Minding My Language

Yesterday I travelled by train to an area south west of London. A young woman boarded the train a few stops after mine, and immediately made a call on her cell phone. I don’t think she needed the phone, she could have just shouted. Then she made a second call, and said this: “Hiya! You all right, love? Guess who died?”

I can’t imagine what response she got on the other end of the line. (I couldn’t hear because the callee didn’t shout.) The caller then said, “Only Doris, off Gavin and Stacey.”

I gathered she was a big fan of this romantic comedy that has now finished its run on BBC, and was sad that this dear actress had passed away. I did, however, find her method of sharing the news quite fascinating.

So that made me think that it was time for another post of talking forrin. If you’re new to my blog, this is something I write about from time to time: sharing new words and expressions that I hear here in the UK and words that I know from a lifetime in Zimbabwe and South Africa, that I know mean nothing over here.

Here are a few links to previous such posts: English as she is spokeSo this is where I learnt to speak funnyThis blog’s seriously going southDoes this make sense? I doubt; I’ll be there now now; Blogging is not pants;  Is that your new wife? Shame

I’ll start with English expressions I’ve heard:

  1. To get the hump: this means to go into a sulk, to get upset or fed up about something. I watched a quiz show the other day on the telly (as television is fondly known over here). When asked how she’d like to spend her prospective winnings, a contestant said she’d like to travel to Egypt to see the Pyramids and to ride a camel. (The programme was clearly filmed before the current events in Egypt.) Her adversary, who’d not been doing as well as he’d hoped, then said to her, “Well, love, sorry but you won’t be able to ride a camel.” “Why?” she asked. “Because I’ve got the hump,” he said.
  2. Flower. This is a term of endearment, used particularly in the north east of England, around Newcastle. A Geordie term, if you like. I travelled up to Newcastle for a conference last year, and I absolutely loved the city – it was such a beautiful surprise, and I’d love to travel there again when I can spend more than two days there. I am also mad about the Geordie accent. I went into a little newsagent in central Newcastle, and the shop owner said to me, “Can I help you, flower?” I immediately adored the expression and wanted to put her words and her accent into bottles and buy a dozen.
  3. Thick: this means dim or unintelligent. It is often accompanied by putting your tongue between your bottom teeth and your bottom lip and making monkey-type noises.
  4. Go on! This expression crosses the cultures, for me. Its use as I’ve heard it in England is quite different from its use by my Dad. In England, if someone is trying to persuade you to do something, and you’re hesitating and not quite sure whether or not you want to do it, and then decide you will, you’ll say, “Ok, go on!” By contrast, I grew up with my Dad saying this to me every time I’ve told him something that I find amazing.  “Hey Dad, the Springboks have just won the World Cup! Again!” He would say, “Go on!” which, in a slightly patronising way, means, “You don’t say?” or “Well, I never” or “Knock me over with a feather”.
  5. Gutted. This expression means cut up or distressed or extremely disappointed by something. So, for example, if your house burnt down and you lost all your possessions in the fire, you could well be completely gutted.
  6. Knickers in a knot. If you get yourself into an unnecessary panic about something, you could be getting your knickers in a knot.
  7. Faff: this verb means to waste time doing unimportant things while you’re supposed to be doing something important. It could take the form of procrastination, or it could be fiddling about doing things when you’re supposed to be going out. You can either faff or faff about. Either is annoying.
  8. All over the shop: this means everywhere or disorganised. For example, “He was trying to explain to me what happened, but his mind was all over the shop and I couldn’t follow what he was saying.” The equivalent expression I would use is all over the show.
  9. Argy bargy: argument, disagreement, fighting. For example, a sports commentator might say, if there is a potential fight on the field, “Ah, now there’s a bit of argy bargy going on there.”

And on to some of my words and sayings from Saffa:

