Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Only the Good Die Young

So today (30 November) is my Mother’s birthday. Only problem is that my Mom died 27 year ago. I was 15 and she died the day before her 48th birthday.

I still remember us getting her up out of her (death) bed to sit at the dining room table to raise a glass to my youngest brother when he turned 16 just one week before she died. I am not surprised she died before her birthday! We would have hauled her out of her bed, high on pain killing morphine at the end stages of cancer, and forced her to drink some bubbles to celebrate her birthday. It was just what we did. We celebrated any achievement or significant occasion with some cheap, sparkly bubbles (even if it was just a shooter glass full.) And that is just the way my Mom loved it.

My Mother was an amazing woman. When I posted the fact that it was my Mother’s birthday on Facebook this morning one comment struck me in the tear ducts. This person and I have known each other since forever (I think we were in Grade 1 together.) She wrote:
Happy Birthday, Mrs Chalupsky, Lady of the cats and the curlers. Always prepared to have another half-dozen children roaming through the house, helping themselves to juice and sandwiches and generally causing chaos.

Wow! She has my Mom down to a tee. My Mom was a hairdresser but after having 4 kids in 5 years she resorted to working from home. She cut every kid in the neighbourhood’s hair and did perms and up-do’s for all the Yummy Mummy’s, Grannies and Desperate Housewives in Westville. I loved lying on her bed on a Saturday morning and listening to all the “skinner” whilst Mom fluffed and titivated the coifs of the Westville Villagers

And the cats? Like me, she couldn’t say no to a stray 4-legged furry creature needing a home. We had about 6 cats and 5 dogs at any given time.

She had her faults. As an adult and a mother I can now say she was too selfless. Too giving of everything she had; her time, her energy, her cooking expertise, her health...the list goes on. She never said No to anything asked of her.

I often ask myself if I was a good enough daughter to deserve a Mother like I had. How do I answer such a question when I was not yet an adult when I lost her? I look at my own daughter and wonder how she would cope if I were to die 1 year from now and the thought leaves me cold. She is such a baby still.

My three brothers and I were privileged and blessed to have had a mother like Mercia Chalupsky. My Dad found a rare gem. How true is the saying – only the good die young?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Retail Therapy?

Have I ever mentioned to you that I HATE shopping? No, I don’t mean just the weekly grind of buying loo rolls, cleaning detergents and a bit of food to sustain the family. I hate all shopping – clothes, shoes, make-up....all shopping.

At the beginning of our marriage, Chicken Man mentioned that I was really bad at shopping. He started waxing on about PI labels and cost per kg/ml/portion. You have got to be kidding me? I look for the tastiest food, the prettiest labels and the products that have exposed themselves to my sub-conscious the most through TV/radio/internet/print adverts. His glib comment however did end up being advantageous to me. I do not do the grocery shopping. That has become Chicken Man’s weekly Hypermarket by the Sea nightmare

I am not adverse to popping into My Spar and getting a few odds and sods. If the odds list goes beyond that which I can take through the baskets only/20 items or less check-outs - I lose all interest and add the items to Chicken Man’s Saturday shopping list. Surely Gladys (my 2 x a week cleaning lady) can clean the house without Pledge and Handy Andy until next week? Why she needs so much of the stuff and what she does with it is still a mystery to me.

I have to admit that I do rather enjoy a jaunt to Woolworths every now and again. Their fruit & veggie section is mouth watering and they have so many yummy, luxurious delights all over the store. A lot of the ingredients on their shelves are completely foreign to me but some, once discovered or recommended, are on the must have list e.g. Woolies Danish Style Feta and their Basil Pesto. Num, num.

I have suggested it but Chicken Man refuses to go clothes or shoe shopping for me. How thoughtless. Does he not realise how traumatic these once or twice a year shopping excursions are for me? Does he not know that shop attendants in clothing and shoes stores are trained to ignore frazzled looking customers by running around trying to find stuff to pack back onto the racks? I actually asked an assistant if they were trained to ignore customers. She looked horrified at the suggestion but I substantiated my claim by saying that I was one of three other customers and I had counted 6 sales ladies and not one of them was helping a customer. “Sorry Mam” was her surly response. You try go shoe shopping when you take a size 9 shoe. The experience makes you feel like a freak of nature and being ignored just makes the whole experience more traumatic.

The Alien is in need of some new clothes. The thought of re-living the last episode of us shopping together fills me with dread and fear. So, I am thinking of setting the Alien and a few of her tjommies loose at a shopping mall without me so that she actually gets to survive until her 14th birthday. The added bonus? Sweet revenge on all the shop assistants that have ever ignored me!

At least I know why they call it Retail Therapy. I need therapy after exiting every retail store I walk in to.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pass me a tranquiliser – it’s birthday party time.

Anyone who has a child knows the stress. The offspring start planning the “big event” the minute they have gotten over the euphoria of the last birthday party. The annual party to celebrate them getting closer to independence and leaving home is a SERIUUUUS business.

Do they think for a moment of the pressure that their parents are faced with? “How many brats do I invite?” “If I host it at home – will I be perceived as a bore/battler/tight arse/ bad, bad parent? “If I don’t give the little darlings a drop dead gorgeous party pack with a few diamonds or platinum bars in it, my kid will be ostracised from the “in crowd” “Where will I get a (place your child’s current obsession here) cake from without it costing the same as the GDP of a small country – and be so big it could probably feed every resident of that country?” You get the picture? You got the picture when your 1st born turned one, right?

I have had my daughter’s parties at Mitchell Park (don’t complain – getting pooped on by a bird is lucky you ungrateful sprog); a hellishly expensive spot where the monsters played on jumping castles and ball ponds all afternoon (I know you are suffering from heat stroke, just drink some more red juice and please don’t pass out until your Mom gets back) or Durban’s “when all else besides your bank balance fails” venue – uShaka Marine World.

As a member of the Ama Glug Glug Wine Club, I get invited to “wine clubbers in training” birthday parties. For various reasons, most of the Gluggers offspring are still short people i.e. under 8 years old. I generally do not attend. I know! Bad friend! Duly ashamed and full of remorse.

