Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Caner of the Weekend

Phew! What a weekend. I have to say, I went all out for this one - unintentionally actually, as I only meant to enjoy the extra day like a normal Londoner, but, in true London style, I went completely overboard and from Saturday night to Sunday night is all one big blur.

It started innocently enough - Scarves was on stand-by for working at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, and when she discovered she didn't have to stay, she wanted to meet up in town to go shopping at the new Primark that opened in Oxford Street recently. I know, I shouldn't even use the words "innocent" and "shopping" in one sentence, but really, this is not what my post is about for a change - well, not entirely, at any rate. You see, I've been banned from shopping again, having gotten a bit too enthusiastic during the Turkey debacle. My ebay purchase amounts are so high, I had to delete them so Shoes wouldn't see exactly how much I spent while he was away. Fair enough, we did some serious pillaging of our bank account to buy his summer clothes too, but even when he came back I couldn't stop.... the need for a fix was too much. And it's worse online, because not only do I have to contend with the rush of the purchase, but it's the adrenaline high you get from outbidding someone in the last 5 seconds that makes me tingle all over. Women of the world, hear my cry: you don't need chocolate when your man lets you down, you just need Ebay, take my word for it.

Anyway, Scarves and I made our way to Primark in the middle of Saturday afternoon. I know. WHAT WERE WE THINKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Primark, for those saffas who have never been acquainted with the joy that is, is a cheap but fashionable chain store which has long had a reputation for extremely low cost average quality clothing using the designs from the catwalks as inspiration (well, close enough anyway). Sometimes average droops to bad, but then you don't buy from wardrobe staples from Primark - you buy what's in fashion because it only has to last one season. Shoes had consented to let me buy one item, and that was without me even asking. Actually, I said I wasn't going to buy anything, and was trying to convince myself I wasn't lying through my teeth, but I was saved by him coming to me first and lifting the ban. So we put on our Primark Heads (necessary as opposed to normal Shopping Heads as you have to sift through a fair amount junk to discover the gems), and braced ourselves as we entered the maelstrom. And my word, a storm of Durban proportions it was.... People were streaming past each other in what could once be viewed as aisles, but which were now just slivers of tiled floor peeking out from amongst ankles and knee deep piles of clothing. Think Mr Price when they lay out T-shirts on the shelves and people come and pick them up at random and toss them back unfolded.... then multiply it by 100. We soon discovered that apparently everybody in London is a size 10 dress - or at least is pretneding to be, because size 10's were like kruger rands in that place. Everytime either of us found a size 10 in anything, the discovery was punctuated by a delighted squeal, which then drew the other one alongside to critique the item ("No, Socks, it's luminous purple with puke green horizontal stripes, it doesn't matter that it's a size 10.... let go of the granny dress!"). We also battled with the Curtain Effect, which is the prevailing fashion these days. It consists of floral patterns which are currently all the rage, but there is a fine line between fashionably flowery and looking like your mother's home-made curtains. At times it was hard to tell ("But I'm SURE it would look better once it's on?"), but the overall concensus is don't buy anything with flower prints... even if you like it and you see a model sashaying down the catwalk in a carbon copy, it is guaranteed to send your man running for cover at first glance. We finally selected a few items and made our way to the changing rooms, walking back along the line to the end of the queue... and walking... and walking... and walking some more. Eventually, when we were practically on the second floor of the shop, we reached the back of the queue and proceeded to wait 35 minutes to get into a cubicle. By this stage we were both all shopped out, and to make matters worse, out of the 6 items we each tried on, Scarves liked two and I only liked one! I had a horrendous tent moment when I slipped into what I thought would be a nice cool maxi-dress for summer - a size 8, even, as it had looked suspiciously large on the hanger - and found myself resembling a cross between a heavily pregnant woman and a parachute. I just need an umbrella and I would have been soaring across the skies Mary Poppins style, except I would have caught all the wrong currents and swirled into the stratosphere instead of landing gently singing about spoonfuls of sugar. By now the irritation had set in. It is this moment in shopping when women feel a sudden dip in mood akin to a blood sugar level drop, except it is accompanied not only by the need for chocolate but also by a large dose of bitchiness. Everybody becomes the enemy at this point: your fellow shoppers yanking piles of clothing into their arms ("Eeew, look at what she's just chosen, that is SO last year!"), the bored and inefficient sales staff dragging their feet as they go to pick up yet another armload of clothing that a shopper has tossed unconcernedly on the floor, and especially the tellers ("She is ringing those items up like she has all day, where's your sense of urgency bitch!!!"). After another half an hour in the queue, bringing our total shopping experience in Primark to 2 hours, we were ready to quit our most beloved sport, at least in person, for a good while. You see why Ebay has become so essential?