  1. Naartjie (pronounced narchy): this is the term I would use for tangerine, Clementine, mandarin. It refers to any orange citrus fruit (apart from an orange) that has an easily-removable skin and is easily divided into segments (which I call skyfies, pronounced skayfies).
  2. Chaff (pronounced charf): this word also has a dual meaning, and is no longer really in common use. It can mean to chat up someone, or it can mean to stretch the truth. So, for example, a guy might meet a girl and, if he fancies her, he might chaff her. When I was at junior school, I remember reading our school magazine during one of my holidays. It was quite an honour to have your story or poem featured in the magazine, and I always read others’ writing with interest. I remember reading a story written by a girl who was a year younger than me, which would have made her about nine. It was a fantastic tale, that I was struggling to believe, but I persevered with it because, hey, it had been featured in the magazine. When I got to the end of her story, she had written “Chaff chaff.” (Which meant she had made up the entire story.) I was horrified.
  3. Ja (pronounced ya): this means yes.
  4. Is it? This is an expression of interest or surprise. Is that so? For example, someone might say to you, “There are terrible riots happening on the streets of Cairo right now.” You might respond by saying, “Is it?”
  5. Hanguva: this means very or a lot. For example, in London lately, it’s been hanguva cold.
  6. Stroppy: this means difficult, aggressive, uncooperative. For example, actor Russell Crowe sometimes gets stroppy with the paparazzi.
  7. Koppie: this means a small hill. There is a koppie in the middle of a park near where we live, and if you walk to the top of it, you get a great view over south east London.
  8. Dof: this means dim, or not very intelligent. (See thick above.) For example, if you can’t find something or don’t understand something, you might say, “Sorry for being dof, but I don’t know what you mean.” So it usually refers to a temporary state of mind, rather like having a brunette moment.

I hope this has expanded your vocabulary horizons somewhat, and I’d love to know some of the interesting words and expressions that you use at your ends of the stick. I won’t get the hump if you don’t, but I’d be hanguva interested to learn more words. Thanks for reading, flowers.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Now I’m the Cat’s Pyjamas

Last week, our church small group had a social evening where we played a bunch of games. One game involved passing a small, ticking grenade from player to player as you each had your turn. Yesterday, my “friend” Maura, threw me a grenade from Ohio.

Right. The game we played last week goes by the subtle moniker of Pass the Bomb. You have a deck of cards, each card has two or three letters on it, and you have to think of a word that uses those letters in order but not necessarily consecutively. You may not repeat a word – obviously, duh – but you may modify the word by making it a plural or adding –ing or whatever. Or you can be entirely original and think of your own word.

You have to think quickly; the grenade is ticking and you don’t want to be left holding the bomb when it explodes. Well, when it fizzles, really. Each time you set the grenade a-ticking, it ticks for a random length of time, so you never know when it’ll go.

The grenade got thrown around the circle at such pace, some of us got shrapnel injuries. It seems that the Memetastic award is doing the same.

So, thank you dearest 36×37 aka Maura (who is, in fact, one of the most gifted writers I know, disguised as a friend) for throwing the kitty-bomb my way. I am eternally indebted to you for passing this extraordinary honour to me. I am taking it back taken aback. I’m glad you think so much of me. Or not.

So here’s the deal. I’ve been Memetastic-ed. And read quickly, because I don’t want to be left holding the grenade.

Jill, at Yeah, Good Times, created this Award. Thank you, Jill. Thank you very much.

The Memetastic Rules

The Memetastic Award

1. You must proudly display the graphic (above), which Jill describes as “absolutely disgusting.” According to Jill: “It’s so bad that not only did I use COMIC SANS, but there’s even a little jumping, celebrating kitten down there at the bottom. It’s horrifying! But its presence in your award celebration is crucial to the memetastic process we’re creating here.”

2. You must list five things about yourself, and four of them must be bold-faced lies. Quality is not important.

3. You must pass this award to five bloggers you either like or don’t like or don’t really have much of an opinion about. As spoken by the great Jill: “I don’t care who you pick, and nobody needs to know why. You can give a reason if you want, but I don’t really care.”

4. If you fail to follow any of the above rules, Jill will hunt you down and harass you incessantly until, according to her, “you either block me on Twitter or ban my IP address from visiting your blog. I don’t know if you can actually do that last thing, but I will become so annoying to you that you will actually go out and hire an IT professional to train you on how to ban IP addresses just so that I’ll leave you alone. I’m serious. I’m going to do these things.”

5. Once you do the above, please link up to the Memetastic Hop so that Jill can keep track of where this thing goes and figure out who she needs to stalk.

Excited? I thought so.

Here is my offering:

  1. I have often been mistaken for a ballet dancer. However, when people study my style, they realize that my motif is more contemporary slash jazzart, if you will. Interpretive dance is my preferred movement.

    Dance (via societies.cam.ac.uk)
  2. I am easily bored and take little interest in anything around me. Especially other people.

    Boring (via jmorganmarketing.com)
  3. Nothing relaxes me more than sitting down with a mug of hot cocoa and a jolly good game of Sudoku.

    Sudoku, or as I say, "let the fun roll" (via stellalunaa.xanga.com)
  4. I wish I was funny enough and brave enough to be a stand-up comedian.

    To stand up or to sit down (via dailycomedy.com)
  5. I love applying for jobs and going for interviews. These are the funnest things you can do in London.

