Return to Sender

by Penny M
At the risk of ruffling the worms under Elvis’s granite slab, I have a confession.The longer I remain in our complex of six residential units and ten rented shops, the less room there is in the communal post box. I remember being shocked when a neighbour divulged that he regularly disposed of mail addressed to previous residents.

I have lost count of the number of visits I have made to the local post office, laden with armfuls of letters and registered slips which don’t belong to any of us. I dutifully re-address them or write ‘RTS – Moved, Forwarding Address Unknown, or simply Unknown at this Address’. Imagine my frustration when another batch arrives from the same senders, in crisp, fresh envelopes. Are they trying to keep the post office in business or what? I resorted to adding, ‘Please correct your records’.

Two months ago, I happened to be walking downstairs when I spotted the well sprung gait of the postman. I handed him a mound of returns. He happily accepted them. Perhaps he’s in on this job creation thing.

I remember being told, as a young girl, that post is private and to be opened by the addressee only. Well, sorry Mum, but I caved. In desperation, I opened two of the regulars. I sent a polite email to each sender, worded as follows:

‘Please note that your client has left … without leaving a forwarding address.

Please do not send any more mail to that address and adjust your records accordingly.


I had a reply from each. The first recipient acknowledged receipt and promised to amend their records. The second correspondent assumed that I was their customer and requested I use the Client code to enable them to access my account and make the necessary changes. I drew the line at that.

Most of those who have regular missives from financial institutions have done a ‘moonlight flit’ and left a stream of unpaid accounts. Registered slips appear to reprimand them and lie forlornly in the wooden box, hidden by all the larger stuff. There was even a summons delivered by the Sheriff. I thought they were supposed to serve those in person.

Besides the amount of trees that are being wasted, consider the hours of my life spent re-addressing envelopes and the petrol bill for visits to the Returns box. Unless the post is addressed to me, and is not from St. Valentine or Santa, I have resigned myself to the ‘File Thirteen’ solution, it’s much cheaper.

Be warned all you ‘Presleys’ out there, unless you do something about your returns, you’ll be pushing up daisies in a pauper’s graveyard.


Photo courtesy of Anankkml at

What’s in your fridge?

by Sue Trollip

This past weekend I overheard a conversation which went something like:

Boy: I really want a new fridge, a shiny silver one with double-doors and a water dispenser.

Girl: What are we going to put in this huge new fridge? You only want it so you don’t have to turn on a tap.

Boy: We can put your lettuce on one shelf. The hamster’s lettuce on another and then open up the packet of apples and spread them around the other shelves … and the milk will take up some space too.

Then I got to thinking about what was in my fridge and I had to laugh. I don’t have a double door shiny silver one with a water dispenser but I have one with two baskets in the freezer. There’s ice cream in one and half a bottle of vodka in the other – so at least I’m always prepared. In the fridge there’s milk, of course, and condiments that are probably pushing their sell by dates and water and a huge big pot of soup because my winter cooking skills are fine tuned. I make a big pot of soup and when it’s done I make another and when it’s too warm for soup I turn to the aforementioned ice cream. Keeping life simple is what it’s all about. There are also apples and carrots in the veggie drawer for the days when soup is not an option.

Then I remembered about ten years ago an IT guy I worked with told me about some gadget for your fridge that tells you when your milk is going off and when you’ve run out of cheese and I recall staring at him and thinking: Is he sane?

Today I Googled and discovered that not only was he sane but that the world is now insane.

There’s an app called Fresh Box whereby you take a photo of everything you put in your fridge and then add an expiration date. So you can see what you have and for how much longer it’s going to be edible. Fridge Pal lets you scan the barcode and create your own personalised shopping list and Grocery Hero, once it knows the contents of your fridge, will provide you with recipe suggestions. These are but three amongst a host of apps that make me rather nervous.

Another website convinced me that it is exceedingly important to look in a man’s fridge before you date him. I had a few questions about the logistics of that, but no one was on hand to provide answers. The gist of the page was to avoid a man whose fridge is filled with takeout containers and one whose fridge is full of exotic foodstuffs and also one whose fridge contains nothing but protein. I’m not sure whom that leaves but I’ll cross that bridge at a later date.

It gets worse. I then took a quiz about the contents of my fridge which informed me that: ‘You don’t need a lot of stuPictureff to be happy (just ice cream). You have a bit of a wild side (I bet that was the vodka!). You are very likely single …’ and those are just the kind bits.

So my advice to you is to clean out your fridges on a regular basis. Make sure your food is sans fur because you never know when someone is going to step into your home and judge you by the contents of your fridge.