I did go to a 3rd birthday party the other week though. No hired venue – it was at their home. The children were of varying ages. It was so good to see the older kids playing games like hide-and-go-seek and catches. Not an electronic hand held device in sight. The younger kids had a ball with paints, playdo and Marie biscuit decorating. No hired entertainer/clown/jumping castle/petting zoo. Just good old fashioned playtime. Kids and parents alike had a pleasant, stress-free morning.

Now, anyone know what is “in” for teenagers parties besides sleepovers and movies? The Alien’s 14th birthday is fast approaching and her only bright spark idea so far has been taking a few friends to the Roma Revolving Restaurant. What?! You are turning 14, my girl, not 40. How about Ushaka????

I await your clever ideas, fellow parents and party planners.....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Furry Four are taking over...

We do acknowledge that Mom makes reference to us in the intro of her website, but she really has not given us the attention we deserve. She meows on about The Alien and Chicken Man but has not given us the web time we deserve.

Hence this take over. We would like to introduce ourselves.


I am rough and I am tough and I come from a building site on the Durban Point. I take no sh#t and that scares my Mom. I am not afraid to challenge the pesky monkeys that invade our garden every day (bloody cheek - those freaks are the same colour as me) I am in charge. No-one stands in my way. That neurotic Patch tried to get me to respect her authority but, give me a break, she is a fruitcake! She turns to putty with one side glance. As for that Candy chick! Thick as a brick and too easy for me to even get my fur in a knot. This recent fox terrier dog addition I am still unsure about. A dog? Bloody ugly thing makes a hell of a noise and keeps chasing me around trying to scare me with its superior set of teeth. Give it up you woessy dog. I am the boss. Yes, I am gorgeous on top of it and could have made a fortune if I was left to my own devises at The Point (for those of you not from my province – The Point is where all the prostitutes and drug lords hang out.)


I have been forced to do this by Cuddles. I hope I am not offending anyone? I know that if Mom knew the true level of my phobias and psychological problems I would be at weekly therapy. Mom and Dad keep questioning Why? Why should a cat who was born on their bed and has had the life of Riley be such a nut? I cannot answer that but my life has been made hell thanks to that Cuddles thug. I have to fight to get a spot on my Mom’s lap and seem to spend a lot of time in the roof cowering away from that bully. Oh, I love Roxy. She thinks she is a dog but she really is a big pussy cat. Mom’s name for me has become a concern. Patch became Pitch Patch which became Pitchy which became Bitchy. Bitchy seems to have stuck but I promise I am not a bitch. Yes, I lash out occasionally but what is a girl who is scared of her own shadow to do??


I r not cleva. I r very cute and all but must hav suffid lak of oxygen to my brane befor I was rescueded and brout to my howse. I r beautiful and likes to rap myself around Maw and Paw legs when thy cum hom. I wil trip them up one day. I likes fuuuud a lot. Meeety nuggets r my besstest. I luff all the udder furry ledies in the howse.


This is an insult! I am not a pet! I am one of them human beings! Don’t I sleep under the covers between Mom and Dad and have my food microwaved to get the temperature just right? I have heard the rumours that I came from a breeder in Dundee but seriously, my Mom and Dad is all I have known since the tender age of 5 weeks so until I see the adoption papers, I will deny my dog heritage. Now, as for those three furry 4-legged other people in this house... They are all certifiable! I keep trying to bite their heads off but they think that I am playing with them! What does a girl have to do to get respect around here?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Traffic Chaos in the Sky

It happens every year round about this time. After a good rainfall, the sun comes out and warms the earth. Out come the flying ants from the numerous homes that they have in our garden (rent free). Within minutes of them making their mass exit, the sky above our house resembles the N1 in Joburg during rush hour.

The variety of all these birds en mass is quite a sight to witness. Whilst watching the traffic jam this afternoon I couldn’t help but compare each bird to a car. Just please bear with me. I am clueless about birds and all the different names and species.

Little brown birds – so tiny and timid they made me think more of kids on tricycles or those plastic, black motorbikes than any type of car.

Weavers - Small bright yellow birds – Citi Golfs driven by reckless teenagers as they swerve clumsily (probably drunk!) amongst all the big cars.

Pigeons – Toyota Corollas driven by stressed-out parents. A lot of them suffering from middle-aged spread.

Indian Mynahs – definitely Taxis. Of course there were loads of them, hurtling through the traffic with no sense of direction or consideration for others, shouting abuse at anything that got in their way.

Starlings – big black birds that glisten in the sun. Mercedes Benzes driven by government officials. All that was missing was the flashing Blue Lights.

Hadedas – Large, slow and noisy - just like Putco Buses. Picking up passengers as they foraged for the ants on the ground. Polluting the atmosphere with their fumes. Hey, have you ever seen the poops that Hadedas make?!

Swallows – super fast and superior. Ferraris of the sky driven by tenderpreneurs and wealthy old men trying to regain their youth.

And then there was the pièce de résistance. A bird with a red beak and bright blue feathers. I think it was a Kingfisher. There was just one and it looked arrogantly down on all the chaos. Unquestionably a Rolls Royce.

My cats looked like they were staring at a smorgasbord at a Michelin star restaurant, but without a cent to their name. Drool on cats. You have clearly eaten far too many Meaty Nuggets. Roxy the fox-terrier made a few half hearted attempts to chase the hadedas. Give it up Roxy – they are bigger than you.

The pandemonium will happen a few more times until the flying ant lemming run is over. I think I am going to get a Birds of South Africa book before the next traffic jam.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sometimes you just have to believe.

Have you ever eaten cat food? Dog food? Never! I hope would be your response. If you answered yes then please contact me and I’ll gladly buy you a Happy Meal or a tin of baked beans or 2.

So why the dumb-arse question? Let me respond with another question (slightly less dumb) Do you believe everything you are told in adverts? Let’s face it, unless you try out the product or service to prove the claims made in adverts, you really don’t have much choice but to take their word for it.

Sure there are some ads that are so outlandish that you actually feel sorry for anyone who believes them (drive this car and you will pull all the hot chicks; take this tablet and you will lose 5kg’s in a week; use this cream and you will appear to look 20 years younger; use this nappy and your baby will never cry again.......you get the picture?)

