Thursday, 31 May 2007

She's here

The Good Granny has arrived. It turns out she was on an aeroplane, which is good as I'm not sure where I would have gone to fetch her had she arrived by balloon.

Bambi leapt straight into her arms, the five months since they last saw each other floating away into the distance as they quickly reaffirmed their bond. Gifts were given, biltong shared, stories told and announcements made (Granny, when I grow up I want to be a tooth fairy).

And now they're curled up together on the couch doing whatever it is that grandmothers and granddaughters do after too-long separations. I have not been invited.

And all is as it should be.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007


Bambi's life has turned into a rotational chart filling extravaganza. It all started with the No-accidents-for-ten-days-and-you-get-a-doll Chart (my erstwhile sensibilities about bribery now being but a vague memory). It took the form of ten little raindrops (at least that's what we told visitors they were), one to be coloured in each dry day. Dry trousers that is, not dry weather, or Bambi would still be doll free.

Then the Good Man started travelling and, as proof that it is possible to buy forgiveness, we invented the Six-sleeps-till-daddy-comes-home-with-a-dress Chart (a little clothes rack), and the Eight-sleeps-till-daddy-gets-home-with-biltong Chart (wee cows), and the Three-sleeps-till-daddy-gets-home-with-fancy-chocolates Chart (teddy bears - not sure why).

But now we are on the final hurdle of an extra special chart. It is one more sleep until Granny arrives. It shows nine balloons - I didn't think Bambi could handle a longer countdown although I've been secretly counting down for much longer. The significance of the balloons is merely avoidance - I hate flying and can't face thinking of people I care about on aeroplanes either. I can just about deal with an image of my mother clutching a bunch of balloons as she traverses the African continent.

And she's bringing biltong.

oh goody!

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Oh, what a good girl am I!

I noticed that the information campaign about the smoking ban in England has started to get going. Of course, Scotland, advanced nation that it is, has had the ban enforced since March 2006.

This got me thinking of my long-lost, pack a day smoking habit and how little I miss it. I started smoking when I was in high school (didn't we all?) but really got going in Germany. I like to talk and couldn't speak the language. Smoking gave me something to do other than looking vacantly at people wandering by. By the time I learnt the language I was addicted.

I think the most bizarre thing about smoking is how it can be considered cool - admittedly only by other smokers - while being so utterly and recognisably vile. It smells bad, tastes bad, paints your teeth and fingers yellow. How anyone with a smoking habit can NOT know that it is bad for you is beyond me. Waking up every morning with a burning throat and a choking cough do not strike me as being hard to interpret. And yet I smoked for several years.

And then the Good Man woke up one morning and, before you could say 'hypochondria' announced he had a tight chest and was going to stop smoking. He'd been at it for the best part of twenty years by then, so I naturally thought it would last about 3 hours. I even agreed that, as long as he didn't smoke, I would only smoke outside. This kind act illustrates two things:
  1. I knew that smoking was a bad idea - I wanted to support him in kicking the habit. And yet, I gave no thought to actually stopping myself...

  2. I can be really stupid. It gets could outside - even in Cape Town sometimes. And you always want a cigarette when the baddies are about to be caught but can't see the TV from the garden. Outside is lonely...
Much to my surprise, he really didn't ever smoke again. And then began the conspiracy. Our office building became non-smoking and we were forced to huddle in small groups on the balcony around overstuffed ashtrays. The place was like a walking crematorium. And then they designated smoking areas in restaurants. I slowly started to realise that us smokers were becoming very uncool.

Two years later I got laryngitis and honestly didn't want to smoke for a whole day. It was quite nice being allowed in the house so, as a kind of cruel, self inflicted torture, I decided to not smoke for another day. Then, I thought, with two days down, I may as well try for a week. Just to prove that I wasn't actually addicted to cigarettes and was still in control of all aspects of my life (motherhood has now put paid to that myth, but I digress...), I went for another week. Several weeks have now passed - somewhere around 520, I think.

Today, I decided to price cigarettes, just to see how much I'm saving ten years on. Flipping heck!!! £5.30 a pack!!! That's £160 per month. While I'm tempted to look at this as a potential city break a month for being virtuous, it would actually mean having £160 less to spend on stuff each month. Like living in a dodgier neighbourhood, or never shopping at Sainsbury's. Unthinkable!

It actually means that stopping smoking can improve your lifestyle as well as your health.

Looking back I just can't remember why I bothered.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

8 (more) things

I'm not very interesting really. The first time I got tagged I was flattered and had a clean slate to work from so made it through my list without revealing too much about my rather dull existence. But now I've been tagged again, by Theresa.

The first eight were tough enough, so this could get very boring. Feel free to move on.

