddity; for me, they are a memory: I went to the first four or five parties and didn’t once think to take any pics, so these were wonderful to get.)

This one is from the 1995 (second) party, the Secret Garden, held at the River Club, when we went as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. My abiding memory is of wearing practically nothing (just bikini pants, as I recall; and red body paint) and somehow contriving to walk home at 3am through Observatory (a suburb not known for its low crime statistics) unmolested. And waking up late the next morning wondering why my duvet looked like someone had just had their throat slashed on it.

This one is from the following year, 1996, the third MCQP project, the Twinkly Sea, when we were merfolk. We were much more modest then, and donned bathing suits. How sensible of us!

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Bobby isn’t a baboon spider

It’s long ceased to be a joke (for me) that I once specialised in natural history. When an identification of a wild creature is required, the call will go out (often from Johann): ‘Ask Tracey!’ Then everyone will fall about laughing.

Once, very late in the evening at Johann’s house, he and I were required to deal with a snake in the bathroom. (The circumstances are just too bizarre to go into, and anyway if I did you probably wouldn’t believe me, so let’s just leave it at ‘there was a snake in the bathroom’.) Johann didn’t know me well at the time, and I was quick to tell him that I’d actually written several guidebooks to wild things (which, really, I have), and he was pleased to open the bathroom door about 5mm and allow me a peek, and I, crazed by about 72 hours of constant wakefulness and a lot of Jack, declared it to be a deadly poisonous adder.

Amid much nervous giggling and unintentional falling over and deciding what to leave each other should we be killed by fatal adder envenomation, we managed to get the snake into a box and close the lid. Our plan was then to go outside onto Johann’s very large and utterly unilluminated plot, and release the snake there.

Johann found a torch and, with much hissy fitting, we stepped out into the dark, dangerous night. I held the snake box; Johann held the torch; and, clutching at each other, we ventured forth. Several aeons later, having negotiated a surprise rhododendron and extricated ourselves from a rogue bougainvillaea, we found ourselves at the top of the plot.

With terrible suddenness, the torch gave out.

With equally terrible suddenness, Johann screamed like a girl, spun on his heel and sprinted back in the direction of the house. And I was left in the dark, alone. Aside, of course, from the deadly adder in the box.

Realising that I was a heartbeat away from completely losing my marbles from sheer terror, I tossed the box as far from me as I could before crashing back towards the house, hurdling the bougainvillaea and decimating the rhododendron. There, we toasted our escape from near-certain death with several more Jacks.

Some days later, when reality had got a hold, we looked up the snake in a guide book – interestingly enough, one written by me. It was a not-uncoincidentally named brown house snake (the pic above is one Johann took of the actual creature), and as harmless as an earthworm.

Obviously, I have never lived this down. And now I’m about to smear yet more egg on my face by admitting that Bobby never was a Harpactirella lightfooti (basically, a baboon spider built for speed). Although he has similar markings to that species, his legs aren’t robust enough to make the grade.

He’s a rain spider, a member of the family Heteropodidae (now called Sparassidae): big (they’re also called ‘giant crab spiders’) and quick and scary (and ‘huntsmen’), but as harmless as an earthworm.

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Sunday, 20 December 2009

Kids’ prize-givings: I’d never missed a single one

The thing, when there are two parents, is that there is always someone on standby – to fetch and carry, to be present and correct, to ameliorate emotional matters.

So being one parent – with all its many, many pros – has that one con: that it’s only you. If you can’t do it, no-one will.

(Actually, not entirely, as I discovered when I was immobilised for many months, and my friends fetched and carried.)

But of all the things I missed when I was missing from the normal round of things, this one I missed the most (and I can hardly believe, given how much I’ve whinged about it in the past, that I’m saying this, but I am): at my daughter’s prize-giving at the end of this scholastic year, she won three prizes, a certificate for Maths and two cash prizes for English – and she wasn’t there to receive them, and I wasn’t there to see her get them. A nasteh first.

My children’s father long ago lost interest in their day-to-day triumphs and failures, so it has always been literally doubly important for me to be there for them. So, for instance, it was really vital for me to be there when my daughter was made a prefect in grade 7, and she and I were only the only English people up on the stage accepting this honour AND she was the only one with a single parent there to represent her (all the other kids – Afrikaans to a man(boy/girl) had proud mom&dads standing behind them), and I thought Well, at least I’m here. Hey, I may have been an English woman, and indubitably I was dressed inappropriately (because, and I’m not making this up, I always am), but by god I was there.

This might explain why, when I saw the animated Disney movie Up, and the little boy Russel gets his badge at the end, and there’s someone there to stand up for him, I cried so hard I leaked mucus all over my duvet. So please be patient with me for posting this pic of my kids, embarrassed practically out of their heads, when I insisted on snapping them and their certificates after a prize-giving a few years ago. Aw.

