Friday Fictioneers: The Fat Controller

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

“Oh bugger!” said the Fat Controller watching as Frank steamed away in the wrong direction, puffing with discontented malaise.  

“Tut tut”, said the mother dragging her son down the platform while he craned around trying to see the smoke coming out of the Fat Controller’s ears.

The Fat Controller glared at her – a glare that spoke volumes.

“Really!” thought the Fat Controller, “I don’t know why I bother trying to reason with bloody stupid, sentient engines. Whoever thought of anthropomorphising trains should be tied down to the railroad tracks and run over. I’m done. I’m going down to the pub.”


Blog Action Day: Inequality


I’m appalled, bewildered and downright furious at the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

An epidemic that would never have begun if the Western world had done something in April! I guess 4,000 black Africans dying don’t really matter?

I’ve learned one valuable lesson out of this fiasco. If I ever contract an infectious disease with an almost 100% fatality rate, I’m going to find the first white American male I can and infect him. Chances are that’s the only way I’ll get some help.

How dare that life be worth more that the men, women and children that have suffered the horror of Ebola and been left to die for no crime other than the continent they live on!

I scrolled the blogs I follow this morning in mounting rage.

Ebola is NOT an American conspiracy to put people in FEMA concentration camps.

Ebola is NOT God’s judgment on gay marriage.

You know what?

Everything is NOT about America!

Contrary to Hollywood’s opinion, the USA is NOT the centre of the entire universe.

And guess what?

The Zaire Ebola strain (that’s the one in Liberia and Sierra Leone, not the one in the Congo.) IS NOT airborne.

It doesn’t work that way. That’s like expecting an ostrich to suddenly learn how to fly. Theoretically it’s possible, but highly unlikely.

The closest to airborne it can get is if you cough up a plug of phlegm and spit it on someone else.

For those few seconds, yes, it will be airborne.

The USA didn’t give a shit when Ebola was confined to Africa, because…?

  1. They don’t actually know where Africa is.
  2. Despite their rhetoric black people dying are irrelevant.
  3. There is no world outside of the USA so why bother.

They may be poor. They may be African. They may not know who Oprah is.

ebolacostumerBut they are deserving of a hell of a lot more damn respect than the kind of people who think an Ebola Hazmat suit is an amusing Halloween costume.

You want to do something about inequality, who about donating to Medecins sans Frontiers?





16 Things black people wish they could explain to their white friends


Absolutely loved this post. Although except for the hair issue this could relate to all South Africans of any colour.

1 ‘Bring and share’ parties are a white people thing.  If you’re going to organise a party then you should cater for it, it’s a basic principle of hospitality. The idea that I must cater for a party that you are hosting is completely foreign to me. Alas, because it’s your party, I will go with the flow and bring a pack of Doritos, the ones in a blue packet.

2 Underwear must be washed by hand, every day.  When you walk into my bathroom you will almost definitely find a few lacy numbers hanging on the rail. Don’t be alarmed. I was taught to wash my undies straight after a bath, you were taught to throw them in your laundry basket (it’s gross but I still love you).

3 Closed guest lists don’t mean a thang to us, if I hear about it, I’m there.  Birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries and funerals are free for all. Relatives, friends, enemies, neighbours, people passing by are all welcome! It’s not weird at all when there are random strangers appearing in our wedding videos, it is part of the territory. A closed guest list is a sure way to offend a black person.

4 The words “gap year” don’t exist in our vocabulary.  There is no scenario where the words “gap year” can feature positively in a conversation between a black person and their mother, father or relatives. Telling your parents that you’re doing a gap year is telling them that you want to be unemployed for the rest of your life, period.

5 Hair is a political issue.  White friend, I know you’ve never had to debate the question of natural hair versus relaxed hair with your white friends. You probably didn’t know the difference. The hair debate isn’t just a silly thing to us, it’s a serious issue. Just Google ‘black hair blogs’ and watch Good Hair.

6 Don’t look surprised, disappointed or whisper behind your hand when black people pile their plates high. Piling your plate high at an event is not gluttony, it’s wholly appropriate if the food is in abundance. We’re not being rude, we’re just being ourselves. Also, don’t laugh when we talk about taking leftovers home for breakfast tomorrow, we’re being serious.

