Saturday, 28 April 2007

Drink Spiking - It's Real.

I am in my element at the moment…. I’m writing this post, shopping on ebay, downloading music, straightening my hair and watching the live streaming of the European Gymnastics Championships all at once – I am so thankful God made woman so efficient at multi-tasking! I feel for guys, who are only able to concentrate on one thing at a time… imagine how long it would take them to do what I’m doing now. I suppose, thinking ahead to what my future holds, if I do end up having kids one day I will need these skills far more than any guy, as I’ll need to able to deal with kids, take care of a husband, cook, clean and somehow still take time for myself so I don’t go mad – all whole holding down a job. Hmm, no wonder many women give up their careers. Ok, I’ve just stopped doing my hair for a moment – even a woman has her limits!

I spoke to my sister Mini-Me a couple of days ago, and she had a story to tell me that I thought I should share, seeing as how I’m more focussed on it now that it’s just happened to someone close to me. She went to Tiger Tiger in Cape Town last Saturday, and her drink got spiked. She was designated driver, and only had a couple of drinks, but she remembers nothing about the last half of the night. Her boyfriend G filled in the blanks: apparently she went from having a good time to talking absolute nonsense to anyone and no-one, and he eventually had to carry her out of the club because she couldn’t walk. This could also be a result of excessive hard drinking, of course, but since she’d only had a couple glasses of wine, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened. Talking like a crazy person is one thing, but even when you’re really pissed, you know who your friends are and you know who you’re supposed to go home with. G said she would have gone anywhere with anyone – a total white-out in terms of reality.

Tiger is a chain with clubs worldwide – we’ve been to the London one a couple of times ourselves. It seems though, that it’s only the Cape Town club that has this reputation for girls getting their drinks spiked. Before I even knew what kind of club Tiger was (it opened after we’d already left for the UK), I had heard about the dangers there. Interestingly enough, Scarves’ friends M & I were visiting from CT last weekend, and M works at Tiger, so we had a discussion about this literally the day before it happened to Mini-Me. M loves her job, and was understandably defensive about the realities of what go on there. She says all the staff are aware of the reputation of the club, but that there is no proof to confirm the epidemic of drink spiking, as the rumours suggest. She told me that Tiger has a policy whereby if a girl who suspects her drink has been spiked goes to the hospital and has tests done, and those tests come back positive, Tiger will cover all the medical costs as compensation. She said out of the girls who had taken them up on the offer, no tests had come back positive. What she didn’t say was how many girls had actually done this. As soon as I found out it had happened to Mini-Me, I told her about this policy and suggested she go have the tests done, as even though covering the costs of medical bills doesn’t do much for one psychologically, at least you have the peace of mind of knowing for sure that what happened to you was a result of someone else’s malevolence, and not anything you did to yourself.

Mini-Me did a bit of research, and she found out that most of these drugs that are used to spike drinks only stay in your system for about 2 days, so unless you go to the hospital almost straight away, the chances testing positive are slim. Rohypnol, still one of the most common drugs used in drink spiking, of online reports are to be believed, can usually only be detected on up to 24 hours after it has been ingested. By the time I found out about it and relayed Tiger’s policy, two full days had passed. Another thing that seems to put girls off taking the tests is that they cost R1000, and aren’t covered by medical aid. If you’ve just had your drink spiked with a powerful drug, chances are you will take the whole of the next day or two to recover - Mini-Me said she only felt normal again four days later, and actually left work on Monday because she wasn’t coping. When you feel that terrible the last thing you’re thinking about is going for some tests, and by the time you’re feeling sufficiently clear-headed to consider getting them done, the chances are the drug is already out of your system and you have to foot the bill for R1000. Not many people have this kind of cash lying around, especially for what seems then to be a pointless exercise.

Mini-Me started speaking to some other people about what had happened to her, and discovered that at least two other friends she knows well had similar experiences at Tiger. One was found passed out behind the bar by a group of Mini-Me’s friends on a guys night out. She was lucky that people she knew found her, as the guys carried her out the club and took her home, delivering her into her father’s care. Her father took her for the test the next day, and it came back positive. According to the doctors at the hospital, the drug used to incapacitate women in clubs work differently depending on how much alcohol you’ve had. If you’re very drunk before someone slips you the drug, you just pass out, which is what happened to Mini-Me’s friend. If you’re sober, or have only had one or two drinks when you ingest the drug, that’s when the real danger surfaces, because you’re awake and talking and you just look very drunk, but you’re completely unaware of what is happening, and you will go anywhere and do anything with anyone.

