Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hey Dude, speak my language

Every now and again I win four numbers in Life’s Lotto and Teen2 calls me Dude.

It’s usually when we are raving about something we are both crazy about - like her dog Zwiggy - who is the nicest dog any person could possibly adopt from the Sandton SPCA.

“But Dude,” Teen2 says as we argue how severely Zwiggy should be punished for eating my new shoes. Or chewing a hole in the more significant parent’s favourite leather chair.

“But Dude...” Teen2 says, setting out her case for the defence.

I always wreck the moment by trying to hug her (Teen2 – not Zwiggy) or by dribbling with pleasure because she is conversing with me like I’m a real person and not the lady with baggy upper arms with whom she shares a gene pool.

And Zwiggy always gets off with a bad-girl-bad-girl and a wagged finger and a long walk to make up for it all.

Teen language is my kind of music. I can listen to it all day. But when I try to sing along, I’m scared I’m going to get the words wrong.

So it is when I’m writing Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo from the Shuttleworth Foundation that cold week in July that I throw myself on the mercy of Teen1 and Teen2.

Help me get it right. Don’t let me become the poster lady for ridicule and contempt among thousands of cellphone addicts who want to read books on their cellphones instead of using battery time to chat to their families. Help me speak the true language of a Virgin Loser, I beg.

Thus it comes to pass that Teen1 and Teen2 and their friends gather in my kitchen fuelled by airtime bribes and promises of mall trips and a bag of biltong for Zwiggy.

And they read Confessions of a Virgin Loser. And they argue about language and why people in different places coming from different spaces can say one thing and mean another.

How one boy trying to pop his cherry is another boy trying to peel his banana; one girl cracking up is another girl hosing and pissing herself while the rest of the group gets pissed and chunders and barfs.

And they read and they agree. That there are a million different ways for a Virgin Loser to tell his story. And however he tells it, whether in the words of a boy from Sandton or Mitchells Plain or in the words of a boy from a school with no windows or from one with three swimming pools – it’s the same story.

And they read Confessions of a Virgin Loser to the end. And they laugh. And then they laugh some more. And Teen2 says jeez, mom where do you get all this crazy stuff from?

And I say: I get it from you, Dude.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Naming Game

It’s not easy having the same name as everybody’s Great Aunt Edith. Especially when your parents get original and spell it wrong just to make sure your life is even more miserable.
I am called Weedy Eedy (in my skinny years) and Greedy Eedy (in my fat ones). And then there is Needy Eedy during those grim days when I eat school lunch in the cloakroom in case no one wants to sit with me at break. Warning: this tale gets sadder.
It doesn’t stop with the Eedy thing. If you have a name like Edyth, the chances are you’re not going to have a decent surname like Harris or Nchunu. It would have to be something like Bulbring, with a funny, foreign double dot on the “u” that gets abandoned at my coming of age when I can’t get the computer to behave.
So because of my problematic surname there are days when I am Bully, Bullybeef, Bullfrog, Bulldust and then it all gets very ugly when my friends get brave enough to say words like crap and shit out loud. Thanks Fatty, Bones, Greasy and Stinky for all the good times growing up with you guys in Port Elizabeth.
Having a bad name has given me a taste for names. In Pops and The Nearly Dead, I call my main character Randolph. He longs to be called Red (cool) but ends up with Randy (ouch) which is hard core when you are a horny fifteen year old boy. His love interest is called Regina (rhymes with vagina) Versagel. And if you say Regina Versagel fast enough over and over you know how badly it can go wrong. Revenge is sweet, in my twilight years.
In my very first book - The Summer of Toffie and Grummer - I give my main character the name Beatrice Wellbeloved. Mainly because she isn’t much loved at all. It is only when she learns to forgive, let go and love herself and other people that she can "be well loved" (gettit!).
And then there is my calendar girl April-May February in Melly, Mrs Ho and Me. I choose the name to illustrate how much at odds her parents are from the day she is born. They want to call her by their favourite month of the year – but can’t agree on what it is. So they give her two calendar names and live with the uneasy compromise until they get divorced - and split her name.
There is hardly a name in any one of my books that does not have a hidden meaning or a personal association for me.
So it is with Confessions of a Virgin Loser, the m-book I write in the cold month of July for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation (Steven Vosloo - see how sensible some parents are) and his bunch of cellphone addicts (whose names I don’t know).
What name to give the Virgin Loser? He is earnest and anxious and fervent and serious and staid, combined with some troubling loser tendencies. And the story he tells is the honest account of a course of events he embarks upon under great pressure from his peers to lose his virginity. It is told with candour and honesty. It is frankly told.
Hello Frank, you lovely Virgin Loser.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Party Bus

