Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Ruby Tuesday

I have some free time at work this week, and I've decided to spend it reading everything relevant I can find on Africa, and what processes brought her to the point she is at today. Being African myself, I am naturally fascinated by not only by my own country, but the continent as a whole. The grating contradictions, incredible spirit and crippling problems that characterize the lands are compelling, and I maintain that despite everything, Africa is the most interesting continent on the planet. I could do much worse with my free time.

Anyway, I'm not going to be publishing essays here on my findings or views. I want to learn as much as I can about a topic that interests me; not lecture others on the facts and fiction.

What I will share with you are some of the more bizarre and/or entertaining things I have come across in my google searches today.

Things like this fabulously caustic piece in Granta Magazine, How To Write About Africa, in which Binyavanga Wainaina summarises the shallow impressions of Africa that Western writers pass off as insights. Here are some gems, for those of you who don't feel like reading the whole article:

*Always use the word ‘Africa or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’.
*Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.
*Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book.....An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these.
*In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country.
*Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat.
*Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love — take advantage of this......Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.
*African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life — but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.
*Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires.
*Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical — Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces.
*Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

Actually, just read the whole thing, it's excellent!


Of course, no research would be complete withouth the plethora of silly quotes sites. I came across a few which had sayings relating to Africa, and got totally side-tracked by the wide-spread foot in mouth disease that often characterises our species. I've included some of my favourites here - nothing to do with Africa, but good for a Tuesday afternoon laugh anyway:

"I didn't know Onward Christian Soldiers was a Christian song."
- Aggie Pate, at a non-denominational mayor's breakfast, Fort Worth, Texas

"Sure there have been injuries and deaths in boxing - but none of them serious."
- Alan Minter, Boxer

"I think that the film Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness."
- Alicia Silverstone, Actress

"Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, "Thank God, I'm still alive." But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again."- Barbara Boxer, Senator

"Politics gives guys so much power that they tend to behave badly around women. And I hope I never get into that." - Bill Clinton, former U.S. president

"You know the one thing that's wrong with this country? Everyone gets a chance to have their fair say." - Bill Clinton, former U.S. President

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
- Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for a federal anti-smoking campaign.

"My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt."
- Chuck Nevitt, North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to Coach Jim Valvano why he appeared nervous at practice.

"I have opinions of my own --strong opinions-- but I don't always agree with them."
- George Bush, former U.S. President

"And now, will y'all stand and be recognized."
- Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House, to a group of people in wheelchairs on Disability Day

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father." - Greg Norman, Golfer

"Whenever I watch TV and I see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I would love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."
- Mariah Carey, Pop Singer

"Hey cabbie, could you turn that thing down a hundred disciples?"
- Paul Owen, Baseball player complaining about the radio being too loud

"Reports are sketchy, but we have heard that in the first heart transplant operation in Belgium, both patient and donor are doing fine." - Radio news announcer

I hope you laughed as much as I did!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Cool Summer

Aaaaah, sunshine! I feel like I've just let out a breath that I've been holding for the whole of winter. I'm talking not about this gorgeously grey Monday morning, but Saturday, where we celebrated the first day of summer with a braai in Wimbledon Park. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, the miniscule disposable braai was burning the chicken to a crisp and everyone was in tank tops and shorts, displaying luminous white pins that blinded those unfortunate enough not to be wearing sunglasses. If you saw at our group photo on facebook, you'd never guess we lived in London. Finally, the crushing sense of claustrophobia I have been feeling over the past few weeks has lifted. In its place is relief. Relief that summer seems to be determinedly on its way; relief that we can spend time outdoors instead of in front of the tv; relief at having been paid..... it's endless, really!

On Friday night Shoes and I decided to take advantage of the extra commission I got this month and go out for dinner. We chose a little spot in Richmond called the Naked Turtle. It is a cute, quaint little jazz bar featuring a jazz pianist and singing waitresses. Luckily they didn't sing when they brought your food (can you say highly annoying), but took breaks from serving to sit at the piano and belt out a number or two. It had a very relaxed vibe, and in fact in reminded us very much of Obz (to non-saffas: Observatory - an area in Cape Town known for its eclectic, semi-hippie vibe and cheap drinking spots). I had impala for mains. Impala at a jazz bar in London. How frikkin weird is that?!?!?!

