Yes, like Britney Spears, I did it again. I fell from grace. Oops.
Seconds before I had skipped as happy as a cloud across the garage floor and leapt into the air like a gazelle. The plan was to land on some spilled dried macaroni pasta and make a deliciously satisfying crunch.
I jumped and my happy thoughts and pixie dust saw my feet rising of the floor, past my head and up into the sky. There was a moment when airbourne, that I thought I was flying.
And then I realised the opposite was true and in fact I wasn’t.
That’s when the pixie dust failed.
My initial landing would have won me 10 points on the gymnastic mat. It was the weight of my ego-inflated noggin that did me in.
Gravity is not something to be denied by a mere mortal such as I. My head hit the immovable force that is the planet Earth.
Tweety birds and sarcastic Tinkerbells flew around my eyes in dizzying circles.
Then I heard the laughing. The guffawing. The snickering.
After ensuring I was in fact still alive, my son and spouse were doubled over weeping.
I think in future I shall buy bubble-wrap and jump on it in private.
If some asshole was going to hijack me or smash my car window I was going to go medieval on his ass.
I was going to be a hardcore Ninja assassin.
I was going to scream and shout and let it all out. I was going to stab him in the eye and punch him in the face.
I was going to floor the accelerator and drive off with him clinging helplessly to the car door.
Only, as it turns out, I didn’t.
I just sat there.
I think I made a sound that could only be described as an eep.
I was sitting in traffic, minding my own business, complacent in my daily route and listening to a podcast about crop circles. Just another trip to work.
Until my quiet solitude was rudely broken by the loud bang of shattering glass. It rained over me. But before I could comprehend that, the entire upper torso of a human being launched into the car and grabbed my cellphone. Just as suddenly he withdrew and ‘poof’ was gone. It took seconds.
I didn’t scream.
I didn’t fight.
I didn’t do anything kickass at all.
As a result of my inertia I am equally as annoyed with the thief (may he have a shitty Christmas) as I am with myself. I should have done something. Not sat there stricken dumb.
And there are the waves of self-recrimination.
What if I had another cup of tea before leaving the house?
What if I had taken the earlier off ramp?
What if I hadn’t had used Google Maps?
Shocked panic gave way to intense rage which has simmered down into exasperation leaving me irked. I’ve never really had cause to use that word before, ‘irked’, but it seems to fit this situation quite aptly.
Dealing with the administrative aftermath was almost as taxing and traumatic as the smash and grab. I had to come to terms with the utter incomprehensible way in which our police service barely functions.
I went to a police station.
I was directed back to my cell provider for a blacklist number, which they didn’t want to give me because 3% of their revenues come from resold stolen phones.
I went back to another police station.
This time I could report it, but the forms would have to be sent in the mail to the first police station, which could take anything from 2 weeks to never.
Only then would I get a case number.
Everything is on paper. Labouriously written out by hand. Assigned a number in the big book and left to gather to duct in a filing cabinet somewhere.
How crimes are ever solved here is an utter mystery. It’s like the dark ages. Forget CSI, this is anarchy.
Not that I’m expecting anyone to solve the crime of the daylight robbery, but what if was far more serious? If a serial rapist rapes a different woman in a different neighbourhood every day, the cases will never be connected. This is because there is no national database or searchable record keeping.
And, here’s the rub. You see, even if someone programmed a simple interface where the cops could input the case data on a national scale, with searchable keywords, and even if that person went to the head of the police and gave it to them for free, it still wouldn’t be deployed because of the bureaucratic red tape, tender fraud and the fact that someone’s uncle’s cousin twice removed didn’t get the kick back.
I can’t solve this endemic problem, but I am going to take another shot at solving mine by going back to the police station this morning for another try.
I am somewhat resigned to the fact that my car will be windowless until the new year and that I will have to muddle my way through a digital world without a cellphone.
Snuggled on the couch with a cat watching NCIS
That didn’t last.
“Mom. Mom! There’s a snake on the car!”
“A snake. On the car.”
I popped my head over the balcony.
There was a snake.
A big snake.
Not anaconda big.
But bigger than I wanted it to be.
I live in the damn suburbs.
Practically in the city center.
Why is there a snake on my car?
I was not going to be deterred, neither did
I wish to see it killed by the very freaked out people in the street.
I got this.
I grabbed the braai tongs and stalked out
to care of business.
