Friday, 31 August 2007

Friends Will Be Friends

Phillygirl sent me a fantastic think piece today that I feel is definitely worth sharing. It's about crime in SA, and a different way of looking at it. Written with tongue firmly in cheek yet at the same quite seriously pushing you to consider the benefits of the crime in our country, it's amusing and eye-opening. Give it a read if you have 5 minutes.

I phoned my family for the first time in a while last night. I don't usually phone them - I e-mail a few times a week and they all read my blog, so I know they're always aware of what I'm getting up to, and they e-mail me their news so I'm in the loop as well. This works best for me, really. Every now and then I like to phone and hear their voices, but for the most part I am quite content with my pen (ok, my keyboard) functioning as my mouthpiece. This is mostly because it's easier to organise my thoughts into something coherent when I write, as opposed to the endless, news item-hopping ramblings I find myself spouting when conversing with them. That's not to say they don't enjoy them - I am sure they never tire of hearing me talk... God knows I never tire of talking! But it certainly makes more sense and is more cohesive, not to mention descriptive, when it's written down. One other thing that is greatly lacking in conversation is irony. Of course, irony happens whether you speak or write about it, but writing captures irony in a truly satisfying way that the spoken word cannot. Irony is a form of god - it is to writers what Father Christmas is to children.

Mini-me and G are moving into their flat this weekend. After months of shacking up with the folks while they wait for their tennant's lease to expire, they are about to experience the freedom of moving out for the first time. They did live by themselves during their UK stint, but it was a live-in pub job, even though they had their own little flat, so it doesn't really count - no rent to pay, no grocery shopping as all food was stolen from the kitchen.... This will mark the first time they're living alone with all their expenses. Makes me nostalgic for the days when Shoes and I had our own haven of space and peace. Don't get me wrong, we've adjusted perfectly well to living with housemates, but nothing beats the feeling of having a place to call you own, rather than jointly your own. It's been bliss this week without Eyes and Scarves, in a way that it can only be when you've lived with people for so long you've forgotten what it's like to potter into the kitchen butt naked in the morning to make your coffee. I can shower with the door open so the steam doesn't build up (the fan is broken); watch whatever the hell I feel like on TV; speak when I want to and embrace complete silence when I don't. We've had silly, couple-type conversations that you just can't have in front of actual people for fear of encouraging a deep seated loathing; we've eaten, slept and lolled around in the lounge (aka bedroom, dining room and computer room this week) and we went a whole day without getting up or showering just because we could. My housemates' return will be tinged with a bit of regret for me; at the same time as it will be exciting because it's like moving in all over again - at least for the first day. Thereafter we'll ignore each other as usual when we need our me time.

It's interesting how friendship changes when you move in with someone, not through conscious effort but rather through an instinctive realisation that if you don't alter things, you'll end up hating each other. Scarf often used to say to me in the beginning that she missed our closeness - the almost telepathic bond we had where we were on the same page at the same time every moment we were together. Over the course of the last year and a half, that telepathic bond has given way to often concentrated tolerance and patience. Yes, hanging out together no longer holds the excitement and deep sense of comradeship that it once did... we used to look forward to seeing each other, now we look forward to each other's absence. But our friendship has deepened on another level which takes the place of the giddiness we used to inspire in each other. I know her inside out now, and vice versa... her flaws, her good points, the things that drive me mental and the things about her that I would never change. I like to think that deeper knowledge and subsequent acceptance of someone in all aspects is far more indicative of real friendship than just having a great time. As much as I mourn the loss of my personal space, I know when we eventually leave London for our own houses in Cape Town, I will truly miss living with Eyes and Scarves.... it will take a while to adjust to them not being there for the mundane, the celebratory occasions and our spontaneous weekend parties. See, now I am looking forward to their return on Sunday, and a night spent swapping stories, photos and future plans.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Time After Time

After the insanity that was last weekend in Portugal, the plan for this Bank holiday weekend was to chill, chill and chill some more. But the best plans, as we know by now, are only good for breaking, just like rules - what would life be without a little veering off course?

We did actually spend most of the weekend chilling though - so much so that we did not get out of bed at all Monday, but that was after we broke our agreement to have a quiet one and went to Paul van Dyk and Astrix on Saturday night. Shoes and I have the house to ourselves for the week, while Eyes and Scarves while away their time with Scarf's family in Germany and Switzerland. Her Daddy is rich (and her Mommy's good loooooookin') and often takes the whole fam away for an all expenses paid holiday somewhere across the pond. Two years ago it was Disneyland, this year and last year were reprised trips to the lands of cheese and sauerkraut, with a short stop in the land of baguettes and frog legs this year for good measure. Eyes, being the only perma-partner among the three siblings, is lucky enough to get a free ride. No, I'm not jealous... ok, not VERY jealous... alright fine, so who wouldn't want to have rich relatives of any sort to spirit you away on a scot-free holiday - and after you've just come back from holiday as well? We all would. Yes, that's right, you too, it's not just me wishing my dad was a millionaire (Dad, it's ok that you're not - I love you anyway... just maybe not as much as I would if you were buying me cars and paying for my future house!). Of course, anytime they're away is a little treat for Shoes and I anyway, so even though we're not galavanting around Europe, we are playing house very cosily and relishing the chance to live as a couple, rather than one half of the Awesome Foursome.

After the shenanigans on Saturday night - we got home at 6am and stayed up another hour, enjoying being noisy, irresponsible and wasted - we proceeded to give new meaning to the word lazy, as we dragged our bed into the lounge and did not move from it for most of the rest of the weekend. It's great. It's like camping, but with hot showers and food at your easy disposal. It means you can just fall alseep while watching movies (well, those of us who don't wear contact lenses can, so that would just be Shoes then) and wake up with the kettle practically within arm's reach. Good times.