The evening was lovely, but it didn't start off that way. We left home at 7pm to make our reservation for 8. Through a series of events involving missing bus routes, vastly inaccurate directions (thanks Mr Station Guard, don't ever consider a career as a tour guide) and our own self-delusion that the place was "just around the next corner", we ended up travelling for 2 hours to get to a place that was only about 50 minutes away. Add to that the fact that we walked for at least an hour of that time, and you can just imagine the mood I was in when we got to the restaurant. I was seconds away from giving up and going home, and if the station has been closer to me at the time than the venue, I may very well have done so. In the end, we were seated and I ordered an extra strong cocktail, which took the edge off. By the time we got to post dinner shots (tequila for me and jagermeister for Shoes), the tedious mission had been reduced to just a mild inconvenience. We hotly debated the Information Age and where it is going all the way home. Shoes thinks people will never stop advancing technogically and that this will have no long term effect - in other words, we will continue to become more and more reliant on ever more complex machines, but we will be happy with this lifestyle choice. I think that slowly but surely people are going to pull away from the extremes of technology and embrace simplicity - not to the extent of the Amish, but I see a movement opposing excessive technology.

When we got home, we found Eyes, Scarf and OJ all in a rather advanced state of inebriation in the lounge. Sensing a party vibe, someone cranked up the tunes and at 12:30pm we started an impromptu celebration - of what, we're not really sure, but it involved shots of whiskey (for the guys anyway) and music to rival our Noisy Neighbours' best efforts. I desperately hope they were trying to sleep at that point. The night ended with the guys doing The Freedom Dance around the kitchen. This is an entirely made up dance, consisting of flinging one's legs out from side to side whilst waving one's arms wildly around. It was inspired by our conversation about the beautiful simplicity of the Xhosa language. I believe at one point Eyes had us all convinced that a motorbike is Iratatata in Xhosa. I don't know if this is true, but it was very funny at the time. We went through our limited Xhosa vocabulary with terrible pronunciation but admirable enthusiasm.

Freak alert! Headline of the day - prepare to be grossed out:

Friday, 25 April 2008

Friends In Low Places

It's been quite a ride this week. I've been working damn hard, to the extent that I haven't read Perez Hilton once in almost 5 days! That must be some kind of record for me. Feel free to comment and update me on the most important tinseltown gossip. I did see Ashton Kutcher though, at the London premier of What Happens in Vegas. Unfortunately it was a rather unremarkable sighting. He got out the car in front of the Empire in Leicester Square - not a limo, just a car - wearing dark glasses and a brown leather jacket, and ambled around signing autographs for a bit. Wait, scratch that - he was ushered around to sign autographs. There was actually an aide there directing him to various parts of the crowd. If it was me I would told her where she could shove her ushering. I know celebs are not like us, but don't tell me they're unable to walk around a perimeter and scrawl signatures independently of their handlers? They can't be that stupid, unless they're Paris Hilton. She probably has someone telling her when to breathe. It was far more entertaining to watch the crowd than the actual red carpet gliders. Pockets of teenage girls scattered about the square screamed themselves hoarse, and then took it up yet another notch whenever Ashton started in their direction. We can watch from our office windows, thereby avoiding the craziness of the crowd. It's really not that cool though, and that's coming from me; the girl who is practically the reason that tabloids were invented. Long live Heat magazine!

I've written so many posts in my head this week, in the hope that at some point I'd have a chance to type one out. No dice though, and of course I can't really remember any of what I wanted to say now! Instead, I'll leave you with the e-mail conversation that has been keeping me entertained all afternoon. My friends are a bunch of alcoholics, with a little perversion thrown in for good measure. Enjoy - I did!

Britney: Hi you guys, we're having the first braai of the summer tomorrow lunch time at Wimbledon park. Can you guys make it? Its going to be 21 degrees so we can chill in the park.
Mandz: Sounds good - what time?
Britney: Excellent! Was thinking about 3 but you guys can go earlier. Barbie and I have to go and buy some goldfish for the fish tank.
Scarf: The footie is on so we'll only get there just after 3, but for sure.
Neutrino: GODDAM FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Scarf: HELLOOOO! Its like the MATCH of the SEASON! Tomorrow’s game determines who WINS the Premier league!!!
Shoes: Yeah Neutrino, stop being gay.
OJ: It's ALWAYS match of the season to you people!
Lopz: Fine you guys. Who wants to go early with me? Everyone in favour of shunning the footie say aye.
Mello: Aye!
Mandz: I'll come with you Lopz.
OJ: Me too.
Lopz: Cool, we'll get a tan first.
Scarf: Girls, are you guys wearing bikinis?????????? Don’t you think that’s a little bit too, er, like optimistic – I know its 20 degrees but is that warm enough to tan?? Or am I just forgetting what sun is like cuz I haven’t felt it for so long!
Lopz: Who said anything about bikinis?
Britney: No guys, not bikinis, just short tops.... it's not that hot!
Lopz: What's the difference, if it's too cold for bikinis, it's too cold for short tops!
Neutrino: I'm wearing my G-String ... can't start the summer with white bumcheeks.
Shoes: Neutrino. Dude. GAY!
Mandz: Hehehehehe, I can't get off this image of Neutrino in a G-String...
Scarf: Is everyone bringing booze?
Lopz: Is the pope catholic?
Mello: Of course, what's a day without the alchoholic beverages!
Barbie: Alcohol yeeessssss!
Mello: Mmmmmmm alcohol....
Lopz: Yes Mello you just said that.
Britney: Yeah dooooofus, what kind of question is that?

