The Marbles and the Elephant

3324_002_Fotor ELLIE

I don’t always lose my marbles, but when I do I lose them all.

Not just the one marble.

Every single marble.

It was EPIC!

They scurry across the floor to hide in every corner and with every step I trip over one and land on my arse.

A pratfall (to fall on one’s buttocks).

Many pratfalls.

I pratfell.

 

I was handling my shit like a septic tank drainer.

I called paramedics for my mum when she broke her leg.

I took her across country to the hospital.

I packed her bags.

I checked her in.

I got her a pillow.

I finally managed after 12 hours to get her a painkiller.

I took her dog to the dogsitter.

 

And when I got home…

I saw that I had laddered my stocking.

Cue hysterical laughter.

 

And when I got ready for bed…

I realised that I had got my period.

Cue a few tears.

 

And when I got to work in the morning…

I realized I was once more in the wrong place and the wrong time.

Cue total breakdown.

 

I mean total losing of shit.

No pretty romance novel sniffles this.

Nope. Full on gulping sobs, rivers of snot and rising vomit.

Total and complete eradication of all dignity.

I gave up and went home, took some anxiety meds and slept for 8 hours.

 

Cue Monday.

I was dreading the walk of shame.

And…

No-one said a thing.

Not a peep.

Nothing.

It’s not like I didn’t just fall apart at the seams scattering marbles (of which I don’t have any to spare at the best of times) all over the faux wood floor.

They just handed me back a few marbles that I had managed to miss and we all carried on like nothing had happened.

Not bad for a girl who thought she might sent off to one of those places where they rehabilitate drug addicts and marble losers.  A girl, who for a few hours in the dead of night, saw being medically boarded as the next event horison.

Me and my invisible pink spotted-elephant just shrugged and got back to work.

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Sometime at Segaia

3324_001_Fotor DANE

The city smog was oppressive.

The sounds of police sirens and house alarms deafening.

It was time.

I Googled.

I made some calls.

I packed the bags.

And decamped to the bush.

Dragging along 3 teenage boys, 1 tween-ager (is that a word? It should be) and the spouse.

We ended up at Segaia Bush Retreat in the Dinokeng reserve only an hour out of the city and perfectly placed to take 2 teenagers to rowing training at 7am at Roodeplaat Dam.

I was Jafar finding the diamond in the rough. Segaia Bush Retreat took the role of Aladdin. Google starred as the genie (with the same noir humour as Robin Williams).

I don’t exactly know what I was expecting. Maybe a lumpy old double bed, a dusty bunk bed and a mildewed sleeper couch?

This was nothing like that.

It was out of my wildest dreams.

  • A massive two-storey lodge.
  • A huge kitchen.
  • Three bathrooms.
  • A lounge.
  • A fireplace.
  • A TV room.
  • A king-sized bed.
  • A double bed.
  • Two single beds.

And a place I want to live in forever.

Check out our accommodation!

We wandered around in a sort of daze, finding a swimming pool, a little watering hole for impala and kudu. A chorus of frog song. And stars. All the stars the city lights drown out with their garish hunger for attention.

Teenage rowers 1 and 2, and I, watched the sun rise in all its splendour at 5:30am. We sat in a traffic jam of impala who stared balefully at us for 20 minutes. I abandoned the boys and raced back to Nirvana.

Eventually, a small girl and an enormously tall beanpole of a teenager wandered out into the garden.

So, we did what everyone does.

We explored.

Cup of tea in hand, toast in my son’s and a strawberry smoothie clasped in my daughter’s we meandered along a path into the veld.

And then we were almost run down by very intense mountain bikers with one energy bar and a bottle of water.

I minced along with my teacup, because that’s how I hike for an hour and a half!

By Sunday afternoon I was already sinking into grief that we had to leave.

“Did you see many animals?” asked the Lodge Manager.

“Actually,” I said, “Funny you should ask, but… after I had marinated steaks all day and had just put them on the fire, an enormous black shadow detached itself from the gloom. It slunk undetected into our midst and in a single breath inhaled six PERi-PERi steaks before diving back into the night.”

“Oh,” he said, “Ah.”

“Ah?” I asked.

“That would have been the Great Dane.”

Ah, indeed.

Anyway, I was so blissed out that I didn’t even care very much, I just took out some extra stuff and we ate that instead.

And the whole shebang cost me?

R1,800 a night for 6 people.

