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I never thought I’d say this, but Vikas Swarup’s latest book SUCKS

1 Jun

I don’t ever judge books by their covers. Instead, I judge them by their first pages. Whenever I find myself in a bookshop (which is probably more often than is healthy), I grab a couple of novels in the genre I fancy, skim the blurb, and read page 1. If the style doesn’t grab me, I move on. It’s a simple, efficient method that has worked for me with great success.

About two weeks ago, I broke my own rule. I bought a book without even opening it. Featuring a girl in ugly sweat pants running into a grey blur of traffic, what made this cover stand out was the name of the author. In larger-than-humble, bright and tacky purple capitals, a gleeful me was informed that VIKAS SWARUP had published another of his adventure stories.

I was elated. This dude is, after all, the writer who got me into all things Indian. His vivid portrayal of the country and its people was what led me to discover other literary favourites like Shantaram and The god of small things.

Vikas Swarup is the rare sort of writer who can use a completely unbelievable premise for a story and just weave such realness into in. Or at least, he used to be that sort of writer. Where Slumdog and Six Suspects were bloody brilliant – the type of books that cause a happy suspension of eating, sleeping and having sex – this new one, The Accidental Apprentice, may as well have been written by a 12 year old with average talent. It’s PATHETIC.

The worst book you'll read all year

The worst book you’ll read all year

Telling the story of Sapna Sinha (a not-too-pretty but heart-of-gold TV salesgirl), the book follows her through seven tests she has to perform in order to become the CEO of an eccentric gazillionaire’s multinational company. Yup, you read right – the story is about a shop assistant in a HiFi Corporation who gets picked to become the CEO of something like BHP Billiton. What utter shit…

Still – it has the makings of a good Vikas Swarup story.

1. Ridiculous premise – check!
2. Underdog main character – check!
3. Tests / quiz questions to base the chapters on – check!

I expected something like Slumdog – that the seven tests she is given are somehow informed by her life experience, each chapter telling the story of how she had come to possess the knowledge and skill to pass the given test.

I was wrong. The tests aren’t even tests, but instead random things that just happen to her. Plodding along slowly, we see Sapna pass “test” after “test”.

Each and every time, the same crap is repeated:

Step 1: Something unlikely happens. The language used to describe this something unlikely is painfully bad.

Step 2: Sweet, syrupy Sapna does “the right thing”. The language used to describe this right thing is painfully bad.

Step 3: The gazillionaire dude summons her and informs her that – boom! – she has passed yet another test. The language used to describe this is painfully bad.

Step 4: She is baffled by how he could have known about yet another good deed she did, and decides to go back to selling TVs. You guessed it – the language used to describe this is indeed painfully bad.

To illustrate:

The “Integrity Test”:

The lame-ass electronics store Sapna works for is visited by Bollywood’s biggest star. I’m talking Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston kind of big. The star thinks a TV shop is the perfect place to announce her engagement to the press. She somehow loses her boulder-sized diamond. Sapna finds it and returns it, even though the star was mean to her. Yay, Sapna!

The gazillionaire summons her. She has passed the test of integrity. She is baffled and goes back to selling TV’s.

(Plot-fail alert! Why the hell would the Cameron Diaz of Bollywood announce her engagement at a HiFi Corporation? In fact – why would she even BE there?? Everyone knows only D-grade losers like Kurt Darren do “public appearances” in local shops. LAME!)

The type of celebrity that visits Hifi Corporation

The type of celebrity that visits Hifi Corporation

The type that doesn't.

The type that doesn’t.

The “Courage Test”:

Sapna visits a small village to help them plug in their new TVs. (No. I’m not kidding). On the bus there, she sits next to the Ruda Landman of India – a hard-hitting journo on her way to expose how young girls are forced to marry men they don’t love. She shows Sapna how she uses her cellphone to stream live footage to their CNN-ey website.

Sapna gets to the village and shows them how to plug in their TVs. She meets a girl who will be forced to marry an old perv. She saves the girl by going into the toilet and switching on her phone’s video camera. The girl’s family miraculously calls off the wedding because dear, sweet Sapna recorded them slapping her around a bit, and managed to stream it live to her bus-buddy’s website. The whole world sees, and the girl is free! Yay, Sapna!

The gazillionaire summons her. She has passed the test of courage. She is baffled and goes back to selling TV’s.

