Happy new year, and all that rot…

Hello world…

And a very happy new year to you all, friend and foe alike.

2008 had been much better to me than 2007 had been, but that’s not really saying much: it’s kinda like saying that a frontal lobotomy is preferable to having your head chopped off. That might be true, but we’d still prefer to avoid either of the two outcomes, won’t we?

So here I go again: I’m starting off the new year in a new job (quite literally, in fact: I’m reporting for duty on the second) which is kinda scary in the current economic market. I’ve had to buy a new car since some arseho “kind-hearted person” decided to torch my old one. Fun times…

Being as that may, I’m also starting the new year on a clean slate, forgiving all of those who had betrayed me. I might not wish to be friends with them, or mix with them even, but I do forgive them.

So… Have a happy new year all of you, and may love and happiness haunt your doorsteps.

EugĂ©ne out…

Watershed Moments

Now I would hesitate to refer to myself as a professional when it comes to watershed moments, never having been paid for them, you see, but I certainly would have no issue referring to myself as an experienced amateur…

In the the last year much has happened to me, and only some of that had been good. Okay, to be honest; some absolutely awesome events had happened to me, along with some truly horrendous ones.

If nothing else, I have learnt a great deal about me; the person I used to be and the person I have since become.

I’ve learnt that I’m generally kind and gentle; I’ve learnt that children and animals seem inclined, to put it mildly, to be kindly disposed to me; I’ve learnt that I have drive and determination second to none. I have learnt that, when I put my mind to it, I can accomplish some utterly astounding feats; personally and professionally both.

I have also learnt that I still do not handle betrayal well at all. Of all the occurrences in my life, this one seems to gnaw at me, at my very being, most relentlessly.

Yet… Yet. I have also learnt that I have a much bigger heart than I had ever thought myself as capable of having.

Sadly, nearly all of these realisations have come at great cost; the cost of some heart-ache during moments of great self-doubt.

Yet none of these are what I would have considered real “Watershed Moments”. Critical turning points. I mean, make no mistake, all of them were part of the healing process, and in retrospect I embrace them all; they are all part of the history of the person writing this; all part of the experience that formed him and are all part of his strength…

No, the real watershed moment was the realisation I experienced when I managed to identify the source of the melancholy I had felt the whole morning.

You see, today is the birthday of a person who, until late last year, was the most important in my life; I used to go out of my way to make this day special. I know soppy, romantic, stupid… Call it what you like. That does not change the reality of it in any way at all.

The doleful feeling was my subconscious nagging at me for not having done anything special for today…

Once I had realised it, of course, the cloud mostly lifted. But more importantly, another cloud, one that had been lingering for even longer, also started lifting.

Before today I had been very anxious at the thought that I might never be able to fully trust again; never be able to give a girl a chance to fully come into my life and into my heart again. That the romantic in me had been killed off in a moment of brutal callousness.

I, now, no longer have that fear… The romantic in me is still here, very much still alive. He has merely been lying low, waiting for the right girl to come kicking down the doors to his hideout…

Cansa Shavathon 2008

Yes, yes… I’m very well aware that the real Cansa Shavathon Day for 2008 is only on the 16th… My company had decided, though, that today would be an opportune day for that.

I’ll post some more photos of the other poor victims when I get them, but some of me for the time being.

Of course, since I don’t have much that can be shaved off, I decided to go green…

I think green kinda suits me… Maybe I should stick with it? :-)

A Storybook Love…

He was just sitting there, staring at the sea. Nobody quite knew what to make of him, the strange old man. But they considered him harmless. He was there every morning. As regular as clockwork; sitting there sipping his coffee from his flask at dawn, having his sandwiches, always the same – brown bread with little butter and lots of jam, at tea and then leaving at lunch.

He was obviously waiting for something to come from the sea, obviously waiting for something or someone. Nobody wanted to ask him, not because they were afraid of him, but because he seemed to have an ineffable air of sadness; a need to to be alone with his thoughts.

One morning he wasn’t there anymore, though. That surprised everyone, as anything unusual happening invariably seems to. Nor was he the next day. On the third, though he was seen again; but not sitting watching the sea… He was standing on the patch of grass next to the bench that had been his point of vigil for so long. Looking at the people milling about, an occasional smile on his face and the sadness seemingly replaced with a quiet resignation and occasional flashes of optimism.

And to their surprise the regulars, those curious ones who had watched him but were too timid to approach the old man, realised he was not all that old; it was sadness that had drawn the lines on his face, not the years.