Lopz: And you wonder why Great Britain has a binge drinking problem.
OJ: I'm going au-natural.
Mello: From naked bum to naked body.... with cherry liquer on top.
Mandz: Hehehe, bums bums everywhere.....
Britney: Ewwww OJ in his birthday suit………..put it away OJ!
Mello: Not to mention the naked bods....
OJ: Hey you gotta tan your shlong somehow!
Neutrino: How do these conversations always get so twisted?
Lopz: Perverts, all of you.
OJ: Would you have it any other way?
Lopz: No, I suppose not.
Britney: You really don’t need to tan it dude - trust me, no one wants to see that thing (besides G-Days maybe).
Shoes: G to the A to the Y spells GAY!
OJ: It'll be like a hot-dog day!
Lopz: Amazing how I never seem to feel like eating after talking to you lot. With friends like you who needs diets?
OJ: Glad we can be of service Lopz!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Sex Bombs

I meant to post about my Thursday night last week, but one thing lead to another and I was distracted enough not to get around to it. This is mostly because work these days is actually busy. Obviously complaining to random strangers helps; soon after I posted about my excess of free time at work, I got given a project to run which is keeping me busy and interested.

But Thursday night is really what I want to tell you about. I haven't had a bender in a while, and Thursday definitely qualifies as a bender! It all began on Tuesday, when Miss M, High School Obsession aka the Queen of Melodrama (depending on which blog you read) and I were all facebooking each other, trying to decide on a suitable night to get together. Let me just insert an aside here: High School Obsession is just that - the guy I was obsessed with throughout high school. He is also friends with Miss M, and has dated Phillygirl, who refers to him as the Queen of Melodrama. Confused? Think we're swingers? Not to worry. I will join Philly in referring to him as QoM from now on, as I'm no longer in high school and I'm certainly no longer obsessed with him. He recently arrived in London, and we've been talking for ages now about getting together to catch up. I have only seen him twice in the last 10 years, but we have kept in touch. Anyway, moving on.

After writing all sorts of nonsense on each other's walls for most of the morning, we finally decided on the Walkabout at Temple for Thursday night. For non-Londoners, the Walkabout is a chain of Australian bars, known for serving Aussie and Saffa beers/ciders and for general rowdiness. You don't go to the Walkabout for a quiet drink.

Our night went down something like this:

6:30 - I arrive at the Walkabout only to find Miss M, Queen of Melodrama and Tonsil (another school friend) already waiting, drinks in hand - including one for me of course.
7:05 - The Evil Three order snakebites (a mix of half lager, half cider and optional blackcurrant cordial) and make me drink one with them, despite my plea to stick to savanna (South African cider). It's worth noting here that some pubs refuse to serve snakebites, because the intentional mixing of beer and cider gets you very drunk, very quickly.
7:30 - A girl walks around asking if anyone is Australian or Kiwi. We discover that auditions for Australian Idol are being held in the bar that very evening.
7:33 - Commotion ensues as we vehemently argue which song to sing. It doesn't matter that we're not Aussie, it's karaoke baby!
7:37 - We decide on Sex Bomb. Tonsil declines to join in, Miss M is forcefully persuaded.
7:45 - Snakebite number 2. I discover I can't actually drink a pint at a reasonable pace - I have a psychological block against it. Tonsil arranges to have my pint put into two smaller glasses. These go down like cooldrink - problem solved!
7:46 - We make the sublime discovery that is Naked Ass Guy. He is this total chav, hanging out at the bar, who has stuck his hands down the back of his jeans. You know the way someone might put their hands in the back pockets when they're standing around? Well, he puts his inside the pants, and then proceeds to sensually caress his own ass until his jeans are hanging somewhere down by his knees, and his naked ass is displayed for the whole room to see. He frequently stops rubbing his butt long enough to take both his girlfriend's hands in his smelly mitts, and then returns them to the treasure trove of secrets and gets his ass out for us again.
7:49 - We are laughing so hard we can't breathe. Tears are running down our cheeks, we have stomach cramps.
8:05 - Naked Ass Guy unsticks his naked ass from the bar and strolls along to the other side of the room - hands now out the jeans. Miss M and I follow him, desperate for one more glimpse of the naked ass.
8:20 - Back at the table. Snakebite number 3. We get impatient as we haven't been called up to sing our song yet, and we've had to sit through some absolute corkers, including the worst rendition of I Will Always Love You we have ever heard.
8:30 - We go and harrass the karaoke guys, demanding to be let onto the stage.
8:40 - It's our time. We perform a terrible rendition of Sex Bomb. Queen is on lead vocals, Miss M and I are supposed to sing back-up. What we actually do is dance around Queen like music video hoes, and shout SEX BOMB SEX BOMB when it comes to the chorus, as those are the only words we know.
8:45 - Back at the table. High fiving each other. We are so great - best act of the night by a landslide.
9:00 - Snakebite number 4.
9:15 - I go outside with Queen and share his cigarette. I don't actually smoke - 'nuff said.
Sometime after that - Miss M's climbing buddy arrives. Can't remember his name. We gather around him and shout rubbish in his ear.
Even later - We're dancing in the middle of the bar to some of the worst karaoke we've ever heard. But dude, it's like, the most fun we've ever had. We rock. We rock so hard.
Later still - Snakebite number 5? Could be. Too busy dancing to really keep track. Feeling a little dizzy. Oh wait, that would be the disco lights. Hold on... there were disco lights?
And later still - Man, we're awesome! We ARE the party. We are the world. We're like, the only people who can do anything and who matter and stuff. Or whatever.
Sometime after 12:30 - Leave the bar. Dodgy hotdog at the station. Miss M and I try to pay the hotdog guy with the free T-shirts they were handing out in the bar. He's having none of it.
Around 1 - Somehow we wake up in time for our stop. We're at our stop. Stumble home and ring the buzzer, waking all three housemates up.
7am - Wake up with a mouth as dry as Ghandi's sandal. Find t-shirt on my bedroom floor; it says I Am The Next Australian Idol.

Good times. ;-)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Nation

I've been a bit down over the last couple of days. My mom has been sending me news of SA, mostly detailing crimes involving people we know. I'm not going into detail here - every single South African by now personally knows people who have been hijacked, held up in their homes or assaulted, or worse. The stories are so commonplace by now that the first thing we ask is, was anyone hurt? If the answer is no, we shrug it off. If it is yes, then we ask: how bad? If not too bad, we again thank our lucky stars and say how much worse it could have been. We've accepted it as part of daily life. We've become so desensitized, I often wonder how we must appear to people of other countries who don't have to deal with it everyday. But as with any extreme situation, we've simply done what we have to do to survive. If we constantly freaked out about the smallest criminal activity, we'd be in a permanent state of mania.

So the news from my mom, coupled with my frequent thoughts about the shortcomings of my country over the last few days, have served to heighten my sensitivities and put my nerves on edge. Mostly I am afraid in a way that I never used to be. My whole family is back in SA. It feels to me like the crime and general social and economic problems are slowly creeping up to swallow the country, like lava edging down the side of a volcano. So far my immediate family have not been victims. I pray I will always be able to say this is the case. The fear is no longer a niggling thing in the back of my mind - it is well and truly in the forefront and with me every second of the day.

There has been much written on how we should not be prisoners of our own fear. That's all fine, but these authors were talking about those living in SA. And to be honest, when I'm back there, I don't allow the what ifs to dictate the way I live my life. I live it, I'm as careful as I can be and I enjoy every second of being in the beautiful country that I love with all my heart. It is just very different to be this fearful for others and be half a world away. The fear I have for my family is greater than any fear I could feel for myself.

Then, as if she sensed how on edge I was (although she knew nothing about it), this morning Phillygirl e-mailed me this article:


Just to balance it, because I'm a great believer in always looking at both sides of the story, I also visited this site for some updates about what is right in SA:


For the very first time since I got to the UK, I am having doubts about coming home. It takes a lot for me to admit that, because I love South Africa passionately and anyone who knows me knows I am always the staunchest of defenders against her critics. I will argue til the cows come home with anyone who wants to challenge me on it. But I'm not blind or stupid, and I realise that hoping that I will remain untouched by her troubles forever is naive. Don't worry, you don't need to rush to convince me to come home. At the moment I still plan to. But this is the first time I have had doubts and it is something I have to take into account in a few years time when I'd be making the move.

