Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Curtain Call

Apparently Tuesday is the new Monday. I say this because, the week only seems to start on Tuesday. There are of course those who drag their Monday morning blues into the office after a now much-missed weekend, but the majority of people just don't show up on a Monday mornings! I don't know if it's just my organisation, or perhaps something to do with the public sector (less money therefore less motivation?), but my office is decidedly empty on Monday mornings. I can arrive at 9:15am (I start at 9) and still feel like the first person here. By Monday afternoon, there is a definite increase in bodies, and Tuesday morning it's like the whole world got going again after its pit-stop, and, fortified by biltong and Wimpy coffee (if it stopped at the Shell One-Stop anyway), it gets its teeth into the rest of the week.

I have just come back from spending a rather extended lunch break in Covent Garden. It was extended to make time for stops at Starbucks and then Origins after dropping off our papers at the Schengen Office for our Portguese visas. Starbucks, just because I like it, and Origins, because they were handing out free samples!

Now would probably be a good time to tell you about my latest pastime. I have recently discovered a forum which posts links to freebies. The members of the forum, who, bless their souls, obviously have WAY too much time on their cheap-skate hands, spend hours trawling the internet for good deals and then posting them for the rest of us leeches. The freebies range from the fabulous (free movie tickets) to the truly bizarre (free grass samples). I have only been browsing the forum for about a week, but already I have received one sample of Organics Shower Gel in the post and today I followed a hot tip to Origins, an all natural skincare shop, where they were giving away samples of their top 10 products - 5 per person. I now have 5 of the most delightfully tiny tubes of various creams and gels. The attraction to this forum is simple - there is no-one in the world who doesn't like to get things for free. No matter how random - chocolate samples, which consist of literally one block; or useless - curtain samples, say no more - everybody loves a freebie. My personal faves are the beauty products, and not for the reason you think. I am an independent woman - I buy whatever beauty products I want whenever I want them. What I love about the samples is the fact that they are so mini! One of my favourite parts about travelling is that I get to go to Boots or Superdrug and stock up on 6 or 7 mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face cream and even suntan lotion. Don't even ask why I don't just keep the bottles and re-fill them - the thrill is buying these tiny new products, all fresh and cute and so adorable looking in my toiletry bag. Re-filling just does not have the same effect.

My plan is to collect enough samples of skincare and cosmetic products so that I can just take them along on our trips, thereby not spending "unecessary" money (I think it's necessary but no-one else believes me) on miniatures. So far I have applied for the following samples: Free Lacoste 'Touch of Pink' Sample fragrance for women ; Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean Free Sample ; Free Full Size Rimmel Wear Maxx Nail Polish (worth £4.49) ; Free Nivea Lip Care Sample ; Sally Hansen 5 Minute Manicure Pack ; Free Sample of JoopGo ; Free Vera Wang Princess Fragrance Sample ; free original source shower products; Free sample of Davidoff Cool Water Wave ; Free sample of Marc Jacobs perfume and Free Teddy Bear.

I have also ordered 60 free photo prints from Photobox, scored 50 free Nectar points (a shopper's savings card, similar to Clicks Club card for those of you in SA), sent away for my free personalised luggage tags (your choice of photo included), requested a free 4 pack of Coors beer and registered for free tickets to live audience TV shows, such as X Factor and the Brit Awards (these are wait-listed though, so registering doesn't mean you automatically get tickets).

This means that on any ordinary day, I could just be going about my business as usual and come home to find a surprise package waiting for me. Don't tell me this wouldn't brighten your day!

Of course, as with anything online these days, I have come across some seriously strange people on this forum. One of crazier deals was the free unlimited curtain samples. This is the deal: In order to request a free sample, simply look just below the product in question and locate the Free Sample button, clicking this will add the sample to your cart and allow you to continue shopping/browsing. If you wish to select a few samples across the shop please do so. There is no limit to the number of samples you can request.
The following is a genuine conversation in response to the post - you can look it up on the forum link:

little jaffa: Stunned and amazed, i ordered 42 samples yesterday and they arrived today, quite small about 8cmx17cm but great for my uses. (erm, and those would be?)

zerbirus: yeah, mine came today, all 12 very quick delivery too, going to order some more now ah there we go, 45 more (what for???)

zerbirus: Do 50 orders of the same material and you might be able to sew them all together and make a curtain (because that makes so much more sense than just buying a curtain)

littlejaffa: noo!! think patchwork cushions/quilts/beadspreads....much nicer hmmm i might even get a g-string out one of the bigger bits (I rest my case)

Amanda1959: New girl here, hello everyone. I ordered some samples (45). The company rang me to make sure i wanted them all, as it seemed a lot to ask for, they thought that they may have a problem with their web site. (are you surprised????)

Iom-RF: Welcome to the forum Amanda. Did the company say they were still going to send them out?

Amanda1959: Oh yes they are still going to send them. Told them that i could not make my mind up which ones i like best, hence me asking for 45 samples..................they must think i live in some 10 bedroomed mansion...................... (or they think you're just a cheap-skate bitch with a curtain fetish)

zerbirus: My 45 came today, no phone calls because I gave a fake phone number (note the pro here people)

anastasia: Thanks for posting this. I'v just ordered sample of all of their materials (128!) I hope they send them. I need some new curtains, and haven't a clue as to what sort of thing I like, so the samples will be very useful. And when I've finished with them I'll be able to use them to make some hammocks for my ratties. (your what???)

smokedog: I hope people ordering these sample have a reason. Hate to think people are ordering loads just for fun. As they are only quite a small company trying to make a living. (finally, someone with some sense)

Iom-RF: Yeah, But in fairness the company should restrict the samples to say 10 per person etc. If they can't afford to send out 40+ samples, they shouldn't. (........)