(Plot-fail alert! Since when can members of the public simply record random videos and stream it live to news sites?
At best, Sapna would have had access to her own Twitter account. And given how bloody annoying she is, that would only have reached about 14 people.)

Let’s stop this dismal summary right here. The truth is, I couldn’t get further than halfway through the book. I only got as far as I did because I was reading at a hair salon that did not offer me any magazines. And I only bought it at all because I was stupid enough not to read the first page.

Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to condemn a book I didn’t even finish, but I don’t care.

Don’t. Buy. This. Book.

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Why Meredith Grey kicks Emily Thorne’s ass

3 Mar

I’m unashamed to admit that I enjoy trashy drama shows way too much. Anything with good-looking people living good-looking lives, and there’s me – schlomped in front of the laptop chomping down on microwaved Easter eggs and tea, tea, tea.

This year has been disappointing in the drama series department, though. It’s as if the shows I enjoy have reached their expiration dates, but are stubbornly hanging in there just for the sake of it. The one exception – thank the stars – is Grey’s Anatomy.

Wise as ever. Bless old Meredith's heart.

Wise as ever. Bless old Meredith’s heart.

The rest have kind of let themselves go. Like 40-something women wearing animal print and too much make-up, the shows are trying too hard to maintain something that just isn’t there anymore.

I’m talking specifically about Revenge and 90210. (Gossip Girl also ended pathetically – the big twist being that the title character had a penis all along – but at least it’s ended.)

The current seasons of Revenge and 90210 have succeeded in downgrading both shows to bad soapies. Such a shame.

I suppose 90210 never had much to work with in the first place – all it ever was, was good-looking richkids, their schemes, their clothes and their sex lives. It was inevitable that it became a stinker.

Eye candy. Only.

Bound to be a stinker

The bigger disappointment is Revenge.

Because damn – the first season was bloody brilliant.

My theory is that success is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a series based on a particular premise rather than on strong characters.

Look at Grey’s – very much a character-driven show, and getting even better as it goes along. You don’t care about what happens in Grey’s – you care about how it affects the people in Grey’s. And so the show is still as gripping in its current season as it was when I first watched it.

Now look at shows like Prison Break and Revenge. Absolutely, addictively brilliant first seasons, based not so much on a cast of characters but rather a well-developed plot. It was never about Michael Schofield or Emily Thorne, but rather about their plans.

Michael needed to break his bro out of jail; Emily wanted to screw over the Graysons. Good stuff.

Thing is, these ideas weren’t made to last longer than a single season. At the end of season one, it was pretty much “mission accomplished.”

Michael had pretty much run out of tattoos; Emily had pretty much run out of people to cross off that photo.

But no – of course it didn’t stop there. Instead, we have the TV equivalents of movies like Legally Blonde 2. Stuff so very average that it almost ruins the fun of the original. Where movies like that should go straight to DVD, series like the second season of Revenge (and the who-know-whateth season of Prison Break – Back in Prison, this time in South America!) belong under the label of SOAPIE.

We have people coming back from the dead, family fights about who gets to be CEO, and even corny green-screen sequences of characters racing along in motorboats to save their friends from an evil man in the middle of the ocean. Groan.

The meticulous and well-paced plot of the first season has given way to more of a day-to-day observation of characters, along with too many go-nowhere subplots.

You know something's wrong when your poster is more gripping than your plot

You know something’s wrong when your poster is better than your plot

Gripping enough for a Friday evening at home, but a disappointment as far as expectations went.

Plus, Daniel Grayson somehow became gross. He was hot stuff in season one. I think my little sister even went so far as to say that he was better than Chuck Bass. Not so in season two – there’s a poolside scene where he is topless and toneless as a middle-aged trucker. Eww.

Age old cliché for the screen writers involved? Quit while you’re ahead.

Now Oscar’s just somebody that we used to know

17 Feb

Reeva

Reeva

I found myself crying about Reeva Steenkamp this morning. It happened when I saw a picture of her cat. “Reeva had a cat,” I thought, “She had something in common with me. And now she’s dead.”

It is none of my business to know what Reeva’s cat looks like. It is none of my business to know that her close friends called her “Alfi.” It is none of my business to know that she loved horses and was excited about Valentine’s Day.

Yet I know. We all know.

Bizarrely, Reeva’s death feels like the death of someone every South African knew and adored. Perhaps because we all felt like we knew her murderer, we had to get to know her, too.