In other far more joyful news, my best friend is engaged! I'm a little late in reporting this, as everytime I start a post it seems a random thing to tack on the end. Also, it happened when I was at the Commercial Conference, and she couldn't get hold of me to tell me as I was drunk and AWOL - I felt terrible about it the next day!!!Schmokkle and her boyfriend, Man-Bok, have been together for 9 years now. The two of us have known each other since we were 5 years old, when I thought she was retarded because she spoke German (how did you raise me, parents?). Initially there was one other little girl involved in our playgroup, and she and I ended up ganging up on Schmokkle to the point where our mothers wouldn't let us all play together anymore. One of my most vivid memories is of Elke and I sitting up on the roof of Schmokkle's house under her (Schmokkle's) mother's duvet with her jar of sugar, refusing to let Schmokkle come up and join us in eating our sweet treat (and you thought kids wouldn't eat straight up sugar!). We were little bitches. After that, Schmokkle and I didn't see each other that often until our first year of high school, where we discovered we were in the same class. Since we lived less than 5 minutes down the road from each other our whole lives, we started walking to school together and our friendship naturally progressed from there. We've been pretty much inseparable ever since. She's like a sister to me, only without the catfights and stealing of clothes. The name Schmokkle is a derivative of the nickname that we have always used for each other - Bokkie (little buck in English, but generally used as a term of endearment).

I am so unbelievably happy for her, and my only regret is that I can't be there to help her plan the wedding. We'll have to do it the 21st century way, via e-mail! Congrats again Schmokkle, my heart is bursting with pride for you guys. :-)

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Sound of Musical Appliances

Last night the four of us sat around our lounge discussing our new place. I say discussing, but actually we were having a right old bitch. We've wanted to be south west for so long now, but when you're really comfortable somewhere and the new place doesn't quite measure up... well, let's just say we're having teething problems!

Here are our issues - abbreviated for your reading pleasure, as we were on such a roll, the rant lasted a good half hour.

1. It's cold. Not just cool, but cold to the point of needing extra blankets at night, and putting on tracksuits and slippers in the mornings when we come through for breakfast. In Woolwich, our apartment was so warm all year round that we never used our central heating, and jerseys were never worn inside the house. Ever.

2. The washing machine leaks.

3. The geyser takes too long to heat up and barely lasts for 3 showers.

4. The extractor fans for both the bathrooms and the kitchen are located in the storage cupboard (???????????). When you turn them on, they make the most annoying rumbling noises but don't actually extract anything.

5. Flushing the toilets requires both hands with some serious weight behind them. No, really. Unless you have puppies like the Incredible Hulk, the strength of one arm is not enough to get your shit down the pipe. And speaking of that, the suction is pretty bad in said pipes. We get floaters. I'll say no more.

6. The freezer was made for little people who eat miniature food. Perhaps it would be ok for a couple, provided they're not shopping for a whole month. For 4 people who shop weekly and freeze just about everything they buy, there are three words. Taking the piss.

7. The noise. While we have thankfully moved far away from the chavs who haunted our nights, we have a new issue. This is the noisiest house we have ever been in. You can hear the traffic outside 24/7. The washing machine sounds like a cement mixer. The toaster, microwave and dishwasher all beep when they've finished doing their thing, and not just in a normal way, but 5 times louder and more often that your average appliance. The useless extractor fan rumbles like thunder in the storage cupboard. When we're sitting in the lounge watching tv, we have to turn it way up just to hear while the washing machine roars its way through its cycle. Then of course we try and talk, and end up shouting at each other from 2 feet away over the combined cacophony. Peaceful it is not.

I'm sure these kinks will work themselves out, and eventually it will become totally normal and we'll all start to feel at home. In the meantime, we're just doing everything at maximum volume to drown out the background noise. I pity our poor neighbours....

Monday, 14 April 2008

Another One Bites The Duster

I've been rather preoccupied over the past week, hence the lack of posts. The six word memoir was about as much as I felt I could write, but it seems that has generated far more interest in the blogging world than our normal posts, no? I noticed a major increase in the number of comments on everyone's blogs after that. Keep it going guys, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more.

So my preoccupation with this particular thing seems to have subsided. It's not something I want to go into detail about, but I woke up this morning and felt different - lighter, somehow. The final test came when I got into work this morning and found it was still not really present. I can only assume then that for the most part it is over and done with, and I can get back to feeling like my normal self.

