Shots fired

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“There’s a little incident downstairs.”

Incident: an instance of something happening; an event or occurrence.

E.g. “several amusing incidents”

There was nothing amusing about the ‘incident’.

Also, it wasn’t an incident.

It was a bloody (literally) armed robbery.

Not the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.

When we set out to go to the gym, I hardly thought that doing cardio was life or death training. It was just something horrible I had to suffer through in order to drop a dress size. That’s how trivial my thought processes were on Sunday morning.

When the gym lady said, “There’s a little incident downstairs’, it did not, in any way, convey that a gang of 5 armed robbers were shooting at people.

So, we went downstairs.

And the pharmacy was closed.

So, we walked to another one.

That’s when the shooting started.

That’s was when the screaming started.

And the running.

Turns out that even when my legs feel like overcooked noodles, I can run quite quickly when the situation calls for it.

All the shops slammed the doors shut and watched the panicked masses run past, banging on the doors only to be denied entry.

We hung a right and dived into the Nespresso kiosk.

Hearts pounding, we tried to catch our breath and not panic.

In fact, the lack of panic was quite strange. We were all very calm – eerily calm.

Hanging a right turned out to be an extremely beneficial decision. The robbers went left. A split second choice that could have ended quite differently.

As we made it out of the danger zone we met someone we knew.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“There’s an armed robbery and shooting.”

“But, can I go to Woolworths?”

“Um. No. It’s all locked down.”

“But, I just want pick up some groceries.”

Silence, as we absorbed this.

“Well, this is very inconvenient.”

Yeah, it was for us too.

Also, I imagine for the security guard who was shot and the robber who was killed, the other who was injured and the three who got away.

In mitigation, sometimes in such a dire situation you cling to the mundane like a small piece of driftwood in a tsunami.  

One upside from being denied entry into the stores, was that we managed to extricate ourselves pretty quickly from the chaos. Unlike the shoppers who found themselves locked in for the next 3 hours and who had to step over the discarded AK47s and the body.

As we sat in the corner of the Nespresso kiosk, all I could think was, “How very American”. It’s not really, but shootings seem to have made it into mass culture as an American thing. I didn’t even realise I had this stereotype until that moment. It all seems far too close to home for comfort, and I live in a city that competes annually for ‘Murder capital of the world’.

We arrived home.

I opened a bottle of wine.

And I drank it.

I don’t even like wine.

It gives me heartburn.

But, not nearly as much as being caught up in a jewelry heist.

Read the news report

“Gauteng police have launched a manhunt after armed men stormed a jewellery store in Bedford Centre in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. In an ensuing shootout with mall security, one suspect was killed.

According to Community Policing Forum chairperson, Gavin Henry, five men entered the shopping centre holding AK47 firearms when a security guard spotted them and raised the alarm.

“One of the entrance guards noticed them entering with their weapons and called in on the radio an armed robbery. One of the tactical guys responded and they started shooting at him first. He returned fire and the rest fled,” Henry explained.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said the suspect was declared dead on the scene.

“One security officer was rushed to hospital after he was allegedly hit by one of the suspects as the latter fled the scene,” she added. She said the suspects made off in two vehicles and [took] some watches. It’s unclear at this stage what the make and the value of the watches are. 

“Police recovered on the scene a rifle – AK47 – with two loaded magazines. The firearm will be subjected to ballistic testing for further investigation,” Peters said. 

In the video, which was posted on the Facebook group Intelligence Bureau SA, shots suddenly go off as people can be heard screaming in the background.

No other fatalities have been reported besides but some shoppers were treated for shock.”


So, your kid wants to row…

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 sunrises.

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.

Having 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 home.

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.

Folding chairs. You’ll quickly discover the pros and cons of every brand and design of folding chair.

Regatta 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 a race.

The 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.

Talking 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.

Watching 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.

Rowing 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.

There are parents.

Then there are rowing parents.

Ask yourself. Are you up for it?

Now you see it. Now you don’t.


Things like this happen to other people. They don’t happen to me.

And when other people share their experiences, I’m happy to lend an ear and shoulder to cry on.

But, when it happens to me, it comes as a very unwelcome shock.

I got pick-pocketed. Or maybe pick-handbagged? I don’t know the right expression for it.

There I was happily shopping in Cotton On Eastgate. I had spotted a Guns and Roses hoodie, I quite liked and was simultaneously trying to keep preteen girl on a leash and a budget.

So, yes, I was distracted.

“Oh,” said a pretty young girl on my right, “I think that’s the last one, that lady over there, (pointing), was also looking for one.”

I followed her pointing finger and felt the lady on the right bump into me.

I assumed this was my fault and looked into her eyes to apologize.

Her eyes were, in retrospect, a little like looking into these of a deer caught in headlights.

Then I noticed that my bag was open and without thinking just closed it and moseyed along.

