Saturday, February 12, 2011

Goodbye, I have left the building

I’m really crap at saying goodbye.
Several years ago my father was dying of cancer and I went down to Port Elizabeth to visit him in hospital.
It was clear that this would be the last time I would see him. One of the biggest indicators was the doctor advising my mom that he should be moved to Frail Care - a really grim place where patients have their watches stolen by people who don’t think they’ll need them anymore.
When the time came for me to catch the plane back to Johannesburg I sort of smiled at my dad a lot because I didn’t want to cry and he growled at me and said, “Why are you laughing at me?” And then he lay back and carried on reading the stock exchange pages in The Herald. And I left.
That was our goodbye. I suppose both of us just didn’t want to say it. He died alone two days later when my mom was away from his side getting a sandwich at the hospital canteen.
Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to say goodbye. (Bye Dad, and thanks)
A person I cared about a great deal twenty five years back fell off the top of a building last week during a smoke break.
When I heard about his death, I cursed myself for not having been in touch with him for so long. If only I’d had the chance to say hello again before he went away forever. (Hoesit, Kobus ou maat, jou skommelling ding).
This month I say a couple of goodbyes of a less devastating nature and I am just as crap at saying them.
I say goodbye to my daughter as she heads off to University. At the airport we give each other awkward hugs. There are a million things I want to say to her but of course they’d just come out wrong as always. So instead I say have lots of fun and be safe and come home some times.
I am hoping like crazy that I haven’t screwed up too much and that there will be many years ahead of us to have those conversations. (Bye Em, I love you)
This month I also say goodbye to a book I have been writing pretty much the same time I have been writing this blog. The book is a sequel to Melly, Mrs Ho and Me and I am calling it  Melly, Fatty, Raturd and Me. I figure Penguin will change the title but what the hell.
At the end of the month Melly, Fatty, Raturd and Me will be done and I will send it off to the most marvellous editor in the world, James, who will then tell me if it’s worth a sausage or not. (Goodbye Book, you have driven me mental)
I am also saying goodbye to this blog and to all you very nice people who have read it. I wrote the blog to describe the process of writing an m-book called Confessions of a Virgin Loser. Each blog post tells you what ideas and influences lie behind the chapters.

The m-book was written for Mr Steve Vosloo from the Shuttleworth Foundation and his bunch of cellphone addicts who like to read books on small screens. It was published in August 2010.
You can read Confessions of a Virgin Loser chapter by chapter here:  - (check out the hundreds of comments after each chapter from readers) - or you can read it as one whole story below. I put all the chapters together to make it easier for you - as a goodbye present.
I’ve had fun writing the blog and I hope you have had fun reading it. Thanks for taking the time. I’ll be off then. (Goodbye)

