Thursday, 30 April 2009

It's a Porker

So, this swine flu. It's all everyone is talking about in the UK (and across the rest of the world, I'm sure), and the masses are starting to show signs of panic as the government warns a pandemic is imminent.

Being a healthy and sturdy South African, I tend to ignore warnings about outbreaks of strange diseases. Mad cow disease? Whatever. I've been eating beef all my life, I wasn't going to stop just because people were getting all hysterical about batty bovines. Bird flu? Yes of course it might kill our feathered friends, but I'm about 50 times their size. I was quite sure I'd live.

This attitude might be a product of my parents' distinctly unsympathetic approach to childhood illness. You feel sick? Got a cough? Sore throat? You better be projectile vomiting from your too-inflamed-to-breathe oesophogus and coughing up blood before you stay home from school. Flu? Stop being a ninny and get out of bed, some people have to work with cancer. They do love me, I'm sure, they were just never going to raise a sickly child. I shudder to think of the consequences had I actually been one! Nevertheless, their method worked - I am quite scornful of mild maladies such as colds and flu. I must develop a raging fever before I take any personal symptoms seriously and even then, I will only take medicine if I feel I may not make it into work in one piece otherwise. I'm not a martyr, just very practical. And completely convinced that my body can fight 95% of anything I catch entirely on its own. So far I have not been wrong, and I have always gotten over my summer-winter sickness without the help of a flu vaccine.

So I haven't given this latest melodrama much thought, despite the fact that you can no longer cough or sniff on the tube without people glaring at you suspiciously. However, I decided to google the latest on swine flu, just for mozzie.

This is what I found:

According to the Department of Health, a pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus, which people have no immunity to, emerges and starts spreading as easily as normal influenza. Swine flu will not become a pandemic until this criteria is met.

The worst pandemic of the last century occurred over 1918 to 1919. Often referred to as "Spanish flu", it killed between 20 to 40 million people worldwide. (Hey?????)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the world is now in the grip of the fifth of six stages in the progression of a pandemic - which would be confirmed at phase six.

If pandemic flu does break out in the UK, the Department of Health gives the "reasonable worst-case scenario" as involving up to half the population falling ill.

The number of deaths could be anywhere between 50,000 and 750,000.

Perhaps, just maybe, I might take this one a little more seriously. Where's that vaccine?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Stupid People Situation #796

Yesterday I was having trouble paying my tv license online. For some reason, I couldn't get past the first page where I had to fill in my license details. I wasn't too concerned - I have rather strange restrictions on my work pc. While I can go on facebook, gmail and pretty much any porn site I like all day (the porn came up when I was searching for pics of gay men - long story, honest!), I often can't comment on blogs or sometimes even get into my own to post.

So I did what any co-dependent would do - I forwarded the details on to my housemates and asked them to pay it.

Shoes was first to respond. He filled in the online form, including his bank details, only to be told at the end that as the license only expired end of May, it could not be renewed until 1 May. It seemed reasonable enough to us. So imagine our surprise this afternoon when Shoes checked his bank account and found that £142.50 (yes, you get done dry for tv over here) had been deducted by the tv license people. Again, this was not initially a cause for alarm. All I needed was an e-mail copy of the license, and we could forget about it for another year.

Imagine my bewilderment then, when the following conversation took place just half an hour ago:

Lopz: Hi there, I'm calling about a situation with my tv license, blah blah, error message, blah blah, money taken off, rhubarb rhubarb, need e-mail copy please.

TV License Call Centre Employee: Aaaah. Yes ma'm, I'm afraid it's not possible to e-mail you a copy of your license.

Lopz: *sensing Stupid People Situation about to commence* Really? Could you maybe perhaps tell me why that could be?

TVLCCE: Well, we cannot send you a new license until the beginning of the month in which your current license expires.

Lopz: Yes, and I would believe you if you hadn't already filched my money after your website said you couldn't take it. Strange that, isn't it?

TVLCCE: Yes ma'm, I do apologise, it must have been a glitch in our systems.

Lopz: *sensing business opportunity with systems designed to steal unsuspecting customers' money* Wow, what clever systems you have. So just to clarify, you have now taken my money, but you are refusing to give me a license. How are we going to work this one out?

TVLCCE: We will refund your money to you ma'm. Please give us until Friday and keep checking your account. If you have not been issued with a refund by Friday, please call us and we will take necessary action.

Lopz: I have a much better idea. Why don't you wait two days until it is May 1st, and then e-mail me my license? Otherwise I'll have to do all this again on Friday. It's so much less admin for both of us.