It was a very relaxing weekend all in all. We did some other things, like shop on ebay, eat (alot) and shop some more, in actual stores this time. Retail therapy and comfort food - two of the greatest things about being a human being.

Tonight we're off to see Atonement, the new Keira Knightley movie, and speaking of that, I have to run as I'm to make a stop at Subway for nosh on the way. Leaving work early after a day of doing a lot of nothing... all this relaxing is making me crave another holiday. :-)

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Portugal: Day 4


Sunday dawned balmy and gorgeous, but the beauty of the day was tinged with regret that this was our last day at the party. Not even a full day at that, as we had to leave by 12:30pm to have enough time for the drive back to Porto. Not only did we have but a few hours left of sunshine, we were also missing all the big name acts that we'd come to see. Eskimo, Ticon, Sub 6 - all the DJs that drew us to the festival in the first place were all playing Sunday afternoon through to evening. We knew the party was a 5 dayer, but we're used to trance parties in Cape Town finishing on Sundays, with Saturday night being the big night. Here, Saturday was just the warm up to the real deal on Sunday, and we were really bummed to have to leave just as it was reaching its peak. We couldn't even drown our sorrows as all the ice had melted and we had no cold booze (no ice was sold at the party - we had to make daily 20 minute trips to the nearest town to buy).

The plan was to get up, get dressed and washed, have breakfast and come back to pack up camp before we hit the dancefloor for our final hours. However, we didn't take OJ's natural inability to hurry up into account. As usual, the rest of us were up and ready to go to the food stalls while OJ was still disentangling himself from his sleeping bag. After much nagging and hustling, we finally set off for breakfast, OJ hopping along while trying to put on his shoes on the way. We love him, but his lagging behind and indecisiveness drove us dilly sometimes! Shoes and I split off from the group to find some sort of breakfast that included toast (we were delighted to discover toasted ham and cheese) and the others went to the crepe stall. While they ordered, OJ stood around wondering what to eat. As the others got their food, he decided to get some juice. But of course, he couldn't decide which type. Finally, he got his juice while everyone else was eating their breakfast, and then wondered off to find something to eat. Shoes and I met up with the rest of the group; by now we'd basically all finished eating, and OJ was off at another stall waiting in line to order. Blaaaaaahhhh! We'd told him we wanted to spend as much time on the dancefloor as possible, so we left him waiting for food while we went back to camp to pack up. 20 minutes later, after Shoes and I already had our tent down and folded up, OJ appears with his falafel and says he was kept waiting for 15 minutes for his food. By the time he'd finished eating, we all had our stuff packed and were headed to the car to drop it off. We seriously thought we'd see him at the dancefloor for 5 minutes just before we left, but somewhere down the line he must have realised we were serious about not waiting, and by the time we got back from the car he had everything packed in his bag and ready to go! We could hardly believe our eyes. :-)

Finally, we all went down to the dancefloor for Skazi's set at 9:30am. Except that Skazi hadn't started by 9:30... or 10:30... or 11 o'clock. They were running really late, and he finally came on at 11:30am - and he wasn't that great either! We'd been hoping to catch the beginning of Eskimo's set at 11:30, but with the delays we only had about half an hour left to dance, and no chance of seeing him. Skazi came out with his guitar and rocked out, but the music had a blandness to it which was disappointing. We were hoping for one more caner of a stomp before hometime, and we didn't really get it. Just before 12, we went down to the river for one last swim, and then settled into the van for our long drive back to Porto.

The drive took was a lot shorter than on our way there, which is always the case, and we made good time. Mostly we just dozed or read books - the energy expended over the previous 72 hours combined with the heat had made way for mass lethargy. After dropping off the van, we went for drinks and snacks at Porto Airport - not nearly as horrific as Windhoek's excuse for an airport, for those of you who have been, but quite small and quiet. There was a great souvenir shop though, and Shoes and I bought a mini bottle of the finest Port in a painted wooden box - it looks like pirate's treasure.

Of course, no conclusion to any trip we take would be complete without the pre-requisite drama. It started when our flight was delayed by half an hour. Half an hour was actually about 45 minutes, and by the time we boarded everyone was stressing about getting back to London before the last train and tubes. Eyes was the only one who had to work on Monday, and Scarf had to go to college, while the rest of us had wisely taken the day off for recovery purposes. Even so, we'd been travelling for 10 and a half hours by the time we got back to London, and irritation had set in. When we finally got our baggage at Gatwick, we went to check the train times only to find there were no trains to London Bridge! The station had been closed for some emergency, leaving us with no choice but to go a very round about route through Clapham Junction. We considered a cab, but they're really expensive for such a distance, and we were really broke after the weekend, so we opted for the train. At Clapham, we said goodbye to OJ and the rest of us ended up having to catch night buses home as we'd missed the last train. It couldn't have been a worse end to the weekend - standing in the pouring rain, soaked through and freezing, waiting for a bus that never seemed to come, and when it finally did, took absolute ages to reach home. Welcome back to bloody London!!!!! We walked through our front door 14 hours after we'd left the party - exhausted, dirty, cold and barely speaking to each other. And that was the end of our party in Portugal.

* I'm happy to say that we are now all on speaking terms again, a good night's sleep having restored our good spirits, and the photographs are now reminders of how fantastic the trip was, rather than how terrible we felt the night we got home!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Portugal: Days 2 & 3

Friday & Saturday

We woke up at 7am after a surprisingly good dos. You don't realise when you travel long distances how much it takes out of your body, especially as you often don't feel tired. Of course, the copious amounts of alcohol we'd consumed the night before might have had something to do with it, but luckily there were no hangovers to be seen. We were pretty fresh and more than ready for a day of chaos.