After the Primark horror, Scarves went home and I proceeded to a pub in Covent Garden to hook up with some old friends. The friend in question, H, is someone I used to go to church with and hung out with for most of my standard 8 and 9 years, and whom I haven't seen since. She is now married and lives in Scotland, and came down to London for the weekend to watch the rugby and have a drink with London-based mates. So I arrive at the Walkabout (why they chose an Aussie bar to watch SA cream England is beyond me, but hey, at least they didn't have to bash any arrogant Aussies) to find them AWOL. I walked through the (very tiny) pub about 6 times, convinced that I must just not be recognizing her. In fact, I very nearly went up to a girl who looked vaguely like her, or so I thought in my panic, but who in restrospect was just about her opposite, except for the hair. I was panicking because I realized I had no way of contacting any of the people I knew were in her group. I'd accepted the invitation on facebook, not bothering to get a mobile number, and due to the madness at Primark, had hugely overshot my ETA. To make things worse, it was now raining; I had no umbrella or hat; I was wearing jeans which were way to long for me and dragging on the ground and wedges on my feet, so I had soggy pants slapping against my legs, squelchy shoes and hair like a bird's nest due to the rain-frizz effect. Not the way I had wanted to greet an old friend after 10 years - you know how you like to look as if the years have been kind to you? Well, they looked as if they'd done a number on me. I eventually got in touch with my cousin Shaz, who had a number, and I phoned and got a location. So, all sorted then, so you'd think; but no, it's never simple with me. I proceeded to have a complete white out of all memorised directions in Central London over the last year and a half. Even a basic map, which I'd cleverly kept from a previous sojourn into the city, did not help me - I wondered around bedraggled and clueless for about half an hour; trying desperately to get my bearings, too humiliated to ask (actually, I did ask once, and was given the wrong frikkin directions by another saffa, hence the reluctance to ask for further help).

Finally I got to the pub, and it was most worthwhile - there's something about catching up with old friends in a city that's not your home that makes you feel very warm and close to those you love. From there myself and Shaz, who had joined up with me at the pub, left to go to other cousin Sand's braai. This is where things went a bit pear shaped. Since the gory details are a bit beyond me (although I'm sure Shaz could tell many tales), I'll just say that a bottle of wine and a jager bomb got me far more pissed than it should have, and on the way home I declared I lived in Oxford Circus. Perhaps a testament to my love of the high street, I'm not sure, but Shaz sensibly decided I shouldn't be allowed to randomly pick my dwelling for the night, and took me home with her. I woke up, still pissed, at 8am and realised I would have to make a dash across London to get home in time to clean up for the boat party we had tickets for - the boat party we were planning on going to despite the frigid 12 degree weather, complete with rain and the most miserable grey skies you've ever seen. Halfway home the hangover hit, and I am ashamed to say that it was among my top 5 worst ever hangovers, complete with chundering in public places and clutching desperately at seats and rails on the tube and bus in an effort to prevent falling over. I was a sorry sorry sight, but at that time of the morning, people on public transport were either in the same boat as me or completely the opposite (church, anyone?), which only served to highlight my sins. I got home to a very aloof Shoes, and sympathy was witheld until much later on the boat when after a few pints, he decided he was in a good enough mood to forgive (but never forget). Even as I dry heaved in public shame over my toilet (you'd think they'd make bathrooms sound proof, for more than one reason), I was denied anything but a curt "Have you finished yet, it's getting late." I was also nearly left at home when Shoes declared he was not going anywhere in public with me if I couldn't keep the contents of my stomach where they belonged. Since I no longer had any contents, I didn't think this would be a problem.

The boat party was not bad, once we got into it, and the rocking of the boat strangely calmed my addled body, rather than ensuring renewed efforts of what an old friend once so elegantly described as "shouting at the grass" - a favourite of mine after he got sick (no, really sick) one day and couldn't make it anywhere in time but right outside the door and onto the nearest grass patch.... I will always appreciate that term.