It was only when I wanted to check Waze to avoid any traffic snarl-ups did I become aware that my phone had done a vanishing act.

Telling me that there’s a syndicate in the mall who do this regularly and that your second cousin twice removed was robbed there on Tuesday doesn’t help.

Neither does my cellphone providers stupid instructions on how to report my phone stolen, all of which require a bloody cellphone to do.

Or the store’s total unwillingness to check their security feeds.

Now, I have to schlep to the cop station at lunch and get a case number having to endure their pitying looks and judgement for being such a moron all the while.

Hence, I followed the stages of grief.

Denial: This can’t be right. I must have left it somewhere or it’s fallen out in the car.

Anger: That bitch stole my phone! I feel so violated.

Bargaining: If I get it back I will be a good girl and always read my WhatsApps and answer calls.

Depression: This is all my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. Why aren’t all people nice?

Acceptance: I am up the creek without a paddle, navigating a digital world with an analogue compass. I’m going to have get a new phone.




Food for Thought 2018

I have my box.

It’s a comfy sort of box.

It’s a protect me from the storm sort of box.

It’s a cozy box even if it is a little cramped.

And it doesn’t have a view.

Okay, I hate my little box, but I stay there because outside is more than a little scary.


People are always saying, “Think out of the box”.

It wasn’t until last Tuesday I heard, “Forget the box. There is no box.”

Damn straight.


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I was lucky enough to attend Ads24 Food for Thought 2018 event. It wasn’t only brilliant and eye-opening, but it forced me to evaluate my life and whether safety and boredom are really an adequate substitute for danger and excitement. I realise that I may have got too big for my box.


Between Dawie Roodt, Chief Economist for the Efficient Group, Prof. Nick Binedell, and scenario planner, Clem Sunter, my (usually goldfishlike) attention was caught in a web.


My box blew to smithereens.


Things are changing, our world is moving back to a pure economics, supply and demand model.


That the way we’ve been doing things like giving away our power to banks and governments and career politicians is short sighted and short lived.


For the first time I saw Donald Trump, not as sign of the idiocy of the human race, but as global movement against career politics. A stand against bureaucracy. Maybe, he isn’t the right face, but he sure as hell is shaking things up.


It’s time to create your own job, not rely on someone else to find a box to fit you into.

It’s time for an Armageddon, a paradigm shift.

Either you reach our grab it and ride that wave with sheer adrenaline or you drown.


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:

Tourist at home

Johannesburg is my home. I know where to get the best coffee, the best mechanic for a Aircooled VW and where to find a 50s dress with flamingos on it.

However, I’ve never seen the city from the point of view of a visitor.

I suppose, much like New Yorkers who have never been to the Statue of Liberty. There are things that you know of, but don’t actually see as part of your everyday reality.

Looking for something to do we jumped on the Joburg Sightseeing bus tour and set off from Rosebank for a tour of Egoli. And, I realized that tourists probably know more about the history of the place than most of its residents!

Constitution Hill

Street art

Johannesburg is well known for its vibrant street art, and traveling around by bus gave me a great opportunity to snap away as we rode by. If you want a more tailored street art experience contact Past Experiences (

People, places, faces

As a city of so many people, so many cultures and such a radical divide between haves and have-nots, the tour offers quite a juxtaposition between the two extremes.

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.


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.

Welcome to Death Row



Guess what I got for Christmas?

No, not tail lights. That was last year.

Not a blender, or a kettle, or an oven. We’ve covered those.

I got a rowing machine!

When my son’s Rowfit trainer asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I blithely replied that I had bought myself some killer shoes so I could be sure of getting something I really wanted. I didn’t take his little laugh and side-eye too seriously.

I should have.

On Christmas morning, Firstborn and I were led through the garden and into the cottage. I use the term ‘cottage’ loosely. It seems to have been intended as a cottage, but the previous owners got bored halfway through.

We were a little concerned.

What on earth was up there?

We were gobsmacked. I was overjoyed. And then terrified. Very very terrified.

Before I could start, I needed a name.

So, much to my son’s dismay, I conducted a little internet poll on naming options.

Yes, I name things. My car is Bella, because like my Great Granny, she keeps on going. The red car is Funny, because she’s like a little clown car.

What to call the ergometer.

Yes, rowing machines are for gyms, ergometers are for rowers. Apparently, it’s as uncool to call an ergo a rowing machine as it’s to call scuba fins, flippers or (my favourite) frogfeet.

The results are in:

  • The garden cottage is now officially called, Death Row. (I’m getting a sign made!).
  • The erg is a little harder. Top contenders were: Pennywise, WTF and The Destroyer of Dreams (DOD).

My husband wanted a name that sounded really sweet like a My Little Pony character with a hidden dark psychopathic side.

The first week of exercise went really well, until the doctor said that I had managed to spread the infection from my ill conceived ear piercing around my entire body resulting in a finger the size of a pork sausage from a tiny little cut. Since then. It’s been hard to get back in the saddle.