It doesn’t help to get enraged about an event that has happened in the past, especially one which had a happy ending, when it could very easily have gone the other way. It’s lucky my sister was there with her boyfriend and a bunch of friends who kept an eye on her all night, as it would only have taken a few minutes of her being on her own for some potential rapist to escort her out the club and assault her. It doesn’t help either to rant furiously about what type of guy would do this to a woman, and how weak, pathetic and utterly despicable they must be to see raping a drugged woman as some kind of sport or conquest. People like this and worse do exist, and normal people like you and I will never understand them.

What does bear a mention though, is what exactly is Tiger Tiger doing about this, and is there anything that can be done to stop it? It’s all very well to have a policy offering monetary compensation for medical costs, but how does that help if the girls gets abducted from the club and raped before she finds out what happened to her? R1000 is hardly adequate for such a soul-destroying, and indeed, possibly life-threatening, incident.

As of the end of 2006 (I can’t confirm whether or not this is true of today), Tiger Tiger in Cape Town had notices up on their walls in small print warning clubbers to be on the alert for drink spiking., but they also said that the club had only one confirmed case, and that only 3% of all reported drinking spikings test positive.

I googled drink spiking, with particular reference to Tiger Tiger, and found mixed results. An IOL article from July 2006 talks about drink spiking being on the rise in SA, and mentions Tiger, Billy the Bum’s and another club, Casablanca, all in Durban. The article describes how newspapers were being contacted at the time with reports of increasing numbers of incidents in which women found themselves or their friends victims of suspected drink spiking. A police reservist who had been researching drink spiking in clubs for 4 years disputed the claims, saying that while it does happen, it is very rare that a drink is spiked, and only 3 – 5% of such claims were true. He went on to say that there are many factors which could cause a woman to feel as if her drink has been spiked, including not eating before going out drinking, medication or the menstrual cycle. I’m just going to interrupt my report here and say that those words could only come from a man – I suppose then that the increasing numbers of Cape Town girls passing out and behaving like irrational crazies at Tiger is all down to the menstrual cycle, but of course, how could we not have thought of that? Bloody shithead. Sorry, anyway…..a nurse at a private hospital confirmed the increase in numbers of calls about drink spiking incidents, but of those who came for the tests, very few tested positive (no mention of what the average time frame was between the incidents and the tests).

Fair Lady magazine reported that a private investigator who specialises in drug rapes had been involved in 60 cases of drug rapes by the end of 2006 – and those were the ones that were reported.

The general lack of information online about drink spiking in South Africa suggests that either it is a fairly new problem, which would explain the lack of statistics and reports until the newspaper and magazine articles which recently started appearing, or that there is a cover-up of some sort going on. I’m inclined to believe the former – what with the massive cover-ups of SA’s tourist deterring crime such as murders, hijackings and muggings, I would imagine this would not be as important to the government to hide. Also, it’s a simple one for tourists to deal with - stay out of clubs.

There are however, loads of info and statistics online about drink spiking and related crimes in the UK and other countries. Undercover cops collecting glasses at a popular nightclub in the UK discovered that 14% of the glasses they tested contained intoxicating substances other than alcohol. In 2003 there were over 1 000 reported incidents of spiked drinks in the UK. However, it is estimated that 84% of victims fail to report the crime. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, an estimated 4500 people in Australia had their drinks spiked in 2004, with about 40 percent of them being sexually assaulted.

While it might not be possible to determine exactly how serious the problem is in South African clubs at this time, one thing is clear – drink spiking is not the stuff of urban legends – it’s real, it’s happening, and people we know are being affected. It’s a blurred line as to whose responsibility it is to tackle this problem. Certainly, women going clubbing and drinking or taking recreational drugs should be looking out for themselves, and maintaining enough sobriety to be aware of what is going on around them at all times – anything less and they are taking their lives into their own hands. But by the same token, club owners should be held accountable for any illegal or dangerous activities which are going on in their establishments – it is their responsibility to their patrons to make sure their club is safe and secure for the people who come to have a good time.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Stupid People Situation #532

Our internet has been down since Saturday, so I've been unable to squeeze in a weekend post. We're in the middle of changing service providers, and due to some mix up between both companies and the people who own our phone line, our new router was despatched, stopped mid-delivery and returned to sender. It now has to be despatched again, so if we're lucky we'll be online by this weekend, if not, Monday next week. You should hear all of us whinging and moaning about not having internet - it's no longer a luxury but a necessity that we struggling to live without. In an effort to support Shoes' new addiction to ebay (I introduced him a while ago, and now he can't stay off it), we even resorted to hooking up his mobile to the pc to act as a modem. It works, but in the barest sense - it's slower than ADSL in South Africa, and that's saying something!

