The Short-lived Shorts

I wanted to look different. You know those days? When you’re just bored of your same old self?

So I pulled out the pair of shorts. The ones I swore I would wear when I felt like feeling different. When I felt like being brave. The ones that still had the tag on. From three years ago.

These little babies had lived in four different countries, but had never seen any of them. It was time.

Now before you start picturing me on a street corner with ripped fishnets and transparent twelve-inch heels, they weren’t exactly those kind of shorts. Ok, so you still wear them with tights and just-below-the-knee boots, which I did. But the classier versions.

My mirror self looked my real self up and down. “Yeah, this is advertising agency-appropriate. I can pull this off,” they thought simultaneously, and off to work we went.

Not really being one for the limelight, I had to give myself a much-needed pep talk in the car. “Own the look!” my mouth said to my head. So, on arrival, I took confident strides down the runway (I mean passageway) that divides our office. And as I did, so too did my boss.

As if in slow motion, his arm left the side of his body, his finger pointed to the ceiling and gestured a swiveling motion.

I twirled, landing in an awkward fashion-y pose. He looked uncomfortable. And then said, “Um, can you turn around and go to my office. I need you to proofread something for me.

I looked uncomfortable.

Blinded by the total ‘blindness’ of it all, I sat at my desk wishing the world would swallow me up, along with my bad-decision shorts, and spit me out into an alternate universe where the other me had just stuck with her normal, everyday attire.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. This world clearly had more in store for me and my shorts, because just then my phone rang.

It was my domestic worker. With an emergency. The cat we had spent months trying to convince that life within the confines of our walls was so much better than outside of them, had finally made a break for it. And now she was out there. There amongst the Bo Kaap gangster bobcats, with her soft, pink paws and fluffy, groomed tail. Prissy, pampered Oliver*. There was no telling what they would do to her.

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“Just let me out of here, dammit!”

So I raced back. And without hesitation began to walk the Bo Kaap streets in my shorts, tights, and just-below-the-knee boots. In a mostly Muslim area? At lunch time. On a Friday.

I was faced with the ultimate catch-22. I needed to call for my cat, but every yell of “Oliver” only garnered more attention. In next to no time I had brought every disapproving, head-shaking curtain twitcher out of hiding within a five-block radius, and gathered an army of inquisitive youths.

I had inadvertently become the Pied Piper (in shorts, tights and just-below-the-knee boots). Without the pipe. Or the sadistic tendencies towards children.

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I needed this situation to come to an abrupt halt. I needed to get out of this advertising-appropriate, but Bo Kaap-inappropriate outfit. And I needed to find my cat. There was only one thing to do.

Mobilise the troops.

Within seconds of the promise of a sweet reward (literally) I had a chaotically organised search party. Oliver’s, name was being sung by a cacophony of unbroken voices, and there were little people everywhere. The very tops of trees were rustling with intent, gardens were being ransacked and no wall was safe.

It was quite a sight. And one that must have scared the living daylights out of Oliver, because she came bounding down a hot tin roof with a look in her eyes that seemed to beg forgiveness and plead “Save me,” all at the same time.

One of the littlest little ones nabbed her before her feet could touch the ground. Most of the street erupted into applause and shrieks of delight as he presented her to me. The rest of them still shook their heads and ‘tutted’ under their breath.

I turned an unattractive shade of scarlet, waved awkwardly at my audience, and let my shorts take their final bow before announcing full retirement.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the feline involved.

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Oh, the shame!

 

 

 

 

Not Another Peep

I’m back. I have to apologise for the radio silence, but I had the minor challenge of birthing a child to attend to. Anyway, that’s done. I’m fab, if a little flabby. And he, well, he is just perfection.

STOP!

Wait just one more sentence before you hit that little ‘X’, and you’ll see that I’ve decided to spare you the details of every new gurgle and cooh. I have, instead, decided to tell you about the time I arrived home to a house filled with hot, thick summer air…

It was just sitting there being its suffocating self. Something I was becoming fairly accustomed to. It’s what happens when you live in a tin-roofed Bo Kaap house and the temperature soars above 30.

I went around flinging open all the windows and doors. It sluggishly began to saunter out, making room for the BANG, DOOF, DSH that unexpectedly bombarded its way in.