Oh, and while I hate to be rude, if you have a fridge app, I’m going look at you askance.

Words, Words, Words

by Jac Dowling

I love words.  Like a recipe, I use them, mix, muddle, sieve, blend, taste and, hopefully, eventually come up with something half decent by way of a scribble.

So it was that this English speaker recently added a most useful new word to the Afrikaans language. A true example of ‘ontwikkeling’. I’m often introduced as ‘Dis nou Jacky, sy’s engelssprekend jy weet…’ which is fine, because I also speak pretty good 2nd and a bit of 3rd  official languages but keep quiet about it. This way I hear some very interesting conversations between the shelves of our local library … which is why I’m usually up to date with the local scandals and matters of dubious interest before they reach the pages of our weekly newspaper. While remaining a paragon of discretion and zipped lips, my cloth ears have a wide magnetic field.

One of the pluses of living in a bilingual town is the vibrant mix of languages; Afrikaans spoken by the purists, the non-purists and the totally free speaking ‘Djou Ma se…’ brigade, whose eclectic vocabulary grows ever more colourful as the day progresses, especially after 5pm and on Friday afternoons.  It’s a bit like a huge  balloon of words let loose in the sky, bumping into each other and getting thoroughly wind-blown before bursting in a burping frenzy of blue and purple air.  Like the roofer who yelled out across our road to his mate opposite ‘Hey, djy wat met die anner man se vrou slaap…’ the response was unprintable. And the guy who stuck his head through the back window of our car when we were being unco-operative regarding R50 for a papsak (wine bladder) and shouted at our rottweiler ‘Hey hond, sê vir djou baas VOETSAK.’

We share our languages. We mix them. We taste them.  We garnish and glaze. There are sayings, words, idioms, descriptions in the Afrikaans language which simply do not translate into English and retain their character – and vice versa. I was not much of a bi-linguist when we came to the Western Cape, but this has changed to the extent that I now enjoy reading novels in Afrikaans:  I read Die  Burger and Rapport. Quite slowly. Friends laugh charitably at my accent, but they all speak English and when we get together conversation is totally ‘opgemix’ and works really well. I’ve also discovered that our Xhosa speaking community are genuinely happy when I make the effort to greet them in their own language, and hazard a few sentences. They smile and call me Mma or Mama, gently correct my grammar and help me with new words. Which is fine, as long as no-one calls me Tannie!

So – the new word: Koeksitter – she who sits with the cake being raffled locally, and sells tickets. During a recent sitting session, a man asked me whether the cake was well preserved. I replied that it contains at least half a bottle of best KWV and he bought 6 tickets.  Next punter was a quietly dressed woman of middle years, who asked me the same question. I sexed up Picturemy reply to an even greater volume of preservative at which she turned puce then quivery white and informed me in no uncertain terms (in another official language) that she never had a drop of that stuff in her house. Pity, I thought, having told her it would last at least five years in her koekblik – also in the other official language.   I read somewhere that one of the founder Ontwikkelers of the Afrikaans language was Arnoldus Pannevis … tomorrow is pancake day at the library, which, translated, is Pannekoek which: NO. No more!

Now, this Koeksitter is off to her local hair stylist to have a ‘Sny en Blaas’. Actually, it’s so cold that I may well cancel the blaas bit and have a really outrageous hunk of choc caramel cake and several mugs of cappucino instead.

Hambani kahle.

©J Dowling 2013


Photo by Nuttakit from

We’ll Always Have Paris… Until He Takes Someone Else There

By Susan Roberts

I cried my way through Casablanca again the other night. I know it’s dated, but to me it remains one of the most romantic movies ever made. If only it mirrored my life.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m as sad as the next person to watch Rick and Louis walk off into the beginning of their beautiful friendship, but I can’t help feeling a little jealous that Rick and Ilsa’s situation at the closing of their love affair far outshines any that I have ever suffered. I mean, if I round up my usual suspects, I didn’t leave many of them with my dignity intact. How come no one ever saw me as doing the noble thing? No matter how much effort I put into them, my broken love affairs have never bPictureeen as romantic or as soppily sentimental as most of those that I see on the screen.

Okay, so my pathetic love affairs over the years probably didn’t amount to a hill of beans in the greater scheme of things either, but I don’t remember any of my exes getting all macho and murmuring “We’ll always have Paris” (or “…Joburg” or “…Cape Town” or “…Sun City”) as I got all  misty-eyed and prepared to leave them. Ah well, perhaps the problem is that – apart from the fact that I’m not exactly a dead ringer for Ingrid Bergman – I never seem to leave for a better life with a better man when I leave my true love – who, by the way, is never exactly Humphrey Bogart either!