But how do you prove the claims made by pet food producers? We have established that none of us eat cat/dog food on a regular basis, so they can say anything and we have to believe them. They can tell you that there is real fish in their cat food tins and real meat in their dog pellets. Are you going to test their statements? Image phoning them and saying that you have tasted Fluffy’s food and it tastes nothing like hake and Butch’s pellets taste more like lamb than beef. They will probably think that you are Whackhead Simpson or from a new series of Candid Camera.

But this morning I established that one of the claims made by pet food producers was true. My three hungry cats were lined up staring at me, obviously using mental telepathy which I could not pick up on being a two-legged species. “Feed me, feed me” they were all saying. I do not follow any guidelines about recommended daily allowance and all that – I feed my cats on demand. And they were demanding!

I watched them closely for once (I had not had my first cup of coffee so was non compice mentice.) True as bob, the first thing that they ate were the “meaty nuggets” that Whiskas claim are in their dry food pellets. It is the reason why the girls fight over being first to the bowl when it needs to be replenished. It is why they stare at me to refill the bowl even though there is still food in it. They are after the meaty nuggets!

I found this discovery a revelation! Mmmm...maybe I need to get more of a life but I get excited when I learn anything – even if it is that my cats actually do appreciate the meaty nuggets in their Whiskas.

So, next time you feed Fluffy or Butch, look at what the package is claiming the food contains and I dare you to prove it wrong!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It’s Squishing Season!

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. Yes, you have been bombarded with pink ribbons and pink just isn’t your colour, Sweetie Darling, but are you getting the message?

I added SheeBeeGee and BecauseIcan’s twibbbon to my Facebook and Twitter avatars because I liked the simple message it relayed. “Feel Ur Boobies” Sure, it could lead to random dirty old men asking if they can cop a feel but that is a small price to pay for the awareness it raises. Some of us poor suckers don’t get let off that lightly with just self examining our breasts. Some of us have to go through the dreaded, annual MAMMOGRAM.

What would I know, I hear you ask? I am on the right side of 45 (just) so, at a push, have had probably 1 mammogram so far? No such luck. Let me explain my history. Stop yawning, I haven’t started yet! My grandmother had breast cancer when she was a young woman and had a breast removed. They were somewhat clueless in those days and so she lived with an arm that was double the size of the other that needed to be “hung” every night so that the fluids would drain. My beautiful grandmother lived a good life and died in her 70’s.

Her daughter, being my mother, also had her breast removed but even with all the advances in medical technology, she died at the age of 47 - the day before her 48th birthday. She never got to see her eldest son turn 21. I was 15, the youngest of her 4 children. Show me a person who has ever met my mother and doesn’t say that they loved her and I’ll show you a liar. She was the most special human being. Enough said.

A few years later, whilst living in London, I got a phone call from my cousin. My beloved, sweet Aunty Andy had died. She too had had a mastectomy years before but, like with my Mother, they had not caught it in time. I remember the clothes she used to sew for me and my brothers and the yummy “boerekos” she used to cook when we visited her in the Cape. She was as short as my mother was tall. What a unique couple of sisters they were! Both had hearts of gold and so much love to give.

2 generations of women dying having suffered from breast cancer. Surely it must skip a generation? So you’d think. One of my 2 cousins, even with regular mammograms, discovered a lump in one of her breasts and had a mastectomy just before her 40th birthday. I know that her early discovery and swift action will spare her the fate met by our mothers.

History lesson over. Are you still with me?

Thanks to that history, every year since my early 20’s I gather up my ever expanding folder of past mammograms and schlep off to the radiographers to have my boobs squashed and squeezed in-between cold, hard plates. “This shouldn’t hurt” Yeah right! Why do they have to make the room so darn cold? You don’t know whether you are shivering from fear or because you are developing frost bite on all your sticky-out bits.

After listening to my history the radiographers are always extra cautious and take a few extra “photos” at angles that one cannot believe ones boobs could possibly be extended to. At my first ever mammogram, the radiographer politely asked if I minded if all the students watched as they don’t often get to see such young patients. I was 23 so of course “I nearly died” as my boobs were examined by a bunch of young male student radiographers. They even got to feel them so that they could tell the difference between young breast tissue and old breast tissue.

Horror stories aside, a yearly mammogram is a small price to pay if it means that I get to see my daughter turn 21; walk down the aisle; hold her own child; achieve all the dreams she has for her life.

Ladies, when all the pinkness of October starts to make you feel like a bag of marshmallows with the white ones removed, please remember what it is all in aid of. Feel Ur Boobies or go for your Mammogram. It’s like paying your TV license.....the right thing to do.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thank you

My little family are all asleep. I am sitting quietly by the candlelight listening to the sounds around me.

The bats are making their high pitched squeal that I have stopped hearing after all these years. I hear the barking of dogs, they must be bored as their voices are devoid of malice or anger. Frogs are singing their irritating yet strangely beautiful song.

There is a flutter and I watch one of the bats swoop clumsily down to drink from the swimming pool. It looks like a handkerchief flapping in the wind yet the air is still for once. Not a breath of wind.

The privilege of watching that bat so close to me that I could touch it makes me think of my early mornings and my afternoons. A troop of Vervet Monkeys grace my garden with their presence. The rampant guava tree needs serious trimming and the paw-paw trees are taking over but how can I cut them down when I have the joy of watching monkeys eating the fruit of these trees? Their human like antics are a joy to watch, a privilege to experience so close up.

My Eurythmics CD is playing softly in the background. Annie Lennox singing with her gruff voice is the perfect backdrop for this perfect evening. I have one of my cats curled up on my lap purring her melodic, peaceful purr. In the distance there is lightening flashing. Too far away to be a threat. I am nervous of thunder storms since my old lady got struck by lightning. My house is over 60 years old and she is in need of a facelift but I love her just the way she is.

The peace is overwhelming. I feel tears welling up in my eyes for no apparent reason. Who is responsible for such a beautiful world? The lights are twinkling around me. The evening sounds and movements are so tranquil. I do not believe in religion. Why do you have to go into a man built structure to talk to the Big Man? Isn’t he all around me as I sit here quietly enjoying his amazing creation?