“No! That can’t have been. Surely not. Not in my neighbourhood. Not right next door. Please say it’s not…” DSH, DSH, BANG. “…drums.”

The thing about the houses in Bo Kaap is that they’re like snuggle buddies. Personal space was clearly not an issue for the pioneer Bo Kaap peeps who laid the first bricks all those years ago. It’s handy if you want to nip over to your neighbour to borrow a cup of brown sugar. But if said neighbour’s playing, I don’t know, let’s say, DRUMS, then it’s kind of like they’re sitting in your living room laughing in your face while doing it.

It’s not pleasant.

The windows trembled with every BANG, DOOF and my mind started going mental. “How long is this going to go on for? What if it’s everyday? What if it’s everyday until 3 in the morning? What of it’s everyday until 3 in the morning and he’s tone deaf or can’t hold a beat? Should I complain? Should I call the police? Maybe I should just… move?”

Just as I had resigned myself to the fact that I had no other option but to put my house on the market, a bass guitar started to loosen up its strings. The intruding CRASH, BOOM, BANG then promptly fell into a rhythm and all of a sudden I was in the cheap seats at a Cranberries concert with a brick wall instead of a ‘brick shit house’ obscuring my view.

OK, so maybe I overreacted. Slightly.

This wasn’t too bad. This wasn’t too bad at all. The first song was leaning on the edge of old school, but the man redeemed himself with the next. And the next. And the next. I applauded loudly from my kitchen between chopping chicken and draining peas. Then just as it became far more preferable to pour another glass of wine than finish cooking dinner, it stopped. I glanced at the time, it was a very respectable 8 o’clock.

So started the Summer Sessions with Bo Kaap’s ‘Faceless Neighbour and his (and I’m assuming here) Funky Bunch.’

From that evening on, Wednesdays became a treat. We started to plan our social calendar around them, declining invitations out, preferring rather to invite people round so they too could enjoy a glass of wine whilst listening to Bo Kaap’s finest. No cover charge needed. We even went as far as to holler out requests (after one too many glasses usually) which at times were even entertained.

Then came the show of all shows. The Faceless Neighbour performed his heart out, giving it everything he had for an enthusiastic audience of 4. That was just before the Cape Town Idols auditions took place. Funny that, we haven’t heard a peep since.

Coincidence? Maybe.

Um, hello, my boobs are up here

“You’re getting big!” my neighbour yelled from his balcony across the road. He illustrated this with elaborate arm gestures that outlined what appeared to be an imaginary Michelin Man, followed by exaggerated cheek inflations.

Nice. So very nice.

Most people have a regulator that stops the brutish sentiments that come from the mind before they actually make it to the mouth. It’s there for a reason. To uphold the appropriate social norms of society thus preserving what is commonly known as the ‘relationship’.

That filter seems to mysteriously vanish around pregnant women. Yes I’m pregnant, and before you think I’m about to go all ‘My Pregnancy Weekly’ in this blog space, you need to know that is not my intention. There are just a few things I need to get off my ever-enlarging chest. So bear with me.

It’s a crazy thing, expanding. One day you wake up, look down and you can’t see your vajayjay anymore. Next it’s your ankles, and so on. People suddenly start looking at your stomach before they look at your face. It’s like your body parts are competing for attention. This was a new thing for me. Usually my boobs were the first port of call. It’s the first time in my life that my chest has played second fiddle so to speak.

And as if seeing less and less of your feet every morning isn’t enough of a reminder that you’re busy turning food into a baby, you get friendly recaps from the ‘loving’ people around you:

“You’re getting bigger by the day.”

“Wow, what happened to you? You’re huge?”

“Shoo, there’s a big baby in there!”

Suddenly, even the crassest comment, which said in any other situation might lead to a punch in the face or the beginnings of a suicide note, becomes socially ‘acceptable’.

“You’re pregnant! Oh thank goodness, I just thought you were getting fat for the winter” is another such comment I received when a colleague got wind of the news.

Me with my (not so huge) bump.

Me with my (not so huge) bump.