Speaking of mix-ups, I have a rather fabulous rant about a situation in which we found ourselves last week. I say fabulous with a wry smile, rather than with smoke coming out of my ears and daggers out of my eyes, as this particular Stupid People Situation (SPS) was all Shoes, and for a change I didn't have to spend hours on the phone with a peep touting as much intelligence as Jacob Zuma and his wash-away AIDS shower. Two weeks ago, he ordered a new keyboard and mouse online - our old one was more like a laptop keyboard, which, as anyone with a laptop knows, is badly designed and conducive to highly inaccurate typing. So, after much searching (he has become quite the online shopaholic lately), he found the perfect keyboard and placed his order. It was due to arrive in 3 working days, so the Tuesday after last weekend. On Tuesday, Shoes checked the tracking number and discovered that the package had been loaded into the City Link delivery van (yes, I fully intend the name and shame) and taken to receiver and that receiver had then been carded. We had not in fact received notification of any kind, but we left it for the next day, thinking perhaps they'd try again and drop it off with our concierge office, which is the standard way to deliver packages to anyone in our complex. Shoes checked again after coming back from work the next day, and discovered exactly the same message online - the package had been loaded, driven to receiver and receiver had been carded. Still no card, still no package. So he phoned them, and the following conversation ensued:

Shoes: Hi there, I'm phoning about a package that was supposed to be delivered to me yesterday. It didn't arrive and the online tracking says we were carded, but we weren't. I think you....
City Link Rep: (interrupting) Were you at home?
Shoes: Excuse me? No I was at work, but we have a conci....
City Link Rep: (interrupting again) If you weren't at home, that's why you didn't get your package. Is there anything else I can help you with? (said in a distinctly unhelpful tone)
Shoes: No, you see, I'm trying to tell you, we have a concierge office, and usually delivery companies take packages straight over there and....
City Link Rep: (interrupting yet again) Yes ok, I made a note; is there anything else I can help you with?
Shoes: I'd just like to make sure that you know where to take it. They'll sign for it at the concierge and I'll come...
City Link Rep: (interrupting once more, and a little louder this time): I already told you I made a note. What more do you want? Is there anything else I can help you with?
City Link Rep: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Shoes: hangs up

So the next day Shoes gets home to find that the package has still not arrived. I get home from work to find him in a state of apoplexy, and when I have managed to calm him down, this is the lowdown he gives me on the conversation with the City Link depot:

Shoes: (reigning himself in, in preparation for battle) Hi there, I am phoning about a package that was supposed to be delivered to me two days ago. I spoke to someone at your depot yesterday who INFORMED me that they would make a note about delivering it to our concierge office, as you had mistakenly been trying to deliver it to our door when no-one was home. Can you please check on the status of this package - it has still not arrived, and the guy I spoke to yesterday was quite adamant that he'd made a note, and that this would sort it out.
City Link Rep (a woman this time): Yes sir, one moment please.... (checks records) Aah, yes. I'm afraid, sir, that there has been a change to the order.
Shoes: What?
City Link Rep: Yes sir, the order is no longer the same as it was originally. A note has been made, and this changes the order.
Shoes: (blood pressure rising alarmingly fast) But I did not change my order. I merely issued instructions on where to deliver the package.
City Link rep: Yes sir, yes you did, but that means the order is now changed. We can't deliver a package once an order has been changed.
Shoes: No you don't understand - all I want is for this package to be dropped off at my concierge instead of on my doorstep - there is no change to the package, or to my address, or to my order, or anything - please can you just have it dropped off AT THE CONCIERGE! Why can we not do this?
City Link Rep: Sir, I'm very sorry, but this package will have to be returned to sender (insert: the head office for this pc company is in Manchester). Once it is with them, you can liaise with them to issue delivery instructions.
City Link Rep: Yes sir, I know it's hard. It's very hard. I'm sorry it's so difficult.
Shoes: HARD? WHAT'S HARD? READING INSTRUCTIONS IS HARD? FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS IS HARD? IS EVERYONE THERE DYSLEXIC AND RETARDED (or rough approximations of this - he's not quite sure what he said, but it was vehement!)?!!?!??!
City Link Rep: Perhaps if you catch the manufacturer before we send the package back and get them to phone us, it won't have to go back? You have 2 days.
City Link Rep: I don't know sir, but that's the way it is. I know how hard this is for you.
Shoes: (seething with a rage heretofore unknown) NO, YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING IDEA!!!
(hangs up)