A hadadah screeches in the distance. What on earth does it have to complain about this late at night? Oh yes. I spent last Saturday trying to find an organisation to help me when we found a hadadah with a broken neck thanks to a cruel human being with nothing better to do than destroy the beauty around him.

Yes, I am an agnostic but the magnitude of the beauty which is around me right now leaves no doubt that there is a higher being. Annie Lennox’s crooning, the frogs croaking, the dogs barking, the bats pinging.......Thank You. The tears that are flowing from my eyes are from pure gratitude and appreciation for what I sometimes take for granted. Wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and superficial “problems” of modern life, how seldom do I stop and appreciate what I actually have in abundance. Thank you whoever You are.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tantalising Twitter

Yes, I am going to talk about Twitter. No, don’t run away! I know that you are scared of it but I promise that I’ll make this as painless as possible.

I had those exact thoughts that are currently going through your mind. Who is interested in what Paris Hilton or Justin whateverhisnameis had for breakfast? Do I really care if some bloke in Greenpoint is craving a MacDonald’s Cheese Burger right now? Of course not, but that is not what Twitter is about, folks. Twitter is full of fascinating people all willing to share their interests, knowledge and opinions with others in 140 characters or less.

Yes, you have Facebook and that already takes up a lot of your time. (bucketloads of time of you are a Farmville addict) Your profile is a great way to connect with your tjommies, family and old school buddies from all over the world and share photos of your offspring, pets and recent holidays. With Twitter one can search for, find and follow people with similar interests to you, people who live in the same town as you, people who you admire etc and guess what – they can never bore you! How can anyone be boring in 140 characters?

What they can be though is flippin funny! There are some people that I follow that have me in stitches. Because one has to be concise on Twitter, there is no waffling or posturing. Everyone is very friendly and polite but if you don’t like what someone is tweeting about – just unfollow them. Simple.

Some examples:
I recently started following @tamiya_t who I swear was tweeting whilst she was giving birth! Her tweets about life with a new born baby is bringing the whole experience back to me like it was yesterday. @SamWilson1 describes herself in her Bio as a “Feminist, anarchist and functional alcoholic. Renegade parent.” Besides the fact that she is the Editor-in-Chief of Women24, Parent24 and Food24, wouldn’t that bio make you want to hear what she has to say?

Watching TV has taken on a whole new dynamic now that I can enjoy other people’s comments whilst watching a programme or a rugby match. The real-time interaction with Twitter via my BlackBerry does annoy my family a tad though. Chicken Man does not understand that I can listen to him tell me about his day, watch TV, cook dinner and be on Twitter at the same time and I still know what he is rabbiting on about. The Alien understands. She has to be surgically removed from MXit at bedtime.

The banter between some tweeters who have been friends for a long time makes me feel like an eavesdropper at time. @FionaSnyckers (loving her books), @brodiegal (who volunteered at a hospital during the strike and found humour in bedpans and floor mops)@alambchop whose children are referred to as thing one and thing two.

I like to follow journalists, bloggers and DJ’s because not only do you get the news quicker, but having a sense of humour must be a prerequisite for those jobs: @matthewsavides who is fasting over Ramadan to experience what Muslims go through annually; @KaraboKgoleng from SAFM; @shesthegeek who reviews gadgets; @lihle_z who recently moved to New York (read her column in the Sunday Times); @lesterkk from eNews. Personalities like @F1sasha (Sasha Martinengo)and @GarethCliff are really genuine and interactive on Twitter(yes, I am surprised...and impressed) @clivesimpkins is so quick off the mark with his replies and comments. He is like the big daddy watching over the twitter kids! @Anatinus, @AkiAnastasiou, @innov8ive...the list goes on...

Finding and following Tweeps in Durban has been rewarding. The first person I followed when I joined Twitter was @OliviaSymcox who shares photos of the sun rising over the Durban ocean most mornings. What a way to start your day! @becauseI has a novel initiative to get herself a new car. See www.myr260car.co.za. Good luck with that, Briget!

Since being the 1000th person to follow @ECRBIGBreakfast I have discovered loads more people in Durban to follow (Durban is only the 5th most active province on Twitter in SA) Through ECR Big Breakfast I have learnt that: I need to reassess my garden and go for plastic plants instead; I am looking forward to following the progress of @juliekreusch’s vegetable garden; and that I am crap at riddles in the morning.

As I am following nearly 300 people I cannot mention them all but each person/company brings something to my life. Some I follow for their expertise and knowledge that they generously share on Twitter. Others keep me up to date with what is happening in the news and in my neighbourhood. Some are inspiring; some are just darn right funny.

So to all those Twitterphobes out there – go on and try it. Whether it be for business or pleasure, with a little bit of time and effort, I guarantee you that you will soon be hooked.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Confab on Conferences

I have always enjoyed attending conferences. The ones I have attended have always been interesting, a good excuse for doing no work and generally result in a huge “all fall down” party afterwards.

When I worked at Vital Health Foods the highlight of the year was the annual conference. It was always held at an amazing location and the evening activities were great fun. Sales reps are generally party animals even if they sell health products by day. By night, all thoughts of liver damage and depleted vitamin levels are expelled. Of course this meant that the conference room was filled with red eyed, incoherent zombies the next day. A small price to pay for excellent company camaraderie?

I recall a conference during my tenure with Fedics Food Services. After lunch most of the delegates seemed distracted and no-one was really paying attention. The poor speaker probably wished that they had allowed alcohol to be served with the lunch. Delegates then started to turn pink with spots and many excused themselves to hurriedly head for the loos. Well, as it turned out a whole bunch of us had food poisoning. Can you picture the scene? 3 Kombi loads of catering personnel arriving at the local hospital suffering from food poisoning! The hospital staff were highly amused. We all thankfully managed to regain our strength and the ability to hold down alcoholic beverages in time for the evening activities. Oh, just to clarify – Fedics were NOT doing the catering that resulted in its management team fighting over Kombi windows en route to hospital.

