Monday, 30 November 2009

The heat of love

I think I am the luckiest girl alive.

I wake up at about 6.30 am every morning to get ready for work, and I wake the BFG up at about 7.15 because he takes about 5 minutes to get ready. In my opinion this a twisted state of affairs because the morning is a toothsome beast to me, and I would rather stay in bed than slay monsters at that time of day. BFG is able to spring up in the mornings without any trauma or drama, yet he is the one who gets to sleep in.

Anyway, a few days ago my alarm was whining and I was ignoring it and staying in the warm cocoon (we have no proper heating in our flat) and all of a sudden the BFG jumped out of bed, ran over to my side of the bed, switched on our heater so I could be warm when I got up, and ran back into bed.

Now that is true love! Seriously, where did I find this awesome guy? I wouldn't jump out of bed mostly naked in winter at 6.30am for anyone.

On that loving note, I thought I would share with you a poem about men. It is by Carol Ann Duffy, who wrote a whole collection of poems through the eyes of the wives of famous historical figures. This poem never fails to make me snort. Can anyone identify?

Mrs Icarus

I’m not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world

he’s a total, utter, absolute Grade A pillock.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Read Africa

This is a bit of an intemellectual post for a Friday, so don't worry I don't expect anyone to actually read it ;)

It is inspired by the Read South Africa campaign (on Facebook), which the lovely Damaria is involved in. The campaign aims to encourage South Africans to read. I think that is somewhat obvious. I am all for reading. They are doing a vote for the top 50 books from Africa this decade, and the top 10 South African ones. I have already voted, have you? If you don't have Facebook, you can still vote here.

This list does not obey those requirements, it is just a list of books from Africa that I have read that made an impact on me, or that I enjoyed, or that I think are worth reading, from any time. Just because I like reading, and did some UNISA courses that involved reading African literature and so I have read a few recently.

In no particular order:

  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe). This book says everything about a young girl caught between two cultures that you need to know. In the book, a white psychologist denies that a black girl could have an eating disorder. I think that about sums it up.

  • The heart of Redness by Zakes Mda (South Africa). This book is beautiful, it is like reading a fable. It takes the history of the Xhosa people and weaves into something magical.

  • Ake by Wole Soyinka (Nigeria). Again this book is magical. It is supposedly autobiographical but we have to allow hugely for poetic licence, as he writes how the world seemed to him as a kid, not as things actually were. I was fascinated by the richness of Nigerian cultures that I never knew existed.

  • Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (South Africa). I did not enjoy this book at all. I have not enjoyed any of his books. This one is clinical, dry, bleak to the extreme. That does not mean it is not brilliant though. I think he is just too smart for the average reader to appreciate. I found it strange that this book was controversial though. I could not find one thing in there that seemed controversial to me.

  • Down Second Avenue by Ezekiel Mphahlele (South Africa). This is an autobiography. What really impacted upon me in this book was the way things were before Apartheid. People can say whatever terrible things they want about Apartheid, and they would be correct, but South Africa was already segregated and as racist as hell long before Apartheid. Apartheid just extended what was already there. I am so glad this writer got to see it all fall down.

  • A long walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela (South Africa). I already blogged about my appreciation for this book. I loved the tone, the style, the subtle humour. I loved it all.

  • Cry the beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa). I last read this years ago, but every time I enjoyed it very much. IT is just well written and real. The tone of this book defines South Africa for me.

  • Country of my skull by Antjie Krog (South Africa). Frik. Frikken frik. I had to read this book for a course, and because I was studying it, I had to read it a second time. I had to stop every two pages or so to recover and have a break. She does not withold any of the details of what was covered in the TRC in the 90's. But somehow she managed to turn this book into a work of art, by weaving her own reactions and interpretations into it that came out almost like a poem. This was very controversial, but in my opinion, she did it brilliantly. There was only one thing that I did not like in the book. She decided to introduce a fictional affair into the narrative. The whole book is about the elusivity of truth, I know. But she presents her side of the story as biographical, and then throws in a made up affair because she felt the story "needed it" at that point. I have to disagree. The book would have been perfect without the affair and by adding it you totally jar the reader, who is puzzled as to why it was necessary, and it detracts from the otherwise perfectly executed narrative. I will never understand her motives there.

