Sunday, December 23, 2007

Doing it for the Kids

Today we joined up with a couple of hundred other bikers for a Toy Run - a charity ride where all the scary bikers turn into Santa's Little Helpers by strapping a toy of some sort to their bike and riding to, in this case, a women's shelter to deliver Christmas presents to kids who may not see any other sign of Santa this year.


We must've been doing a good thing because the Weather Gods were smiling on Dublin today. The overnight ice on the roads had pretty much melted by the time we set off, and the day remained dry and sunny. Well over a hundred bikes gathered in Dorset Street, where a van liberated us of the toys so that we could get down to the serious business of the Mass Ride. It was very late in starting, as Santa himself was over an hour late in getting there and we couldn't very well start without him. Eventually he arrived, all red and jolly, sitting in a sidecar, chauffeured by what appeared to be a Russian (?!) officer, complete with medals on his chest and a furry hat.


The ride took us through the center of Dublin, down O'Connell Street, around the block and back over the River Liffey onto the Northside quays, up past Dublin Port and along the coastal road to Howth. The procession caused chaos in the traffic - in order for hundreds of bikes to ride together the rest of the traffic, unfortunately, simply has to wait. While the car drivers cursed us, however, everybody else seemed delighted to watch the spectacle.


I always get a kick out of waving at the kids when we do these mass rides but today I had to relinquish my waving duties to young Cinderella, who was perched on what used to be my seat on the back of Hubby's Blackbird.

Because you see today was the first time I Drove My Own Bike in a mass ride - that's me, below, on the right :-)

Oh and in case you hadn't figured it out yet, the perch on the back of Hubby's Blackbird comes with the added job of being chief photographer.

We stopped at the top of Howth at a pub for some coffee and a well-needed potty break and then the procession headed back into town to its final destination.

Hubby and I didn't complete the trip for logistical reasons - said final destination was on the other side of the city from where we were, and even further from where we live, and it was already heading to sunset by 3:30pm. By the time we got home we were really pleased we'd made that choice - as the sun sank so did the temperatures and we were all shivering through our layers of bad-ass biker clothing when we finally came to a slippery halt outside our front door.
But it sure was a great way to spend a day. Bikers to the bone - always have been, always will be, and wouldn't change it for the world!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Year That Was

So here we are, only 5 days 'till Christmas and then poof! It'll be a whole new year again.

We're hosting Christmas at our house again this year, just with a different set of guests. Our very good friends were with us last year, but since then they have left Ireland and gone back to South Africa, having added the pitter-patter of tiny feet (and the occasional 2am howl) to their little family. So they won't be joining us.

Instead, Hubby's sister and her family have moved from South Africa to Ireland and they'll be driving up to spend a few days with us. My li'l sister will also be over, from London. It'll be good to have family around. It'll be a full house all right, but everyone will have a spot to sleep - I'm really glad we had our attic converted!

With all these guests arriving, there is a ton to be done this weekend, and I don't see much blog-time for myself. So I thought I'd do the reflecting-on-the-year-that-was bit now.

It seems to have been a year of reconnecting with the past.
I took a trip back home to South Africa, only to discover that it doesn't feel so much like home anymore. It's not the place I left 6 years ago, and it's definitely not the same place as the one where I grew up. That place is gone for good, I fear. As heartbreaking as it was to realise this, it was actually a good thing. I think what I got out of that trip was what the experts (?!) call Closure. And it turns out I'm OK with that.

My past caught up with me in another way, too.
In the first quarter of this year, a received a phone call from an old friend: someone I hadn't seen or spoken with in something like twelve years. She'd bumped into my sister in SA - both of them were there on holiday, from London! So she got my number and called me up to say hello. It was fantastic! Unfortunately I lived up to my old habit of leaving things till the last minute, and when I finally got around to phoning her back, she'd left London and headed off to parts unknown and now I've lost her again. Something tells me our paths will cross again, though, sometime in the future.

What's bizarre, though, is that this happened again a few weeks ago. One of my best friends from high school called me up out of the blue. I think the last time we spoke was at our high school reunion, 8 years ago. She, too, is living in the UK. This time I was smarter, and I now have phone numbers AND an email address for her.

I was simply astounded at how easy it was to slip back into conversation with these women, after all the time that had passed. I guess it's true - the friendships you make in your teens are the ones that are there for life.

There was another thing, too.
I had to trawl back through my archives to check this out: 7 months ago, in May, I wrote a post about a dream I'd had about a guy who'd been a good friend of mine throughout primary and high school. At the time I wondered about trying to get in touch with him but decided against it, as the lengths I would have to go to would have bordered on stalker-ish. But today I was reading the local newspaper from my home town, online (I do this occasionally), and I happened upon an announcement in the Classifieds, congratulating him and his wife (I presume) on the birth of their daughter. And in the announcement was his email address. Well I couldn't really not, could I? So I emailed him today, just to say congrats, and Hi. I figured I enjoyed my 'blasts from the past' so maybe he would, too. He's in a way different time zone though, so I have yet to hear back from him. Or not. Either way, that's OK.

And then there is the dreaded F-word.
Facebook. (You thought I was going to say something else, didn't ya?! HAH!)
Talk about reunions! Y'know, it turns out there are some people I actually don't mind finding me. In fact, I've found one or two myself.
More old friendships rekindled - across continents and after years and years.
So we send each other virtual hugs or fling chocolate cakes (or sheep, etc) at each other.
I'm still not completely enamored with Facebook but it is nice to know that people are thinking of me occasionally. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
You know - to counteract the spitting irritation I feel the rest of the time 'cos there's too much stuff on it that I don't know what to do with.

But I digress.

There's more on this Old Friends theme.
In October, we had a visit from my ex-boss from SA. He and his wife also happen to be old biking buddies of ours from way back when. They were only over for a few days but it was fabulous to see them... plus, it was a good excuse for me to get to eat out at my favourite Greek restaurant.

And finally, a few weekends ago, we had visitors over from Holland. He and Hubby go way, way back - they left SA just before we did. We stopped in to visit them on our trip around Europe last year, and now it was their turn to visit us. We had a blast - went off to watch the SA / Wales game in a pub in town, a drinking session that lasted way longer than it should have but we were having too much fun to care!

So what is the moral of all this rambling?
There isn't one.
If you were looking for deep and meaningful, you've come to the wrong place.


Well OK then...
I've had some ups and downs, and even seen a bit more of the world this year (remember Barcelona and Paris?) Most of all, though, I have come to appreciate just how much family and friends mean to me.
And that includes all of you guys.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The loop-de-loop

You know that feeling when your tummy does a flip-flop, like when you're passenger in a car and you're not paying attention and suddenly the car goes through a dip and it feels like your stomach got left behind? Well I feel like that's been happening to me, only it's not really my stomach but something less physical and more emotional, but in more or less the same place in my body. I'll be quite happily going along, doing my thing, living my day and all of a sudden I'll get one of these moments, where it feels like I'm on a roller-coaster and if I carry on going my emotions are going to dive, dive, dive submarine-style into the murky depths... at times like these my loved ones are my salvation. I will stop typing whatever command I'm busy with at my computer, pick up the phone and ring Hubby just to hear a voice and gather some sense of normalcy. Or I'll write a 2-line nonsensical email to my mom, or a friend, or a sister.
You see the last few months have been tough going, again. If I'm honest, I never really recovered 100% from my last extended period of depression - I had short stints of normalcy but I think it takes a long time to get past it completely and I feel like it's still so fresh in my mind that it doesn't take much to send me back there, and then it's such a hard fight to come back again. I'm back at the moment, for the most part. That is, I have a handle on things and am able to keep the niggling shadows at bay. Today I went to lunch with a large group of people from work and found myself sitting with two women I don't know except to nod hello at in passing, since we work in the same department. And I made it all the way through, making conversation and being a veritable social butterfly. I'm a tad exhausted now, but I feel a sense of accomplishment, although I'm not sure exactly when being sociable became such hard work.
I can't help but wonder will there ever be a time when being normal1 will be the natural order of things again - or will I be fighting like this for the rest of my life..? I don't want to be on the rollercoaster anymore, I just want to live, and enjoy life. These pesky emotions are becoming a real pain in the ass, I tellya.
I suppose it's that time of year. 'Tis the season and all that - there's excitement in the buildup to the holidays but also sadness as we miss absent friends and family.
I mean, I know emotions are what make us human and all, but wouldn't it be nice if we could just take a break from them, occasionally?


