After The Story Before Bedtime

October 6, 2014

“Daddy?” Stella asks. “How did everyone in the world come from Adam and Eve? How could everyone be born from them?”
   She has just turned seven, and has been asking where babies come from a lot. I don’t know if this is what she is getting at, but if it is, I evade it, as I have been doing for a few weeks.
   “Well,” I say, “not all stories actually happened. Some are made up to teach us lessons. So some people believe that Adam and Eve were the first people on earth, and some people believe that it’s a story that was made up to teach us a lesson.” I worry that her next question will be to ask what the lesson of Adam and Eve, but it isn’t.
   “What do you believe?” she asks.
   “I believe it’s a story that was made up to teach us a lesson.”
   “Me too,” Stella says.
   “Me too,” Lily says. Lily has been a quiet observer to the conversation until now.
   I have told them a bedtime story, I have given them hugs and kisses – as much as I was permitted by Lily and as many as were dictated by Stella. Now, after this short conversation, there is a pause, and I try to leave the room.
   “I think Madiba was the first person in the world,” Lily says.
   “Why? Because he’s very old?” I ask.
   “Yes,” Lily says.
   “That’s why he’s in hospital,” Stella says.
   There is another pause in the conversation, so I begin to walk toward the door. But Stella is having none of it.
   “Daddy, how do chicken pox spread?” she asks. I consider what her train of thought might have been: hospital… sickness… chicken pox. Or perhaps somehow, in her mind, she has connected the spread of Adam and Eve’s offspring with the spread of chicken pox.
   “One person catches it from another person. Then someone catches it from that person.”
   “Yes, but how did chicken pox start?” I ponder how or where or who or when the Adam of chicken pox might have been.
   “I don’t know. There are sicknesses in the world and they change and become other sicknesses.” I doubt she is satisfied with this answer. I know I wouldn’t be.
   “Have I had chicken pox?”
   “Have you had chicken pox?”
   “Who did you get it from?”
   “One of my sisters. We all had it at the same time when we were children.”
   “But where did chicken pox come from?”
   “I don’t know,” I start. Sometimes you feel that if you don’t have answers to certain questions, you are going to really disappoint your children. You kick yourself for having such poor general knowledge and for being so uninformed. ‘I don’t know’ is a perfectly acceptable answer. If you are talking to adults. But children want actual, real answers. They are not satisfied with ‘I don’t know’. “I don’t know about chicken pox. But sometimes sicknesses go from animals to people. Like mosquitoes.”
   “Ja. Some mosquitoes can give you malaria if they bite you. Not the ones here in Cape Town, but in other parts of the world. So you have to sleep under nets or take medicine there. Otherwise you can get malaria. And malaria is serious. You can die from it.”
   “Can you die from chicken pox?”
   “Does Madiba have chicken pox?” Lily asks, venturing out once again from her position as quiet observer.
   “No, he has a chest infection. I think.”
   “Is that why he’s in a hotel?”
   “He’s not in a hotel,” Stella sighs. “He’s in a hospital.”
   “What’s the difference?” Lily asks.
   “You stay in a hotel when you’re on holiday. You stay in hospital when you’re sick,” I say.
   “Or when you have a baby,” Stella says.
   “Or when you have a baby,” I say.
   There’s a pause. This time it lingers and becomes a silence. This time I’m a little sorry it has.

Picture (c) Universal Studios


The 80s rocked, then they sucked, then they rocked

April 30, 2013

So I live two blocks away from this club called Decodance. Decodance only plays 80s music. I grew up in the 80s. And yet, despite how you'd think those three facts would combine to make me a regular, I had, until a few nights ago, never been to Decodance.

Shocking, I know. I mean what kind of 80s disciple am I? My excuse was always that I have young kids who wake me at 6am. But deep down, I know that is not the real reason. The real reason is I am a slacker. No, wait, that was the 90s. Anyway, a while ago, my wife and I agreed that we would go to Decodance at least once while we were still living in this house. Then we shook hands and high-fived to make the deal sacrosanct. And then we actually arranged to go with some friends.

I was quite amped, I must say. Mainly because I haven't been to a disco - I mean night club - in about a decade. And I haven't been to the 80s in about three. I didn't wear shoulder pads or anything, but like I said, I was pretty excited. Then, at the door, I even got one of those stamps that light up under fluorescent lights when you flash them to the bouncer to show him you've already paid your entrance fee and he has to let you in. Then, almost as soon as we were inside the club, two blonde girls with short skirts and generous cleavages offered me something called a Black Widow, which is toffee vodka I think, which I'm pretty sure didn't exist in the 80s, and which really didn't appeal to me. 

My friend had one, though, and watching him drink it was a little disappointing. There was no ritual. Firstly, where were the holsters those tequila girls used to keep their bottles in? Secondly, aren't the girls supposed to make you bend over backwards below their generous cleavages so they can pour the stuff down your throat while you look up at their generous cleavages? That didn't happen.

Then I realised that although a lot of 80s music is truly awesome and timeless to listen to, it really is quite difficult to dance to, especially if you want to avoid making a fool of yourself. Standing around with my hands in my pockets, looking awkwardly at the empty dance floor, I remembered how, the afternoon before one of my first disco parties, I practiced dancing to Kool and The Gang's "Get Down On It" in my bedroom. Then, at the actual disco party I asked one of the pretty girls to dance with me, and she agreed, which was awesome, but when I went public with the dance I'd practiced she said she wouldn't dance with me if I danced like that. Which wasn't awesome.