My latest conference experience was very different as it was a public conference and I was one of the speakers. Sure, there are people who do training and speaking as a profession so may be exempt, but anyone else who has to talk to 350 people and say that they are not nervous is either lying or delusional! There were some really interesting and inspiring speakers prior to my slot but I found it quite difficult to concentrate. My clammy hands and thoughts of totally stuffing up my presentation made paying attention difficult. I survived the ordeal unscathed and must admit to actually enjoying the experience even if I felt like a “rabbit in the headlights” with the bright lights blinding my ability to see whether the audience had nodded off or not.

I do not envy conference organisors. A lot of PR students see this part of the profession as glamorous and exciting. I don’t think they realise the hard work that goes into a well run conference. So, well done and thank you to the organisers of the eThekwini Women Empowerment 2 day conference. Nelisa Kala, a DJ at East Coast Radio, did a fantastic job as programme director. The Durban ICC runs like a well oiled machine and the ThoughtFire team and eThekwini Business Support and Markets Unit management ensured that all the women who attended had an inspiring, enlightening and enjoyable experience.

The conference culminated with a gala banquet. I managed to persuade Chicken Man to accompany me. He is generally reluctant to don a tie and jacket but seen as he had some practise the week before thanks to the Durban July, he agreed to attend without too much arm twisting and bribery.

Yet again, the activities were well organised and varied. From dancers and singers to videos and guest speakers. I enjoyed listening to Devi Sankree-Govender talking about her journey to Carte Blanche. Her great sense of humour comes through in her Sunday Times column but it was pleasing to hear that her humour is genuine and her success and popularity is well deserved.

It is a shame that a lot of companies are cutting back on conferences. A conference does not have to be all glitz and glamour and big bucks. It just needs to be an opportunity for staff to catch up and to bond and be able to leave with a sense of pride and loyalty in their company.

The main requisite for a successful company conference is a huge booze budget and hangover cures washed down with Red Bulls with breakfast.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Durban July – not for the faint hearted.

I felt very privileged to be invited to attend the Durban July at Greyville this past weekend. To a box, nogal! Having never been to the races I had no idea what to expect so here is a virgin race goers account of a day at the races.....

The theme of the day was “A blooming day at the races” so that kinda meant that sticking a flower in your hair and wearing a florally dress qualified you as being dressed appropriately. Okay, that is what I thought. How wrong was I! Yes, there were some very elegantly dressed folk and there were some eye catching outfits that were a tad over the top but still tasteful. Then there were some scary apparitions! How any mother/husband/boyfriend/friend could allow some of those ladies out of the house, never mind into the unsuspecting public, I have no idea. I cringed with embarrassment for some of them....

Anyway – no one in our box was dressed like a freak so I will not allow that to dampen my overview of the experience.

On to the horses. I like horses. What is not to like about a horse? I prefer them at a distance though. Let me just explain that I was thrown off a horse when I was a youngster. The horse I was riding on was spooked by a foreboding looking wheelbarrow that emerged from a side road. The key problem was that one of my brothers was also riding the horse with me at the time. I suffered not only the pain and indignity of landing on my arse but also having my youngest brother falling on top of me!

So, how did I relate to the horses at Greyville? Exceptionally well, thank you. I could view them from my perch high above the crowds and marvel as to their beauty and power (and the pretty colours worn by the jockeys).

I soon realised that, in order to get the most out of the day, I would have to go against every moral fibre I have and place a bet or two. Knowing nothing about horses or the dark world of gambling, I had to rely on everyone else’s opinions. The “race card” that I was handed looked more like a miniature Yellow Pages and was just as dull to read so I gave up on the idea of making any decisions based on that. I placed a few bob on a horse or two to “run a place” (I liked that idea – leaves the possibility of winning something wide open) but alas – all my expert advise led to naught and I lost all the boodle. No money flowing into my grubby paws from the helpful young tote dude.

What was flowing in abundance though was booze. When I left and had to pass through the marauding masses to walk the +-12 kilometres to where the car was parked, there was hardly a sober person in sight. Young and old, black and white, freaks and gentry – all totally trashed! I can understand though. The adrenaline rush when the horses pass the finishing line x 12 races + the amount of one’s life savings lost on donkeys ÷ by the number of frightening outfits = a darn good excuse to get wasted. Phew, I hope they all crawled home safely.

One downside was witnessing a huge brawl which I later learnt resulted in 2 people being stabbed. Hubby was delayed in picking up the Alien because he had to dodge the flying fists and cop vans in order to get out of the place. Yes, Chicken Man was there but he was not in the box with me. He had to slum it amongst the plebs as he was tasked with entertaining clients. Okay, so he was in the Sharks tent rubbing shoulders with rugby legends and being plied with food and Flasher girls. He too was a Durban July virgin and declared the whole experience an absolute pleasure even though there was not a Black Label in sight and he had to drink some other headache inducing beer.

So, thank you Lauren and Rob for facilitating my blooming great day at the races. I may have lost a few bucks but I have gained some wonderful memories spent with great friends. Now if I could just get some of those awful outfits out of my head.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An open letter to the creators of the teenage female aliens.

Before anyone gets all huffy with me – let me say that I love and adore my daughter with all my heart. She is the most important part of my life and that is why I can say what I say without any guilt or fear of a call from Child Protection Services.

If you do not have a teenage daughter – this could alarm you. I feel obliged to warn you in advance. Sensitive readers should turn away now.

Teenage girls are scary, believe you me! However, it is not their fault. It is because they are not really human...

At some point (round about when boobs start to appear and zits mean that bank balances are drained by cleaning and beauty products) sweet, innocent young girls are abducted and taken away from us! It’s true! Can you imagine the horror? Of course, all hell generally breaks loose and parents the world over want their daughters back.

So the abductors kindly give us a substitute. There is a note attached to their ever expanding chests saying:
We thank you for the use of your darling child for ongoing research into the human species. We hope that this replacement will suffice in the mean time. Your real daughter will be returned to you after a process called Puberty

The aliens sure got a lot wrong with the programming of these replacements. Some of the standard default settings need urgent adjusting.

