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An itinerary for my brain on its 3am adventures

3am – Depart from the land of Fitful Sleep for a short excursion into Wakefulness en route to the Republic of Deep Sleep.

3.20am – Train delayed due to howling winds outside? No problem! While away the time by exploring the popular after-hours district of Existential Dread.

3.30am – Enjoy a lengthy trip down the dark side of highly acclaimed Memory Lane with its spectacular display of neon billboards flashing all your worst, weakest, meanest and most embarrassing moments.

3.45am – Since the latter normally proves to be particularly gripping, we highly recommend taking the time to investigate the extensive exhibits on display in the Museum of Awkwardness.

4:15am – That was fun right? Well it could hardly match what happens next: a continuous replay of the scariest moment from the FIRST AND ONLY scary movie you EVER watched, followed by the renowned What Was That Noise?! rollercoaster ride.

4:45am – Head down to Blues Beach and take a languid swim in the Sea of Comparison. This ancient site of emotional torture will have you weighing up your life, looks, personality and intelligence against every other human you have ever known… and particularly those you don’t, in no time whatsoever!

5:15am – By now you would have worked up quite the appetite! Quench your thirst with the legendary Self Doubt cocktail while indulging in a platter of the choicest selection of What Ifs.

5:45am – After a jam-packed adventure in Wakefulness, it’s finally time to head on to the Republic of  Deep Sleep.

6:30am – Curse the alarm clock and come up with the groggy idea to write this silly blog post. Also vow to steer clear of the District of Existential Dread on the next excursion into Wakefulness, planning to opt instead for a wander down the Lane of Love and a top-down drive along the Coast of Contentment, cruising back along the Happiness Highway.

Any insomniacs out there who can relate or is it just me?

 

By Nadia Krige

Of Fynbos and fires and how beautiful things rise from the ashes

A fire had been raging in the mountains above Grootvadersbosch just outside Heidelberg in the Hessequa region of the Western Cape for a good 24 hours when we happened to meet one of the farmers who had been battling the blaze.

He sat down next to us at a table that had been stylishly laid for the GVB Concervancy’s AGM and let out an almost inaudible sigh. I had spotted him earlier, peering out the window, watching that mesmerising red glow in the distance, murmuring messages into a two-way radio.

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My guilty pleasure(s) #BlogVember

Guilty Pleasure: something pleasurable that induces a usually minor feeling of guilt (Merriam-Webster)

Hardly like you need a dictionary definition to understand the term, but thought I’d look it up anyway. And there we go – I couldn’t have defined it any better myself!

So, what is mine?

Well, as it turns out, I actually have quite a few, of which spending hours trawling the internet for cute cat (sloth/alpaca/slow loris/owl/dog/bunny/anything fluffy) videos and shopping sprees in Dischem (an hour is not enough for all the cosmetic and toiletry wonders… and I don’t even like make-up and have no idea how to ‘do’ my hair), feature quite strongly.

However, if I had to pick out the guiltiest of guilty pleasures in my life, it would have to be…

EAVESDROPPING 

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Yes, I might as well admit it. There’s nothing I enjoy more than listening to other peoples’ conversations. And, no, let’s just get this straight right now – not the kind of eavesdropping where you shuffle along in your socks and press your ear against a keyhole to pry on private exchanges.

I mean the I-couldn’t-help-but-overhear-because-you’re-talking-audibly-in-the-bus-seat-in-front-of-me kind of eavesdropping.

Whether they’re lamenting their complicated love affairs, sharing tips on fashion or cooking or home decor, dishing out some juicy gossip, chattering away about good times past or simply discussing the weather, I find the way people communicate fascinating.

Not to mention the stories! As you may know, I really am a sucker for stories and have found that often the best ones are just drifting about (untold) around coffee shop tables, up and down Pick n Pay aisles, on sidewalks, in taxi seats, between boarding gates… you get the picture.

Now, I would probably have felt far too guilty about all of this to admit, but since I come from a long line of eavesdroppers, I may as well wear it proudly on my sleeve.

My mom always tells us about our great grandmother, Ouma Leen, who used to entertain her granddaughters endlessly with stories she’d make up about people at the next table in the restaurant or two sun umbrellas away on the beach.

My mother says, she’d always settle into her seat, sit back, light a cigarette, quietly contemplate for a bit and then say: “Now, listen my girlies. Let me tell you about those people over there…”

With the scant information received from the bits of conversation she picked up, body language analysed and behaviour spied, she’d weave a colourful yarn and encourage her audience to participate, till the tale grew beyond the characters on which it was originally based and took on a life of its own entirely.

I love that.