If you need a weekend’s retreat take a click over to: http://www.segaia.co.za/

Rowing Chronicles: SA Champs Day 3

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There’s a strange sort of feeling one gets after the end of something huge. Something between elation of the moment and the despair that it’s all too illusory.

You want to reach out and grab one specific second and hold it all your life – a moment of glory too great to put into words. A single split second when you rule the world.

SA Champs is the culmination of months and years of training. Sacrifices of sleeping in late, hanging out with friends, dating a girl, just chilling. The aches, the blisters, the pain, the tears and utter physical and emotional exhaustion.

It’s all worth it for that moment when you cross the line and the shoreline erupts and you know you’ve made it.

The medals are great. The personal realisation that everything you’ve done has paid off is better. And the knowledge that no matter where you came, you competed against the best in the country and finished the course.

Sometimes, I have more respect for the boats that come in last than the ones who come in first. The grit and determination it takes to carry on and finish, still giving your all, take enormous courage and sportsmanship.

Coaches, rowers, officials and family have all invested so much in making this spectacular weekend a real celebration of rowing in South Africa – and they all deserve a gold for sheer tenacity.

Now, we’re all home in our own beds and slowly the peaks of elation and nadirs of despair will fade into memory.

For a few weeks we’ll enjoy sleeping in, catching up on Netflix and doing all the stuff we’ve been putting off for the season.

Then, slowly, creeping in like mist upon the early morning water will come a crazy desire, a need, to have it all start over again.

 

 

Rowing Chronicles: SA Champs Day 2

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Once more into the breach dear friends, once more.

Imagine a sandpit, a small sandpit, much like you might have had as a child.

Imagine the sandpit contains only one grain of sand.

Now imagine that you took every speck of sand from a beach and put in that sandpit.

Exactly.

That’s what it’s like when you put every rowing child, team and parent into a very very small space at Roodeplaat Rowing Club at SA Champs.

An exercise in quantum physics.

By Day 2 the heat is getting to everyone.

Competition is intense.

Pain, exhaustion, hope, despair and ecstasy is etched on every face.

Those staying over in campsites, tents and lodges are wishing for their own beds.

Those commuting in are wishing they had booked somewhere to stay.

In a certain home of an unnamed rowing mother, the washing up is piling in the sink, dirty laundry is exploding out of hampers and the dogs are forgetting what their people even look like. Said dogs have spent the last 48 hours learning how to take the lid off the dog food and feeding themselves rather than having to wait.

One more day.

Nanoseconds in the greater scheme of life, but for those on the water, those nanoseconds stretch for eternity.

Rowing Chronicles: SA Champs Day 1

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The Sun was just thinking about getting out of bed. He was lying there pondering the peculiarities of people who row.

He wondered vaguely, as one does, in that time between sleep and awake, why on earth these people refused to acknowledge the natural ebb and flow of day and night.

Clearly, they should still be tucked up in bed, waiting for an alarm to go off, only to be silenced 3 or 4 times.

Yet, at 4am, all over the city, parents were gulping coffee, blearily trying to make hearty breakfasts, herd children to cars and make futile attempts to slather them in sunscreen.

Rowing turns normal people into extraordinary ones on a good day and just crazy people on most days. On the weekend of the SASRU South African Championships that is amplified.

Other parents have children who do sport.

They can go off to a match or event, pop out to do some shopping and maybe fit in a manicure.

Rowing parents can’t do that.

Largely, because we schlep far far away from urban living and then spend 8 hours waiting around for 6 minutes of intense action.

We have that 1000-yard stare you find in old war photos – a result of ‘hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror’.

We live for that adrenaline rush – on edge, fiercely competitive, even more protective and horrible torn between wanting to see our offspring go into the finals and that end-of-season longing to just go home and sleep.

Well, the season is almost done and day 1 of the SA Champs is over – and every rowing parent (and their children) are making that final push before floudnerig around trying to figure out what normal people do on weekends.

 

#TMAT: The Towel

Big girl panties - 1 (1)

 

What is the most insane thing you’ve ever done in a crisis?

This question greeted me this morning as I popped over to Joelle‘s to see what prompt she’d thrown at the world.

I sat here, staring at the blinking cursor trying to alight on just one story out of a lifetime of crises and poorly thought out decisions.

And then I remembered… The Towel

The Towel. Named in true Alfred Hitchcock fashion – seemingly benign, but rich with the shadows of hell.  Once I started recalling the nightmare I found I couldn’t stop. 120-words was not enough to convey the extent of it.