Teen1 is the saddest young adult on Planet Earth. She is the only matric student in the whole wide world who is not allowed to come home from her Matric Dance after-party in The Party Bus.
For this she blames her unreasonable mother. That’s me.
The Matric Dance is a big thing. I’ve said this before. The dress is the biggest thing – as previously noted. The after-party is bigger-er than the dress. And coming home at dawn in The Party Bus with ten other young party animals is the biggest bigger-er of them all. And it’s huge for me too.
I have fears for The Party Bus. I have sadnesses. I have horrors. That Party Bus cannot be trusted to deliver my first born home from the ball.
Teen1 says you're irrational and mean. Why can't you be like the rest of the world’s moms who let their young adult children come home in The Party Bus? This is what Teen1 says.
The rest of the world’s moms except for the moms of TeenFriend1 and TeenFriend2. They have also said No to The Party Bus,  I say.
Yes, except for them. They are also illogical and horrible like you. Yes, they are, Teen1 says.
And so too is Frank’s mom  in Confessions of a Virgin Loser, the m-story story that I will write for all the cellphone crazy young adults who have moms who allow them to come home in The Party Bus. Frank’s mom is also unreasonable and says no Frank, you cannot travel in The Party Bus.

I say good on you, Frank's mom.
And so it is in the chilly month of April that Teen1’s mom (that’s me) and her dad (that’s him) get up at three and a half hours past midnight to go and fetch Teen1 and her two friends from the after-party at the other end of the world.
We would have fetched Frank as well if we had known about him then. But we don't. Because I only get to write Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo and the Shuttleworth Foundation three months later.
Half way between Home and the other end of the world we get lost so we ask Aunty Garmin for help. She gets lost too so we ask three drunks at the petrol station. They point us towards the lights. We travel forever towards the lights. Then the lights go out as Eskom plunges the other end of the world into darkness.
An hour before dawn, we find Teen1 and her two friends on the pavement outside the after-party venue. And we take them home. In the pitch darkness. And nearly get wiped out by a truck at a set of robots that aren't working. Because of the black-out.

We drive like snails. Slowly and carefully. In the pitch darkness. The Party Bus passes us on the way home. And we wave.
Drive safe, Party Bus

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Perfect Dress

Matric dances mean different things to different people.

For many teens it is the night to get drunk or take drugs. Some chops do both. For Frank and his mates Silas and Mondli in Confessions of a Virgin Loser, it's the night you get to pop your cherry.
But for Teen1, her matric dance is all about The Perfect Dress.
And so it is, that on a fine summer’s day, months before I've been approached by Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation about writing a cellphone story for technology crazed young adults, Teen1 and me go looking for The Perfect Dress.
We find lots of dresses. Hundreds of dresses. In dozens of boutiques in countless malls. But they don’t fit right. They don’t look right. And they don’t agree with the limit on my credit card.
I tell Teen1 you can wear one of my dresses. Just like I wore your granny's best church dress to my matric dance thirty years ago.
Teen1 says you must be mental.
And so we find Louisa the Portuguese dressmaker in Bez Valley and ask her to make The Perfect Dress. She has nimble fingers and ruined eyes and says a girl who wants to wear The Perfect Dress must have coo-rage. And Teen1 says she has it. Coo-rage.
So Louisa sends us to Chamdors in Edenvale for red taffeta and we come back with red taffeta. And Louisa sews.
Then Louisa sends us to the Oriental Plaza in Mayfair for black lace and we come back with black lace.
But we also come back with a furry thing which is not black or lacy from the petshop next to the place where we buy the lace.
Hello Raisin you cute Oriental Plaza petshop kitten

And we come back with her sister.