1 Yeah, yeah, I know - It's a relative term..!

Monday, December 10, 2007

winter wonderland

I'd forgotten how cold it gets in this place in Winter. It was probably around 3 degrees outside when I rode to work this morning; in fact I would guess that would be optimistic. I only started riding a motorcycle last winter and because I was still learning, I was only going as far as the train station and back. The full trips into the City only started in about April, when the days were longer and the weather relatively warmer. I have been loving the freedom of having my own transport, being able to come and go as is convenient to me and not being a slave to train timetables.
This morning, though, I began to seriously consider returning to my old ways of driving just the kilometer or so to the train station instead. It could've been my imagination but I thought the road felt just a tad more slippery this morning than it should have. Could it be the days of black ice are almost upon us? I just don't know if I feel up to facing 25km each way on roads that could turn into a skating rink without warning. It's been pretty tough the last few weeks anyway as it's now always dark on both journeys, to and from work. It has been aggravated by stupidly strong winds and lashing rain, at times; not exactly optimal driving conditions, to say the least.
All credit to my biking gear, though, I can honestly say the cold has not been a problem... except for the hands. I bought thicker gloves a while back but this morning I may as well have been bare handed and by the time I got into town and finally came to a stop at a red light where I could drop my hands down to warm up next to the engine, they were completely numb from the cold. Not fun.
So as much as I don't want to, I think the time may have arrived for me to choose discretion over valor and return to the trains for a while.
Yet another reason for me to hate winter in this place!

I think that's why people go so overboard with Christmas decorations. It can be so bloody miserable here, but the pretty lights and various baubles do go a long way in brightening things up. Even young Cinderella has twigged on this now - yesterday morning she and Hubby took it upon themselves to dig out all our Christmas decorations from their hidey-holes in the attic and haul the whole lot downstairs. She then proceded to find our "Christmas Greats" double CD and enthusiastically took the lead in decorating the tree while singing along to all the Christmas hits that are currently playing non-stop in shopping malls and on radio stations everywhere. I was unfortunately under the influence of some serious painkillers in an attempt to rid myself of a migraine (not induced by coffee this time - where will it end?!) so I had a hard time keeping up. It was like sharing a house with two Tazmanian devils... Hubby even had the hammer and nails out and we are the first house in our cul-de-sac to have icicle-lights strung from our little porch. Not only that, our front door is now also sporting a pretty and festive-looking Christmas wreath.

It's a far cry from last Christmas, where Miss Muffett wanted to cringe at the very thought of anything other than just a Christmas tree, using words like 'kitsch' and such like with a look akin to horror on her face.
Yep, someone has discovered the joys of Christmas spirit.
I wonder if that will extend to helping out with Christmas dinner..?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

undeserved award

Despite my posts being somewhat erratic lately, it seems some people are keeping the faith. Which is good, 'cos I gotta say mine is a little shaky at times.
Angel, who has been a regular reader here for ages has seen fit to create her very own special award - and I am one of the lucky few first recipients!

Angel, you're a peach :-)
Thank you for not giving up on me and for the many hours of entertaining reading you have given to me in Blogland.


And in other news:
It's cold. Really cold. Probably as a result of it being Winter again. Sheesh, I was still holding out for the Summer that never really arrived and BAM! Here's Winter.
Not only that - it's only something silly like three weeks till Christmas. I found my weekly groceries peppered with things like mince pies and Christmas crackers this morning. As if that's not enough, I found myself pumping up the volume on the radio while I was packing said groceries in my kitchen afterwards, when one of those super-spicy energetic Christmas songs came on.
Hubby and Cinderella were completely unfazed by this little display of festive spirit, staying safely tucked away with their respective computer games / movie watching and leaving me to prance around like a reindeer on speed all by myself, with nothing but Cornflakes for company.

As images go, that's not a great one, I'll admit. So I'll leave you with this one instead - they've decorated the trees along the quay with purple and blue lights and it just looks so darn pretty as dawn is breaking I simply had to stop to take a picture.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

fleeting thoughts

Why d'you suppose our spam filter blocked a plain text email from me to a friend of mine asking how her mother was, yet this morning there was an html message with the words "puffy penis" in the title waiting for me from someone called... actually I can't remember 'cos I deleted it without paying too much attention.

And another thing; our firewall seems to have a mind of its own. Yesterday I couldn't leave comments on blogs but today I can. Yes I know I said I won't be blogging from work anymore but what can I say? I have no self-control.

It was raining this morning when I was riding to work. Traffic wasn't great and visibility was poor since daylight had only just begun to think about putting in an appearance. In these conditions I take it slow because even with my high-viz vest I know that drivers are less likely to see a girl on a motorcycle than they otherwise might be.
Two things happened.
One, I almost missed my turnoff. For the first time since I started riding the bike (about 9 months ago) my subconscious took over driving for a while. There is a stretch of around 2.5km of motorway that I do not remember riding this morning. My mind was on something else completely. They say that's a good thing, because apparently your subconscious drives better than your conscious but I found it a little scary.

The second thing was completely unrelated. On a bike, you're much more in touch with your surroundings; you feel the cold (or warmth, as the case may be, though not in Dublin very often) and you smell the scents of your surroundings. For me, it is always the smells that do it and this morning I was suddenly transported back to Jeffreys Bay in the summertime, in the rain because although it was freezing outside (unlike J-Bay in the summertime!) there was something about the smell, like salty sea air (again, very unusual in Dublin) mixed with the smell of rain and I could smell the vegetation on the sand dunes and hear the endless swooshing of the waves on the sand, and I was filled with young love and enthusiasm and life. Our summer holidays in Jeffreys Bay when I was a teenager were some of the happiest times of my life. Sun, fun and summer romances, bonfires on the beach at night with friends I thought would be there forever.
The sensation lasted about 30 seconds and then I was belched on by a bus.
Sure, we grab the moments when we can.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

At the risk of repeating myself...

Do you want to know what really annoys me? Well I'm going to tell you anyway.
I am sick to death of people sending me guilt emails. You know the ones: the hard luck stories, designed to bring a tear to your eye and make you feel guilty about every good thing that's ever happened to you and every cent you ever earned. I'm not sure what their purpose is.
Some will tell you the email is being tracked so you must send it to everyone you know.


The only thing you're doing is clogging up my mailbox with yet more crap.
Those that don't, well, I truly don't see their purpose. Trying to spread goodwill? It's not working. I just get pissed off because I feel like someone is trying to guilt me into giving to charity, or going to Church more often, or for feeling down when "there are people so much worse off than me".
I am perfectly entitled to feel depressed for my very own reasons, even if I don't have a third eye or a dying budgie.

You know what else? I don't want to hear about little Mary and her leg that fell off. It doesn't bring a tear to my eye - it brings a curse to my lips for wasting my time! Why must I feel guilty about fictitious peoples' hard luck stories... because no matter how many times they tell you "This is a true story!!!" ... chances are it's bullshit. Someone made it up. I have yet to figure out why but there you go.

What, you don't believe me? Here's a challenge:
For the next ten emails of hard luck emails, go check it out. It's fairly simple: just ask Google. The quickest way is to put a line from the email in quotes in the search box, and add the word "hoax" at the end.

Spread the word folks - but not by email, for goodness' sake; chances are some eejit would add a curse to the end of it, like "Send this to everyone in your address book in the next 30 seconds or the Terrible Terri is going to plant a virus in your RAM!".
And then I would have perpetuated yet another useless chain-mail.
Now THAT would make me feel guilty!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

technological advancements

I've had some technological woes just lately. I think it probably started when our TV died but that actually turned out to be a good thing as we're now the proud owners of a fancy-schmancy flat-screen LCD TV instead.