TVLCCE: I'm afraid that's impossible ma'm. Our systems do not work that way.

Lopz: So you are seriously going to refund my money, make me wait roughly 36 hours and then force me to go through the process again? I'm giving you an out - I'll ignore protocol until Friday when you can just press send on that little e-mail. Don't tell me you don't see the reason in this.

TVLCCE: I think it is perfectly reasonable, ma'm, but it does not work that way. I'm sorry, this is the procedure we will have to adhere to.

Lopz: *resigning herself to the inevitable* Fine. Fine. Just get that refund through by Friday or I'm charging you interest.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

It's the Small Things....

Some days are just true diamonds in the rough.

Train driver on empty tube from Kennington this morning:

Good morning ladies and gents! This train was empty on arrival but it takes 1000 people, so pile on, squeeze up and make new friends!

Mass e-mail around my building today:

Hi All-

Sorry for the mass email- although this may apply to everyone and anyone. I've been speaking to a potential client who runs a troupe of midgets/dwarfs/little people-

(that's an example of one of the guys available)

Aside from looking at potentially advertising with us, Mr X was keen to offer their services for parties (big or small), events and photo shoots.
I said I would pass his contact details around in case anyone may want to book them in the future-

Please email Mr X @ or call this number.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Every Rose Has Its Porn

Every week at our house we have Sunday Night Movie Night, where OJ, Neutrino and more recently, Miss M and sometimes TheArtyOne, come over, fight tooth and nail for a spot on the three seater couch, and watch the movie of the week with us. The routine goes like this:

6pm: Miss M arrives

6:30pm: Much action in the kitchen as the Awesome Foursome and Miss M all try to make dinner at the same time

7:00pm: Neutrino & TheArtyOne arrive

7:30pm: Everyone sits down to dinner

7:50pm: Everyone is finished with dinner and waiting for OJ

8:00pm: MOVIE START TIME...still waiting for OJ

8:15pm: OJ arrives

8:17pm: OJ unpacks his KFC at the table whilst everyone else settles on the couches - fights ensue btw Miss M, Neutrino and TheArtyOne as to who sits where (the first three to arrive get to sit like sardines on the 3 seater. The 4th person has to shame it on the kitchen chair)

8:20pm: Start movie

8:25pm: Pause movie so OJ can go outside for smoke

8:28pm: Play movie

8:30pm: Rewind movie because Miss M and Scarf are talking so loudly no-one can hear

8:31pm: Play movie

8:34pm: Pause movie so Eyes can swap places with Scarf, as he is caught in between her and Miss M (the Axis of Evil) and is being deafened by their "whispers"

8:35pm: Play movie

8:30pm: Pause movie so everyone can argue about who's turn it is to make tea

8:33pm: The unfortunate soul who has been hen-pecked to the point of distraction gets up to make tea. Everyone else up for a toilet break

8:40pm: Tea is delivered

8:41pm: Play movie

8:55pm: Pause movie so OJ can go outside for smoke

And so on and so forth. Finishing a movie at my house is a notable achievement all on its own. Finshing a movie that everyone understands is like finding a rare pink diamond - it ain't gonna happen in this lifetime. We even have trouble with animated films.

This Sunday past can only be described as an Epic Fail. The movie - The International - was a bad copy, and the characters sounded like they were speaking underwater. Two minutes in and we'd all decided it was too bad to watch. You'd think that we'd have been able to find something else pretty easily, given that we have Sky TV (British version of DSTV) and have access to something crazy like 1000 channels (how many of these are actually worth watching is another story altogether). However, after 15 minutes of Britain's Got Talent, which OJ the reality TV hater grumbled throughout, we were at a loss.

Scarf: LET'S WATCH PORN!!!!!

Lopz: No dude, you have to pay for it.


Everyone: What is wrong with her?

Shoes aka Master of the Remote: *flipping through documentaries* How about the mating habits of the pink-tailed Australian bushbaby?


Neutrino: Dude, WTF (said double-yoo tee eff)??? Why do you want to watch porn?

Scarf: I don't know, it's what groups of friends do, isn't it?

Everyone: DUDE!!!!

