Devoured Bokkies vs Tom & Jerry

By Sue Trollip

I have a throbbing tooth. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else. It’s impossible to ignore. It’s not hot-cold or sweet-sour sensitive, it’s pounding painfully.I remember dentists semi-fondly from my childhood. An outing to Escourt was rather exciting. There they had two brand name supermarkets and a couple of clothes shops, whereas we only had one which always seemed to be a few seasons behind. Escourt had a hospital, the dentist and the drive in. It was a regular megalopolis.

If one person in our household needed to go to the dentist, we’d all have to go.  That was just the way it worked. We’d inevitably go shopping, then get a chocolate or milkshake to cheer us up before going to the dentist. When we arrived we’d head straight into his garden (he had his rooms next door to his house) we’d haul out our toothpaste and toothbrushes and brush away the offending sugar at the outside tap, then in we’d trot, minty-breathed and guilt free.

Now I have a fancy dentist. She takes x-rays which go straight from my mouth to her computer. She won’t do anything witPicturehout giving you a painkilling injection first and, most impressively, she has a flat screen TV bolted to the ceiling. If I may complain, I’ve been twice in the last four years and both times there was a ‘nature’ programme playing. I don’t like nature programmes when I’m relaxing on my couch. At the dentist there are needles, suctions and all sorts of gadgets in my mouth at the same time and I’m tense. Very tense. Then I have to watch a bokkie being devoured by a cheetah, nah.

I was rather excited when I went to a friend’s for dinner the other night and eight year old Chloe informed me that she gets to watch cartoons when she goes to the dentist. We have the same dentist.

I’m ready now. If the pain hasn’t gone by tomorrow I’m going to request Tom and Jerry. It’s similar to nature programmes except the victim pops back to life in a nanosecond

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Group Writing Therapy

by Trish Oglesby

Everyone who writes has a preferred time and place for doing so. Some of us are sparrows writing in bed with pillows fluffed up behind our backs; others are nightjars writing at tables supporting the coffee industry as much as the publishing one.

Routine is good but so is variety. I have written perched on a hard concrete block waiting for my car to be washed, trapped in an airline seat rubbing elbows with a stranger, belly down on a picnic blanket brushing ants off the page, lounged in a deckchair digging toes in the sand and, believe it or not, while driving a car – I do not, however, recommend the latter if you want to live long enough to spend your royalty cheque.

It’s not just the venue that writers change but utensils too. Somewhere along the time line, between when my grandfather taught me to write cursive by measuring the height of my letters with a calliper and the invention of the silicon chip, I traded paper and pen for screen and keyboard. It turned out I traded something else; the ink stained callus on the inside of my fourth finger for painful wrists and a crick in my neck which brought new meaning to the term, ‘suffering artist’.

I changed my muse too. She used to be a whimsical pixie who wrote only when inspiration and motivation came for tea but now she is a governess, preaching discipline. I invented her when I came to the realisation that, if I was to finish my novel while there were still teeth in my mouth, someone had to train my subconscious to resist procrastination. It is working; the silver no longer shines but my word count is higher.

I spend hours listening to my thoughts reverberate off stone walls or reading snippets of prose to my cat who dozes on the windowsill. The only inflexible aspect of penmanship is solitude, or so I thought until three of the four scribbling scribes travelled north to visit me for a weekend of writing.

Wrapped in winter coats and scarves, they crossed the threshold of my farmhouse and, like Victorian maids opening windows and sweeping dust cloths off furniture, aired my stuffy rooms with laughter, decorated my veranda table with laptops and memory sticks and stock piled my kitchen with biscuits, chocolates and wine.

Gaiety, confectionery and alcohol could have brought the writing weekend to its knees and, in such company, I would not have minded but writers we are and write we did.

This was not a weekend of grammar flexing, erudite push ups or running on literary treadmills. We did not read our prose out loud so others could chew and digest it. Instead we sat at a table staring at a rural sky, under which cattle grazed in rhythm to a murmuring wind, while our thoughts meandered through fields of words, gathering sentences and bundling them up into stories.