    Ah, mad fun at interviews (via utahtechjobs.com)

So, study these points carefully because hidden among them is a truth about me that you would never be able to guess.

Maura, you’re fantastic – thanks for sharing this award with me. Jill, you’re the bomb. Pleased to meet you.

I think I am going to cop out of chucking the grenade towards anyone in particular, as I know many of you have had this honour already. If anyone reading this feels so inclined and wants to grab the mic, or the grenade, or the kitty – knock yourself out. But beware … the ticking starts now.

Sunshine signing off for today!

For Auld Lang Syne

I wrote about Scotsman, Andy Murray, yesterday and then I went to do a Pilates class with the most enthusiastic, chatty Scotsman since William Wallace. Today I thought I would introduce to you some more of my husband’s Scottish family: meet Mac and Lily*.

*I have given them false names, as you probably wouldn’t believe the names by which we knew them. I thought about calling them Mac and Cheese. Nah.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to have married into a Scottish family. Mac was my late mother-in-law’s brother. He would have been about 87 now, and Lily would have been about 84. They both passed away in Scotland within the past eight years. They had no children of their own, and adored their nephews (my husband and his brother) as if they were their own. My husband is named after Mac.

Let me tell you what I know about Scottish names. My husband has three first names and is known by his third name. He likes his first name, and when he asked his parents why they didn’t call him by his first name, they said it was because they didn’t like it. Right. They had named him after his uncle, and clearly his parents hadn’t liked his first name either, because he was always known by his second name. We knew him by an entirely different nickname all together. And to add further confusion into the mix, the name my husband is known by is the same as his father’s. And his father was known by the first of his three names, even though he was given an entirely different name at birth (see Not Just Another Winter’s Tale).  And his brother is known by his second – of three – names. You’re confused?

So back to Mac and Lily: I first met Mac when he flew out to Zimbabwe for our wedding in 1984. He arrived unannounced and threw the entire family into frenzied excitement, leaving my garrulous mother-in-law speechless. He was a true Scotsman: he’d insult you then hug you, he’d laugh at you and with you, and tears and laughter gurgled in equal measure. Love of family, humour, generosity, love and kindness ever lurked behind his thinly brittle exterior. I loved him immediately.

I first met Lily when my husband and I travelled to the UK in 1986 and we stayed with Mac and Lily in their wee croft in Perthshire. Lily was about knee-high to a grasshopper and was teased mercilessly by Mac for being so wee. She was a hairdresser and her stories of colleagues and clients and running a salon in Zimbabwe (as she had done for a number of years) are stuff of my husband’s family legend.

Returning to Scotland, she worked at the old folks’ homes, doing the hair of the “old biddies”, as she called them. She never fussed too much about whether her work was good or not, as she chose to live by her belief that the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut was about three weeks. Possibly longer for the old biddies. She was gentle, kind, quick to laugh, generous and loving: I loved her immediately too.

We saw them every couple of years after that; when they travelled to Zimbabwe and then South Africa for holidays, and when we visited the UK on holiday. Just as they had taken my husband and his brother as sons, they took our boys into their hearts as grandsons. Mac taught them stories and language that, shall we say, broadened their education.

Our boys were little when Mac and Lily first came to Cape Town. We’d told the boys how funny Uncle Mac was and they couldn’t wait to meet them. Our older son, who was about four at the time, laughed loudly and unconvincingly the first time Mac said something, and then looked at us and asked,

“When’s he going to be funny?”

I think he’d imagined a clown.

Our younger son, aged about two, sat on my husband’s lap and watched Mac with interest. After a while, my son grabbed his dad’s face between his hands, pulled his face towards him and, gesturing towards Mac, said,

“Him’s got a big nose. Hey, Daddy?”

One day my older son had a friend coming over to play, when Mac and Lily were with us in Cape Town a few years later. I heard my son say to his friend,

“My uncle and aunt will be there. I’m really sorry but my uncle swears a lot.”

His friend, ever the gracious trooper, said,

“Ooh, that’s okay. I think that will be rather fun.”

Mac was fun. He’d run and play soccer with the boys in the garden, until his smoke-ridden lungs would cause him to gasp and return to the sidelines. As he lit a cigarette, he’d say,

Bleep bleep! Those bleep bleep kids sure take the bleep bleep bleep out of you! I’m not as young as I bleeping-well used to be.”

He’d wrestle with the boys and then send them on their way. He’d watch them play sport and boast about them to his friends. He laughed at their jokes and regaled them with stories.

We had a wonderful time staying with them in Scotland in 2000. They took us all over their native Perthshire, showing us the beautiful countryside and introducing the four of us – with enormous familial pride – to everyone they met. They took us to the Highland Games in Pitlochry and Mac went to tell the organisers that “B’s son” was there (my mother-in-law grew up and went to school in Pitlochry). Family was everything to Mac and Lily, and we knew we meant the world to them.