We eventually went through the next evening to fetch the keyboard in person. We refrained from attempting to get a refund on our postage. :-)


Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Six Degrees of Denomination

I've been following the story of Prince William's split from girlfriend of five years, Kate Middleton, and I'm quite shocked at the beating she and her family have taken in the British press. The press on this side of the pond are by no means known for their tact or positivity. In fact, it is almost the law here that when a celebrity or sports personality falls from grace, and this includes losing a match, they are to be hung out to dry and pounded from all sides, preferably in public with their hands in stocks and rotten tomatoes being hurled at their faces. The British press are as well known for scathing intolerance as Britney Spears is for not wearing underwear. I should say now that am an avid tabloid reader. I know, it's mindless, inconsequential, often completely false bullshit and there are real problems in the world that people like me should be concerned about (although I read about these too, so I don't feel entirely shallow), but what can I say, it fascinates me - I'm hooked. So I am well-schooled in the 21st century media's game of build them up and tear them down - and then, if you're a British newspaper, throw them to the dogs. But, seasoned addict such that I am, even I have been a little disgusted by the treatment of Kate and her family, particularly her mother.

The story, for those of you too good for such soul-destroying gossip, is this: Kate and William have recently split up after 5 years together, and the press, who have been hailing her as the new princess Di for the latter two of them, have now pounced on her "middle class" family as being the reason for the split. Apparently their darling Kate, whose fairytale relationship just months ago inspired Woolworths to design a full range of William and Kate memorabilia in view of the "pending" wedding, is now thought of as too common for the prince. It is said she never would have made it into the royal family anyway, largely due to her "air stewardess" mother. I say air hostess in inverted commas, because the way the press say it here, you'd think she scooped poop in a local park for a living. It is rarely mentioned that after her career travelling the skies, she turned her hand to business and became a self-made millionaire, but that is to be expected. Among Carole Middleton's oh so ghastly sins that had the royal courtiers practically going cross-eyed in their attempts at looking disdainfully down their noses are these gems: when first meeting the Queen, she said "pleased to meet you" instead of "how do you do" or "hello Ma'am"; chewing gum in public (I concur, this is a disgusting habit but hardly serious enough for vilification - perhaps she had bad breath on the day?); saying toilet (I was gobsmacked at this one - what the hell are you supposed to call it? Do people in the courts seriously go around saying water closet?) and pardon (as opposed to? What? like that's any better). It has brought out a weak debate in the papers over Britain's history of snobbery and whether or not one not born of blue blood, or at least the upper class, can ever be fit to marry into the monarchy. But mostly, it has dragged an innocent family's name through the mud, all in the name of breeding. Of course, the papers attribute all these concerns to "unnamed sources" within the courts, and take the view that they are merely reporting the news, but despite my familiarity with this kind of "it's the people's right to know" reporting (ie unchecked, often completely false informatives, usually of a sensational nature), I find myself bewildered by the reasoning behind this particular topic. Yes, it's news, but why is it so damned important? What is the big deal about who you were born to and where you live?

I suppose my bewilderment comes from the fact that in South Africa, we don't have classes. It's not the first time I have encountered snobbery here - just the other day I found out how important it is to people where in London you live. We live in South-East London, traditionally known as the poorer, rougher area of London where the unemployed and working class stay. Middle class people would usually not stay where we stay, I have recently discovered. One of my team is working on developing the complex in which we live, and when I told him I lived there, he was initially surprised, followed by a little - well, I suppose the only word I can use is disdainful. I felt my image tarnish slightly as he stood next to me. I am luckily exempt from any real scrutiny, as I am viewed as a backpacker (despite the fact that I have never backpacked in my life) - a foreigner who is here only temporarily to work and travel and is therefore not quite up to speed with British social standards. One the girls in my office was debating with some of the guys about where exactly she stays... apparently she is borderline between a posh and not so posh area, and insisted quite seriously that it is in fact the posh area that she comes from. They joked around for a while, but it quite clearly mattered a great deal to her that they believe she was not from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.