This weekend we finally moved from South East to South West London. I get such a thrill from writing out my post code now. For those back home, class consciousness most definitely exists in the UK, but even more than that, where one lives is quite important in determining certain things about a person. For example, a post code that is viewed as being in a low class area can inspire subtle looks or gestures of disapproval to a point where you become embarrassed to tell people where you live. When we first got here I was oblivious to it. Then I woke up to the fact that people would make all sorts of assumptions about me based on where I lived - even though I'm a saffa and I haven't grown up with this scrutiny. In the greater scheme of things, it's actually not that important and it shouldn't matter. However, this is England and it does matter. So besides all the practical reasons for wanting to move South West, one of the more vapid ones is just to have a place with an "acceptable" post code. Yeah!

Moving was a bitch, as it always is, but we're finally unpacked and settled and ready to enjoy our place properly. It took us most of the weekend. We started straight after work on Friday, just Scarf and I blaring Gwen Stefani and trying to pack and dance at the same time, while the boys went to fetch the van. We got an upgrade on our van, so we managed to fit everything in to do one trip. This turned out to be a lifesaver, as we totally underestimated how much time it would take to load everything up.

On Saturday morning the guys drove the load to our new flat, while Scarf and I stayed behind to clean up. We procrastinated a little too much, mostly because we got distracted by the flapjacks and caramel we'd kept behind for lunch, and we ended up running late. Our landlord knocked on the door 10 minutes early, and the kitchen / lounge area still looked like a bomb had hit it. We had to ask him to give us another 10 minutes, and then, my gosh, you have never seen two people clean so quickly. Think the old leathery lady from There's Something Abount Mary - we were twice as fast! After blitzing the place and doing all the necessary meter readings, we went down to Woolwich Arsehole station for the last time and caught our final South Eastern train away from the dump. On the way to London Bridge, we shared a bottle of wine to celebrate new beginnings. It's very chav, but drinking on trains is allowed here, and especially coming from Woolwich, you could probably shoot up some H in the carriage and people wouldn't bat an eyelid. We were a little tipsy by the time we got to LB, so what happened next might have seemed just a litle funnier than it really was.

We were both carrying quite a few bags, packets and other paraphernalia that couldn't fit in the van. One of my parcels included a sling bag over my left shoulder, and our long handled duster was sticking out it. Scarf and I were standing on the escalator going down to the tube; she was one step lower than me facing backwards, and I was facing forwards. In the UK if you want to stand still on the way down, you stand on the right, leaving a narrow space all the way down the left hand side for people who want to walk down. This is pretty much the law - break it at your peril. Anyway, I couldn't see what was happening behind me, but I figured people would be walking down the left hand side as usual. What I didn't realise was that the handle of the duster was swinging into the path of those walking down. I had turned slightly so that it completely blocked the path of the walkway, and it caught an unsuspecting guy in the crotch as he tried to get past me. It didn't only hit him there.....as I turned towards Scarf to say something, the handle started to fondle him quite vigorously. She could see what was happening, and she said later that the poor guy was desperately trying to bat the duster away so he could continue his way down, and possibly also protect his ruffled balls. But he couldn't get past me, and I didn't realise what was happening, so there we stood in a stalemate: him getting a rather raunchy rub-down from a duster and everybody around us having a good chuckle. Finally Scarf grabbed my arm and spun me around so I could see the chaos I was causing, and that was it for us - we laughed until we cried, and this poor dude just scurried down the escalator as fast as he could go. Even writing this now I am laughing, and have just had to explain to Sammy what is so funny.

We haven't really had much of a weekend, and we're all very tired and a little cranky, but we're also all super excited about this summer in London in SW19. Something tells me it's going to be our best yet.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

My Six-Word Memoir

I’ve been tagged by Fashionista PDX to do a Six-Word Memoir.

Quoted from Smith Magazine: "Six-Word Memoirs: The Legend

Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking our readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”). "

"Feet stayed grounded, heart soared high."

Here are the rules:

1) Write your own six word story.

2) Post it on your blog [and include a visual illustration if you'd like].

3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post [me!], and to the original post if possible [so we can track it as it travels].

4) Tag at least five others with links.

5) Don't forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

6) Have fun!

I tag: Phillygirl, KaB, Blondie, Sweets and Angel.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Carnage At The Disco

It's Tuesday afternoon, and I finally feel 100% normal again. I felt a little otherworldly for a while, which is what staying up for 24 hours straight and drinking like there's no tomorrow will to do you. Oh yes, and I haven't even mentioned the obstacle course yet!