Eventually one of them, the one who had thought he knew the man the best, finally broke down and inched closer to the man, failing to note the amusement now shining in his eyes. “Erm…”, he started, “so it’s here? It came? Whatever you were waiting for?”

With a wry grin the no-longer old man’s reply was heard, a reply that really confused some of those around him; having no frame of reference for his thoughts…

“No friend. All that came in the end was realisation. Realising that if this wasn’t a Storybook Love, it was because it never was written into the story. Realising that if I want a Storybook Love, I might have to go read another book. And finally realising that there are actually other books that might be even more worth reading…”

Reflections on the Falls – Day 2

As Themba’s stentorian snores had lulled me to sleep the previous evening, so they not so gradually brought me to a none-too-gentle awakening. Yep. Still here…

With some caffeine fuelled enthusiasm I had decided that a shower was my first order of business. Alas, no, the miniscule alcove had not over-night magically assumed more generous proportions, no. Oh well, at least I got to leave it cleaner than I had entered it.

After dressing I wandered down to breakfast. And a surprisingly good one at that as well. The cynic in me immediately started wondering what the catch was… The place had not so far managed to fill me to the brim with confidence in their ability to play nicely.

Playing tourist time: Victoria Falls. Truly majestic. Or probably would have been if there was anything actually falling… Okay, that’s a bit unfair. The parts of the falls where there was falling water to be had (not an unfair expectation of some place proclaiming to be a waterfall I would have though, myself) was maybe excessively waterfall-y. Rather damp and everything. And quite high, at 100m plus… Okay. Effing high. 33 Storeys is a bit higher than I feel like falling down from. I did pick up on one thing though. Apparently I’m not really afraid of heights.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel for a blessedly cold beer. And the news that the airline’s licence had been suspended. We had to buy a new ticket. And we got to spend another day at Vic Falls. At our own expense. Oh. Joy.

Nothing but to do but continue with out event-packed afternoon. The elephant-back safari. Something I, as someone who had been reared on Kipling, had been quite looking forward to. And we were only half-an-hour late, too. An auspicious start indeed. We arrive in time for refreshments: anything from Lemonade, Sprite or Water. Unless you happen to want water, that is. But the tap’s in the loo if you would like to go get some…

Finally we were deemed ready for our great adventure; after we had been convinced to sign the indemnity form. It was at this point which an alarm started sounding in my head. Any venture requiring new clothes or indemnity forms are suspect by definition, in my opinion.

The real trouble started when one of the smallest elephants were brought closer and I was entreated to mount the bastard thing. All was fine till the denizen from the lowest of the hells started moving and the saddle started slipping to the side. “Now this,” I thought to myself, “is simply not going to end well.” Which I then promptly proved by valiantly holding on to the reigns which in turn was quite sturdily fastened to the saddle; which in turn decided that there was no way in hell that I would be staying on that damned elephant; it quite gracefully turned on the barrel of said elephant.

Themba and I — yes the very same Themba — now both got dumped, quite ungracefully and very damned hard, on the ground. From there we got to experience quite a unique view of elephants. An encounter I would have preferred to forgo and would really not recommend.

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An earnest attempt now got made, after we had been patched up somewhat and the saddle had been actually cinched, to convince me to re-mount the elephant. Now I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but stupid ain’t really one of them. There was no way, on this green earth, that I was getting back on that damned elephant!

Limping, I made my way to the cooler box, and promptly did my utmost (with eventual success due to Themba’s kind assistance and thorough command of Zulu) to convince one of the rangers that we truly deserved a couple of cold beers.

Nursing a cold beer, a bruised body and my equally bruised ego we find that one of the rangers left to “baby-sit” us is the chief lion trainer for the safari-outfit. Apparently they become unmanageable at two years of age, so the oldest ones he had were all seventeen months old. If you had never seen a seventeen-month-old lion from close up, take my word on this: that’s one big pussy-cat!

Eventually supper-time arrives and I frantically try and find a reason to skip going to “The Boma”. I wasn’t at all too certain that I would survive whatever was in store for us now… In a way what we run into at supper was both better and worse than I had feared… The food was edible. The entertainment was fairly decent. But the “interactive drum experience” (just known as “drumming” to us ignorant South Africans) was a total wash. Well, for me at least. I was sitting at the table in too much pain to go fetch some ice-cream and some over-enthusiastic personification of evil (damn those extroverts!) expected me to be all eager and enthusiastic at the prospect of energetically beating a drum? I was so sore, I couldn’t even lift my beer to my mouth!