We got home that night and the rest of the weekend was spent in comparitive calm, veering on the boring side, as we watched alot of TV and caught up on much needed sleep. Gotta love London, life is rarely boring in this crazy city! Or perhaps it's just us crazy people.... :-)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I've been surprised this week to hear all the reports of snow in SA. I know the global climate is changing alarmingly, but snow in Plett in May? It's quite bizarre, especially when coupled with the seeming randomness that is the weather in Europe. Over Easter, London was hotter (by quite a lot) than Spain, and then a week later it was snowing in the north of England - go figure. I think global warming may be promoting unity among mankind by specifically swapping weather from one territory to another. Such as, Cape Town is now dipping into the pot of London's wintery ways, and London is taking on the characteristics of more tropical climates, and people on either side of the pond are beginning to understand how the other group usually feels. Perhaps this will help to staunch the flow of scathing attitudes we take on when criticising the weather of a country other than our own!

So, it's more than a week since the gang arrived back from Turkey, and I'm happy to say I am back to normal once again. Other than occasionally milking it to get whatever I want (I'm becoming quite good at merely directing a death look at Shoes when he dares to suggest I can't / shouldn't be doing something), I have put it firmly behind me and am concentrating on getting the details of our trip to Italy finalised. The drivers license issue has not been completely resolved, but we have a partial solution: you can exchange your SA license for a British one for a certain time period when you arrive in the UK. After that time period has expired, you can still apply for the swap, but they don't just exchange it - they give you what is in essence a learner's license, although you are not required to have any L-plates or someone accompanying you in the car, and you are supposed to then do the British test within a year. This happened to my cousin's boyfriend recently - he applied to get his license swapped, and instead got this sort of learner's one, and had to create an almighty fuss to get them to change it. We've told a little white lie on Shoes' application form in the hope that they won't look too closely, and just pass his form through as a standard swap. We'll see how it goes... if this works, he can drive freely in many countries in Europe without an internaiotnal driver permit. I'm not bothering doing mine at this stage, as it's £50 and I don't plan on driving while Shoes is around to do it for me - is this just a South African thing, that men always drive, or is it a worldwide tradition? Still don't know the story about whether or not one has to redo the K53 test if one's license expires, but still think it's highly unlikely.

Shoes has just registered for his A+ exams, which, once passed, will give him his first qualification allowing him to get started in the IT field. There are two exams which are to be written before the end of June. If he doesn't pass these, he can rewrite, but due to the expiration date he will then have to write the updated exams rather than the "old" ones. He got a bit of a shock when his course got a massive facelift halfway through the year, and he received a whole new set of files containing additional info to what he'd been studying. Because it doesn't come nice and neatly - and logically, one would think - with the original info packaged together and handy addendums expanding on that, the only way for him to study the new stuff is by starting from the beginning again and picking out what he hasn't done. After studying for nearly a year, he just about had puppies when he found out about this, but luckily they're giving all those who started with the old course notes a chance to write the "old" exams as well, thereby preventing them from having to delay their exams by a further 4 months while they catch up. No pressure to pass first time, not at all!

I went to see a new agency yesterday, this one dealing in Media & Broadcasting, as well as the Fashion Industry - yes people, I now know people who know people who work in the glamorous world of fashion - my mouth is watering at the thought of free shoes as job perk! Not getting excited about anything yet though - they haven't offered me anything and it might all come to nothing, as it so often does. But I'm going back to meet one of the other agents (I hesitate to call them Witches at this early stage - they always seem so nice in the beginning) next week. I'm in a bit of a quandry at the moment when it comes to my career. I am quite happy where I am. I really like the company I work for, I love my team and not once since I got here have I woken up and felt dread at the thought of coming to work (except when I realised one morning I had forgotten to do something very important, but that was dread at being found out rather than dread of work). So, you're asking, why don't I just stay here? If I'm happy and enjoying what I'm doing, what's the problem? The problem is that I am 27 years old, and I should be trying to carve out a career rather than just doing a job. My job should have prospects in the future, such as promotion or transfers to SA for when I go home - or at the very least, the possibility of decent pay rises. It should be challenging and stretching, and developing in me new skills which I could take onto the next level, rather than just honing the skills I already have. Also, in London especially, you ARE your last job. Which means that if I do this long enough, I will only ever be seen as a PA, and the experience I have in Media will become null and void. As a production co-ordinator in Cape Town, I became extremely skilled at multi-tasking, working under pressure and doing a damn good job of co-ordinating large projects. Here, even if we put aside the fact that it is difficult to get a London agency to take your work back home seriously in the first place, I am also up against the obstacle of it being nearly two years since I did this role, and for most agents, that's long enough to induce selective blindness when adding up your skills. Add to this that I am not an ambitious person by nature - I would like to run my own dog shelter from my back garden one day, that's really about as much as I want in terms of a job - and it's hard to motviate myself to keep looking around. I know the role I'm in now will probably be offered to me permanently in the near future. I have to decide quite quickly then what I will do when that happens. Will I stay for a year or so, with job satisfaction and general good humour; and resign myself to being a PA forever more? Or do I keep pushing for something more, with the constant rejection and demotivation that comes with failing time and time again to get a positive response? I really don't know. Watch this space, hopefully I will get inspiration from somewhere.