  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria). I enjoyed this much more than her second one. I did not know much about Nigeria when I read this, so I found it all fascinating.
  • Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (South Africa). Yes, I bought this! What with the soundtrack, the toy (which I am still thinking of getting) and the book, this is quite a product. The book is a really good sci-fi story, especially if you are into a cyberpunk-but-not-quite style. But anyone could read it. I love the ending, it is so unsentimental.

  • Abyssinian Chronicles by Moses Isegawa (Uganda). This book is also thoroughly unsentimental and portrays what happened in Uganda in such a matter of fact way, through the eyes of a quirky protagonist who is not overly fond of his mother, whose name just happens to be Padlock.

The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut (South AFrica). There is something about the interactions between the characters in this book that felt real (and slightly depressing) to me.

  • Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria). This is a classic and was probably my first introduction to the ideas of colonisation of cultures and what happens when you allow two cultures to clash without considering the possibility of different frames of reference. Okonkwo was probably one of my educational foundations!

This is not an exhaustive list of what I have read and like from Africa, not to mention all the Afrikaans books we read at school, but as these came to my mind first, by my logic they must be the best.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Yet another myth.

Remember last week I threatened to blog about fascinating stuff? Well, unluckily for the blogosphere, I remembered, so you are going to have to sit through one of my brain spasms.

There is another myth that I want to address, oh yes, the world is full of them. This one pertains to me and it pisses me right off.

You see, I am somewhat slight of build and of reasonably slim weight. However I have a huge appetite. It is off the charts. I used to have a rampant metabolism back in South Africa due to a combination of climbing, gymnastics and general running around, and in fact I was not able to eat enough to keep up with my body.

Sadly this has changed since I have come to the cold and hibernating place, and my metabolism has become more slug like, and stuffing my face with chocolate digestives does not help. But still I am fairly small.

At work I usually go with some of my lab mates for lunch and we have a full on cooked extravaganza. I am not used to this at all because for me lunch = sandwiches. So it took me time to adjust but now I eat exactly the same as them, and often more.

There may have been one or two occasions when I was sick or really full when I had soup or a slightly smaller portion. But on the whole I stuff my face every lunch. But because of those one or two times...

"Oh Po doesn't eat very much"

"Po has a small appetite"

"Po needs to have a good steak"

This kind of thing gets said every single day. Arrrrrgh! It is so blatantly not true. I don't eat very much? I eat exactly the same as them every DAY!

I bet a gazillion bucks that if I were naturally fairly chubby, and ate exactly the same way that I eat now, this myth would not exist. They would say I had a good appetite and could "manage" and stuff like that. While secretly making eyes at each other about what a pig I am. What do you reckon?

People are mad. I get quizzed frequently on what exactly I eat at home, as if they are somehow checking up on me. If I ever deign to refuse a piece of cake on cake day, there are whispers and mutterings about "birdlike" and "not eating very much" and blah. Cake time is like Nazi time. Sometimes I don't feel like cake in the mornings, the sugar rush leaves me faint for the rest of the day. But I HAVE to have a piece of frikking cake no matter what, or the cake Nazis will have a field day.

Leave me alone, nutters.

The funny thing is, I have put on quite a bit of weight recently, but it makes no difference, the myth is here to stay. If only I had never had soup that one time...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tour guide Po's itinerary.

If I were to compile a list of the top things tourists can do in South Africa, it would go something like this:

1. Go shark cage diving. Hell no. Hell will sell ice lollies before you get me to play shark biscuit. There is something about those beady eyes that define pure merciless evil to me. I know sharks aren't evil, but they are a good metaphor for evil.