The sun rises at about 6am, so by the time we got up it was already fairly warm. Breakfast consisted of a tough omelette sandwiched between paper thin (and cardboard tasting) bread, and very very very shit coffee - I can't stress enough how bad the coffee is in this country. Trance party food is never gourmet, but Portugal had some new lows on that front. Then our day began.....

Basically it went like this: drink at campsite, wander down to dancefloor for a stomp, stroll off to stalls for ice-cream / fresh fruit salad and yoghurt (the best discovery of the party), ooze along to river for a swim.... repeat x 10, in random order. It was baking hot - around 30 degrees everyday, and we absolutely revelled in it.

We'd all brought chairs along with us on the trip; the four housemates had little fold up fishing stools and Neutrino and OJ bought these low plastic chairs with bendy backrests so you could lean. Of course, jealousy was rampant once the four of us realised how cool their chairs were, as we had to sit up straight the whole time while they could lounge around. It was therefore a source of great satisfaction to us when Neutrino, who was thoroughly enjoying our envy, attempted to show us just how far back his backrest could go - and snapped it in half, ending up sprawled in a heap on the ground. For the rest of the party, he alternated between squatting like a pauper and sitting tough in the dust.

One of the main attractions of the weekend was the contingent of Portuguese hippies, making up more than half of the attendees at the party. At trance parties in Cape Town, you do get a lot of hippies, but nothing like this. These hippies were a) dirtier (this could have been the dark skin / dark hair combo, but most of them looked as if they'd never seen a bath or hairbrush in their lives), b) skinnier - Cape Town hippies look normal, many of these ones were emaciated, and c) so, so, SO much crazier!!!! We were nearly crying with laughter at some of their antics. Our personal favourite was Naked Guy. Naked Guy was obviously tripping out on something serious, and he'd managed to lose his clothes in the river. He was doing the funky chicken on the banks of the river with just a little sling bag to cover his modesty, except that the bag was bouncing up and down as he did, so not really covering much at all. All the while, he was jabbering away to himself, and frequently bursting into manic laughter as he tapped his heels. We were absolutely broken. Eventually, security came to take him away as they figured he might be a danger to himself. He was having none of it though - this skinny little man trying to escape from two huge beefy bouncers... it was quite a sight to see. And he wasn't the only one. At one stage it was almost as if we were in a theatre, and various acts were coming out on stage to perform for us. You can't make this shit happen - you can only be so incredibly grateful you were there when it did. We christened the river the Put It Away Pool, because nearly everyone who came down there to swim should really have just put it away! Europeans are far more relaxed about nudity than South Africans, and it's therefore no biggie to waltz down to the water, strip off for a swim and then lie down with your package out to bask in the sun. But for us, conservative as we are about baring all in public, it was alternately funny and then rather gross as these, ahem, less than attractive people just keep whipping it out in front of our disintegrating retinas.

Friday also saw the arrival of our token friend, Max. We were sitting around camp, rather inebriated and cackling at everything, when we hear this South African accent going "Hey, are you guys from South Africa?" and out from behind a bush pops a lone ranger in a funky headband. So of course, we told him we were, and we established that we all come from Cape Town and that he went to Westerford High. Our buddy Old Cranky Man teaches at Westerford, and once Max told us that he knew him, he was welcomed into the group with open arms. We made him pitch his tent in our lager - something that had us in hysterics because it was a fold out tent that popped up like one of those car sunshields - and gave him a beer to settle him in. After that, Max was like our pet dog. Everyone morning we'd wake up and look for him, and when we found him we'd check how he was and what he'd been up to. We exposed him to our special brand of humour and he was cool with it, so we figured he could stay.

The music was really good, and we had some caner stomps on the dancefloor. We didn't go down there too much in the middle of the day as it was so hot, but we did the sunset and sunrise sessions, and occasionally a mini stomp in the blazing sun. They had good shade up and plenty of sprinklers, so it was bearable for a while. Friday night was our longest stomping session. We spent most of the night on the floor, and when it started getting a little chilly around 4am, Shoes and I came up with the great idea to go and fetch everyone coffee. What we didn't take into account though, was that the nearest coffee stall was a good 10 minutes away. This, plus the fact that the (very shit) coffee was served luke-warm in the first place, meant that our trip resulted in us bringing back four cups of cold coffee which were only filled halfway due to spillage - the ground was that uneven. Bad idea then.

We stayed up pretty late on Friday night, and then woke up early on Saturday, so most of the first half of Saturday was spent in a bit of a haze. The wind also picked up in the morning, and where we'd just been hot and sticky before, we were now hot, sticky and permanently covered in a layer of dust. Although we did swim and Shoes and I showered in the ice cold showers, there was nothing we could do to get away from it. We were lying in it, eating it and drinking it with our vodka. It became our friend after a while though; you really have no choice but to embrace it, otherwise you spend your whole party being annoyed. We could at this stage no longer look down on the hippies for their dirtiness, though.

Saturday was alot more chilled out than Friday. We went down to the river to watch the sunset and saw to our delight that there were statues in it - except they were moving! More craziness from the locals.... three people covered in what looked like grey plaster of paris were standing motionless knee deep in the water, occasionally moving with robot like slowness to change their positions. Love it.

We went to bed pretty early on Saturday night, in preparation for an early morning on Sunday. We intended to make the most of our last day at the party, but as you will see tomorrow, spanners get thrown in the works pretty easily when you're in a group....

To be continued....