Confessions of a Virgin Loser: The whole story


My name is Frank and I’m the biggest Loser in the world. I can’t drink without chundering, I get asthma just from looking at a cigarette box and I’m the last seventeen-year-old virgin left standing in Jozi.
Yesterday, at the school’s prize-giving, my status as the universe’s Number One Douche-bag was made official when I was awarded a gold certificate for Caring. Yip, you got it – I was the idiot serving tea on Pensioners Day.
My two homies Silas and Mondli say I’m rubbish company and I’m giving them a bad rep. If I don’t come right and get with the programme they’re going to tell me to hit the road.
I’ve got a month to learn to drink like a pirate, smoke zol like a Rasta and get laid. 
Thirty days, they tell me, to turn from Prize Nerd into Party Animal. Seven hundred and twenty hours to become Ayoba! like them. They’ve got three tests lined up for me. Three challenges.
I don’t know if I can crack it. I don’t even know if I even want to try. But they’re the only chinas I’ve got.
I blame my Virgin Loser status on my family. I live with my ouledi and seven sisters. And for sure they love me crazy, but I’m drowning in girl hormones.
I can’t go to school to escape Team Frank ’cos the whole family’s there. My sisters are spread through the grades like cold sores. And Mama’s the Life Orientation teacher.
It’s no joke. She’s the one who stands in front of the class and goes all Malema-mouth about Condoms and Crabs and Warts and Aids and all the other stuff you don’t ever want to talk to your ouledi about. Especially not with thirty classmates watching.
This morning I’m thinking on my homies’ challenge: Learn how to party or take a hike. I’m still not sure.
But then Mama kisses me goodbye in the school corridor in front of the whole world. And then she asks me if I’ve remembered my asthma pump. And would I buy some tampons for my sisters. She says this loudly. In front of EVERYONE. In front of Silas and Mondli – who do what Benni did to Bafana-Bafana and turn their backs on me.
And in that moment I make up my mind.
I catch Silas and Mondli after school. Mondli drives a Jub-Jub – a Mini Cooper – courtesy of his dad (he got it when he finally passed the drivers license after ten tries).
We roar off, trying to break the sound barrier. Mondli says we’re hitting the bottlestore. I tell Mondli he can drop me off at home, I’ve got homework. Silas flicks me hard on my ear and says I need to shape up. Test Number One: it’s time to engage a groove.
Outside the bottlestore Mondli rips a wad of tigers out of his wallet and tells me to get the hard stuff. They’ll wait in the car.
Inside the store, the manager checks me out. Then he asks for ID. And then he looks at me like I’m some Virgin Loser and tells me to go home. I go back to the car and tell my chomas that I’m not legal. And they look at me like I’m a used condom.
Silas grabs the cash and heads for the store. He’s back in five secs with the bottles. He flicks fifty cents in the air and says it’s time to play the drinking game. He looks at me with hard eyes. Am I ready?
My homies Silas and Mondli and me are playing a drinking game at Mondli’s crib.
Mondli says it’s the Flip, Strip or Sip game. Strip? No, please, not Strip. My armpits fill with sweat. Mondli says chill, Dweeb, the babes aren’t joining us today so we’ll just Flip and Sip. They’re going to teach me to drink like a real man.
Mondli flips the fifty cents and calls Heads. And it’s Heads. He passes the coin to Silas who flips and calls Tails. It’s Tails. Silas passes the coin to me. I call Heads . . . No Tails . . . No Heads. It falls out of my hand and hits the floor rolling. It’s Tails.
Silas passes me a shooter glass. ‘Down, down, down,’ he chants.
I down the vodka and nearly gag. Silas slams me on the back and takes the coin. He flips the coin in the air and calls Heads. It’s Heads. And it’s my turn. And my turn again. And again.
I drink shooters until I feel like I’m going to fall off my chair. But I don’t. I sit there drinking and smiling. Like a regular drunk guy. And I don’t park my lunch. Not then. Not there.
I down my last shot of vodka and slam the fifty cents on the table. I’m tired of this crazy drinking game.
I eyeball Silas and Mondli. There are four of them now. They grin at me as I try to focus. They say I’ve past my first test – I drink like a pirate from Somalia. They must get me home before my ship sinks.
We pile into the Jub-Jub and Silas opens the car window – in case I want to breathe. I tell Mondli he shouldn’t be driving. He says it’s not far, he’ll keep one eye open and let Silas steer.
‘No, we mustn’t,’ I tell Silas.
But he says shuddup and get in the car.
We are three blocks from my ouledi’s place when Silas shouts stop. Two cop cars are perched on the side of the road. ‘Crap,’ says Mondli, throwing a fierce U-turn.
Oncoming traffic hoots and the wheels of the Mini Cooper screech like a bunch of girls. I see the blue siren flashing behind us and I put my head between my legs as Mondli drives like the devil.
The Jub-Jub ducks into a side street and the police car speeds past. And then my bras, Silas and Mondli, howl like hyenas at our lucky escape – driving under hard liquor is a bad rap.
We leave the car and they walk me home. They tell me I’m the man. I’ve downed half a bottle of vodka in a drinking game and I’m still on my feet. Sort of. And I haven’t chundered. They tell me I’ve passed the first test of becoming a real man like them.