And I love that the tradition has continued:

My mother inherited her gift for spotting an interesting situation miles away and my father’s curiosity gets the better of him time and again, my brother is good with picking up on fine nuances and nothing escapes my sister-in-law’s sharp eye… so when a particularly intriguing party of strangers present themselves, and we’re all together, we can’t help but dabble in a little story building improv.

It’s our thing, I guess. Is that weird?

Why we should be thinking about our King Suits

Lunch time under the fig tree of forgetfulness

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Just a small contingent of the clan

My mother is the eldest of 10 children, my father the third of four siblings.

Collectively, my extended family numbers close to 70… and I know each one personally.

Now, one of the absolute BEST things about descending from a clan of such colossal proportions is the stories.

Oh, the STORIES!

Some date back to well before I was born – like the one where Oupa Marius spent an entire morning in the ocean, trying to evade the long arm of the law for harvesting ‘alikreukel’ (or was it Oysters?) without a license in Tergniet. Sure, it was illegal, but he had been doing it for so many years that, really, what did a piece of paper really mean?! Besides, it was only one Checkers bag full of delicious contraband – I mean, come on!! Ah, it’s such a great story – wish he were still here to tell it (but my uncles and dad do a pretty good rendition too).

Others, I witnessed with my own eyes – like the time our young mothers decided to have a spontaneous race in Betty’s Bay’s botanical garden and unwittingly triggered a collective abandonment panic among their children. I remember not knowing whether to be horrified or amused as I watched my tiny cousins leave whatever they had been playing with and set off after their mamas – hair and tears streaming, sobs and yells echoing.

Another of the stories I witnessed myself involved my enigmatic cousin, Fi and a nonchalant phrase that slipped off her little girl tongue and right into the canon of classic Van der Spuy family (my mother’s maiden name) stories. In my mind at least.

It goes something like this:http://society6.com/joojoo/always-wear-your-invisible-crown-iji_print#1=45

Thinking about your King Suit

One day when I was somewhere between the age of 6 and 10 and Fi between the age of 2 and 6, our family went to visit their family in Saldanha Bay. It was close to the end of the year and there was much excitement about a Christmas play she and her older sister, Lea would be taking part in.

Now, Fi was especially thrilled about the fact that she had been given the role of a king (aka a wiseman). I don’t think she really cared about how significant it was that she had been promoted beyond the generic angel choir. Or that she would be getting more attention than many of her little friends.

There was only one thing that made this achievement truly exceptional to her, and that was the costume she would be wearing.

If memory serves, she even had the royal garb on display for us.

Anyway, as the evening progressed, so did Fi’s excitement and at one point it reached some sort of dubious fever pitch that got her sent straight to the bathroom to think about what she had done wrong.

My brother, Lea and I sat around, wide-eyed, waiting for her return. Would she blame us for her behaviour? And in that case, what communal punishment would our parents possibly dream up.

Our fears were soon stilled when Fi waltzed back into our company completely unperturbed after being released (about 10 mins later). There were no tears, no cross looks. The only difference was that her previous exhilaration had now melted into a transcendent serenity.

Noticing the far too slight change in demeanor, my aunt Fiona posed the question:

“So, Fi. What did you think about while you were in the bathroom?”

I’m sure she was fully aware of the fact that she should have said something like: “About how sorry I am for having been so naughty, Mamma.”

But instead she opted for honesty, and replied:

“Oh! I thought about my King Suit!”

There was a moment of astounded silence… and then a peel of giggles from us kids, followed by fully-fledged laughter from the adults (probably led by my dad).

It was such a silly little moment in the grand scheme of things, but something about it just stuck.

So much so, that “thinking about my king suit” has become a regularly used phrase in our nuclear family.

And the more I think about it, the more wise these words become. If I had to give it a bit of a pop psychology twist (which I love doing with EVERYTHING), I’d say it’s probably one of the most profound things we can do to live a happy and balanced life.

Why?

Well, in this world, we’re constantly being told how we should really be striving for more, how we can improve ourselves, what we’re doing wrong and how we simply aren’t good enough just yet.

We get sent to the proverbial bathroom on a daily, nay hourly, basis to think about our various sins and shortcomings – with every ’10 ways to be a more successful (fill in the blank)’ article that pops up in our Facebook feed, every television advert that renders our brand of washing powder inferior to the one that washes so much cleaner, every magazine cover that nullifies the beauty of our unique body shapes.

We get so caught up in what we lack and where we’ve gone wrong, that we forget about all the things that are so good and right and delightful and within our grasp already.

Our proverbial King Suits.

Sure, we aren’t exactly where we want to be yet and we do get a lot of stuff wrong. We’re human, it’s to be expected! But that does not mean that we have to constantly beat ourselves up about these things! Right? I mean, there’s always room for growth!