The Towel

It was a cold day.

One when every breath transforms you into a dragon.

The girl was cold.

She ran a bath.

She was 10.

She was also creative in a way that either ends in brilliance or… well, doesn’t.

She stoked up the anthracite heater and placed a towel across it. She imagined the warm soft cocoon that would envelope her when she emerged Venus-like from the bubbles and steam. She sunk into the warm depths and dozed.

The smoke alarm went off.

The girl leapt from the bath, not so much like Venus, more like an electrocuted hippo.

Then a lot of things happened in the space between seconds that seems to stretch for an eternity of slow motion horror.

The towel burned.

The dogs barked.

The gate opened.

Mother was home.

This was a Disaster.

Panicked, the girl desperately grasped for a solution.

Her mind lit on the first one and she committed herself without any further interrogation of possible options.

She grabbed the towel and flung in the cupboard.

Her wooden cupboard.

She slammed the door.

Mother walked in following her nose. The house reeked of smoke.

The girl put on what she thought was a suitably innocent face and denied all knowledge of the source of the odor.

Mother looked in the room.

Mother and the girl saw tendrils of smoke slinking like some slumbering octopus reaching out its arms to seek escape from the cupboard.

Mother did not hesitate. Mothers, in general, don’t. Mothers are good in a crisis.

She flung the door open, grabbed the flaming mass and threw it into the bath.

Then she came back and threw the contents of the cupboard into the bath too.

“Oh,” thought the girl idly, watching this, “Wish I’d thought of that. It’s obvious now.”

Then the mother made herself a big cup of tea, wondering vaguely if it were too early for wine.

 

 

When bad things happen to sort-of okay moms

Big girl panties - 1

Once upon a time there was a mom.

Sometimes, she liked to think she was a goodish mom.

Sometimes, she just couldn’t even.

This time is one of those times.

Right now, at this precise moment, she would get a F, or a more PC ,Failure to meet Requirements grade by the maternal inquisitorial squad. This squad, however, is unable to provide any more punishment than she is current undergoing and they’re standing around holding their G&Ts and laughing.

This mom, we’ll just call her Mom with a capital letter, is currently having a crisis of faith, a breakdown or a fit of hysterics, depending on your point of view. She may also be tottering on the brink of calling time-out and spending the rest of the day (week, year or life) in the nearest adults-only bar with G&T on tap.

Mom knows that she extremely privileged to have three beautiful children, a husband and her mother close by. She knows that many parents struggle by on their own against impossible odds. She has enormous respect and awe for these persons. They are much better at adulting, clearly.

Currently, however, her gratitude is somewhat marred by:

  • One child with concussion due to having his head beaten repeatedly against a wall at school, who has to row at SA Champs on Friday. R4000 later of CT scans and neurologists and cortisone.
  • One boat that has somehow to be magically levitated to said regatta.
  • One rowing coach having several litters of kittens, none of which I can offer homes to.
  • One child with tonsillitis.
  • One husband in Zambia sending WhatsApps and then Facebook messages saying the same thing in staccato one word bursts – Not. Unlike. Captain. Kirk. Of. Star. Trek.
  • One mother in hospital.
  • One father in the UK sending beautiful photos of his serene front lawn covered in perfectly white snow.
  • One father-in-law nearing the final bridge between this world and the next.
  • One blocked drain.
  • One dead dishwasher.
  • One enormous wall cabinet taking up the entire width of the garage fallen over erupting tools and bits of car engine all over the floor and teetering on its last legs before succumbing to gravity.
  • One sleepover-birthday-party-with-7-small-girls hangover. NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER AGAIN EVER!
  • One English speech on idioms due for tomorrow.
  • And her job. Let’s not forget her actual 9 to 5, salary-paying JOB! Which, right now, is the least stressful part of her life. At least she knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it by.

Mom is reaching the very end of her tether.

Mom is losing her shit.

Actually, she’s not, because her shit can’t be lost down the blocked drain.

Mom is drowning in shit.

On the outside Mom looks pretty well put together, but inside – inside the elastic of her big girl panties is about to snap, leaving the bloomers around her ankles, tripping her up so that she lands on her face – smoosh.

Mom’s friend took her out for coffee and for a short, blissful hour, Mom pretended the shit did not exist. She sat in the eye of the storm watching cattle, rowing boats, shopping bags and other detritus whirling past, lit every few moments by another strike of lightning.