(In case someone reading this has not seen, well, any newspaper in the world this week: Reeva Steenkamp was found dead in her boyfriend’s home on Valentine’s Day. She was shot 4 times. Her boyfriend happened to be South Africa’s golden boy – the internationally renowned athlete, Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius was the world’s first disabled runner to compete in both the Paralympics and Olympics last year. He was widely regarded as an inspiration and hero – after having his lower legs amputated as an infant, he overcame tremendous odds to become the world famous “Blade Runner”. The State is charging him with premeditated murder under schedule 6 of the Criminal Procedures Act. Crimes like this usually carry a life sentence, and it will be difficult even for bail to be granted as Pistorius awaits trial. Reeva was only 29.)

We all knew Oscar. Or at least, we thought we did. He was, I think it’s safe to say, a national hero. The boy who overcame so much, and whose handsome face has been everywhere since the Olympics. We felt like we knew him because we saw him every day. Perfect, inspirational Oscar smiling at us from another billboard. Playful Oscar jokingly advertising “Oscar month” in the run-up to the Academy Awards. Oscar and his little sister on the cover of Sarie. Oscar on the cover of GQ. It goes on and on.

The Oscar we used to know

The Oscar we used to know

The Oscar we knew is no murderer – it simply could not be.

When the news of Reeva’s death broke, I doubt that single South African did not believe that the story was a tragic accident. That she sneaked in to surprise him for Valentine’s Day, and was mistaken for an intruder before being killed. It’s plausible here – many of us sleep with firearms next to our beds because the possibility of violent criminals entering the home is very real. Without exception, I think we felt sorry for him.

Sadly, the developing story makes fools of us all. The Oscar we all thought we knew and were so very proud of is being exposed – bit by bit – as an egotistic narcissist with a history of aggression. The Oscar we all thought we knew now seems like an illusion. A personality created in order to cash in on athletic fame.

Oscar leaving the court. Bail proceedings have been postponed to Tuesday.

Oscar leaving the court. Bail proceedings have been postponed to Tuesday.

Sure – the papers are trying to fuel the controversy. This story has gripped the nation to a point of obsession, and that sells even better than sex. Be that as it may, I don’t get the sense that the media is grasping at straws to make Oscar look like the bad guy. On the contrary – the media started out on his side. It was practically assumed that he was without blame. Shamefully, we felt that he was even more of a victim than Reeva was. As one observer on Twitter noted – we were more concerned for poor Oscar and his career than we were about Reeva’s death and family.

By now, you all know the details that have emerged. All seem to point to cold blooded murder. Seems we didn’t know Oscar at all.

***

Reeva was never that well known. Now she’ll never have the chance.

Distastefully, the producers of a silly “treasure seeking” reality show she was part of has decided to air the drivel “especially for us to get to know the real Reeva”. That we’ll learn much watching her do obstacle courses and drink Tropica is doubtful.

All we really have are the memories of her friends and family, and the words and photographs of Reeva herself.

Today, the Sunday Times dedicated half a page to Reeva’s last Instagram pictures:

Reeva and Oscar on the beach. Reeva posing playfully in an animal suit. Reeva blowing out a birthday candle.

Reeva’s sleeping cat.

One day in the life of a Sandton housewife type

7 Feb

In a society of consumerist capitalists who define themselves by what they “do”, I did the unthinkable today – no work. In a way then, I guess I did nothing.

It was great.

As a small business owner, my days usually start with my Blackberry. I awaken from a fitful sleep, and start sorting through whatever nonsense landed in my inbox between 17:00 and 07:00. After a shower, I’m off to a day filled with contracts, emails, phone calls, interviews, issues and too much coffee. I usually don’t have breakfast, never take lunch breaks – why does anyone – you’re perfectly capable of having a sandwich in one hand and type with the other? – and rarely know what is happening in the news.

So, despite the big plans and the everyday obligations, I got to a point this morning that I needed to recharge. After the usual early morning Blackberry session, I just had my final in a long line of “fed up” moments, and decided to have a “Me-day”.

My life right now :(

My life right now 😦

This morning, I got to experience what life must be like as a Sandton housewife – I had a lengthy appointment at the hair salon, popped through to have some waxing done, and then read an up-my-own-ass eco-living magazine as I had my nails done.

It was great.

And man, was it needed! I didn’t realise just how run down I looked until my mother sat me down and sombrely told me that I had better stop wearing ponytails every day. She also said that I should get a bloody manicure, and that I shouldn’t be surprised if Andrew went to work and saw a younger, groomier girl whose roots don’t show and who walks comfortably in stilettos…

Apparently, I had allowed myself to look so shit that I was basically inviting my guy to cheat.

