Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Miffed in Malmesbury (again)

I so wish I’d written this while I was still fired up with ire, but alas real life intervened and I am now no longer burning with righteous fury. And anyway, if I had to vent my spleen every time I got crap service in Malmesbury, I wouldn’t have a spleen left to vent, so it’s probably just as well.

Last week I popped into my ‘local’ DVD-rental store (in Malmesbury – the actual local ones aren’t worth bothering about) and bought three DVDs on ‘sell-through’. For those who don’t know about ‘sell-through’, these are the DVDs that have been rented out a gazillion times, and are now being sold to the weak of mind (or those who are geographically disadvantaged by not having a Musica within a 100km radius) at a frankly usurous price. I didn’t think - silly me! - to check if all the DVDs were in a usable state because (get this) I assume that if someone is going to lighten my wallet by 60 bucks for a DVD that’s been rented out a gazillion times, they’re selling me something that is in a usable state.

I drove home, unpacked the groceries, did a few other chores (not really, but I don’t want you to think that all I do is buy food and watch DVDs), then put on It’s Complicated in my bedroom. It whirred and clicked but didn’t start playing and I - innocent that I am! – assumed that there might be something wrong with the DVD player (which, admittedly, I haven’t used since I got DStv in November last year).

The sofa in my sitting-room sofa is every bit as comfortable as my bed, and anyway I’ve got a ‘home theatre’ system there, so when I play a DVD, the sounds come at me from all sorts of interesting angles, so, without examining the DVD – more fool me! – I just took it out, went into the next room and put it in the other DVD player.

This DVD player, being more sophisticated than the little machine I have in my bedroom, told me ‘disc unplayable’. Hm, I thought. I took it out and looked at it, and lo and behold, it had a dirty great gouge in one quadrant, a deep score through another, and what looked like a gangrenous patch in a third.

I have supported this DVD shop (which is Stax in De Bron Centre in Malmesbury, and now consider yourself warned) for many years, despite the fact that they once kicked me out because I was accompanied by my well-behaved dog on a leash. So, presuming on this long history, I phoned the shop and told them what had transpired. The clerk, one Lomi, was polite and understanding, and said that they had another copy, and that I should just come in and she’d replace it.

I explained to her that I live 20km distant so wouldn’t be back that instant, but that I would be in Malmesbury again on Tuesday (today), which is when I’d do the swop. No problem, she said. She’d write my name and phone number on the DVD, just so it wasn’t given to anyone else in the meantime.

I went there today, on my way to a meeting in Cape Town, expecting to pop in, swop the DVD, and swiftly be on my way. Instead, I was met by a clerk whose attitude I can only describe as sullen. Actually, if I give it some thought I can describe it other ways: disinterested and rude. After listening with patent suspicion to my story, she said, ‘I have to phone the boss.’ (I asked her repeatedly to look for the replacement DVD with my name and number on it, but she was curiously deaf to these requests.)

After a fairly lengthy conversation with ‘the boss’, which included, for the last few minutes, a bit of giggly chit-chat while I stood looking pointedly at my invisible wrist-watch, she plonked the receiver triumphantly back into the cradle and, without even bothering to look at me, said, ‘The boss says no.’

Although I seldom expect anything other than absolutely appalling service in Malmesbury, this floored me. I didn’t say anything – I just stared at her.

She finally looked at me. ‘The boss says she would never have sold a DVD in that condition.’ (And I might add here that I have never, in all the many times I’ve visited Stax in De Bron Centre in Malmesbury, actually set eyes on ‘the boss’ – so how the hell would she know?!) And while I continued gaping at her, she hunched her shoulders, kicked her right foot a bit, and added, ‘Anyway, Lomi should have checked them before she gave them to you.’

‘But Lomi didn’t check them!’ I said. ‘And it’s not my fault that Lomi didn’t do her job! The DVD was damaged – I phoned her literally half an hour after I’d bought it. If you think I did this to the DVD, that just wasn’t long enough for me to do that kind of damage, unless I had some sort of psychotic turn and attacked it with a pair of pliers!’

And she gave me the kind of look that said she wouldn’t put that kind of behaviour beyond me.

Well, fukkit. If ‘the boss’ is short-sighted enough to let go a long-standing customer who regularly rents DVDs worth, oh, about R150 a month from her store, for a very well used DVD worth all of R60, so be it. (Yet another example of why I continue to be completely gobsmacked at how businesses in Malmesbury survive.)

And I long – long! – for the day the new consumer protection laws kick in, and that old standby, ‘caveat emptor’ (‘let the buyer beware’), that infuriatingly useful hiding-place of sellers of dodgy goods, is turned on its head, and anything anybody sells us better bloody work, because it’s going to be all ‘caveat venditor (‘let the seller beware’) from then on.

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Good Voice goofs

I don’t have much time for Bono and his tinted glasses. Anyone whose name is really Paul Hewson but who opts to go by the name Bono Vox (‘good voice’) deserves all he gets.