Then Mom, went back to the real world.

Her cellphone was having an epileptic fit.

Rowing Child with Concussion and Rowing Coach with Kittens were sending frantic WhatsApps to Mom who was on the other side of the city, while trying to find each other in a 20-meter radius.

Mom sent each one the other’s phone number and declined to be a call center agent in India trying to fix someone’s problem in Argentina while liaising with a technician in Japan.

Mom has called a plumber.

Mom has given out medication to children.

Mom is jittery from a diet of pure caffeine, because who has time for food anyway.

Mom is turning off her cellphone and logging out of Facebook.

Mom is seriously considering climbing under her desk, building a pillow fort and humming to herself until it all goes away.

And then Mom will get up, put on lipstick, pull on her big girl panties and fake-it-til-she-makes-it – again.

One day, Mom knows, someone in charge will realise that she is hopelessly under-qualified for this.

By then, she’ll either have it down or be pretending to ride a unicorn in a nice padded cell somewhere with pretty coloured pills for breakfast, lunch and supper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rowing Chronicles: The last stretch

It’s reached that part of the season where rowers and parents alike are on their last legs. Tempers are fraying, sunburn is peeling and everyone longs for a weekend off.

No such luck.

SA Champs is looming at the end of the month and the pressure is on.

The Wemmer Regatta at Roodeplaat Rowing Club this weekend was the penultimate to the one we’ve all being working towards.

Our crews have trained so hard, given up so much and keep giving so much. I know they cannot help but give 120% and wish them all the best.

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VLC Rowing!

The Wemmer Regatta at Roodeplaat Rowing Club took place over the weekend. The weather was amazing, the VLC rowers even more so. From young to old, medals were won and a lot of fun was had. Watching this club grow over the last few months has been incredible with the indomitable Karen bringing in young rowers, giving them a shoulder to cry on and plenty of positive motivation. It also helps that she always brings hot coffee for the weary and sunburned rowing parents!

 

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The end of the world

teenager - 1

 

Bring a teenager sucks. I’m not old that I can’t remember it – the existential angst, the belief that the world revolved around you and that everything was deeply unfair and designed to thwart you at every turn.

Honestly, how my parents didn’t abandoned my self-absorbed ass on a pavement I still don’t comprehend. I suppose it really is proof of their love for me.

I’m in a bit of a fix you see…

My son and I were supposed to jet off for a mini-break this weekend so he could visit his BFF and I could wander down memory lane. That was until his sports coach gave birth to several litters of kittens this morning. And I can’t blame him.

I really thought we’d be okay. I thought we’d maybe miss one training session, but rowing season is heading for the Grande Finale and him going on a jaunt this weekend would blow his chances of being in the A boat.

Now, I have to face going home to tell him that we’re postponing our trip. It’s actually a good idea, this weekend would have been crazy and if we go in a few weeks we can stay a little longer and he can actually spend time with his best bud.

Still, I know the look on his face will drive daggers through my heart.

Being rationale is not a symptom of being a teenager.

I pondered giving him a choice, but the truth is, I know the choice he’d make would be the wrong one.

Many moons ago I did ballet. I loved it. I was good at it. Then one sunny day I told my mother I wanted to hang out at a friend’s house. She gave me the choice to see my friend and say cheers to ballet or go to ballet. I chose my friend and have regretted it ever since.

The level of competition in school boy sport has become all encompassing. I don’t know how these kids cope. I struggle through a deadline driven 8-hour a day job and he’s up at 5am and crashing in exhaustion at 10:30pm every single day.

I tried to explain that a year may seem endless right now, but by the time he hits 40, will be a blink of an eye.

That the guy climbing Everest has times when he doubts every choice that led him there. When he wants to give up and go home. When he’s cold and hungry and tired. Even when he’s scared. And many do. They go home. But the ones that carry on trudging step by step make it to the most beautiful view on the world and accomplish something intangibly powerful.

I want him to find that hard-headed stubbornness and push on through, but at the same time I want to hold him close and make it all better.

I suppose that’s what being a parent is all about – loving them enough to know when to make unpopular decisions for their greater good. I know he’ll only understand many years from now and that for the foreseeable future I’ll be persona non grata.

So for right now, I’ll just offer some silent gratitude to my parents for the unpopular decisions, for the times I ranted and raged, for giving me choices and consequences and for loving me despite everything.

 

 

 

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