Lily would cook wonderful meals for us all, and our best times were when we sat and chatted over coffee and chocolate biscuits in their lounge in the weak mid-morning sun. She and Mac were always interested in our lives and what we had to say, and asked us questions constantly.

One evening, we sat in their little lounge, next to the ever- glowing fire, as Mac relaxed into his favourite pastime: reminiscing. He told us of a Hogmanay party at their house a few years before, where Mac pretended he was a soldier. He put a bucket on his head, and with a broom as a rifle he marched back and forth through their small lounge. It wasn’t long before he smashed the light fitting with the broom and caused the party guests to collapse into hysterical laughter.

He then went further back, to recount tales of his inordinately naughty childhood. He told us of all he and his brother and friends got up to at school, including putting one teacher’s car up on to bricks and waiting to watch as the teacher tried to drive off at the end of the day. Mac and his mates lurked in the bushes, and as they watched the teacher they rolled over and laughed like drains.

He was constantly in trouble. That naughty streak glinted in his eyes through his whole life. Not even the unspoken-of horrors of his wartime service could quench that spirit.

His school-day nostalgia then reminded him of his favourite poet: Robbie Burns. He told us he had once recited Burns at a formal occasion. He ran upstairs to haul out his notes and proceeded to recite the elaborately un-understandable words of Burns to an audience of us. To our African ears, it sounded like,

“Heenel honnel, heenel honnel, heenel honnel, aft the glen.”

His sudden move into serious poetry was at odds with the evening’s levity. The absurdness of the poetry, the absurdness of this sudden turn of events and then, spotting their mother fixing to burst with laughter, caused my sons – and then all four of us – to explode into childish laughter till we cried. Mac was taken aback:

“What the bleeping-bleep you lot laughin’ at? This is Rabbie Burns! Don’t ye like him?”

We tried, we really tried to pull ourselves together but the words of Robbie Burns will forever be etched in our memories in the schoolboy style of Mac’s recital and our childish inability to stop giggling.

I miss Mac and Lily. All of our family does. And I understand why Mac loved to reminisce. It keeps the memories alive.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Is All the World a Stage?

So if it’s Thursday, I must be writing about Zumba, right? We had a wonderful class again last night, and, in the midst of our stomping and twirling, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. You know what? I look stupid doing jazz hands. Seriously stupid.

I wrote last week about how amazing it is to dance like no-one’s watching. It truly is. I guess that’s the important part: I need to make sure no-one’s watching, and I don’t want to watch myself either. How embarrassing!

I’m not much of a performer, I guess. I love nothing better than to tell a story or share a joke and make people laugh – my heart leaps when I am able to do that. I’m not shy. And I have done loads of public speaking. But to perform in front of an audience, like to dance or sing or act, would cause me to cower into a shivering heap. Or to go and hide under the nearest bed. An audience of one, in the mirror last night, was enough to cause my cheeks to burn crimson.

I did plenty of amateur dramatics as a little girl. I am the youngest of four, and my performances usually took the form of hands-on-hips tantrums at my older siblings to take me seriously. If they tried to applaud any one of those performances, they would have instantly regretted it.

My sister was always something of a thespian. Her favourite activity of a weekend was to write, produce, direct, narrate and star in a play for my parents. I remember one of our family homes had sliding glass doors that separated the lounge from the dining room: the dining room became our stage, the sliding doors our scarlet, velvet curtains. The audience, usually of two, relaxed in the royal box that was our lounge.

I was always a useful prop. I remember having to put on my school tracksuit – it was olive green – and stand with my arms in the air for the duration of one play.  In the closing credits, I was allowed – as the tree – to take a bough bow.

Occasionally, when the demands of writing, producing, directing and narrating were too great for my sister, I was given the title role. I remember being cast as Rapunzel and having to sit on a chair on top of the dining room table and let down my “golden hair”.

Let me digress here to tell you a bit about my hair. My parents believed in common-sense economy and their approach to life was typically post-war: no nonsense, no frills and definitely no long hair. Every time my sister and I went for a haircut, I’d long to have a word in private with the hairdresser, so I could ask her for “a trim”. It never happened. My mom would always insist on a “good haircut”, which meant that – yet again – I would walk out of the hairdressing salon looking like a boy.

So, golden locks were not in abundance in our home. I am blonde, but short hair that did not quite reach my collar would not do for Rapunzel. We twisted a yellow and white striped towel that tumbled from my head like a really heavy plait, and my handsome prince duly climbed that to reach me in the tower that was the top of the dining room table. I think we might have used a chair or some other hidden device, but it all ended happily.