My ouledi is sitting on the stoep when I arrive home. And she’s got company. It’s the school principal and her daughter Babs. Silas and Mondli see the guests and duck faster than I can say: hey dudes, don’t leave me stumbling around like a drunk in the driveway.
Mama calls for me to come over and I tell her I’m checking out the flowers. I fall over into a flower bed and lay low until I hear car doors slam. The guests are leaving.
I stagger to my feet as the car passes. The car stops and I hear a voice calling my name. I topple forward. And then it happens.
I’m leaning against my school principal’s car when I feel the half bottle of vodka do a summersault under my belt. And the principals’ daughter Babs is checking me out with big brown eyes. They grow bigger and bigger until I start falling into them.
Before I can stop myself, I’m hurling. I’m chundering and heaving and spewing. Tossing my school lunch tuna sandwich all over my principal. All over beautiful, brown-eyed Babs. All over their car. Along with the half a bottle of vodka I drank during the drinking game I played with my homies Silas and Mondli to prove I’m not some Grade One Loser.
I stop hurling and sit in the driveway. Drinking could get me expelled from school. So I moan weakly about being poisoned by a tuna sandwich. It looks like the principal buys my story. But Mama looks at me with sad eyes and I can see that she doesn’t believe me.
My ouledi cleans up and sends the principal and Beautiful Babs on their way smelling like a Russian fishing boat.
My cellphone rings and Silas asks if I’m ready for the next test to prove I’m Ayoba! like them. I feel sick to my stomach but I say for sure. What must I do?
I’m standing outside my classroom and Beautiful Babs asks me if I’m okay. Have I recovered from the tuna fish poisoning of the day before? That made me chunder all over her and her ouledi – the school principal – and their car.
She asks this with a sweet glint in those big brown eyes, so I know she knows that I was cagged after a crazy drinking game with my homies Silas and Mondli.
Before I can answer she sweeps past me and I suddenly realise that this is the first time she’s ever spoken to me. And that she was teasing me. In a nice sort of way.
My heart collapses in my chest. And then I want to beat myself senseless when I feel strings of drool in the corners of my open mouth.
Silas and Mondli are watching me. They give me thumbs up and say I’m coming along just fine. I’m talking to hot chicks. And after school they have a second test for me. It’s not a drinking game to see if I can hold my cagg. It’s a lot more dangerous.
After school Mondli parks the Jub-Jub a block away from a house with a technicolour roof and hands me a fist full of tigers. ‘Get a dozen,’ he says. I look at him blankly. A dozen zols, Silas growls. Ask the Rasta at the Jah House for twelve Swazi.
I leave my stomach on the floor of the Jub-Jub and wander as casually as I can towards the Jah House. Its multicoloured roof burns my eyes and I look down at my dragging feet.
Ten metres from the Jah House a voice asks me if I want to buy some weed. It comes from a snot-faced kid the size of my youngest sister. I feel like I’ve been given a reprieve.
I hold out twelve tens and he hands over a dozen joints. He says it was nice doing business and runs like the blazes. I stuff the product into my blazer and swagger back to the Jub-Jub. Silas asks if I got the stuff from the Rasta. I nod. ‘Now we’re smoking!’ he and Mondli say.
I lied so that they’d tell me I was cool. But I should have told the truth. If I had, things would have turned out different.
Me and my homies Silas and Mondli are smoking weed at the bottom of Silas’ garden. They tell me I’m halfway to passing the second test. I scored from the Rasta at the Jah House. Next I must smoke the product.
I haven’t told them I was too chicken to go into the Jah House; that I bought the stuff from a kid on the pavement.
Mondli lights up and drags the smoke into his lungs. He coughs and passes the zol over to Silas. ‘Sweet, this stuff is so sweet,’ Silas says and sucks hard. Then he hands it to me. ‘Feel it. It is here,’ he says.
I take the joint and inhale gently. It smells like my grandfather’s cow shed. And it tastes like cow crap. But what do I know? I say this in between coughing bits of my lung on to the ground.
Silas grabs the joint and crumbles it in his fist. ‘This isn’t Swazi, this is cow crap,’ he says. He swings a punch at my shoulder as Mondli cracks up. ‘Where the hell did you get this?’
I tell Silas the truth and say sorry, I screwed up the party.
‘Come, let’s go,’ Silas says.
Silas drags me towards the Jah House. He says we’re going to catch the kid who sold me cow crap and after we’ve taught him some respect I’m going to score some Swazi from the Rasta like I was supposed to.
I’m so close, so close to failing the second test, he tells me with a snarl. Silas is in a big rage at my screw-up but my other pal Mondli is hosing himself. Give the loser a break, he says, it’s not such a big deal.
I spot the snot-faced kid and he sees me. Then he’s gone. Then I see Babs, the school principal’s beautiful daughter. She’s walking past the Jah House. She sees me and smiles.
