Thursday, 29 April 2010

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Indestructible Wife and the Recalcitrant Cock

My friend Johann runs a busy household made up of three people (his partner, Lukas; the Indestructible Wife; and himself), six dogs (one of which is called Luka, leading to inevitable human/canine confusion), two cats and two chickens.

One of the chickens is this fine rooster, who goes by the (somewhat questionable) name of Nando. Nando is a real cock-of-the-walk who considers himself the alpha being in household, which creates stand-offs from time to time.

I can personally attest to Nando’s aggressive nature. Once, when Johann was away, and I went to feed his zoo, Nando came rushing over and tried to eat Luka (the dog’s) food. Luka is a small, fat, friendly poodle-like creature, and he immediately gave way to the big, bossy rooster. I, however, am bigger than Nando, and I wasn’t having any of it. ‘Get away from there, you stupid bird!’ I shouted, flapping my arms at him. He cocked his head and stared frostily at me out of one beady eye – then, when I turned my back, he had a good old peck at my unprotected calves.

The Indestructible Wife (who doesn’t like chickens; who, in fact, has a slight phobia about the things) and Nando have an extremely uneasy relationship. Nando, who struts about inside and outside the house, often standing on tables and crowing loudly, seems to sense that the Indestructible Wife is actually somewhat scared of him, and will, at the slightest provocation (and sometimes with no provocation at all), lash out at her.

Johann took these pictures of a recent confrontation. He swears the speech/thought bubbles reflect exactly what went down.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A blog by a CAT??

Daryl Whackhead Simpson might call them ‘expressionless oxygen thieves’ (and I might call that projection), but I do find cats funny. Mainly because they so think they’re not.

But an entire blog written by a cat? C’mon.

I’ve never gone so far as to imagine how my cats might speak (or, heaven preserve us, write), but even if they did, I can’t think it would in a strange mix of Latino and Greenpoint-English. Perhaps Maui = English with a strong Malmesbury accent, given that he started life as Hendrik; Evanescence = wouldn't (brain damage from bad childhood); Artemis = Russian, definitely Russian (and then only when she deigned); Dental Floss = couldn’t (too high on heroin).

But then, this beeg blag cad is apparently Dominican. Anyway, check this out if you’ve got some spare time and you like cats. Don’t if you don’t.

(Thanks, Michele, for this thinkable link.)

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My CPU has accelerated ageing disease

It took me four cigarettes to start up my CPU this morning.

Four years ago I spent a small fortune on an entirely new computer system. My old one, which I’d had by then for about eight years, had suffered so many add-ons, patches, crashes, viruses and the like that it operated more like a tractor than a computer. With much whirring and clanking, it would randomly file files in mysterious places never to be found again, send out emails willy-nilly to everyone in my contact list, and, at times, simply refuse to boot.

So I took what files I needed from it (those I could still find) and asked a friendly computer fellow to set me up completely anew. I got a lovely big CPU with gigatons of memory, a new keyboard, a mouse that had a light instead of a ball (so didn’t get gunged up with animal hair and refuse to move) and a nice big flat screen. Heaven! The first time I fired up my new computer I was astonished by the keenness with which it readied itself for a day’s work: within a minute or so, it was raring to go.

I imagined, in the innards of the CPU, a superbly trained secretary, pert and efficient, perhaps with a pen lodged usefully behind her ear, wearing stern spectacles, a pencil skirt and sensible heels – a veritable Miss Jones. With virtual notebook in hand, she awaited my every bidding, and nothing proved too much for her. She filed with speed and accuracy (and never forgot for a nanosecond where she’d put anything) and never mixed up addressees, and she even did things like automatically archive desktop files that I hadn’t used for a while, back up information without being asked, and update vital programs without the slightest prompt from me.

It seems, however, that my virtual secretary has progeria, a rare genetic disorder that causes accelerated ageing. For, a mere four years on, it takes me the time required to smoke four cigarettes and drink two cups of coffee for her to get everything ready for my day’s work. (For the record: about 20 minutes. At 5 in the morning, which is when I start work, there’s little to do but smoke and drink coffee while waiting for the CPU to boot.)

Yes, that alert and resourceful CPU secretary is now, I imagine, the equivalent of an octogenarian – unwilling to get out of bed in the morning, full of complaints about her physical and mental health, forgetful, easily irritated, prone to frequent 'internal' and sometimes even 'fatal' errors, and so very, verrrry sloooow. I can easily imagine her moving at glacial pace up and down the myriad shelves that hold my documents, sighing and clicking her tongue, misfiling stuff because, you know, she just couldn’t be bothered any more; taking ages to retrieve files because her lumbago is giving her problems; and, occasionally, sitting down for a cup of tea and a good old moan about her relatives and how life hasn’t treated her fair, while I wait, impatiently tapping my fingers and smoking myself into a frenzy, for her to get a bloody move-on.

Thinking to ease her load a bit (something we do for loyal employees), I recently backed up about a gazillion photographs, several dozen manuscripts and endless not-in-use-all-the-time folders onto an external hard drive – the virtual equivalent, I suppose, of getting a temp in to do the hard slog. But it hasn’t really helped that much – Miss Jones, now clearly a somewhat embittered spinster, still takes her own sweet time to get going in the morning.