Another time, I was cast in the role of Queen Victoria. Gordon, a painfully shy and obnoxious little boy who was the son of my parents’ friends who were visiting that Sunday, was cast as Prince Albert. He did not want to be in the play. His older sister threatened him with something, so he duly obliged. We sat on chairs next to each other, as husband and wife usually do: I had a doily on my head, and he was biting his foot.  I banged on about how much I wished we had a baby, and he nodded and chewed his foot and closed his eyes. The curtain went up.

“Three weeks later!” announced the narrator, my sister. The curtain opened to reveal a scene in the home of Victoria and Albert. With doily-decorated head, I lovingly cradled a baby doll in my arms. Albert continued to bite his foot. An immaculate scene indeed.

At high school I had the excruciating experience – as house captain – of having to direct and act in a house play. I had no intention of appearing on stage, but as the date of our performance neared, several cast members got ill, broke their legs or lost their voices. The play was called “Ants” and I had to play the part of an army ant, dressed in camouflage fatigues. I wouldn’t let my parents come and watch the play, and my time on the stage features among my worst, most sweaty-palmed and agonising moments of my life. I was certainly not born for a career in theatre.

So, my stupid jazz hands are not going to hinder me from going to Zumba classes. I’ll continue to shimmy and twirl and stomp my feet to those crazy Latin beats, but I’ll sure as heck step away from the mirror. Well away.

Sunshine signing off for today!

There’s None So Blind …

I’ve just got home after a morning out. As I sat waiting for the bus, an elderly lady came and sat next to me in the bus shelter. To say I felt jolly freaking irritated at her behaviour, would be putting it mildly.

She sat and munched on her false teeth. She pushed them around her mouth, clicked and clonked on them endlessly, and made an awful sound. She also fidgeted and twitched and bounced her legs up and down and rocked the bus shelter seat. Then our bus came.

Up she got, and she shuffled to the edge of the pavement. As she stood there, her legs bounced continuously. Involuntarily. I realised – to my shame – that she must have some condition that causes her to move constantly and involuntarily.

I wanted to cry as I realised the level of my intolerance, and my snap judgment of her behaviour, without thinking beyond how it was affecting me. How pathetic. A humbling – indeed, humiliating – reminder, for sure. I wanted to apologise to her for my thoughts.

A few years ago, a call came through to my desk at work. It was a man who had booked a counselling session at the organisation I worked for, and he wasn’t sure how to get to the offices. I enquired where he’d be travelling from, and proceeded to give him directions.

I expected that sooner or later the directions would sound familiar. Not so much. Nothing seemed to make sense to him; he repeated everything I said a few times, and I wondered why he was so unsure of landmarks and road names. I did feel a little impatient, although I duly repeated each instruction at his request.

An hour or so later, the office doorbell went and, because our receptionist was not at her desk, I went to open the security gate. I greeted the new arrival and he immediately said that he was the one who had called for directions.

I opened the gate, and he struggled a little as he made his way through. He was carrying a white stick, you see.

Not one ounce of me had considered that it might be because he was blind that he was unsure of the directions I was giving him. Nor that he was passing the instructions on to his driver.

My slump into shame was soon lightened by his delightful personality. As I showed him through to the reception area, he asked if he could hold on to my arm.

“It’s a little dark in here,” he said.

He then asked if I would show him to the bathroom, and he chirped and made me laugh as we made our way through the building.

“I don’t look so good,” he said.

I was shaken and stirred and mortified at my blinkered inability to consider another perspective. I had looked at the world through my own lenses, without stopping to consider those lenses were mine alone.

Today I was similarly reminded. My prayer and my desire is that one day my world view will embrace all possibilities, not just my own. There is seriously none so blind as she who will not see.

Sunshine signing off for today!

The Colour of Monday

There’s some doubt in the media about whether or not today is Blue Monday. Heck, from where I sit, Monday is blue, grey and drizzly. Downright miserable, if you ask me, with not much at all to redeem it. Navy Blue Monday.

When I was at boarding school, and probably through my high school and university years too, I used to get the Sunday night blues. That mild feeling of dread that the weekend was over – and, as a boarder, that often meant a weekend away from the hostel   – and Monday would bring with it a bunch of its friends – four other weekdays – to work through until the next weekend. I loved school and sport, but my slight dis-ease related more to the freedom and generally school-rule-free abandon that a weekend away allowed me. Even if I didn’t go out, boarding school rules were quite relaxed at weekends. And we got to listen to our radios, have “free” swimming and have a roast for lunch on Sundays.