  1. My Good Man is allergic to alcohol. I loudly expound on the ills of drunk driving while he chauffeurs me home after one too many.

  2. I grew up next door to a gynaecologist. When I was seven, his twelve year old son took it upon himself to educate me - in the textbook sense. His father's tomes about the female functions were explained in full. There is such a thing as too much information. However, one connection was made abundantly clear - sex means babies. I never had a problem saying 'no' and Bambi was very well planned.

  3. I nearly got arrested in Germany for breaking into my High School to throw a party. It was an annual tradition that I got a bit too caught up in as I was the only one who could figure out how to remove the hinges from the doors to get us in. Fortunately, the police recognised that it was a pretty pointless thing to get too excited about and that, really, all should be more concerned about students breaking out of school. But, man were we ever considered cool the next day in class!

  4. I paint, but only in oils. Watercolours require too much commitment.

  5. My favourite African animal is the leopard. I've got to be pretty good at spotting them in the bush. They're easiest to spot when reclining in trees. Their tails hang down vertically - nothing else in the bush is so straight and so vertical.

  6. My favourite Scottish animal is the Highland Cow. So hairy and forlorn. And they don't move very fast so are easy to spot.

  7. When I was thirteen I made a cake tin full of chocolates to be distributed to guests on Christmas Day. We were celebrating in Hermanus, an hour and a half away. I left a few days early with my parents but it was scorching hot and the chocolates wouldn't have made the journey, so I left them with my older brother to bring along on Christmas day. He arrived having eaten all but six of the chocolates. My revenge has been telling this story to all mutual acquaintances since.

  8. I get fairly emotional whenever I hear children sing, but the African Children's Choir reduce me to tears every time.

I need more blog friends (blogends?) as I don't know who to nominate to carry this tag on. If you'd like to nominate yourself please respond in the comments and I'll make it official.

Questions anyone?

PS Nominees (so far) are:



Aminah (hello new friend!)

Friday, 25 May 2007

Bambi's new glasses

Mommy, I think my glasses make me very big.

And beautiful.

And clever.

And, in fact, I think they make me very adorable.

Yes dear, but they're doing nothing for your modesty.

What shall we do when the novelty wears off!

Thursday, 24 May 2007


Still no news...

Before I met my Good Man I spent around twenty years walking under ladders, standing on cracks in the pavement and trying out extreme sports on Friday the 13ths. I never worried about lucky numbers, always simply bought the next ticket in the raffle and laughed when people wasted salt by throwing it over their shoulders.

Then he arrived. Wandering up my parent's garden path to fetch me for a get together, he spotted my mother's black cat. We retrieved him ten minutes later from behind the conifer. My mom interpreted this as a wish on his part to shower our relationship with good luck. In a story now often repeated in our family, she told a friend that afternoon that this was the man I would marry. Which was interesting as we didn't become romantically involved until nearly six months later.

I, on the other hand, still burst into fits of laughter at the mental image of him peaking out from behind the conifer, trying to figure out how to avoid crossing the cat's path... or is the cat crossing his path. What a test - to bring bad luck upon yourself, or to look like a complete idiot in front of your future wife and her mother! Fortunately, I have a great deal of fondness for the ridiculous.

And so began my education of all things luck related. First I learnt the rules - and, with the Irish, there are many. My favourite category is Celtic Feng Shui. One's feet should not point to a door when sleeping (or you'll apparently be carried out clogs-popped in the morning). You must enter and exit a home through the same door so as to leave the luck in the house, which leads to some interesting departure maneuvers at my in-law's house - they have three doors. And the more horseshoes, hung at precisely the correct angle above the door, the merrier.

I have learnt to not walk barefoot in my kitchen when the Good Man has been cooking as the combination of wood and salt can be slippery. And I am a keen study of motion in trees lest we only see one magpie at a time.

On the whole I think its all a bit of a laugh. But, when it really matters, when my Good Man really wants something to happen with all his heart, I will not jinx it by telling too early.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The Elephant in my Brain

I have a great big piece of news that I'm not allowed to talk (or write) about until it's all confirmed. And, no, I am not pregnant.

The problem is that this big piece of news is taking up all the space in my head and demanding to be released. The only thing for it is to not write anything at all.

Fortunately, I have a piece published in topblogmag this week (not blog of the week, mind you, just an also ran) so if you really would like to read something of my adventures in Africa, feel free to have a look there.

It's not as big as the elephant in my head, but it does have a rhino in it!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Highstepping Holyrood

I've always wondered at the name 'political party'. Well, rather I've wondered at its application rather than the actual words themselves. You see, in my mind, a party is a gathering of diverse folk, usually imbibing alcohol, perhaps dancing and generally being nice to one another.