Aunty Pam, who worked at the snake park,
made it look really easy.
Turns out, picking up a snake with some
tongs is not easy at all.
Snakes are very wiggly.
My children watched with fascination from the
safety of the balcony.
Anyway, I coaxed it in the direction of the
A very irritated owl huffed at me from the
light pole and flew off.
I think I ruined his dinner.
People keep asking me what kind of snake it
It was a SNAKE people! Who cares!
I assumed, based on a recent neighbourhood Facebook post, that it was the non-venomous type. Probably just a brown house snake.
Some research proved me wrong. Turns out it was probably a stiletto snake. At least, this is the picture it most closely resembled. And stiletto snakes are very bad news. I’m somewhat glad I didn’t know this when I was channeling my inner Steve Irwin.
Not very awe inspiring in snake fetish circles, but plenty of excitement in mine.
My son said, “That is the most kickass
thing I have ever seen you do.”
I don’t want to admit that I’m too scared
to drive the car, in case it went back into the engine bay.
I met a couple of newbie rowing parents yesterday. All bright eyed and bushy tailed. Was I ever that naïve? It became clear to me very quickly that they have absolutely no idea on how their lives are going to change irrevocably.
Rowing is a team sport not only for the actual crew, but for their support staff – you, the parent.
Rowing is a fabulous sport. The teamwork.
The outdoors. The sheer beauty of watching 8 rowers work in perfect unison. The
All the good stuff.
However, there are some things no-one tells
you about as the parent of a wanna-be rower.
These are but a few of them.
When your child chooses to row, so do you.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. There is
nothing that can compare to it. However, (there’s always a but), you have to be
prepared to actually do it. Your whole family has to adjust to support an Athlete
– with a capital A.
Holidays. When you want to arrange a family holiday, you’ll find yourself hat
in hand, cautiously approaching the coach to ask when it would be convenient.
The answer is – never. You can have Easter Sunday and Christmas Day off.
Weekends: Lazy weekend braais by the pool with friends? Maybe a brunch with
the girls? Don’t kid yourself. These will be but a fond memory. Your weekends
will now be spent at regattas. Every weekend. And training stops for no man or
woman – off-season or on.
Plans. Your friends and colleagues will stop asking about your weekend
plans. They’ll know that there is only one answer – rowing. All your
conversations will revolve around rowing. Your friends will exist almost
entirely of other rowing parents. You’ll be bonded by the same rowing PTSD.
a sleep in. You’ll be in the car at 4:30am armed
with a folding chair and a cooler box filled with water. Eventually you may
find yourself investing in a gazebo. You’ll soon be able to erect and dismantle
it in a shorter time than a US Marine can assemble his field rifle.
Dinner. Your meal plans at home will revolve around carbo-loading, pre-hydration,
chicken breasts and protein shakes. Your child will eat you out of house and
Training. They start you off slowly. One or two afternoons after school. Then Saturday mornings. And Sundays. Then early morning training in the gym 5 – 7am. Before you know what has hit you, you’re getting up at 3 to take your child to the gym, getting them home at 7pm, feeding them a cow, battling through homework, bed and then the whole thing starts again. The pressure on your Athlete and yourself is intense. Everything, including exams, takes second place.
Spanners. You’ll buy so many size 10 and 13 spanners and no. 5 Allen keys
that the sales staff at the hardware store will know you by name.
chairs. You’ll quickly discover the pros and cons
of every brand and design of folding chair.
food. You’d better love bacon and egg rolls, and
the ever-ubiquitous, chicken prego. This is will be your main diet for most of
the season. Bring a sandwich, plenty of water, fruit and chocolate milk. I don’t
know why, but a cold Steri Stumpie is the best way for a rower to recover after
bar. The first time you head off to a regatta as a
virgin parent, you might find yourself riding a moral high horse when you see another
parent crack open a beer at 10am. Give it a few months. The good news is that there is usually a very
good bar. Schools compete to provide the latest craft beer and gin, fresh Pimms
and champers. It’s very civilized.
to your Athlete. Your child will go from zeniths to
nadirs in 4 minutes. Their hands will be bloody, they’ll be beyond exhausted.
They won’t want to engage with you. Just give them food and water and leave
them to it.
the race: This will be the longest and most excruciating
few minutes of your life. You’ll need
binoculars, otherwise you’ll find yourself cheering on the wrong child.
