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.