When our sons were at school, our weekends were just fabulous: most Saturdays were spent watching our boys play rugby or water-polo, depending on the season, and the rest of the weekend revolved around our family. Sunday evenings always brought that ripple of disappointment as I acknowledged the end of a weekend and the dawning of a busy week where we all went in different directions.

As a working person, I did find that Monday had a charm all of its own. For most of my working career, I’ve loved my jobs and Monday brought with it new and exciting opportunities.

Now that we’re in London, and empty-nesters for now, Mondays are a different animal all together.  Some Mondays I wake up with hope and excitement and a renewed sense of enthusiasm for all that the week holds. Other Mondays not so much. Today is one of the latter.

Last week I wrote about my start to 2011 as a ride on the backwards rollercoaster and in the dark. I don’t know if this is supposed to tell me something, but I lost 15 subscribers that day. Just like that! I don’t think I’ve gained that many in a day, so to lose them seemed quite careless! Who were they, and where did they go? And was my post that bleak that they just unsubscribed on the spot?

At the beginning of January, I got an email from WordPress giving me a summary of my statistics for the five months I’ve been blogging. In the email they congratulated me for my busiest day ever – 3 December 2010 – when I got 2 views. This was the second half of my Freshly Pressed day, and how they lost 2,861 from that day and a good couple of thousand from the day before, I’m not entirely sure. If I thought losing 15 subscribers was careless, this, WordPress, was entirely irresponsible.

The media tells us there are things we can do to feel better on a Blue Monday: sing a song, sit in the sunshine, listen to the sea, listen to the birds, or go for a walk. In drizzly, grey London, where I am nowhere near the sea nor sunshine, and I don’t fancy a walk in the rain, I could stand on my head and whistle Dixie through my a*** and it won’t change a jot about Monday. I’ll live with it for today and tomorrow it will be Tuesday.

And Tuesday will hold its own charm. It brings me the privilege to write my 100th post. I can’t quite believe I’m hitting the ton, and I’m really excited to be doing so. There’ll be no mention of Blue Monday, no whingeing, no whining. I hope it will be pure Sunshine in London – lame humour served with a lashing of optimism. Actually, it’ll just be lame humour. Sorry I can’t find either today. I wonder what colour Tuesday will be?

Sunshine signing off for today!

 

Boys and Girls Come Out to Play

Relationships are always important to me. Never more so than now, having been through such a dark time, where I’ve so needed the support of my friends and family. And I have never leaned so heavily on my husband as I do now. He is a rock and such strength. What on earth did I do to deserve one such as him?

I’ve been reflecting on my history of relationships, and the journey that brought me to my husband. We have been married for nearly 27 years, and we’ve always enjoyed interesting, challenging and hugely fun times together. We laugh and we cry together, and we love each other’s company. 

Our giddy newly-wed years soon morphed into reality, as they always do. Suddenly there was bad breath, the five o’clock shadow, mussy hair, grumpy moods and dramatic sulks and door-slamming. And that’s only me. But we came through all of that and began, as M Scott Peck describes it in The Road Less Travelled, “the real work of love”.

When I was about 10, at home in Zambia on holiday from boarding school in Zimbabwe, we went to a friend’s birthday party. I can still imitate my friend’s mother’s laugh – ask me, and I’ll show you! We played games and we swam and it was loads of fun. However, a boy kept following me around and commenting on everything I did. 

I dived into the swimming pool and he said, “Wow, what style!” I hope his chat-up lines have improved since then. (At least he didn’t ask me if my dad was a thief. Why? “Because he must have stolen the stars and put them in your eyes.”) 

Anyway, he just didn’t leave me alone. He hung on my every word – which wouldn’t have been many in those days – and he watched me and commented on everything I did. I’d never had such attention from anyone before.  I quite liked it and I quite hated it. I was 10.

I don’t remember giving him my phone number, but he called me a few days later and asked if I could meet him in “town”. Dusty Mufulira didn’t have a hectically vibey CBD, so I wasn’t quite sure what he had in mind. And I was painfully shy. I said no.

He called back and asked if he and his friend could come and visit me at my house. I said yes and went into panic mode. Half an hour later, the two boys arrived at our gate, on their bicycles. I did what any 10-year old girl would do: I ran and hid under my bed.

My sister welcomed them at the gate and did what any older sister would do in such a situation: she told them I was hiding under my bed.

Not only did she tell them that, but she brought them into the bedroom, pretending not to notice me cowering under my bed. They spoke as if I wasn’t there, and my suitor told my sister – in a stage whisper – that it was a pity I wasn’t there, as he had some biltong* for me. They then left the room.