So, whatever your King Suit may be – whether it’s a talent you’ve just started coaxing from its slumber, a holiday you’ve been dreaming of or just a really good relationship that makes your life sweet – I challenge you to think about it next time you’re tempted to lock yourself in the bathroom and sit in sackcloth and ash.

Come on, let’s make a pact! If you dare to think about your King Suit the next time you’re expected to think about your naughty, naughty wickedness, I’ll do the same.

How about it?

The story about that one time I hitched a ride in the cockpit

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One of the perks of working as a travel writer for a news website that went into a joint venture with an aviation company, is the fact that I get to book local flights for dirt cheap. They’re called rebates.

Now, the thing with rebates is that once you’ve purchased your pocket-friendly ticket, you have no guarantee of making it onto the flight you’re hoping for… or for that matter any flight following it, until who knows when. If there’s no space, there’s no space. That’s the risk you willingly take. You’re a standby passenger and, well, that could make for some stressful situations at times.

As I found at Lanseria airport on Sunday.

I’d had a wonderful weekend celebrating my lovely little friend, Jerusha’s marriage to her Gideon. The wedding was tearifyingly beautiful and feet-hurtingly fun. The food was fantastic. The music a good mix of Afrikaans sokkie, soft rock, pop and Bollywood.

Happiness! Beautiful bride & dapper groom. A colourful shot from the #sukhdeoraathwedding #latergram

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The only downside – I had to be up at the crack of dawn the next day to find my way back to Lanseria.

After far too few hours’ sleep I headed to the airport and, groggy and bleary eyed, approached the check-in desk.

The dark haired lady behind the counter looked at me with that strange mix of delight and pity, as she shook her head energetically. “No, no sorry. This flight is completely overbooked… and actually to be quite honest, so are all the rest for today. But you can come back just before boarding closes for the next one and we’ll check again.” (Which would only be three hours later).

Ba-boom! Went my heart. What?! This is not right. This is not my luck.

Knowing well my tendency to overthink and hyperventalite, I decided that this was a perfect opportunity to practice a little bit of restraint. To swap my natural inclination toward melancholia for a bout of uncharacteristic sanguinity.

I treated myself to a smoothie at Kauai, settled into one of their nice soft couches and picked up the copy of Eat Pray Love my mom and I once bought together.

That awkward moment you realise you're some sortof stereotype while waiting at Lanseria Airport

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I passed the time and eventually sauntered over to the check-in desk once more, oozing faux calm, exuding false cool.

This time it was a guy, practically a boy.

I stated my case. And again that infuriating mix of disdainful pity and glee. “No ma’am. I’m sorry. This flight is completely full… umm, ja. You’re actually out of luck for today. All the flights are full. Maybe you can try getting onto the 6am one tomorrow morning. But, wait, that also looks pretty choc-n-block. Ja.”

I wanted to reach across the desk and punch the little sucker in the face. Instead I leaned over and said something that surprised even me.

“How about the jump seat?”

The little punk looked up in shock.

“The j-j-jump seat? Ummm… ja, ok, that could be an option. You’ll have to speak to ticket sales.”

So I did. And they said they’d ask the captain. Which they did. And the captain thankfully said yes.

He also instructed the cabin crew to keep me in the back for take-off – something about bad weather.

So I ended up sitting strapped into one of those funny little fold-down seats with an air hostess on either side.

They obviously hadn’t been keen on having their space invaded, but we soon hit it off and had a fat chat. We jabbered away about their jobs and mine and airports and airplanes and holidays and kids and Cape Town and Joburg until they had to leave for trolley service.

Once they’d finished they returned and asked if I wanted to move to the cockpit now.

To be honest, I wasn’t really too keen on trading in my new-found bffs for the certain male chauvinism and arrogance of the pilots. But, gosh. When would I get this opportunity again? To see that view… and all those many little buttons?

“Yes, that would be cool,” I said.

So, off I went, passing all 30-something rows of passengers. What they must have thought, I don’t know, as I nonchalantly entered the cockpit and didn’t re-emerge until landing.

The air steward unfolded a little seat for me, just behind the pilots, placing me squarely between them and the door.

I had to strap myself in – a complicated system of seatbelts crossing over my shoulders, circling my waist and even pinching my crotch. Like I was about to drop bombs in a war zone.

The two pilots swivelled round to take in – from behind their aviator-covered eyes – the nosy passenger who would be encroaching on their sacred space.

At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning my outfit: floral shorts and a white vest. Could I look any more ditsy? Could I look anymore ‘affie plaas’? No. No. I couldn’t.

My Christmas shorts #christmas #summer #floral

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I could almost hear them groaning. And I could feel our collective expectation of an hour-and-a-half of awkwardness enfolding us like the thunder clouds outside enfolded the plane.