Oh, and they can’t actually hear you from the water at all. At about the 100m
mark all they can hear is the pounding of their own hearts in their ears. People
will tell you that you can identify the crew by their blades. This may be true
when they’re rowing past you from the finish up to the jetty, but when they’re
racing, you’ll be lucky to recognise anything.
The lingo. In order to survive you will need to know the language of rowing. Ergs.
Blades. Stroke. Bow. Never, ever commit the cardinal sin of comparing a canoeist
to a rower. Canoeist don’t row, they paddle.
Getting home early. Yes, the race takes 4 to 8 minutes. That doesn’t mean you get to go home. There are heats, semis and finals. Your child will be entered in 3 to 4 races. You’ll get there at sunrise and leave at dusk. From the dam, you’ll race back to the boat sheds to unpack the boats. You’ll be home by about 8pm. Get take-out. If you’re going to organize a lift club, try and do the morning trip and get some other sucker to do the home run.
camps. At some point you’ll be guilted into being a
camp parent. This usually falls to the mother. You will fry up enough bacon and
eggs to feed the Mongol hoards. You’ll sleep on an air mattress and on the
backseat of your car. You’ll get inured to picking through the accumulated
detritus of socks and underwear from 60 plus teenage boys. The trick here is to
go to one and get it over with at the beginning of the season.
Husband to son: “Should we get the zucchini
pasta or the cauliflower one?”
Total stranger: “Oh, are you vegan?”
Husband: “No, actually we…”
Total stranger: “We’re vegan and it’s amazing, I’m so healthy and virtuous.” Okay, she didn’t say virtuous, but you get the tone of the exchange. She was a vegan evangelist. It’s a televangelist but with vegetables.
Son: “Dad…” Meaning, let’s leave before
this becomes even more uncomfortable.
Husband: “Actually, we’re just trying to cut carbs.”
Total stranger’s husband, very quietly and
in desperation: “Once a month she spends the weekend with her friends, and my brother
and I have a braai. And a beer.”
I get the feeling he needed to get this off
his chest. Especially with Heritage Day aka Braai Day just around the corner
and no chop in his future.
For the international reader a braai is what you call a barbecue. Although a barbecue is just a weak approximation of the cultural ritual of the braai.
Honestly, talking to strangers while
grocery shopping is a bit odd. We all push our trolleys around in little impenetrable
bubbles. We don’t engage. Like Londoners on the Tube. What kind of world would
it be if we all started chatting to people in the aisles? Anarchy! Absolute anarchy!
I don’t really have an opinion on what you
choose to eat. Hell, my people eat haggis. So, I can’t really judge.
But, like Paleo and Keto and Banting, when your diet becomes a religion and how you choose to imprison yourself into a neat little neo-cultural box, and then you start on a conversion drive, I tend to step back to a safe distance and make a run for it. In Scientologist vegan terms, I am a suppressive person. I also don’t like boxes. They give me claustrophobia.
I don’t define myself by what I eat, my
sexuality or my religion.
It’s not like I introduce myself to total
strangers with “Hi, my name is Sue and I’m a vegan, non-binary. Bikram yoga,
Well, I might if I was and I happened to be
involved in a speed dating game.
I usually just stick with, “Hi. My name is XXX. It’s nice to meet you.” And then go from there.
Do you make your gym decision on who is offering
the coolest tog bag?
This was me a week ago.
This is me now.
“So, if I come 16 times in 8 weeks, I get a
I don’t even know what it looks like, but it’s incentive. It’s a small, yet achievable goal. I may not have lost much in terms of the saddle bags around my waist, but I’m hell bound on getting this bag.
In terms of the actual training…
Trainer: “You need to keep your elbows
close to your body as you pull the weight toward you.”
Me trying hard, but not cracking it.
You see, I have a physical deformity that
prevents elbow straight backward movement.
I have boobs.
I shove them mercilessly into two sports
They flatten out, but they have to go
They go sideways.
Like squashed balloons.
This means, that the elbows-in position
requires me to go around the obstruction rather than through it.
So, I have to do a rather strange out-in
And then my shoe decided that 10 years of abuse
was quite enough, thank you, and decided to peel away its layers like an onion.
A Nike that couldn’t just do it.
A Nike that just wanted to be left alone to die in peace in the depths of my shoe box.
I cheered myself up by buying a new pair.
