Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Shopping and yakking

I'll know I'm finished when I join the ranks of ancients causing traffic jams at supermarket tills, post office counters, hardware stores and even bank teller windows, as they prolong the transaction with garrulous recitals of their seemingly aimless lives. It's cruel, I know, but sometimes I long to administer a good arse-kicking to these obstructive lumps in the smooth custard of daily existence.

Yes, they may be lonely, I'm sure many are -- but how can you be so lacking in self-awareness to assume the (usually expressionless) minion behind the counter gives a shit? Or fail to notice his (or her) deep and murderous look, or sense the seething tide of anger rising behind you?

And while I'm standing in this queue spewing lava, I'm wondering what is it that makes women delay doing anything about actually finding money to pay until the total is rung up. Surely, if you know you are going to have to rummage in the mysterious depths of your bag for the exact sum required, you must realise you need to set about it a bit sooner? Have you no regard for others?

I expect it's part of that curious female hunting instinct that enables women to shop for hours on end, trying on many items of clothing to no apparent purpose, accumulating awesome numbers of swag bags, tramping tirelessly around comparing prices, for god's sake. Given the option, no red-blooded male would spend even a minute on these safaris through mall land.

I never try on clothes. I pick 'em, pay and take them home; I can always flash through again if I need to find a different size. I never use a trolley in the supermarket. Baskets allow you to zip in and out of the trundling traffic, swerve round the cellphone simps asking headquarters whether they should get the "sinful" choc chip cookies or the virtuous kind (which come in bulk bags).

I can fill two or three standard shopping bags from one basket (great way to tone the biceps and forearms).

I will admit to spending hours in music and DVD stores, hifi establishments and these new glorified pawnbroker shops called things like Cash Converters or Cash Crusaders. I love to unearth a bargain bit of audio gear or find a favourite album going cheap. It's a vindication, it somehow assures me I am not abandoning meaningful life (am I?). This is not so much shopping as collecting, an activity programmed into the genes of us hunter-gatherers. This activity cannot be indulged in when accompanied by the other half. The incomprehension is total and the patience very short.

Lakes of light

Marched from Muizenberg and Sunrise Beach, the captive pools mirror sky just after Sol heaves up. The days are getting longer as we creep into the shimmer of summer. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, really.

Yet another photo figleaf for my shameful failure to blog righteously
. Well, I'm only a lizard, and I must bask, basilisk-ly. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cape windows

This post is sort of inspired by known and unknown expat Capetonians reading my blog for a taste of home and its glories. Now that I know you are out there, it's a jolly good excuse to open a window or two on our summer -- at present rudely interrupted by a ridiculous cold spell (that's the Cape weather for you, four seasons in one day, as they say, every bleedin' time).

We clambered up Elsie's Peak, the highest point in my Fish Hoek fastness, on Sunday, right to the marker on the summit, and gazed out at the entire vast yawn of False Bay; its sweep gives the sensation of standing on a map of the peninsula. In the photo here, K shows off the God's-eye view (although this is by no means the entire panorama -- more like half -- my little Pentax Optio lens being inadequate to the task).

A great many flowers are out now, none more profusely than the small trees of bright yellow pincushion proteas. But there are intense colours along the paths, tiny sparkles of blue, purple and magenta. And glissandos of tiny green double-collared sunbirds, darting from tree to tree. We saw a dassie or rock rabbit, somewhat rare here now, probably because black eagles (aka Verreaux's Eagle) hunt along this range.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ride it till it crashes

You never know when a milestone in your life is going to sneak up and bash you over the head. And
delivery by telephone is fate at its most sadistic. I was merely asking some functionary in Human Remains (Resources) how much leave I had left in the cycle.

"Er, but you're retiring soon aren't you?"
"Not to my knowledge," sez I.
"Yes you are," sez she. "The rules of the Provident Fund require you to retire on your 65th birthday."
"Well, I, er, I ... I want to stay on for my end-of-year bonus," I say lamely, as earth tips over a bit.
"You'll get a proportionate bonus. Up to the end of October."
"Oh, OK ..."
I hang up and tell the chief sub: "Guess what? I'm retiring at the end of the month."
"Oh yes," she says irritatingly; like she knows too? "C (the editor) wants to offer you a contract. We have to go and speak to him."

So long story short, I "retire" on October 31. On November 1 I come to work and sit at my usual "workstation", but now I am not "backbench splash sub" -- I am "independent contractor", and in the process of designing my own contract. Four-day week, lots of leave ... much money.

So why is it that this week I have this sensation of falling, adrift in an alien cosmos? It's life, but not as I know it. Anyway, shouldn't I be off to see the world, finishing my eternally postponed second draft of the movie script ... or, I dunno, just kicking back and letting it all go?

The thing is, I strongly object to society's attempts to shape my life or for that matter its concluding chapters. I refuse the "pensioner discount", the assumption of clapped-outness, the extra courtesy of the young; call me a senior and I'll pop you one. I walk, I jog, I lift weights, I do Pilates, I'm ready for a love affair ... sod it -- I'm not bloody old!

Ride it till it crashes has always been my mantra. No reason to take my foot off the accelerator now.
Victor Meldrew is dead.