I have weird friends. But not porn-watching ones.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Moving On Up

It's Monday morning and I have a serious case of Monday blues, combined with a decent helping of post holiday blues, topped off with the blues that come when you reach a turning point in your life and you're ready for a change, but you are unable to make it. Oops, I think this is turning into a serious discussion of my life post!*

Basically, I am ready to call time on my London experience. I've had a three and a half year run and it has been awesome. But in three and a half years, a lot has changed. I've gotten older - I will be 30 in 10 months (yes I know you're not supposed to count up like that; I should be saying I STILL have 10 months LEFT of being 29, but whatever!). I'm starting to get tired of the constant partying. I look at my peer group on facebook and find myself coveting what they have: a surburban life in Cape Town complete with house, dogs and kids. I am so ready to be a mom; I would love to have a baby and I want to get married and settle down. I've always wanted those things, but for the first time I find myself wanting them more than I want to travel and life the young, free and careless lifestyle that we do over here.

I can say with absolute certainty that I've gotten everything out of my 20's that I could possibly have wanted. A few years ago when Shoes and I talked about this, we were so scared of getting old and being boring. We did everything we could to stay young and feel like we were the same age as the majority of our peer group (I would say the average age now of my group of friends here is 26 - Shoes and I are the eldest couple at nearly 28 and 29 respectively). We didn't want to be the ones to settle down when everyone else was still having the time of their lives. I admit I used to really worry about that - would we still be living it large at 33/34 just so we could match the pace of our friends' lives? Would we start feeling like those creepy 40-somethings that go out clubbing among groups of scantily-clad 20-something girls? Would we feel like we were trying too hard to hold onto something that was already gone? I have no issue with people in their mid-30's living the life that we do now...some of my best friends are 30-something, single and can out-party me. But for me - for us - it was a cause for concern because we've always known we wanted a family, and we didn't want to leave it too late.

What I didn't count on is that nature has a way of telling you when you're ready for the next step, friends and family plans be damned! Now I find that what my friends do no longer matters to me. What matters is that I know what I want, and I'm no longer afraid of being the only couple in my group to take that step and make a home. Of course there's something called a biological clock that has a lot to do with what I'm feeling, but it's more than that. It's the realisation that what we're doing now, the way we're living - while it has been absolutely incredible and I have memories of this time that I will revisit with joy for the rest of my life, it will never be enough for me. I want more than this - or less, if you want to be technical.

So there you go - this is the moment that I know for sure I am ready to leave London. One of my dreams has always been to go to Thailand, and I know I'm ready to go home because for the first time I want that more than I want Thailand, and I'd be prepared to scrap that trip if it would help me get home faster.


With all choices, there are conditions, quid pro quos, or just bloody obstacles! Mine is that I can only apply for my British passport end of next year. Whether or not to wait is more my decision than Shoes' because he already has his passport, and can travel freely around the world. If I decided not to wait, he'd be on board with that. However, I decided a while ago that I wouldn't leave without one, and I'm sticking to that. I want it for many reasons, but that is a whole other post.

So, after all that, the earliest we can look at going home is end of next year, once I've applied. It can take up to 6 months to get the passport, but sometimes it takes 2, so we'll hope for the best. What we at least can do now is work out a timeline of goals for ourselves between now and then.

It's going to be hard, waiting another year and a half when all I want is to get on a plane tomorrow. But, since I don't have a choice, I have to get myself into a space where I can enjoy the last months of my time here, as I never want it said I wasted two years of my life moping.

*I meant to write about our failed Sunday movie night last night, but sometimes these things just get away from you! Will post on that tomorrow.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Every Breath You Take (Hurts Like a Bitch)

3 days on and I feel like I've settled back into my routine. Up at 7am, on the tube by 8:10am, working - or pretending to, a girl's gotta have a little downtime between holidays and work, you know? - til 5:30pm and then off home for gym/dinner/American Idol. What Cape Town?

Yesterday was my first day back in the gym in 3 weeks. This was the moment I spent my whole holiday dreading. Going to the gym when I'm in a routine is fine. It's so much a part of my existence that I tend to exercise on automatic pilot. It's an hour of my day where I resemble a blank canvas on the inside, and a juicy, overripe tomato on the outside. I never get tired to comparing myself to the other suckers for torture to see which of us is the reddest/sweatiest/making the most off putting faces on any given day at my local Virgin Active. However, going to the gym after a nearly 3 week break has its downsides, to channel the master of understatement.

Thursday night is aerobics night. Scarf and I try to go every week, and when we're fit, it's a great class. It's almost exactly the same routine each week, so as you get fitter, you can push harder and test your body's intensity limits. When we're not fit, however, it resembles being chained to the inside of a giant hamster wheel and forced to run for 45 minutes while pulling the weight of a mack truck behind you. And before you suggest it, we don't walk out of classes - we're too chicken shit for that.