Political parties are, by their nature, homogeneous. With the exception of the odd little in-fight and wrangle for group supremacy, they don't seem very festive to me at all. I think they would be better named as tribes. Yes, tribes! With chiefs and elders jostling for position before taking on opposing tribes with policy as pangas and manifestos as missiles.

If you ask me, a 'party' would more accurately describe the aftermath of an election - such as the position in which Scotland now finds itself. After the mud-slinging, back-stabbing and mountains of recycling created by the election, everyone seems to be on strangely good terms. Coalitions are the talk of the town, and even where alliances are not formally forged, tacit back scratching seems to be the order of the day. Its difficult to not feel a little suspicious.

But having read the Sunday Times this week my normal levels of suspicion are slowly bubbling over with conspiracy theory lava. The top story from the newly elected SNP is that they want Scotland to field its own team at the Olympics. Now, it's not that I have particularly strong opinions about his one way or another, just that it seems a bit of a lightweight issue. But then again maybe I'm missing something. Maybe the Olympic dream sits at the heart of the Scottish psyche and I've just missed it.

I can't pretend to have ploughed through the 76 page SNP manifesto but there was certainly no mention of the Olympics in their 4 page First Steps publication.

Something's up I tell you...

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Most Beautiful City in the World

We went to friends for dinner on Friday. Actually, he's French and she's Swedish so, to be accurate, we went to theirs for cheese, meatballs and red wine on Friday. It was a get together in honour of their impending departure from Glasgow - in two months they will be living in Tunisia.

It was a gathering of academics, which is not as dull as it sounds. There were probably more doctors in the room than in your average A&E but if something goes wrong around this bunch you're hoping its a coup attempt requiring political intervention, rather than a deep cut requiring stitches. I used to find these groupings quite intimidating but have now grown quite used to my role as token housewife.

Anyway, a lot of the people at this gathering move around and so we got talking about where we'd all been - the good, the bad and the ugly. I was chatting to Tiger - born and bred in Oxford but with lingering Jamaican affiliations (mon!). He'd spent time in Cape Town and we were having a terrific time comparing notes on the beaches, mountains, sunsets, sigh....

'Yeah,' he said. 'It's so beautiful. I think it's probably the second most beautiful city in the world, mon.'

A stunned silence filled the room. My fierce loyalty to my home town is not a well-guarded secret and they could sense some tension brewing. Even Tiger looked a bit concerned when he tore his eyes away from his pina colada and noticed the guttural sounds emanating from the back of my throat.

'So what's the most beautiful then?' I growled.

'Rio.' he said, backing away slowly. Lucky for him our hosts stepped in, shoved a glass of wine into my hand and began regaling us of their tales in this South American idyll - something about the beaches, the mountains, the national beachware dress code - and 8 million people. I put my fingers in my ears and began to hum.

Eventually, two minutes later, they moved on to a discussion of other cities in the world. The rules of engagement were that at least two people had to have been to the city in question for it to make the honour role. Rio, Cape Town, Paris, Budapest and Istanbul all got favourable reviews. Islamabad was not so lucky. There were several also-rans in between - like Glasgow, for example.

But I still left feeling a bit insulted about Cape Town's second place.

I think I'll just blame that on Rio, mon.

Friday, 18 May 2007

I'm it!

Yup, I've been tagged. While I do wish I could be blase about it, I actually feel like I've won a popularity contest - thank you Lady M!

You've probably read a few of these lately - the blogger needs to reveal eight facts in their entry and then nominate five other bloggers to do the same.

My eight facts are:

  1. I was born in a coastal village called Hermanus, best known for its annual whale-watching season. At the time it was a tiny little place with no hospital, so I was born on the doctor's couch. The doctor's practice later became an off sales and for years I told people I was born in a bottle store. Surprisingly few considered this strange.
  2. I speak fluent German thanks to a year spent there as a Rotary Exchange Student.
  3. Before coming to the UK I had never used a washing machine, put petrol in a car or done ironing. This was a result of having grown up with other people doing these things for me in South Africa and Zambia - and it is pitiful, I know.
  4. I was surprised at how easy washing machines are to operate and cars are to fuel. But I still don't iron.
  5. Since becoming a mother I have developed an inconvenient fear of flying. I can also not bring myself to take sleeping pills or anything else that may dull my senses while in the air, as I have an irrational belief that I could do something to change my fate if I was plummeting to the ground from 30 000ft.
  6. I love speaking in public. Give me a captive audience and I'm a happy woman.
  7. For my next wedding anniversary I would like to go to Treetops Camp in Kenya.
  8. (This one may not surprise you!) My Good Man reads my blog. And he's not very good with subtle hints.

Dear nominees, the best thing about blog tagging is that there are no repercussions should you choose to ignore this. Lets face it, there are probably no repercussions for ignoring chain letters either but I find it difficult to go to bed when someone has predicted my impending doom for failing to 'pass it on'. Should you choose to ignore this, feel free to get a good night's rest.