To be fair, it was in the early stage of my pregnancy. The awkward stage. The stage when people don’t know if you’re ‘with child’ or just eating all the pies. You can tell they’re dying to ask. They hang around just a little too long after the end of a conversation, their eyes darting from your belly to your face and the question almost falling off the tip of their tongue.

I obviously told the people I was close to. Or at least gave them the ‘go-ahead’ to ask with a little maternal pat or two on my stomach. But I let the strangers hang with their curiosity. And I told one person who did ask that I wasn’t, just to see the expression change on their face. She looked mortified.

Oh, how I laughed.

The news spread pretty rapidly as it does, and most of the reactions I received were warm and supportive. But I can’t tell you how many people asked if it was planned. And I mean first off – “Congratulations! Was it planned?” These weren’t even people I was overly friendly with. (If I had a spare ticket to a gig they would be on like page 5 of the who-should-I-give-it-to list.)

What a strange thing to ask. Especially of a 30-year-old, happily married woman.

If my rapidly growing embryo had been the result of a wild night out with one, too, many shots of tequila, set to ruin my life-long plan of one day becoming the first female president (which I had already started to resent ‘it’ for) why on earth would they think I’d want to share it – with them especially?

Fortunately, that stage is over now. The word is properly out, as is my bump. And everyone can feel comfortable knowing they can comment openly on my ever-increasing size, vociferously and without guilt. Like one such acquaintance: “Well, there’s no hiding it now, you certainly have lost your waistline.”

Hilarious!

But these comments aren’t merely reserved for all things weight related. No, when you’re pregnant, no personal topic is off limits so I’ve discovered.

“Are you going to breastfeed?”

“How long were you trying for?”

“Are you going to have an Epidural?”

How you are physically going to bring this child into the world also seems to be on the top of everyone’s mind, even when it’s not on yours: “Are you getting that thing taken out of the sunroof, or are you pushing it out of the vag?”

Yes, your vagina’s ability to accommodate a chid the size of a watermelon gets a lot of talk time. And everyone has an opinion. Whether you want to hear it or not.

*She sighs and shrugs, rather heavily.*

I.O.U.

I love my car. It’s one of the first purchases I made when I came back from travelling. One of the first real “roots” I had put down in years – I have debt therefore I belong. Well, to the bank anyway.

But winter’s made me a bad car mom. I’d like to blame it on the regular impromptu downpours we have that leave your car looking like it’s been shat on by a flock of rabbits in flight. But really, the short days have just made me trés lazy.

So, and I’m abashed to say it, my car came close to being one of those people join the dirty brown dots on to spell out uninspired messages meant to guilt-trip the owner into washing it.

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Until one day…

I walked out of my door, only to be met by a car that appeared to have just rolled out of a car wash. And not just the wash-and-go kind of car wash. I’m talking the proper elbow-grease-was-put-in-here kind. I stood there admiring its sheer sparkliness.

And then the confusion set in.

How had this immaculate car come to be? Had I been paid a visit by the more than generous “Wash & Glow” fairy? Did some Good Samaritan take pity on my dusty ride? Had an obsessive-compulsive neighbour finally cracked (kind of like the guy who mowed my lawn that one time)?

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I wasn’t imagining it. All the signs that it had been freshly bathed were there. The brown swamp-like puddles making islands of my tires. The last of the soapy bubbles being swallowed by the street’s gutter. Someone had most definitely given my car a good once-over. But that someone was no longer there.

It was one of those days that wouldn’t allow me to contemplate my good fortune. I was in a hurry. And whatever it was that I had to do obviously couldn’t wait because, despite my delight at my car’s just-like-new lustre, I can’t remember giving it another thought.

And then…

A couple of days after the mysterious makeover, my husband came home from work and asked me if I had recently requested the services of the (previously mentioned) ‘misfit youths’ to wash my car?

“No,” came my honest reply. “Why?”

“Well, I’ve just bumped into our neighbour from next door. She’s a bit pissed off with the kids.

They asked if they could wash her car a few days ago to make money to go to the movies. So she gave them the soap and rags and everything. They were out there for a couple of hours and then they returned her stuff and collected their money.