Not that I really care today, actually – my daughter finally passed her driver’s licence test, so Miss Jones is welcome to snooze untidily in a corner.

But tomorrow...

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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Chemical happiness: it’s a dog’s life

I had one of those a-ha! moments yesterday morning when I was speaking on the phone to a client who was wanting me to make (as my mother used to say) a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and who was not hearing why, given that I had neither silkworms nor pigs in the material he’d given me, not the vaguest chance of making so much as a… okay, I’m sorry, this metaphor has run away with me, let’s just say the source material was crap and I was really struggling to make it into anything other.

Because it’s not acceptable business practice to scream into the phone, ‘Who do you think I am, Jesus??!’ to someone who’s paying you good money, I just ground my teeth and stared at the ceiling. But horrible things were happening in my body: the nerves at my extremities were flailing to break through my skin and inside my head the temperature had reached such extremes that I expected the top of my skull to pop off. Surely this can’t be good for you?

And, just then, on the point of loss of either (a) consciousness from apoplexy or (b) income from irrational behaviour, I realised: I need drugs. Strong drugs. And don’t come with your herbal hippie shit. Give me real chemicals.

I’m not talking about mood stabilisers (as someone who is close to me and who knows about these things, suggested, when I complained to him very shortly afterwards) because I’m fairly fond of my general mental instability. I just want, when things seem to be spiralling momentarily out of control, something that will calm my nerves, reduce my brain temperature to boiling, and remind me that somewhere over the rainbow blue birds do indeed fly. For, say, a couple of hours or so.

So I had two large, stiff Jacks. Which, incidentally, do make everything seem better more or less instantaneously, but then also lay you down to sleep for several hours during an inconvenient time of the day.

In the interim (and goodness me, isn’t my life full?) Hullabaloo the Monster Baby had leapt wildly off the verandah (of course) and broken a small bone in her paw – for which my favourite person on the planet, my vet, prescribed Rimadyl, actually a med for arthritic conditions in dogs but also usable for hounds (like mine) who tear off dressings in 0.3 seconds and Won’t Stay Still.

I gave her her first dose this afternoon, and boy was I jealous. She schlepped around, grinning, for a while, then went and found a quiet corner, curled up and slept for about an hour. (Very similar effects to those achieved with two large, stiff Jacks.)

But when she woke up, she was the very picture of pleasantness. (Not, it must be said, an after-effect of two large, stiff Jacks, and especially not when taken in the middle of the day.) The cats whipped their tails across her nose and she just smiled, where usually a chase of Cannonball Run proportions ensues. The unbelievably annoying miniature sausage dogs across the road (who never, and I mean NEVER, shut up) barked themselves into a frenzy, usually a signal for Hullabaloo to add her voice to the general mayhem, but she just sighed, rolled over, and waved her paws dreamily in the air. Walk Time came and went (this is obviously a problem as I can’t walk her at the moment because, you know, her paw is broken) and she didn’t stare at me with laser eyes – she just meandered outside, lay down and looked languidly at a leaf. Dinner time, normally a moment of embarrassing hysteria (you’d never believe these dogs eat, and like queens, every single day, the show they put on when they see actual food!), was accepted with a calm and grace I’ve seldom seen outside a Zen meditation centre.

Here, at last, was exactly what I required! Powerful, instantaneous happiness! A clear and total lack of any kind of pain or stress! I wasted absolutely no time in hopping on the Net to find out what’s in Rimadyl, because obviously that’s what I’m looking for.

Alas, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Not only are the chewable tablets liver-flavoured (although for anyone who’s eaten magic mushrooms, taste is a small inconvenience that can, with concentration, be overlooked), but one of the side-effects of the active ingredient, carprofen, is death.

(Don’t you love these pharmaceutical info thingies? Often, the side-effects of, for instance, an anti-diarrhoea medicine is – diarrhoea. Or a headache tablet is – headache. Or something intended to stop seizures – causes seizures. God.)

Anyway, I do occasionally want instant calmness but I’m not sure if I want to be so incredibly chilled that I have no pulse.

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Why I love the weirdness that is Malmesbury

Malmesbury, ‘the heart of the Swartland’, is an old town – it grew from a few settlements built in the 1700s around a sulphur spring (now channelled, in an ungodly act, under the local Pick’n’Pay centre). It’s full of lovely old buildings and in fact boasts a historical walking tour that visits 19 of these, including the monumental old Synagogue (now the Malmesbury Museum) and a Sir Herbert Baker-designed stately home (now a guesthouse).

But it’s also got its strange side, and it doesn’t come much stranger than the many and various oddities to be found in this one residential street.

The gable guy?

This beautifully ugly little statue takes pride of place in a front garden.

A swan, high and dry.

A somewhat graphic roadside sign for a baby clinic (the baby looks disturbingly newborn, don’t you think? you can almost see the vernix).

Another element in this pic – the de-wheeled shopping trolley doing service as a rubbish-bag holder – was clearly so admired by the neighbours that it's repeated further down the street.

This baboon is a traffic-stopper. And what's with the chain??

And I’ve saved the best for last. This monument to cheetahs on an immaculately kept front lawn originally had a plinth commemorating some or other rugby game. The plinth is now gone but the mommy cheetah and her two babies remain. And if you look closely, you’ll see a fourth big cat crouching nearby – a leopard. And they say you don’t get wildlife in the Swartland any more!

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