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Portugal: Day One


We woke up at 2:50am to be at the airport at 4:30am. Our flight left at 6:30am. When we initially booked our tickets, this sounded like a fair option. However, as is so often the case, what seems like a good idea at the time is in many cases just not, and when six people are stumbling around, blinded by the sleep in their eyes and trying to rush through their routines in only 2 bathrooms, it's just plain chaos. We somehow managed to get ready on time, and we were out the door and into the cab with minimal issues, besides OJ "losing" his phone, something which he does with startling regularity, as will become evident. Definition of "losing" - to go into a flat panic when you cannot find a particular item, only to realise 10 seconds to a minute later that said item is in fact safely stowed away where you last put it. Unfortunately, OJ not only "loses" things, he really loses things as well, hence his name OJ, which comes from our constant sighs of 'Oh, J!" as he flaps around searching for yet another misplaced thing.

Our flight was fairly uneventful. We'd had the presence of mind to take our pillows on board with us, and we all caught up on a bit of much needed sleep. By the time we landed in Porto, we were fairly awake and good to go. We collected our car - a 7 seater van with aircon and tough front speakers - and off we went. Eyes took the first driving shift, and the rest of us in the back sat, white knuckled, holding on for dear life as he negotiated a few obstacles such as oncoming cars on the wrong side of the road, while OJ attempted to get the GPS software on his mobile working. It took a while to get over our raging fear that we were going to be hit by oncoming traffic every time we turned a corner, but Eyes did well to keep us all alive.

Our plan was to drive through to the city of Porto, wonder around there for a couple of hours to soak up a bit of Portuguese culture, and grab a bite to eat before heading out on the 420km trip to the party, which was near a little town called Elvas. However, even the best plans go awry, and when you're a group of tourists in a non-English speaking city with very little idea of what you're doing, it's a recipe for a botch. We drove to what we thought was the Museum of Transport and Communication, the place where the tourist info chick at the airport had told us we could park. It probably would have been a good idea to actually check that the building we thought was the museum was in fact the museum, but enthusiasm was high and sensibility was low, and our map-reading was clearly not as good as we thought, so we jumped out the car (after a minor pause as OJ "lost" his spare mobile battery) and started walking in what we thought was the direction of Old Porto, the cultural centre of the city. I should just take a moment here to say that none of us is particularly cultured, but we felt obliged to see a bit more of the country than just an out of the way trance party venue, so we were going to take photos of the cathedrals and pretty buildings in order to not appear complete savages (the pics at the trance party would do that for us anyway). Of course, our lack of caution and below-par map reading skills meant we got TOTALLY lost, and our confusion was only reinforced by the few people we stopped to ask for directions; all of whom failed to mention to us that we were not in fact where we thought we were. After walking for an hour and a half through the parts of Porto that tourists never see, and with good reason, we finally hit a main road and attempted to find a bus station. By this stage we had decided Porto was run-down, dirty, poor and not worth a 5 minute pit stop. After much debating, stopping to ask for directions and general moaning, we came across the main square by accident, and found Tourist Porto - the part we were supposed to see. By that stage however, we'd had enough. We couldn't possibly have grumbled anymore than we were. You could have shown us a stunning panorama worthy of a postcard at that point - we still wouldn't have cared. It was definitely time to leave. We found the bus stop about 45 minutes after we'd first started looking for it, and managed to make our way back to the car without further incident. Conclusion: Porto sucks. The drive through to the party was uneventful. Along the way we discovered that the Portuguese in general do not speak any English (although perhaps this is different in Lisbon) and they have rather bland and tasteless cuisine. They also have no sauce sachets and all their food is very dry.

We arrived at the 2007 Freedom Festival at about 6pm Thursday evening, and we were greeted by a large, very dusty open area with stony ground that was majorly averse to tent pegs. We dived headlong into an intense argument about where to pitch our camp (Shoes and Eyes were on Team Tree - the area under some sad looking trees for shade but miles from the dance floor; Scarf, Neutrino and I were on Team Toilet - the area close to the loos, dance floor and road leading to the food stalls; OJ was on his own team and was miffed that no-one agreed with him). We'd been travelling for 14 and a half hours and everyone was a tad tense. Eventually, Team Toilet won out - Team Tree and OJ gave in most ungracefully - and we started to set up camp. To say it was a good start to the party would be a lie. Even though we cracked open a few vodkas and beers to drink while working, the day had gotten to all of us and setting up was a tangle of guy ropes and tempers. Soon enough though, once we were fully settled, tempers abated and the joy of being at a trance party in another country returned, and we started to get into the spirit of things. The plan: to get well pissed and hit the dancefloor like there was no tomorrow.

The venue could have been better - it was so open and dry that when the wind came up on Sunday the dust storms choked us, and the terrain was tough and unforgiving, but things like that don't matter when you're on the dancefloor stomping it up to some banging tunes. We caned it that night, giving it all we had. We had to - we were in Portugal!!!!!! The beers and vodkas were flowing copiously (we'd stopped on the way to buy all our own booze) and finally, we were getting in the swing of things. No-one remembers too clearly how it went down that night, but we know we drank too much, danced a lot and stumbled to bed with the music still thundering in our ears - Team Tree had a point when they indicated Team Toilet's spot was going to make it tough to dos. We hadn't counted on the toll 14 hours of travelling would take on us though, and we all collapsed into bed at 12am, falling asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows; dreaming of another day of freedom and mayhem in Portugal.

To be continued tomorrow......

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Travelling Band

It's 22:45 and we have to be up in 4 hours and 15 minutes to be at Gatwick by 4:30am. Ok, so the cheap flights seemed like a good idea at the time! We're all packed (took us 3 hours cos we kept taking breaks to wah-hey! around the house) and we're hoping that by some miracle we haven't forgotten anything. Sod's law says of course we have. But as long as we have passports, money and party tickets, everything else can be begged for, bought, borrowed or stolen. It's pissing with rain outside right now; we really couldn't have picked a better night to leave sodding old London behind.