And then there was my new laptop. I wanted to love it, I really did. It's all sleek and shiny, and really quiet - you hardly hear it running at all. And it's fast, too. I no longer have time to boil the kettle and make coffee decaf while it boots up, and my email opens in a flash.
I've had intermittent problems, mostly surrounding the wireless broadband / internet. I noticed that sometimes the internet was really slow - I was genuinely surprised that I actually got my photos of our trip to SA uploaded to Flickr the other night. I almost just gave up.

The night before that I was ready to throw the "bloody new-fangled thing with all it's fancy new bits and pieces" out the window because the wireless broadband just would. not. work. And it wasn't the router, because young Cinderella had no problems with her connection... using the wireless card from MY old laptop (how annoyed was I?!). I even uninstalled Norton Internet Suite because I thought it might have had something to do with the auto-update it had run the night before, but no, it was just not working. The fact that the LAN connection worked fine should've given me a hint but by that stage I was too far gone to think straight.

But then on Thursday night I switched the offending machine back on and started from scratch and chose to follow my favourite motto:


And when I found the e-manual and browsed to the "Wireless Networking" section, the first thing I saw was a diagram. Item 5 was labelled "Wireless Networking on/off switch".
D'OH! I must have unknowingly flipped it to Off when I was putting the machine in it's bag... a quick flip of the little sliding button about 2mm to the right and hey, presto! My wireless net began working again.

Terri - 1
Technology Gremlins - Zero!

So that was one problem solved.
Today I decided it was time to look at this intermittent performance issue. I reinstalled the Norton software because honestly it didn't make a noticeable difference and I don't want the cyber-aliens abducting my data and performing nasty experiments on it when I'm not looking.

I searched all the settings I could find in both Firefox and the Norton stuff. I downloaded IE7 and checked all those settings too. Luckily it made no difference whether I used Firefox or IE - they were both dog-slow. I couldn't even open my own blog - how bad is that??!
And then something went PING! in my head[2] and I went back to the wireless network settings that I had spent so much time looking at during the week. Sure enough, there it was - one little slider that I moved from "min" to "max"... the one that controls throughput vs saving battery life. Screw the battery - gimme Megs!!!
So this message may pop up a little (?!) sooner than it did before. I can live with that.

Terri - 2
Technology Gremlins - still Zero!

You may applaud :-)


[1] Yes, that really IS my motto. I hate reading instructions - I'm a true Techie at heart.

[2] Not literally, of course.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

disjointed thoughts

You'd have been forgiven for thinking world war 3 had broken out last night with the amount of fireworks and bonfires and screeching that filled the air. The screeching, of course, was entirely that of young children dressed up as ghouls and fairies, madly excited about trick-or-treating for Halloween. Hubby was almost as excited, happily handing out sweeties to the youngsters (already on a sugar rush - pity the poor parents!).
Thank heavens it's over now.

I'm multi-tasking in a big way at the moment - hastily typing up a long overdue blog post, trying to upload pictures to Flickr (if the website ever decides to load) and going through a list of stuff on Facebook as long as my arm. (Why, oh why, did I ever sign up for the thing??! Me being the conscientious person that I am, no matter how many times I tell myself to just not log in again I just can't help myself. Pfft!)
And at the same time as all of that I'm trying to cook dinner.
Talk about spreading myself too thin...!

In other news, the new laptop is doing well - most of the time. The display is great for photos and it boots up really fast (certainly compared to my old 733mhz no-name-brand!) but for some reason the internet is really slow sometimes. And that REALLY annoys me. I'm inclined to blame the Norton internet suite, which I didn't use previously, but I just can't be sure... it's a Techie's worst nightmare and you know how notoriously bad techies are at fixing their own stuff.

I'm battling to keep up the blog. I seem to have lost the urge to write. Or take photos. The ones I want to upload to Flickr tonight (if the internet decides to play with) are those I took in South Africa in July!!! "Better late than never" seems to be becoming a theme in my life.
I seem to have lost the urge to do a lot of things. But I still enjoy riding my bike - I reckon the trips to and from work are the highlight in my life at the moment.

So anyway, if it means anything I do think of you guys. If Big Brother wasn't watching my every move at work I'm sure I'd be doing a better job of keeping in touch. Yah, I know, excuses excuses and all that.
I do miss you all though. And I'm sure I'll be back on form again at some point so don't give up on me, OK?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Champions of the World!!

Congratulations Bokke!!!

I knew you could do it :-)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ready, Steady, Go Boys Go!!!

A Keg of beer?
A Sixpack of beer as backup just in case?
A couple of bottles of Old Brown Sherry?
Biltong and Niknaks?
A bottle of Klipdrift and some Coke?
Garlic bread, salads and boerewors for the braai? check

Rugby World Cup Final match between my beloved Springboks and England?

We're ready, boys, and so are you - Go get 'em!!!!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

more spor-attic blogging


Is anybody still there? I feel I should apologise for my absence from Blogland the last few weeks. It's not that nothing has been happening in my life, or that I've had nothing to say... I just haven't really had the urge to say it.

My biggest grip is that our browsing habits are officially being monitored at work and although I know it may be too late I really don't need everyone (or anyone!) in my office poking around on my blog. So I am abstaining during working hours.
Giving up coffee was easier!

So let's see, is there anything important I've neglected to tell you?
I got a new laptop - shiny new Fujitsu Siemens Amilo with all sorts of bells & whistles. It's lovely although I have some residual nagging guilt that it's a mild case of overkill for me. How many processors does one need, really, for blogging and email? Although the display & graphics are great so perhaps some more frequent photo editing will be accomplished.
(Let's pretend for now that I haven't only switched the thing on twice in the last two weeks, shall we?)

We also got a new TV. And no, we didn't win the lottery - the old one died a sudden death last week, a day before the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup so there was just no question of waiting. The credit card is looking a little withered but there is a sleek new flat-screen LCD screen decorating the corner of the lounge now. I think Hubby thinks all his Christmases have come at once.

Speaking of financial drains, I promised a while back that I would show you what our attic conversion was all about, so here you go, the photos as promised:


sorry it's a bit blurry ;-)





Pretty nifty, don't you think? Well worth having the house overrun with overall-clad leprachauns and coated in dust for a week or so.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I can't C!

Last week I got a headache. I've been getting them fairly regularly for the last couple of years - intense, blinding headaches that stay for at least 2 days and then disappear as suddenly as they appeared. Headaches that amplify all noises and make it difficult to see; Headaches that make it feel as if my head is going to explode.
Hubby has been pushing me to go see a doctor, just in case there's a pumpkin growing in my head, or something.

So when this one attacked I decided to do something about it - but I went to the chiropractor, not the doctor. We'll leave that as a last resort[1]. Besides, surely some tlc from the magic chiro would be able to sort it out?!
Well, a good long massage and a few adjustments in my neck certainly helped to relieve a large portion of the tension I had no idea I was feeling. The bad news is that he told me that it wasn't just a tension headache, but in fact a migraine. I'd been suspecting this but hoping it wasn't, because I've heard those can be quite nasty. After taking his advice to lie down in a quiet, dark room with a cold compress on my pip for relief, I was persuaded to acknowledge that perhaps he was right. OK, so now it has a name and the likliehood of me sprouting vegetables from my ears is no longer a possibility, my mind is at rest a bit.
The thing to do now is figure out what is causing them and how to avoid them.
Trouble is, apparently the 3 things most likely to cause or aggravate a migraine are coffee, cheese and chocolate.


Coffee and cheese are 2 of my staple diet items - the chocolate I'm not too concerned with, as I don't often have a chocoloate except in emergencies when PMS hits and then, oh boy, just you TRY and stop me munching an Aero..!
The upshot is, I'm a little deflated - coming down from a 5-year caffeine buzz, since the last time I went without coffee was about 5 years back when I did a bit of a detox diet. I'm fooling myself by drinking a couple of mugs of decaf which is sort of working, although the brewing-coffee smell that fills the office first thing in the morning is almost enough to make me mug (haha!) someone for a cup.
I was more or less forced to have cheese on my sandwich for lunch yesterday (that'll teach me to wait until the last minute to go in search of food) but the killer was this morning, when I ambled over to the coffee station to get myself a cup of decaf and there, strewn across the table, were dozens of shiny, enticing chocolates there for the taking.