I loved biltong. And I was 10. So I ran out from my hiding place and went to find them in the lounge. I was so. disappointed to discover I had fallen for his decoy: he had no biltong.

Tempted as I was, I didn’t retreat to the safety of the floor under my bed, but stayed with them and began, kind of, to enjoy the overwhelming attention of a boy. And we did what youngsters of that age always did: we drew pictures and played Monopoly.

I think I saw him a few times more those holidays, and we maintained a short relationship-by-correspondence for a while when we went back to our respective boarding schools. After while there were months of silence, and I discovered he had moved his attentions elsewhere. I was unphased. His friend, however, continued to write to me and send me drawings for some time thereafter.

I was at an all-girls boarding school. When it came the time for our leavers’ dance at the end of my junior school career, the boys from our brother school (an all-boys boarding school nearby) were bussed in to keep us company. I can remember standing against the wall, all knock-kneed and awkward in my first long dress, waiting for – yet dreading –  some boy to come and ask me to dance. Ballroom Blitz, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, You’re So Vain, Cum on Feel the Noize, Crocodile Rock and Shambala all blasted from the DJ’s turntable. I danced with a pimply-faced adolescent boy in Oxford bags, but I’ve no doubt our teachers watched and laughed at the gangly and self-conscious antics in the school hall that night.

And then I began my high school years. I have memories of cameo moments with boys: my first kiss (YUCK!); many school dances with boys I was glad to be there with, other boys I wasn’t so glad to be with but they had cool friends; leaving a school dance with a boy whose VW beetle wouldn’t start and I had to push start it in my long dress and everything; a partner at another school dance opening a bottle of champagne in my general direction and soaking the front of my dress.

I had boyfriends who hooted for me at my front gate, boys who drove past my house at midnight and hooted (prompting my Dad to ban them from our house) and boys who would call me from the security fence phone at their boarding school and speak to me for hours.

All of those brief, embarrassing and heart-breaking relationships have prepared me, I guess, for the best. I am married to the kindest, most wonderful man in the world and I’m blessed out of my socks.

Sunshine signing off for today.

*Biltong is dried, spiced meat. Kind of like beef jerky, but South African. And better 🙂

A question of laughter

I have always been both teased and extolled by my family for being observant. Not to put too fine a point on it, my family members have said that when I’m around, they cannot get away with anything. I notice everything. Partly true; I notice everything that makes me laugh.

This morning I went to gym to do two classes: a Pilates class followed by a Swiss ball (exercise ball) class. We have a fabulous instructor and she puts on two kick-ass classes, providing excellent instruction along with a good workout.

The Pilates class had just finished, and preparations began for the Swiss ball class. Not everyone who does Pilates does the Swiss ball class, and vice versa. People leave and people arrive. Those of us who stayed, got our big blue balls, took them to our spots and sat and bounced on them as we waited for the class to begin. There were a good ten people sitting, bouncing on their balls when a new face appeared at the door. She half-opened the door, looked at all of us, looked at all of us again and then said, “Is this the Swiss ball class?”

Given that there is no other class offered at the entire gym at that time, that question struck me as, well, kind of obvious. “Duh,” was the kindest response that sprung silently to my mind. The more gracious among us said, “Yes.”

Some years ago, I travelled up to Harare, in Zimbabwe, from my home in Bulawayo, to spend a weekend with my sister. We had a fabulous weekend together, and bid a tearful, hugging farewell at Harare airport, from where I was to take the 40 minute flight home.

I checked in, got my boarding card and made my way on to the aircraft as soon as boarding opened. I took my window seat and settled down to read the in-flight magazine and reflect on my weekend fun. A guy came to sit next to me. He fiddled and fidgeted around a bit before settling down next to me. I was then aware of him having a bit of a long look at me and then he asked, “Are you going to Bulawayo?”

“No, I’ve asked the pilot to let me jump over Gweru,” was the answer I would have given, but my bemusement left me with, “Yes.” It also occurred to me that he could brush up on his pick-up lines.

My favourite stating-the-obvious moment happened when my husband and I were on our honeymoon. We stayed in a small cottage on the coast in northern KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. It was a small, simple, fishing cottage, owned by a friend’s father. The cottage had a small lawn in front of it, and in front of that was sand and sea for as far as the eye could see. A romantic hideaway indeed. We were entirely alone. (Apart from an unexpected and surprising visit from a Jehovah’s Witness on a Sunday morning!)

One day, we returned from a lovely walk on the beach and made ourselves a light lunch to enjoy outside with a good bottle of chilled, white wine. We languished on loungers and soaked in the warm, sea breeze and the joy of being newly-weds.