(In complete contrast to my mother’s theory, Andrew told me I looked beautiful despite my Carrie Bradshaw roots and unruly eyebrows. He’s amazing, and I am the luckiest woman alive. If I had to date me, I’d have left a long time ago.)

Awww - thanks, Andrew!

Awww – thanks, Andrew!

But anyway – being obsessed with work during the day and dog tired over weekends and evenings had a baaaad effect. I had left my hair to just grow out its natural, dull, mousey colour, and simply tied it in a bun (or the style my mother so despises, the humble ponytail) for way too long. My nails really did need a manicure. And working alone and from home on days where I don’t see clients and team members, I had developed a tendency to dress way too casually.

I needed my Sandton housewife day BADLY.

Though it was refreshing, and actually did succeed in clearing my head of all the trouble I’ve had of late, it reminded me of just how unfair it is to be female in this consumerist culture we live in.

Andrew went for a haircut the other day, and it was less than R200. I go, and it’s over a Grand. Andrew’s nails are considered ‘well groomed’ if he bites them regularly. Mine, if I get artificial who-knows-what bonded to them, and return for maintenance at least twice a month.

Then there’s the issue of wardrobe – men can wear T’s and jeans every day; women can’t. Men can have two pairs of shoes; women can’t. Men don’t need handbags, earrings, bangles, shawls, scarves, hair ribbons or rings; women do.

Shoe normality: Female mind

Shoe normality: Female mind

Shoe normality: Male mind

Shoe normality: Male mind

They also get by with a two-in-one shampoo and a bar of soap, while we need that amount of product times 22 for each and every body part.

Sucks, I tell you.

Still – despite the price of my day – so worth it :D.

Screw that – I’ll take the steak

28 Jan

I am rather ashamed to admit that I have failed at being a vegetarian no less than 4 times. I also lasted a full 12 hours as a vegan.

The reasons for my rather pathetic attempts at meatless living (and one day of eggless, honeyless, milkless hell) are not original at all. I felt uncomfortable and vaguely guilty for eating something that used to be someone.

This annoyed my family in general, but especially my father, to no end. I grew up on a beef farm, you see, and thus this attempted lifestyle change was like a betrayal.

It began with the reading of some book that was no doubt written by a PETA-type, telling me that all farm animals live a life of torture and disgrace and are put to death in much the same way. Bizarrely, I believed the book rather than my own eyes – I could clearly see the herds of fat and happy cows grazing about in the greenery, and they looked just fine. Sure, I have never seen the inside of a slaughterhouse, but had my father’s irate insistence that things weren’t too bad there, either.

Still, I believed the book and stopped eating meat for a couple of weeks or so at a time.

Yay... (Groan)

Yay… (Groan)

The issue kept gnawing at me for years, and so I attended a Vegan Awareness / Animal Rights Day of sorts this weekend.

I half-expected it to spark off another three weeks or so of stubborn baked beans and spinach eating, but it did the opposite: It finally made me realise that my dad was right all along – these people are quacks, and there is no problem eating meat and eggs.

Don’t get me wrong – I am still fervently opposed to cruelty to animals and try to buy products not tested on them – but I refuse to ever again feel guilty for eating them.

Among the bizarre arguments against eating meat (or any other animal products) were the following:

1. The Bible says so!

The Bible states that Thou Shalt Not Kill and to treat others like you would like yourself to be treated. This is obviously true. What’s a load of hogwash, though, is the next point: That there is nothing at the bottom of the page saying unless the object of your killing or injustice has hooves, fur, feathers or scales.

Um… Then why does the Bible prescribe sacrificial offerings of animals, and give detailed lists of what the jews could and could not eat, meatwise?

Point is, using the Bible as a starting point for veganism is pretty much retarded.

2. We were all born vegan, and only eat meat/eggs/milk/cheese because we have been forced to get used to it.

Proof: Put a toddler in a cot with an apple and rabbit. See if the toddler eats the apple or kills and eats the rabbit. (???)

This picture proves that we are herbivores

This picture proves that we are herbivores

Further proof: True omnivores and carnivores like their meat raw and rough. Given the choice, would you eat some veggies or a whole dead squirrel, fur and bones and blood and claws included? Ha! See! You only eat cooked meat because you have been unnaturally forced to do so.