I went for a job interview this morning - my first actual London interview rather than agency meet and greet. It's a role that I initially thought was kind of cool; now I am obssessed with getting it and feel that my life will be over if I don't. Yeah, it's definitely easier not to give a shit. It's for Accounts Assistant at Redwoods Publishing House, working on one of their client magazines. It's the oppotunity of a lifetime - I could have a career in publishing and who knows, maybe one day I'd even get to write a magazine article.

Anyway, I really meant this to be a full post but with all the excitement of the day, I never quite got there. So I think my best option is to get to sleep as soon as humanly possible so this frikkin holiday can finally arrive.

Later, my peeps, I will tell you all. Prepare yourself. ;-)

Monday, 13 August 2007

A Portuguesa!

NEUTRINO FOUND HIS PASSPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, to be exact, it got handed in to his local police station and when he made his daily call yesterday they told him it was waiting for him to collect. So, WE'RE ALL GOING TO PORTUGAL IN 3 DAYS! Sorry, I'll stop shouting now, but the situation does call for just a bit of enthusiasm. Now I am officially excited. All of us have been a bit down about the whole thing lately, and we were struggling to muster up some measure of eagerness. Now we can think of nothing else! :-)

No really, I can't think of anything else at all, not even anything further to write here. This is partly because we had a fairly tame weekend, and partly because I am imagining basking in the sun beside the river, trance music pumping in the background, vodka cocktail in hand....

Ok, erm, maybe I should stop right here. Instead of daydreaming all over my blog, I will save the post for the real stories, of which there will be many to recount. I'll take you through it, you'll feel like you were there. Something to look forward to. Right, back to those vodka cocktails then.....

Friday, 10 August 2007

Born To Be My Baby.... or not!

So last night I took a pregnancy test. Dad, Mom, if you're reading, take a deep breath now....and don't have a stroke - I am not pregnant (if I was I would have told you to sit down first ;-P). I've changed my contraceptive in the last few months, and scientifically it is not possible for me to be feeling the kicking of baby feet anytime soon, unless all the doctors and nurses are idiots and medical science does not work the way they say it does. However, since I did make a change, there was an irrational part of me that feared something would go wrong, as is normal anytime you break your routine. Once that tiny seed of doubt is planted, suddenly you see babies everywhere. I was getting hungry earlier in the mornings - must be the baby needing some nosh. My stomach was feeling harder and bigger - must be the baby growing at an alarming rate (I conveniently forgot that I have been working out a fair amount, so I actually have muscle there now, and definition which might account for the outward curve). So I took the plunge last night, in the bathroom at the pub during the RSPCA volunteers evening. And for that split second when I looked at the blue line - the second before I read the pamphlet so that I thought any line was a yes - my heart stopped and my world caved in around my ears. And then I read the instructions and saw it was a no and everything returned to normal - no round of applause or distant cheering. So really, it just confirmed what I knew all along, but what my subconscious was loathe to accept. Either I am very prudent, or my subconscious just likes drama. Anyway, there was the tiniest part of me, so infitesmal it nearly escaped my attention, that went, aaaah. Pity. It would have been kind of nice. In the world's worst way, of course. And then my Normal Self snatched back rationale from my Crazy Self and obliterated that thought completely. So I'm really just paying homage to my now deceased Crazy Self here - may she rest in peace. Everyone has moments of utter madness - that was mine.

As I mentioned, I was at a pub in Lewisham last night for an RSPCA New Volunteers Evening. Since I've been doing events with them for about 4 months now, I was asked along to give perspective from a volunteer's side, while the committee members did the presentations. It was a good night; some lovely people turned up and we had a couple of drinks and a chat. Until Mr Doos turned up and tried to ruin the night. Xen, who is an animal control officer, was talking about the kinds of calls he receives and the situations he deals with when a random dude sauntered up to our table and took a seat. He appeared to be interested in the whole spiel, so Xen continued with his presentation. Then Mr Doos and Mr Doos' even more doosy mate, Mr Superdoos, who had by then also oozed over to us, started attempting to play devil's advocate and trip Xen up. So he'd talk about why we leave cats up trees for the fire brigade to deal with, and the two dooses would start in on him: but that's animal cruelty, and you guys are supposed to stand for anti-cruelty - you don't even know what you're here for! And generally stupid things like that. They were both slurring to the point of slobbering, and generally behaving like typical bar louts, you get them in every pub. It all got too much for Mr Superdoos though, because Xen just answered politely and continued on with the talk. He spluttered incomprehensibly, whether from rage or a particularly big gulp beer was unclear, and eventually walked away, apparently bored with the lack of confrontation. Mr Doos remained to the end, and after a few more shit-stirring attempts, was actually persuaded by regional supervisor D to sign up! I'll be surprised if he even remembers today though.... with a bit of luck he'll think he's signed away something really valuable. We're doing a microchipping event tomorrow, and I have some ideas about getting the RSPCA involved with Beauty Without Cruelty for a drive towwards ethically produced cosmetics and beauty products, so I'm going to run them by D tomorrow. I'm a passionate supporter of cruelty-free consumables, and I think it stands to reason that an organisation like the RSPCA should be promoting it. Look at me, Lopz the Activist.

It's officially Shoes' last day Prima today, and his last ever as a waiter. From Monday onwards, he will be working 9 to 5 like the rest of us, with normal lunch breaks, surreptitious attempts at wasting company money with hours on the internet and accessible by e-mail all day! We include him in our e-mail chains at the moment so he doesn't ever feel left out, but it will be nice that he'll actually be able to read them now. He's going for drinks tonight, and then tomorrow is having a combined farewell party with another waiter's birthday, and will probably spend his last day before his new job with a mother of a hangover. For my part, I plan to spend a large amount of time this weekend watching Grey's, and topping up my tan fi the weather holds.