Friday, 20 July 2007

Hope Set High

Our office is enclosed in floor to ceiling glass walls, and right now I am watching a torrential rainstorm pound the barely visible streets below, while thunder rattles in the distance. It's so beautiful, and makes me feel quite small.

I've decided today that I am going to have a good day. That's not to say that anything has changed between yesterday's post and now. It's still tough, and I'm still struggling, but after speaking to Shoes last night, I decided that I should take my own oft-given advice: you can't control the hand you're dealt, but you can control how you play it.

I came home in utter misery, which turned into rage when I was changing for gym as I took an earring out and dropped my butterfly on the carpet. You know how that goes - it disappears into an invisible gaping maw, never to be seen again. And this was enough to infuriate me to the point of seeing spots before my eyes. Of course, I snapped at Shoes, who was unfortunately just breathing, and stormed out to try and pound it out on the treadmill. I must be seriously pissed off, because after half an hour of very hard cardio I was barely even breathing hard. It's funny, I remember back in the days I worked for a production company in Cape Town, I thought I could never hate anyone as much as I sometimes hated my boss - we won't bother with the reasons now. After a particularly frustrating day at work, I used to go to gym and pretend the treadmill was his head. On those occasions I found I could run faster and longer than should have been possible for my level of fitness at the time. I felt if I could enter the Olympics in that exact state, I'd take the gold.

While I felt slightly better after the workout, what I was actually trying to do was the run until the knot in my chest got shaken loose and could be purged, perhaps through my sweat. It didn't really work though, making me admit that perhaps a mental workout was the better answer.

Shoes was actually the one that started it dissolving though. He's very low key with the serious issues most of the time. You won't find him involved in lengthy conversations about feelings, the world, the way we are or where we're going. He's more chilled out - he prefers to talk sports and recreation. In fact, I struggle sometimes to initiate a "big discussion" with him. But he's proven to me again that when it really counts, he has a depth of wisdom which he doesn't often reveal. Suffice it to say that, after talking to him - or, rather him giving me a bit of a dosing - I sort of felt that I could breathe through the sludge in my veins again. I've always known I don't have to go through things alone, but I still don't do the sharing thing very well. I share other people's burdens quite easily - lay it on! But my own... I think it's because I always think I have a better answer than anyone else. I stand corrected. Sometimes it has to be snatched out of my clawing fingers. It takes a lot to push Shoes to the point where he will do that, but I'm always very glad when he does.

So, as this is supposed to be a new beginning of sorts (ok, it's my 67th one this year, but I am nothing if not tenacious), I'm going to write one thing in every post that I am really lucky to have, or that I am very thankful for. I am really lucky to have - and also very thankful for - a partner who always lets me be myself, until he sees that me being myself isn't working; when being myself is letting me down. And that he then knows what to do to bring me back out of myself again. Confusing? Not to me. ;-)

Wow, the sun just came out! Perhaps this is God's way of giving me a sign to say I've finally got something right. :-)

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Under My Skin

I am so, so, so frikkin tired. Not from lack of sleep, but tired of life in general. It's nothing in particular that has made me want to curl up in a room away from everybody for 100 years, but rather an amalgamation of everything that has me feeling miserable and so exhausted I can barely make myself attend to the tasks I have to do. It's ironic really, because just a few days ago, I was saying how recently I felt like I'd broken through the suface of a lake and was gulping fresh air for the first time in a long time. Well, scratch that - I am gumpy, crotchety, fatigued, stressed and sick and tired of having to tough it out. Life should be about experiences and finding the good in things, not about toughing it out day by day just to get through it because.... well, I don't know why. Because the alternative is to be suicidal and end it all, and I'm hardly that damaged. Luckily.

Ok, so maybe there was a tiny trigger. But it's so random and insignificant, I'm ashamed to admit it. Don't ever say I don't know how to get your attention... ;-)

It was my phone. My new phone that was supposed to arrive on Tuesday this week: the pink Samsung U600, at an absolute steal, complete with free PSP (Shoes was happier that I was). We ordered it last week, and it was due to arrive two days ago. Only, it didn't. Last night, we tracked the order online and found it had been returned to sender. So we phoned Dial-A-Phone, and the following conversation ensued:

Shoes: Hi, I'm Shoes and I ordered this phone blah blah reference number blah blah and it supposed to be delivered blah blah but it says on your website it has been returned to sender.
ESP (Extremely Stupid Person): Oh yes sir, I see here that it has been returned to us.
Shoes: Erm, yes, that's what I just said. Can you tell me why?
ESP: Well, didn't you send it back?
Shoes: Uh, no, I want the phone. I ordered the phone. I paid £30 up front for the phone - why would I send it back?
ESP: I don't know sir.
Shoes: Yes, well, me neither. That is why I have called you. Why have YOU got MY phone?
ESP: Can't answer that sir. You will have to phone Royalmail.
Shoes: Ok fine, forget about why. Can you please send it back to me?
ESP: No sir.
Shoes: Why not?
ESP: Because sir. That's our policy.
Shoes: Your policy is to steal other people's phones?
ESP: No sir. Our policy is to cancel the phone contract if the phone is returned to us.
Shoes: But I didn't return it to you. It got returned by someone else, without my permission.
ESP: It doesn't matter who returned it, sir, the fact is it got reuturned.
Shoes: So you mean I can't get my phone back.
ESP: It's no longer your phone sir. It's our phone again now. If you want another phone, you will have to order another one.
Shoes: But, I've already ordered. You have all my details on file. Can't you just send that phone back to me?
ESP: No sir. You have to place a new order.
Shoes: But I don't understand. You have my details. Just send me another phone, and link the registration number with my details, which you already have.
ESP: Sorry sir, I can't do that. It's against policy. You have to order a new phone.
Shoes (straining to hear over my cries of "I'm going to fucking kill them" in the background): What about my £30? Will that carry over to my new order?
ESP: No sir. We will transfer the £30 back to you in 7 - 10 working days.
Shoes: Wait a second. If I order this phone today, you are going to charge me another £30. Then, in 7 days time, you are going to transfer £30 back to me. Have I got that right?
ESP: Yes sir, that is what we're going to do.
Shoes: Can you not see the higher intelligence of simply keeping the £30 I have paid you and sending me a new phone?
ESP: I'm afraid it's against policy sir.
Shoes (physically restraining me from ripping the phone to shreds with my bare hands): Can I just tell you something?
ESP: Yes sir, of course.
Shoes: Your policy stinks. In fact, your choice of delivery stinks too. Actually, everything about this whole mess stinks.
ESP: Thank you sir. Goodbye sir.
Shoes: *%£$!%*$^!

And so, we now have to wait and see if the £30 ever materialises before we risk ordering another phone from them. I did phone Royalmail as well, and they can't tell me either why the phone was returned to sender, but apparently that happens either at the request of the recipient (clearly not us as we never even saw the delivery guy), or if the recipient does not live at the address given. In any other case, including if the recipient is not available to sign for the package, it goes back to the depot and you are left a card explaining what has happened (we had no card). You then have three weeks in which to collect your package. They are investigating the issue after I threw a major wobbly on the phone today.

The point is, it's not the phone that matters. It's not even the Stupid People Situation. It's the fact that I can't even place an online order without everything coming to a grinding, metal-crunching halt. After the last 3 weeks, with the visa situation for Portugal and then the driver's license issue (which is sorted now, by the way), all I am asking for is just a bit of slack. Let me have an easy day. Let me just do something, and have it work right first time. Just once. Just to explain to you how chronic this is, I was supposed to be at an agency for an interview today at 1pm. As I was topping up my oyster card at the station, an alarm sounded and everyone had to evacuate. The result? I had to walk all the way to the next station to get the tube and was late for my interview. Just one thing.

It sounds funny, I know, and believe me, if I can see any good at all in anything, it's when I'm writing, because then I can add black humour to what in real life is making me cry, through complete lack of other options.

I'm just tired. I haven't had a holiday in 2 years, and I have never been this desperate to get away from my life and out of my own skin. I cannot stand to be me right now - I just want to be someone else, somewhere else, where my problems are non-existent. A place where there is no stress about a money situation that is worsening by the day; a place where finding a permanent job that I would just like, never mind the perfect job, is actually possible, rather than as likely as finding a needle in a haystack; a place where I can relax and not have to cope single-handedly with all the curveballs that life is throwing my way because somehow it all just seems to fall into my lap, and everyone else is content to leave it there. A place where I can just not be me. Just for a few days.

I realise that I'm just running on empty, and some time away from London and my life here will fill me up, and then I won't break down next time a stupid phone order goes wrong. Then I'll laugh at it, and find the funny in the frustration. It just seems like the person who used to laugh at things like that has been missing for a long time. I have drastically underestimated the need for relaxing holidays. But then again, I have never worked flat out for 2 years without one.

I know Portugal is close. But with all the drama surrounding this trip, it is testing every ounce of strength and faith that I possess, and I truly believe I have been tested enough this year. I'm on the edge of the precipice now; it's only going to take one or two more of these situations to push me over. I can't wish hard enough for the days to fly by so Portugal will arrive. G-Days is with us this weekend, so I think I'll wait for him to go back to Chippenham and then take a day off next week. It's not great, but at least I can be at home by myself, watching Grey's and not speaking to anyone, and hopefully gather just enough to see me through the next month.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Just a Quickie

Just a really quick post before I head off to my staff drinks tonight..... I'm waiting for at least one of my overly dedicated team to pack it in and leave already so I will have someone to walk with!

It looks like the Potugal issue might be solved... I don't want to get too excited now, cos you know how these things go. Neutrino appears to have a fully valid Irish license - apparently it was the SA passport, SA drivers and numerous other things that were expired, but not his UK license. Still haven't actually seen this license, or spoken to him, but if the grapevine is to be believed, we might be saved.

More on that tomorrow - the herd is on the move!