3. Nope – you’re not an omnivore

We have sheep-like teeth. Our canines are only present to eat hard fruits like apples and pears. We chew sideways. Our intestines are too long to digest rotting meat. Therefore, we are not omnivores or carnivores – we are herbivores.

Um – so why did my friend Caroline start eating meat after she studied human metabolism in medical school? And why does every other source in the WORLD declare us omnivores?

4. There is no such thing as humane slaughter.

Believing that is like believing in humane rape or humane torture. The holocaust is not over – it has simply been redirected. The victims are our animal brothers and sisters.

Imagine – they say – how it must feel to know that you are but a pawn in the evil human slave master’s wicked death plan. That every day is a living torture, and that all you get at the end of it is a painful death. That, they say, is what is like to be a farm animal.

A life of depravation and sheer torture

A life of depravation and sheer torture

To that, I call BULLSHIT. As mentioned, I grew up on one of these “concentration camps”, and the reality is that farmers – at least here in South Africa – take a lot of pride in taking care of their animals.

They do NOT live in in little pens in which they can’t turn around, festering in their own faeces and being beaten at random; they live in the veld. They know space. They know sunshine. They look great.

(I am talking sheep and cattle here – I did not have daily exposure to other animals, but I doubt that it is much different).

As for their deaths, I have not personally been present, but have a hard time believing that these farmers – and animal rights laws in general – would ever allow for the sort of thing that vegans insist happen.

According to the vegans, animals are pretty much butchered alive, hung upside down and hacked to death.

According to my dad and various other sources (thanks, Roy!): Animals are stunned unconscious, and then killed via a bolt to the head. I do not doubt that the slaughterhouse must be a terrifying place, but at least here in South Africa, it sounds like it is as painless and humane as possible.

5. Animal eaters don’t think about what they are truly eating.

Some examples:

a) An egg, being the unfertilised content of the hen’s “womb”, is in fact the hen’s period. Eww. Gross. (To me, it’s the thing that makes cake dough yummy and squishy)

b) Honey, being regurgitated from a bee’s stomach, is in fact vomit. (If dogs eat their own vomit, I guess I can enjoy an insect’s vomit on my crumpets)

c) Milk is full of pus. You see, cows often get disgusting infections in their udders, and the milking machine violently yanking at their titties doesn’t know the difference between pus and milk, so every time you drink a glass of milk, please know that about a 20th of it is actually pus.

If you're drinking milk, you may as well be sucking on this toe

If you’re drinking milk, you may as well be sucking on this toe

Again – BULLSHIT. We have dairy cows as well, and though these infections do occur from time to time (in my experience, about 1 in 70 cows will have it at any one time), the cow is treated for it and NOT milked along with the rest of the cows. Newsflash: The milking machine does not automatically select cows for milking – the PEOPLE who work with the herd every day do this. Also – though I have obviously never personally tested it, the machine looks slightly uncomfortable at worst. The cows look pretty darn chilled when they get milked.

6. You can still have bacon!

Seems EVERYTHING can be artificailly soy-made. EVERYTHING – bacon, burgers, chicken wings, turkey – any meat you can think of can be made of soy . Again – ????.

7. Veganism can solve World Hunger!

Yup – apparently, a full 65% of cultivated crops are used to feed the millions of slaughter animals the world over. We should stop “filtering our food” through animals, and just eat the damn grains. If we do, there will be enough left over for the starving people in Sudan.

Um – I may be wrong, but as far as I know, the plant parts used for animal feeds are not the same ones fit for human consumption. Do you want to eat the leaves of a mealie plant? I didn’t think so…

**

Other than the speech giving the above reasons, a woman spoke about her experience as a “sea shepard”, working as an “animal rights activist” at the infamous Japanese cove where dolphins are captured and trained to perform, as well as slaughtered for meat.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen footage of what happens there and the slaughter is cruel and horrific. I do not deny that.

What annoys me, though, is that these “sea shepards” actually think they make a difference. In a boring presentation showing us pictures of their hotel and various lookout points, the woman told us how they “put pressure on the Japanese government” by basically just WATCHING the slaughter every day. They don’t actually DO anything, except “create awareness”. Please – save yourself the airfare and tell people to watch The Cove on DVD.

(To be fair – some other sea shepards did try free a dolphin or two from the training pens, and then got arrested. I have a lot of respect for these guys – they DID something. But don’t think that simply being self-righteous makes any difference.)