Wow, I am doing some SERIOUS time wasting at work today.... I have e-mailed friends and family all morning, written this post, ebayed and facebooked for a good hour and even read my horoscope - something I never do because it's an absolute load of shit. Why the bad attitude... well, I have an enormous pile of filing on my desk. Filing makes me procrastinate the way I would if I had to finish my last meal and be led off to the gallows - each grain of rice would be bitten in half and then half again, and chewed with enough slow concentration to grind away teeth. I hate filing - it must be the worst part of any office job. Most of it was kindly left for me by the previous PA (may bad fortune curse him to his grave), so it's been on my desk for almost 2 months. Yes, time to suck it up and deal with it, I completely agree. I think I have just one more meeting to organise though......

Let me leave this before I start writing utter rubbish in an effort to put off the inevitable.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Dancing Queens

The gang get back tomorrow, and I am so excited to see Shoes, but my joy is tempered with little stabs of discomfort that I might feel too resentful to welcome them properly. So I'm trying to take my own advice - you can't control the hand you get dealt, and you can't control the way a shit hand makes you feel, but you can control how you react to it, and there's power in that. I have to swallow the bitter pill and choose to smile as it goes down. We'll see how well I do. However, for a change, I am not going to talk about Turkey.

Instead, I am going to have a very quick rant about another travel issue that has recently come to light, and then tell a story which makes me cry with laughter, so as to finally end a post on a good note.

The rant: ok, well, Shoes and I have not given much thought to the state of our driver's licenses since we came over here. We have been toying with the idea of going to Italy for a couple of months now, but we want to go to Lake Garda and then drive to Venice - something which obviously requires a vehicle. We checked our licenses the other day, and mine expires in October, while his is either September or November. We've not needed to drive in the UK so far, so didn't bother getting international licenses, which is the way most tourists go in London. But now of course, we can't actually make this trip the way we want to without them, and at this moment I am waiting on a verdict as to whether or not it is possible to get an international license that expires on 6 months, rather than the usual year-long one which we can't apply for. On asking my dad for the info on their Italy trip, which was what inspired us to do it this way, he mentioned that he's not sure about the current rules for renewing licenses in SA, but at one point they were threatening to make everyone whose license expired redo their K53, and my dad thinks that might still be the case. I realise it was premature to pour acid in the form of words on the country of my birth without waiting for the facts first, but just the idea makes me apopleptic with rage, especially as there is no way of renewing a license while still in the UK. If it is true, it would horriffyingly typical of reasons while we are still a third world country, but I'm not even going there right now - I feel like if I let the rage consume me anymore, I might become a permanently angry person, which is not very appealing. So I am biding my time with exaggerated calm until such time as I know it's ok to let rip with the full force of my displeasure. Even if this is not the case, though, we are still in what is basically a dead end position - if we can't renew our licenses while over here, and we can't get international driving permits based on the length of validity of our current licenses, we can't go to Italy to do the trip we planned.

Which, after the Turkey debacle, is almost more than I can comprehend. I think there must be a Travel God overseeing these things. I think that he is a particularly malicious and vindictive character, who takes pleasure in human beings' holiday misery - why else would there be issues like lost or stolen luggage, expired passports and general travel mayhem, which serves to detract from, if not cancel completely, one's holiday? I am sure he's sitting around having a right old laugh at all the people's lives he has thrown into dissaray. And as for me, well, I don't know - I think I have a big red X marked on my forehead, and I must look like a sitting duck from where he is, which is obviously too hard for him to resist.

So, moving on - wallowing in self-pity is a habit I am becoming far too familiar with these days - the funny story.... Well, Penguin, Mello and I went for a girls night out on Saturday, in defiance of the misery that has consumed me these last 2 weeks - this was war! We tried to get into G-A-Y, but were told it was members only, even though some other people were just walking in. We think we didn't look gay enough. So we went to another bar in Soho called Serocco, and ended up having a fabulous night. We all got very drunk, I met some Russian guy who I was talking to for ages - no, it wasn't dodgy, mostly we talked about his baby girl - and we danced like hoes and had a fab time. I was overwrought and melodramatic as per usual, but that's par for the course for me on excess booze, and we knocked back a good couple of shots as well, something I don't usually do. The thing that had me cackling to myself the whole day yesterday happened in the cab on the way home. I've been known to say some pretty random things when severely inebriated - not many of them make much sense. I once told Shoes to stop worshipping 50 Cent, as he didn't know what really goes on in ghettos, but I apparently did. This was no less random... We're in the cab, slumped back on the seats and there's a lull in conversation. I break the silence, and this is what comes out:

Me: So Mello, how long have you been in Riverdance for?
Mello: (utterly stupefied, but deciding to play along, as she thought I might actually have lost my mind and assumed I was in the car with some other person, and she didn't want to frighten me) Ummm, I don't know Lopz, how long do you think I've been in Riverdance for?
Me: Well, surely you know; you're in it?
Mello: erm..uh...I wasn't... I've never... oh well, yes, I suppose I am!

And that was the end of that. For the record, Mello is not and has never been in Riverdance. She does not do Irish dancing. I, on the other hand, had been watching a documentary on Riverdance that afternoon, and in my alchol fuddled brain, somehow thought Mello was on TV in said programme. It's completely loony, people have been committed for less, but I laughed about it the whole day afterwards, and will probably be amused for some time to come.

There - a happy ending! :-)

Saturday, 12 May 2007


Looking back on my rather bitter post of half an hour ago, I felt compelled to update the situation here: I'm not the raging cow I appear to be there! Almost as soon as I'd finished posting that, the anger dissipated and I was left feeling somewhat relieved. Which is the wonder of writing really - who needs therapy? If I hadn't posted in the heat of the moment, I would have carried it around with me alot longer. I am also one of those people who find calm in cleaning, so the bathroom is now spic 'n span and I am in a zen-like state. So, am I still even partially angry? Not anymore. The pictures were the catalyst - I went on facebook to wish Shoes happy birthday and was completely unprepared when I found photos of them, tanned, healthy and baking in the sun on a beautiful beach. I know I said I didn't want to see anymore pics, but despite myself, I do. It's a bit like the scene of a car accident - you know you shouldn't slow down and look, but you can't help yourself. I won't go looking for more though; I'll wait until they get home - then at least if I'm going to throw a temper tantrum, I'll have a sympathetic audience! :-)

I am still cut up about not being able to share Shoes' birthday with him, and I doubt I'll feel any better about that aspect - out of all the people in the world, I should be the first one to be there on his birthday, and it's hard not to feel resentment that the others all have that luxury and I don't. Harder still that although he'll miss me on the periphary, he's going to have such a great time he won't be wishing I was there every second. Which is a good thing, I suppose; I don't want him to be miserable on his birthday. It's just a very human reaction - I want to be essential for his happiness on this day of all days, and I know that I'm not - well, not completely anyway.

I wasn't lying when I said I'd had enough though. I really have; I would love to fast forward two weeks when life is back to normal, and they've stopped thinking and talking about Turkey; the pictures are old news and there's some new event that we're planning which I will have a part in this time. I'm just a bit tired of extreme emotional reactions - I pride myself on being fairly balanced person, and I'm finding it exhausting and disconcerting to be riding high on my own sanctity the one minute, and plummeting to the darkest depths of my humanity the next. Thank goodness I'm not a dramatic person! ;-)

Happy Birthday? Yeah right....

One step forward, two steps back. Just when I was getting all proud of myself for overcoming my emotions with the whole Turkey thing, it leaps out from behind its rock to bite me in the ass. This time, I'm only struggling with one thing - devastation that I can't be with Shoes on his birthday, which is today. I thought I was fine - I texted him last night, wrote on his facebook wall this morning.... and then came across some of the pics of all of them on the beach that OJ posted yesterday. And suddenly I saw everything that I'm missing, coupled with the fact that I feel like complete shit that I can't even look my boyfriend in the eyes and say happy birthday, and I'm back to square one all over again.

I suppose it was when I was trying to clean the bathroom just now and found myself curled up on my bed howling into a pillow instead, that I realised perhaps I'm just going to have to let this be a seriously shit day.

So, therefore, I have nothing else to say except that I am truly miserable, and I have had fucking enough - I never want to hear the word Turkey again, I don't want to see their photos and I want to start feeling like there might be something for me in the near future, rather than just endless rehashes of their favourite holiday - do I sound spiteful? You know what, right now I couldn't care less. I've been a saint for long enough - it's time I let myself be selfish and feel as slighted as I really do. So I'm going to stop writing now before I feel like I have to delete this later.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Surviving the Ostrich Effect

I can't believe how long it's been since I last posted! Usually, when I'm particularly miserable or burning with indignation about something, the first thing I want to do is write about it. It says something then for the depths of my despair over the past week or so that I haven't even thought about my blog.