As for Neutrino, still no passport. We're hoping and praying his guardian angel is at work.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Final Countdown

So, Neutrino, Scarf and I have exhausted all options, and it's a no go - unless someone hands in his passport and it gets returned to him by next Thursday, he will not be coming to Portugal with us. The Schengen Office can't get him a visa - again, not enough time. He can't travel on his drivers - we knew that anyway, but desperate times, you know? His fate lies entirely in someone else's hands, assuming someone has actually picked up the passport, and it hasn't somehow got swept up with some rubbish and landed in a bin somewhere. Also, not nearly as bad but still crap, the letter of verification I requested for Shoes to confirm he has held his license for more than 2 years is only getting posted out on Monday, so won't arrive in time to take with us. Therefore he can't drive in Portugal. All we need now is to get there and for some reason the car rental place refuses Eyes' SA license, even though they have confirmed in writing twice that they will rent him the car. With this trip, nothing is certain and nothing can be taken for granted.

I am crushed for Neutrino - having been the one left behind last time, I would wish death on my worst enemy over that. Scarf and I have agreed to remain hopeful, and not accept that he is not coming until the last minute. This trip has been so fraught with difficulty up til now, but somehow we have pushed through and overcome the obstacles. We're still going despite all the odds stacked against us, and we're viewing this as just one more irritating odd that needs to be knocked back. Granted, this is way bigger than all our other probelms put together - at least there's been a way around the rest. And until this moment we've been able to exhaust our energies looking for answers. Now, we have to rely completely on fate. Just like Turkey... except that for me with Turkey, there was no way out. For Neutrino, there still is - not a chance I'd put money on, but there's still a chance. And then, after Italy, I am staying put in London until next year January when we go to Cape Town - you couldn't pay me to move my ass across the borders of the UK for a million pounds!


This is just a short post again, as I am no doubt going to be updating quite regularly today as we monitor Neutrino's passport situation. He went of to the Italian embassy this morning to try and arrange for an emergency / temporary passport, and they told him there is nothing they can do for him as it is too short notice. I am having Turkey deja-vu visions all over again, except that as flabbergasted and crushed as I am, I am so frikkin' glad it's not me - does that make me a terrible person? Watch, just for saying that our visas are going to get denied - we're due a phone call from the Schengen Office today to tell us to come fetch our passports.

The next step is to try and get him a schengen visa on his South African passport. We have one week to do this, so he's going to phone the Schengen Office this morning when they open and see if they can do it. Obviously he stands no chance in trying to go to the embassy directly.

One of my colleagues thinks it might be possible for him to travel on his driving license, since EU citizens need only a form of photo ID. I have to say, I think this is seriously suspect, but right now we have to explore all our options. I am going to phone the Portuguese Embassy now.

I can't believe this is happening. I am starting to think that maybe we're supposed to die in Portugal, and that all these obstacles are in fact signs from the universe telling us to change our path, to avoid fatal consequences. Imagine we all actually make this trip as planned, only to perish in a car accident - wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake?

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

There are no words....

Ok, I have to leave in 3 minutes, but I couldn't go without quickly telling you the latest in the Portugal saga.... Neutrino lost his passport this morning! I mean, like, totally lost it - it was in his hands as he walked through a shopping centre and when he came out it was no longer there. Can you fucking believe.....
Don't even ask why he was carrying it through the shops, there's no point. He's going to the Italian embassy tomorrow to see if there's anything he can do. Right now I am throwing up my hands in complete disbelief.
Nuff said.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Walking On Sunshine

We had the most beautifully sunny weekend, and I feel like I'm walking on clouds and sunbeams, with rainbows in my hair and sea lapping at my toes. Ok, maybe a bit OTT on the imagery there, but really, two whole days of 27 degree plus heat and clear blue skies has made me want to wax lyrical about the weather. In non-poetic terms, I feel completely refreshed! I have been happy all day. Even a ghastly pile of photocopying couldn't dampen my spirits.

In fact, the sunshine has cheered me up and inspired me so much that I spent the morning applying for jobs with a vengeance - suddenly I think I might be exactly what someone is looking for, after a good few months of feeling like the dirt scrapings on someone's hiking boot. God helps those who help themselves. I am giving myself such a helping hand right now that I'm practically slapping my own ass. Good for me ;-)

On Friday night we had the braai / eviction party at Neutrino and OJ's place. Was fine, nothing amazing, but we had some drinks, ate WAY too many crisps (what is it about braais and crisps - why are you completely unable to stop eating crisps when you know you're having piles of meat in just half an hour? It's a fact - it's the most out of control one can get around crisps) and enjoyed the company. Saturday was divine - we spent the whole afternoon lying in the sun in Greenwich Park with a picnic, and came back for another braai and an evening of sitting on the balcony talking about life and philosophy (ok, that's bollocks: we were really just talking about our new neighbours upstairs - don't like them - and the weather - really liked that - and what to bring to Portugal). Sunday continued in much the same relaxed vein; Scarf had to work at Wembley Stadium, so I watched some Grey's, lay in the sun with my book, did my scrapbook and baked some muffins, which flopped about as hard as muffins can flop. Our oven blew a fuse the other day, and now only the one element works, so all cooking times have been thrown into disarray. I made strawberry and banana muffins that did a piss-poor job of actually rising, and I'm expecting Dubya to knock at our door any minute, enquiring as to the whereabouts of our hidden weapons of mass destruction - they're that heavy. My dear boyfriend, bless his heart, says they are the best muffins he's ever tasted. Not sure if he has a natural affinity for bland and stodgy lumps of dough or if he is just the best boyfriend ever for saying that, but we all know I should probably go with the latter. All of us got a bit of colour this weekend too, which is just about the best thing that could have happened next to Topshop having an 80% off sale. I am wearing white today, to show off my newly acquired tan. It is the first natural tan I have had in a year - a whole year!!!! Not that I have been white for that entire year of course; I have been various shades of golden, orange and streaky brown, depending on what natural tan disaster I was occupied with at the time. Nothing tans like the sun.

