Thursday, 18 August 2011

Friends with Benefits (not the sexual kind for you dirty minds out there!)

Once you pass the age of, say, 30, you have enough friends, right? But if you don't have children, you occasionally let a new friends into the fold, one that you really enjoy the company of. By the same token, you cut other friends, realsing that people who make you feel stressed or depressed are not worth the emotional effort.

But when you have kids, that changes. You have to, are forced to, make new friends. Other people with kids, that live locally. I have plenty of friends, but most of them live in London, Australia and South Africa. We email, text, talk on skype and occasionally meet up. But now I have a 2 year old boy and I was forced to make friends with Local Mothers. It feels strange to me - I know I wouldn't be friends with these ladies if it wasn't for the fact that we have children the same age, and happened to attend the same baby group/toddler group. Not that there's anything at all wrong with them. They're really nice people. But we don't click on a level that I do with my 'real' friends. We pleasant and polite, talk about kids, groups etc. Moan about our husbands, money, other stuff. Basically go through the motions so my child has some local friends.

IT sounds like I'm using them - I suppose I am in a way, but I do genuinely like the ones I choose to hang out with. If anything, my main Local Mother friend uses me. Oh don't get me wrong, its a mutually beneficial relationship - but sometimes I realise that I was targeted by her for my semi-constant availability... not having any local family or friends, I am an available babysitter. She also doesn't have local family but set out to make friends in the area, started a couple of little businesses. She's very busy and highly productive (the opposite of me). But she did tell me how she targeted and ..attained some of her other friends and I can only assume she did the same with me.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

South Africa...

After 3 years away from the country, here are a few quirky things I’d forgotten about South Africa. In all honesty, they could be local to Uitenhage, the town I am staying in, so sorry if this offends the more urban South African folk out there! Its just my observations of life in this town.

1. Water tastes like water (not chemicals) and kettles have no limescale – joy! The milk is full cream … tea and coffee tastes much better. And most people have a minimum of 3 sugars in their tea and coffee... oh my.

2. The houses are tiled in every room, except the bedrooms. Great for summer, friggin freezing in the winter. Slippers required. Kitchen walls and bathroom walls are often tiled floor to ceiling.

3. Speaking of ceilings – in the living room they are often covered with strip pine boards … yes the ceiling, not the floor.

4. Dogs roam around the streets willy nilly and the sound of dogs barking is always in the background. Often one will start and then the next will get going, and soon the whole neighbourhood is a cacophony of barks and/or howls. It gets worse in windy weather or when there’s a full moon... not so great at 3 in the morning.

5. Loitering …people loiter everywhere – in doorways, on steps, at the front gate, on the footpath, under a tree (even if the tree is in the middle of the median strip on the road), outside shops, around cars, on corners … everywhere! Life is lived outside here, and it is no doubt why everyone knows everyone and their business.

6. I love this – it doesn’t always happen, only sometimes – when you are a visitor and the host serves you a cool drink, they put the glass on a saucer.

7. One ply loo roll. I go from being a 3 sheet girl to a 10 sheet girl. I know it doesn’t add up, but the toilet paper is very thin and there is nothing worse than a part of your hand breaching the paper barrier at the crucial moment.

8. A meal ain’t a meal without rice and potatoes. And chicken. Indeed, if there is someone who doesn’t eat fried chicken on a Sunday then my name is Earl. You should see the Sunday queues outside KFC for those who can’t be bothered to fry their own chicken. There’s two KFCs and a Nando’s in this town (and no McDonalds, Burger King or Pizza Hut).

9. Thumping loud music blares from most cars, and to greet a fellow driver you can hoot the horn or rev the engine, or indeed just stop in the middle of the road and have a conversation.

10. Beer is bought in quarts. Well, why would you bother with a smaller bottle?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

I've been wired - part 2

When you say ‘I’ve been wired’ where I’m from, it means someone has put a pube in your drink or food. This is not what I mean by this blog post – I haven’t been wired in that sense, thank goodness, as its quite disgusting. Its why you shouldn’t be rude to waiters.

SPOILER FOLLOWS (if you haven’t seen the 2nd series of The Wire)

So just finished watching series 2 of The Wire. It was as addictive as the first series, took a few episodes to get to know all the new characters – the dock guys. And so good to see the old undercover team back together again. Even McNulty managed to get off the boat, eventually. His boss’s vitriol towards him knows no bounds!

A special mention goes to Ziggy, the most irritating bloke in the world. But when he went all post-office-worker on their asses, couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and then seeing him in prison surrounded by all those big blokes… poor little Ziggy. Should have stuck with his street-wise cuz, Nick. It took me quite a few episodes to like Nick, but in the end I was glad he survived the series.