Hello Otis who we couldn't leave behind at the pet shop

So Louisa makes The Perfect Dress. And I buy Teen1 a hairdo, ear-rings, bracelet, ring, underwears, dancing shoes, make-up and an after-party-dress to match The Perfect Dress. But no matching bag. I put my foot down.

Teen1 wears the The Perfect Dress with coo-rage.

What a perfect dress

And goes to her matric dance with a boy who meets her on the pavement outside the house and wears shorts with a dinner jacket. Weird.
She stumbles home in her skimpy after-party-dress with The Perfect Dress stuffed in a garbage bag with the shoes that give her blisters.

Next year I'm getting The Perfect Dress dry cleaned and flogging it on Gumtree. Along with some ornate French pillars I didn't use on my stoep, and some old textbooks I have no further use for. And the dancing shoes which look good standing still. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A few guilty pleasures

I have many passions.

My top nine are: drinking tea, hardware shops, trees, Old People clothes, rude notes from teachers, a well tossed salad, a compost heap (well tossed), Gregory House and flannel pyjamas.
The tenth delight, and possibly topping my list of obsessions, is smoking. And since the age of seventeen, when I learn the art of blowing smoke rings from my bedroom window in Port Elizabeth, I am the most committed smoker on Planet Earth.
I have many joyful memories of smoking. I smoke while breast feeding. I smoke floating on the Dead Sea. I smoke the contents of a rooibos teabag one night when the Bennies and Hennies run dry and the shops are closed. My all time favourite is smoking while driving to work on those cold winter mornings with the heater going and the car windows tightly shut. Bliss.
But at the end of March 2010, I quit smoking. Finally. For Good. Really. And in that cold week in July, when I sit down to write Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo and his bunch of cellphone crazed young adults, I am still no longer a smoker.
I put my hands on the keyboard and the five fingers on my right hand feel lonely and unappreciated. And my mouth feels slack and my lungs feel under-used and in need of exercise. But I cannot smoke. I mustn’t.
So instead of smoking, I eat.
I eat and I eat and I eat and I eat. Mostly I eat a lot of bread. I dismiss my mother’s caution that a young girl should not get fat on bread. Because bread is my favourite food, along with butter. And I am not a young girl.
My housekeeper Zama says you are always eating. Eat, eat, eat. Whenever I look you are eating. Hawu, you are looking worse these days. I tell Zama not to talk so much. I am trying to write Confessions of a Virgin Loser for the cellphone addicts. And stop hiding the bread and butter.
At the end of writing Confessions of a Virgin Loser I get on the scale and I am worse. I am fat. I can no longer fit into my wardrobe, or into any of my clothes.
Today I am writing the sequel to Melly, Mrs Ho and Me. My deadline is at the end of November. I am still doggy-paddling around Chapter Three because I can’t smoke – and I can’t eat.
I can’t stuff my face with bread and butter because in five weeks time I have to put on a bathing costume and lie on Hermanus Beach. And watch the skinny people lying on the beach smoking - watching the fat people - watching them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alistair The Awesome-ist

I obsess on silly things when I write. Like the finger marks on my walls and whether the trees that were planted for the Soccer World Cup are getting enough water. Things like that.

And so it is in that cold week in July when I am writing Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo from the Shuttleworth Foundation and his cellphone mad young adults that I become obsessed with the dog next door.
Nameless Dog is the unhappiest puppy in the world. He is ugly. He doesn’t have a name. And he lives in a cold concrete courtyard at the back of an empty house with The Caretaker who never walks him or says what a good dog you are.
Nameless Dog howls a lot. And on one cold day in that week of July he escapes and makes his way into my garden. And he and Zwiggy, the pavement special from the SPCA that belongs to Teen2 become best friends. And Zwiggy and Nameless Dog play. 