We arrived in Scotland at around 10am on Friday, most of us having been up since 6 in order to get to our various departure points. Luckily for me, I flew from London City, which is a half hour's walk/bus ride from my house. It was only once we got to Edinburgh and boarded the coaches for the hour long drive to Gleneagles that we started to get excited.

The hotel itself is gorgeous in a typically British, public school type of way. Think Dead Poet's society, complete with creepers climbing the walls and exotic activities such as Falconry advertised around the grounds. There was even a maze, much to everyone's delight. Plans were made to attempt it in the dark after a few drinks later on, but to my knowledge they never materialised. Everyone was too busy having food fights.

We had a bit of a wait for the crowd who flew from Heathrow's new terminal five. If any of you have been keeping up with the press about that, you'll know it's an absolute balls up, with flights being cancelled or delayed at random. They eventually arrived an hour and half late, which was not too bad, considering I'd previously read a story about a bride who actually missed her own wedding due to the chaos at the airport.

Once everyone was safely inside and had been watered and fed, it was time for speeches. This was the part of the conference where we were supposed to listen, engage and think a bit about the future of our company and what our goals were as a team. In other words, yeah right! We were addressed by our CEO, her deputy and the two senior directors, including Dagwood. What could have been very boring actually turned out to be a funny, cleverly put together presentation that included video clips of staff interviews on all manner of subjects, such as what is our clients' least favourite thing about our company and the top 5 girls and guys - reiminscent of FHM's top 100, but without the bikinis.

After the speeches it was time for class. The theme was Back to School, and our first class of the day was Art. We were divided into teams and given a painting to do. Each team got 5 pieces of canvas which they had to copy, and at the end it was put together to form one giant painting. I was surprised at how therapeutic it felt to paint, having not done so since primary school (unless you count painting my room when I was 16, which was not therapeutic at all, but rather extremely frustrating and painful. Ceilings are not made to be hand-painted).

Then it was on to Sports Day. Still in our teams, we engaged in all sorts of manic races. These ranged from the mundane - sack races, egg & spoon relays and team skiing on wooden planks - to the unusually difficult, including gladiator-style podium combat, life-size fussball and scaling inflatable walls to slide down the other side. We were told to wear trainers for this, but we weren't told it was going to take place in an equestrian hall, which was covered in crumbly mud mixed with obvious horse shit. Almost everyone was in jeans, many were in fancy tops, and alot of the girls were in Ugg boots. I was lucky that mine were very old and very black, and came out looking none the worse for wear. Some other distraught ladies were muttering about compensation for ruined boots, though. They're GENUINE Uggs darling!

After Sports Day, we retreated to the hotel, filthy, smelly and completely elated. It was a brilliant idea for team building, even though several people saw more exercise in two hours than they'd seen in the previous 12 months!

After a shower, it was time to get ready for the dinner party - emphasis on party. Everyone dressed up in their Back to School outfits, and some people went all out. We had an eclectic mix of sports teams, librarians, slutty school girls and teachers, the kids from Fame, Old Skool ravers, the Pink Ladies and even a group of girls who had squeezed into genuine age 13 school dresses. It was fab, the photos are certainly something to behold!

The evening kicked off with pre-dinner drinks and photos in the cocktail lounge, and degenerated from there. By the time we were seated for dinner, Mexican Waves were making their way around the tables and the rolls meant for our soup starters were being ripped to shreds and used for target practice. Sometime during this mayhem, one of our Group Heads managed to mc an Awards Ceremony, in which people were called up to be publicly humiliated. A highlight was one of our Kiwi planners showing us how the New Zealand Haka is really done - and he definitely made his country proud. As people jumped on chairs to give standing ovations and pelted their neighbours with the sweets strewn across the table, the poor waiters attempted to serve us in silver service style. They'd all line up behind our chairs, errant guests ducking and weaving underneath their outstretched arms, and count to three before all simultaneously placing their dishes down on the tables at the same time. They were being jostled and bumped from all directions, and the strain was evident on their faces. Not so my colleagues, who took great delight in running full tilt towards them only to dodge out the way at the last moment, leaving them half paralysed and certainly speechless with shock. I heard one say to another just before main course came out: "This is going to be such a fuck up."

And they were right, it only got worse. Dagwood, dressed in a school nurse outfit complete with curly blonde wig, fishnets and stillettoes, led the main course wars when he picked up one of his bangers from his bangers and mash and propelled it through the air like a missile. That was it - way more banger ended up on the floor and in people's hair than in stomachs. If they didn't want us to behave like 3 year olds, they should not have had a Back to School theme.... although I doubt it would have made a difference.