Am starting to get really excited about Portugal now. I know I shouldn't yet, as our visas are supposed to arrive on Wednesday, and until I have that visa-filled passport in my hand, I should keep it down to a mild war cry. Just in case. But the sun has made me almost taste what it's going to be like. Four uninterrupted days in the middle of nowhere, in 40 degree heat, with my best mates and thousands of other revellers partying like there's no tomorrow..... aaah, I can feel the sun on my skin and hear the pulsating trance beats already.

We've bought our tent and sleeping bags, with those stupid roll-up excuses for matresses that actually almost make you more uncomfortable they are so thin; two fishing stools and a tarp to make shade. I can't wait - unlike Mini-Me who grew up, discovered the hair straightener and promptly denounced all ties with my family's favourite pastime, I love camping and would quite happily spend a couple of weeks outdoors with no electricity. I don't even mind cold showers, just as long as there are showers - 2 weeks worth of underarm hair is not something anyone should ever inflict on anyone else, even the most long-suffering of partners.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Pure Shores

Last night Scarf and I went to O2 Arena in Greenwich to see Steel Magnolias. In an effort to market the arena as the new place to be in SE London, they are having all sorts of events, both free and not so much. By day they have kids activities (the little brats are all on holiday here at the mo) and by night they have live music, cocktail evenings and classic films. Wednesday and Sunday nights are free movie nights. It was actually really awesome - not just the movie, but where you watch it.

They've created a beach in the centre of the building by bringing in truck loads of sand to spread over the floor, building fake palm trees complete with decorative lights and setting up deck chairs, so you can enjoy a bit of the seaside in grimy, rainy old LDN. They've hung a big screen on the wall, and voila! you have your very own "Movies at the Beach!" It reminded me a little of a drive-in. The only real similarity is that there is a big screen and it's sort of outdoors (not really, but it feels like it because it's at the beach!), but still, it took me back to a time where you listened to the fliek through tinny speakers mounted on your side mirrors and vendors came up to your windows hawking popcorn and coke. Ag please Daddy, won't you take us the drrrrrive-in.........

You can actually bring your own food and booze as well, so we're going to go again and take the guys with us next time, and have a little picnic on the beach. Check out the before and after pics.

I have finally got a new phone. Just got it now on my lunch break. My gorgeous and sleek pink Samsung U600. I just can't get any trendier. And you know, I went into Carphone Warehouse with the intention of merely checking out my options (was planning on buying the phone only after consulting the Phone God, ie Shoes), and came out with the phone and all mod cons, having paid NOTHING up front - take that, stupid online mobile contract people!!!! Ok, so I didn't get a free gift either, but I didn't have to deal with a Stupid People Situation and I didn't have to lie on my application form - the consultant did it for me! Tres stoked! I was a rather typical chick though, I have to admit..... I only went down to the Strand to pick up the photos I'd had printed for my scrapbook. Along the way, I realised I was going to be passing SheActive, and that it was high time I get a decent sports bra - the twins are slowly but surely succumbing to gravity and need a little extra help. Ok, so maybe I lied when I said I was passing SheActive - I had to make a detour of about 7 streets. I went in and bought a brand new extra super ultimate boobs-in-concrete Shock Absorber bra - because only the balls should bounce! Thanks Anna Kournikova. And then I just popped in to Carphone Warehouse to see what my options were..... and the rest is shopping history. That is how the most satisfying and successful shopping trips are done, after all. Ladies, take note. You're reading the blog of a professional here. The fact that I meant to pick up photos which were already paid for and came away having spent a total of £480, if you include all my future contract payments, is irrelevant, really. I mean, it's not like it was an impulse buy or anything. Both items are necessities! You can't class necessities as impulse buys. Therefore boyfriends are not allowed to shout about shopping trips which result in necessities. I'll let you know later if this theory actually works.

I'm feeling a little sick today. I had chinese rice stir fry for lunch - beans, bambooey type stuff, carrots and prawns, with a bit of last night's fish thrown in for good measure - could that be why, I wonder. Reading it back actually makes my stomach turn. Maybe I shouldn't be so inventive when throwing random foods together.

Looking forward to a weekend of doing nothing, except watching Grey's and playing with my new phone. Just gotta get through Neutrino and OJ's Farewell To Our House party tomorrow night - they're being evicted. This is the house where twice they have been threatened with knives to their throats by their more than slightly pyschotic neighbours, who have major objections to trance music. Ok then, loud trance music. Sometimes in the early hours of morning. And yes, more frequently than is polite. Basically, they deserved a stern telling off, or even a warning from the cops, but the neighbours' vigilante justice is taking it a mite too far. Speaking of which, we nearly had a riot on our hands last night when our African friends living on the opposite side of our block turned their music up to full volume at 11:15pm. The usually unsociable residents of Building 50 gathered as one under said offenders' balcony and took turns cussing them out as loud as they could. Our friend emerged on his balcony and stared blankly down at them. Is it un-pc to say he looked like a monkey in a zoo? It's great, in that particular flat we have a bunch of Nigerians with no social skills, and next door to them we have a family of chavs who may or may not have social skills, but who openly spurn them anyway. Between them they have fewer manners than women at the Christmas Sales. The result is a competition with various events, including: Who has the loudest music, Whose parties go on the longest, Who can get into the most violent and offensive screaming match on their balcony and Who's screaming match has the worst language, and finally Who is most likely to cause Building mutiny, resulting in our vigilante justice. Jury's still out on that one.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Working Class Hero