                                 And play.

                                And play

But The Caretaker comes around and beats Nameless Dog and takes him back to his cold concrete courtyard. And Nameless Dog howls. And I obsess on Nameless Dog’s howling.
The Caretaker doesn’t feed and water Nameless Dog too often. So I throw bones over the courtyard wall. And Nameless Dog sleeps outside on the concrete so I throw a blanket over as well. But still Nameless Dog howls. And Zwiggy howls too.
One Sunday morning I track down Nameless Dog’s owner who lives in another house in a posh suburb and I offer to adopt Nameless Dog. The Owner says no, I am fond of the dog. So I say: what’s his name? And The Owner pauses too long and says the dog's name is Sunday. And I don’t believe him.
I obsess about phoning the SPCA and I obsess about kidnapping Nameless Dog and every ten minutes instead of writing Confessions of Virgin Loser I look over the courtyard wall at Nameless Dog and I tell him that I’m so sorry. For everything.
Then I make a hole in the fence and let Nameless Dog crawl through to have play dates with Zwiggy. And they play.

                                And play.

                                And play

And before The Caretaker gets homes I push Nameless Dog back through the fence and block the hole.
But Nameless Dog digs and digs his way under the fence. So I block this hole. Then Nameless Dog digs some more. And I obsess about blocking the holes faster than Nameless Dog can unblock them.

                                It obsesses me.

                                It obsesses me more.

                                 And more.

And sometimes Nameless Dog gets the better of me and spends days in our garden. And has sleepovers too. And The Caretaker doesn’t notice. Or doesn’t care.
Then one day Teen2’s Nameless Friend comes to visit. He meets Nameless Dog. He says what a handsome dog you are. He also says you are the awesome-ist dog I have ever met. He then says I’ll call you Alistair. Alistair The Awesome-ist. He finally says I wish I could have a dog like you.
And then one Saturday, months after Confessions of a Virgin Loser has been written and read by thousands of cellphone addicts, Alistair The Awesome-ist goes missing.
And a week later, when he cares to notice, The Caretaker asks if I’ve seen the dog. And I say no. Through zipped lips.

Alistair The Awesome-ist - where did you go, hey? ;)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Walking the block

Writing a cellphone story isn’t much different to writing any other kind of story. The chapters are just shorter by a couple of thousand words. And getting writer's block every now and then happens just like it always does.

So it is in that cold week in July when I am writing Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation. I hit my first block. It happens in Chapter Ten, half way through this story of 20 chapters.
My dilemma is that I don’t want Frank to smoke weed and get high. I want to get him out of the situation and I don’t know how.
When I hit a block, I go walking. There’s always something on my walks that makes me see things differently. Like these people and their dogs.

How inspirational is that? Colour coding your dogs with your outfits.
And this chap. I call him the Tramp Man, although it’s not his name. I see him on my walks all the time. He stands outside people’s houses and won’t leave until they cook him a big egg and bacon fry-up.
The Tramp Man

The Tramp Man has been given guest appearances in two of my books, the most recent one, Melly, Mrs Ho and Me. And he also appears in The Club.

Then there’s this guy here. He walks in my neighbourhood every day. He also looks like a tramp, but he’s not, he’s actually an MD for a huge media company. I wish his wife would buy him a new T-shirt.
Holey T-shirt walker

Sometimes I find stuff on my walks. Like this chair over here. It was a bit rusty but I brought it home and painted it. If I found a cushion too I would be able to sit on it.

Groovy chair sans cushion

And then there are always the dogs. The nice thing about Zwiggy - Teen2’s new dog that sometimes walks with me - is that she doesn’t bark at the other dogs. But that doesn’t stop them from barking at me. I meet a lot of dogs on my walks. They make a helluva racket.