Not knowing what else to say, they stiffly explained a few things to me: “this is the autopilot section. This is the button we press to talk to the cabin. There’s another plane passing us on the right. There’s the Vaal River.”

But somewhere over the vast expanses of the Karoo we managed to relax into a comfortable camaraderie.

The one I like to call the Silver Fox (what? He was pretty handsome and had salt-n-pepper hair) had been rather quiet at first, leaving the ‘gawe boerseun,’ his co-pilot, to entertain me, but after a while felt a little left out and started quizzing me on life in Cape Town.

Which were the cool places to go? Where did I live? Why did I think Sea Point was dodgy? Because it really isn’t. Is it hard to meet guys in Cape Town? (yup, even that. Apparently he’d heard this lament from many-a Mother City-based female friend) Did I like my job?

Then we chatted about Brangelina moving to Joburg and some other celeb-related banter.

In between they’d mumble inaudible gibberish into the speakers hovering in front of their mouths, exchanging co-ordinates and wind directions with far-off towers and, I don’t know, passing aircraft?

Table Mountain and Lion’s Head emerged from the distant clouds and they started pointing out landmarks to me once again:

“There’s the Langebaan Lagoon,” the gawe boerseun would say, pointing out the window on his right, after which the Silver Fox would find something to point out on the left: “Paarl, there’s Paarl… and Stellenbosch is just on the other side of that mountain… and there’s Durbanville.”

“There’s… what’s that place called again? Ah, Robben Island,” – Gawe Boerseun.

“There’s Somerset West and Strand and Gordon’s Bay. Oh and Helderberg. I hiked up it once.” – Silver Fox.

“Oh, cool! And look! There’s Hangklip,” – me.

*Kriek kriek*

I’d obviously overstepped a boundary. This was their territory, not mine.

Fortunately, we managed to skim over it quickly enough and in no time we were descending into Cape Town International for the smoothest landing of my life, with a front row view.

Taxiing along the runway, we had fallen into a comfortable silence, which we simply weren’t sure how to break.

I mean, how does one say good bye after the intimacy of the cockpit? I thought of silently folding back my chair and retreating without a word, but that was impossible. Among the million little buttons, there was one to open the door. And I just didn’t know which.

So, we waited.

Finally, the Silver Fox broke the silence.

“Umm… Nadia. I’m going to have to ask you to get up. I drank too much water, you see, and really need the loo.”

*kriek kriek* and then we all burst out laughing. The Silver Fox hurriedly unlatched the door and in a gentlemanly fashion, allowed me to walk first, despite his desperate state.

A throng of passengers swallowed me and swept me along and before I knew it, I had left the plane behind and was navigating the passages of the airport.

And so I will be forever doomed to listen to the captain’s welcome when I board a flight, hoping to one day hear: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen this is your Captain speaking. Welcome aboard this flight. Wind directions blah blah blah. My name is Silver Fox and with me in the cockpit is Gawe Boerseun.”

I don’t know what I’d do. Probably not much. Sit there, smile and remember that one time I hitched a ride in the cockpit and found that there was much more to these muffled voices than weather updates and landing announcements.

Quote: The girl who reads

Books

My friend, Meg, posted this article called “You should date an illiterate girl” by Charles Warnke on Facebook the other day. Sensing the sarcasm in the title, I thought I’d give it a quick squiz and soon found myself completely consumed.

In the first part of the essay, Warnke describes a mundane life that never really comes to much. A life with a girl who doesn’t read. A perfectly comfortable life.

In the second part of the essay he explains *why*, despite the boredom and monotony, it’s so much better to date a girl who doesn’t read than dating one who does. Do it, he says, “because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell.”

Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled… A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much.

Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Little prince quote

Sometimes I think I’ve made myself too familiar with stories. Like other people who read I’ve immersed myself in words and plots and syntax and, as Warnke says I’ve “spun out the account of [my] life and it is bursting with meaning. [I] insist that [my] narratives are rich, [my] supporting cast colourful, and [my] typeface bold.”

And sometimes I wish I was a girl who didn’t read, so that I didn’t always have to try and figure out the plot with all its intricacies beforehand.

Maybe if I’d never fallen in love with ‘story’ I could have lived an easy life in shades of faded pastel spilling carelessly over flimsy pencil sketch outlines, instead of this one that’s always bursting with Amazon green, Kalahari red, flamingo pink, just-before-dawn purple sky, that electric blue you sometimes see in lightning – all burgeoning within stark black curves and contours. This terrifying and wonderful, hilarious and heart-breaking life, a constant contrast… never a dull moment.

But would I want to? Sometimes for a moment I think yes. But deep in my bones, I know it’s an absolute no.