Then a cop car screeches to a stop on the pavement. Two cops jump out and they run towards me and my homies. Then I’m spreadeagled against the palisade fence and the content of my pockets is lying on the pavement. My homies, Silas and Mondli, can’t be seen for dust.
One of the cops holds up the zols and says I’m in big trouble. They’ve got plans for me down at the cop shop.
Back at the cop shop they rip my blazer off my back and strip search me. ‘Where is it?’ they scream.
I’m standing butt naked and all they’ve found are eleven zols full of cow crap. Zols that I scored off some snot-faced, rip-off artist kid outside the Jah House.
Two hours later my ouledi and seven sisters arrive. Mama says Beautiful Babs, the principal’s daughter, saw me getting bust by cops and sounded the alarm. That’s why they’re here. My ouledi is tearing at her hair and my seven sisters look at me with mean eyes.
The cops say there’s no charge – I can go. They smirk at me like I’m some jakalas that got bust with a blazer pocket full of cow crap instead of prime Swazi.
Mama says there’s no smoke without fire and she knows I’ve been up to rubbish. She says this even when I tell her that just like Paris Hilton at the World Cup, I’ve been falsely accused.
But I know I’m guilty of failing the second test. The message from my buddies on my phone says I screwed up big time. And if I don’t pass the third test I’m finished.
My homies Silas and Mondli say they’re giving me one last chance to prove I’m a real man and not some Virgin Loser who can’t even score Swazi without screwing up and getting busted.
I’ve got a final test to pass. And it’s a tough one. When they tell me what it is my heart beats so loudly it’s like an orchestra of vuvuzelas in my ears.
I’ve got seven days to get laid. If I don’t, I must voetsek and hang out with other arbs.
I ask them who? Which hot thang in Jozi is going to let me come within five metres of her? I’ve got about as much chance of getting up close and personal to a babe as Bafana Bafana had of winning the World Cup.
Mondli takes pity on me and says the best place to pull chicks is at the farewell party for the matrics. Silas gives a filthy laugh and says the girls get so trashed they’ll do it with anyone, even with a loser like me.
The party’s in three days time. I look at Silas and Mondli and say bring it on. I’m ready. I think.
Tonight I’m going to get laid for the first time. It’s the third test and last that my homies Silas and Mondli have set me to prove that I’m a real man and not some Virgin Loser.
I’m fired up and resolved, but the forces of fate seem bent on throwing boulders in my path. My road to manhood will not be as smooth as a trip on the Gautrain.
Obstacle Number One: My ouledi says there’s no way I’m going to the matric farewell jol on the party bus with my two buddies and twenty other dudes from school. She says she and a couple of other mothers are going to do a lift club.
Obstacle Number Two: Mama says I’m being fetched just after midnight – and no arguments. That doesn’t give me much time.
Obstacle Number Three: My eighteen-year-old sister Dineo is also going to the party. She’s defs gonna kill my swag.
But these obstacles are mere sheep droppings to a man of my resolve. I’ve got a hip flask of my ouledi’s cooking sherry, a six pack of Rough Rider condoms and a stomach full of butterfly-worms. Things can’t possibly go wrong tonight.
There’s me, my sister Dineo and a pimple-farmer called Jethro in the car on our way to the jol.
Destination: Naughties’ Nightclub in Midrand. Mission: To get laid and pass the third test my pals Silas and Mondli have set me to prove that I’m a real man and not some Virgin Loser.
‘One last stop,’ my ouledi says, parking outside the principal’s house. ‘You go in and get her.’
I stumble to the front door. And then she’s there. The Beautiful Babs. She looks at me and holds out her hand. I’m three seconds away from kissing it when I pull my hand out of my jacket pocket – the pocket that contains the six pack of condoms.
As I grab Babs’ hand the condoms fall on to the floor. I hold her eyes with mine. Don’t look down. Please don’t look down, I pray.
You’ve dropped something, Babs says and bends down. She picks up the six pack of Rough Riders and hands them to me. ‘Eish, Frank, it looks like you plan to be a busy boy tonight.’ She giggles.
But there’s a weird look in those dark brown eyes of hers. I wish I knew what it meant.
Naughties’ Nightclub is rocking. People from my school are dancing and shouting and drinking and laughing inside. And smoking zol and making out in the parking lot outside.
My homies Silas and Mondli arrive well lubricated with whiskey. Silas knuckles me on my shoulder. It hurts. ‘Are you ready for some action tonight?’ he yells.
He checks out Beautiful Babs at my side and sniggers. You can go skin on skin with this one. She’s safe. She’s a Virgin Loser like you. Then he shakes his head and says don’t bother, she doesn’t give.
I glance over at Babs, hoping she didn’t hear Silas, but the light catches a glint in her eyes and I’m not sure.
Mondli says he’s heading inside to check out the talent. I ask Babs if she wants to hang with us and she says she’ll hang with Jethro, the pimple-farmer. And she puts her arm through his.
I tear my eyes away from her and follow Silas and Mondli into the club. Then Mondli’s passing around shooters and it’s ‘Down, down, down.’
Mondli says the babes are pretty fine tonight. And they are all stoned and sloshed. ‘Fo sho we’re going to be getting us some action.’