The thing is, when she went outside a little later to check it, it was still dirty. The little buggers hadn’t done a thing except throw water and soap around. Apparently there was a big dirty puddle in front of her car, but that was it. I don’t think we should use them anymore…”

And suddenly, it all fell into place…

An Eyeful for our Neighbourhood Watch

I have an inflated sense of paranoia. I need to be told constantly that everything is, in deed, ok. It’s something that I’ve developed over time.

I placate myself by having regular check-ins with one of our loveliest neighbours who plays an integral roll in Bo Kaap’s Neighbourhood Watch. They patrol the streets for drastic displays of antisocial behavior and violent villainous disregard for the law, although they are few and far between (she says touching the large wooden dining room tabletop with one hand and her head with the other).

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Nonetheless, he gives me an outline of what went down on the latest ‘crime-watch’ walks. Usually it’s nothing too hectic. They caught a guy trying to break into a car. A drunk girl got mugged walking home ALONE from town (seriously, who does that?) They found a knife on a junkie. And so it goes. And in the end I go home feeling safe and secure and reassured.

But the last update was a little bit different…

It was a dark and stormy night. Jokes, it wasn’t. It was pretty ordinary actually. The men set out at their normal patrol time and their night began much like most. They encountered the usual suspects, drunken-disorderly students making their way back to their digs, a few scabengas hanging around on street corners, a couple of opportunistic so-and-sos biding their time and so on. As the night drew on the streets emptied and all seemed safe and sound in the darkness. Until they heard a loud, guttural grunt…

The group stopped in unison and the street fell silent. They looked at each other, eyes confirming whether they had all heard the same thing, and where it had come from without the hush of a sound. Standing there together, like statues of war heroes never to be forgotten, they waited, until it came again. And again. And again.

The leader signaled for the men to ready themselves, and slowly the unit moved forward, edging towards the alley to confront what could only have been a maniacal ‘animal’ on the prowl for human flesh. As they got closer, it became apparent that ‘it’ wasn’t alone. There were two of them. And they didn’t sound like they wanted company.

The men rounded the corner. Prepared themselves for the worst. Illuminated their torches in 3, 2, 1… And there they were. Chalk white arms. Pale, plump legs. Pasty stark freaking butt naked bodies, going at it full throttle in the alleyway (no, I wasn’t meaning that alleyway, you’re just wrong). And there stood our lovely bunch of Muslim granddads, dads, uncles and sons. Upstanding citizens and respected members of the Bo Kaap community, with their mouths glued firmly to the ground, and their eyes darting every which way but THERE.

When the two finally realised that they had an unexpected audience, they managed to untangle themselves for a moment to retrieve their passports, naked, walk towards our shocked Neighbourhood Watch-men, naked, and attempt to explain, naked, that they were indeed visiting our lovely country, naked, which they loved. Naked.

“Apparently” severe public displays of affection and seriously indecent exposure is not a crime in the UK or Germany, which, so the passports revealed, is where these lax lovers were from.

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*Disclaimer: Ok, I have to be a little honest about something, my neighbour told the story somewhat differently to the version I’ve just recounted. Being a middle-aged man of Muslim faith talking to a young(ish) blonde woman, well, lets just say he’s too much of a gentleman to have gone into that much detail. So forgive me for embellishing the story somewhat. It was, merely, for your entertainment value.

The thing is, the cold, hard facts remain the same. Grunting or no grunting, our Neighbourhood Watch guys bust two foreigners having sex stark-naked down a dirty ally. Call me a prude, but that’s just downright disgusting.

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I’m not entirely sure what happened to the two of them. I was too taken aback by the whole thing to ask. I wish I had now, because I’m a little intrigued to say the least.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll be walking down the street when I come across a little GerBrit eyeing his place of conception in an attempt to gather clues about who is father ‘really’ is. Because let’s be honest, anyone who can shamelessly have sex butt naked down a dark dirty alley in a foreign country with someone they’ve clearly just met, surely doesn’t care much for details.

An Aside

These men who take to our streets in the dead of night aren’t superheroes in possession of crazy cool powers. They don’t have an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry to aid them in their continuous fight against crime. In fact, they’re not even real-life crime-fighters. They’re regular dads and husbands and uncles and brothers, just like you, or the ones that belong to your family. And they make up our Neighbourhood Watch.