2. Do the world's highest bridge bungy, at Bloukrantz. Sadly no. I am too cowardly. I would need to be pushed really really hard, and would probably pee myself.

3. Tour some wine farms. Have never done this, and would love to, but BFG is highly scornful of the entertainment factor involved. As he is the only one who can drive... I kind of see his point.

4. Go to a game reserve. I could never afford to do this when I was living there so I would love to. But time does not permit in our hectic three week traverse of the country. One day, damnit.

5. Drive the garden route. Did that last time. It rocked. Except one day we encountered about 15 car guards which felt a bit like overkill.

6. Take the cable car up Table Mountain yadda yadda I think we have the general idea.

What I shall actually be doing this trip:

1. Swimming in the sea. Lots and lots. And swimming in sweat too, I surmise.

2. Climbing in the Free State.

3. counting Pep stores.

4. Hopefully, if time allows, visiting the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda. We always heard about this place at school, and I would love to go check it out, but it is a bit off the beaten track.

5. Climbing in the Western Cape, in numerous places.

6. More climbing.

7. climbing.

8. Walking up Table Mountain? Not sure if my knees, fitness and general insanity levels are up to this any more.

9. Eating sushi! There are no sushi restaurants where I live, and South African bloggers always seem to be going on about sushi, so please can you recommend somewhere in either Durban or Cape Town (or Harrismith?) for me? I am desperate for a sushi fix!

10. More climbing. There is talk of going to a super special place that has a 9 hour walk in. I fear that I may die attempting this. Perhaps it is better for all involved if I opt to lie on the beach while they do it.

11. Gain probably about 5 kgs from eating NikNaks, Simba chips, Jumping Jaks popcorn, chocolate Pronutro, rusks, astros, Top Deck, Ghost Pops, Pizza with boerewors in the crust... the list goes on. South Africa does good junk food. Unfortunately.

12. Shopping for clothes to deal with the problems associated with 11.

13. Playing spot the dassiedassiedassie!

I am sure I will come up with more activities, but it is already looking more like a boot camp workout than a holiday.

P.S please can someone alert the weather authorities that I want none of this cold front/10 degrees nonsense while I am there. I have plenty of that over here, thank you. I want to melt in a puddle, complaining loads all the while, but secretly loving it.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The dog days are over.

This is totally my favourite song right now. This chicky is gonna be big. Well, she is big in the UK already but a voice that big is gonna be big everywhere I reckon.

Like I said they won't let me embed the original video, but you can watch it here. It is quite good in a disturbing May Day kind of way. She is so good live that it doesn't make too much difference though.

Friday, 20 November 2009



It was a long time coming.

I wish you all a weekend free of rain and cockroaches and broccoli and other Monday stuff.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


I know the world follows my music tastes with an eager eye, so I thought I should inform it that Dear Reader has already been eclipsed by "the fickle moon, the inconstant moon" of my musical affections. Now I have discovered Florence and the Machine and bought her entire album of 15 tracks on iTunes for a mere £6.99.

I dig her voice. I have never listened to chick bands much in life, I was always into American husky voiced men. What happened to my taste?

Maybe I finally got some?

They won't let me embed the cool songs, but this will do. She seems to have had an attack of "Greek mural" arms though. Or is that squid arms?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Mini panic.

I have stuff I want to blog about. Fascinating stuff. To me. This means fairly sleep-inducing stuff to yous out there. But I think my flurry of blogging activity last week left me deflated like a whoopee cushion. Excuse my excessive use of dodgy metaphors, the poetry classes are playing havoc with my mind.

I am currently a ball, a puddle, a tower of self-pity and misery. For no good reason, except that it is my turn to present a talk at work again, and I never seem to have enough time to get it all done. And I am not good at winters. Arrrrgh. I feel like I felt at the end of last winter. Not a good sign.

But after Thursday I will be back with all that fascinating stuff I have to say.

