Dear Santa …

With only 9 shopping days to go, the silly season is well and truly underway. Shops and malls are decked with Christmas decorations (OK, so they’ve been up since around the end of October, but I prefer to ignore them until the timing’s right). Boney M starts singing ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ the moment I walk in through each shop entrance, and seems to be stuck on ‘repeat’ until I leave. And numerous shelves, filled with crackers, expensive gift packs for him/her and red, white & green novelty gifts are strategically positioned to prevent you steering your laden trolley out of the store in a straight line, instead forcing you to take the scenic maze in search of the exit.

Our local mall has also employed a full-time Santa Klaus to pose for photos beneath a massive tree, with children (usually wide-eyed with terror) on his knee. I tried to convince my elder son to have his photo taken with Santa, but he eventually persuaded me that the sight of an 18 year old, six foot six, ‘boy’ heading for his lap would probably send Santa running for Lapland (or Umhlanga, which is much closer & way more appealing), so we gave that idea a miss.

Yesterday, my younger son (16 and rapidly approaching six foot) and I went to the Mall and I tried to see if he’d fall for the whole ‘go and have your photo taken with Santa’ thing. I’m a really cool mom when it comes to embarrassing my sons at every possible opportunity. Unfortunately, he’s become wise to my ways and didn’t take the bait.

But he did try turning the tables on me. “Hey, Mom, check – Santa’s giving you the ‘come hither’ look!”

Really? Does he really think I’d fall for that by turning to see whether Santa was checking me out from behind? And does he honestly imagine that I’d experience even a hint of a thrill at the thought of being ogled by a fat bearded old man who wears a thick red suit & black boots in the middle of a Durban summer?

“He’s probably thinking ho-ho-ho kind of thoughts about you Mom!”

“Well he’d better not think of calling me a ho, ho, ho!” I retorted, managing to emabarrass my son into giving up on trying to embarrass me.

We had to go back to the Mall again today (joy of joys – not) and, as luck would have it, we had to go past Santa to get to the last shop on our list.

As I hurried in the direction of the shop, I was startled out of my don’t-look-left-or-right-just-get-finished mode by a sudden flash of red popping into my path. I moved my focus from the target shop entrance to the red distraction.

Santa had left the comfort of his chair under the tree and was standing in front of me, his merry eyes twinkling, a cheery smile peeking through his very realistic-looking snow white beard.

“Hello!” he greeted (lucky for him he didn’t say ho-ho-ho, because that would have resulted in millions of disappointed children come the 25th).

“Er … hello” I mumbled back, wondering what I had to do to wake up from this stupid dream.

I somehow managed to limit our conversation to that mutual greeting and zoned back in on the shop ahead of me, unsuccessfully trying to ignore my son’s smug chuckles and comments of “I TOLD you he was giving you the ‘come hither’ look, Mom, now do you believe me?!?”

I waited until Santa had a terrified child on his lap before making my escape.

And if my son so much as thinks of singing ‘I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Klaus’, he’s going to be one of those disappointed children on Christmas morning!

The case of L.Drafting vs C.Writing

I used to be a fairly prolific blogger, posting on an almost-daily basis. For the past 4 years, I’ve been more of an occasional blogger. OK, so I’ve only posted on those rare occasions when the moon is full, blue and in full eclipse, all at the same time, but who’s counting?!?

There are a few very good reasons for this.

Like the fact that, for the bulk of the past few years, I’ve spent most of my waking hours at work, so the numerous blog-worthy moments I’ve experienced have been unbloggable, due to being ‘Confidential’ and/or ‘Privileged’. This has kind of left me with nothing to blog about, as there’s only so much entertainment a person can squeeze out of housework, studying and cooking for one.

There’s also the fact that, after spending around 10 hours each day at work, usually with no lunch break, my brain was too exhausted to think of anything to say, even if I did have something worth sharing. Staring vacantly into space (or at my TV or laptop screen) was just about all I could manage whilst I waited for bed time to arrive.

But I think that the main reason is the Legal Drafting vs Creative Writing clash, which hasn’t yet been finalised.

During my ‘prolific’ days, I was studying law, but had never set foot inside a law firm, other than as a client. I had complete ‘freedom of expression’, writing with the same merry abandon and humour as I used when I spoke.