Annoying yappy dog
I also come across disgusting garbage in the streets.
And I meet a lot of private security guards with names like Professor and Doctor and Christian. They come from places like Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Between the garbage that is never collected, and the security guards who are privately employed by people who don’t want their stuff stolen all the time, I think about how my tax dollar is being spent. On things like helicopters and submarines and German cars. I think about how much I’m being ripped off.
And when I return from my walk, inspired and unblocked, I decide I’ll let Frank get ripped off too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In pursuit of wacky backy at the Jah House

Smoking dope is not my strength. It either makes me fall asleep or get weird. After my first year at University I don't do it much anymore, and as the years pass, I lose The Knowledge.
So getting Frank in Chapter Nine of Confessions of a Virgin Loser to go out and score some weed is a challenge. It's the old journalist in me - I like to be accurate or as close to the truth as dammit.
Back in my University days there were a couple of streets in Woodstock where the words: “a five rand bankie, my china” scored a bank bag packed with weed. But where to in Jozi – and how to?
When in doubt, I ask my two always-up-to-something-Teens. Between them resides the Wisdom of Solomon and the wickedness of Death By Chocolate.
Thus I find myself one cold week in July with Teen2 and her two pals Nameless1 and Nameless2 on the way to the Jah House. It's a couple of streets down the road from their school - the one I have mortgaged their father and our house to pay for.
The Jah House is one of those old character houses in the eastern suburbs of Jozi with the high pressed ceilings and wooden floors. Its roof is painted an acid trip -  or perhaps the colours of the Rastafarian movement.
We reach the Jah House and I’m sweating. Should I stop? Should I park?  A green palisade fence surrounds the Jah House and people pass. Some enter. A normal day in a Jozi street. I circle the block.
No sweat, Mummy, Nameless1 says. All I have to do is walk through the front gate. It’s really safe – see there’s a cop close by, I won’t get mugged. And then they laugh at the Old Fart - that's me.

Through the front door I’ll find a couple of dreadlocked Rastas. Speak to the older looking one, Nameless2 says. It’s ten bucks for a ready to go rolled joint. Just ask for a dozen Swazi. Or how ever many I want.
I don’t ask how come they're so well informed - or if they have an account. Sometimes you just don’t want to know.

In pursuit of Babylon at The Jah House

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Amazing Brick

This is my cellphone. I call it The Brick. It was born long before Noah even got a twinkle in his eye about building that ark of his.  

The Brick in its fulsome awesomeness

I use The Brick for making calls, sending and receiving messages and it also wakes me up in the morning. What more can a person want from a cellphone?

Then Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation came along and asked me to write an m-book which young adults could read off their cellphones. It seems that young adults like doing all sorts of stuff on their cellphones, apart from texting and calling.

Mr Steve Vosloo also asked writers Fiona Snyckers and Charlie Human to write a story for the young adults, so they could have three m-books to read.

Confessions of a Virgin Loser is the twenty chapter story I wrote for Mr Steve Vosloo. He put it on the cellphone in the month of September along with Charlie and Fiona’s stories.

Last week Mr Steve Vosloo sent me an email containing the presentation he made at a conference in Barcelona about how much the cellphone junkies liked the stories. Barcelona is a nice city. I wish I could have been there to hear Mr Steve Vosloo talk, and not just get the presentation via email.

If I had been at the conference in Barcelona listening to Mr Steve Vosloo telling the conference delegates about his project to encourage reading among young cellphone addicts, I would have heard that Confessions of a Virgin Loser got 18 000 reads. This means that a lot of young adults read the story.

They seemed to like it too because there were about 15 000 comments about Confessions of a Virgin Loser in that month of September. One of the comments said: "This story is da B.O.M.B." Which  is a good thing, I am told.

I think that’s great. But I wish these readers would take their noses out of their cellphones and get out and buy real books – especially the ones I have displayed down the side of this blog.
Then maybe I could go on holiday, to Barcelona. And Madrid. Or buy a real cellphone and send The Brick on holiday.
Mr Steve Vosloo’s presentation can be downloaded here: http://m4lit.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/statistics-of-the-last-year/.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The unbearable vomiting of teens

I always have a bit of vomiting in my books, thanks to Teen1. She has impressive vomiting tendencies. So because of her, Confessions of a Virgin Loser also got a good chundering.