Last week was really horrible... it felt a bit like waiting on death row for my execution date (not that I am comparing my not going on holiday to an execution - well, not literally, anyway - I'm sure executions don't induce raging jealousy). As each day dawned and then drew to a close, it just brought me closer to the time I would have to bid everyone farewell. I alternated between abject misery where I'd start crying at random on the train home to unparalelled fury that they were actually abandoning me and making the trip - almost like I'd expected a last minute reprieve, in the form of my beloved friends falling at my feet crying, Lopz - we can't do it; we can't go without you - we're all staying!!! I know that I said it was fine for them to go, and I know they went cos they had very little choice if they ever wanted to take advantage of this offer - and anyway, even if I'd performed like seal in an aquarium, they still would have gone..... missing a once in a lifetime opportunity just to appease me was never on the cards. So when I looked at the situation as a realist, I could understand and agree with their actions. When I looked at it as a saint (a position to which I have recently elevated myself, being the selfless martyr that I am), I could rise above it all and tell myself that my graceful (ha ha - ok, often graceless) sacrifice would make them appreciate me so much more in the long run. But when I looked at it as a human being, I so much wanted them to say that they wouldn't go without me, no matter how I tried to convince them.

Thursday was probably the worst day. They were getting ready to pack, and our good friend G had just arrived from CT, as he's come over for a couple of years and co-incided his timing so he could make Turkey, so I knew everyone would be in high spirits. I dragged my feet walking back from the station - I didn't want to get to the house because I knew I was going to feel as left out as an odd sock in a washing machine. As soon as I walked in the door, I greeted G and when I saw the guys drinking beers, immediately requested a vodka. And an idea mushroomed - let's all get pissed, and perhaps we can even have a fun evening! By my second drink I was cruising; I had it all under control. I was even joking with Shoes about how he hasn't packed for himself in 7 years, and I was going to have to help him to make sure he remembered everything. I was on my third vodka when it hit me - a wave of crushing despair that they were really leaving to go on holiday; that they were really leaving me behind; that I was going to miss my boyfriend's birthday and that this was the longest we would be apart since we met. I would have cried at some point anyway, but the floodgates really opened this time. I went to go hide in my room in a pathetic attempt to fool everyone that I was ok, and balled my eyes out for a good half an hour. I felt quite silly about crying so much - it's not like anyone had died - but I couldn't stop. Scarves came in to talk to me eventually - shame I felt a bit bad at that point, because up until then, everyone had been walking on eggshells around me, speaking about the trip in hushed tones and trying not to show any excitement. They were very considerate the whole time, for which I am grateful. I didn't threaten them with pain of death to make them be that way, they just were - and I was calm and cool about it as well. All very civilised. But when Scarves came in to speak to me, I think it was the first time we'd actually spoken about the whole debacle properly since I found out in February.... prior to that I think I was operating on the Ostrich Principle: if I stick my head in the sand maybe it will all just go away. It couldn't be ignored that night though, but finally I managed to stem the flow of tears long enough to help Mark pack. He kept me supplied with a steady flow of vodka all the while, and I soon able to be merry again - then it was just a struggle to get me to stop drinking vodka long enough to drink the tea I'd asked for.

It was surprisingly easier to say goodbye to Scarves and Eyes the next morning. The worst seemed to be over. Shoes and G came into town to meet me for lunch, and I said goodbye without any major displays of emotion, eg holding onto pant leg and demanding he take me with him. And when I got home that night to an empty house, I was also ok - just a little tearful when I read the sweet letter Scarves had left me. Mello was due to arrive the next day to come and stay and keep me company while they were gone, but I'd told her I would probably want to be alone of Friday night. And for most of the night, I was fine. But I suppose being abandoned, like grieving, has specific stages. I had gotten through Denial. I had passed Despair. I was now standing on the cusp of out and out Rage, looking down at a precipice filled with Hatred and Jealousy. And I jumped. Suffice it to say that the next three days were dominated with scenes of the untimely demises of my friends - each more violent than the last; and plans of brutal self-harm that would make them come back and see what they had reduced me to with their inconsiderate actions. In my fantasies, they would then be so ashamed of their callousness that they would spend the rest of their lives trying to make it up to me, in ways too many and glorious to get into here. The rage and, I must say, total disdain I felt for all of them was only broken whenever Shoes phoned to tell me how much he missed me, and how he was so upset that I couldn't be there - which reduced me to tears all over again.