So, to the folk who create these replacements – here are a few tips for future models

To: Whomever it may concern
Address: Some or other far away and seriously peculiar planet somewhere.
Subject: Suggestions, defects and upgrade requirements for current teenage models.

Humans generally maintain a particular mood for periods longer than 5 minutes.

Parents do not suddenly become idiots and ignorant morons. They probably were from day 1 but unfortunately on our planet they still have to be listened to and obeyed by their offspring.

There is a clear difference between a bedroom and the rubbish bin.

By its very definition, a bedroom requires the use of a bed to sleep in. A bed is not just a depository for every item of clothing the replacement has been begrudgingly supplied with. (Your planet must be quite backward. Us humans nailed the use of cupboards vs the floor and beds many years ago)

You got the cleanliness part right. They will spend hours in the bath. So why do they choose to wear dirty inappropriate clothes? Yes, maybe placing clothes in a washing basket is a tall order but could you install something called self respect into your next generation upgrade? It would be great to not have to send them back to change 5 times before they look decent enough to leave the house.

Their hearing is clearly defective. Repeating the same command over and over again should not be necessary. Once you have fixed this manufacturing fault, please could you do a recall of existing models to rectify?

Is it a necessity that they be plugged into some form of electronic device 24/7? Surely you can make their battery life longer so that they can step away from cellphones, TVs and computers for longer periods?

There are pitch and volume issues as well. When speaking to parents they tend to mumble and slur and yet when there is a human male within 10 meters or a picture of some vampire- wannabe boys in a magazine, their voices become high pitched and inappropriately loud. I’ll let you off the hook regarding the strange words and language that they use as this seems to be a universal phenomenon. Male teenagers are just as difficult to understand.

Please change the default facial pose from pouting to smiling. This could alleviate a lot of aggravation.

You are welcome to take my model back for a few days if this will assist you in making these changes.

I look forward to your speedy response and getting my own daughter back in due course. I really do miss her and besides, all the wine I have to drink to calm my nerves at the end of the day is making me put on weight.

Yours Sincerely

Mother to a teenaged alien.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Now everyone is a soccer expert

The World Cup has been amazing for South Africa. The camaraderie between everyone is so inspiring.

Jumping into my car and going anywhere these days is much more fun when one sees all the flags flying from homes and car windows. I have the obligatory SA flag flying on one window and the German flag flying on the other with South Africa mirror socks attached to my side mirrors. It’s no wonder that all the tourists to our beautiful country are raving about the friendliness and “ubuntu” of South Africans.

There is something that has been fascinating me since the World Cup started though. Just how many people have suddenly become football experts overnight!

Sure, get behind a team a two and show your support by wearing their jerseys, colours, facepaint, flags, wigs…but does that support really transcend into knowledge? I have to stop myself from laughing when I hear people, who clearly never watched a soccer match before the WC, start sprouting their opinions and analysing the players, the teams and the referee.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is marvellous that the so-called “beautiful game” suddenly has so many experts but what happened to all those people who never supported soccer in the past? Have they gone into hibernation? Left the country? Or are they too embarrassed to admit that watching 90 minutes of blokes running around a field kicking a ball backwards and forwards bores them to tears?

Okay – so I will admit it!

I have never watched the full 90 minutes of a soccer game. When I make a serious attempt to do so I still think that the game is over at 80 minutes (I watch rugby, you see) Those extra 10 minutes are just superfluous in my opinion.

What is with these blokes falling down all the time? Grimacing and clutching parts of their anatomy in complete agony when I swear no-one touched them. Acting skills must be a prerequisite for being a soccer star.

And off-sides? I haven’t a clue what the rules are but surely the players know? So why is the whistle constantly being blown for off-sides? Stay on your on-side, dudes!

It is a very loving game, I must admit. All that kissing and hugging that goes on….very sweet.

So, shoot me down in flames for being honest. I have made a momentous effort to watch the games where the result interests me but I still cannot profess to know what on earth is going on in the beautiful game. I love seeing photos on Facebook of friends attending the games. That is Ayoba enough for me.

I’ll stick to watching the highlights packages and the post match analysis on Super Sport which is always entertaining.

The drone of the vuvuzela’s + 8:30pm kick off time = #1 sleeping tablet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wrinklies Are Doing IT Too.

I had to smile when reading an article by Laura Spencer (see my Outsourced Communications page) where she writes about senior citizens getting active on blogs, Facebook etc. My 72 year old father Paul Chalupsky may have just learnt how to switch a computer on, but he has joined Facebook! I nearly fell off my chair when he made some reference to my blog the other day. I did not think he knew what a blog was let alone how to find my one.

Sure, he responds to about 1 in 20 e-mails that he receives (if you are lucky) because it takes him an hour to write a 1 line response but who cares? He is trying. He is getting involved. He has taken on the challenge.

My Dad is no stranger to challenges. He immigrated to Australia at the age of 65 as his wife wanted to be near her family. Moving to the other side of the world to a strange country at any age is a scary prospect. I can just imagine what it must have been like at 65, leaving ones comfort zone, all ones friends and of course, the majority of ones family.

Obviously when his wife Betty died, life became very lonely for him. During his visit to South Africa last December I encouraged him to sign up on an over 55’s dating site. Sure, I had to do all the writing and uploading of pictures but he was extremely enthusiastic about the idea. He had more faith in the idea of online dating than I did…

Well, to cut the possible Mills and Boon future novel short, he met the most wonderful lady. She has given him a renewed zest for life and will hopefully be the catalyst to inspire him where all his children and grandchildren have failed – by making him return to South Africa to enjoy his twilight years surrounded by friends, family and loved ones, both old and new.

So Dad, if you are reading this blog, I am proud of you. You have always been a hero to me but your embracing of modern technology has been the cherry on the top.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do Good Things

I recently read a quote from a friend’s Facebook wall which ties in beautifully to what I wish to share with you today.
The quote reads:
Remember that people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold - but so does a hard-boiled egg."

How true is that? What I find so inspiring is the number of people that one meets that are doing good things. Doing things that we often do not give a moments thought to, but which effects so many lives.