That said, I would love to know eight things about:

Reluctant Memsahib

Kerry-Anne at Cape Town Daily Photo

The blooming marvelous Annie

Jenny, our Mountain Mama

And Katie, our resident long-ayelander.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Dunfermline in the news

You know how it is. You hear a new word, or someone tells you about a new place and then it keeps cropping up...

I was reading Katie's blog - she's an American currently living in Glasgow. anyway, the post was called called A Monkey Made Me Do It and starts:

A man in Dunfermline has been placed on the sex offenders register after rubbing a woman’s leg during the movie King Kong. Alistair Douglas touched Gemma Smart’s leg for approximately two minutes. He later said that his actions weren’t sexually motivated, claiming that he rubbed her leg because he thought that part of the film was funny.

As Katie, correctly points out, a chuckle, nay even a chortle, may have been a more appropriate response to a humorous scene, but not in Dunfermline.

Then I found this gem:

A Scottish funeral home has come under fire for using the ashes of cremated bodies to grit the pavement in icy conditions. Staff at Co-op Funeralcare in (you guessed it!) Dunfermline say that the ashes were also used to increase the traction on the wheelchair access ramp.

At least, I suppose, they're not trying to drum up more business.

Dunfermline is in Fife. If you're planning a visit, it's on the A907 and, I hear, the circus is in town.

However, if you're on your way to St Andrew's it can be avoided by taking the A985 if you're following the coast or the A977 north.

Just thought you should know...

Flatdogs flashback

When we lived in Zambia we spent as much time as possible in the South Luangwa Valley. It's a magical place heaving with big game, but very difficult to get to, so not heavily populated with tourists.

Those who do make it there are usually either wealthy tourists, who fly in and stayed at the luxury lodges, or backpackers, parking their tents and kicking back after a bone-jarring drive in an overland vehicle over some off the worst roads in Africa. Both groups tend to settle in and use local operators for trips into the game reserve. Many don't even bother with the game drives. Zambian parks have no fences and elephants, giraffes, vervets and hippos are all regulars at the lodges.

We fell somewhere between the two. The Good Man and I prefer bush travel of the DIY variety. We love the thrill of finding our own game sightings, guessing at the rhymes and metres of the bush and, occasionally getting it right. So we would drive our trusty 4WD over potholes you could hide a goat in and over corrugations which shook at least three fillings loose, to this African Eden.

In our quest as big game hunters (of the strictly photographic kind I hasten to add) we try to talk to the professional rangers, recognising that, no matter how great our prowess at navigating sandy river beds while being pursued by rampaging elephants, we have a lot to learn. There is nothing like local knowledge for predicting the whereabouts of the elusive 'pretty kitties' of the African bush.

To this end, on our journeys to South Luangwa, we made a habit of staying at Flatdogs. When we were last there it was owned by a chap called Jake de Motta, hailed by Lonely Planet as 'a legend in his own lunchtime' but largely managed by Jess and Adie, who are still there. The great thing about Flatdogs (other than their riverfront position, proximity to the game park and readily available nachos) was their bar. It was a meeting place for the locals who would regale all who would listen with their adventures and exploits. I think there was an annual award given for the tallest tale - everyone's snake was the longest, lion the most hungry and buffalo the most, well, plain pissed off. It was worth missing the night drive for the excitement of the bushlore.

We were also fortunate enough to be there for a few quiz nights. I'm not really much of a quiz night girl, but these were brilliant. You see, most contestants would have been in the bush for a while and were completely ignorant of anything that had happened since their arrival. As the only one with an internet connection, Jess would structure these fantastic multiple choice questions on current affairs eliciting highly creative responses from her, no doubt, usually well-informed guests.

It was terrific theatre and the only thing cold was the beer.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Dance of the dust bunnies

Before the Good Man left for South Africa he broke the vacuum cleaner. Let's not digress into the division of labour in our Good Home. Suffice to say, he won't touch a toilet brush. The vacuum is the price he pays.

He yanked it to the far side of the lounge straining the plug to breaking point, and, what do you know? It broke. He found a screwdriver, poked about a bit, it still didn't work. So he left the continent.

That was a Thursday. By Sunday, the party started. The strands of hair began a tete-e-tete with the radiator dust. They flirted a bit, got past first base and by Tuesday they were the proud parents of a burgeoning brood of dust bunnies. I looked at the vacuum cleaner. I stared at the screwdriver. I saw a future where I would vacuum and clean the loo. I scooped up Bambi and took her to visit friends.

By Thursday Bambi thought they were looking hungry and fed them some of her vegetables - escape-peas we like to call them. On Friday morning we gave them names. And on Friday afternoon the Good Man returned.