7 Black people don’t do cats. Don’t ask them why because they’ll look at you cross-eyed. We’re okay with you having pet cats but please, please do not expect us to cuddle, kiss or love them. In fact, black people don’t really do pets at all, dogs belong outside and are there as a matter of necessity, there’s no love lost between me and Spotty.

8 Witchcraft is a big deal.  This is linked to the fact that black people don’t do cats. Witchcraft is real. As real as the fact that when a black woman is pregnant she doesn’t announce it and everyone around her knows not to ask when she’s due. It’s linked to the fear that she will be bewitched if she reveals that kind of information.

9 Looking at someone in the eye is rude. If I don’t look you in the eye, it’s because I’m showing your respect, not disrespect. Essentially, it’s the opposite of what you think. The younger generation of black folk don’t adhere to this rule much but older people think this is very important.

10 Black people can’t understand you any better when you talk in baby talk/ Chilapalapa.  ‘Chilapalapa’ is when white people speak an adulterated version of an African vernacular language. Baby talk is when you speak sl—ow–er and in a higher voice when you’re speaking to a black person that you think doesn’t have a full command of English. Condescending much.

11 Mimicry of ‘black accents’ is only funny when black people do it.  Just don’t.

12 The wages of disrespecting parents is death.  Relating to black parents is a delicate dance and every black child knows what lines not to cross. You never stand when you’re talking to your parents, you lower yourself. You don’t walk away from them, you wait to be dismissed. You don’t enter into a shouting match if you value your life.

13 When you visit our house you can’t sleep on my parents’ bed.  In fact, the whole bedroom is out of bounds.

14 It’s not okay to show up anywhere barefooted.  This includes church services, the supermarket, a job interview or my birthday party. Bare feet are only okay in the shower or when you’re swimming. No one wants to see your toes, even if they’re pretty or you have cute nail polish on.

15 My parents don’t know that I have a boyfriend and I intend on keeping it that way forever.  Black parents don’t have a relational category called ‘boyfriend’. If he’s not someone who’s ready to pay lobola then he doesn’t exist. They’re not interested in a Facebook relationship status that doesn’t involve a legally binding contract.

16 I’m an only child but I have many siblings.  Also, I have many mothers and fathers. What you call first, second and third cousins are just brothers and sisters to me. What you call extended family is just my family.

Choking on our Cosmopolitans

Cosmopolitan cocktail with lemon garnish

When I started this blog, it was sort of a twisted therapy.

My version of a letter in a bottle.

A way of releasing all the words that bottled up inside me and setting them free in an act of catharsis.

I’ve been silent here for a while. I’ve had to be.

The borders between real and virtual blurred somewhere along the line.

I have to worry about what the people I know in the real world will think when they read my words.

What they’ll see that they don’t want to, that I don’t want them to.

I have to find this new voice – a sort of happy pretend voice.

In the meantime I can’t shove letters into empty bottles and trust the tide to wash them away anymore.

Honesty is a trait we all say we value, but the truth is, that honesty scares us stupid.

Sometimes, coating it in sugar candy is the only way to help it go down.

Even then, we don’t really like the thinly disguised bitter taste.

It makes us choke on our Cosmopolitans.

You have a voice. Be careful how you use it.



We have tremendous power at our fingertips. With a simple click we can share our thoughts, feelings and opinions with thousands of people all over the world. There are days I revel in this simple power and others where it makes me shudder in horror.

Two months ago no one knew who Boko Haram was. If they had heard a whisper, it about a warlord in Northern Nigeria and then they flipped to read about Kim Kardashian and her tacky wedding dress.

Then Boko Haram kidnapped 200 school girls and everything changed. The traditional press went into survival mode. They know something the ordinary man on the street didn’t. They know that even more dangerous than giving into a terrorist’s demands, is giving them publicity. So, they self censored.

We didn’t. We jumped on the hashtag bandwagon with all the best intentions in the world. Of course we believed that the world should know, should DO something. We didn’t stop to think of the consequences of our actions.