Until then, sheesh, I dunno what you will do with yourselves. How will you survive without a post of awesomeness??? Don't panic and run for the hills. That's where the monsters are usually waiting, so remember your horror story education and sit tight. Just keep the light on.

Gonna go and do that manic typing of DNA letters now.

Saturday, 14 November 2009


I like this song, and I love the video. As you may have gathered, I kind of like the band too.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee splat.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Blame it on the bunny.

I'm gonna go all Cosmo on you and write a list of what is "hot" and what is "not" in my life right now. Except I am going to "like" it and "lame" it because that is more my style.

Like: my pretty little town. I like it more and more. It is different to other towns. All other towns in England look the same. Mine has the best flower pots, the best park, the best parade. The best Christmas lights, the best Diwali lights, the best atrocious sculpture of yarn. We win!

Lame: the Windows 7 advertising campaign. The posters. The videos. They all make me want to spew. "I'm a pc and Windows 7 was my idea." Or not. Windows 7 is your desperate attempt to make up for the dismality* of Vista and that is that.

Like: my climbing gym. I love it more than jelly tots. It is the best climbing gym ever. It is beautiful. It is the main reason we still live where we do, apart from the pretty town. I could have moved closer to my work, but I just cannot part with the climbing gym. I don't know what I will do if we leave this country. I hope I can find a knapsack big enough.

Lame: my driving lessons. My teacher is great, but lets be honest, some people were not made to wield heavy machinery. I feel like bawling my eyes out after most lessons. But I don't. I collapse into the foetal position and rock catatonically instead.

like: My poetry teacher. My poetry classes. They make me feel so happy. We have to write a poem a week for 10 weeks, and I thought it would be impossible, but so far I have been inspired each week. My teacher is so nice. Can he fit in the knapsack too?

lame: my back. I know I go on about it all the time. But it just won't heal. I feel old before my time.

like: my new winter coat. Ok, when I have to run for the train I end up hastening our demise from global warming, and I pity the person who has to sit next to me, because I end up steaming, but it keeps me sooo warm that I can almost pretend winter is not here at all.

lame: hormones. Evil minions of Beezlebub.

Thasall folks, what it lame or likeable in your life?

* Warning: made up word alert!!!!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

30 seconds

My chiropractor has this tendency to hit me with deep philosophical conversations in the 10 minutes we see each other every three months. Personally I like to give a topic justice, and I feel I cannot go into the existence of God in 10 minutes. I think deep down I wish we could stick to conversations about muscle groups and spinal tangles. But perhaps these subjects mean so much to him that he could not give them enough attention in 10 minutes.

Last week he hit me with a corker just as I was putting my shoes back on to leave. Actually he had said something similar to me before, but not quite so bluntly:

"I'm not surprised so many South Africans leave, don't you guys have another Mugabe in power now?"

How. To answer that question. In the 30 seconds it would take me to put on my shoes.

That is not a light parting question. That question deserves a good answer, that question is a startling and misguided one. I can't leave my chiropractor thinking like that, even if he doesn't really care and it makes no difference to his life whatsoever.

This is a highly educated man. He knows more about South Africa than almost any other Brit I have met, and trust me, Brits are more clued up about South Africa than most nationalities. At least they don't usually argue with you as to the existence of your home country.

If he thinks this, then what do other people here think?

I tried, in my 30 seconds, to give the best answer I could, but I think I probably just made things worse in his mind.

Poor Zuma. I mean I am not exactly running up and down outside his house with pom-poms and a skimpy skirt, (I am not a fan of his anti-gay views at all, and certain other views on various things) but how can he be another Mugabe? He has not even been in power a single year. Mugabe spent years perfecting his unique brand of megalomanic madness.

My chiropractor seemed to think that land reform in South Africa had followed Zimbabwe. Now as far as I know there was a controversial land reform bill created before Zuma's time, which was then shelved. It has now been taken up again for review. This is an ANC thing, not just a Zuma thing, as far as I can see. But you try saying all that and more in 30 seconds.