Mondli is slow-dancing with Khanyi Mbau. She’s not the real deal, just a vacant chick who got the nickname for treating all the guys like bank machines.

Mondli’s known as the school’s chizboy and always attracts the ATM bombers. Not that he’s complaining. ‘You pay peanuts, you’ll end up partying with a monkey,’ he always says.

Silas comes over with two girls at his side. They’re so cagged they can barely stand. ‘Meet Skank One and Skank Two. Our hit ’n runs for the evening,’ Silas says. He winks at me with red eyes as he pushes Skank One across in my direction.

Skank One leans against me and puts her head on my shoulder. ‘Let’s go outside,’ she slurs. Her hair smells like smoke and vomit.

Silas and me take the two Skanks outside. Now’s my chance to pass the third test and prove that I’m not a Virgin Loser, he tells me as he heads for the parking lot. ‘I’ll see you in five,’ he says.

I hold Skank One’s braids back as she upchucks into a bed full of hydrangeas. She breathes her sweet and sour breath into my face. ‘I think you’re hot,’ she whispers.

I figure it’s now or never.


Me and my date are making out in the parking lot at Naughties’ Nightclub. She seems hungry. She’s licking and sucking at my face and making chewing noises. I try to dodge her tongue which sweeps across my chin like a windscreen wiper.

I’m coming up for air when my sister Dineo strolls past and says: ‘Introduce me to your date, Frank.’

My mouth dries up. I don’t know her name. She’s Skank One to me and Silas (who’s a couple of metres from me, partying with Skank Two).

My sister looks at me darkly. ‘Play safe tonight, hey, bro,’ she says as she walks away.

Safe? I feel as safe as a pack of cards in a hurricane. What if the condom breaks? What if Skank One gets pregnant? And I can’t even bear to think about the risk of catching the dread disease.

