Driving me up the wall

Can I chat about traffic for a moment? I recently moved back down to the south and over the past month and a half I’ve realised just how spoilt I’ve been having access to the MyCiti bus. Yes, yes, I complained bitterly on Twitter about the bus, the drivers and my fellow commuters – but even back then, deep down inside, I did get how fortunate I was to not be sitting in traffic in Paarden Eiland. Yes, even that day when our driver slammed on breaks and everyone fell out of their seats like skittles, or that day our driver decided to try squeeze past another bus and opened his vehicle like a tin can. Come to think of it, that may have been the same day…

But still, hugely fortunate. I got a small taste of it when I had to take my car to town a few days in a row a while back and within minutes I was in the throes of a road rage incident. Wait, let me clarify, there were no cricket bats involved, not even any exiting the vehicle. But that bloody woman in the car ahead of me who couldn’t decide what speed she wanted to go, and that hideous bully in the big silver monstrosity behind me who seemed to think I should remove myself from the road so he could get one whole car closer to town… my blood was boiling. I went back to the bus with a happy sigh and limited my Twitter complaints to two a week for a while.

Why does the universe hate me?

Now that I’m back in the south, though, I don’t have the bus as an option. And oh, how I miss it. I tried the train a few weeks back. What a hideously depressing experience. Seriously. Torn seats, graffitied inside and out, little streams of urine trickling through the carriage and windows so filthy and damaged the only way you can see what station you’ve just arrived at is to either peer through the tiny gap, or risk standing near the door, which is problematic because more people get tossed out of trains sans bags and shoes than you’d like to know.

Let’s ignore the petrol costs of taking my car to town and back five days a week, and the fact that I don’t have a parking bay so every day is an adventure – the traffic is completely unpredictable. Used to be that school holidays meant that the roads would be emptier and you could comfortably leave 28 minutes later than usual. Now? There’s just no telling. Colleagues sat in jams for over three hours the other day and eventually gave up and went home. Why? No bloody clue. Maybe it’s just because people in Cape Town are automatically transformed into idiots the moment their engines spring to life. Note: I didn’t say Capetonians, because, while yes, we are some of the biggest culprits, check out the license plates and you’ll see our roads are equal opportunity idiot-makers.

We’re either speeding or aimlessly drifting across three lanes and back again. Forget racing through lights just as they turn red. We laugh in the face of that kind of opportunism. We cruise through with the four cars behind us when it’s already been red for a good 5 seconds. Oh, and we love, love, love to get ourselves stranded in the middle of intersections when the lights change so we completely bugger things up for the people whose lights have just gone green. That’s one of our favourite things to do.

Accurate.

I’m not even going to address people texting and driving, or playing Candy Crush and driving or whatever the hell it is they’re doing heads bowed and one hand (if we’re lucky) on the wheel. Guys, Oprah told us not to years ago, can we just get our shit together and stop already?

Thing is, traffic sucks. Being late because of avoidable fender benders that happened 45 minutes before you even left the house sucks. But we can do small things to make it easier. Don’t be that jerk who waits till the very last second to cross over a solid white line to get into the lane they need – you’re the reason the traffic in that lane is so backed up in the first place. Put your phone down – one bonus is that you’ll give your freemium game a little extra time to replenish your lives, oh, and you won’t kill people. And if the person in front of you is already going the speed limit (if not a little over) don’t be a tosser and ride right up on their bumper, even though you can clearly see there’s a queue of cars in front of them, and them moving will do pretty much zilch to get you to your meeting any sooner.

We’re all in this together, let’s be a team, let’s make everyone’s journey a little safer and easier – but most importantly can you all please be a little less idiotic so I don’t have to start each day with a tantrum behind the wheel of my slowly-overheating Ford?

A Yumcious breakfast bite

I’m a creature of habit. Once I find something I like at a restaurant, I’m often tempted to stick to that dish every time I go or gravitate towards old favourites at new places. But I also don’t really like getting stuck in ruts, so when I caught myself pondering a chicken mayo toasted sandwich at Yumcious this morning I gave myself a stern talking to. I mean, this IS Jenny Morris’ joint, so I’m pretty certain the chicken mayo sarmie is delish, but really, Terri, splash out a bit for goodness sake.