'So you didn't fix the vacuum cleaner then?' he said on meeting Flopsy and Flo at the door.

On Saturday morning I woke to a newly repaired vacuum cleaner whining its way through the downstairs of our house. Bambi was helping her Dad. I could hear her vacuum cleaner too. It's pink, has Barney on it and sings.

Clean up, clean up
Everybody, everywhere
Clean up, clean up
Everybody do your share!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Carbon emissions just hot air?

In March I watched a fascinating documentary on Channel 4. It was called 'The Global Warming Swindle' and put forward the theory that global warming is not the result of people induced carbon emissions but, rather, by solar activity. This was presented in a very persuasive fashion by a group of respected scientists, a few of which had actually been involved in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and were a bit annoyed to have been named as supporting its findings when, in actual fact, they thought it was a lot of nonsense propaganda serving only to perpetuate the 'global warming industry'. That was a very long sentence. I hope you caught it.

That's it!, I thought. The brown stuff is sure to hit the turning thing over this one. Environmental issues always spark hefty debate here, I thought. But no. Channel 4 was not closed down on account of its 'slur'. The scientists involved were not flogged on the street, or even through the press. One little article in the Independent was all I found. All was quiet...

I think it may be a bit like the emperor's new clothes. No one want to be the first to say, 'Excuse me but have we all been fed a line?' Or maybe, 'Excuse me Al Gore, you're full of it!'. Which if the 'it' in question is carbon, just may be true.

It turns out that a few of the graphs in the documentary were based on old data and some stats were questionable, but not all. There was quite a lot of substance to these claims too and so, here I am. Whispering into the darkness to my audience of, oh, about ... not very many(including several relatives). I don't think that global warming is caused by carbon emissions alone. In fact, I suspect they may not play a very big role at all...

Now before anyone gets too excited and I lose my audience of, oh... not very many (including several relatives), I would like to make the following clear:
  • I recycle. I don't believe that with burgeoning population issues we should have to live in a tip. We need to find ways of making waste work.
  • I don't fly short haul. At least I try not to. But as I hate flying this is not a great sacrifice.
  • I try my level best to keep my gas and electricity consumption down. This is a tricky one for me, as anyone who has read more than three posts on this blog will know that I have been cold for the last 18 months. But fuels are a limited resource and sustainability still requires a solution.
  • I believe that the manufacturing and mining sectors should be held accountable for the amount of toxins and noxious fumes they spew into our rivers, oceans and air. I don't want to swim in it and I don't want to breath it. There must be an alternative to making people sick.
  • I walk whenever possible. If it didn't rain so much, I would walk more. And it would be even more pleasant without the car fumes.
So, even if carbon emissions were solely responsible for global warming, I probably wouldn't do things differently. But I don't like the sham and I worry about the decoy. If global warming is going to happen anyway, shouldn't we be focusing our minds on dealing with that issue rather than banging on about cars and aeroplanes?

Earlier this week, the German Spiegel published an article titled Not the End of the World as We Know It. It's a long article, but give it a read anyway. In case you don't, a key paragraph states:

Keeping a cool head is a good idea because, for one thing, we can no longer completely prevent climate change. No matter how much governments try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it will only be possible to limit the rise in global temperatures to about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. But even this moderate warming would likely have far fewer apocalyptic consequences than many a prophet of doom would have us believe.

The article goes on to talk about the infrastructural developments required to prevent against predictable weather change, for example, drainage in northern European countries. It puts forward the level headed opinion that there will be winners and losers as our planet warms. Through a bit of forward planning the losers could lose a lot less.

What do you think?

PS Watch the Global Warning Swindle here (be warned its 1hr13min long) or read about it here, which will take less time but doesn't have as many pictures...

Mothers' Day

Today is Mothers' Day in South Africa. And America. But my Mom is in South Africa, and this is my blog. So it's Mothers' Day in South Africa.

In some ways, my Mom scores. When all the Mother's Day paraphernalia hits the shops in the UK, I am powerless to resist and invariably call my Mom to wish her a happy Mothers' Day. This causes some confusion as, as far as she is concerned, its just another Sunday in March. But she seems happy to hear from me nonetheless.

And then, when the South African version rolls around, I get hundreds (well, maybe it's tens) of emails from friends in SA with Mothers' Day messages. I can't face the thought of my Mom not hearing from her daughter when all around her are surrounded by cards and flowers, so I phone again. She's usually out, celebrating with my brother and his family. But, hell, I try.

I should add, that being a dutiful daughter with a tech savvy Mom and Skype, I speak to my Mom pretty much everyday. Except on South African Mothers' Day, it seems.

Oh well....

PS Happy Mothers' Day Mom!