That conversation made me sad. I wanted him to understand, to not say misguided things about my country. To know some context at least. But 30 seconds is not enough. And you know what, the stuff he said is coming from other South Africans who he knows, not from him.

We need to stick to discussing the weather from now on. Or God. I don't care if he is not really interested in my views about God, but damnit, don't ask me about the Zunami unless you really want to hear all about him, and his little machine gun too.

Thank godfrey my chiropractor has not yet heard of Malema.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Highly recommended.

chillled llama.

Yesterday morning birds were chirping, the sun was peeking round the buildings (in my mind that is. In my mind), the rings around my eyes were reduced to mere shadows and I was bouncy. I couldn't shut up actually. I am usually the silent one at work, but yesterday everyone was exposed to my verbosity. Poor things. I don't think they knew what hit them. Seamonkey jubilance is overpowering.

Even the drilling seemed a little more musical than usual, the clouds of dust strangely beautiful, the paint fumes trippy, my little plants so cute and fluffy and planty (sorry I had to massacre you guys, you know I feel sad while I do it, sometimes), the flies a little less abundant, the liquid nitrogen burns on my fingers healed, and my back pain-free.

What a difference 4 days off makes. I wonder how long the effects will last? My back is already complaining. But for now all I can say is:


Monday, 9 November 2009

Why you should never trust my opinion on anything:

In "conversation*" with the BFG:

"Christmas has become completely hollow and meaningless to me, it is purely a materialistic ritual where we all go mad and feel so much pressure to buy each other loads of crap, and we are supposed to enjoy time with family, but we have to fulfill these rituals of eating only the correct things and doing the correct things and spending unreasonalbe amounts of money and eating unpleasurable amounts of food.

There is no meaning to Christmas except for the few religious people out there, even people of other religions celebrate the material gift-giving part of Christmas, which proves that the essential celebration of Jesus's birth has been lost to the new religion of capitalism. It think this is what Nietzsche meant about nihilism, carrying out empty rituals for which the meaning has been lost, except for the tree, my family always enjoyed decorating the tree, hey, maybe we should buy a tree this year, we have never bought a tree, it could be fun, it will make our flat look cheerful, and we could buy one of those advent calendars, those were quite fun..."


* more like a monologue really. Yes, I really do speak like this sometimes. Poor POOR BFG, how does he survive? He does seem quite fond of his earplugs.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Another myth

Speaking of myths, there is another South African myth, one seized and twisted by every media vehicle you can imagine, that I do prescribe to wholeheartedly.

Yes, I admit to a case of Madiba Feva. While the arguments I gave against the 1995 Rugby World Cup fever could apply to this one, I think arguing these points would take a whole blog post, and this is not my aim. I am aware of dominant narratives in this story. Not all South Africans think he is a hero. I accept that.

The point is, that behind all the hype and confusion, Mandela is just a man, as fallible as you and me, but he happened to make some choices and stand for some things that I admire. That, and he has an infectious charisma, and when it comes down to it, you can't argue with emotion. When I see him on tv I can't control the emotions that flood my peanut brain.

The reason I bring him up is because I just finished reading his autobiography. I am not sure why I waited so long to read it. This is a recurring pattern in my life, being x amount of years too late with everything. I found it in my parents' house and finally read it.

I enjoyed it very much. I know autobiography is biased by definition, but all other biographers are likely to be as dizzy as me with the myth. His autobiography is low on worshipful hyperbole.

My finishing his autobiography coincided with me starting a poetry writing course at the local university.

Good grief, you can see where this is leading, can't you just?

Apparently novice poets like me write poetry that is too personal.

So I decided that if I was inspired to write really personal poetry, I would do it to get it out of my system, but I would not hand it in. I could then focus on writing decent poetry to hand in.