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Upstairs at the Cape Quarter, Yumcious is a light and welcoming space – perfect for a quick Friday morning breakfast. First up, a creamy cappuccino while I perused the menu. There’s loads to choose from – although I’d just missed the Insomniac’s Special (served between 7 and 8.30am), I was set on tucking into a breakfast. Whether Full English is your cup of tea, or you’d prefer a Yumcious Very Veggie Breakfast (scrambled eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomato, herby sauté potatoes, their signature lentil and feta cake, and toast) – there’s a variety to choose from. I was extremely tempted by the French Kiss – French toast, with whipped orange and honey butter – doesn’t that sound simply sublime? But in the end I was won over by The Godmother. I’ll be honest – the name caught my attention to begin with, and then I was completely convinced by the description. “She likes her eggs poached the way she likes them, 2 of them, perched on a bed of chopped crispy bacon, fennel, red pepper, a hint of garlic, parsley, red onion and tender green peas.” Realistically, how could I not?

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If you’re going for lunch, choose from the list of burgers – from Plain Jane to The Beet Goes On, or treat yourself to a gourmet sandwich. Or make sure you pop in on time to help yourself to all sorts of deliciousness from the Kilo Table. “Freshly made, delicious and unusual salads and cold meats”. Having tried some of Jenny’s generous salads before, I’m sold on getting to graze a lunchtime or two away there. Her meals are all about freshness and seasonal goodness. And if you’ve ever watched her cook, or joined her in the kitchen, you’ll know her dishes are oozing with not only flavour, but passion and fun.

The Godmother arrived at my table, with aromatic tendrils inviting me to dig in immediately. My eggs were perfectly poached and the runny yolk descended slowly into the generous pile of fresh, flavoursome veggies. There’s something wonderful about a breakfast like that. It sets you up perfectly for the rest of the day. No stodgy bread to leave you feeling bloated. But it was still just as, if not more, comforting. Happily, the portion was ample enough to see me through to dinnertime, or at least a very late lunch. I loved the tiny hints of tartness amid the green flavours. And the bacon bits just added that little something extra. I’ll definitely order it again – but not until I’ve tried at least three other things on the menu. Avoiding that rut… even if it IS a delicious rut.

As well as getting excited by interesting flavours and textures in dishes, I also have a bit of a thing for cutlery and crockery. Yumcious’ Sola cutlery has a very pleasing heft to it. There’s something about a knife and fork with a little bit of weight to them that make those first few bites all the more thrilling. And I love the heavy ceramic plate as well. Together, they made it feel like more than just a quick bit on the run.

Since I was just in for a quick brekkie, I avoided the cake table – but I’ll definitely be back for a nibble or two. It’s the kind of spot where you can just as happily dash in and out, or laze around for a few hours. And as summer finally settles in, the tables out in the courtyard are most certainly going to be a new favourite haunt of mine.

 

Round-up

R91 for coffee and breakfast

In and out in 35 minutes

Satisfying meal, fresh flavours and cheerful atmosphere

Body Worlds – Getting under my skin

This weird thing happened to me as I strolled silently through the Body Worlds exhibition this week. I was simultaneously trying to drink in every last morbidly fascinating detail, and also trying to remove myself from the reality of what I was seeing. At one point, upon catching myself squinting deep into a chest cavity, I jerked my head back so suddenly I came over a little woozy.

My brain  was continually reminding me: ‘These are actual dead bodies! That there was a real pumping heart. This man probably did really love playing chess, only probably not with his dangly bits on display (or maybe he did, I wouldn’t judge), this is all REAL! Why doesn’t it smell??? Ooooh, what’s THAT?’

But that’s the thing about Body Worlds. The fact that each exhibit is real, is what makes it such a fascinating phenomenon. You don’t get much more anatomically correct than this.