Monday, 16 July 2007

Serenity Prayer

Saturday night was our first night out in a club since the smoking ban. We all went to Sugar Reef bar in Piccadilly Circus, and I can't even begin to tell to how awesome it was to get out of there smelling like roses instead of rubbish bags! It was Jez's birthday on Wednesday, and he's back in town from the oil rigs for 3 weeks, so his girlfriend organised him a surprise party. It was great - we drank, danced and cavorted in style - but made the rookie mistake of setting up a tab without first checking the prices. It turned out to be the most expensive bar we've been to in London, and our plan of spending £60 for the night was obliterated with a bill of £107; CRINGE. Oops. Oh well, it was worth it - I think. Yesterday we woke up to fresh smelling rooms (seriously, the usual aftermath of a night like Saturday has us waking up and hurling ourselves at the window to stick our heads out and gulp fresh air - it makes SUCH a difference!) and spent the day chilling at home. We'd decided on Friday to make a lamb roast for dinner. Recently the days have been cool, rainy and cloudy up until about 6pm, when the skies start to clear and it gets really warm. It's quite bizarre. We didn't take this into account when making our roast, and it started heating up at about 3pm yesterday. By 6pm, when the lamb had been in the oven for an hour and a half, the microwave was cooking the potatoes and we had the stove on to make gravy, our kitchen felt like the Namib Desert and we were all rushing onto the balcony every 5 seconds so we could breathe. The red wine we had with our dinner resembled tepid sea water from a baking rock pool in temperature - it's hard to get used to putting red wine in the fridge for 5 minutes - but other than that, the meal was delicious. We're all getting quite good at this Sunday lunch thing.

I have yet another saga from the Torturous Travel Diary to tell you today. At last look, we had bought our flights and party tickets for Portugal, and everything was looking good to go. Then we phoned to make our visa appointment, and found that the earliest appointment we could get was 14th August - and we fly on the 16th. What followed was 24 hours of harrowing fear that we wouldn't be able to go. The Portuguese Embassy was most unhelpful, saying that there was nothing they could do to bring our date forward by a few days. I was so desperate that, in a moment of illumination, I decided I was going to ask Shoes to marry me - in name only, for now, to be reaffirmed with the ring, the wedding and the pizazz when we eventually go back home. This would give me the passport I so desperately want, and would make my travel for the next 3 or 4 years 10 times easier and cheaper. I managed to convince my work colleagues that this was a great idea, and they were all cheering me on. Then I had a think about it on the train on the way home, realised that I might piss off quite a few people back in SA, never mind the fact that I think I would have to drug and drag Shoes to the altar (to say he's not quite ready to marry me now is an understatement), and decided against it - all in the space of about 3 hours. I know it wouldn't have helped me for Portugal, but I was thinking of Turkey - if we'd done this at the beginning of the year, I would have been able to go - and also my future travels; or rather non-travels, the way things are going. I haven't actually told him what I was thinking - don't want him running away for home or anything - and although I am still convinced it would be a good idea for ME, I do realise since it is not only me involved, I am unfortunately going to have to give up on the idea for everybody else's sake. Anyway. Moving on: we finally found out that the Schengen Office does Portuguese visas. We are now going to take our documents to them next week, and they will organise everything for us and have our passports back in 8 days - for three times the cost of what we would have paid had we gone to the embassy ourselves, but what can we do.

So, what's the problem, I hear you asking? Come on, if you've been reading this blog for 2 months or longer, you should know by now that there is ALWAYS ANOTHER FUCKING PROBLEM WHEN IT COMES TO ME ATTEMPTING TO TRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pardon my french. So, this is the latest: our whole trip to Portugal revolves around going to the Freedom Festival (see pic to the left from last year's party), the mother of all trance parties in the universe. This means that we have to drive 400km from Porto, which is where we land, to the location of the party. Before you ask, no, we did not plan it that way - we decided to fly to Porto because it was cheaper than flying to Lisbon. In the party info, they said there would be two shuttles to collect people and take them to the party - one from Porto and the other from Lisbon. So, we figured that if there was transport from Porto, surely it couldn't be that far to the fesitval location? Not so. As is so often the case with trance parties, they kept the location secret until the last minute. In this case, they just so happened to release the location details 3 days after we booked our flights. It was a surprise; there was no prior warning, and it was too late to change our tickets. Lisbon is only 200km from the party - Porto is 400km. So we have no choice but to spend half a day in the car travelling there. Now, this in itself is not a disaster - hey, we're young, free-spirited and a road trip across Portugal doesn't sound like such a bad idea. Except that not a single one of us has a valid driver's license with which to hire a car. That's right people, in a group of 6 travellers, not one of us could pull ourselves together in time to get this sorted. Shoes has recently swapped his South African license for a British one - the whole purpose of this was so that he could do all the driving in Portugal and Italy. However, the license only indicates the date it was issued to him - ie May 2007, not how long he has actually been licensed for. Car rental companies require a minumum of one, and sometimes two, years on one's license before they will rent to you. With his current license, Shoes can't prove how long he has been driving for, and his SA license has been sent back to the depot for return to SA - in fact, I'm sure it is home / lost / stolen from the post office by now. We are going to see about getting a letter of endorsement from the SA Licensing Department to prove he has held his license for more than two years - but will it arrive in time? I still have my SA license, so I could get an International Drivers Permit. However, my license expires in October this year, and IDP's are usually valid for a minimum of one year. Will they grant me an IDP on a license that is about to expire? Eyes and Scarves both have valid SA licenses, but got themselves IDP's when they first came over here. Apparently, according to Eyes, they will only issue you with this once within the first year of your stay in the UK; thereafter you are required by law to swap your license. Which means neither of them can drive at all. Still need to confirm this. OJ does not have a license at all, and Neutrino is driving on an expired Irish license. Schei├če!