In writing and thinking about this spotlight on class and breeding in Britian, I've drawn a rather nasty parallel between South African apartheid and British snobbery. Not that I am saying that they're on the same level, by any means - at least the Brits don't use force and all manner of unspeakable acts to keep the lower classes away from the upper classes. But essentially, it boils down to the same thing - for whatever reason, some people feel they should not mix with certain other types of people because of their breeding. In Britain, they have class - in South Africa, we have colour. Neither makes any sense when looked at objectively, but the deep-seated beliefs and ideology that has people judging other people on skin colour or social status is obviously not logical - it's irrational and based on either fear, ignorance or both. I hope that I am a product of the new South Africa with the tolerance not generally afforded to our parents' and grandparents' generations. I also hope that I never develop new intolerances over time, such as judging someone for the area in which they live. In the meantime, I would just like to say, I live in Woolwich, South East London, and I'm stoked to be there!

Monday, 16 April 2007

What Hell Is Like For a PA....

I am a PA. Well, that's what I call myself anyway. But I had a good think about it the other day, and a PA is, let's face it, just a glorified secretary. The lowly and much underestimated secretary types out documents, makes copies of obscenely high piles of paper, answers endless calls and fetches tea, lunch and post on a person's/people's whim(s). A PA, while snobbishly highlighting in bold the PA part of their e-mail signature, does exactly the same thing, except usually for one person. They might think they're far more indispensable than a mere secretary, but at the end of the day, if their boss is hungry, who do you think is going out to get that sandwich? And if Boss is in meeting all day and can't pick up their freshly dry-cleaned suit for Mrs Poen's Party tonight, who's going to be hauling coathangers of jackets and shirts around London?

So it was with my tongue firmly in my cheek that I accepted the title of team PA, creatively invented by the previous person holding this post. The official title, I've since discovered, is team administrator, which is more appropriate of course, as PA refers to personal assistant - not people's assistant - and I have a team of 10. However, there is a golden rule in London - actually, there are two: number 1 is NEVER EVER, no matter what you actually did in a job, admit to being a receptionist. This is even worse than a secretary, and leads to a career DOA. Receptionists are treated as if they have learning problems - there is no more humiliating event in one's life than to have to admit at a social event that you are a receptionist. Rule number 2 is always embellish your title, and consequently elevate how important you are to your company. This of course does not only apply in London - it's an age old device that has street sweepers calling themselves Parkway Sanitation Executives and other grossly verbose titles. But it seems to be especially imprtant in London, where appearances and title/reputable company have far more value than what you actually do. And so, I am a PA, not an administrator, because PA simply looks and sounds better on my CV.

But even self-proclaimed PA's, for all that they have a more glamorous title than secretaries, can find themselves in office admin hell. This has been my experience both this morning and on Friday afternoon. Specifically, I have been in meeting room hell. Meeting room hell is a place where most or all of your team all have the most urgent meetings in the world that need to be set up yesterday and therefore need venues in which to take place. The venues need to be one of the 20 internal rooms which have to be booked way, way in advance of said meetings. So, you can see how, when TK or KM has a little flap about a meeting being organised today for tomorrow, I might have a small problem. I am the meeting room merchant, a room shark or dealer in vices, wheeling and dealing, cajoling and threatening to get the venue I have been commanded to find. And so far so good - I have not yet missed one meeting venue. Touch wood. I am becoming familiar with the who's who of regulars booked into the meeting room grid, and I'm starting to know who is soft-hearted enough to bend over backwards to help me out and who's likely to sniff disdainfully in my direction, indicating clearly that my lack of foresight is an impediment to my job (apparently I am supposed to be psychic and smell that people will need a room for 8 from 11am - 2pm with a premier lunch ordered for 20voetsek). However, despite this madness, I am still very much enjoying this job, while on the hunt for permanent work. Apparently there is a chance my role may become permanent, but I'm not sure if I'd take it - it falls short by £1000 of what I want to get paid (per year obviously, I'm not that lost in my own ego).

This weekend past was a pretty good one. We went to a braai (I hate saying BBQ, but seriously no-one in this new company has ever heard the word braai before) at OJ and Neutrino's house - the last one before they move out at the end of May. Trouble with psychotic neighbours who jump over the wall and wave knives in their faces when they hear trance music has understandably forced all housemates to seek alternative accommodation, stat. The plan was to to have some drinks, make some burgers and then move onto a random's party (friend of a friend of a friend....) at a pub somwhere, but we ended up having so much fun we ditched the party idea and went to buy more booze for our own soiree. Well, maybe soiree is overstating the matter a bit - drunken carousing would be more appropriate. Some of the other housemates arrived home later on, bringing an army of Australians with them. Now, since we're not getting on very well against Oz in the cricket (or anyone else for that matter, but that's another story) and we were careless enough to allow a handful of Aussies and a handful of Saffas to gather together under one roof with several bottles of vodka down, you know we needed a way to diffuse the tension. And really, what better way than a football match - a sport in which we both suck. It was heated, and both sides were fighting hard for the coveted title of Backyard Champions, but in the end it was our Saffa boys who triumphed, while the girls.... well, what did we do? I just know there was a lot of skinner and what we like to call dosing involved - it's when you have a really intense conversation that feels afterwards a bit like you've been force fed, in the nicest way possible of course! We honoured the age old SA tradition of boys and girls firmly separated for most of the day; after all, what would we want with a footie ball, and why would they want to discuss in great detail who's pissing who off and who's shocking secrets have recently come to light? To borrow a line from my esteemed ex-schoolmate and fellow blogger, it's what makes me so terribly glad to be a girl!