This writing style didn’t go down at all well when I started working. I won’t go into detail here other than to say that I can still remember my embarrassment at my boss’s criticism of what I’d written, as as vividly though it happened yesterday.

I quickly learned that, although attorneys are expected to be very good at expressing themselves in writing, they are meant to do this in a non-creative way, saying what needs to be said in a factual, concise, unemotional and persuasive style, whilst using as few words as possible in the process.

I also learned that attorneys don’t actually ‘write’, they ‘draft’. I always thought that a draft was still work in progress, which apparently it isn’t when the draft is by an attorney. I’m sure a lot could be read into that but, as I’d probably end up incriminating myself, I’m going to move on!

Obviously, my job required me to do a huge amount of  writing drafting: letters to clients/colleagues/opponents, legal opinions, and various documents which would be read by the presiding Judge or Magistrate and which would need to set out the relevant points in such a way as to convince him/her of the merits of our client’s case, etc.

The more I wrote drafted, the harder I found it to write creatively. And, let’s be honest, I doubt anyone would be keen to read a post that went like this:

“On the aforementioned date, being the 12th day of March 2013, the writer’s motor vehicle, which was there and then being driven by the said writer, was involved in a collision (hereinafter referred to as ‘the collision’) with a blue Toyota vehicle … blah, blah, blah.”

OK, stop yawning, I’ve stopped already!!

Then, as if my writing drafting hadn’t already almost completely dried up my creative juice supply, I thought it would be a jolly good idea to become a Notary Public, so I could write draft even dryer & more legally complex documents, where every single word is carefully considered and re-considered before being included in the final draft (which isn’t really the oxymoron it sounds like).

I recently started my own practice (I also have an issue with that word, which makes it sound like I’m still trying to get it right, just like a draft sounds like it needs some finishing touches) and, due to various logistical factors, have decided to move away from the field of litigation. Whilst I’m going to miss a lot about that type of work, I’m hoping that, with not having to spend most of my day writing reams and reams of legalese, I’ll be able to revive my creative side and get back into blogging a little more frequently.

Or, to put it another way, I trust that this favourable outcome shall be forthcoming in due course!

‘Critting’ the diner

On Sunday, my man (a.k.a. Mack – more about him another time) and I decided to make the most of the rare sunny day by going out to lunch at a local seafood restaurant, which has an amazing view over the sea (oh, by the way, I’ve moved again and am now sharing a wonderful home at the coast with Mack … quite a bit has happened during my blog-break, as you’ve probably gathered).

I often think it would be fun to be a restaurant critic. Especially if I didn’t have to pay for the meals. We eat out fairly regularly, and have discovered some hidden treasures and some non-treasures which would be best kept hidden. Having watched a few episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s show ‘Kitchen Nightmares USA’ (if you haven’t watched this before, do yourself a favour, it has us both in gales of laughter), I couldn’t help but imagine how he’d have reacted in my place during Sunday lunch.

Before I go any further, don’t get me wrong here – I’m not pretending to be either a restaurant critic or a chef, and I’m  not slating (or naming and shaming) the restaurant as, for the most part, our meal was really good.

I’m just not quite so sure that Gordon Ramsay would’ve been as polite as I was, that’s all.

It started shortly after we were seated. We’d both donned our reading glasses (not that we need them for reading, you understand, we only wear them because they make us look intellectual – that’s my story & I’m sticking to it) and were studying the menu, when the waiter passed behind me to serve the next table, casually did his ‘Look-How-Well-I-Can-Turn-On-A-Tickey-Whilst-Carrying-A-Loaded-Tray’ thing, just as casually cracking me in the back of the head with the corner of his tray in the process.

Gordon Ramsay’s eyebrows would have launched into orbit.

In his defence, the waiter was embarrassed enough to stop showing off mid-turn, apologising so profusely that I ended up feeling more embarrassed than him. So I forgave him. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, maybe then he’d have felt obliged to give our table extra-special service. Or perhaps we did get his version of extra-special service, in which case I might decide not to risk going back to that restaurant again.