But then they started playing songs I haven't heard for twenty years. They played The Human League, and Blondie, and Nena, and Joan Jett, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Blancmange, and for large parts of the next two hours I basked in the glow of a time when I had zits, a breaking voice, a concave stomach, crushes, irreplaceable friendships, a Sony Walkman, and the coolest white Puma sneakers ever to grace the planet.

I recommend nostalgia to anyone. It's one of life's most underrated pleasures.


Of moobs and lobs

March 27, 2013

Last week I saw two shocking sights in exercising.

The first was my own man boobs while I was skipping.

I don’t mean the dainty, what-a-beautiful-field-of-daisies kind of skipping. I mean the working-muscles-you-never-knew-you-had-in-front-of-a-mirror kind. It was an ambivalent experience. I haven’t really skipped much before. I also haven’t really noticed my moobs much before.

They’re not terrible. I mean I don’t need a bro (boy bra) or anything. Not yet. But I don’t want to get to the point that I do. If you haven’t noticed, moobs have had a lot of bad press. They’re not exactly desirable. So I started a strict regime. I dropped a lot of foods I like and started doing a lot of exercises I don’t. (I didn’t skip again. Because I actually bought the skipping rope for my daughters. And because I thought I’d wait until I can see the positive results of my new regime.)

But then a few days later I saw a second something horrible in exercising: a lady gobbing while she was running.

Ladies gobbing – or lobbing, as I’ve begun to call it – is somewhat of a surprise when you see it. You just don’t expect it. And although I consider myself to be quite a liberal man, my first reaction was distaste. It’s not particularly lovely when men gob, but it’s even less so when women do.

But then I had a rethink, and realised what an opportunity this presented. If the world can get hung up about lobs the way it has about moobs, the pressure will be off us men. Both will be equally unacceptable. Or, better yet, equally acceptable.

So send me your lobbing pics. We’ll put them all over the internet. We’ll go big. It’ll go viral. And I’ll go skipping again. 


Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star, How I Wonder Why You Aren't

December 10, 2012

I first knew of Hostess Twinkies decades before I actually tasted one. They were advertised in all the Archie comics I ever read.
   But I saw recently in Time magazine that the company that makes (or, rather, made) Twinkies is closed for business. Apparently Twinkies are only two steps away from being shoes, and they really shouldn't be thought of as "food". I don't know if it's true, but the writer reckoned that in this nutritionally enlightened age, that was Twinkies' downfall. They just couldn't sell enough of them.
   I mentioned this in conversation recently, and got a different version of events from a colleague. I don't know if it's true, but he reckoned the real reason the company went bust was that it had a really good pension scheme and couldn't afford to keep paying out. People are just living too damn long these days.
   If you ask me, the real problem was unsuccessful marketing. People drink Coke knowing even though it's terrible for them. If the Twinkies people wanted profits to go up and pension payouts to go down, they could have killed two birds with one some if they'd just sold more Twinkies.


July 25, 2012

Because everyone loves a good (shocking pink) vienna.
And a good grammatical error.


Lies that airlines tell you

June 1, 2012


2. We'd like to wish a warm welcome to all our passengers.

3. Especially our Club members.

4. Wearing your seatbelt throughout the flight is for your own safety.


The difference

May 28, 2012

Scenario 1:
Daughter: I want something to eat.
Mom: I beg your pardon?
Daughter: Can I have something to eat?

Mom: Pardon?
Daughter: Please may I have something to eat?

Scenario 2:
Mom: Please will you tidy your room up?
5 minutes pass.
Mom: I asked you to tidy your room up.
5 more minutes pass.
Mom: Tidy. Your. Room. The. Fuck. Up. NOW.

Kids work their way up to politeness. Parents work their way down from it. 


Observation for the day

May 28, 2012

"Not uncomplicated" tends to make for not uncomplicated sentences.


Observation for the day

February 28, 2012

Verb is a noun.

You don't always win

February 2, 2012

I love shopping at Game. In fact, I don't even need to shop. I love just going to Game. Just being there. When I'm there it feels like a grown man's Disneyland. And you rarely have to stand in queues. I walk through the aisles marveling at all the stuff they have and how cheap it often is. Objects seem to obtain golden glows as they catch my eye. Like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. "Come to me..." they whisper seductively. Even the 16 page supplement that comes in the local newspaper every Thursday is a highlight of my week. I look forward to getting home so I can see what Game is offering me at what price. 
   But now Walmart has bought it. If it were simply about the shopping experience, I would be even happier. I've been to a Walmart or three, and it is like Game multiplied by four or five. More stuff, more cheap, glowing more golden. But, alas, it is not simply about the shopping experience. It is also about ethics and decency and humanity, and knowing the line between those things and the bottom line on the income statement.
   I'm not talking about the issues our trade unions are worried about. I'm talking about Walmart's well-earned reputation for evil. Google it: "Walmart evil". Taking life insurance policies on your own employees and benefitting from their deaths? Call me crazy, but that kind of thing seems to me to indicate a slight deviation from the norms of playing nice.
   So, alas, I won't be spending a lot of time at Game anymore. We must do what we must do for the good of us all. It is a loss. But I guess I will live. Which is just as well. Even if I don't work for Walmart.
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