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Office Life

It's a slow day for me at the office today, hence the post. Although, if I'm really honest, I am actually not writing this in my blog at all - today's ramblings are being captured in a new outlook message, designed to appear as company business rather than a gross waste of my employer's time.

Last night I went for end of year drinks with my team (well, my extended team anyway - it's confusing even for me, so I will not attempt to describe here who I actually had drinks with). It was good to get to chat to people outside of work, although I did express my concerns to fellow PA's S and L (hereafter known as the Gossip Gaggle) that after a few toots coupled with everyone looking and acting different to their work personas, I really may not recognize anyone in the morning. My concern was misplaced however, as the event turned out to be a very civilised affair. Everyone arrived late (of course) and stood around in little huddles according to rank, and rather than drink flowing like rivers and dirty jokes poking their way through decomposing veneers, we all had a nice little chat and a bit of a laugh.

England - or maybe it's just London - is legendary for its debaucherous office parties. Think Coupling or that silly show with Denise van Outen. I've heard many a tale of office Christmas parties told with pride and warmth, the way you'd speak about a favourite child. My last company had a few fabulous stories involving several litres of Pimms and an over-enthusiastic staff member getting their rock star on at the karaoke (a firm British favourite), ending in a stage slide (sking on one's knees as opposed to the more reckless stage dive) and a face plant. Whatever the occasion, the Brits can be trusted to furiously spurn all social etiquette and vomit into the flower pots at the end of the evening. They're messy, brazen, drink-sodden and usually resemble characters from Ab Fab at the end of the night, but you have to give them their due: when they're given free booze, they know how to party.

The affair I attended last night was sadly not one of the evenings that set off a chain of gossipy e-mails the next day. The managing director bought the pre-requisite round and supplied a few bowls of chips and popcorn, but the highlight of the evening was the heated discussion about whether chips should be dipped in either tomato sauce or mayonnaise or both (you know you're in England when...). Not that I didn't enjoy myself - I did. It's just that I have my heart set upon attending one of these historical parties that are as much a part of English culture as pubs. I know they're usually more commonplace around Christmas time and bank holidays, and I suppose I couldn't expect everyone to get legless as it was only Wednesday evening. I've since been informed (rather boastfully) by our IT department that their parties always end up with everyone in the gutter, and have been kindly invited to attend, so perhaps I'll give that a try. I'm a bit scared though - IT departments here are laws unto themselves.

The other grand thing about office life in London is tea and cake. There is a never-ending supply of cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets on multiple desks at any given time, and all employees are encouraged to help themselves, presumingly so everyone gets fat together. In this way, equal opportunities are made available for all colours and classes, and no one person can lord it over the rest of the office in skinny jeans and midriff tops. I've just had a rather delicious piece of carrot cake, and am currently eyeing out the blueberry with cream cheese frosting sitting enticingly on the desk a row away from me. Willpower and diet are not words in the greater British vocabulary, and good on them for it. Even with the incessant beer and chip cosumption, the average weight in Britian is a hundred million pounds less than in America.

Finally, the last thing I love about office life is - wait for it - the friendliness. Yes, you, like I, probably had an impression of the Brits as posh, emotionless, very correct individuals who's lust for life and personalities in general have been squashed over the years to make room for that stiff upper lip. Well, you couldn't more be wrong. Of course, there are still people like that, and I maintain that South Africans overall are a much friendlier bunch, but this is because we are chilled out to the point of being catatonic - the Brits are friendly, but in an efficient kind of way. In every place I've worked bar one, people have gone out of their way to be nice and to make sure I've felt included and welcome. They may be complete bastards if you get in their way on the tubes, but in general, the impression we have of the Brits as pompous chaps who lack personality the way they lack sunshine is most definitely incorrect. We can't blame the weather on the people. And speaking of which, this summer is set to be the hottest in British history. :-)

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Happy Easter!