There are rules to writing in a group; no slurping from straws, no drumming fingertips on tabletops and definitely no tossing peanuts at other writers while they type. There are lessons too; one of which is writing need not be the solitary journey I once thought it was. Others chase metaphors, dream the published novel dream and jump up and down on the trampoline of euphoria and frustration, just like I do. If I am mad, then they are too.

We ended the weekend with a stack of typed pages and a gigantic sense of accomplishment. I wrote more than usual and continued to do so long after the scribbling scribes returned to Durban.

Writing, for me, is lonely again but I have my memories from the weekend with which to fuel my inspiration and if that should fail … I have wine.

Four Minute Milestones

By Susan Roberts

Watching snippets of the Olympics on TV always brings out in me some misplaced desire to succeed at something sporty.  Without being negative here, I can honestly state that I’m unlikely to ever win a gold medal at any sporting activity.  No, seriously – that’s the truth.  Ask anyone I grew up with.  I never inherited the hand-eye-ball co-ordination gene, so I can’t catch anything thrown at me.  Apart from the occasional cold or flu germ coughed in my direction, that is.  Now if there was an Olympic medal up for grabs for winning that… well, you get the idea.

So I realised early in life that any sporting aspirations I had should not include ball sports.  That was always going to be a complete waste of time for me.  But surely there had to be other sports I could conquer?

As a ballet kid, the only sport close to what I did was gymnastics, but my puny little arms couldn’t quite support my body weight.  Like the rest of the world, I fell under the spell of Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut in the 1972 Munich Olympics, but it was in 1976 – the first year that we had television in South Africa – that Romanian Nadia Comaneci dominated the world at the age of 14.  Same age as me, but nothing like me.  Comaneci’s unprecedented perfect 10 score for her performance on the uneven bars was the first in modern Olympic history.  What magnificent gymnasts both those girls were; teenagers who forever changed the face of the Olympics in just a few minutes.

So I was never really going to be serious competition for either of them, was I?

I took up running.  Having grown up in Pietermaritzburg, memories of cold mornings outside the City Hall watching the start of the Comrades Marathon every second winter had stirred in me all sorts of emotions about long distance running.  It didn’t last.  Or rather, I didn’t last.  Long distance running would have been fine, except that the distances were just too… well… long.

And before you ask – no, sprinting wasn’t really my thing either.  I didn’t have the lung or leg power for a short, fast run, despite my childhood fascination with the story of how Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile in the early 1950s.  Even though his record was soon beaten, his milestone has remained a legend.

In fact, this got me thinking about other things that might be achieved in four minutes.  In addition to my lack of sporting prowess, I’ve never been known as someone who does things fast.  I must be the original “slowcoach” upon which all others are based, so it’s really quite hard to think of anything that I might conquer in less than four minutes.

I don’t suppose it really counts that while living in Cape Town a few years (all right, a few decades) ago, I developed the art of doing the four-minute make-up.  In the short drive from my home to my favourite hang-out in Sea Point I could do a complete make-up in the car while driving, in the dark and without even using a mirror.  Of course the results were sometimes surprising, and I had more than my fair share of Bridget Jones moments after having applied too much blusher in the dark, but hey – it was Cape Town, so it was considered artistic.  Oh come on, it was the eighties – the make-up had to match the hair and the earrings.

I haven’t yet cracked the four-minute shower or the four-minute breakfast, and my workmates are used to seeing me dawdle into work more than four minutes late in the mornings.  Dare I mention here that anything to do with writing takes me considerably longer than four minutes?  I think that’s why the Scribbling Scribes invented the four week blog; I’m not too good at making those deadlines either.

No, some of us were not meant to do anything fast, but I do believe that making the effort turns one into a more generous spectator, though.  I like to think that my inability to achieve something in record time gives me a deeper appreciation of those who really can achieve perfection on a balance beam or uneven bars, or master their time frames and beat the clock, whether at the Olympics or in their day-to-day lives.

A Crocodile sipping a piña colada

By Michelle Dennison (awa Julianne Alcott)

I first heard about the concept of food writer (or ‘foodie’) in a National Geographic series on food around the world.

I was fascinated.