Anyway, I missed my daughter’s prize-giving this year, for the first time, and I just want to put on the record that it is the only time I have EVER missed a school function of either of my children, and I only missed it because I literally couldn’t be there. Really, of all the things I missed, I missed that the most.

At least it came with a cash prize, and she went out immediately and spent it lavishly on really silly fashion.

I am SO proud of her!

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Things are back to normal here in Lala Land (If you don’t like dogs, don’t look at this post)

Here’s Sez the Wobbly Dog (being happily laid on by Masters in Energy Transference); T and Johann (the Masters); Maxi (his glinting eye in this pic giving the lie to his unending patience); and Balu the devil dog (my little bear), as always almost too dark to see.

Happy, on the single divan on the verandah.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

My perfect child

Between nursing a recalcitrant patient, studying for matric and running a relatively large household, my daughter had little time for fun. But she did take a night off to go to a Hallowe’en party. Here she is with her boyfriend, ready to hit the town.



Interestingly enough, she came home in a different T-shirt, which makes me think the party was a usual crazy valley one. And a couple of days later I received this pic via email, of our friend Tequila Steve wearing hers. Hmm...

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Spine surgery

A discectomy is where a surgeon removes parts of a damaged vertebral disc or, as in my case, the entire thing. I was a little disappointed at how small the incision was and how neatly it had been stitched and taped up. I kind of felt I deserved something longer, and with punctuated staple marks down either side of a raw red welt. (Well, c’mon: value for money? The damn thing cost me practically my entire life savings.)

My daughter, who had over the preceding weeks coped with all sorts of things a teenager shouldn’t have to, lost her bottle when it came to removing the holding stitches. Johann (of course) did it. And some days later, when I asked her to check the wound to make sure it was clean and healing properly (it’s down low on my back, not easily visible even with the help of a mirror), she literally squealed. ‘I’m not doing this any more!’ she said. So Johann did it.

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Waiting to go home from the hospital

There were many mad cow jokes about these pyjamas, not least by the donors of them, Ronaldo and his preternaturally beautiful woman, M. I can’t remember this photo being taken thanks to the miraculous powers of morphine. (In the pic I am lying in the hospital reception, waiting for Ronaldo to tell the receptionist that I promised faithfully to pay the bill before whisking me back home.)

Mercifully, I remember very little before it was taken either, when I was seized by a powerful back spasm as my damaged spinal disc ruptured and flung to the floor, bereft of breath but generously gifted in the hysterical tears department, necessitating a rude interruption of Johann’s spiritual health for a speedy and tense drive to the hospital. There, excessively costly medical personnel did all manner of interesting things to me involving X-rays, MRIs, scalpels and anaesthetics, after which (again, thanks to morphine) two of the only things I remember were being able to pee for the first time in countless weeks without screaming in agony and vomiting copiously into my father’s lap. (Sorry, Dad.)

A measure of the lengths my friends and family went to to help me through this awful time was the spine specialist telling me that surgery was necessary immediately, and not least because ‘it is clear your husband is at the very end of his tether’. Morphined to the eyebrows (and I can’t tell you how much I love morphine, really), I said in dreamy tones, ‘My husband? But I don’t have a husband.’ The spine specialist said, ‘Well, the man who checked you in was in a state of near collapse. He simply can’t take it any more.’ Johann.

Before hospital I was bedridden for almost six weeks. Johann came every single day. He lay in bed with me while I moaned and groaned and occasionally cried frantic tears of frustration and pain (and also fetched and carried kids, brought supplies, made meals, etc etc etc). T (Maxi’s Mom) was in constant contact and cared for me, my dogs and my children in equal measure. And my daughter Bella, who at the time was studying for her matric exams, took over the day-to-day running of the household, and when I threw tantrums (and I did, I am sorry to say), had the amazing (and very un-teenage) compunction to not only not take offence, but ignore my pathetic behaviour and just keep on keeping on.

Simply astonishing human beings.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

An unusual birthday

On Sunday 18 October, the day before my 45th birthday, my sister and her husband travelled out to the little village where I live and cooked a fabulous meal for me and company. My friends T (Maxi’s Mom) and Johann, who by then had been on near-24-hour call for me for more than a month (going well above and beyond the normal call of duty) joined them, me, my gorgeous children and another friend, L, plus my Dad, around a lunch table that I couldn’t sit at, but which I lay very happily beside.

This photograph was taken late that evening (from left going clockwise, T, me, my daughter and son, L and Johann). These are my friends and children on my bed with me, which is where, perforce, time had to be spent in my company. The hairstyles are entirely T’s fault.

This photograph, of Johann in hysteria and me in the position I occupied for the better part of three months, prompted Johann to remark later, ‘God, but we’re fun!’ And there I was thinking it was because we were drunk.

In spite of my immobility and a regime of powerful medications (or, okay, maybe because of those), I drank a lot of wine and smoked a lot of cigarettes on my birthday. The hangover was, naturally, appalling, but it was worth every second.

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