This is not going to be easy.


[1] I'm quite happy to make like an Ostrich.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

hello again

My mother used to say that if you can't find something nice to say, then say nothing.[1]

Not that this has anything to do with why I've been m.i.a. for the past two weeks or so, I just thought I'd share that with you and it seemed like a good opening line.

Truth is, I just didn't feel like blogging. That is, I didn't feel like writing a blog post. Or comments. I have done a teensy bit of lurking though, just in case you thought you could get away with anything in my alleged absence.

Besides which, nothing terribly exciting has happened in the last couple of weeks. The attic conversion is done and looks great, and once I have it all cleaned up I'll post the 'before' and 'after' pics because I know you're all just hanging on the edge of your seats to see them.
Aside from that there has been work, work and more work, pathetic attempts at housework and some shopping not really worth mentioning.

The highlight of it all was definitely watching my beloved Springboks beat England in last Friday night's Rugby World Cup game. Not just beat, but annihalate, really, with a final score of 36-0. It's enough to make a girl's heart swell with pride and cause her to drink too much beer.

There was an Australian, a Frenchwoman, an Italian, two South Africans, a Swede and another Frenchman who all went out to watch the greyhound races. You'd be forgiven for thinking this is the start of a joke but actually that's what we did last Saturday evening. Next time I go I'll take a heavier coat and wear sensible shoes.
The dogs are cute - all wagging tails and muzzles, chasing the fake rabbit around the track until it disappears into a little metal box, at which point they all stop and sniff the ground a lot.

Anyway, I think my little break from blogging is coming to an end - thanks Angel, for kicking my ass on that one with your last comment :-)
I shall pull myself towards myself and be back to enchant you shortly...


[1] At least I think it was my mother.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Monday Ramblings

It's official. I don't like Facebook.
There are all these things you can do, see, like compare your friends to each other in different categories... and what's the category I get "Most ___" in?
Most Studious.
I give up.

In other news, my house is overrun with strange men in overalls. Actually, not so much overalls as jeans and paint(?)- stained T-shirts. I volunteered to take a week off work[1] so that I could stay home and babysit the builders we've hired to convert our attic into a habitable space. By the end of the week we should have a large room upstairs with windows and everything. Photos will follow, of course.
I must confess, though, I feel a bit like an intruder in my own home today. And it's slightly disconcerting to be sitting comfortably in my lounge attempting to appear nonchalant, with the sounds of someone cutting holes in my roof - punctuated with occasional raucous man-laughter - assaulting my ears.

I had grandiose ideas of spending my whole week writing. Well so far, you've just read the fruits of my labour. Because first I had to do the laundry, of course. And then there was a pile of ironing to do because it was cluttering up the space where I wanted to sit and write. Although I'm not sitting there now because by the time I'd finished the ironing, the sun had moved overhead and so was no longer streaming in through the windows like it was earlier.

Aahh, there ya go... nothing like the sweet sound of an angle-grinder and men yelling to each other to get the creative juices flowing...

[1]A difficult decision, to be sure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Knight in Gleaming Armour

There I was this morning, zooting along on my nice shiny new big motorcycle, laughing as I passed the cars that were stuck in a traffic jam stretching from the city centre all the way out to where I join the motorway, about 18km outside of Dublin. Biking is great - being stuck in traffic is pretty much a thing of the past.

And then something weird happened; I opened the throttle a bit and where the engine should have revved, nothing happened. There was a slight jerk, and then it took again, then another slight jerk and the engine pretty much died. When I initially realised something wasn't right I had moved over to the edge of the road, so when I stopped I wasn't causing an obstruction.

"Waaaah! My bike's broken!!!" was my first reaction.

Because, you see, at first I'd thought I'd done something silly like run out of petrol. There's no petrol gauge on the new bike so it's hard to tell. But I'd checked the tank last night when I got home and I could see what looked like plenty of petrol in there. So surely it couldn't be that?

I had only just stopped and was still turning the key in the ignition when another biker pulled over in front of me to see if I was OK; when I shrugged to indicate I wasn't sure what the problem was, he dismounted from and came over to take a look.
I found myself looking into bewitching blue eyes, and a silky voice with a French accent asked, "Is it gas? Do you have a Reserve switch?"


It's unreal how quickly an intelligent, educated, 35-year-old wife turns into an airhead blonde in the presence of a hot, leather-clad Frenchman with smoldering baby-blues..!
I pointed in the general direction of somewhere under my seat, he flipped a switch, leaned over and with a masterful flick of the wrist, restarted my bike.

I smiled, embarrassed, with a lame, "It's a new bike..."
He smiled back kindly and suggested I find a petrol station.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

moving along swiftly

At first I was afraid - I was petrified,
Kept thinking I could never really learn to ride a bike.
But then I spent all summer long
riding back and forth to work and I grew strong,
and I learned how to move along

I made it through,
I did the deed,

and now it's time for me to move onto a bigger steed.
The little one it was okay
but it's too small for motorways
and so I got myself this beauty, ain't it gorgeous, watcha say..?

Yep, I've graduated!
To a Suzuki GS500.
The final straw was when I was rudely pushed into the yellow line along the motorway not so long ago by a truck. I had no choice - my 125cc bike just didn't have the oomf to get me out of the way any other way and the truck driver was pretty single-minded about wanting to be where I was.

When I first test-drove the new one two weekends ago I thought, "Nothing this much fun could possibly be legal!"
But it is - it's street-legal, and learner-legal, and it seems there is absolutely no reason for me not to have it. I really did need the extra power. Half of my daily commute is on the motorway and I need a top speed of over 100kph to be safe.

But yes, I confess, the throaty growl and zippy acceleration were what actually sold me....
And it's purty, dontcha think?!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Six years, six things

Six years ago today two incredibly good-looking (if somewhat clueless) South Africans stepped off a 'plane at Dublin airport for the first time. They had been married a mere 6 months and since the wedding their lives had taken on a whole new and rather unexpected direction. Their cars, motorcycle, house and all it's contents had been sold, debts settled and farewells bidden. They had with them a grand total of IR£3500, which was all they had in the world apart from their clothes and a few boxes which were neatly (sort-of) packed in corners and garages of various relatives' homes.
It was the beginning of a new life; their aim was to settle in Ireland and move forward. Their cash was enough to maintain them for 3 months, at the most. It was make-or-break time.

The short version is that at the end of 3 months, they thought it was "break". 9/11 happened, the job market froze and they were down to their last week's worth of grocery money... and then one of them found work. And from there things started moving forwards.

Six years on and I'm pleased to say it turned out to be "make". To the point where they often turn to each other and smile, giving thanks for how lucky they are.
They have all the trappings they left behind in their homeland, and more.

In honour of the day, I thought I'd share with you six random things:

1. There is, in fact, good reason for all those Irish jokes you hear.

2. The reason Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle is because the fields and grass are greener here than you would ever believe possible.

3. The reason the fields and grass are so green is because it's pretty much always raining!

4. The Irish are the friendliest and most fun-loving nation I have encountered.

5. Guinness really is good for you!

6. Places like those you see in TV programmes like "Ballykissangel" and "Father Ted" really do exist in this day and age.

Thanks, Ireland. You've been good to us.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

saying nothing

She plops down in front of her laptop, rubs her hands together and then stares at the screen, hands poised for when the moment strikes; the moment when pure genius inspiration will flow from her soul through her fingertips as they fly over the keyboard.

But... nothing.
Only five more minutes before she simply must switch off the laptop and pack it back in its bag (because of course leaving it out just would not do - far too untidy) and the pressure is getting to her. Because she has to write something today. It's been over a week since the last one and since then - nothing. No clever thoughts; no funny anecdotes (except for the guy in the canteen last week who had a piece of toilet-paper trailing from the back of his trousers but really, how much can be said about that?).