There was the time four years ago when Teen1 hit the Hawaiian pizza too hard. The next morning I had her on her hands and knees scraping bits of pineapple and mushroom off the bedroom carpet with an egg lifter. (You have to give your daughters something to talk to their shrinks about)

This vomiting incident made it onto page one of The Summer of Toffie and Grummer. The first line, in fact. I am grateful to Teen1 for the inspiration.

Then there was the time, a few years later when Teen1 mistook the Alco-pops for fruit juice (yeah right!) at a friend’s coming of age party. She upchucked on the back seat of her friend’s mom’s brand new car, claiming a toxic prawn allergy.

The car was so brand new it had only left the shop the day before. On this occasion it was left to Teen1’s dad to apply the egg lifter to the back seat of the car. Teen1 paid for the professional cleaning service.

This incident made it into Pops and The Nearly Dead when poor Regina Versagel marinated the back seat of her mom’s brand new car with a cocktail of Gluhwein and punch after the Christmas Carol evening. I included this in the final edit. It was irresistible.

Frank’s vomiting incident in Chapter Seven is the combo of the toxic prawn incident (as it is called in the family lore) and the 2010 incident. This incident (also legendary) occurred when Teen1 once again mistook wine for water and christened the outside of one of her few remaining friend’s father’s car – the night before the start of the Soccer World Cup.

There was a lot of family fun that day at Soccer City. Thanks Teen1 for a memorable day.

After every alcohol/toxic prawn vomiting incident I have freaked out and proved to be even more useless than I usually am.

Telling my daughter - “you’re grounded for under-age drinking” is as stupid as saying - “you can booze binge and vomit your guts out over everyone's cars when you come of age."

But I say this, every time, and Teen1 gets grounded. And I still don't have any answers.

Hey Booze Boys, don't be selling hard liquor to my girls. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A bit of Goodwill

When I am writing, apart from building a stoep and dealing with domestic meltdowns, I like to garden. Or rather, I like to watch my gardener garden.

This is Goodwill my gardener. And he is also Claire and Patti and Diana’s gardener. We share him.


I get to garden with Goodwill on Mondays and Fridays, which is far too little Goodwill for me. Because without Goodwill, I can’t garden. And I can’t write.
I sit down to write the second half of Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation and my fingers freeze on the keyboard.
I look out of my office window and this is what I see. I see an archway leading to a swimming pool. And I want to walk through that archway and flop belly first into that pool.

The arch outside my office leading to the swimming pool

No I mustn’t, because it is one of the coldest weeks in July and I will get hypothermia.
But things aren’t making sense any more. Especially that archway outside my office leading me to the swimming pool and third degree frostbite.
I tell Goodwill that we are going to be doing some garden redesign today. He says what? I tell him we’re moving the archway from outside my office so that I can eliminate the obstruction to the free flow of ideas.
I also tell Goodwill to please stop crying and don’t even think about running all the way back to Zimbabwe. He too can contribute towards promoting literacy among the cellphone addicted young adults at the tip of the southern hemisphere by helping me write an m-book.
Goodwill says fine he’ll get the spade. I tell him not to forget the string because he is hopeless at getting the lines straight.
Goodwill digs and digs. The chapters of Confessions of a Virgin Loser flow from my fingers onto the keyboard like the Amazon River in flood. Goodwill plants and plants.

This is what the garden looks like now. The lines are very straight. Thanks to Goodwilll's spade and my string. 

An archway leading to a table and chairs, not a swimming pool. Much better.

Yip, I also noticed that the roses didn’t survive the transplant. They should look like this.
Roses in full bloom

But of course they don’t. Because roses don't like to be messed about with.