Also, my husband gets a Google Update from Concept 2 everyday with a new exercise routine. He WhatsApps it to me, SMSes it to me and Facebook Messengers it to me. This irks me. And when I’m irked, I put down roots and am incapable of movement.

(I love that word – irks. It sums up that space between mildly annoyed but not yet really annoyed. I am irked. It is irksome.)

Actually, despite what I thought, I rather enjoy it. I get home, change into my “active wear’ and hit Death Row. Then I crank up my Harry Potter audio book and row for 30 minutes.

Then I lie on the floor and cry . It’s very cathartic. Eventually, a spawn will come and check on me, unplaster me from the floor and half guide, half carry me to the house. And then I feel very very virtuous.

Then, my son sees the computer output on the DOD and shudders with suppressed laughter at my agony.

Then I feel less virtuous and more pathetic, until I remind myself that I am a mother of three in her forties, not a super fit 16 year old with Olympic dreams. Then I feel okay.

Sometimes, I beat the DOD.

Sometimes, it kicks my ass.

Mainly, it kicks my ass.

And I’m irked that I don’t look anything like Demi Moore in GI Jane yet.

In the meantime, Firstborn propels the DOD across the floor with every stroke. O think we may have to concrete it in there.


The Rowing Chronicles – Part 6

Rowing Chronicles


What sounds like a great idea on a sunny Friday afternoon does not seem to be so brilliant in the cold grey dawn of a Sunday morning. Then, it seems like insanity.

Firstborn son and I hit the road and headed off to Hartebeespoort Dam at sparrow’s fart on Sunday morning to join my cousins, Tim and Wendy, for a morning of rowing.

Family is a strange and fascinating enigma. Something happens when you’re together and time and age disappears. The cousin who once bribed me with Caramello Bears now bribed me with me coffee to get me back on the water post my near-death experience.

Aside: I know I was really nowhere near death, but it doesn’t make a good story. Good stories are told when the truth is given scope – and scope I shall give it.

For me coffee and rowing are inseparable. They cannot be rowing without coffee. Lots and lots of coffee pots. Cousin Tim and Wendy have an innate understanding born of genetics and rowing that I was clearly not moving my ass until I’d had coffee.

Now, firstborn son was rather apprehensive about rowing me – an apprehension I shared since for some reason I cannot row a damn in front of him. I crack under the pressure of wanting to impress him. Nonetheless we waded into the cold and seated ourselves in an open water double.

My first-time in an open water boat and what a pleasure! It’s wide and comfy and stable! Also, it didn’t have those stupid shoes I hate, but velcro straps instead. So, no panic stricken foot claustrophobia.

Firstborn son is an amazing coach. He was utterly patient, brilliantly insightful and gave me not an inch. He made me practice techniques over and over, forced my back straight, kept me in rhythm and never made me feel like an idiot. (If only we could bring this attitude home, where like every mother of every teenager ever, I am the most stupid person alive!)

Also, his sense of humour slays me. If it wasn’t for the open water boat design I would have capsized from laughing so hard. I can’t wait to row with him again.

There are some unpleasant truths about rowing no-one speaks of. I suppose they’re considered taboo, but once you’re out there they will at some point need to be dealt with. I spent much of my recovery time asking the hard questions.

FARTING: All that core holding expels gas – backwards – into the face of the poor sap behind you. You can try to hold it in, but it will get harder and harder and eventually hot air must rise. The trick is to wait until you’ve got speed up and hope the cloud of methane swirls around you and dissipates rapidly on either side of your head without asphyxiating you.

PEEING: All that coffee! Firstborn informs me that when nature comes calling, the crew either pees off the side or just jumps into the water and leaps back in like a floundering salmon. Neither works for me, so here the trick is to pee before you get on the water.

NEWTON’S 3RD LAW: You need to know and absorb this one. It may seem awesome to test your race pace up the river for 2kms, but know this – you will have to come back down again. My approach is to take it slow up the course and race pace it down so you at least can get back to dry land without dying.

TIPPING: Having discovered this unpleasantness I can say with absolute sincerity, do not take anything with you in the boat you can’t afford to see sink. Even if you have your phone in a little plastic baggy you could well watch it sink into the netherworld, so rather leave it behind.

CREW: Row with a cool crew. You need to trust and respect the folks in the boat. You need to be able to laugh, have fun and enjoy yourself. There is absolutely no point setting yourself adrift with people you even mildly dislike. And despite all men (and women) being created equal, a crew is not a democracy – follow the damn stroke!

Tim and Wendy are off soon to the 2017 World Rowing Masters Regatta in Slovenia, which looks incredible! As well as being brilliant cousins they also make coastal and recreational rowing sculls.

They’ve been rowing since forever and have represented South Africa internationally and won many national titles in various boats at various levels and currently are active oarsmen (oarspeople?)

Good luck guys and thanks for having us over!