Two minutes to go and she's staring out of the window, wondering if the cat perched on the wall is going to pounce on whatever it's stalking in the neighbour's yard, or not.
It doesn't. Instead, it stalks off further along the wall that stretches from yard to yard all the way down to the end of the lane.

Time's up now. She sighs and sniffs, defeated.
Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Sometimes I just need someone to tell me it's OK, that I am good at my job, that I am good enough, that something terrible isn't going to happen just because things are going well at the moment...

It's like this, you see:
I was really glad to be back after our holiday. I was happy to be in my own house again, and to be back into routine. And then I started having weird dreams. I'd dream about my step-son who is still in SA. I dreamt I was dying of cancer. I dreamt someone stabbed me to death. I dreamt about my grandmother. And I was convinced something bad was going to happen.

Something bad did, in fact - the father of an ex-boyfriend passed away last Friday. I was really sad to hear about this. I met his son when I was only 15 and we dated for over a year. I spent loads of time at their house and went away on holiday with the family. When my boyfriend was drafted into the army, his parents took me with them to visit him on "Parents' Weekend" at the end of his basic training. This man was one of the nicest I've ever known. Growing up without a father, I used to feel very uncomfortable around my friends' fathers. I didn't really know what they were about. But I never felt uncomfortable around Bob and he will have left a hole in the world. It is probably years since I saw him but I mourn him a little nonetheless.

And the sane part of me is telling the crazy part of me not to read anything into my weird dreams.

Actually I think most of my angst is work-related. We have a Contractor in at work as our little team is a man down at the moment and until someone is hired permanently we have a string of highly experienced and knowledgeable DBA's filling the seat next to mine.
All this does is make me realise how limited my own knowledge and experience are.
Bah humbug - just when I thought I was doing well..!

And on a completely unrelated topic, last night I forewent (Is there such a word? Past tense of "forego"?) watching a movie with Hubby in favour of sitting down for some uninterrupted and dedicated blogging. Well, blog-reading to be more accurate. It was fun. Lots of fun. You guys are quite entertaining, y'know that? I kept getting dirty looks from Hubby 'cos at one point I was laughing so hard the tears were rolling down my cheeks, during what appeared to be a Very Serious Moment in the movie.
Oops ;-)
I haven't had a couple of hours to read blogs in ages and it reminded me why I do this thing.

So thanks, all of you.

Monday, August 13, 2007

well colour me surprised

Following on last week's revalation that I am rapidly approaching middle age* I decided yesterday that it was time (again) to disguise the most obvious symptom of this condition.

I found it mildly disconcerting when some of my hair colouring creme splashed onto the bathroom wall and promptly stripped the paint right down to brick. Well okay, it's not really brick but I can't bring myself to acknowledge that we are separated from our neighbours by little more than glorified cardboard.
That aside, I'm thinking that hair must be pretty robust stuff if it willingly copes with chemicals that literally strip paint off walls... and even comes out shiny and bouncy on the other side!

And in case you were wondering the answer is Yes; blondes do have more fun.**

* See how I've cleverly convinced myself that I'm not actually there yet?
** More fun than grey-haired middle-aged women, at least, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

older and wiser

I was chatting with a couple of colleagues this morning - the conversation went something like this:

[Terri] "Hey, L, can you give me the name of the people who did your attic conversion? They did a great job and we're thinking of getting ours done."
[L] "Sure, it was (xyz) - they have a website so you can look them up. They're very professional."
[W] "You know, ladies, this is a very middle-aged conversation you're having, hahaha!"
And we all laughed.
And then I asked (still chuckling), "OK so what is middle-aged, officially?"
[W] "Well I suppose mid- to late thirties."

Uh, back up here. Are you trying to tell me I am officially Middle Aged???! When da hell did dat happen?!
I suppose the fact that young Cinderella turns 17 tomorrow should have given me a hint. That and the fresh crop of grey hairs over my right temple (why only the right?!) which I've been steadfastly convincing myself are actually blonde, not grey. Ahem.

However, I cannot really complain about growing older, as my wisdom apparently has no bounds... [insert raucous laughter here]...

Hubby and I decided that since this past weekend was a long weekend we would take a drive down to County Cork. You may recall we have made numerous trips to Cork to visit our good friends in the past. Well those good friends went back to SA a couple of months back, but as if on a relay system, Hubby's sister and her family have taken the plunge and moved over to Ireland - County Cork, to be precise.

Welcome to Ireland, guys!!!

So on Friday evening we packed the car and after several false starts ("Forgot the camera!", "Forgot my phone!","Forgot the directions to their place!") we hit the long and winding road to Cork.
Some of you may also recall that last summer, on our famous (though as yet un-written-about - sorry 'bout that!) bike trip around Europe, we occasionally took a wrong turn. This prompted Hubby to declare that life was not complete without a handy little Sat-Nav / GPS thingy. Having bugger-all imagination when it comes to gift-giving, I bought him one for Christmas. My position as Family Navigator had been usurped but who am I to argue? Even I must admit defeat; after all, Paris and Brussels are indeed nowhere near each other.

So there we were, happily driving along on the big N8 road down to Cork, and Mr SatNav in all his wisdom decided that we should take a left. Personally, I would've elected to go straight but sure, it's a clever little piece of equipment, right? Perhaps it knows something we don't. Besides, we weren't heading for Cork City, but for a (much) smaller town on the coast, east of the city.
The roads narrowed, then twisted. We didn't mind - it was really pretty and we had made good time so far. We were happy to take the road less travelled. It began to rain, but we weren't too concerned, after all, life is an adventure, right?

And then as the road steepened and narrowed even more as it climbed a mountain I confess I had no idea existed, the windscreen wipers sort of ground to a halt.

We stopped at a lay-by to see if there was anything obvious like a loose wire and of course while we were staring blankly at the Audi's engine compartment a Local in a van pulled up and with a smirk at our smart car and blank faces, asked if we needed a lift. You could see he was thinking, "Eejit Townies, stuck out here in the back o' beyond and not a clue how to fix their fancy car."

We smiled and said no-thanks, shut the hood, smoked a cigarette and continued along our not-so-merry way. The road continued to worsen, as did the rain. I left the radio off - somehow in the gloomy, misty half-light in what can only be described as Deliverance country, music seemed out of place.
I was making like the co-pilots in the rally cars... "Sharp left in 5-4-3-2-1... Mind the sheep!"

Eventually we neared civilisation again, I turned on the radio and the rain lightened up. And the car screamed at us in it's peculiar electronic voice, causing me to almost dive for cover. Hubby grinned and pulled into another lay-by, confidently telling me that he'd been expecting this.
"This" turned out to be a low-on-coolant situation but being the boy-scout that he is, he had a jerry-can of water in the back. Apparently the water-pump has a minor (?) leak.
So we topped up and set off... and about 2km down the road the windscreen wipers suddenly creaked back to life. By the time we reached our destination they were working as if nothing had ever been wrong.
El-GPS, however, had been well and truly abandoned for a good old-fashioned paper road map, which yours-truly used to ensure we stayed on main roads for the rest of the trip.

Pah! to these new-fangled electronic gadgets, I say!

And on the subject of weather - this is what our Irish summer looks like from the side-mirror of our trusty (?!) Audi...

Sunscreen, anyone?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Better late than never

Well my goodness aren't I just the little Energizer bunny? Last Friday I made a list of what I wanted to get done over the weekend and I very nearly did it all, 'cept the shopping trip took longer than expected so I had a good excuse for the one or two things I didn't get done.
I'm wearing my new shoes today, btw. They look great!

So last night I finally got working on my photos, starting with those from Paris - take a look at what I've uploaded to flickr so far.
If it weren't for this pesky having-to-work thing, I would have a lot more up there but oh well, what can you do, eh?

Y'know, I knew I needed a holiday before, but I had no idea just how much of a difference it would make. I'm STILL in a good mood, and have enough energy to do stuff other than drag myself to work and back every day. Which is surprising, because it's not like I'm sitting with nothing to do. If that were the case I would have blogged again before now, in the last week! Perhaps it helped that my appointment at the Chiropracter on Saturday morning involved a massage, too, of the variety that made me want to offer to pay double if he would just keep it up a little longer. The massage, that is - get your minds out the gutter!