If I go to Japan for two weeks, does it mean I make a difference or that I'm simply self-righteous?

If I go to Japan for two weeks, does it mean I make a difference or that I’m simply self-righteous?

***

Time to rip into a juicy beef burger, and get ripped apart by vegan commentators…

3 reasons you should watch Pocahontas again

12 Jan

paint

Image 

 One thing I love about our movie channels’ repeat-repeat schedule is that they’ve made room for some good, old-fashioned Disney.

The current pick is Pocahontas. Here are 3 reasons to catch it pretty much any time on channels 103 through 107.

1. Oh my soul – the songs!

Not to sound like an old woman, but they really don’t make kids’ films the way they used to. Nemo may be cute – and now he’s cute in 3D! – but don’t tell me he taught you any life lessons worth singing about.  Having a mildly retarded character repeatedly bob around telling you to just keep swimming cannot possibly compare to the songs in Pocahontas.

Instead of simply telling kids to blindly just keep on keeping on, the old school Disney is about so much more. They’re about bravery, integrity, love. To boot, the songs are well-written and always sung by a character you want to admire rather than own a soft toy of.

Assuming you haven’t watched Pocahontas recently – again, it’s on repeat all the time – a short recap of the most inspiring life-lesson lyrics:

You think the only people who are people, are people who look and think like you.

But we are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends

Life lessons: Tolerance / anti-arrogance / acceptance / open mindedness / That tree in Avatar meets the Rainbow nation!

You can own the earth, but still

All you’ll own is earth until you can paint with all the colours of the wind

Something us rat-racers need to take careful note of… Accumulating Stuff can never replace the miracle of appreciating the vast richness that God has freely given us in Nature, and in our own souls.  Pity how our workaholic, status-hungry and show-offy culture makes it almost impossible to (make time to) see value in the small things.

2. Best pet characters ever

Percy the pug: Probably the gayest dog ever drawn to life, Percy wears shower caps in the bath and eats treats wrapped in perfect purple bows. If real life pugs weren’t so gross, I’d get one and make it gay like Percy.

Image

Meiko the racoon: I love fat animals. Especially when they stuff their cheeks with biscuits and wave at people.

Percy meets Meiko: Slapstick hilarity that the Aristocats and Lady and Tramp are just too dignified for. Gay Percy chases fat Meiko. Fat Meiko runs into a hollow log. Gay Percy follows. Log becomes forest monster with head of racoon and legs of dog. (I admit – my sense of humour can be childish).

 

3. Remember your kid self

Pocahontas has been my second favourite Disney princess since I can remember. I could never stand Snow White or Cinderella. The only one I prefered to Pocahontas is Beauty and the Beast’s Belle.

The princesses that Little Kid Me admired were the independent ones who sang about travel and adventure – and happened to find a man to love instead. 

Almost prophetic how that’s exactly where I’d find myself 2 decades on – happily coupled up instead of being the single-girl jet setter I thought I’d be.

Though life seems to have a tendency to turn out different yet somehow better, revisiting those stories that inspired and validated you as a child brings back parts of your  psyche that real-world worries and mundanity have quashed.

It reminds you to find a way to stop simply digging for gold when you (and your man – yay!) should be – excuse this lame ending – painting with the colours of the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home sweat home

31 Dec
Happy home :)

Happy home 🙂

As I write this, it has been exactly 7 days since moving into my very first Grown-up place. No more parents or flat mates – just me, my man, our cat and our big-person responsibilities.

Moving in together is one of those things that sound crazy exciting but turns out to be crazy frustrating (and a hell of a lot of work) instead. Hence – 7 tips for 7 days for any of you considering shacking up:

1.     There’s no such thing as drama-free delivery

Delivery people just don’t care.

Don’t expect your address to be jotted down correctly. I know I have a Pretoria accent, but Millway road, Victory Park and Milly street, Victoria Park do NOT sound the same.

Following the umpteenth phone call and eureka moment of getting the place right, don’t bother being at home when your furniture is supposed to arrive. Instead, wait around aimlessly and then get a call from your front gate when you’re halfway to the South Coast.

When the furniture finally does arrive, know that there will be some problem. Granted, my sample is small, but I am yet to hear of someone who had a drama-free delivery.

Tip: Get a friggin bakkie and do it yourself.

2.     Earplugs may be a good investment

If a cat is joining you, be aware that the mandatory seven-days-indoors rule comes with A LOT of tantrums.