Before Skank One can start chewing on my face again, I say, ‘Hold it, what’s your name?’

‘My name?’ She asks me like it’s a question I’ve got the answer to.

‘Don’t you want to know my name?’ I ask her.

She laughs and says she doesn’t care. She’ll have forgotten it by morning anyway.

I think about tomorrow morning, waking up a real man and no longer a Virgin Loser. Not knowing the name of my first girl.

I hold the nameless girl away from me with a hand that is, for some reason, shaking.


In one hour it’ll be midnight and I’ll be the same Virgin Loser pumpkin who arrived at Naughties’ Nightclub three hours earlier all set to get laid.

I told my date to cool it and she took offence. She’s done an Exodus and I’m alone. But not quite. ‘Hola, Frank, having a party?’ It’s Beautiful Babs the principal’s daughter.

She says she’s been watching me for a couple of weeks and she likes what she sees. “You’re not like the other guys, Frank,” she says.

I offer her some cooking sherry from my hip flask. She says she doesn’t feel like drinking tonight.

‘Do you ever feel like it?’ I ask her.

Babs fixes those lovely brown eyes on me and says she feels like doing lots of things. But in her own good time.

She says she gets ripped by the other kids for being a party pooper. ‘And for being the principal’s daughter. For being different. Like you.’

She tells me this and laughs. ‘People are really insecure, they feel better when everyone’s the same,’ she says. ‘But I like who I am. I like being different.’ She takes my hand and pulls me up off the pavement. ‘And I like dancing. With you.’

As Beautiful Babs leads me inside, I don’t tell her I can’t dance like everyone else. I don’t think she’d care. In fact, I think she’d like it. That I dance kind of different.


It’s the morning after the night at Naughties’ Nightclub and Silas chucks the condoms at me. ‘You’re a loser and a freak,’ he says. He tells Mondli that they’re wasting their time with me. I failed the third test. I didn’t get laid last night. I’ll never be a real man like them. I must voetsek.

I tell Silas he’s so right. I don’t want to pass his stupid tests. I don’t want to drink shooters and smoke Swazi. And I don’t want to sleep with some girl whose name I don’t know and who doesn’t want to know mine. Not today.

Today I want to dance with a girl called Babs who likes my moves even when I move all wrong. And tomorrow, when I learn if her real name is Barbara or Babalwa, and when she asks if I’m Francis or Franklin, maybe I’ll take the third test.

Maybe me and Babs will take the test together. But maybe it will be some other girl who also likes me just the way I am. And if it’s not tomorrow, it will be in my own good time.

My homies Silas and Mondli say they’re going now, will they check me tomorrow? Silas voice cracks when he asks me.

And I say maybe.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Cellphone Addicts

The best and the worst part about writing a book is waiting to hear what people have to say about it once it’s published.

My mom is my biggest fan. Half way through reading Cornelia Button and the Globe of Gamagion, she says to me: “Do I really have to finish this?” I say she does and she sighs her way through to the end. She’s very loyal.
But my favourite readers are the ones who review books for a living. There is this one who spells my name wrong, another who spells the main character’s name wrong and then there are the bunch who say I haven’t had time to read your book yet, but I’m sure you’ll walk me through it in the interview.
Reviewers - you just gotta love ‘em - or at least act polite when you meet them.
My all time favourites are those reviewers who email you twenty questions and publish your responses verbatim as “an interview with the author”.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: I take a lot of hard drugs and sleep with unsuitable men in public parks.
Q: What can we expect from you next?
A: I’m hoping to assassinate some world leader and become a professional hooker.
I swear on the life of Teen2's dog Zwiggy I’m going to do it next time I get those twenty questions.
So it is that I look forward with much excitement to the responses from the readers of Confessions of a Virgin Loser when it goes live on cellphones in August last year courtesy of Mr Steve Vosloo and the Shuttleworth Foundation.
The one thing about cellphone addicts who read stories on small screens is that they have the craziest names. This one called $nuz+chick(H)$ has the following to say about the story: “I ddnt lyk da ending it wznt fascinatn sowri”

Well, I am sorry too.
Then there is this one young adult called [$(*ţìñ¤.çøm*)$]  (what on earth does his mom call him?) who has the eye of an entrepreneur. He says: “Awesum , i really like to see a movie based on this. A lot of teens will actually lose their virgni# . Or maybe not. And they will be alot party's goin on every , and someone whose runnin a condom business he/she will earn a profit!”