So perhaps that's the answer: 3 weeks' holiday, followed by a massage, then work for a week or two at the most, then start again.

Anyone else want to join my club?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

back to reality

Oddly enough I was actually not devastated to come home to Dublin this time. That is not to say I didn't howl like it was the end of the world when we said goodbye to my Mom and stepson at the airport on Friday evening because I did. So much so that I set Cinderella off too... and I could've sworn I even saw Hubby's eyes well up. Hardly surprising, I suppose, since he had his two favourite girls sobbing on his shoulders at the same time in the departures lounge.
But once I'd recovered from that, I was OK. In fact I was actually glad to be back in our own house again (and my back was most pleased to see my own bed). I may not have exactly skipped off to work yesterday morning but I didn't want to stick a poker in my eye over it either. Perhaps getting to ride my bike again helped. [Insert Cheshire cat grin here.]

So what can I tell you about the holiday? The weather was fantastic - sunshine and blue skies for all but 2 days of our 3 weeks there, and warm enough to wear T-shirts. Except at night when it actually got quite cold and the houses in SA wouldn't know double-glazing or central heating if it hit them in the facias. But it was certainly an improvement over our Irish summer (53 consecutive days of rain, so I've been told!).

In some ways it was like we had never left, after just a couple of days there. In other ways it was like a flashback to a previous life. And somewhere along the way something settled in my soul. It's really difficult to explain but it's as if something has been resolved inside of me, something that was causing conflict before; I am now genuinely OK with not moving back there. It feels good.

We partied with our friends and yes, karaoke was involved. You can check out the evidence over at Oodlesofnoodlesoffun.
We had a highly entertaining (and rather extended) lunch with both the aforementioned Buddess and another blogger, Katt, with whom some of you may already be familiar.
We ate braaivleis (BBQ) and seafood until we were hankering for no more than a sandwich.
We sat in the sun at every opportunity and I'm pleased to say I no longer look like a corpse.
I even read a book from start to finish.

I also took a couple of hundred photographs which I will be sorting and uploading along with the promised pics from my latest Paris excursion shortly... Just as soon as I've managed to catch up on some blog reading.
It's amazing how much you people manage to write in 3 weeks!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

missing the picture

I really hate leaving things unfinished so here's the pic of the beach at Cannon Rocks that belongs to the challenge from my previous post...

By the way... From where I'm sitting it looks like the photo has gone all fuzzy-ish after being uploaded here. Is it my imagination or does the quality look not quite right to you guys too?

Friday, July 13, 2007

lets do the time warp!

I think I may have entered a time warp. Two weeks back in my hometown and it's like I never left. It's really relaxing to be in a place where you don't have to think so hard about everything... you just know, because your surroundings have been there your whole life. I don't have to choose my words carefully to make myself understood to people. I can go to the till and ask for some potato salad in a bakkie, just enough to take to a bring-and-braai, and the lady behind the counter knows exactly what I'm looking for (as opposed to asking for about 500grams (?) of potato salad in a plastic container please, to take to a barbeque).
It turns out, too, that I haven't forgotten how to drive a manual car and I don't have to plan my journeys - I know exactly where everything is in this town and how to get there.
I'm still trying to figure out where all the people are though. We have these great big wide roads here and hardly any traffic; the Irish could take a lesson there somewhere, teehee.

Earlier this week we drove out to a little seaside hamlet called Cannon Rocks to visit our friends, who have recently returned here from their own stint in Ireland. Are there beaches this beautiful anywhere else in the world?
Take it as a challenge, I dare you... and I want photographic proof, 'kay? *

I know I've been harping a bit on how wonderful it is to be home and all but as much as I'm already dreading having to leave again next weekend, this visit has also reinforced our decision not to return permanently. This place, and the people in it, haven't changed much and I guess we haven't either, except... we've moved forward and coming back would be like moving backwards again. I know I'm going to be an emotional wreck when we leave but I also know that my life is not here anymore.
Onwards and upwards, as my good buddy Buzz would say.

And on a completely different note may I just add that I'm really missing my blogging buddies a LOT - I'm afraid blogging by dial-up is just not a viable option. It takes ages to load any of the pages and I'm awfully conscious of my poor Ma's phone bill. so I guess I'm going to have stacks of catching up to do when I get back to Ireland.


* OK so this challenge has lost some of its impact as a result of me not being able to get the photo uploaded. Yay dial-up. I'll try again tomorrow. Pfft!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Getting Poetic in Sunny South Africa

This place of ours cannot be told
To understand, you must behold
first hand, the glowing sunrise
bursting into skies
of endless blue;
a mirror of the ocean
crashing merciless upon white sand.

Here lives go on as others do
but not,
for though so beautiful
the land is harsh
sun beating down
turns seas of grassland golden brown
We pray for rain and when it comes
new rivers form where none should be.

Survival is a daily fight
and so we leave;
we search the globe
for better lives and gentle days
but soon enough that dusty land
that grows inside from when we're babes
calls out from deep inside our soul;
No matter where our feet may lead
our hearts are in this land, our home.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I'm Home

I'm home.
I have such a mish-mash of emotions raging inside at the moment that I don't know where to begin.

Friday was a disaster. Well, that's not entirely true - I got everything done at work that I was supposed to and left it all in readiness for my boss's return on Monday. By the end of the day, though, I was a wreck from working late on Thursday, in early Friday till late again and flatout all the way. I had to take an emergency break in the ladies' room at one point to avoid a tearful outburst from pure stress. The upcoming trip probably didn't help things as I like to have time to prepare for a journey; you know me - I have to have lists of things, and lists of lists of things in order to feel prepared. I had nothing; Cinderella and Hubby jumped in and took care of the household and shopping stuff and all I had to do was pack my suitcase.

I thought a good night's rest would see me feeling better on Saturday morning but the stress was still there. I was taught as a piano wire and my sense of humour was nowhere in sight. The check-in queue at Dublin airport was beyond ridiculous and even though we were there well in advance, we only just made the flight with no time even to stop for a spot of duty-free shopping. My family and friends in SA would just have to do without their Butlers Irish Chocolates this time.

I castigated a bloke in the queue who asked us to keep his place while he dashed to the loo because he left his bag behind in our care. In this day and age, with all the airport security, how stupid can some people be??! Cinderella and Hubby stayed well back and I pretended not to notice them laughing at me while the Irish all around looked mortified at my nerve in having a, er, quiet word with the guy when he got back. He's damn lucky I didn't get airport security to remove his bag and have it blown to bits just in case!

Two young lads who were jangling while we were waiting to board got the fright of their life when I barked at them for pushing each other until one of them stepped on my foot. They ran off to their parents then, who gave them a proper tongue lashing.

Is it wrong that I felt better for having growled at strangers? Because I tellya, it did help lower my stress levels.
A bit.

Then we flew to London's Heathrow airport... and the first thing we saw was a newsflash on a TV about the car bomb incident at Glasgow airport. 'Twas a good day to be flying, for sure. The already tight security was even tighter - we went through more security checks than I thought possible by the time we eventually boarded the flight to Johannesburg, which left late as a result. Hunger wasn't helping my mood any and then when I was finally seated in the middle seat in a cramped 'plane I felt I was going for meltdown. And I didn't understand why. And I was too tired to figure it out. So I spoke not a word, ate my dinner, watched a movie and spent the next 10 hours trying - rather unsuccessfully - to sleep.
The dude behind me who appeared to be on a mission to clean out the entire stock of Heineken on the flight did not help; the only person who thought he was amusing at 3am was himself and eventually the flight crew put him in their own quarters to sleep it off.

But after breakfast this morning I was feeling better... right up until it got light outside and we were on final approach to Johannesburg and I looked out the window and I saw the land of my birth, the area I spent my childhood in, in the days when my father was still alive and life was innocent. That was when it all came bubbling over and the pain in my heart would not be stilled and I started sobbing.
All the homesickness and missing my Mom and my family and friends that I have blocked off for so long emerged with a ferocity that took me by surprise, and it took some time for me to regain my composure.