They’re snazzy, but they’re not pink leopard print snazzy like the old pair.
They’re discrete and serious gym wear. I feel like a total fraud. Probably the
same way I’d feel if I had to wear a pair of Louboutins.
But, I’ve got my new shoes on and a bag waiting
with my name on it.
“Ooh, Mom,” said teenager strolling past, “You’re
getting a little…”
“Fat, I’m getting fat. I have got fat. I’m standing
in the doorway of my 600-pound life. Pushing maximum density. Looking ‘healthy’.
Breaking the scale. Yes, I am aware of the phenomenon.”
This conversation was the eye opener I needed to move my fat ass to the gym.
I’ve managed fairly successfully to avoid all exercise for 43 years. I’ve had my fads, yoga, tae-bo, electric shock therapy, rowing, etc., but I managed to move past them back into couch potatodom.
To say that I was terrified doesn’t encapsulate
the brewing panic attack in my belly as I walked towards the doors. I am deeply
ashamed of my current, non-existent level of fitness. And, I am averse to any
form of public humiliation.
At the door, I was asked to collect my tag
the next time I came. I looked at the woman in horror and said, “You’re being
awfully presumptuous assuming that there will be a next time.”
There was also the fact that my trainer,
Geoff, is my son’s trainer and that my son is Arnold Schwarzengger in the
making. Actually, he trains the whole family. Even my 13-year-old daughter is
ripped and back.
And then there’s me.
“Is there anything you want to tell me
before we start?” questions Geoff.
I pointed to a poster titles ‘Human
Musculature’ and said, “You see all those muscles. I don’t have them. Inside me
is just a mush of stuff around a crumbling skeleton, held together by a skin
“Don’t worry,” he said confidently, “I have
another older lady who…”
I didn’t hear the rest. I was still
sticking on the phrase, “another older lady”.
WHAT! I’m in forties not my eighties.
“Hang on,” I simpered, “Let’s back up.
Another older lady?”
“I… I… I didn’t mean it like that. Just
that she is older not that you’re another older…”
It helped that my trainer (my trainer – see
what I did there? Owning the experience.) treated me very gently after that. I
think my family had prepped him that in extreme circumstances and confronted
with things I do not like, I can run very fast out the door. In those
circumstances I can be Usain Bolt.
“What do you want out of this?” he asked.
“I want to be smaller. Everywhere. I want
to be 2 dress sizes smaller.”
“Alright,” he said firmly, “Then no more
Bar Ones and Red Bulls.”
“Hang on,” I erupted in guilt, “How do you
know about the Bar Ones?”
Children, you can’t rely on them to keep
anything a secret.
Anyway, my Reiki teacher says that if you
bless your Bar One with Reiki energy before you eat it, you just pee out all
the sugar and fat. So, really, diet food.
Look, I can be an optimist if I want to.
So, no Bar Ones. No sugar, in ANYTHING! No
potatoes, pasta or bread. Just grilled chicken and spinach for eons and eons.
If you look at it from an environmental
point of view, eating a Bar One will save the lives of hundreds of chickens.
And I have to drink protein shakes and eat
eggs. I’m going to be eating double the amount I do now. Lots more food. Lots
less variety. At the end of this, hopefully I’ll look like Chris Hemsworth.
Call me Thorina.
“I just want to get a baseline on your
flexibility and fitness,” he says.
“I can tell you that right now,” I reply, “There
isn’t one. It’s so far down below the Earth’s surface that lava flows over it.”
Somehow, he coaxed me into a public area
and began making me do stuff. Lunges, squats and lifting a bar up. Lunges are
exercises designed by BDSM practitioners. I also discovered that the weight of
a bar is relative to the amount of times you have to lift the bloody thing above
I did quite well considering my state of anxiety and growing thigh pain. Geoff, the trainer, is a sweetheart and also took into consideration my back issues, making sure that I didn’t do anything stupid to make it worse.
I think we could make a good team. However, I need small wins. I need to be able to see my pubic area again. I need to fit into my clothes again without having to get my husband or kids to force the zipper up.
I also have added incentive. If I stick with this for 12 months, my husband will pay for a boob job. I’ve long gotten rid of my early-twenties aversion to plastic surgery. I have had three kids and gravity is doing its job a little too well. Without this boob job, I’ll end up having to roll the bloody things up like a tortilla.