Top of mind is organisations like TAFTA (The Association for the Aged). Unless one investigates what they do or require their services when you have an aged relative – you don’t give them a second thought. I have needed their services and they ensured that a potentially traumatic and difficult experience turned into a smooth and pleasurable process (I know what you are thinking… No, it was not for me. How rude!)

I met with Jenny Thompson who works for a WESSA organisation called Stop the Spread. I was fascinated by the facts that she shared with me regarding alien invasive species. Global warming; water wise; threats to biodiversity; the future of our planet – all catch phrases that we hear so often and yet we are unknowingly promulgating the problem in our own back gardens.

I got a book from Jenny called “Invasive Alien Plants in KZN.” I immediately did a reccie around my garden and was astounded to find at least 5 invasive plants. I can hear you thinking - so what? It is just a few plants in your garden, who cares? How is that going to affect the world? But that is just the point. If everyone does their little bit and eradicates these nasties from their little patch of land, together we can ultimately make a difference. (Think how effective mass strike action is in SA!)

I had a giggle when I saw the Syringa tree had a Category 3 invasive status. Some of you may recall that my Syringa decided to get up close and personal with me and came knocking on my door during a storm last year. Although the tree was cut down to a stump – you cannot believe how quickly it started to grow again. Yikes, it is actually quite creepy seeing the speed in which it grows. No wonder they have the title “invaders”

If any of you wish to borrow this extremely well illustrated book from me and see what is lurking in your garden – you are more than welcome to.

Let’s not end up with egg on our faces because we have ignored our hearts of gold and failed to turn good intentions into real action.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When things go Pear Shaped

Ever noticed how things seem to go pear-shaped at the same time? The pool has sprung a leak, the wooden fence at the back of house looks like it is about to fall over (methinks it’s something to do with the neighbour attaching a chicken coop to it but that is a whole other story) and to top it all off, someone must have put their grubby hands through our gate and stolen the battery (brand new one I might add) out of the gate motor! Bastards!

To exacerbate my bad mood, I have called 2 companies and I am still waiting for someone to pitch up. What’s with that? Everyone moans that business is so bad and yet when you offer them some business (no matter how begrudgingly) they could not be bothered.

Oh, least I forget, Chicken Man (my hubby) informed me last night that the loo that he and the Alien (my teenage daughter) use seems to have also sprung a leak. He did try and appease me somewhat by asking me if the putty I used to try and fix the pool would work on the loo. If so – he would show me where the leak is so that I can fix it. What a gentleman! Who said chivalry was dead? I suppose I am solely to blame for that though. I have a tendency to just “get on with it” when there is a need for handyman skills around the house so Chicken Man doesn’t have to know the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer. Remind me to thank those early Women’s Libbers, will you.

What my dear husband has also graciously shared with me this week is his cold. Let me rephrase that. He had flu/pneumonia/bronchitis/all of the former. I have a cold. Hubby got to take a week off work (no, the company he works for did not go into instant liquidation) but when you ARE the company, the work, she must still be done.
Did I mention that I have also just started my monthly female curse?

Okay, enough already. Tirade over. You know what? I am starting to feel a bit better. Has my ranting to you helped me get over my seriously bad mood ever so slightly? I truly do think so. I knew that writing nonsense every now and again would reap some reward some day. Thank you!

Now – if one of you could please send someone to fix the gate motor, rid me of my cold, fix the fence, pool and loo - I promise they will be welcomed with open arms and a broad smile. I’ll even share the really good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc I have in the fridge….

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I know you all want to know exactly what this “exclusive” club, to which I have belonged to for over 8 years, is all about. I have received e-mails and sms messages begging to hear more. So here goes.

Drumroll please…

It is tricky to introduce such a diverse group of characters. As we all have school going children, I thought I would compare each member to a person within a school. Rather apt as a school is a small community within a community, like the wine club, and school is also an experience that we will never forget no matter how old we get. Even if the wine club ever disbanded – the memories (and 1,762 932 photos) will stay with all of us forever.

In no particular order and relating to their character within wine club only:

Les – The Headmistress
Always takes on the leadership role. Not scared to kick our arses to get things done to her exacting standards. Don’t mess with Les, or else!

Jax – the Class Mother and Head of the Parents Advisory Committee.
She may have 2 sons but Jax would mother a stray cockroach. If anyone has a boo-boo or needs to be cheered up – Mamma Jax is always willing and able.

Jules – the Class Clown
You can hear her infectious laugher down every corridor. She sees the funny side of any situation so you just can’t help yourself but start laughing with her about almost anything.

Carol – the School Rebel
Carol is on the look-out for any opportunity to bend or break the rules. Why? Because it’s fun, that’s why! She does not need a reason, does she?

Vix – the Student Councillor
The pragmatic, sensible voice of reason. A spade is a spade, so do not even think of calling it a shovel. She is always a willing and empathetic listener but don’t expect her to sugar-coat the truth.

Lynette – The PR Officer
Always immaculately turned out, she flits from one social gathering to the next, ensuring that everyone she meets feels like a super-star after 5 minutes in her company

Me – the Teachers Pet
No – it ain’t because I am so incredibly likeable – it’s just because I do what I am told! I’m too scared of getting into trouble with this dynamic group of party animals!

Now let me re-iterate. These descriptions are based on behaviour within wine club only. (Sorry, writing a disclaimer clause sounds like hard work, so forget it) Between us we have 13 children ranging from 2 years old to 19 years old with me being the exception, having only 1 child. There is one laat- lammetjie who still has to turn 40, otherwise we have all reached that milestone and celebrated each others 40th birthdays together.

We are all married and should all be eternally grateful that our long suffering husbands just shake their heads now when wine club comes along each month. I personally think that they are jealous but, hey, no-one is stopping them from forming some kind of club or other – as long as they are available to babysit on wine club nights.

Of late, we are obligated to get dressed up based on some or other theme which is decided by drawing seriously silly options out of a hat at the beginning of the year. I am sure that some of those theme options are revenge for the inevitable hangover and lack of productivity that some of us suffer the day after wine club.

A different member hosts the wine club meeting each month and they are responsible for cooking and presenting the food and decorating their home in accordance with the pre-determined, ludicrous theme. Each person has to dress according to the theme and bring along a bottle of wine.