So there I am, puffing away after the first 5 minutes - which only constitues the very reasonably paced warm up - and trying to stifle my gaping yawns. This yawning thing is a fairly recent development, I do it all the way through my classes. I can't decide if these are "I am so over this right now" yawns or nervous "OMG what IS she going to make us do next" yawns. Either way, I imagine my instructor must be wondering what kind of bitch not only comes to her class and makes this half-assed attempt that would make James Cordon look good, but also has the cheek to act like her class is more boring than a One Tree Hill storyline.

I managed to fumble my way through the cardio by making sure every leg lift was 2 inches lower the normal, and every squat was more like the gentle knee dip you make when you courtsey. Once we were down on the floor for toning, I thought I was home free. I may have eaten and drank too much while on holiday, so its understandable that my heavier frame has the buoyancy of a block of lead, but surely my abs have survived the trip? Ha bloody ha. We hadn't even completed the first set of reps when I realised that in fact, they are even more incapacitated than my legs, and the burning sensation was so bad I was twisting like a pretezel in an attempt to get away from my own stomach. Even the warm down at the end was embarrassing, with my whole body doing the Beyonce shimmy when it was supposed to be held still in a zen-like stretch.

My only consolation is that there were plenty of other girls who looked as bedraggled as me at the end of it all. Claire-Bear wrote the other day about the annoyingly perfect looking people at Constantia Virgin Active in Cape Town - well, I can safely say that across the pond, there are very few gym bunnies. All the beautiful people are at Mahiki with Kate Moss and her posse; they opt for the Starvation Method over the Step & Sweat Method. I am truly grateful for the normal human beings inhabiting London gyms. After spending 3 years attending Green Point Virgin Active in Cape Town, aka The Gym Where All The Models Go, I get irrationally enraged everytime a see a girl coming into a gym with loose, freshly straightened hair and perfectly applied make up. And then, when they do that kind of slow mo jog so the hair can billow in the blasts from the air is enough to send my sweat-soaked self into a state of treadmill rage, a far more dangerous syndrome than road rage (think of the damage potential in a gym...weights dropped on feet, people bumped off cross trainers).

I'm currently trying to work up the courage to go back for more tonight. My body is creaking like a cellar door, and some smoker has clearly stolen my good lungs and left their emphysema-riddled set in my chest as a joke. But I will persevere. Beautified gym bunnies, watch out. I will stairmaster your head.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

My So-Called Life

I have been back in London for about 32 hours now, and the most prominent emotion I am feeling is confusion. The last 17 days have been spent in a whirlwind of activity in Cape Town and Creighton (near Durban), visiting with our families and friends and attending my best friend's wedding. It was busy, it was decadent (in Cape Town we like to have a competition called How Many Times Can We Eat Out In 1 Week), it was gloriously sunny and it was totally fulfilling.

In short, it was home. It was absolutely where Shoes and I feel we are meant to be.

So to come back to London, to get on the tube this morning and go to work like I've done every other day for the last 3 and a half years, to see the people I usually see and talk about the things we usually talk should feel normal pretty quickly, right? After all, this is what I do; it's what I've been doing since I moved here and will continue to do until the day we go home for good. This is my life. Why then am I sitting in front of my pc feeling like I've accidentally stepped into someone else's life?

I am less miserable and more struggling to adjust to what is in essence a case of right time, wrong place. I shouldn't be here. I should be in Cape Town where I belong, close to my family, close to my sister and sisters-in-law, close to the beach and the sky so blue it is rated one of the top 5 blue skies in the world. I should be having braais in the garden under the sun, not on a corner of a first floor balcony in the grey drizzle. I should not have to comfort Mini-Me over facebook that the end of the airport goodbyes is fast approaching - I should be able to say you know what, that's it - that was the last one.

There are reasons why I can't do all those things. My friends and family know why we're still here, and they understand. We have a plan, and we're fulfilling our dreams as much as it sometimes hurts us and them to do so. I know I have more to do over here before we can come home for good, and I've made my peace with it.

But as much as I tell myself this is all how its meant to be, I still feel like I have hijacked someone else's desk, someone else's job and someone else's purpose. And the girl whose life I have right's not a bad life, and she's obviously a lucky girl. She just doesn't feel like me.

I've done this before, and previous experience tells me that this too shall pass. Maybe tonight when I go home, my house will feel like my house and not a friend's flat. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll just sit here and spy on this other girl until it's time to leave to go and vote. I may not feel like myself today, but at least this afternoon I will join 7500 other expats in London in feeling proudly South African!