The day of chocolate inhaling is nearly over, and I have had one piece of toblerone all day. I've figured out the ultimate lose weight quick method: shower dieter with junk food, and dieter will gravitate without effort to celery and carrot sticks without so much as unwrapping a single sweet.

Not that I am dieting per se. In fact, I can proudly say I have never dieted in my entire life... and this is not due to lack of trying, it is due to lack of willpower. Luckily, I recognized this genetic defect in my teens, and stopped trying altogether, so forgoing years of hunger pangs and guilt over stolen slices of chocolate cake.
We started off our Easter weekend as young twenty somethings should - we went out clubbing and got wrecked. Our venue of choice this Thursday night was The Egg (Easter at the Egg, you see?), for... you guessed it... an easter party. The Egg is close to King's Cross station. Well, close is an understatement - it is actually 4 bus stops away from the station, but there is no closer tube station. As has become the norm lately, I agonized over what to wear for 45 minutes beforehand. For those who have seen my cupboard, you will know I do not have a shortage of clothes. Quite the opposite, if we're to be truthful here. I have so many clothes that fitting them in our piddly little cupboard and measly chest of drawers is something not even the most diligent of packers could do, hence our four, yes four, 3-drawer storage units that are piled up around our bedroom making us look like refugees. I'm in a crisis about this actually - there is no more space in our room for more storage units (under the bed and on top of the cupboard were taken long ago), and still I have trouble stuffing my clothes into arb hidey holes (which makes for endless fun games of hide and seek when searching for my black and blue corset that I just have to wear tonight). What I shall do when the time comes to buy new summer clothes, I just don't know. I'm sure you understand that not buying new summer clothes simply isn't an option.

Finally, I settled on black - slimming - and very high heels - leg lengthening - and off we went. One of the things that most annoys me about clubs anywhere is their attempts to make the party look attractive to potential punters. Not definite punters, like ourselves, but people making their way into London, trying to decide which haunt to pick for the own brand of delinquency. It's not the fact that they do this, but HOW they do this that annoys me. They reflect the opening time on their flyers as being, say, 10pm. So you arrive at 11pm, expecting to be able to go in immediately, but oh no! Instead, you are forced to stand in a queue for up to an hour while bouncers let one person in every 5 minutes and stand around practically imploding with importance the rest of the time (yeah mate, I thought A-levels were a waste of time, so I dropped out of school at 12 and now I have this sick job searching people for drugs every night, innit?). And passersby are apparently supposed to gather from this melee that the party inside is SO awesome, the whole of London is trying to get in, and thus be drawn over like moths to flames. Me, I'd just walk straight past and look for a place where the queue moves faster than the overland during rush hour.

We got in eventually, and ended up having a really great night. Clubland never ceases to amuse me - some of the planet's biggest freaks and freakshows frequent these places. My personal favourite of the night occurred in the tented chill out area. We'd sat down for a break from dancing and along comes this girl, clearly high on something other than life. She didn't so much approach as moonwalk over to us. She mumbled something unintelligible, and plonked herself down on the tiny space available on the end of our couch, but, instead of using her centre of gravity to balance herself upright, she just kept on going backwards, and ended up ass over feet on the other side. What was even funnier was that when she got up, she looked completely unaware that anything untoward had happened, and promptly sat down.... and did it again! Even the bouncer was having a chuckle.

Easter weekends are for chilling out, that's what we decided at the beginning of this one. Either that, or you have to go all out and go away somewhere, which wasn't on the menu due to the Turkey trip at the beginning of May. This morning we had a bumper brunch with Mello and OJ - a big English fry-up with all trimmings. After that it was time for coffee and the easter egg exchange, and I have felt strangely nauseous at the thought of chocolate ever since, despite a decent haul that should see me through any major upsets in the near future (everyone else leaving for Turkey, missing my boyfriend's birthday, general moaning about my inadequate life, etc etc). I have thought about giving one or two of my eggs away to bums at the station, but despite the fact that I don't want to eat them, a horrible (and very unflattering, I suspect) scrooge-like jealousy washes over me at the thought of anyone else in possession of them. Even the possibility of getting fat doesn't put me off... I just want them where I can see them, even if they don't get eaten. Am I just a nasty person, or a sensible one who realises looking can be as satisfying as having? Either I have issues, or I should be writing a self-help book for women on virtual fulfilment.