This year’s installment of Gunther von Hagens’ popular travelling exhibition, Body Worlds Vital, looks at more than just what lies tightly packed away beneath our skin. It looks at disease, injury and ageing as well. There’s so much to learn here and it’s served in easily digestible slices (ahem), with informative posters and video footage. If you’re keen to find out more about plastination, have a look here – I had a hard enough time picking a picture to include here that wouldn’t be too graphic for the those with a more sensitive disposition, so I’m not about to go into the finer details here.

bodyworlds basketball

The thing with an exhibition like this, is that it attracts a large number of people, especially since it’s located at the Waterfront again. So if you want breathing room you’re going to need to pick your time carefully. I chose to visit late in the afternoon on a public holiday, and on the opening day to boot.

Generally, lots of people is not an issue for me, I’m happy to stand back and wait for a gap. No, it’s the “know-it-alls” that really wind me up. That person who, even though it only just opened six hours ago, is talking to his friends as though he’s spent everyday there since 2011. I swear, if I had to hear him go on about the smoker’s lungs for one minute longer I would have plastinated him myself on the spot.

I never thought I’d be so relieved to see a pair of tar-blackened organs. It meant I could leave his smug lecturing behind me for a few minutes…

And go look at a weeks-old foetus instead…

Quite. There are warnings at the entrances to some of the exhibits, and ways to bypass them. And rightly so. But I figured I’d just been up close and personal with the cross section of a scrotum, I could handle the real “life” version of what I’ve been shown in text books and on projector screens since I was a kid.

You know, it’s remarkable, the fingers on an eight week old foetus. But as I found myself gazing down at the older unborn babies, it properly dawned on me that they weren’t drawings, or models. They are real. And it’s very different to the other fully grown specimens, with their skin peeled back, eye balls exposed and dangling nerves. The pre-natal subjects are displayed as is. The tiniest suspended in fluid. The oldest frozen in time in a glass case. Grim.

Having left the smug ex-smoker behind, I found myself trailing a couple and their young children. So many questions. And then a giggle from the little boy as he exclaimed “No wonder I feel funny after I’ve had supper!” His father looked back at the wall-mounted digestive system he’d just explained and laughed.
Then the kid hurried over to a stomach and said: “Daddy, is this also real? Did they just make a hole in it so we can see inside?”

Soon I caught up to a group of young teens keeping an eye on a toddler while their parents pored over something else nearby. I’d reached the football players in mid play and as I leant in to get a closer look at a knee, the little tyke piped up from the other side of the display: ” Ball! Ball!”

Well, yes, five of them in fact, if we’re going to be technical. Big sister just sighed and said, ” Yes, ball.”
The final exhibit which calls for viewer discretion involves something the more adventurous among us would know as the reverse cowgirl, but not to worry, the donors gave their consent to be featured as such.

One of the young teens followed me in without reading the sign. She gasped and backtracked. I heard her urgently tell her friends: “We’re not old enough to see that! No! I promise, don’t look!” And of course, one  of them ignored her warning and then hurriedly went to find Dad so he could scope it out. I don’t even know. Kids are weird.

If you’re a little squeamish and just want a quick ogle, you won’t need long. But if you want to linger over each exhibit and marvel at the way nerves dangle like tendrils from limbs, or wonder at the almost seaweed like clusters of blood vessels in the torso, give yourself at least an hour.

And oh my gosh, just wait to you see the smoker’s lungs! Sigh. Kill me now, but make sure my remains don’t end up in the adults only section.

Fed up with the stereotypes

There are a couple of things I have issues with. One of the major ones is large women playing loud, obnoxious, often gross klutzes in sitcoms and films. It really really upsets me. Now I realize that a lot of people are okay with it – because, well, it’s not a thin person pretending to be a fat person. It’s not essentially a size-ist version of “blackface”. But I still find it incredibly distasteful. (I also have a problem with thin people putting on fat suits, but that’s something I’ll leave for another post).

As an overweight woman, who doesn’t proudly fart in public, make lewd suggestions every chance she gets, stuff her face till there’s food dropping off her chin at the buffet, or sexually harass anything in pants… I take exception to the stereotype being propagated by actors.

Yeah, sure, if you’re a big woman who’s found a place in Hollywood, that’s awesome. But let it be because you’re a great actor, not because you’re willing to make a fool of yourself and others like you for whatever sad amount of cash they’re offering you. And a fat woman can still be funny without being obscene.