Finally, after a mostly boring long weekend during which each hour seemed to take the time of three, I came back to work yesterday and it was the first day I felt like myself again. Pass Rage - collect £200! As soon as I woke up, I knew the worst was over. I was still a bit daunted by the fact that I wasn't even halfway through the time frame yet - as much as I'm over crying over them or planning their deaths, I still miss them on a reasonable level, and want them to come home, especially Shoes. But I felt like a whole person rather than the shell of a tormented one. My colleague S says that by the time they get back, I'm going to be so independent and self-fulfilled that I'll want them to go back to Turkey!

So now I can look forward with genuine anticipation to the rest of my week. Tomorrow I'm going for a long overdue dinner and drinks with my cousins, and Saturday night is Girls Night Out at G-A-Y, followed by some retail therapy at the new Primark in Oxford Street on Sunday - not that I need any more of that; I shop most when I'm miserable so Ebay has been taking quite a beating recently. At least I'll have plenty of new outfits to show for my 10 days in isolation! It feels good to feel like an adult in control of a situation again, rather than a three year old throwing a permanent temper tantrum. However, and guys if you're reading, please take note - this is the first and last time you have a group holiday without me - next time I'll burn your passports!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

The Turkey Tale

Finally, it is time to talk about Turkey, the white elephant that has been obnxiously impeding my life without apology for the last two months. Shoes and my circle of close friends, including housemates, are off to Kalkan on Friday - a village in the southern mediterranean region of Turkey, which abounds in picturesque white beaches, azure blue oceans and apparently more restaurants and bottle stores than in the rest of the country put together, just for some icing on that grandeous cake. They will be staying for 10 days in a luxury villa that sleeps 12 people, with a pool right out of a Hilton Hotel catalogue and views that would wind even a born and bred Capetonion (you know how maniacal we are about the beauty of our city).

I will be staying in London, which from my current viewpoint looks boring, ugly, lifeless and about as full of opportunities as a squatter camp. This is my story of how and why this came to be, and how I am appealing to any of you in London and reading this to save me from my three year old self (jealous, petty, raging and on the brink of a violent temper tantrum) with as much distraction as possible over the next 2 weeks.....

Neutrino, who in addition to moonlighting as an aspiring DJ, is also a personal trainer (and he's single ladies, e-mail me for a number) and sometime in the beginning of the year, he signed up a client who just happened to own said luxury villa in Turkey. After some discussion, it emerged that Lady Villa was looking for someone to update her website on which she advertised its alluring qualities. Neutrino happily volunteered himself and OJ for the job, and in exchange, Lady Villa offered them 10 days free stay as remuneration. Needless to say, they leapt at the chance, and promptly invited all of us to come along for the holiday of a lifetime. We were excited, but it was a while to go yet, and Shoes and I had a trip to Amsterdam coming up with Mini-Me and G, so I decided to deal with my passport on return from that visit. I'd been aware that my passport was expiring in September 2007, but had also been told (incorrectly of course) by SA Home Affairs before coming to the UK that once you apply for your new passport, you can't travel on your old one, and you have to wait for your new one to arrive.... hence my decision to wait until I got back from Amsterdam to sort it out. In hindsight, I almost deserve my fate for being imbecile enough to listen to a word from Home Affairs, but you want to at least think that the people who run these things know what they're talking about... anyway.

We got back from Amsterdam and in early February I started getting my papers together to go and apply for my new passport. It was 4 months til we planned to leave for Turkey. I had to wait for my dad to send my ID book up from CT, but I wasn't worried.....by this stage I had uncovered the eishness of the HA guy, and knew I was able to travel on my old passport while my new one was being processed. I planned to apply for my new passport and still travel to Turkey on my old one, and then by the time I came back from Turkey, my new passport would have arrived and I could use it for any further travel in the summer of 2007. I knew from my previous travels in Europe that Schengen countries require you to have a minimum of 3 months validity left on your passport from the date you enter their borders. First major mistake: we all thought Turkey was part of the EU. It first came to light sometime in February while I was waiting for my ID that Turkey was in fact only in talks to join the EU, and currently had its own set of immigration rules. An alarm went off somewhere deep inside my head at this point, but still, I was not panicking - I had no reason to think Turkey would be different to Schengen countries, right? The first time I felt a real sinking sensation that all may not be well was the day Eyes revealed his discovery: according to info online, Turkey requires all visitors to have a minimum of 6 months left on the passports when arriving in the country. At first I thought he must be mistaken... in my head it didn't add up that this might prevent me from going. So I did the research myself, and confirmed what he had seen - you have to have 6 months. On the day that we entered, I would have 4 months and 25 days. While all my radars were flashing red and blue warning lights and my stomach was for the first time tightening with dread, I still didn't believe at this point that it was all over for me. No matter, I thought, I will just make sure I get my new passport in time. So off I went to the SA Embassy to pick up my fingerprint form, and I chanced a word with the helpdesk guy, just so I could confirm my plans. He informed me, rather coldly I thought (or maybe it was the cold sweat that broke out at his words) that new SA passports take 3 - 4 months from the date of application to arrive back in the UK, and I first had to make an appointment by phone to get that application handed in. With a rising sense of panic, I asked him if temporary passports were quicker. He informed me that the British government was no longer allowing South African citizens to travel on temporary passports unless they were dual SA/UK citizens, as fraud and corruption in our country's Home Affairs office made these documents worthless and, more often than not, falsified. He let me know in no uncertain terms that my only chance was to get my new passport before I left for Turkey. I asked if there was any way this would happen, and he looked at me like I'm just asked him to lick my feet.