Oh, I almost forgot… the wine.

At the first meeting I attended, there was a John Platter wine guide, a notebook with comments on all the wines that had been tasted and a special wine opener that did the rounds with each meeting. Not quite sure why, but now the smoothness, bouquet, aroma, vintage and even colour of the wine is unimportant! We sommer just drink!!

Clearly it is no longer the quality of the wine that keeps us coming back each month – it is the quality of the friendship.

I say “CHEERS!” and may you all find a circle of friends, no matter how miscellaneous or random, and enjoy the pleasure of laughing, sharing and “whining” together.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When Hubby goes on Holiday

If any of you work from home - you will know that one becomes accustomed to the peace and independence, the freedom to do things in your own time and in your own way.

My hubby (aka The Chicken Man) had not taken leave for over a year. You know how people like him are? They feel that the company, with a R 9 billion annual revenue, will come to a grinding halt if they are not at work for a day or two. Admirable, I do agree, but somewhat frustrating when you can see the man you love turning into a wound-up wreck due to excessive and relentless stress and pressure.

So when Chicken Man agreed that he would take 3 whole uninterrupted weeks of leave I was elated. Finally he could unwind and return to his normal happy-go-lucky self. There was only one problem. People who work in a corporate environment have this notion in their heads that people who work from home don’t ACTUALLY do any work. They feel that unless you jump into your car every day and fight the traffic to get to the office by 8H00 – you can’t possibly be contributing to the GDP of the country.

Oi vey, every 5 minutes; “What are you doing?”; “Hey, just come and watch this on TV”; “Why don’t you come and swim with me?”; “Let’s go have a drink somewhere”; “You don’t mind if so-and so comes around do you?” and my all time favourite chirp (whilst I am engrossed in a project) “ARE YOU WORKING????” Aaaggghh.

No sweetie - I am sitting at my computer on this glorious sunny day, cursing at the screen because the internet is particularly slow, my back is aching thanks to my crap chair, and the beads of sweat are running down my face because I have a deadline on this job…and you want to know if I am working???

No sweetie darling, this is what I do for pleasure! Real work can only be done by people who drive to offices, right? I haven’t ventured into my car so of course I am not working. Sure honey bun, let’s go and have a drink shall we? Because that involves getting into a car and leaving the home – would it be fair to say that going for a drink with you is work??

Now I just have to figure out who I can bill for “drinks with hubby” and Chicken Man and I can eagerly look forward to his next couple of weeks leave. It is such a pity his company can’t cope without him though and leave will not be possible for another year or so…How very sad.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let’s not be Boilers

Sorry – getting a bit serious today. I would like to share an article with you. I heard this story a long time ago and was reminded of it reading The Star archives online. It really makes one think. We all learn to deal with “the bad” if it creeps up on us over time or if we witness something over and over again. We become desensitised.

We need to be aware of the boiling pots in our lives and in the community around us and be reactive before it is too late. This applies to even the smallest, most unimportant things in life – not just serious issues as mentioned in the article. Go with your Gut.

(Article shortened)
They say if you take a pot of warm water and drop a frog into it, the frog will without hesitation jump out.

But if you put the frog in the pot of water and then gradually increase the heat, the frog will eventually boil in the water and die but won't jump out.

The crux of the matter is that if exposed to initial severe pain or shock, there is an immediate reaction to avoid it, but if the exposure is gradual, and persists over a period of time, the end result is death.

Often, we wonder why people who are abused over a period of time don't simply "jump out". The reason is simple: slowly, as their self-esteem becomes more and more eroded, they come to accept and almost to feel that they deserve the abuse.

I suspect it is for this reason that our internal alarm siren should be triggered the minute we are confronted with the wrong things in life, such as negativity, abuse, evil, etc. If we don't sound our alarm the first time we witness these and make an attempt to avoid the situation that triggered it, we might be confronted with the same situation over and over until we eventually get used to it and come to accept it.

Taking action should still come from a place of truth and with the intention to make better and not worse.

An equally important challenge is to examine our own lives to see if there aren't a few areas where we are being "boiled" like the frog. Areas where we have abdicated the responsibility to "jump" and sound the alarm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Always Give Thanks

No, I am not going to get all religious on you (although I do believe in thanking the Big Man for all the things we sometimes take for granted; health, happiness, friends, family...)

I am talking about expressing appreciation to the folk who are “pioneers” in showing their support by being the first person on my Facebook Page and the first person to be a follower on my blog.

Round of applause goes to Carol (first follower) and Les (first fan)
Of course they just both happen to be members of the Glug Glug Wine Club so a bottle of “Live-a-Little” ravishing red seemed an appropriate gift for them, don’t you think?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Welcome to my Blog

Thanks for stopping by. Why have I started this Blog? Why not? I love writing and I love sharing the idiosyncrasies of daily life so a blog is the answer.

Through my Outsourced Communications Facebook Page I share a lot of what I learn every day about Social Media and Public Relations which are my work passions. Here I would like to share more about Life – which is everyone’s passion (I hope!)

So – what will I be sharing? Firstly, let me do a quick “in a nutshell” introduction. I am 40 something and married to a wonderful man who we shall call Chicken Man. No, he is not scared of me and everything that moves – he works in the chicken industry as a sales rep. Find me anyone who can rabbit on about their work more relentlessly and with more passion than him and I will tell you to direct that person to an asylum.

We have a teenaged daughter. I thank you for your commiseration and condolences. She who shall be called The Alien is the most precious (and perplexing!) thing in my life. I am hoping that we could share some ideas as to how to get through this experience for which no guidelines are given – parenting a teenaged daughter. All assistance will be gladly received.

That then is my little family. We live in Durban, South Africa and are ably managed by our 3 cats and a Fox Terrier dog. I am an avid reader and have a penchant for good wines, great friends and excessive laughter. Talking of which – I am sure I will be sharing a lot about the wine club I belong to. The Ama Glug Glug Wine Club. A better tonic has yet to be invented.

So stop on by anytime and let’s chat. I can’t promise to write something everyday and I do sometimes leave my computer to do work and wife and mommy type things but I will get back to you as soon as those chores are done.
Chat soon