We even got to see what Avon and D’Angelo were up to in prison. Bit of a shocker when D’Angelo got strangled … and everyone thought he committed suicide. I didn’t believe he was gone, really. Up until the funeral. I liked D’Angelo. That Stringer had been watch out, if Avon finds out he was behind that, dead dead dead. Stringer hasn’t been following orders lately either, as a good Second should, his days are surely numbered. Though he is very clever. We’ll see I guess, next series. Bring it on BBC2, please!!!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

I've been wired

I am officially in love with Jimmy McNulty.

I know I'm slow - I've only just started watching the first series of The Wire and really, he's not that likable at first. He's abrasive, drinks too much, cheated on his wife, lives like a slob ... BUT last night we saw his vulnerable side - when his mate Kima was shot during an UC operation. He went into shock and there were tears in his eyes. Haven't even seen that side of him before, even when his wife won't let him see his kids (and we know he loves them, but he's not the most emotive guy). He's flawed, but now .. now I just want to hug him, despite his many and varied flaws!!

I guess this reflects on how the characters in The Wire are just so compelling. I love Bubbles too, I can't believe how much I like and sympathise with this guy who is a junkie and a theif and a snitch. When he tries to go clean, I'm really rooting for him, knowing full well that he'll be back on the junk and the whole cycle will start again. Still love him. I think that actor is bloody brilliant.

Which means ... the writers of the show are brilliant. I believe they are natives of Baltimore and have seen a lot of the stuff first hand. Its not a glamorous location (like CSI's Miami, NY or even Vegas). It looks worse than the bad parts of east London. But they know it and write it so well, makes you feel like its the last frontier.

The Wire is officially under my skin and I'm thrilled that there are loads more series to go! I know everyone else in the world has watched them already, but I only just found it - not even sure if its the first time its been aired in the UK. I had read good things about it which is what prompted me to record it on my skybox in the first place and give it a whirl.

My name is Sam and I'm addicted to The Wire (and Jimmy).

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Subversive Secretaries

There was a revolution in our office last week. I felt like a proper suffragette, it was quite a radical thing to do given the current economic gloom! But it started very innocently, with a few secretaries in my department deciding to boycott the firm's 'celebrate-the-new-refurbishment' drink as (1) a lot of staff have recently been made redundant and (2) the secretaries are not getting bonuses this year. For the first time ever. We didn't see there was anything to celebrate given our bonus money and pay rise money was spent on giving the offices trendy purple carpet, phallic shaped lights and green faux suede chairs. Let's just say we don't think the partners' pockets have been affected one iota.

An email went around to the secretaries on our floor and we all agreed to go out together to a local pub to avoid the celebration drinks. Somehow word spread to the other floors/departments in the firm, then across the road to our other snazzy building which has been hit the worst by redundancies.

Our lead secretary just happened to have a meeting with HR that morning and told HR how the secretaries felt and about the unofficial boycott. Well, all hell broke loose. HR immediately informed the managing partner, who called up the lead secretary for an explanation. She explained. The managing partner obviously had a word with our departmental manager (as our department was the source of the organisation of the boycott) who sent around a hastily drafted attempt at emotional blackmail with phrases like 'hard for everybody' and 'let's move forward'. This made the girls even madder and even those who had been toying with the idea of attending the drinks (just to get some free champers) decided not to. Our backs were up.

None of the secretaries attended, despite the emails from management. We sat upstairs carrying on with our work while a red-faced managing partner made the 'its difficult times, but look at our swanky office' speech. He was obviously shocked that between his power and our manager's power we still refused to attend. Not much power over us at all, then! The non-management professionals we work with thought it was great and were surprised at the strength of our stance and the impact it made. I think even they were encouraged that it is possible to impact the establishment if the workers stick together!

We have been 'invited' to a meeting with HR early next month to 'discuss any issues we may have...'

We'll see how that goes! Round 2 of redundancies perhaps!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Mad New Yorker - Oct 08

When in Rome, I didn't really do what the Romans do, unless they visit the Coliseum, get caught in a thunderstorm and buy those plastic sheet-sized blue raincoats off the hawkers and walk down the fashionable streets wearing said raincoats looking like a blue teletubby. Only Uncle Paul had sensibly brought a parker along with him and a broad brimmed hat, but me, Mum, Dad and Robyn wore the sheets with hoods. Dad is quite short and stocky anyway, so he looked virtually ball-shaped in the sheet, sporting the hood up with his cap jammed over the top. He loved looking so ...erm... unique! I was traumatised - I could see people chuckling at us - but preferred that to being cold and wet.

That afternoon, Dad and I set out to find a bar that sold pints of Guinness. Around the corner from our lodgings and a stone's throw from Vatican City we found, of all things, the Scottish Bar. And the Scottish Bar sold Guinness. Winner!

We were sitting at the bar and enjoying our quiet drink after a hard day's sightseeing, when into the bar blew John from Long Island, New York. I don't think I've ever met a born-and-bred New York native before, the accent was fantastic and so was the attitude - un-PC and didn't care who knew it! Similar to Dad - who likes straight-talkers (although in my opinion there is a fine line between 'saying-it-how-it-is' and being a rude redneck).