Part of my job is to evaluate the social media publicity of the brands I work on and give it a monetary value. There is no monetary value on the publicity Boko Haram received, that’s how big it is.

A little known warlord and his extremism have been uplifted to world notoriety.

He didn’t want a million dollars or a hundred prisoners released. He got exactly what he wanted, exactly what he had planned for, exactly what we gave him. He couldn’t have bought the publicity we gave out for free.

The sad fact is that those girls are not going to be rescued. They have outlived their usefulness for both the terrorists and the fickle attention of social media.

If their government and world forces had acted in the first 48 hours, their story might be different. If the telecommunication networks instead of paying Boko Haram to erect base stations in his territory had cut all telecoms instead, we could have cut him off at the knees.

We didn’t. They didn’t. We just fed his grandiose self-importance by our naive reaction.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have been distraught, enraged and horrified by what happened. I am saying that we need to think who we are helping by using the power of social media to spread our reactions. We didn’t help those girls. We helped the men who kidnapped them at gunpoint. We are complicit in what has happened.

If there was not an environment of social media and the free dissemination of whatever we want, Boko Haram would never have bothered kidnapping them in the first place. It would not have served their interests. They did what they did precisely because they knew how we would react and what we would do. We gave them a stage, an international platform and it’s time we took responsibility.

Just because we have a mouth and a voice and the technology to reach into the homes and lives of millions, doesn’t mean we should. We are not privy to press briefings, military briefings or government machinations. We don’t know the whole story and grabbing onto one little part of it can be as dangerous as knowing nothing.

So, ask yourself, would ISIS be playing rugby with a severed head and mowing down civilians with machine guns if they couldn’t Twitter it as it happened? They are uploading on 15 seconds intervals the proof of their inhumanity and we gave them the stage to do it.

Even worse, we’re watching it, devouring it. It’s better than Honey BooBoo. It’s reality TV and the sick thing is we love it. Just look at how many times those images have been shared over the past week.

Next time you click share, think about whose interests you are serving and then think about whether or not it is responsible to do so.

Doodling along


Every Monday morning we have a Creative Inspiration session.

We look at art, design, sculpture, architecture, social experiments, basically we indulge ourselves in an hour of cool stuff.

This week we watched a documentary by Ivan Cash. But you know this, because I went on weird snowball analogy afterwards.

I stopped doodling on my notepad.

That is BIG!

Doodle2I never stop doodling.

I was drawing characters from the Lego Movie. It amuses me.

Anyway, I actually stopped doodling and paid attention.

That does not happen often.

Most weeks I think “Well, that sounds cool, but so what?” and go back to drawing little aliens and rocket ships in the margins.

This week I didn’t, because it was really cool.Doddle4

But the coolest thing? I got a message back from Ivan Cash this morning. Himself.

Okay, he said that we did in fact breathe the same air and I suppose technically that’s true, but I meant it as a metaphor… and oh, it doesn’t matter.

And that is why social media and the Internet is so incredible, because no matter that I live continents away and several time zones to the right I can connect with amazing people as if they were right next door.

Doodle3Okay, perhaps the next-door metaphor is a bit weak. After all, how many people even know their next-door neighbours?

I do. His name is Collin and he has a little classic red Alfa he washes every weekend, drives around the block and parks back in the garage again. You get the point.

We are more likely to connect with Ivan in San Francisco then we are with someone right in front of us, in the flesh so to speak.

Maybe, it’s because online we aren’t hung up on physical appearance so we can’t jump to conclusions?

Maybe we’re just terrified of a slap in the face?

Anyway, we shouldn’t be.

Doodle5I’m a chatterer.

I can go to the music store and meet a kid whose Dad has an exotic animal sanctuary then spend two hours with a taxi driver from the township as we discuss the music of Johnny Cash.

We’ll probably never meet again, but just thinking about them makes me smile.

And that’s really the point.

I love the fact that through this blog I’ve connected in some way with hundreds of people from all sorts of cultures and countries. It’s a heady rush.

So, you may be doing a fairly good impression of an island, but dive into the sea and swim to the next island over for a quick Mai Tai.