God, grant me the cunning to persuade those who are hard to manipulate; the balls to steamroll over those who won't help and the wisdom to know when to turn around and run. Ok, thanks.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Wish I Could

Not really in the mood for posting today. There are two people in my life, both of whom I love very much, who suffer from something that is causing them to hurt themselves, and today I had to face up to the fact yet again that there is nothing I can personally do to save them.

It's horrible to watch someone you love slowly destroying themselves, knowing that they know you know, but you can be about as much help as a hole in the head. It's not even like I can use my blog for therapy to figure out my part in it and how I should be reacting, because you can't splash out someone else's pain in public for your own benefit, and there are enough of my family and friends who read this to make it impossible. It makes me angry that this even exists in life - if I had it my way everyone would just have that little bit of extra strength that would keep them from taking that proverbial step over the edge.

Anything else that I thought of writing before my contact with one of these women seems so trivial now. I'm at a really good place in my life at the moment - the first half of this year was so incredibly shit, and recently I feel like I've just burst through the surface of the lake and taken a deep breath. Finally I feel like my bad luck has ended, and it's ok to relax and enjoy the ride, instead of squeezing my eyes shut in dread at the almost certain disaster lurking round the next corner. And then I spoke to her this morning, and I felt so.... I don't know, not exactly bad for being in a good place; but just in despair that I can't pass a little of that on to the people who really need it. I would give up my trip to Portugal in a second, and stay home alone all over again if it would help her just a little bit. Anything. We've been speaking alot over the last few weeks because she's been going through something really big, and I've been there for her to offer advice, support and unconditional acceptance. And then this morning I read through our conversation over the last couple of weeks, and I got so angry - an anger completely borne out of despair and my inability to help. I'm not angry with her - I could never be, but I'm so angry with the situation. Not just for her, but for them both. I desperately want to make things right so they're both happy and healthy again, and my anger comes from the fact that I can't - they're suffering and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it, besides be there for them, which sounds all nice and fluffy but in reality, is empty and seemingly useless.

I know pain and suffering are part of life, and unfortunately it's not always your own that hurts the most. But there should be a system - a buddy system maybe. Like, if its gets too much and you can't find a way out, you could pass a bit of yours on to a friend who was stronger, so she could take on enough so that you could get back on your feet and heal.

There's no way to end this, since there's no end in sight, at least in the near future. So I guess I will end by asking all of you to think of one person in your life who is in trouble, and think if there's anything you can do to make their pain a little more bearable. Even if it's just calling up to say hello and tell them you love them. I know I'm going to do it right now.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

My Blood Runs African

I have decided I am becoming too English. I sent a group e-mail back home last week, and as usual, it was a fairly long-winded one - I'm unable to stop talking even when I know I must be boring the shit out of my audience; I think it's a mutant gene. Anyway, in that e-mail, I spent 5 out 6 (very long) paragraphs complaining. Now the English, they love a good moan - it's a national sport here, with almost as many fans as football. They're bloody good at it too - no one can have an entire conversation containing as much negativity as the English. The weather (although they do secretly love the torrential downpours), the transport system, the Polish, the crowds, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, BBC's choice of movies, any and all national celebrities, the Royals, housing prices, anything to with Princess Diana - I could go on. I think during my time here I have been subconsciously absorbing this astounding ability, as evidenced in my e-mail, where upon reviewing it before I pushed send, I realised I hadn't said a single positive thing in about 400 words.

This is just unacceptable. I am South African, therefore I am positive. It's inbred, like the English and their moaning. It's a fact that, despite all that is wrong with our country, the majority of saffas are overwhelmingly positive people, with sunny natures and a friendliness that we are known for across the world. I have decided to get my positivity back. This is my 6 point plan:

1) For every moan or complaint I hear, I have to think of a positive aspect of that topic of conversation, eg. "I'm furious that Al-Queda has planted another bomb in a nightclub." Postive thought: At least they didn't plant it in my house.

2) Assume the patriotic position and sing along with the National Anthem every weekend as our Boks B-side prepares to get creamed by our Antipodean counterparts.

3) Put Spirit Of The Great Heart by Johnny Clegg on my mp3 player, and stop getting teary-eyed on the tube when it plays because it reminds me of Jock of the Bushveld.

4) Say Good Morning, Goodbye, Please, Thank You and How Are You with annoying regularity and chirpiness - this British tradition of not speaking to one another unless it's work-related must begin to feel alien again.

5) Channel Pollyanna - what can I be glad about today? If this proves difficult to habitualise, write it down and stick on pc screen until embarrassment of colleagues' sniggers forces it to become a natural thought process.

6) Embrace my Inner African. Sing Shosholoza rather than Britney Spears when pissed; introduce people to the benefits of pap en vleis (a big fat ass that some celebrities pay money for); pay people in cows when shopping on the high street; take a shower after casual sex so that I don't get H.... what? It wasn't me. ;-P

Monday, 9 July 2007

Dental Health

I had a particularly ominous start to the week this morning, when I walked into the dentist for my 9am appointment to be told (far too enthusiastically, I thought) that I needed four fillings. This didn't surprise me; I've known for some time that I've had Plaque Excavation Parties going on in my mouth. What did surprise me, however, was the dentist's cheerful "Well then, let's get started - 4 fillings will take some time!"