In our case, Mufasa was so vocally unimpressed about being kept indoors that we got him some tranquilizers. Nothing hectic – herbal crap that didn’t work anyway – but the fact that we were driven to find an emergency vet at midnight on Christmas may give you some indication of how desperate we were.

Tip: Earplugs. Or, in our case, a half-broken heater fan that drowned out the cattrum with an annoying ggggrrrrrr-whoosh -ketak-ketak-ketak noise somehow soothing to Andrew. 

3.     Prepare to catch Joneses fever

As a woman, there’s some sort of competitive nesting instinct that kicks in and goes on overdrive. All logic seems to go on mute and you start living in a fantasy of Coricraft this and Le Creuset that. Screw saving for that trip to Spain – you’d rather have a couch called “Afrique” and some bright orange cookware.

This instinct is especially pronounced when you start seeing friends’ homes that seem pretty much like they belong on Top Billing Junior. Designer homeware is the new it status symbol and it’s hard not to be caught up in the nonsense of it all.

Tip: Remember that your home is supposed to be nothing more and nothing less than your happy place. Designer whatevers don’t really play a role in that.

Bonus Tip (thanks, Dad): Never become indebted for the sake of status symbols. The flash wears off in one week flat, but the liability lingers on and on.

4.     Don’t forget the garden

Being completely unashamed of my obsession with my Mufasa, we set out to find a place that would suit him rather than us. This meant finding a (budget!) JHB garden big and wild enough for a critter used to having a whole farm as his kingdom.

We found such a place – and I dare say my little darling seems happy with what he’s explored so far – but are unfortunately taking over from tenants who clearly didn’t give a flying one. Mufasa may not mind the weeds, but I do. And let me tell you – spending whole days pulling out toddler-tall invader plants and forgetting your sunscreen leaves a NASTY burn. The discovery that nothing else will grow as the weed forest was covering building rubble from who-knows-when is even worse.

Tip: Pots, pots, pots – if the lease agreement stipulates that you “maintain” the garden in the same (yuck!) state that you found it, improve the look with something you can take with you.

Bonus Tip (thanks, Andrew): You’re a tenant. Rubble removal is expensive. Landscaping is expensive. Covering up the gross blue little wall thing at the edge of what used to be Weed Forest and is now Rubble Hill is expensive. Save the money for when you own a place and make that place amazing instead.

5.  Know he’s not always a gentleman (and love him anyway)

Unless you can laugh at this shirt in front of your boyfriend, you're not ready to move in

Unless you can laugh at this shirt in front of your boyfriend, you’re not ready to move in

Don’t move in unless you have already reached a level of comfort that my cousin Caroline classifies as “gross.”

Tip: Unless you have squeezed his zit, felt his fart and still found him the sexiest in the world, you’re not ready.

6. You’re allowed to get annoyed

Andrew has to deal with a disruptive insomniac who insists that he adopts her cat as his first born child. I must get used to sharing my house with an Xbox and a lot of complaints about “that cat” – a most annoying reference not only because Mufasa is perfect, but because he is not referred to as “our child”.

Furthermore, priorities clash BIG TIME. Where your guy wants to spend money on an extra bedroom TV, you’d prefer a nice painting.

Tip: Fighting is okay. Only way to suss out that difficult necessity that is Compromise.

Bonus Tip (learn from my mistake): Don’t arrive at home with 4 original paintings when you said you were only going out to get a small printed canvas from Mister Price. In my defense – the paintings were not that expensive considering that I got to support a local artist* and got stuff that go perfectly  with my theme.

7. Take a step back and be grateful

Two years ago, I never would have dared to imagine that I could be this blessed – all grown up, sharing a home with a man who loves me.

Tip (or personal reminder): Don’t take your relationship for granted – remember how you wanted to be loved, and now are loved 🙂.

***

*The artist I’m so chuffed with can be found on the grassy corner opposite St Mary’s in Waverley. He sells his art in the sunshine, and I noticed him over a year ago.

His work is mostly quintessential South African scenery – we have some lovely JHB skylines and a large canvas depicting a typical winelands town.

Prices range from R150 to R800 (which is friggin cheap, dear Andrew!), depending on the size of the canvas.

I didn’t catch his name, but noticed a cell number at the back of my winelands – if anyone is interested in contacting him, his number is 078 751 6814.

 

Our winelands painting

Our winelands painting