Still, I did feel a bit for him for putting his foot so thoroughly in it on the eve of U2’s South African appearances. And, unfortunately for him, the phrase ‘It was taken out of context’ is now just South African politician-speak for ‘Whoops’.

That said, even if you are an astronomically rich globe-trotting do-gooder, fighting poverty in Africa and what-what, you should probably familiarise yourself with the cultural and sociopolitical nuances of the country whose people’s wallets you've lightened to the tune of tens of millions of rands to watch you sing (not cure cancer, eradicate slavery or cool the planet) before you offer your views. Because, in South Africa, we have abundant living proof of that old adage: ‘Opinions are like arseholes: everyone has one.’

And we don’t need more. Of either.

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An existential question (and it’s not ‘What’s the meaning of life?’)

It’s not even ‘Why are there always carrots in vomit, even if you haven’t eaten them?’

It’s ‘Why are there always frozen peas in the ice trays, even if you don’t have frozen peas in your freezer?’

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Mimicry gone mad?


A lot of licking goes on in my bedroom at night. It’s not as rude as it sounds – both dogs and at least two of the cats (and usually all four) sleep in my room, and for some reason it’s during the still, quiet hours of night that they do most of their personal maintenance.

With the dogs, this consists mainly of licking their bottoms. The sound drives me nuts, but usually it takes not much more than a furious look to stop them (if only momentarily).

With the cats it’s a different story. The two boy cats (Evan and Maui, pictured here) are devoted to each other, and spend most of the night in passionate mutual grooming. Missy the tabby-wildcat mix is a nasty little piece of work who prefers to groom herself, and if Evan (who is ridiculously needy) tries to groom her – and he always does – there’s a spitting, hissing fight that requires me to wake up fully and bodily hurl cats off the bed. (Floss, the calico cat, is freakily antisocial and grooms neither herself nor any of the other cats; but to make up for this, she sleeps on my head.)

Sometimes Maui is absent at night for reasons of his own (doing whatever it is that cats do in the dark hours), which leaves the emotionally deprived Evan in need of someone – or, in this case, something – to groom.

This cow cushion started the night as a soft, fluffy, dry pillow and saw in the morning flat, damp and smelling of cat saliva. I took this pic a few hours later, and you can still see the places where it’s been groomed into wet submission by Evan. Its colouring is very similar to Evan’s – I wonder if he mistook it for a very quiescent cat?

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Goldie is a mommy – AT LAST!

Two and a half years ago I wrote a post about Goldie the broody hen. Although much has happened in the neighbourhood flocks since then, this hasn’t included Goldie hatching out chicks.

Poor Goldie hasn’t had much fun. L’s rooster didn’t take to her (and so never fertilized her eggs, poor dear) but, worse, his harem absolutely hated her. They pecked her and harried her until she found a way back over the high fence dividing our properties and settled herself back in the henhouse (okay, the dog kennel – but that’s another story; if you want, you can read it here).

In time, L’s flock next door became unruly – there were, quite literally, simply too many roosters in that henhouse. L and her husband also became very busy with a thriving catering business and growing extended family, and decided that the chooks had to go. So they were all farmed out to new homes.

Except for Goldie, who continued living a quiet and hermit-like existence on my property – and who continued to lay huge clutches of unfertilized eggs and sit on them for months at a time. (There were two reasons I stopped collecting Goldie’s eggs: 1, she pecks; and 2, she went into such a terrible decline after each collection that it became a matter of ‘what’s worse’: allowing her to sit tight, albeit fruitlessly, on utterly unviable eggs, or removing her eggs and then watching her amble aimlessly and miserably around the garden, cluck-clucking quietly to herself in a patently depressed way.)

Anyway, finally, about a month ago, we decided Something Had To Be Done. Goldie was not going to be dissuaded from her deep-seated need for motherhood, no matter what – and we knew that she wasn’t going to be able to take much more of the fasting that sitting for months on eggs requires. So Johann donated three fertilized eggs from his flock, and was brave enough to remove Goldie from the henhouse (wrapped in a towel) while I slipped the (hopefully) viable eggs into the nest. (Johann, who was the first person in some time to get close enough to Goldie to actually examine her, reported her to be woefully thin and dehydrated.)

So you can imagine our delight when Goldie emerged from the henhouse on Valentine’s Day with two perfect little day-old chicks. (The third had also hatched, but seemed to have died immediately.) Goldie’s babies look nothing like her, of course (Johann’s chooks are black-and-white bantams), but you have never seen a prouder mom. And she is wonderfully protective – the two resident dogs and the four cats are, naturally, fascinated by (and probably hungry for) the miniature fast-food that has suddenly appeared right in front of their eyes, but if any of them goes near them, Goldie puffs herself up to about four times her normal size, instructs her babies to get under her wings, and prepares for battle. So, thus far, they are being left well alone to peck about the garden.

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