Wow, it's been more than a week since I've written! That'll do wonders for my hit counter. ;-P I've just been lazy, really, and also have not been allowed to comment on the biggest thing that's happened in my life this week, so it seemed easier to slack off. I won't make you gag for it: Shoes has got a new job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-) :-) :-) Here's how it all went down:

Last week he received an e-mail from an IT company called MMRIT. They do legal and financial IT, IT consulting, networking and general support. The director has seen his CV online, and wanted to know if he was interested in a helpdesk position. Helpdesk is like the reception of the IT world. You answer calls, do light technical support (in some companies) and direct calls according to the issues. It's not what Shoes wants to do in the long run, but he almost certainly has to start off in a position like this to get a foot in the door. Nobody is going to put him on the technical side of things with his lack of experience, especially because he's only just started studying his Networking Qualification, and that seems to be compulsory for technical work. So he phoned the director to set up an interview, and was slightly surprised by what turned out to be a half hour phone interview, rather than a simple arranging of times. Luckily, the night before he made the call, we were lying in bed thinking up the sort of questions he'd get asked in the face-to-face, and preparing answers. He sailed through the phone round fine, and went in on Friday last week to meet the director and the helpdesk manager. I was banned from mentioning anything to anyone, although I did cave and tell my mother and my sister, unbeknownst to him, and swore them to secrecy under pain of death.

So he arrived at the station at 9:40am, to start the interview at 10am. What followed, he says, were the worst 65 minutes of his life. I got a panicked phone call at 9:50am - he'd made a wrong turn on leaving the station and couldn't find the road. I google-mapped it, and sat on the phone directing him to the right street. Of course, London had chosen that Friday to warm up after months of torrential rain, and he was wearing a suit for the first time in his life. So he ran, sweating and claustrophobic, up and down roads in Temple looking for this street. He drank a whole bottle of water whilst on the move, and when he finally arrived at the company, was desperate for the loo but too frantic to go. He was ushered into a room to sit at a desk opposite two rather imposing figures, and offered a glass of water, which he promptly declined on account of his needing the loo so badly. Big mistake. What followed was 45 minutes of hard-core grilling, the likes of which he has never encountered before, this being his first real job interview and all. Although he said he managed not to stumble over his words, he couldn't answer three quarters of the questions the director put to him. Apparently most of the interview centred around networking, which is the second part of his course so he has literally only just started it - I think he's read through the introduction the day before the interview. He not only felt stupid and green, but his extreme nervousness, toilet issues and suit-phobia had all combined to make his mouth dryer than Ghandi's sandle, and his lips began to stick to his teeth when he spoke. At the end of the interview, where we had practised that he would close with a short statement about what he could bring to the company, he just about teleported himself out of there in his rush to get away, all carefully thought out self-promotions scattering in the dust of his haste.

He phoned me afterwards, quite dejected, saying he had completely blown the interview and never expected to hear back from them again. Fast forward 5 days, to where he has made his peace and chalked it all up to experience, and he gets a call this morning to say he's got the job! Like I said to him, if it was meant to be, then despite his less-than-perfect showing, he'd still get the chance; if not, his next interview would be a hell of a lot better. I guess it was meant to be! He starts on Monday 13th August, just three days before we go to Portugal. One of the really great things about this job is that it pays about £3,000 per annum more than all the other entry level positions he was looking at. It's alot more admin based than what he wants, but it's all about the first year or so of basic experience; once he has that he will be able to apply for the type of job he can sink his teeth into.

So, as you can imagine, we are both extremely happy, and I am very proud of him. When we came to London in 2005, he was still very lost in terms of where he was going and what kind of career he wanted for himself. In a year and a half, he decided on the path he would take, studied what he needed to get himself there and now has a brand new job in the industry. I feel like I should be taking a few tips from him!

In other news, this last week was one of the best we've had in a very long time. I volunteered at an RSPCA event on Saturday morning, and then came home and changed and we headed off to a boat party on the Thames - a sunset cruise. We couldn't really see the sunset of course, as despite the change of fortune this is still London and the weather was still shit, but at least it was warm enough to stand out on deck for the first three hours with our drinks. A boat party is a bit different from a normal party, because it feels like a lock-down, which psychologically makes people that extra little bit crazy. You board at 6pm, and you can't get off til the boat docks again at 12pm. It's a raging, out-of-control, mayhem-filled cracker of a party, with everyone in the best spirits you can imagine. It was organised by party promoter Friendz, which is a South African promoter, and the majority of people at their events are all saffas. Even more reason to rock the house (boat). Rock it we did - and when we finally docked at 12pm, the Awesome Foursome, Neutrino, OJ and G-Days took the party back to our place and continued well into the early hours.

Scarves and I had to be up at 12pm on Sunday to get ready for the UK Street Dancing Championships. It was a bit of a rough ride getting there, but I'm glad we went - the dancing was fabulous, and the experience well worth it. Since Scarves is the former dancer and I am the former gymnast, we have agreed to go to each other's beloved events when and where we can find them. Unluckily for me, the number of big league gymnastics events around London - and anywhere in the world, for that matter - is very tiny. Gymnastics has a very small following in comparison to many other sports, and the major events tend to be splashed across the world, making them hard to see even on TV. At least I get to watch the dancing though, which I do enjoy. I am determined one way or another to be in London in 2012 with tickets for the Olympics Gymnastics events.... it has always been one of my dreams, and this is the first time it has ever looked possible!