You might get a different view and actually like it.

Afterwards, you can swim back, lie in your hammock between two palms and contemplate your navel.

That’s good too.

PS: I’m a writer not an artist, so go easy on the art critique!

AtoZ: Z is for Zen


To my beloved son on his 12th Birthday

12 years ago you came.

A small sweet thief of our hearts.

You turned our world around and remade it in your own image.

With eyes of wisdom and wonder.

With a laugh that shakes the foundation of the universe.

A son.

A brother.

A young man.

Our world is better for you being in it.

Much more zen.


I owe so much thanks to all the wonderful people at Jacklin Enterprises who went so far out of their way to assemble this incredible set for James. Mr. Jacklin, Andrea and HP, you guys are absolute super heroes.

AtoZ: Y is for Yesterday


Yesterday was a public holiday, Freedom Day.

It marks the first free and fair elections in a democratic South Africa.

I could’ve gone to a political rally.

I could’ve gone shopping.

I didn’t.

I lay in the sun surrounded by the sounds of happy children and the sighs of sleeping dogs.

It was a good day to be free.



AtoZ: X is for XXX



“Hello, darling”

Lean in.


Or is it…

“Mwah Mwah!”

Or is it…

“Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!”

Is it right cheek first or left?

Right, left, right.

Left, right, left.

Air kissing has its own rules and guidelines and I’m damned if I can figure them out.

However, we have to do it, I’d rather it be airbourne than a full on smackeroo.

In the run up to our elections our politicians seem to eschewing the air kiss for the lip locking, tonsil tickling smooch. It makes my blood run cold. My reaction is in part due to my personal space issues, but those aside, it’s not the kind of relationship I want my politicians engaging in.

jerm-agang-da-donorsWatching middle-aged women smashing their lips together in a weak attempt to create intimacy between opposing political factions is only marginally less embarrassing than watching a white woman toyi-toyi.

If you are not familiar with the toyi-toyi, picture Kylie Minogue twerking and the feeling of skin crawling horror you experience would be akin to that of watching a white woman toyi-toyi. Excruciating.

At least this spate of kissing cousins does a little something to relieve the pall of ennui that lies like a heavy layer of smog over these elections.

Oh, we’ll turn out to put our little X in the box, but with little hope that anything will change. This time next year we’ll have the same bunch of inept politicians and their second cousin’s twice removed best friend pocketing our tax money for nothing in return.

At least, now that we’ve already paid for our President’s R250 million swimming pool, we won’t have that burden to carry in his next term. Unless, of course, he decides he wants it gold-plated instead.




AtoZ: W is for Who?



Jaunty ringtone.

“Mom. Your phone is ringing.”

“No caller ID.”

“Just answer the phone!”


“Hello, is that Victoria?”


“Hi, your good friend Judith (not her real name) would like to try our range of incredible cosmetics.”





“I don’t know a Judith.”

Actually, I do. I once upon a time worked in a company with a Judith. We might exchange passable good morning grunts as we passed on our way to get coffee in the morning. Good friends we were not.

Good friends know better than to give out my phone number. The access code to Fort Knox is easier to get than my phone number. Well, I thought it was.

Turns out Judith thinks nothing of giving out every number on the company phone list in order to get a free bottle of perfume.

Anyway, I took the free cosmetics. I took them because I am a sucker for free stuff. They are actually pretty good and they are delivered to my door and I like that.

Regardless, I cannot forgive her for cavalierly giving out my phone number. It is an invasion of an anti-social introvert’s personal space.

Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who bang on my gate every single Sunday without fail. I respect that they have found their path to God. I have found mine too. It isn’t the same one.

The only thing we have in common is that Sundays are sacrosanct. In other words, do not under any circumstances invade my space on a Sunday.

I tried being nice. I tried explaining my point of view. It was a lovely metaphor, by the way, of a house on a hill with a hundred different paths leading to it.

I tried taking the pamphlet. Then I read it. It was all about how a wife should obey her husband.

So, the next time, I set my husband on them. With Leviticus.

That did the trick. We had a lovely peaceful Sunday for the first time in years. Long may it continue.