How to make friends at 30

friends

Well, I guess I’m not 30 yet, but I will be in a year, one month and three days, and it’s way sexier for a headline than the lukewarm age of 29.

But seriously, how do you make friends at the age of 29, in a new and vibrant city? I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who has a lot of friends. I have some, and they are the ones who I’ll take into my confidence without hesitation, signal them on Whatsapp using the designation “Holla Biznitch” and who will hunt down a taxi for me as they hold my hair back while I vomit all over Long Street (Thanks Kim and Luisa).

Well, Long Street no more I suppose, since my recent (and I mean oh-so-recent, three weeks and counting) what feels like immigration from the Mother City to The Big Smoke (also fondly known as Johazzardburg, the City of Gold, and “Oh dear God why did I ever leave Cape Town?”).

I didn’t, and still don’t, want to post on Facebook that I’ve left Cape Town, even though I know a lot of cool people who have moved from there to Joburg, who I know would be so warm and welcoming to me. The reason I don’t want to put it on Facebook (so I’ll just post it on my blog here for my one regular reader, thanks Darrel) is not because of the people who live in Joburg, but rather, the people who live in Cape Town.

The negative reactions I got from Capetonians was really just plain hurtful, and it was usually strangers (one close friend said she’d rather move to Australia, which made me feel great about the decision). I mentioned it to a woman at a wine farm in Tulbagh (my husband and I decided that Joburg wouldn’t have amazing wine-which it does-and that we needed to stock up before we left, which we did) and her reflex reaction was “Ag shame, but why?”I also made the mistake of telling an electrician doing some work in my house (a born-and-bred Capetonian who had literally never lived outside of the Southern Suburbs) and his five minute poisonous vitriol about how one could never live anywhere else when one had lived in Cape Town (note the irony) was gross enough to make me not want to pay him.

Back to the subject at hand. I don’t want to notify the universe that my postal code has changed via social media. So I’ve reached out to some people that I know from varsity and whom I haven’t seen in years, and I’ve had a pretty positive response. But everyone is working, and I am not, so while I know people, most have been here for several years already, and have integrated themselves into friendship groups with colleagues and school mates.

Which leaves me alone, exploring the leafy suburbs of this urban jungle on my ace. And I don’t mind doing this usually, except that, being more introverted than extroverted, I’m quite happy to be alone. I’m happy to walk about the streets of Linden alone (I did that today) and get lost in Rosebank (also today) and walk myself around the Botanical Gardens (last week). But when I discover a cool Joburg event, like Wine-Not (the last Friday of every month) I don’t have a group of girlfriends I can rally around to go drinking with me. I’m painfully shy in that way, and I hate inconveniencing other people. More than anything, I hate being told “no” or having to make awkward small talk.

How do I get better at this? Step 1: is to get a good job (please Lord) with a crowd of relatively young-and-funky people who can unlock the secrets of Joboogy for me. Step 2: Find someone who’s quite chatty (so I don’t have to make small talk) and cling to their legs until they accept the fact that we’re friends and I’m always going to be asking them to hang out with me. Step 3: Hope that Jesus made some people who are as equally strange as I am, and pray that they will be drawn to my strangeness (some would say “quirkiness”) like a piece of buttered toast is drawn to the floor (clean side down).

So Joburg, here I am, waiting for things to start falling into place so that I can prove all those nasty Capetonians wrong about you. Show me what you got.

 

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What I loved in September

 

I haven’t blogged in a long time. In all honesty, I haven’t felt like writing. I haven’t felt inspired, I haven’t read some amazing tome that I desperately felt I had to share with the world or tasted some luscious wine that deserved my (amateur) write up. In fact, if I’m honest, I’ve become bored with the format of this blog (that said, I really appreciate all the positive feedback that I get about it all the time).

What I have wanted to write about for ages though, like a fire burning in my bones, are several things I discovered in September. I hate Facebook, so I didn’t want to share all my discoveries there. The more I thought about it, the more wonderful things I could list that I loved about September, and what better place to speak my mind than my blog, which I  also love but have neglected for several weeks (if not months). So, disclaimer aside, these are the things that I loved about September.