Once it had had its say, my spirits started to lift a bit and the stress eased. I burst out laughing when I heard the first announcement over the PA while we were waiting, in that uniquely delightful flat Jo'burg accent, "Goood mawning laydeees and geentlemen..."
LOL! I was home.
The fact was hammered home by the chaos when we went to check in for the final leg of our journey to Port Elizabeth and the systems were down and the manual check-in process was being handled in the slowest and most disinterested manner possible... and all the passengers could do was make light of the situation and roll their eyes a lot.

The hour-and-a-half flight from Jo'burg to Port Elizabeth was passed in and out of consciousness (partly from only having had about 3 hours sleep in total at most, and partly from having taken a couple of good strong painkillers to deal with the headache brought on by lack of sleep). When I was conscious I struck up a conversation with the two chaps next to me who were both born and bred there, too. In fact one of them went to the same high school as me. Um, it's kind of a small town, hehe..! They were eager to catch me up on what had changed in my absence, and welcomed me home. PE is not called The Friendly City for nothing.

We landed in weather pretty much the same as what we had left behind in Dublin. The smell of salty sea air hit me as it always does when I stepped off the plane, and then there were my Mom and stepson and his mates, and Hubby's sister and her offspring all waiting with big hugs to greet us and it's been like the twilight zone ever since. Things have changed but it's still the same and I feel like I never left.
But I saw the Southern Cross star constellation for the first time tonight in two and a half years.
It's weird the things that you remember. The sounds and smells are the same and the view from my Mom's verandah hasn't changed at all.

I think I may be a bit jetlagged and the emotions are still running a little high, but it's not surprising, I guess.

Because I'm home again.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Heading South for the Summer

Now, I know most would head South for the Winter but anyone who's been in Ireland this Summer will probably agree that right now I have the right idea. It's been pretty cold in SA this week, in fact it snowed. Just before that, though it was 30 degrees. Gotta love that South African winter! And we're flying there tomorrow WOOHOO!!!
So now the question is... What to pack? Ah, right, I'll pack for an Irish Summer - should be about right.
I've had a week from hell so the break is just what I need. I'm hoping to get a chance to catch up on my blogging while I'm away - I feel like I haven't visited my blog buddies in months!
But there is Internet in Africa so I'll be making up for it.
Seeya from the other side of the world!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

monday blues

I've been trying to write up a nice post for you guys, telling you all about the fun weekend Hubby and I had in London. It really was great - we stayed with my Li'l Sister and on Saturday the 3 of us went to watch the rugby-match-that-will-not-be-discussed and have a BBQ with my cousin at the pub he's been running for the last few years, followed by his farewell party.
He's moving to Oz, you see. We really had a good time (Thanks Cuz!) and it was well worth the hangover yesterday.

Trouble is it's hard to tell you good things about a great weekend when my mood is as irritable as what it is. Aaargh!!! Being nice - or even civil - to people is incredibly difficult when all I want to do is snap at them for simply breathing. Yep, it's one of those days when I should be sent home as unfit for human interaction.
Thing is, I should be happy... after all, this time next week we'll be on holiday in South Africa. And in truth, I am very excited and can barely contain myself about that. Who knew excitement and irritation could co-exist to such degrees?!

Because I don't wanna figure out why there is a problem with [process A]. I don't wanna have to solve the problem of poor performance on [server X]...

... and I've just noticed that some clever formatting I put in earlier caused only half my post to be published. I believe the GRRR factor has just grown exponentially!
d'ya think "I need to blog" is a valid excuse for not working any more today???!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I agree...

A week is more than enough for one post to decorate this place. It's time for a new one.
Tomorrow (I think) is the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year. Midsummer.
It's been raining and storming for about 10 days now. I have been wearing a fleece top under my bike jacket (still with the removable 'Winter' lining zipped in) to get to and from work. Summer, my ass! I don't remember the last time I saw blue skies...
Oh wait, that's not entirely true. It was two Saturdays ago when we went to visit our friends in Cork, and the four of us went for a stroll around Fota Wildlife Park. The weather was stunning that day - a perfect 23 degrees and cloudless skies.
It started raining the next day and it hasn't stopped since.

So since my mood is about the same as the heavy grey stormclouds outside, let's remember sunnier times with some photo's I took that day...





Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Paris

SUNDAY 3 JUNE 2007...
So here I am, back in Paris, enjoying the sunshine on a bench in the Tuilleries Gardens, which extend from the imposing bulk of the Louvre to the Place De La Concorde where traffic roars in its mad, unfathonable dance. This is one of my favourite places in the world, right here where hazy orange sunshine filters through deep green leaves on trees that cast peaceful shadow on this haven. Heavy air and massive cumulous clouds build up the promise of a thunderstorm. It is early summer and warm enough that Cinderella and I are wearing light summer dresses and pretty shoes that were a lot more comfortable when we left our hotel opposite the Sorbonne this morning. A couple of hours roaming the vast halls of the Louvre in search of the still unimpressive yet must-see Mona Lisa, and the more impressive Venus de Milo (which has been moved, by the way, since my last visit, causing us a great deal of unnecessary walking), have turned our pretty shoes into feet-eaters. So now we sit and rest on a bench in the shade. Cinderella has her eyes closed and is lost in the world of her MP3 player. I'm playing spy with my camera and giving vent to the need to write that always comes over me when I'm in Paris. I've seen all the sights here twice before so I'm in no hurry to move. Now I finally get to do what I want to do in this city: soak it up and allow it to inspire the writer in me.
For me the best part of being in Paris is this, right here, right now; and twenty minutes earlier when we sat drinking coffee at one of the outdoor restaurants in the gardens.
It is a myth, by the way, that French waiters are rude; a smile goes a long way here.

Paris has a magical quality, especially on an early Summer day like today. Elegant beauty wraps around madly impatient traffic; all around people go about their business - Parisians with purpose, tourists meandering aimlessly and a cocktail of both resting in the sun... being here in the midst of it all breathes life into my soul. Pigeons peck at unseen crumbs around our feet; children laugh and play on the jungle gym and tourists speaking every conceivable language amble past us - most of them wearing far more sensible shoes than we are, I might add. Across the emerald lawn from us a stylish mother is trying to entice her toddler to a donkey ride. The little girl dubiously consents, unsure as to what all the fuss is about.
Despite the ever-present drone of traffic in the background, there is a sense of peace here.

Looking through Tuileries Gardens towards Arc de Triomph from outside the Louvre

Against all odds we made it all the way up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe on foot, stopping at a pharmacy (remembered from similar circumstances during a previous visit) and a nearby park bench to ply our poor feet with blister plasters. The interesting shops appear to be closed this Sunday afternoon. Our budget probably heaved a sigh of relief!
However, it is my belief that one important requirement of a visit to Paris is to sip coffee at a restaurant along the Champs Elysées - the coffee and pastry were delicious but I do think €20 for the two of us was a bit steep - especially since we were both still hungry afterwards. Would you think any less of me if I confessed we then dined at MacDonalds?

Thus fortified with fake food we paid the ransom to board one of the open-top tour buses. These are a great way to see the sights, be educated about our surroundings through little earphones that plug into the bus, and rest our weary feet. We stayed on the bus all the way back down the Champs Elysées over the river Seine and along the winding, shady avenues until we reached the Eiffel Tower. Cinderella is 16 - she's not particularly interested in all the other buildings but the Eiffel Tower, well that's different.
One cannot fail to be impressed by its enormity and she, of course, wanted to go all the way to the top. The queue was diabolical, however, and after waiting probably half an hour and not moving much we decided to give it up and return tomorrow, earlier in the day. Shadows were growing longer - well perhaps not, since it stays light so late in Summer - but we had both had enough for one day.