Today I am supposed to be writing the sequel to Melly, Mrs Ho and Me – which is a book for people who like using their cellphones for making calls (and not reading books).
I look at the dead roses and I tell Goodwill that these roses are very dead, aren’t they?  We should replace them with a nice creeping Jasmine.
Goodwill says no, give the roses some more time. And some water, perhaps, I say? In the meantime the Jasmine can live in the pot outside my office.

Note the sticks in the pot to deter Zwiggy the dog
I look at the view outside my office. There is no longer an arch. This is what I see instead of the arch of roses leading me to the swimming pool.

A tree that won't grow and a weber that can't
I tell Goodwill I think we need to do some garden redesign; I need to write. Let's get the spade and string.

Goodwill says he thinks I need to get a towel and sunscreen. I need to take a running jump into that swimming pool.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Peace and Quiet

 I need peace and quiet to write - that’s what I tell the family.

This month there will be no fun-and-games-and-gadding-about. And if the electricity and plumbing and everything else conks out then things will have to be fixed after I’ve finished writing.

That’s what I say.

I sit down to write Confessions of a Virgin Loser in a cunningly cold week in July. I am snug in my quiet office with a peaceful view of my new stoep to which my builders must still add the finishing touches (screeding the floor, painting the walls and ceiling and so on).

I call Trevor and Phineus my builders, but everyone knows they are really Friend-Lisa’s builders. When Friend-Lisa needs something done, Trevor and Phineus are off to her place before you can say hey, you haven’t finished building my stoep.

The stoep project started in February.

Now it’s July and Friend-Lisa releases Trevor and Phineus to come and clutter up the front of my office in the week that I’m seeking peace and quiet to write. Thanks Friend-Lisa.

And Teen1 embarks on a nervous breakdown over matric prelims; Teen2 adopts a pavement special from the SPCA with serious toilet issues - and Penguin wants me to finish up with my latest book Melly, Mrs Ho and Me.

I want to scream bugger off the lot of you, I need peace and quiet to write Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation. I need to write a story to promote reading and writing among young adults who like reading stuff on cellphones.

Instead I say: “Want a cup of tea?” to Trevor and Phineus. And they say - every time -  “Only if you’re making.” And I say of course I’m making. And I make cup after cup of tea while Trevor and Phineus screed and paint; and Zwiggy from the SPCA expresses her toilet issues on my office floor and walks all over the fresh screed.

Twenty cups of tea, twenty chapters each of 200 words later, I have product for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation. And the stoep is finished - except for a few finishing touches.

Today I have peace and quiet to write. Zwiggy is toilet trained and asleep on the couch, the Teens are at school. TeenDad is earning the bacon. Peace and Quiet.

I call Trevor and Phineus and say they must come now to re-screed the stoep floor. I need to write. And I’m making tea.

My (and Friend-Lisa's ) builders Trevor and Phineus - back to chip away
 and rescreed the floor so that I can write and make tea


Hey Zwiggy - you sure have grown into a nice dog

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crazy silly games

My up-to-something teens are always playing games. And I’m not talking about Monopoly and Scrabble.
Earlier this week about twenty matric boys at their school arrived for class in shorts – they had hacked the legs off their trousers and sewed them into Bermudas or bum shorts. (Teen1 was one of the tailors; Teen2 one of the stylists). How I laughed at those wicked boys, playing silly buggers with those cross teachers.
The aim of these sort of games is to see how far they can push the school authorities. What tends to happen is that the parents get phoned to come and take their troublesome teens home. It’s a double jackpot – pissing off both teachers and parents. You can’t go wrong with this.
When my teens play these sorts of games, I’m not too much bothered. It’s the other sort of party game where the rules are a bit hazy and I’m not asked to play that scares the hell out of me.
One night I picked Teen1 and a couple of her friends home from a beach party. Later I found Teen-Friend examining a galaxy of love-bites on her neck. Goodness, how that thin neck had been mauled!
She saw me looking.
“This one is Geoff. And here is Carl and Leonard. And oh, this one here is Damien,” she said, naming each love-bite with eyes as red as one of those hard liquor labels. Then she saw the expression on my face.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she said, acknowledging my dismay. “Those boys sure have weird names.”
I just had to laugh – but the taste of fear was at the back of my throat. Crazy silly games!