Because of my general inability to make a decision, I ordered two starters rather than one main course (I’d never done that before – it’s amazing how much easier it is when you’re not limited to a single choice). I’m not about to go into detail on the taste, texture or anything similar here, because I’m not actually a restaurant critic. One of the starters didn’t really live up to its description on the menu, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about either. It was the other starter (which actually exceeded expectation on the flavour scale) that caused a slight problem.

The starter in question was mussels in a creamy tomato-type sauce with a good slug of chopped chilli mixed in. The sauce was To Die For! If they’d served the sauce in a glass with a straw, I could possibly be persuaded to drink it, it was that delicious. I made the grave mistake of letting Mack have a taste and spent the rest of the meal aiming the prongs of my fork at his hand, which kept sneaking across the table towards my dish, apparently just so he could ‘make absolutely certain it was OK for me to eat’! Like I was born yesterday! The only problem with the sauce was that I had no bread to mop it up with and, despite what I said about the glass & straw, it was a  bit too rich to drink from a soup spoon.

The waiter was passing (thankfully without a tray this time), so I asked him for some bread to go with the starter.

“Ah, sorry, there’s no bread,” was the unexpected response, “we had ciabatta, but it ran out last night.”

He swanned off, apparently seeing absolutely nothing wrong with what he’d just said. What the hell?? There’s a huge supermarket right behind the restaurant that no only sells ciabatta (and most other kinds of bread), but is also open on Sundays!

Gordon Ramsay would probably have bellowed out a few choice expletives at this stage.

Clearly not wanting to offend me any more than he had done by bashing me in the head with a tray, the waiter returned a few minutes later, bearing a plate of melba toast and a dish of olive tapenade (this is what they put on the tables for patrons to nibble on whilst reading the menu), triumphantly announcing that he’d managed to find some ‘bread’ for me.

I would’ve given anything to have seen Gordon Ramsay’s reaction to that!

Mopping up creamy sauce with crumbly melba toast isn’t an easy task, but the sauce was definitely worth at least trying to rise to the challenge.

However, the mussels (which the very-yummy sauce was poured over) provided a challenge which even I wasn’t prepared to take on … the few that were open were easy, but it was the rest (most) of them that left me feeling rather Gordon Ramsay-ish, as I called the waiter and pointed out that most of the mussels were still tightly closed.

“You can’t open them?” he asked in surprise

Ramsay would have levitated out of his seat at that stage.

Bbut I managed to hold myself firmly in place whilst oh-so-politely explaining that I shouldn’t have to open my own mussels if they were both fresh and properly cooked. To his credit, he offered to replace my starter, which he did. With another selection of open and closed mussels.

Ramsay would’ve had a field day.

But, not being Ramsay (and not wanting to draw any more attention to myself), I kept quiet about the closed mussels and, instead, asked for a much-needed refill of my wine glass.

Twenty minutes later, we managed to catch the waiter’s attention and reminded him about the wine. Despite our initial fears, he hadn’t actually sent someone off to a wine estate to stomp on some grapes for me, he’d just forgotten about my wine. He darted off and was back within seconds with the wine bottle, which he proceeded to empty into my glass, making sure he emptied every last drop from the bottle into my now almost-overflowing glass.

Even though it was almost time to head back home, I made sure I drained the glass – just to keep me sweet and polite for the rest of our time there, no other reason.

The owner brought our bill and asked how we’d enjoyed our meal. I complimented him on the sauce (which, at the risk of raving too much, was divine) and, after checking whether it was me who’d sent the mussels back, he informed me that, as their mussels are fresh, there’s always a risk that some won’t open.

I’m glad I’d chugged back that second glass of wine, otherwise I’d have informed him right back that his chef should ensure that only the open ones are served to the patrons. And, no, he didn’t so much as offer to reduce the bill.

Gordon Ramsay would’ve had SO much to say, in his own, unique and very eloquent way!

Easing myself gently back into this …

This is a somewhat traumatic experience for me, writing a blog post again after an almost 2-year break (OK, so I briefly dabbled with a foodie blod in the interim, but that’s SO not the same thing)! I’ve been toying with the idea of getting back into it for quite a while, but have always managed to find some really important & justifiable reason to procrastinate (just so you know, I’m the International Queen of Procrastination). But my memories of the pleasure I experienced in the past from letting the ‘Creative Blondie’ out, discovering the extent of my abilities and boundaries, and of the fun I had & of the friends I made during the time I blogged on (later known as Letterdash, or other, less complimentary, epitaphs), have finally beaten my tendency to procrastinate (I don’t think I should admit to having spent no less than 2 days procrastinating in the name of updating the ‘look’ of my blog). And, added to this, the fact that a fellow-blogger, who I admire greatly, very un-subtly pressurised me into getting back into blogging by ‘following’ this out-dated blog of mine, assisted in kicking me into a semblence of action, resulting in this, my first post since August 2011!