Uh, sorry, what did you say? All four fillings - right now? I'm used to dentistry SA-style: you have to book your appointment about 2 years in advance, pay an extortionate R500 just to walk through the door and check in with the oh-so-snooty receptionist and then suffer through Dentist Dread over the next month or so while you go back for more torture every 2 weeks until finally, your teeth have been fixed, one cavity at a time. Saffa dentists wouldn't even double up, let alone do four in one go.

So it was with some trepidation that I sat in the chair, given that I've never previously had more than two injections, and they were both on the same side of my mouth (this time the Plaques were most thoughtful; they spread their celebrations far and wide so that the only corner left untouched was the bottom left). My dentist is a petite, very pretty lady, who, when armed with her drill, reminds me a little of one of those DIY whores from Benny Benassi's Satisfaction video. Very disturbing - perhaps nice for the guys, but for me it was just weird. Three injections later and I was drooling merrily out 3 corners of my mouth like a stroke patient. In fact, there was so much rampant saliva that I kept getting startled by random cold trickles that escaped and ran down the side of my neck - causing me to jump; which in turn caused me to go dry-mouthed at the thought of what one too many jumps could cause this woman to do with her drill. So for the last 10 minutes, her assistant barely had to use her suction hose - my terror did a good enough job of keeping my spit at bay. 50 minutes after I'd first said aaaah, my dentist finished up and buzzed my chair upright. I sat up and reviewed my surroundings - and was mortified at the destruction left in my wake. The headrest of the chair was slick with drool; the front of my plastic bib was like a slippy slide; there was a wet patch on the back of my shirt and the rinse area, which I had visited several times during the torture, looked like whales had been splashing in the sink - a result, of course, of trying to rinse with only one functioning mouth corner. I swear, all dentists have hidden cameras above the sinks, and as they tenderly coax you to rinse when you can't feel your lips, they're thinking about how they're going to be doubled over hysterically when they invite their mates round to watch those videos later.

I then made my way, slack-jawed and droopy eyed (somehow your eyes follow your mouth's example when it's anaethetised) to the station to wait for Shoes, who I knew would be catching the train 10:20 train. I had his bank card which I needed to give him, and I thought I'd travel to work with him, a rare treat since his lazy ass starts at 11am every day. I stood waiting for him at the entrance, where I could watch him cross at the pedestrian crossing. He didn't know I would be there. He arrived at the crossing, looked up, caught site of me, did a double take and accelerated to full speed as he practically leapt cars to get to me. "Baby baby, what's wrong?!?!? Are you ok?" He was quite beside himself. I waved his forgotten bank card at him and said: "Youfogodyorankard." It took about 5 seconds, but the light dawned in his face as he realised where I had just been. Once he was assured I wasn't in mortal danger, he just cracked up. Apparently my facial expression as I waited for him was a grimace of such terrifying proportions that he thought something unspeakable must have happened to me. It didn't help that when I tried to explain I'd just had 4 fillings, I ended up spitting more than talking and it took several attempts to make him understand me.

The weekend was good - we all went through to Southampton on Sunday to visit Fish, Shoes' best friend, whose cruise ship was docking for the day. The poor thing has been at sea for over a year now, with another 6 months to go, and he is definitely feeling the call of the ocean's madness. He's been home once during that time for 2 months, and the rest he has spent working shifts as a wine steward for a fair amount of money at a high personal cost. You know when seeing a bunch of tired and rather grouchy (we had to get up at 6:30am on a Sunday to make the trip) misfits for 5 hours is the highlight of your year, you have a pretty shit life. Still, he'll be going home in December for good, with enough money to buy a car and put down a deposit on a house, which is more than Shoes and I can say, so props to him for sticking it out this long.

In other news, our mate G-Days has just accepted a job offer in Chippenham, which is right near Bath. He's an electronics engineer and there are very few jobs in his line of work in London, so he's been on the hunt over the last few weeks for a decent job in a vaguely decent area - ie, where he doesn't have to travel more than two hours to get into London to camp on our lounge floors at weekends. Turns out Chippenham is the epitome of English countryside, and only an hour and half away. We're now planning visits to Bath, which we have been told is a must-see, perhaps towards the end of summer (if summer ever arrives). It seems it is the era of news jobs for everyone... at least, it will hopefully be. More on that next time though - or maybe when I have something fabulous to report. For now, I am happy to bask in mediocrity, spending more time blogging and ordering toiletries from M&S than actually working, but hey, in the quest for fullness of life, one should always take care of B.O!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Looking for Rainbows in a Storm