There are a handful of actors who are guilty of this. And on principle I won’t go see their films because I just don’t find them funny. And it’s not because “it hits too close to home”, because I honestly don’t identify with their characters. If anything as a fat woman I would rather try to blend into the background, to not make a scene than be loud and brash and insulting. And most of my friends on the larger size of “normal” are the same.

As a counterpoint, it took me absolute ages to watch Pitch Perfect, simply because all my thin friends kept going on about “Fat Amy”. It was only when some of my “rounder” friends expressed the same delight that I relented. And it was fun. I laughed – a lot. Even at Fat Amy. But there was still an element of “making myself the clown because I’m fat and that’s the only way people will like me” that didn’t sit well. Let’s not even go near the vomit scene.

It carries a whole heap of terrible history, but it reminds me in part of black actors who were cast in shows where they had to play the subservient. I watch those old films and when I was younger I just assumed that they were there because they wanted to be. But as I got older I realized that these were men and women who dreamed of being actors, but that the only roles they would be given were caricatures. Sure they didn’t HAVE to take them, but it was that or let go of the idea of ever living their dream. So they wrung their hands and bowed and scraped and said “Yes massa” in more ways than one.

I’m horrified to think that there may still be an element of that out there. If you’re not the perfect shape the only role you can hope to get is as a clown. We’ll cast all the pretty women as the important characters and you can just be there for comic relief.

Now I know there are a smattering of films out there where larger people play leads – and that’s great – but we’re still seeing films hit the circuit where a person’s measurements may as well be the only description given to the character in the original script. I want characters with more depth than “they were the fat kid at school”, “they can eat 18 pies in six seconds”, “they fart when they bend over”, “we can add a comical thunderous beat to the sound track when ever they enter the room”.

Oh and another thing… When you do give me the serious plus-size leading lady, please don’t let the overriding story arc be about how her weight makes her miserable.

Yes, obesity is a serious problem around the world. Yes, we need to be solving the problem. But the fact of the matter is that large people are a reality. Treating them like a joke is not going to help solve that problem, and neither is ignoring them.

There are so many talented writers and actors out there, I don’t believe for a second that wobbly, jeering, crass women is the best we can do.

 

 

No one cares

There are people in this world who just rub me up the wrong way simply by being near me. I’ve gone through moments when I assume I’m just being judgmental, but the older I get the more I realize that’s not it. They are just people who raise my hackles and I would do whatever it took to remove myself from their presence without delay. These aren’t murderers or rapists (as far as I know), there’s just “something about them”.

I was sat next to one yesterday at Wimpy in town*. It was a cold day – scarves, coats etc. And there she was in a spaghetti strap top, reclining sideways in her chair, sighing and breathing loudly. Everything about her screamed “look at me”. So I ignored her. Usually if I get seated close to someone else I’ll smile and then turn my attention to my phone or book. But her… already I was uneasy.

There was something invasive about her. Her need for attention. Over the course of my “brief” (because of her) lunch she made a performance about whether she should order something more to eat, sent the manager of the Wimpy off to Clicks to buy her painkillers, and mused loudly about whether she should have a beer, cider or “wait, maybe vodkaaa”.

Gawd I wanted to slap her. You’re in a Wimpy, in the afternoon, in the CBD, you have a milkshake, a coffee, or at a stretch a glass of wine. You want vodka – go to any one of the hundreds of bars within strutting distance. And the manager just asked you if you were okay. They do that, it’s their job. What their job isn’t is running off to the pharmacy to get you drugs for your hangover incase the hair-of-the-dog you’ve just ordered doesn’t work.

And for goodness sake please stop groaning and huffing like you’re in the throes of something not suitable for a family restaurant. Meg could get away with it – you, not so much.

When the manager (again, not his job) brought her a cider she drawled “Thanks – I think”, like it was all his idea. She made my skin crawl. No one cares that you’re hungover, no one wants to hear your ragged breaths and tales of drinking excess the past who-cares-how-long. Just order a burger and shut it.