So I embarked on a week-long frantic attempt to find a way over, under, around or through the obstacle set so obstinately before me. In the beginning, I really thought I would do it. I phoned the Turkish embassy, I phoned the South African embassy, I googled fast tracking passport applications, I harrassed people about temporary passports and travel documents and I got my parents to try and apply for my passport from CT to make it happen quicker (no dice - it has to be done in person). The only thing I didn't do was go to the Turkish Embassy and get down on my knees and beg, and then only because I know from previous experience, you are only allowed into an embassy with a letter of appointment, which I didn't have as I of course had not applied for my visa. When I phoned the SA Embassy that week to make an appointment to apply for a new passport and got the earliest available date of 3rd April, I knew the game was up. There was no way, even with a miracle, that I would get my passport inside of a month.... even if God had wanted to help me, I doubt even He could have found his way through the nuclear wasteland that is Home Affairs. Being African, I knew that a well placed bribe would have got me sorted out one time, but I didn't know who to bribe, and felt that asking my parents to fly up to Pretoria to find an acceptably corrupt official was perhaps crossing the line a little bit.

So I had to come to terms with my fate. Signed, sealed, delivered - take that, you third world country citizen, ye of worthless passport and corrupt government officials. And after some infrequent moments of murderous rage (mental image of boyfriend and housemates relaxing on a beach while I struggle through the crowds in a tube) and devastating misery (being away from boyfriend for 10 days - the longest we will have been apart in 7 years, AND missing his birthday), I came to terms with it, and it faded into the background of daily life.

Up until 2 weeks ago, when the white elephant raised its trunk to taunt me again - this time in the form of Eyes and Scarves and their last minute master plan. They decided I should accompany them to their visa appointment and have a chat with (read shamelessly beguile) the officials there about granting me a visa. I almost feel for it - after all, what could it hurt? The worst they could do was say no, which was nothing new. But at the last minute, I pulled out, and I have good reason. Even if I had managed to coerce one of these nice Turkish men to give me a visa by way of dimples and cleavage (not a very real prospect in the first place, as jobs are most probably on the line for international immigration law breaking), I would then be walking across a border into a foreign country, incorrect travel documents in hand, and have to charm the airport officials (only the most sullen and uncompassionate human beings in the world) into letting me through. When they turned me away, as would inevitably happen, I would have wasted £50 on a visa and £250 on a plane ticket, and have to suffer the humiliation and utter despair at watching my friends walking through for 10 days of sand and sun while I was deported back to dreary England, probably never to return (they are pretty anti second chances in Europe).

So, I am staying; they are going, and I am alternately resigned to my fate one minute, and horribly, speechlessly miserable the next. I will save the rest of this paragraph for when they're actually gone though, as although I am going to try and get through this as a person I like and respect, I'm sure there will be moments I will be anything but; and there's no better way to let off steam like that than on a blog - it certainly must be a relief to my friends that they won't then have to hear me go on about it for 10 days. After all, when you get tired of reading a blog, you can just close the web page.......

Have to add a post script here though: Shoes wanted to stay. He was all set to stay, and didn't for one second contemplate going without me - but I persuaded him to go, and oddly enough, I really meant it - not in that way where women go: no, it's fine, you can go, but their tone of voice suggests mass murder if you do. It's an amazing opportunity, I've seen more of the world than he has (10 countries to his 2) and I would have wanted him to do the same for me. Yeah, when I call in that favour, it's gonna be the size of King Kong!