Later, with the pain mostly under control due to some decent painkillers (as opposed to my faculties, for much the same reason) I eventually stumbled off to bed; dog-tired and hoping like hell that I would I fall asleep before the painkillers wore off. In fact, I was also so doped up that Themba could have snored all he wanted, he could have started a fire-fight in the room for all I cared, that night I was going to sleep, damn it!

There were some upsides to all of that, fortunately. The day had been so “eventful” that I had little time to reflect on anything. I had been so busy wondering what new “adventure” awaited us, that there had been no time to think about “home”.

Reflections on the Falls – Day 1

“Now, I’ve been to some dodgy places. No, I mean some really dodgy places. But that was behind me, I was convinced of that. I knew that that was history. Which doesn’t explain why I am here. No, it really does not.” These were some of my very first thoughts at seeing the Airport after landing…

It was bad enough when the Airline grounded all flights. Fortunately another Airline decided to honour the tickets. Sort of. After giving us a decent run-around for an hour, we’re informed that, instead of flying into Livingston in Zambia as we were going to, we would now be flying into Vic Falls in Zimbabwe. Ah well, close enough, I suppose. It then got a whole lot worse when the person organising the flight, the one with the transfer vouchers, with the paperwork, the money to pay for the hotel, managed to miss it… Not his fault really, since he would have had ample time to do all he needed had the Airline not decided to lose an engine a while ago, but still; it worried.

Here on the other side another, new, comedy awaited us though. Somewhere, somehow, one of the bags got lost. All got checked in together, and all, but that one, had made it. One managed to “get lost”. But of course it would… It was on Friday. Bag number X000013. It was doomed from the start…

Thistry we wandered to one of the shops. Paying a mil-and-a-half for anything freaks me out just a tad. Maybe a house is still okay, but a bloody ice-cream? Well, to be fair, that translates to just over R333 at the official exchange rate. For a bloody ice-cream? Now, I’ll readily grant that I haven’t bought any ice-cream in a while, but I would have considered R15 to be a tad expensive but understandable: I mean it is an Airport after all. But that’s no excuse for more than a 2222% premium, is it?

We finally got to the hotel, not at all certain of our welcome, since the person who had organised it all is the only one not available to explain to them that it all had, indeed, been organised. Thus it’s just another place, with another adventure awaiting us on this day from the nether realms. I get to share a room with Themba. Themba is okay. I like the dude, I really do. But not enough to share a bed with him okay?

Paying for beer at the local pub proved to be another adventure in itself. One pays in rands for prices quoted in Zim dollars to then get US dollars in change. Most unfortunately they don’t accept coins, ever so sorry. A nice little racket, of course, since it means that everything gets calculated in multiples of R6.77. And then rounded up. As I said, a nice little racket indeed.

Finally it was time for our first “activity”. A sunset cruise. Now it was time to experience the wilds of Africa with man in his natural habitat. On the deck of a barge with a cold beer in his hand. And I certainly experienced lots… Hippos. Crocodiles. Bottom of my beer glass. To be honest I saw way too many of the last for personal comfort; I got too close to the grim reality of it, if you will.

End of the day arrived, and we promptly moved on to Supper-time at “The Makuwa-Kuwa”. Which is great; that is, unless you feel at all uncomfortable at the idea of paying $25 US for a fairly common South African Cabernet. R100 I would’ve been able to justify to myself, but paying nearly R200 for a R50 bottle of wine was a lot, if you’ll excuse the pun, harder to swallow. Being forced to be honest, though, I would admit to the food being very, very, good. Deciding to simply avoid the wine, I’m starting to feel a bit better about this venture. Until, that is…

I went off to bed quite looking forward to a well-earned night’s rest after quite an eventful day. Fortunately it had taken only a modicum of brute force to separate the beds so I wouldn’t find myself sleeping close enough to Themba so that I would end up feeling obliged to make him an offer of marriage. Unfortunately, though, it soon became evident that Themba snores for the First Team.

Great. Just effing great…

Happiness writes white…

It used to amuse me for the longest time that when I’m at my happiest I tend to be most quiet about it. It seems that I’m then so busy being happy, that I don’t want to waste any time on non-critical things like blog entries.

I used to think I was alone or unusual in that, that is till I listened to Harvey Danger’s Happiness writes white from their Little by Little album.

Ariella, 7:30, I don’t want to get up yet
Listen to the morning music cursing the alarm you set
As you know I’ve never been a praying man
I don’t need a God to make me feel alirght
But if you wonder why I never wrote you a song
it’s because happiness writes white…

I also started paying attention to other blogs, and, while by no means a universal phenomenon, it does seem a lot more common than people would credit.