So much has happened since I last blogged. But I’m not going to bore myself or anyone else by summarising the last 2 years of my life right now. I’ll save that for another day – or maybe I’ll just spare all of us and ignore it completely.

For now, instead, I’m going to leave it at this – just a short post saying ‘hello, I’m back’. And perhaps I’ll manage to find the time in the next couple of day (if I can avoid procastinating enough) to tell you about how I’d have just loved to have been Gordon Ramsay (not that I generally dream of being a man, you understand) at the restaurant we lunched at today.

Disempowered … and VERY scary!

I arrived home on Sunday after a brilliant night-out with Supa, Himself, Whispy & her wonderful family.

A long list of chores awaited me … which, after the late night (& appropriate volume of alcohol), I wasn’t overly excited about.

Not that the thought of cleaning, ironing, taking out trash, hair-washing & cooking for the week usually excites me, you understand.

But, feigning enthusiasm, I tackled the list with gusto.

I cooked a week’s worth of Thai green chicken curry (one of the joys of living alone is that you don’t have to excite anyone else’s tastebuds); I did the necessary cleaning; I did the whole rubbish-bin thingy and; I had a long bath & washed my hair, leaving it to dry in the rare-but-very-welcome 32C heat.

As evening approached, I regathered the remnants of my energy & fetched the ironing board.

And at that moment, the lights went out.

Now, I appreciate the Power Gods taking sympathy on me in respect of the ironing … but I was suddenly faced with a seriously-majorly-heart-stopping dilemma …

My hair!

Don’t roll your eyes or snigger – I’m serious here!!! Being a natural blonde may be an advantage (especially as a ready-made excuse), but mine also comes with some unimpressive small-print!

It’s also naturally wavy … and I’m not talking pretty, appealing wavy here, but resembling-a-mop-ready-for-the-wheelie-bin wavy.

NOBODY sees me ‘au naturale‘ – my straightening irons are right up there with mascara in my list of First Things To Pack (oy, I’m blonde remember – this necessarily means pink-rimmed eyes, reminiscent of Babe … the pig, not the compliment)!!

Straightening irons don’t work without electricity – trust me on this one (not that I’ll ever admit to having tried).

By 8:30pm my laptop battery had called it a day, along with my emergency lamps so, after considering the alternatives (of which there were none), I went to bed … but not before setting the alarm on my phone for 5am so I could do reconstructive surgery on my hair before going to work.

The Power Gods clearly had different plans – there was STILL no power when my alarm went off.

I briefly considered phoning in sick, just so nobody could see me looking like a brilliant clone of the Wild Woman of Borneo after sticking her finger into a (working) plug point … but, after surreptitiously peering outside (just in case anyone in the vicinity was also awake & peering in my direction, which would’ve resulted in them having an instant panic attack), I noticed a twinkling of lights over the City Centre.

Hastily packing my briefcase, which ended up resembling a portable hair salon, I roared off to the office early enough to ensure that NOBODY else would be there.

Shutting my office door (just in case – my boss is pretty old & I’d hate to be responsible for his premature death), I hauled out my straightening irons, mirror, extension cord, brush & vast assortment of clips & clasps & started the well-overdue reconstructive surgery on my scary mop.

The power was out for 24 hours … but at least I was (relatively) presentable by the time anyone saw me!

On a rare high

This morning my mobile beeped the ‘new message‘ beep.

I’d already had my daily 2 messges from the bank advising me of the (woeful) balances of my various accounts (why they can’t break the whole lot to me in one text message is still beyond me).

I was mid-way through drafting an urgent letter to another attorney, but realised that, as this text message wasn’t a bank-balance-update, may be worth interrupting my work to check.

I was right.