Friday, 11 May 2007


The Good Man returned from a week in South Africa last night. He came bearing gifts - clothes, treats and biltong. This last item is not necessarily your traditional duty-free purchase. It's air dried meat seasoned with salt, coriander and peppercorns. In South Africa it is the snack food of choice. Keep the crisps, but never forget the biltong.

It's best application is as a teething aid for babies. Yes, we give our children large chunks of dry, uncooked meat to chew on when their gums are sore. Unconventional, perhaps, but highly effective.

Anyway, my husband knows his girls well - he brought us 1kg of the stuff. We piled in last night, Bambi and I. She has grown very protective of her bag of meat - I heard her growl when her father got too close.

This morning, when the Good Man went to wake her he promised her a special treat if she ate her breakfast like a good girl. He had a bowl of warmed strawberries in mind.

'Yes,' she said. 'Biltong'. Good girl! its' the South African genes talking!

This also reminds me of a work colleague the Good Man once had - an American of Chinese descent. He came to South Africa on a business trip and could not understand why people kept chuckling when he introduced himself. It had started at passport control and continued on from there.

But then his name was Bill Tong.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

A note to Hubris

I got my first critical comment yesterday. I suppose, I'm glad to get it out the way. And just to twist the knife in my already bleeding heart, here's what it said:

Whilst your blog is undoubtedly well crafted and funny, I am sad that you are having such a miserable time in Scotland. Obviously this is down to the fact that we Scots suffer from a lunacy, perhaps caused by cerebral hypothermia.

I wish I could apologise wholeheartedly on behalf of this miserable little country. Undoubtedly things are far better in SA. Unquestionably I am proud of a nation which in the last week has stood up against Trident, the War in Iraq, and environmental rape. Personally, I am more passionate about these issues than the temperature.

Please don't waste your time here being miserable and blogging about it. Go out. Meet some people. Learn some things.


So, there I was, bracing myself to take it on the chin – I have, after all, been a bit of a moaner – when there came a twist in the tale. Hubris turned out to be a good friend. Well, I use the phrase loosely - she was a good friend yesterday and we'll work our way back there with time. I will not lie, I was really hurt that she aired her grievances on this, my soapbox.

But, as we went through the awkward tribal dance that is making peace, she did make one valid point (well, maybe more than one, but that's as much generosity as I'm prepared to show while the wound remains raw). I have not once mentioned anything of the hospitality, kindness and friendship I have experienced since moving here. So, dear Hubris, here are some of the things I love about my current home:
  • I live on the best street in Glasgow. It's a row of terraces, which means that my neighbours live one wall away. In my street I am surrounded by people who are always ready with a cup of sugar or an hour of babysitting. People who take my mother sightseeing when she visits and who love my daughter. We share our wine and we share our woes. In my street live my Scottish family. They keep me in laughter. And, today, one kept me in tears.
  • Glasgow is a city of parks. Beautiful parks with ponds and play areas filled with wee Scottish children who are sweeter for their sometimes unintelligible accent. The parks change with the seasons. Most of all I love Autumn and Spring, periods of transition and promise which we don't really get in South Africa.
  • I secretly love that my Bambi is developing a Scottish accent all of her own. The way people speak here has a way of adding a twinkle to even the driest dialogue. If she loses the accent, I pray she keeps the twinkle.
  • The arts are valued. Until now I have lived in countries dealing with such basic socio-political issues that the arts have been a very small blip on the social radar. In South Africa it is extremely hard for even the most talented artists, musicians and performers to eke out a living. Here there is a plethora of theatres and venues, galleries and exhibitions providing to an appreciative and discerning audience. Love it.
  • Everything is available. Always. Except Soba noodles. I hear they can be hard to find.
  • The history. Old castles, fortresses and priories, meticulously maintained and just waiting for a visit from Princess Bambi and I.
  • My friends, who have also become Bambi's friends and their children who have become mine. Together we watch them play, explore and learn and get to do some playing and exploring and learning of our own. I fear the effect the loss of their presence in our lives will have, when the time comes to move on.

There is more, dear Hubris. But maybe that can be for another post.

Can I moan again now?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Bambi meets Elvis

My beautiful daughter has just completed a growth spurt. Actually, she may still be mid-spurt but this does not bear thinking about. I cannot afford to go another round at Next until October. I am tall, her father is tall. She's well on her way.

Unfortunately for her about 80% of this growth has taken place in her legs. She's having a bit of trouble figuring out what to do with an extra inch on each appendage. From where I'm standing, though, the results are just too adorable to express.

'She looks a bit like Bambi on the ice,' observed my friend Janet the other day. Which, of course, means she will grow into an elegant gazelle. One day. But please not too soon thanks. I know that looking like roadrunner when you pick up speed might cause a few issues in high school, but at the moment she seems quite pleased to be keeping me in exuberant laughter. We laugh together.