Sooo, I was perhaps a little obsessed with a certain subject as I tried to write my first poem... it was far too personal a poem to share with my class. What I wrote was raw and unfinished, inspired by the moment.

I do believe that very few people write poetry only for themselves. For some reason I want to share this poem. I have questioned my motives and I think I just want it to be known that I had this strength of feeling. A blog is a good chronicle for that kind of thing. I am usually a coward who does not offer up strong views. Also I cannot publish this poem anywhere, it is not good enough, nor would I want to.

So I'm putting it here. I think I may regret this later. And I am closing the comments because I am too embarrassed and sheepish to deal with comments. I am a coward after all. Not that I am not interested to hear what you think about the Mandela myth. I think it would be fascinating to hear other views on the subject. But as I said, that belongs to another post.

So without further ado,
I shall bid you adieu.

UPDATE: ok I opened the comments. I am going away for 3 days so am still in hiding anyway. Still sheepish too. No cow ever had a bigger ward than me.


Life is a sentence.
Can a sentence contain a small man
bent over a hammer
crushing stones?
A sentence cannot bind a man
whose roughened hands remould
the dust and gravel and blood and bones
of a wasted, sentenced place,
a man whose tongue digs past words
in men whose words are shackles.

He whose tongue plants hope in stony ground
cannot be stopped or forced to pause by loaded terms
that conjugate divisions and subjugation
into the revisions of the times.

There are no words
he needs no words
his face is our face
he is engraved in our hearts,
a man, an old man bent over a hammer
crushing stones.

A sentence can be very long
A sentence can last 27 years
But no sentence can withstand
your hammer - Amandla!
You who dared to pull
a branch of the tree.
Enkosi utata Mandela.

Monday, 2 November 2009

What I think

I have a question to ask the world in general, if you know what I am harping on about, and South Africa in particular.

Do you think that South Africa winning the rugby World Cup in 1995 united our new nation?

If you are wondering why I am asking this, keep an eye on your local cinema and watch out for a movie with a Latin name. I watched the trailer of this movie and so I know I will not be watching the whole thing. I truly believe that if you don't have anything nice to say, you should say nothing at all. So these lips are sealed, mpppgh mmmffggggh mmmmmmmghghgg.

Here is what I think. Please tell me what you think in the comments, and I shall pretend to agree with your wise words ;)

I think us winning the World Cup in 1995 united the rugby fans in South Africa of all creeds and colours into a state of joy and pride. I reckon it also united their non-fan spouses and children, because that kind of atmosphere is contagious. I also reckon it united a few other people because we were the hosts, we had not long been back in international sports, and it was pretty exciting.

Lets say that number of people was about 20% of the country in 1995. 30% if you want.

I pulled that number from the sky, but I feel that it is way overgenerous. What is your estimate? My real estimate is 15% but I really have no clue.

I believe that people who had no TV's, people who hated rugby, people who saw it as an oppressor's sport, people who just did not care, these people felt nothing at that time.

I believe that the local and international media hijacked the blatantly cliched symbol of a black and white man embracing on a field (unity through sport) and used it as a symbol for the new rainbow nation.

I believe many white people, myself included, bought into that, because we were unsure and nervous of the future and wanted to believe in this new, miraculously healed nation. I believe many people still believe in this convenient myth. I believe this it a very dangerous and damaging myth. Forgiveness, healing, moving forward, these things do not suddenly appear with the scoring of any try.

That is what I believe. The film I am referring to will perpetuate this myth overseas and in South Africa, and actually reshapes it to make it more ridiculous and yet more persistant.

I was SO happy the day we won the World Cup in 1995. I was one of the fans. I will remember it always. But leave it as it was, as a wonderful day for a minority of people who love a minority sport. Not some kind of action hero movie where a Rugby team saves the nation.

That is all.

Update: I am not the only person who thinks this way about the movie, check out Africa is a Country: "Invictus, That's not rugby" for another view, one written before mine.