The messge read: “Notarial Exam: Pass

I’ve been waiting for this text message since I wrote the exam exactly 2 months ago to the day & suddenly the urgent letter was re-categorised to a routine matter as I phoned my connection at the Law Society. I was so excited that I didn’t even identify myself when she answered.

“I passed the Notarial exam!!!!” I squealed down the phone.

Apparently this was enough for her to identify the caller and an excited laugh echoed down the phone.

I know!! Well done!! I hope this means that this is going to be your year!!

She then laughingly informed me further details of my results, including my ‘position’ in the province.

It’s so wonderful to have that kind of support from someone in her position, especially in light of the battle I’ve had (and am still having) against the Law Society.

I’m going to enjoy every moment of this rare high.

Cleaning out my closet … not the Eminem way!

continued from last post …

So the removal chaps had left & I my house was a vertiable maze of box-mountains. I’d been up since 4am & the thought of unpacking had me quivering with excitement (not)! But I knew that the unpacking fairies weren’t likely to do their thing, so it was up to me.

The kitchen had to be tackled first … I needed my kettle, coffee, mug & sugar for the morning (not to mention my wine & vase for immediately)!

I opened the grocery cupboard – only to find that the shelves had been ‘lined’ with newspaper. I use the word ‘lined’ very loosely here, knowing that the more appropriate word would be ‘disguised’.

Now I’m no snob – but using newspaper to line my shelves just doesn’t do it for me.

So I lifted the newspaper … and promptly put it right back where I’d found it.

Every single shelf in my kitchen (including the undersides) was coated with such thick grease that it took a knife to scrape off the worst of it, then steel wool & industrial cleaner to clear the remnants.

Needless to say, my kitchen remained in boxes for the night.

My wonderful parents, knowing their daughter oh-so-well, arrived as night fell with bottles of wine and vases (for medicinal purposes). As we relaxed (ok, so they relaxed & I collapsed) on the couch sipping (that was them … I was glugging) wine, I heard a car stop outside.

At this point, I realise that I haven’t yet mentioned the fact that, when I opened my double garage to store the extra furniture, I found a Mercedes Benz inside … unfortunately this wasn’t a welcoming gift from my landlord & we had to manoeuvre furniture around the bloody thing to fit everything in.

Realising that this was probably one of the previous tenants (they were a group of contract workers – all engineers, apparently educated folk, which is highly suspect), I marched outside.

Sleep deprivation, stress and fury suddenly all combined into a scary and very volatile concoction.

“Can I help you?” I demanded, in my sweetest volatile voice

“Hi there – I’ve just come to fetch my car” came the response

The sweet part of my volatility left the planet and I can only pity the ex-tenant’s therapist.

“Why is your car here? You moved out this morning.” Icy volatility – but she seemed immune to the warning signs.

“Yes, I’m fetching it now”

“What about the house keys – where are they?”

We left them with the agent” … my bullshit radar was alarming so loudly I could hardly hear her words at this point

“No you didn’t. Where are the keys?”

“I left them on site – I’ll drop them off for you on Monday”

Huh? This woman is supposed to be a qualified civil engineer – why doesn’t she have a single brain cell???

“You moved out today & you KNEW I was moving in today. How the hell did you think I was going to get into the house without the keys???” Despite my anger, I was inordinately proud of my icy calm under the circumstances.

“I’ll drop them off for you on Monday, ok?”

Is this woman both thick AND deaf???? Heaven help those of us who have to drive over the bridge she’s involved in building over the national highway right now!

“Monday’s too late – I moved in today, remember? I had to get a locksmith to come and change all of the locks whilst the removal men sat waiting to unload the truck – because of you!”

OK, I’ll drop the keys off on Monday for you then

OMG! I can deal with many things in life … but stupid people isn’t one of them!

“Forget your keys, they’re useless now! Where’s your gate remote?”

Someone else let me in” – this woman should be nominated for an Oscar for the most prolific liar of the century

“No they didn’t. You have a remote … in my hand, NOW!!!”

The remote was silently placed into my outstretched hand by the lying engineer who then removed her Mercedes Benz from my garage & hurriedly fled the complex.

You may think I was harsh on her, but you have yet to hear about what she & her fellow engineers had done to the house (apart from greasing the shelves before lining them with newspaper)


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