Her blog name, however, has to change. Henceforth the wee 'un will be known as Bambi.

Anyway, with the rain back again I took my own advice and visited some of Glasgow's great indoor sights this weekend. The highlight was watching Bambi serenading Elvis at Kelvingrove. He seemed to quite enjoy her rendition of twinkle, twinkle.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Don't tell!

In my former life, before Zambia, Scotland, child and housewifery, I worked in advertisng. I wasn't a creative, but, rather, a strategist. So I didn't do drugs. I say this to clarify the unique approach I have to observing advertising to this day. Well, unique to strategists that is. What I am about to share with you is actually a trade secret. As I no longer work in the trade, I don't care.

Advertisements, carefully watched, can tell you more about yourself and the things you value than an experienced psychoanalyst. An easy example of this would be Playhouse Disney who advertise a range of overpriced plastic toys, home insurance and cosmetics. The toys are targetted at the children who are fully expected to whine at their parents until the object of their desires makes it over the threshold and onto the pile of unused toys in your living room. The home insurance and cosmetics are targetted directly at you, dear Mom. Concerned for your children's futures and desparate to remove the stretch marks? Those advertisers just know that you secretly watch Dora while little Sally reads stories to Baby Annabelle.

But recently I have begun to suspect that Capetonians living in the UK are a distinct target market - all studiously watching the same shows as me. Emerging from a dark, cold winter that tests our understanding of endurance, we are all longing for the light, the mountains, the rocks on Clifton beach, and advertisers know that we are easy prey.

I know, in my heart, not to take this personally. It's practical, really. You see, Cape Town is in the southern hemisphere (I'm hoping that doesn't sound condescending - it isn't meant to), which means that it is enjoying a balmy summer while this island is in the darkest depths of winter. When outdoor filming in the UK is dissolving in 3 metres of rain, the industry in Cape Town is booming with European producers keen to get ads in the can before spring promotions.

Now it is Spring and I can spot a South African in Tesco at 100 yards. Firstly, they're still wearing fleeces, coats, and scarves. But they've also developed a sudden and overwhelming desire to eat Kelloggs for breakfast, with a Muller yoghurt, while they talk on T-Mobile contracts and waft through a mist of Nivea deodorant. I also suspect they may be buying garden furniture from Homebase.

I know it's not personal, but just so as you know dear advertising folk, I may need therapy to get over the homesickness. And I hold you responsible.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Culture club

In South Africa, before the first 'free and fair' elections in 1994, new customs had to be accommodated - or maybe I should say old customs. Basically, through years of apartheid, black South Africans had been allowed no freedom of expression and, as protests became legalised in the early 90s, a new code of acceptable political behaviour was written.

One of the more controversial topics at the time was that of 'cultural weapons'. Tribal Africans believe in their right to carry traditional arms as a means of demonstrating their strength when making a political point. They were not (necessarily) to be used as weapons, but rather for show. Think All Blacks doing a hakka before a rugby international and you'll get the idea.

In principle this all sounds fine. That is until you're faced with 3000 angry Zulus wielding pangas and knobkerries. But, I digress. Cultural weapons were (and are), controversially, tolerated in South Africa as long as they do not lead to violence.

So what has this to do with Scotland, you ask. Well, in yesterday's Herald an article caught my eye. A man entered a polling station and in a most unsporting fashion destroyed ballot boxes and informational posters before being dragged off to court. His cultural weapon of choice (and bear in mind he is Scottish now)... the golf club. He was being charged with, and I quote,'breach of the peace, vandalism, possession of an offensive weapon...' An offensive golf club??? In Scotland??? Did it have a Union Jack emblazoned on its grip?

Still, Holyrood had better watch out. The golfers are getting restless!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

From the darkness, into the light

Glasgow is having a run of truly beautiful weather at the moment. I have actually been seen, over the last two days, wearing (drum roll...) t-shirts. This is code for 'over 20 degrees Celsius'. Anything lower than that and I need a fleece.

I have long suspected that the sun has a completely different purpose this far north of the equator than it does in sub-Saharan Africa. There it exists to give warmth. It drums up business for producers of air conditioners and installers of swimming pools. It heats the air to the point that swimming in the Atlantic seems like a good idea.

Here it exists to provide light. Drumming up business for manufacturers of blackout curtain lining and ... well now I'm stumped. Exactly why do we need broad daylight in the middle of the night?

In Cape Town, in mid-summer, it's dark by 9pm. Perfect. Enough time for a leisurely braai (similar to a barbeque but with less burnt meat and no hamburgers), before lighting a few outdoor candles for a chat before bedtime. But here in mid summer, it's light until after 11pm. I simply don't know what to do with all the extra daylight. It keeps me up. It's like a faulty alarm in my body clock clanging that I should be doing things when, actually, I should be sleeping.