It sounded like the perfect thing for me. After all, I love writing, I love food and I love to explore new things. There was a snag to my food writing future though. I have never travelled outside South Africa, and don’t do much travelling inside it either.

But I decided that I shouldn’t let a tiny, insignificant detail like that stop my food exploration. To help me on this journey, I decided to start a food blog. By writing down my experiences with food, I was hoping to make them more enjoyable and tangible.

But, time proved to be my usual enemy of anything creative. My food blog lurked in the back 6121368of my mind, making me feel horribly guilty that I wasn’t writing it. Eventually, I had to admit defeat. My foodie career would have to wait.

That didn’t mean the end of my food exploration though. I made a promise to myself that I was going to try at least one new thing every month.

My daughter and I went on our first camping trip together. Nearby was a crocodile farm, and I decided that I really should give my little girl the full crocodile farm experience, and ordered crocodile kebabs at the restaurant.

They came on a pristine white plate, nestled in a pool of basil pesto and sweet chilli sauce. I took a bite. The basil pesto and sweet chilli sauce was very tasty. The crocodile kebabs were…

Words fail to describe their exact taste. A very gamy chicken-fish combination, that made my stomach start to churn. I found the nearest chocolate bar, and downed it in an effort to rid my mouth of crocodile.

My daughter, however, wolfed down all of the kebabs with great relish, and now lists crocodile as one of her favourite foods.

The following month, things improved drastically. We meandered up Florida Road in Durban, on a lovely winter holiday afternoon, and did some frozen yoghurt experimenting at Wakaberry. I don’t need to describe the taste … I think the photo says it all.

About 2 weeks ago, I crossed piña colada off my bucket list.

It didn’t taste too bad, although I would have liked to know beforehand that it came with crushed ice in it. Then I wouldn’t have ordered it at 10pm, outdoors, on a freezing winter night. The best part about the drink was the making of it. The barman could obviously see that I was interested, so he did the full show for me. He described every new ingredient … Pineapple juice, coconut milk. Then he poured it in the glass, and ended it with a flourish and a cherry on a toothpick.

And an interesting fact that I learned while Googling the correct spelling for piña colada: It was created on August 16th 1954 in Puerto Rico.

So far, August has not been a very experimental month, unless you count trying the new Milky bar with Jelly Tots. (BTW, the one with Smarties in is better) But I will journey on, knowing that my next culinary adventure awaits!5616933

Addicted

by Penny M

According to dictionary.reference.com, addiction is ‘the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma’.

I confess to being amongst the majority of readers who are addicted to a happy ending. Before transitioning to author status, I didn’t much care how I got my fix. Encouraged by friends who share my aspirations to see my novel on the bestseller lists around the world, I studied the art of writing. I learnt from the masters of the craft what attracts a reader to a book in the book shop, how to hook them, the importance of pace to keep them interested until they reach that point where the Prince finds his Cinderella.

Before such enlightenment, I disciplined myself to finish every book I started, convinced that the last sentence would be worth it. I now have the courage to skip pages when I get bored and to put books aside long before the couple have even met. I haven’t quite surrendered to chronic neurosis, that point where I must read the final chapter before I start the first.

I recently purchased a book written by an author who was once a favourite of mine, confident that my lust for utopia would be satiated. Shock and disbelief carried me through five hundred pages of repetition and predictability that could have been squashed into a few paragraphs of flash fiction. I was left wondering if she was suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease. I spent a great deal of time silently screaming, ‘I got the message the first time!’

The fact that the author made money out of me for a book that showed no signs of ever having crossed an editor’s desk or even suffering a re-write didn’t help matters. This particular author has made millions out of readers who, like me, are after their fix. And, no, the book is not called ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ but EL James might have read a few pages of this one and thought how hard could it be?

We live in a world where, to make it, you’ve got to top it. Is nobody ever going to say, “Stop it.” Are there no literary police? Did the last discerning reader die of suffocation under a pile of sleazy paperbacks or just overdose on happy endings? Fortunately I survived the trip. I read to the end for the sheer hell of it. It was the best form of rehab I could buy.