The whole way through my lunch I felt as though any second she would engage me in conversation. That once the manager stopped being her errand boy she’d latch on to someone else. She brought to mind a con artist, the kind of woman choc full of outlandish stories of wild partying and misadventure, who, when you look away for a second, disappears with your handbag. I didn’t trust her. And I didn’t like her. And I left as soon as I could.

And reading all of this over again I realize I probably sound like the worst kind of judgmental, but I’m not generally too shabby when it comes to reading people, and she was up to no good. There’s still a shudder lodged in my spine.

 

* In case you’re wondering: bacon, eggs and a coffee – so it was vaguely okay, if not ideal.

Still here (30dd – Day 8 to 11)

Before anyone goes freaking out, no, I haven’t given up. I just had nothing much to say on Thursday and then didn’t get round to writing over the weekend on account of it being so busy.

Even so, I’m going to keep this short. The main triumphs of the weekend were that we went to a friend’s house yesterday afternoon for a potjie and the coffee table was groaning under the weight of snacks. Things like chips, crackers, sweets and those chewy dried fruit sugar coated jobbies. It was so so hard to ignore it all, but Husband Person and I were freaking rock stars. We may have hovered alarmingly close occasionally, but common sense won out. Go us! There was even garlic bread later which we managed to bypass.

And we tucked into some chicken strips and the courgette hummus I made, later that night after stopping by at another friend’s birthday party. It was a good day and I’m thrilled with the progress we’re making. Scale wise, I’ve dropped a bit more, but I’m hovering again. This is probably because I skipped roller derby this week. I just felt like I needed a little break.

I’m starting to rely quite heavily on safety pins… All my skirts are way too big for me now, so I’ve been pinning them at the waist. My mom put darts in the one I was wearing on Friday, and I think I’ll take all the others through for her to adjust next week. Hooray!

Changing my mind

Every now and then, (read: very often these days) I log into my bank account and let the cold hard reality of my debt punch me in the face. While that is rather dramatic, it’s also true. It’s all too easy to ignore it, let it linger in the shadows, know it’s there, but not be aware of how much it’s growing and the fact that it has the potential to swallow you whole in a second.

My internet banking recently implemented a new thing which shows me my balances on my CC and my Savings account and then my Net Position. Shoowee. That was a bit of an eye opener.

Now I’m not in as much debt as some, of course. But debt is all relative. Owing money kind of sucks. I helps a little that a chunk of that debt is because we just paid our deposit for the house we’re buying towards the end of the year. Good debt. Well, the bond will eventually be good debt. This debt is all CC related, because that’s where I mined the money for the deposit.

My plan is to pay it off as quickly as possible, while teaching myself to put aside a little extra money each month. Up until now it’s been a case of “one day we’ll buy a house so we really should start saving money…” Now it’s kind of like “In November we’re buying a house and we’re going starve to death if we don’t learn how to stop spending so much on rubbish.”

Nothing like a little motivation. I think I’m doing okay. I’ve put my CC away for now. And I seem to be managing fine without it. I’ve heard people say never use the CC for things that aren’t essential. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of whipping it out to pay for snacks at Clicks. I’m not proud. But I’m repentant. And I haven’t done it for months. If I don’t have the money in my savings account, then I just have to go without. A craving for something salty is not an emergency.

I’m excited about the challenge of rethinking the way I spend. I’m confident that we can manage bond repayments without getting ourselves into trouble. It’s a case of breaking bad habits and making every cent count.

Speaking of which… a while back I read a post somewhere about ways to save money. One of the suggestions was never to use coins to pay for things. Use notes, and then when you get home pop the change in a jar. Great suggestion, which I kind of stuck to. Now if you take the change to the bank to deposit it they charge you. But you CAN just exchange the coins for notes, for free. I did that on Friday. R150 that went towards petrol. Awesome! If I’d just tried to use the coins as they were they would have gone on stupid things like cooldrinks or snacks. Never mind that no one is going to like you if you take a bag full of 5c pieces to pay for anything that costs more than 50c. This way, my money didn’t go to waste. And my piggy bank is already starting to fill up again.