My partings always seem to involve me packing up and becoming homeless, usually amidst petty recriminations about how I stole the last of the washing powder or something equally unromantic. Plus, of course, I never look my best in those moments. I don’t do hats with wide, sweeping brims and I can never get that dewy-eyed and tragic perfection right either. No, there’s nothing  Bergmanesque about me – more like blotchy-faced and snivelling, or bitchy granite-faced and spitting, as I throw the last of my cheap clothing into a broken suitcase or forty cardboard boxes.

The only similarity that I have to Ingrid Bergman is that I usually have to ask for help with the transport in getting out of there. But in my case it’s because inevitably my break-ups happen hand-in-hand with a traffic accident or a torn shoulder ligament. Yup, I have a string of exes who saw nothing wrong in dumping me when I was down. Nice!

Oh, and if I had a few bucks for each time anyone’s ever remarked about how much stuff I have, then I’d be a rich woman by now. A rich, older woman. Like a cougar, perhaps, except that I never seem to have that kind of luck either. Just baggage. Lots of it.

Anyway, back to Casablanca. If only I could believe that, for every sorrowful parting, there was an equivalent “We’ll always have…” line, then perhaps I’d get over them quicker. Trouble is, it’s never  taken my fair-weather boyfriends long to re-visit Paris with someone whom they find far more exciting than me. In one case, he found her before he left me, but let’s not dig up old bones…

Often this new person is so much more dazzling than me, that he actually marries her. I was special, but never special enough for him to marry. To this day, although I can watch Casablanca, I can’t watch Four Weddings & A Funeral because of the excruciating agony that Hugh Grant’s character inflicts on that poor girl. You know – the one he leaves at the altar when Andie MacDowell’s character suddenly becomes available again. I know what it feels like to be that second-best love – I’ve played it and it’s not a role I’d recommend.

As time goes by I repeatedly ask myself the same old question: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, why did he have to walk into mine and totally screw up my life?” And after I’ve played that movie again, Sam, I’ll go back to writing my latest romance novel.

Bogie and Bergman – bring it on!

Picture courtesy of Eiffel Tower by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee.

Why I need to be as organised as possible

By Michelle Dennison / Julianne Alcott

Sometimes people ask me why I plan everything. I shall illustrate the reason for this, by telling the story of a Saturday morning a few weeks ago.

My friend Abdul invited me to a braai at Paradise Valley Nature Reserve at 10am on Saturday. I needed to bring my own drinks, and Halaal meat.

Because I was going hiking that afternoon, I had carefully planned my wardrobe to suit both  activities.

By Friday night, I had organised my drinks and crockery and cutlery. I visited my nearest Pick and Pay, but the butcher had never heard of Halaal meat. I figured that Knowles, which is the local Superspar, would be a little more helpful, so I went there on Saturday morning.

I had everything packed in the car; my drinks for both the braai and the hike were in the cooler box. I had hiking snacks, hat and my anorak. I was feeling quite satisfied with my planning as I entered Knowles at about 9:30.

And then I realised that I had forgotten to shave my legs.

And we aren’t talking about a few days here. It had been at least 2 weeks since I had de-furred myself, because I had always worn long pants to work, and didn’t have a man to impress with my silky smooth legs. And because I was going on the hike, I was wearing shorts.

I thought furiously…

I would buy those disposable razors with the soapy strip, and pour some of my hiking water over the one I used, to stop my legs from getting dry and itchy.

Searching for the razor section took time, and I was heading for late when I rushed out with my razor blades and my Halaal meat, which fortunately, the butcher had heard of. I couldn’t stop to shave, so I awkwardly did the best I could at each red robot I was stopped at.

I arrived at the Nature Reserve parking, and saw Abdul’s black Golf there already. It was then that my legs started to itch. So much for the soapy strip!

I searched through my handbag for anything to relieve my discomfort, and came across a small container  of Zambuck. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible as I rubbed it into my legs, while scores of people flocked into the parking lot.

At last I was ready. I gathered up my meat, drinks and cutlery, paid my entrance fee and trailed around the large mowed picnic site looking for Abdul. He is quite noticeable, with a large black beard, but I couldn’t see him anywhere.

Eventually I phoned him.

“Isn’t the braai at 10am?” I asked.

There was silence.

“Yes,” he said. “But it’s tomorrow.”

So I had to take my Halaal meat, my drinks and my newly shaved legs back home and wait until the hike at 2pm.

Now imagine what my day would have been like if I HADN’T planned anything.

Photograph courtesy of – Adam.