They don’t get paid for it. In fact they hardly get recognized for it. But they do it anyway, because they want their wives and mothers and sons and daughters and strangers like me to be safe. To feel safe. To live in a neighbourhood free of the worldly horrors that unfortunately affect so many.

All their equipment from torches to safety gear is sponsored, or they fundraise to be able to afford it. If anyone reading this would like to donate to the cause or sponsor any equipment or safety gear, from rain jackets to reflective gear, please let me know.

A Pretty Rubbish Situation

It’s bin day. Every Wednesday is bin day in Bo Kaap. Or at least it is on my street. So I head outside, trash in hand and go to lift the lid of the dustbin. Only there is no lid to lift. Nor bin to fill. It’s gone. Poof. Disappeared.

I look up and down the road. Everyone else’s council-issue grey bins are there. All standing to attention, feet teetering on the edge of the pavement, pleading to be parted from the pooey nappies, rotting potato peels and other toxic content their owners have stuffed them full of. Everyone’s, except mine. And I’m confused.

I kind of do a circle on the spot, eyeing any nook and cranny that could possibly conceal a giant rectangular cesspit. It’s one of those stupid things you do when you don’t know what else to do. But I find nothing.

 

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So, running out of options, I default to Zilla’s good people and phone the council. And the call went a little something like this:

“Hi. My bin’s disappeared.”

“You mean it’s been stolen?”

“Um, well, I never thought about it like that. I guess it has.”

“Then you have to report it to the police.”

“What, my bin? Don’t the police have bigger things to worry about?”

“I guess so. But if you don’t get a case number, you have to pay for it yourself.

“How much is it?”

“About R800”

“I’ll report it to the police.”  

This just seemed ridiculous to me. First of all, who the hell would steal a bin? And secondly, “I’d like to report a missing dustbin,” just doesn’t have the seriousness and urgency that “I’d like to report a missing person” carries with it. I feared that if I reported this so called ‘offence’ I would be the laughing stock of the police station and my calls to report actual real-life crimes in future would forever fall on deaf ears.

Nevertheless, not wanting to fork out the R800, I went.

As I took my seat in front of the Officer he looked at me like I was out of place and grumble, “What can I do for you my dear?” I didn’t think I had it in me to hide my embarrassment, so I went full blonde on him. I batted the eyelashes and turned on the sweet until his accusing eyes turned into pools of sympathy. And I left with a reassuring pat on the back, a case number and the name of the SGT who would be investigating my ‘incredibly unfortunate’ situation. Yes, I’m disgusted with myself too.

That night, I pulled up outside my little Bo Kaap house, pretty chuffed with my productivity. It was late and dark. And as I closed the car door I was startled by a big, fat, from-the-pit-of-your-stomach snore. I followed the rhythmic grunt to the landing outside the front door of one of the small houses a couple of doors down from ours. And on that landing was a bin. Resting on its side. And on that bin was a number. Our house number. And in that bin was our resident crazy. Almost incognito, save for his bear-like snore. WTF?

A little bit about crazy man. He is just that, crazy. I could probably write a whole post on him, but for now I’m going to top line. He’s pretty well presented. Certainly doesn’t look like he’s homeless. Never askes you for anything. But is constantly babbling away rather urgently at someone or something that clearly only he can see.

He walks with a sense of purpose. Head down, arms propelling him further forward with every back and forth. And for the most part he’ll stride right by without giving you a single glance. But every now and again, just as you think you’re in the clear, he’ll unexpectedly swing around, stick a waging finger in your face and mutter weird, mostly incoherent ruminations like “Something strange is going on here. Very strange. Do you see?” And just as quickly he’ll drop his finger, swing back around and march on. It’s a pretty intense experience.

Anyway, back to the story at hand. Here’s the conundrum. Your bin’s been stolen. Yes. You know who the perpetrator is. Yes. You have the name and contact details of the ‘investigating officer’ on the case. Yes. What do you do?

Nothing, that’s what. You call the council, give them your case number, sign on delivery and hope that if Crazy Man takes a shining to the new (clean) bin sat outside your front door, that he at least replaces it with the old one. I mean, the guy’s using it as a tent for goodness sake. And he’s crazy. That pretty much trumps everything.

So, you let him keep it. That’s what you do. Or at least, that’s what I did anyway…