I'll admit, when John first approached us, I groaned inwardly - oh no, a loud American. But that was the cynical me. I admit I pre-judged the guy and for that I am ashamed. I used to be happy to chat with anyone. I wonder when I stop being like that - giving people a go before deciding yeah, they’re okay or no, I'm going over here now please don't follow me. Its probably my innate lack of ability to read people and their motives - I've found it better not to trust at first and let someone prove themselves than just letting them in, then finding out they are a psycho/user/letch etc.

John ordered his Bud from the bemused Italian bar maid and after a few minutes turned to us with his opening line "Ah, some people who speak my language!" I said, "Mate, we don't speak your language. You're American." Ignoring my cool tones, he said "Yes you do, you speak English! Everyone around here's speaking Italian!" Dad and I looked at one another - was this guy for real? Did he really just say that?

He introduced himself and I introduced myself and Dad and he says, I presume this is your husband? Dad laughed, but I was appalled and set him straight immediately. But I had to forgive him that because, the thing with John was, he was virtually blind. Perhaps he had 10-15% vision - his eyes were all floaty and squinty and crossed. He never said anything about it and nor did we, but when he wanted to shows me his train ticket to Civitavecchia Port for the following day, he ended up showing me: his entrance ticket to the Coliseum, his flight boarding pass, his metro ticket, before he pulled out the train ticket. He held each ticket right up to his nose to see it but still couldn't read it properly and asked me what each one was. But he could definitely see something, or else how do you get around Rome on your own (especially when everyone is speaking Italian) and accost virtual strangers in bars?

We chatted to John initially because we had no choice, he cornered us. But then a strange thing happened - we warmed to him. He was a fun, enthusiastic and slightly mad guy. At one stage he said to me I was lucky to still have my Dad around, as he'd lost his less than a year before. I told him I was sorry and that yes, I was lucky. That was the only time his voice lowered to a normal pitch and the animation in his face stilled.

He did hilarious impressions of the annoying woman at his work place (Camilla, I think) and told us about an Irish bar with great music in Manhattan that he loves, as I'd asked him about the Blues/Jazz scene in New York. We chatted and laughed until Dad and I had to go back to the apartment for dinner with Mum, Robyn and Paul, with instructions to pick up some milk on the way (we picked up some Italian wine too, being the opportunists that we are).

We bade farewell to John with handshakes and he grabbed us in a hug. We wished him a fabulous time on the cruise on which he was embarking the following day on his own. But someone like him will never be on his own - his friendliness, warmth and honest humanity will draw people to him. I bet he had a marvellous time and made an impression on everyone on board.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Mooching around Malta

My parents (Chrisso & Scotty) and my Aunt & Uncle (Robyn & Paul) are hardcore aussie sightseers, given that 3 out of the 4 of them are 60 or over (my mother being the exception at mid-50s) they saw and did HEAPS In their 4 week holiday in the UK/Europe that the time I spent with them - the first week and the last week of their epic journey - I was bloody knackered.

Dad would sometimes sit a day out - with back and knee complaints (he's the oldest and unfittest), or else Dad and I would slope off to the pub for a sit down and a pint if it all got too much - almost every afternoon of their final week of touring which we spent in Malta with Dad's little brother Jim. Us three would leave the other three to it.

Malta was a most interesting island. There is a lot of history to take in given it's small size; it contains ruins from 5000 years ago right up to the present day. It is overcrowded, chaotic and the roads are appalling. We loved it. The people are friendly and chilled out, you don't have to worry about your wallet getting nicked or other irritations that occur on mainland Europe. It seems to be in a bubble - almost a time warp. They even - get this - LIKE the English!! Again, very different to mainland Europe.

I arrived in Malta a day before the quartet of intrepid travellers. It was cloudy, but still warm, so Uncle Jim and I went for a wander around the local area. We stopped for coffee at a restaurant near Espinola Bay when it started to pour with rain. An old Maltese man who was fishing nearby came to shelter under our table's umbrella. He lit up a smoke and started up a conversation, explaining he had to keep fishing as he'd only caught one little fish for his dinner. He said he really had to go back and catch another one for his wife.

He told us about the big storm that came through the island a few years previous where all the boats moored in the bay came loose and battered against each other and/or sank in the rough waters. The old fisherman said that his boat ended up in one of the restaurants around the bay - a wave sent it smashing through the glass and it sat proudly in the middle of the dining area! He explained that the waves are worse nowadays because the natural rocks that used to surround the bay broke up the waves, but they are gone now, and the smooth cement man-made sea walls create no buffer at all so the waves smash into the walls at full force, creating havoc in the little bay and spraying mightily up onto the street.

But that day the rain stopped and the colourful wooden fishing boats bobbed happily in the deep blue water, and the old man went back to catch a fish for his wife's supper. Because he sure wasn't sharing his.