I feel a bit bad that I am so absorbed by what is going on in my own private little bubble while Britain has raised its terror alert to critical, but other than be vigilant, which one should always be anyway, what else can one do? I have to admit getting a but of a shock when I found out about the thwarted bomb attempt outside Tiger Tiger, simply because it's one of the places we've been, and probably would have gone to again had we not been so appalled by their security's attitude last time (extremely rude, overly aggressive and just generally creating bad vibes for people on a mission to enjoy a good night out). I guess it's a natural reaction though; the same as reading about a violent murder or horrific accident: unless you know someone affected or are directly affected yourself, it sort of bypasses you and life just goes on. It's sad that we've become that desensitized to the world, but I don't think it should be mistaken for not caring. I think it's a defense mechanism against all the horror that goes on around us every day. If we started to think on it too much, or take a walk in a victim's shoes too often to empathise with what they've been through, then it would all become a bit much to handle. Life's tough enough without having to closely examine the state of the world we live in all the time. I'm probably walking a fine line with that statement, but what I mean by it is that we should be aware of our surroundings and our social and political environment, but I don't think it is necessary to worry yourself about it all the time. Human concern and awareness make you an involved, thinking person while worry makes you strung out and paranoid for no good reason. The brutal fact remains: unless a headline event that takes place directly changes our lives, we continue to live in our bubbles in relative peace and happiness. I'm very aware of how lucky I am to have the life that I do, where I don't have to worry about much except making enough money to live comfortably and a bit extra to travel. My worries are so trivial when compared to the bigger picture, but that also doesn't make them any less real or important to me. It all seems so out of proportion when you think about it. Here I am, stressing about my credit card debt and my monumental struggle to pay it off, while the people running the country are stressing about how to keep its people safe, and elsewhere across the world a mother is stressing about how she's going to feed her child its next meal and a father is stressing about sending his son off to war. If you ask any of them, I'm sure they'd be able to put the problems in order of priority in the greater context. But personally, none of those problems could ever seem to them as important as their own. I find it ironic that we have a word like 'fair' in the dictionary, when, if you had to teach a child about fairness using the world we live in as an example, you'd find precious few situations to use as analogies.

Anyway, no matter how much I think about these things, my bubble remains my number one priority, and right now in my bubble there is palpable excitement as we usher in a new era of jobs and careers. We like to call it The Get Mine Era. It means that, hopefully, Shoes and I are finally going to get the jobs we want. As he is qualified, he now needs to look for entry level jobs in IT where he can get the basic experience he needs while studying the second part of his course. We had a brief look online last night, and tonight we're going to sit down and write a cover letter and apply for a few jobs. He will also have to join a few agencies now to maximise his chances of success, and I've tried to prepare him as best I can for the battleground that is recruitment in London. I've told him how they all make grand promises and stroke your ego until you believe you are absolutely the greatest thing since Nik-Naks, and then how once they have you on their books, they forget your name and what made you so special in the first place if you are not employed within a week. I've told him how they swear on their lives to call you back, and then make themselves unavailable so that you can't track them down, even after you've phoned 5 times a day. And I've told him how when they get really sick of you harrassing them, they try to thrust you into random positions just to get you off your backs, even though you tell them you actually don't know the first thing about Data Analysis and aren't at all interested in it. I've also expressed the hope that perhaps things in the IT industry are a little different to the general world of office admin! As for me, well, I'm remaining silent until such time as I have something to tell. Which is not yet, so we'll move on.

I thought I'd end this rather reflective post with someone else's thoughts, for a change. I came across a wonderful opinion piece by a Guardian columnist the other day about comedy in South Africa. The writer had recently travelled to SA to review the increasingly popular comedy circuit, and her column's overall theme was about how, while it is difficult for an outsider to understand South Africans' attitudes towards race, we are clearly ready to laugh at ourselves. Citing a showstopper by up-and-coming, half-Zulu and half-coloured comic Wayvinne Dawson: "Here in Cape Town you have coloured muslims - just how dangerous can one man be? - she goes on to say that in Britain, a line like that would draw gasps of horror, and the perpetator would be fed to the wolves; in South Africa, this has the audience - black, white and coloured - rolling in the aisles with mirth. She highlights how we South Africans have chosen to deal with the ugliness in our history by laughing at our stupidity and mistakes. Sending up historical South African figures is an essential ingredient in the comedic formula; so too is glorifying our differences based on skin colour. It's a brand of humour given to South Africans by South Africans, and it works. But let a foreigner try for the same effect at their own peril - as we are very protective of our country, so too are we protective of our unique identity. With the multitude of bad press that SA regularly receives overseas, this little piece stuck out like a strobe light in a cave. I had the warmest, fuzziest feeling whilst reading it, overjoyed in the knowledge that perhaps it is not only South Africans who see our country as a patched-up canvas on which to paint new rainbows.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Rainy Day and Mondays

Aaaah, happy Monday and yet another rainy, gloomy day in the UK. I read an article in a newspapar last week which explains rather well why Brits are so obssessed with the weather, and why they talk about it endlessly. In other parts of the world, we have four seasons in a year. In Britain, you have four seasons in a day. This generates more conversation than the average day's weather in, say South Africa, because there is so much more variety to discuss. In addition to this, the Brits love bad weather. It is their country's trademark, a national treasure to be cherished due to a) the easy passage it provides for small talk and b) the excuse to sit inside pubs and drink - after all, how can one be expected to go on trips to the countryside or the coast when it's sure to rain for at least 50% of the day? In actual fact, they love bad weather so much that their usually dour persons get quite joyful when preparing to go strolling (read slogging through knee-high mud) in the parks or across the heaths in the middle of a downpour. "It's invigorating!" they cry and "Don't you feel so full of life?" while their Antipodean counterparts, having been tricked into coming along by wrongly believing it will be a short crossing from one pub to the next, are up to their eyeballs in mud and shivering hard enough to crack coconuts with their teeth. I will never understand how, when the deluge starts on the streets of London, even those with umbrellas scurry under the nearest doorway and wait for the worst to pass, but those same scaredy-cats plough through open spaces flooded with water every Saturday afternoon. Walking is highly overrated - we do far more of it now than we ever did in Cape Town, but that is simply to get from a to b. Walking for pleasure.... it's a strange tradition. Hiking I understand - walking, no.