I leaned over to pour myself another drop of wine. I saw that my husband’s glass was also empty, so I looked adoringly into his eyes, and said, “Would you like some more wine?”

I have never let him forget his response: “Who, me?”

I guess my family members have a point when they say they can’t get away with anything when I’m around. But heck, it keeps the fun memories alive and isn’t it just great to laugh?

Sunshine signing off for today!

Sand and Soaps

Oh how our world has changed. Technology and the media have brought everything to our fingertips. Any time. Any place. Not like my student days when life ground to a halt at 8pm every Tuesday evening.

Yes, folks, that was when Dallas was screened on South African television. Cinemas did little business, restaurants were typically quiet on a Tuesday night, and the TV lounge in my university hall of residence was packed to overflowing with students eager to keep up to date with the goings-on in that Ewing family. Those were the days before VCRs, iPlayers, PVRs, TVOs, SkyPlus and the Internet. We watched on Tuesday nights or bust.

Although I cringe ever so slightly at the thought of it now, it was something we all did in those days. Unapologetically. It wasn’t particularly cool to watch Dallas. But it wasn’t uncool either. We just watched.

Over an Easter weekend at the beginning of my second year, a bunch of us decided to go on a camping trip.  We packed up the VW Golf and the VW Beetle and headed off along the Garden Route to a beautiful little seaside spot at the mouth of the Breede River, called Witsand.

We arrived at the campsite, set up the sound system and then pitched the tent to the sounds of Genesis’ Ripples. Two girls and four guys. We girls decided to unpack the VW Beetle and were watched by our male companions as we opened what we thought was the boot of the Beetle, only to find an engine staring us in the face. We weren’t to live that one down all weekend.

The weekend also turned out to be a hugely significant one for me, as it marked the start of a lifelong relationship with my best friend in the whole world. We laugh today when we think how coy we were to cross the line from best friends to being together, and how unsure we were of the cues.

My now husband looked up at the sky one evening and said to me, “It’s such a beautiful evening. Let’s go for a walk on the beach.”

I thought it was such a fabulous idea, I rallied everyone together and we all went and enjoyed the moonlit walk. I didn’t notice the muttering disappointment of my dear friend …

The weekend was punctuated with riotous laughter and a whole bunch of memories that we carry around with us today. If we six were to be in a room together right now, we would recount the events of that weekend as if they happened yesterday.

As the weekend progressed, we all realised we would be away from TV and Tuesday’s screening of Dallas. We happened to walk past the campsite manager’s house one evening, and saw that he had a television. No flies on us, we knocked on his door and asked if we could all come and watch Dallas with them on Tuesday night. Slightly taken aback, he agreed. We all high-fived and felt so chuffed that we wouldn’t miss our programme. Heck, we were students.

At about 7.45pm on Tuesday evening, we went to the campsite manager’s house, knocked on the door and trooped into his small and humble abode. His wife, whose first language was not English, greeted us shyly and showed us where we could sit. We overflowed from their meagre supply of furniture, and most of us sat on the floor. Cool.

The eight of us sat, rapt, through the hour-long episode. At the end of the programme, our host offered us coffee. The polite thing would have been for us to decline graciously, to thank our hosts and to beat a gentle retreat from their home. But nooooo, we were students and we jumped at the offer.  Our hostess sat shyly in her seat as her husband went to the kitchen to make a truckload of coffee.

We commented on the photos pasted on the walls. They were of their many sons and she told us, in broken and stilted English, where her sons were and what they were doing. Not only did language separate us, but she was a whole generation older than we were and we soon ran out of conversation.

After an awkward silence, she ventured this to us: “I’ve read somewhere, I fink it’s in the Huisgenoot, that JR, in his own home, is really quite a nice man.”

[Huisgenoot, the House Companion, is a weekly Afrikaans-language general interest/gossip magazine.]

We all nodded in agreement, gulped down our coffee, and, as soon as our cups were cold, politely thanked them and excused ourselves. How kind and generous of them to share their home, their coffee, Dallas and their insights with us. But really – didn’t we just have a huge nerve to do that? I still feel my cheeks burn ever so slightly when I think of that evening …

Sunshine signing off for today.

The Office moves

So yesterday evening I went to my wonderful Zumba class at the gym. I had my blinkers firmly in place, because I thought, “I-can’t-blog-about-this-class-again-I-can’t-blog-about-this-class-again.” And then it happened.

Who would have guessed that there would be someone in my Zumba class who had the moves of The Office’s David Brent? More than this, I will not say. Big Blogger’s watching me.

Sunshine signing off for today!