The tour bus provided a convenient and scenic way to get back to our hotel. We hopped off when it stopped at Notre Dame and hobbled from there across the river and up Blvd St Michel to the Place de la Sorbonne, a little square opposite the university and just around the corner from where we're staying.
This is another little haven; Cinderella has an enormous glass of orange juice in front of her and my Earl Grey tea is really hitting the spot. In the centre of the tree-lined square, fountains provide background music. It was here that we had breakfast this morning, joining professors wearing leather-elbowed tweed jackets for coffee and croissant; in the late afternoon sunshine the professors have been replaced now by students writing essays, their pages of notes strewn across the tables and held in place by glasses or ashtrays to prevent the breeze blowing their knowledge away. I feel tired and hot, but when the sun breaks through to throw a warm glow on the beautiful setting around us, that magical feeling is as strong as ever.

Place de la Sorbonne

There's nothing like a day of sightseeing to make a girl enjoy a quick hour's nap before donning her finery (well, her finest jeans, anyway) and heading out to dinner. Since our hotel is close to the Luxembourg gardens we stepped inside there for a few minutes while trying to decide which of the restaurants across the road was fit to feed us this lovely night. Like everything else in Paris, the gardens are really pretty with manicured lawns, bright flowers, heavy trees and perfect white statues.
The Luxembourg Café/Brasserie took our fancy for dinner and we seated ourselves at a small table inside.
Perhaps I shall take a moment her to explain about Paris restaurants, for those of you who haven't been.
typical Parisian restaurant
It seems to me that on every wide, tree-lined boulevard, you will find restaurants, cafés and brasseries. You seldom see just one - they tend to be a few together. They all have both inside and outside seating, and there is a price difference (on drinks, at the very least) depending on where you sit. Outside is more expensive than inside; of course most people prefer to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and atmosphere (let's pretend, for a moment, that exhaust fumes don't exist in Paris). We chose to sit inside this evening - although the front windows were all open so it was almost as good as being outside - as the air was a little too fresh and I'm not wild about cold raw steak.
Ah yes, the steak. The French chef's joke. The waiter always asks how I want it cooked. I always say "medium-to-well-done, si'l vous plais". The chef always sends it to me rare anyway. Still, it was very tasty, and the basin of chocolate mousse that followed was worth every minute of the almost 2 hours we spent eating it. Yes, I said "basin". Upon such a large chocolate mousse we had never before laid eyes! I did the female species proud :-)
Of course the sugar rush that followed had us both giggling like schoolgirls (OK, one of us is a schoolgirl, but I have no excuse!) and the waiters had taken an amused and slightly indulgent air towards to us by the time we left. (This happens to me a lot when I travel though I'm not entirely sure why.)
When at last we could eat no more (or in my case, there was no more to eat) we strolled back to our hotel. We have a new room tonight - last night they had us in a double room and because the hotel was full they couldn't move us until today. We're both thankful we don't have to share a bed tonight - I snore, and Cinderella hogs. The windows are open but the warm evening air barely moves in this still, beautiful evening. Sitting upright on my bed, my belly full and my soul at rest, I have a yearning to write a love story.
The yearning to sleep is stronger, though. It's time for bed now.

TUESDAY 5 JUNE 2007...
We were up not so very bright nor terribly early yesterday morning. My logic is that one cannot enjoy exploring if one is tired and ratty, so I allowed us to sleep in a bit. Choosing more sensible shoes this time, we made our way back to Notre Dame after breakfast, where we did not have to wait long for the familiar red bus to arrive. I had almost thrown away the tickets the previous night, until I saw that they were valid for two days, not just one as I had thought.
When the bus stopped at the Opera we jumped ship (yeah yeah, I know) as Cinderella wanted to see the Moulin Rouge and apparently the red light district is not on the tour bus route.
We found our way to Gare St Lazare, from where we took the Metro to Pigalle. From there it was just a short walk (with another short stop at a pharmacy and park bench to refresh our blister plasters) to the Moulin Rouge. Yep, that's right Cinderella, it's a big old fake red windmill... now I know she would have been more impressed had I taken her there at night when it is all lit up and the whole area looks less dingy (although just as seedy) but I wasn't keen on dodging pimps and prostitutes with a 16-year-old after dark. So she took a photograph and we headed on, stopping for coffee and a milkshake of indeterminate flavour before descending into the Metro station again.

We re-emerged into daylight at the Arc de Triomph and caught up with the tour bus there, enjoying being driven around in the open air with no real hurry to get anywhere or do anything which was a good thing, as the route to the Eiffel Tower from there was somewhat circuitous. After a quick munch on a rather chewy baguette we joined the queue for the lift to take us to the top.

We queued for the tickets.
Then we queued for the lift to the 2nd level.
Then we queued for the other lift to to the top.
I felt myself growing old, the queues were that slow. I detest queues. I get bored in queues, and when I get bored I have a tendency to get mildly dilinquent, much to young Cinderella's initial embarrassment, and then amusement. Sure, what else is there to do in a queue but annoy one's family members and laugh at the other tourists? There must have been a hundred or more people waiting for the lift to the top and the uniformed men (wearing orange ties - orange!) were only letting about five people onto the lift at a time. Finally our turn arrived to enter the glass elevator. Cinderella laughed with glee as we shot up the middle of the big tower, partly because she enjoyed the ride and partly at me - I'm not so mad on travelling in glass lifts at speed and I had my hands full trying to behave like a sane person instead of a madwoman on the verge of hyperventilating each time I peeked out of one eye from behind my hands. If you thought the Eiffel Tower looked big from the ground, try shooting to the top and looking down.
Don't Look Down!!!
Yikes! Fortunately the viewing platform is well closed-in so I was able to look around instead of huddling in a corner in the foetal position crying for Mother Earth. Unfortunately it wasn't a particularly clear day but we snapped our photographs nonetheless.

View from level 2 - proof that I was there!
And then we queued to go back down to the second level again, where we queued once more for the other lift to the ground. Our little excursion to the top of the tower and back again probably took around 3 hours in total - yep, not exaggerating about the queues!

It was late afternoon by that time and Cinderella announced that she had a mission to buy a birthday present for a friend of hers, so we took the bus back to the Louvre, for there are dozens of souvinir and gift shops around the area perfect for finding "typical" gifts from Paris. Except she couldn't find exactly what she wanted - the lass is a fussy shopper, to put it mildly. So we trudged from one shop to the next until I eventually put my foot down (gently, as even the comfortable shoes were hurting by this stage) and we chased another red bus to get us back to Notre Dame. An immensely strong coffee and chocolate-macadamia cookie from Heaven (actually, it was a Häagen Dazs) restored my humour to not quite its former glory and provided the energy to start on the walk back to our hotel. Meandering through the Latin Quarter, though, we got sidetracked into a small shop selling pretty dolls and shiny things, and the elusive gift was purchased. The planned trip back to the hotel was canned and we sat down for dinner at a small restaurant instead, where Cinderella adventured into the land of Coq au Vin and I supped on a meal of rabbit that took me back to my childhood, when my grandmother would cook bunnies for special occasion meals. We ate slowly and watched the world go by. Some of the world went by in the shape of some rather well-sculpted breakdancers; we weren't short on entertainment.

I had wanted to take a photograph of the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night but there was no way we were traipsing all the way back there that evening. Instead, we turned back to Notre Dame as it was only a couple of blocks away. We arrived in front of the famous Cathedral to find a group of young men entertaining the crowd with fire tricks in the square out front: flaming batons, poi and my least-favourite, the fire-eating, appear to be a great way to earn money as a street artist. I stood well back (facing two phobias in one day is a little much for my nerves) and thanked Fuji for the zoom function on my camera.

Lighting up the night

Eventually, the sky faded to deep purple and the lights came on; I got my photographs and we hauled ourselves back to the hotel where we fell into bed like wounded soldiers.


We didn't wander far from the hotel this morning and we spent a lazy time browsing in shops around the Latin Quarter before establishing ourselves at a table in the sunshine in the picturesque Place de la Sorbonne again. The coffee is good, the sun is shining and I am breathing in as much of this place as I can, trying to stamp it into my memory. I feel sad to be leaving. I'm glad, though, that I am with Cinderella, whose favourite thing to do is sit and be restful. It gives me a chance to say goodbye to this magical city that brims with life and love and beauty; my Paris.

Notre Dame at night