He's ripe for a fellowship at the Shuttleworth Foundation.

Then there is Ryan who says: I love this story its so dum and at the same time cool i love it” but a chap called Makoya says: “Ths stori sucks:[ “ – and he gives a sad face.

I know how he feels.
Apart from having spelling and punctuation issues, the young adults also have an interesting take on matters of a sexual nature.
L4U.COM@ says: “Nw ths is the chapter i was waitng 4,so i say bring on the chapter ,an thre nthng wrong with getng laid as long as ur using protection swt niblets ,cant wait”
But A+paragon+of+human+perfection says the thought of having sex for the first time is: Sheer horror and terribly scary not for the faint hearted”
Then there's the guy with the sensible name, Rushaan who says: “The ending needs work on. One should never end any story that abruptly.” – and he remembers his full stop, which is always a nice way to end a review.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Place of Stories

There’s a place I go to in the Cape to get my groove back. Sometimes I go there to hang out with my family - like I do these past five weeks over Christmas - and neglect to write this blog.

And sometimes I go there to be alone to write books that quality bookshops hide behind their displays of Stephenie Meyers and Dan Browns.

This is the place I go to

I bought a small house in this place six years ago when my father was dying and I spend a lot of time afterwards sitting on the stoep with my mom knitting and crying and talking about him.

The house with the stoep where I sit and knit and cry

My first book that I get published – The Summer of Toffie and Grummer -  is set in this place and is about an edgy teen who tries to find a new man for her bereaved granny. It's a book about coming to terms with loss and allowing yourself to forgive and love again.

My mom is still pretty frisky and has all her teeth -  and we are still looking for her new man-friend.

I like this place a lot because it’s really beautiful and it has a mountain with waterfalls and a river the colour of rooibos tea. And because it’s a place full of people with stories.  

A place with mountains and a river

One of the stories these people tell is that their village has a very large Lake of Wine and I am obliged to do my bit my drinking as much of it as I can. So I do. (I don't have a photo of The Lake of Wine)

When I’m not drinking my quota, or floating up and down the river on my boogie board, I walk around the village and meet people - which is something I never do in Jozi where I try to meet as few people as possible.

One of the people I meet in this village is a woman who talks to fish. She doesn’t wear shoes and has hairy toes and when I leave this place and go home she jumps over my fence and feeds my goldies and guppies. (And talks to them)

The pond with talking fish

At the top of my hill live three sisters. They are very old and make jam with a label called Three Sisters. Last year two of them crossed the river and now there is just one sister left. But the jam label still reads Three Sisters.

One of my favourite spots in the village is the Charity Shop in the main street next to the bottle store (one of several trying to cope with The Lake of Wine).

It is here that I buy some awesome curlers.

Twenty awesome curlers

Yes, my mom had a set just like these. I put the curlers in Teen2's Christmas stocking this year and they make her laugh. And they make her hair all curly.

And at the Charity Shop I meet a man who is looking to buy a hat who says things like: “that idiot knows as much about real estate as my arsehole knows about shooting grouse.”

He also says I must do my bit for The Lake and come and drink wine with him at his house. But I don’t, because it is only ten o clock in the morning.

Last August, a month after I finish writing Confessions of a Virgin Loser  for Mr Steve Vosloo and his cellphone addicts, I come to this place with my family for the school holidays.

And I sit on my stoep and knit and think about writing another book. A book that will probably never be read by people who like to read stories on their cellphones. And I think about this and do my bit to keep The Lake from over-flowing.

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