But, in its defence, it does come after months of solar hibernation. 5 hours of daylight through winter is just plain stingy.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The rainbow people of Scotland

Today is election day here in Scotland and, while I know I should be providing insightful political commentary, I am feeling the urge to resist. Rather, let's talk about skin colour. Dangerous territory for a white South African, I hear you say. But I'll live on the edge this once.

The vast majority of Scots start off white. I have seen the babies, I have visited the maternity wards, I know this to be true. Then, as I mentioned in a previous post, they start to walk, are taken to a loch in winter in the buff, and they turn pale blue. For the rest of their natural lives they fluctuate between this hue and a particularly fetching shade of puce I like to call 'Scottish salmon', obtained by their insistence on removing all clothing the second the sun shines.

But in recent years some new colours have been welcomed into the summer spectrum. The first comes to you straight from a bottle. Self tan sales rocket in Scotland in early Spring, painting the town orange in preparation for the summer clothing removal session. I suppose you have to forgive the poor wee souls. They don't get to see too much sun and, therefore, can't reasonably be expected to know that nobody turns that colour naturally.

Then there are those who have visited Spain on holiday and have learnt that while burnt orange is a colour, it's not one that the human body assumes. So they frequent one of the thousands of tanning salons around the country. No high street is without one. They go in pale blue and emerge looking like members of the Jackson family. In the '80s.

And to think they call South Africa the Rainbow Nation!

And he's off!

Having recently written about my disdain for early mornings I now find myself, at 6 o'clock in the morning, writing a post. I clearly have no spine.

The good man's taxi arrived at 5.15 and I can't get back to sleep. He's off to SA for a week which has the following implications:
  • The toilet seat will remain down.
  • The toilet roll, when finished will be promptly replenished.
  • Leftovers will make it into the fridge.
  • There will either be no juice or some juice, but not a mere tablespoon left in the bottom of the carton delaying the purchase of some more.
  • I will consume all the red meat I wish without concern for his runner's physique.
  • My daughter will consume considerably less chocolate and, therefore not be prone to energy spikes just before bed time.
  • I can sleep positioned like a snow angel.

And yet I can't wait for next Thursday...

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

A morning by the pool

Before moving here, my impression of Scotland, was that it was a nation of deeply eccentric characters. This opinion was formed by years of watching British television and film, where, let's face it, the Scot is usually the weird uncle. Trainspotting and Billy Connolly did nothing to dispel the myth.

Well, unfortunately, Scottish eccentrics are not to be found on every corner, under every bush, or even loitering along every train line. Rather they are to be found at the Dollan Baths.

Twice a week (more if I can manage) I go to the Dollan olympic pool. There I spend about an hour covering a distance of around 2 kms. In swimming parlance, this is considered long distance. Now you may have heard of the loneliness of the long distance runner. The good man is just such a runner and he combats his loneliness by counting things - lampposts, stripes on the road, trees... you name it he'll know how many. There's not much to count in a pool so I prefer to people-watch.

For some reason people in public pools think that anything under the water is not visible. This is particularly true of those who insist on keeping their hair dry while in the pool. But most serious swimmers wear anti -mist goggles and can actually see better in the water than out. Old Mac in his 1920s full body stocking doing bunny hops across the lanes - crystal clear. And what precisely are Mr. Flarrety and Mrs Cameron doing playing footsie by the step ladder?

On a Friday there is an aqua-robics class - average age 83, entirely female A lithe young bird stands outside the pool bopping away with a pool noodle to 1960's remixes while her octogenarian charges bop away in the pool. I am now under no illusions as to where this ageing malarkey is taking me. It wobbles while it wiggles and occasionally pops out of its DD cup giving the old boys who linger on the outskirts of the class area a frisson of excitement. Men, it would appear, never change.

But the pool has also introduced me to a few real characters (name changed to preserve friendships). Madge who comes to the pool, in a swimming costume built of scaffolding, sporting a Florida tan and with a special cap with earmuffs, only to chat to all of us about how much people splash while they swim (not too sure what they're meant to be doing). Jake who either swims 3 miles or runs 10 every day - he's retired and clearly hasn't figured out what to do with his time. And the lifeguard whose hair changes colour with the seasons (in a range from red to yellow and all shades of orange in between).

And then there's Mike - trying his hardest to keep up with the triathletes - pity his physique is arriving on the next plane. And an endless supply of mums with toddlers saying things like, 'Now Angus, take that duck/whale out of your mouth' and 'No Sally, blowing bubbles underwater should not be called farting!'.

My hour's up in no time.