This weekend was rather unfortunate for the awesome foursome. Things started off well on Friday: Shoes passed his second and final exam in A+, and is now a fully qualified network technician. I joined a new agency that want to put me forward for two roles, both in creative industries, and one in particular sounds really exciting. As always though, I am not getting my hopes up. If there's one thing I've learnt about working in London, it's that anticipation and expectation are enemies who should not be entertained. Hope is fine, after all, where would be without hope, but hope in general, rather than for specific things. I hope I will eventually find a job in a company that I will love, and that I will feel a part of and be excited to grow in. I don't hope that I will get this specific role I'm applying for, because the chances, in my experience, are about 10% - not high enough to invest all that emotion in. So we were all quite excited to go home on Friday night and crack a couple of bottles of Buitenverwachting (from Scarf's mom when they went to visit them in Scotland) to celebrate the good day. Not only that, but we also gave a final kiss-off to two former friends of ours who have been behaving like petulant children and really bringing bad energy and conflict to what is otherwise a fabulous group of people that I am spending my time with here. We told them exactly where to stick it on Friday, and hopefully they drop off the face of the earth, or at least never cross paths with us again. Life is far too short to waste time on people who really don't want anything but to cause shit for others - those kinds of people deserve each other and certainly don't deserve time or consideration from people who are already happy with what they have.

So we went shopping after work on Friday, and when we got home I started packing the freezer, but I noticed it seemed to be halfway defrosted. After some discussion, it was established that the guys had noticed that the freezer had been making a funny noise over the previous two days, and that morning it had started smelling like burnt plastic. We decided to leave it until the next morning, reasoning it had to be cheaper to call an electrician out on Saturday morning rather than Friday night. However, our celebratory plan was foiled, because although most of the food was still half frozen, it didn't have enough power to chill the wine or beers for our celebration. So instead, we drank coffee and tea and bitched about how unfair life is.

Eyes woke up early on Saturday morning to make the calls, and at 10am we had a rather large Polish bloke in biker leathers in our kitchen, sweating up a storm as he heaved our freezer around. Why he chose to wear biker leathers when doing handiwork is beyond me, but we had to walk around the sweat puddles on our kitchen floor after he'd left... EEEWWW!!!! We had to leave at 12:30 for a day party where Neutrino was playing a gig, and in between getting ready and having breakfast we also had to cook the contents of our freezer so they didn't go off. It turns out the freezer has a gas leak due to some pipes which came unstuck (hence the plasticy smell, I can't believe none of us twigged), and according to the electrician, it is irrepairable. This was pretty much confirmed this morning by Eyes, who is staying home from work to take one for the team... he is phoning around to find out what to do about the freezer, and getting our carpets cleaned at the same time - did I previously say men can't multi-task? He was elected (actually he sort of elected himself so he could get a day off work) because he's the only one that doesn't get paid by the hour, so his salary is not affected by household emergencies.

Anyway, we went to this party after the great cook-off, and oh my goodness, what a waste of time. It was great to hear Neutrino play again of course, and was fun to see our usual party crowd altogether, but other than that it might actually be the worst party we've been to in London. First of all, it was supposed to be outdoors in Shoreditch Park. A week before the event, the promoters contacted everyone to say that the venue had been changed to The Cross, Canvas and The Quay (three clubs that are all sort of meshed together at King's Cross) and the surrounding outdoor areas. This basically consisted of a jumble of rooms in the most random of patterns and enclosed by a bricked coutryard. Everyone was lank pissed off about this - tickets were £35 and it's really bad management to change such a major part of an event like that last minute and then not offer any refunds. I guess it would have been disastrous at the park in any case, as in true London style, the rain came down in buckets the whole day. Because we couldn't really go outside, we had to keep room-hopping in an effort to find music we actually liked, and believe me, there was not very much to choose from that was worth listening to. Outside was cold and wet; inside was hot, wet and humid from all the wet bodies and breath, and to top it off, only a couple of the rooms actually had decent sound systems. The party was from 11am - 11pm: we got there at 2pm and left straight after Neutrino's set at 8:15pm. I think I am getting over a clubbing a bit - unless the music is fabulous and the club itself nothing short of a work of art, it's all starting to feel too dingy, dirty and wasteful to me. I say that until the next party of course... at least we have decided never to do another Wildchild party again.

In contrast to that disaster of an event, I really enjoyed Snow Patrol last Thursday at the O2 Arena. The venue itself still needs a lot of work, although it has great potential, and best of all, it has a Spur!!!! We're planning on going sometime this month, escalating household costs notwithstanding. Since the next closest Spur to us is across London in the South West, this is a monumental event for us - we'll never have travel an hour and a half for a Cheddmelt Burger again! Snow Patrol were good, if not great. Their music is gorgeous, and I did get a bit of a lump in my throat during Run, but overall they aren't an electric live act. Robbie Williams had people entranced with the waves of charisma he gave off; Pink's costume changes, dancers and brilliant live singing created an dazzling spectacle. Snow Patrol came across as a bunch of sweet guys who write good, if cliched, songs and make music well together. But, having said that, I really really did enjoy seeing them live, and will be forever grateful to Mello for the ticket. Everyone at work wants a friend just like her.... I tried telling them that it's not her, it's me - I'm so special people just can't help themselves - but I don't think they're buying! ;-)