Monday, 2 April 2007

In a Bit of a Muddle

I've been skimming over some of my previous posts from the last couple of days, and I've realised just how erratically I've been writing - much like the way my life has been of late. My head is all over the place - I can't seem to keep track of anything, and following on from one thought to the next is near impossible; I seem only to be able to spew forth arbitrary bits and pieces, much like a CD player stick on random for so long it forgets how to play things in sequence.

I put all this down to having started a new job, and finally actually doing some work. This has caused a chemical imbalance in my brain, as previously I did nothing for so long, I am now having to re-learn work ethics and patterns.... ha ha ha, sorry, that was funny - you know when you're typing but one fingers slips on the keyboard? And as result you're thrown off balance and you're still hitting keys in the correct order, but your fingers are hitting the wrong keys.... well, that just happened and it made me laugh. You see, I'm not my usual self. That would normally annoy me.

I feel quite odd at the moment, but definitely odd in a good way. It feels great to be doing something constructive at work, and even though this is not quite my dream role, I'm really really liking the office environment and the people, and as I'm sure you know, often that makes a job great.

Something I really wanted to write about which I somehow omitted was our experience at We Will Rock You. You might remember I posted about the upcoming event, and was quite excited by it all. Well, we went on Tuesday last week, and it was absolutely brilliant - everything I expected and more.

This is the story: The time is the future, in a place that was once called Earth. Globalisation is complete! Everywhere, the kids watch the same movies, wear the same fashions and think the same thoughts.It's a safe, happy, Ga Ga world. Unless you're a rebel. Unless you want to Rock. On Planet Mall all musical instruments are banned. The Company Computers generate the tunes and everybody downloads them. It is an age of Boy Bands and of Girl Bands. Of Boy and Girl Bands. Of Girl Bands with a couple of boys in them that look like girls anyway. Nothing is left to chance, hits are scheduled years in advance. Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. But Resistance is growing. Underneath the gleaming cities, down in the lower depths live the Bohemians. Rebels who believe that there was once a Golden Age when the kids formed their own bands and wrote their own songs. They call that time, The Rhapsody. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. Legend persists that somewhere on Planet Mall instruments still exist. Somewhere, the mighty axe of a great and hairy guitar god lies buried deep in rock. The Bohemians need a hero to find this axe and draw it from stone. Is the one who calls himself Galileo that man? He’s just a poor boy. From a poor family. But the Ga Ga Cops are also looking for Galileo and if they get him first they will surely drag him before the Killer Queen and consign him to oblivion across the Seven Seas of Rye. Who is Galileo? Where is the Hairy One's lost axe? Where is the place of living rock? Anywhere the wind blows.

It's tongue in cheek, doesn't take itself too seriously and consists mainly of 2 hours of solidly performed rock songs that elevate Queen even higher in the echelons of rock gods. With current pop-culture references to everyone from John Lennon to Britney Spears, this is a young musical that celebrates its youth and love for music. I enjoyed every second of it, and so did Shoes, amazingly enough. He clapped throughout the penultimate song We Will Rock You - hands in the air as well, just like the rest of the audience, and stood up for the standing ovation at the end without hesitation! Just as well he enjoyed that one so much, as he has declared it to be his last foray into theatre. He reckons he'll never enjoy another musical as much as that one (the thought of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and 2 hours of Cats has him shuddering like his old Ford Escort), so it's a waste of money to drag him along. I have accepted this with my customary good grace - ie, since it leaves more money for me to go to theatre, I have no complaints at all!
I got a little choked up towards the end of the show, which is a normal reaction for me to have when watching people up on stage. This is partly due to a dormant longing to be up there - everytime I go to musical theatre, I curse my parents for not divining that I wanted to be a child star and hustling me off to drama school; and partly because I always feel quite moved by a really brilliant live performance, in a way that movies don't often touch me. I definitely shouldn't see a play where everyone dies at the end - they'd have to carry the soggy heap that would be me out of the theatre. Scarves and I have booked tickets for Dirty Dancing the musical (I know, can you think of anything I could possibly love more than a stage adaptation of the movie I can quote word for word from start to finish!), and we've also got tickets to see Gwen Stefani later this year, so we're doing pretty well in the theatre and concert race. The race is with ourselves, to see how many we can see without breaking the bank. We said the guys can so their own thing when we go out, but since they are such easy-to-please lads, they'll probably want nothing more than what they want every weekend - to sit in front of the tv with a 6 pack of beers watching sport non-stop from sunrise to sunset. It's a man's life - thank god!