By the time dessert was served, everyone had pretty much given up all pretence of eating. We were standing in the aisles between tables, preventing the poor waiters from coming anywhere near their destinations with the spotted dick, and dancing to the music over the loudspeakers while snapping away with our cameras. Shortly afterwards we were herded out of the ballroom by some rather stern-faced staff so they could clear up and turn the room into a disco. Out came the tables and up went the flashing lights and disco balls. Bars were set up on either side and barmen were instructed to pour only doubles.

What followed is the predictable carnage whenever drinks and dancing are mixed.... hook-ups, slip-ups, falling over and the odd puking incident. Everyone was steaming drunk and loving every moment. I went to bed sometime around 5, and the latest entry I've heard so far is one guy crawling into his room at 7:45am, just as those who kept their composure were making their way down to the pool for a morning swim.

Despite the incredibly tough journey home - travelling on four hours sleep and a hangover is my new idea of hell - it was a very memorable night and I can only hope that this is not the last we see of them with the take-over imminent.
Oh yes, and the sign of a really successful weekend? We've been banned from ever coming back.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Hook-Up

I'm pretty much over my enormous irritation from Monday's post. Of course I'm disappointed I can't go on the trip, but also, there was a small part of me that just KNEW that I was going to be paying for that one mistake (getting my passport stolen) for a long time to come, because that's just how it is with me and travelling. I expect the absolute worst now, and then I have my day or two of ranting when it turns out that my fears are justified, but I'm over it pretty quickly. It's not really a surprise. My housemates accuse me of being unnecessarily negative in my attitude to travelling, but erm, ja.... that's very easy to say when you haven't been through what I've been through. If the travel gods were playing russian roulette with your plans, you might also be just a little cynical. And easily pissed off. And anyway, I've just proved that I'm not being negative, only realistic.

So. We're not going to Germany anymore, and now that I'm over my initial rage at the unfairness of it all, I'm able to look for the positives in the situation. For example, we're trying to pay off our debt, and when every spare penny you have should be going towards that, it's not the smartest idea in the world to take yet another trip. So I can feel good that the money we would have spent is being smartly distributed, instead of frivolously thrown about.

Also, I have a feeling that this time, if Shoes and I don't go, the others won't go either. Although several of our friends expressed interest at the time, a quick poll over the last couple of days has revealed mixed feelings about actually going ahead with the trip; some due to money issues and others to different trips they'd prefer take. In fact, as it stands, the only people definitely in are Eyes, Scarf, OJ and possibly Neutrino, who has already explained that July is the worst month of the year for him in terms of cash flow. So if he can't go, it will be down to three, and I guarantee that Eyes and Scarf won't go if it's just the two of them and a plus one. Not that I am feeling smug about this at all; I am merely satisfied that it hasn't worked out for everyone so I don't have to miss out again. I think that's a fair enough reaction. Maybe we can try again next year, and maybe in the interim Shoes and I can just get married so I don't ever have to face this issue again. This is the third time I've had to mention marriage as a solution now, so I think that is definitely grounds for seriously considering doing the deed. If I wait too much longer, how many more trips will I miss because of my stupid passport and visa issues? It makes for a very tepid London experience, because believe me, for 7 or 8 months of the year, London is the kind of place that you get desperate to leave. And not being able to induces the very uncomfortable feeling of being trapped in an overcast and depressing prison.

In other equally dramatic news, although news which does not yet affect me directly, my company has officially been bought out by another radio giant. Our CEO broke the news to us on Tuesday, and ended months of speculation and uncertainty. Well, I say that, but once the merge has been accomplished and all the technicalities adhered to, which will take about 4 months, the uncertainties will actually just increase. That is when our new owner will take over the day to day running of the newly merged company, and will start hiring and firing at will. It unsettles to me to know that my boss is already exploring alternative employment opportunities.

Last time we merged in 2005 - our company acquired another to form who we are today - the PAs were told that they would all have to interview for their jobs as there were too few slots available. Then a few went on to take the attractive redundancy package offered, and luckily the interviews never happened. I wonder if this will be the case again? How ironic - I finally take a permanent job to get the security and career opportunities I've been sorely lacking for the past two years, and now I might end up losing my job! Of course, it's a long way off, and none of us are really bothered right now. But it will interesting to see how things pan out in 4 months time.

Tomorrow morning I leave for the Commercial Conference; the annual team-building, inspiring and educational 24 hours that are supposed to give my department new direction for the future, and which usually just end up being a race to get out of hand more quickly than the person next to you. Finally, my first proper office party in London. I'm very much looking forward to it - details on Monday. :-)