Boy in shorts drives teachers crazy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That drunk idiot Jub Jub

My two daughters sometimes make their own way to school when they want to prove how well they can do without me. The oldest one walks and the other one rides her bicycle if the wheels aren’t pap.

The school is only about a kilometre away, but when I see them leaving through the front gate, I want to chew my heart in two. Anything could happen on that stretch of road.

“Walk on the pavement,” I yell after the walking one.  “And slow down it’s not a race,” I scream at the cycling one - who never hears me as she hurtles onto the road into the traffic.

They say I’m annoying in my worrying ways. And I really am. But I can’t forget that gospel singer Jub Jub (Molemo Maarohanye) who diced drunk, wrecked his car and killed four kids who were walking home from school in Soweto six months ago.

These days they call his killer Mini Cooper the Jub Jub. It’s not really fair on a nice little car that never asked to be driven by a drunk idiot. If I was a Mini Cooper, I would sue.

But names have a way of sticking – like calling the Combi taxi Zola Budd after that skinny bare-footed runner who tripped up Mary Decker in the Olympics.

When I wrote Chapter Three of Confessions of a Virgin Loser, I needed a car for Mondli to drive. I thought the Jub Jub was a good choice. It tells you everything you need to know about the driver.

If I saw Mondli driving his Jub Jub in my neighbourhood after school I would have a serious heart attack.

Teen2 wrecked her bike chain going down a hill too fast last week so the bike's out of action until she can persuade me to take it to the shop to get fixed. Until then I get to take her to school, which makes me really happy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Families that embarrass the hell out of you

I couldn’t imagine giving Frank anything more horrible than seven doting sisters and a teacher for a mother. They must embarrass the hell out of him every day without intending to – just because they love him so much.

I embarrass my daughters terribly sometimes – especially in front of their friends. Mostly I feel bad when I do, as I don’t like to make them sad and awkward. Also, they get so cross with me that they punish me for days by not letting me pack their school lunches or make them breakfast.
The one thing that really gets them is if I chat to their friends. They can’t stand it. I’m supposed to be this invisible taxi driver and provider or funds – never seen or heard unless they give me a signal.
But sometimes I rebel at their disregard for me and I make a point of yelling, “Hello, hello,” out of the car window to their classmates when I pick them up from school. When we drive off I shout and wave and grin like a mad person to everyone. Even to people I don’t know.
My daughters get furious and say, “Stop waving at these people you don’t even know. They think you’re a crazy person.”  But I keep on waving because it makes me smile inside.
I know one day it’s going to backfire and my daughters will have their revenge.
In the mornings when I take them to school, I wear my pyjamas and slippers.
I see myself running out of petrol or getting stopped by the cops and getting hauled out onto the streets in my sleepwear. My daughters will die laughing at me when this happens!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The idea behind the story

When Steve Vosloo from the Shuttleworth Foundation approached me about writing a cellphone story for young adults, I looked to my daughters for an idea. They are always up to something. These “somethings” are usually things that make me bleed from my ears with fear for their safety.

When I moan at them and yell, “Come on, just don’t do that, you’re under age - and it’s stupid,” they have two retorts for me.

The first is, “But you do it, and you’re old. Don’t you know how stupid and uncool you look?”

The other retort comes after we have calmed down and are talking more quietly - usually when I’m driving the car and we can’t make eye contact. They say, “Hey Mom, you just don’t understand the pressure we are under to fit in. It’s so hard to say no.”

So that’s where the concept for Confessions of a Virgin Loser came from. The idea that two friends could callously challenge their dorky buddy to do stupid things under threat of being dumped. It’s an idea taken to an extreme, but I think it’s happening on all sorts of levels every day.

Here are my wickedly clever daughters. They are always up to something.

Teen1 - She does things that make blood pour from my ears.

Teen2 - She thinks I'm uncool.