  1. The 1975

This British bubble-gum pop, 80’s throwback band are indubitably the inspiration for this blog post. It’s also dishonest of me to say that I only loved them in September. The truth is, I have barely listened to another album since I stumbled across their song, The Sound, sometime at the end of July. You think I’m exaggerating, I know you do, but the truth is that I listen to, wait for it,  I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, at least twice a day. The fact is that this album is an absolute masterpiece. The piano and saxophone solos, the catchy yet incredibly intelligent lyrics, the smooth voice of Matt Healey (my obsession is so bad that I dreamed recently that I told him I loved him at one of their concerts- when a fan actually did that at one of their shows, Matt Healey had a breakdown and asked the audience what right they had to love him, when they don’t even know him) and the self-belligerence contained in this sophomore album makes it feel like audio cocaine. I wake up at night with rifts from various songs running through my mind. When compared to their self-titled debut album (which I also loved and didn’t think could be improved upon) I like it when you sleep knocks their debut out the ballpark. The band said this album is an answer to critics of their first (well, they probably would say that it’s a giant “F#@k you” to critics). Where they were berated for being smarmy and smart-mouthed on the previous album, they became more pretentious on the second, when mocked for their 80’s nostalgia pop, they added more sax solos and a definitively 80’s rock sound. I love that about them. I love that they’re obnoxious, I love that they’re so honest about what they wrestle with (they recently said that if they had been awarded the Mercury Prize this year, they would have spent the money on lots and lots of drugs). They eschew the “social media” game that so many factory-made musicians use to promote their brand. These rough British boys with band teeth from Manchester are as real and raw and authentic as it gets, and for that reason I’ll keep listening to their disgustingly-catchy songs and I’ll keep loving their music.

Listen to The Sound here. (Also watch out for She’s American, Somebody and This must be my dream).

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2. Outlander

Dear God. If The 1975 is audio cocaine, then the time-travelling/historical series Outlander is visual heroine. I literally didn’t sleep some nights because I was awake thinking “What if Claire had touched the stones? What if they’d rescued Jaime from Black Jack Randall in time?” I can.not. Okay, it was released in 2014, so I’m a bit behind, and Netflix only has the first season on it at the moment (note to self: email the elves at Netflix and beg for the second season). I don’t know what it is that’s so utterly delicious about this series. It’s epic, start to finish. Maybe its the heroism of the Scots, maybe it’s the undeniable chemistry between Claire and Jaime, maybe its the accents and the gorgeous men running around in kilts killing each other. Maybe it’s because I myself am a McDonald, so every time the opening credit song (the Skye Boat song, originally penned by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1892 about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape from the British) my heart soars. Based on the books by Diana Gabaldon (which you know I’m gonna get my hands on!), this is escapism at its best, the editing is excellent, the scenery is lush, and if you can get a hold of it and watch it, do it! Also…Sam Heughan, those blue eyes get me every time!

jamie

3. Learning something new about a very old earth

What would a book blog be without a book, right? As you may or may not know, I’ll pretty much read anything that flows from the pen of Bill Bryson, though I’m not much of a traveler myself. In fact, I’ll read almost anything, although non-fiction is seldom my first choice. Some time back I read a popular science book called Big Bang, by Simon Singh. It’s really hard, as an author or scientist, to get popular science right, because you have to be able to convey very difficult concepts in a way that the common man can understand. I enjoy books like this, because you can learn so much you didn’t know before, it just expands your mind (and after hours of binge-watching Outlander, some mind-expansion is usually in order). So I tackled Bryson’s ambitious attempt at just this, A Short History of Nearly Everything. In this 500-page tome, Bryson covers everything from Cosmology and the start of our universe to bacteria, volcanoes, continental shifting, clouds, Neanderthals and us. It is an extensive, and as I said, ambitious project, but it was incredibly satisfying to pick up a book and learn something new in each chapter. As always, Bryson’s journalistic skills are on form as he meets, greets and interviews an incredulous variety of experts in their own unique fields in order to compact and convey sometimes very difficult subjects to an average person like me. It felt good to take a break from mindless fiction for a while to challenge myself. And a note on something I think is really important- especially from a Christian perspective- which is not to be afraid of science, Christians are so quick to dismiss evolution, the Big Bang and fossil records, but when you actually study these things in detail, as Bryson has done, as a Christian there is a distinct golden thread running through the discourse, which is that there is just no way we were not made or at the very least, part of a much bigger design. There have been too many fine, cosmological “accidents” which led to our existence. We live on such a knife-edge, not just in terms of the fact that our planet is the only one that evolved to support life, but even just the fact that homo sapiens evolved to become the dominant species over homo erectus and Neanderthals is enough to give you pause about your brief, yet potent existence (and how we should look after our only planet).

bill

4. Podcasts

Turns out, podcasts are great. On the back of the above discussion, I’ve recently felt incredibly under-stimulated at church. If I have to hear about another three steps or five points or four “take-aways” on how to be a better person and thus earn God’s approval on my life, I’ll cry. I scoffed at my sister when she said recently that podcasts are all she listens to in the car, but then I thought, why not try listening on the train to work. So every day for the past month, I’ve listened to a podcast from a range of international preachers, it’s done wonders for enriching my internal dialogue. In particular I’ve worked my way through a series by N.T Wright, Bishop of Canterbury and New Testament scholar par excellence, on the historical Jesus. Also noteworthy was a talk by Louie Giglio called Paradise in a Garbage Dump and one by Erwin McManus called No Waiting for Daylight. If you haven’t jumped on the podcast train yet, I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

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Besides theses four simple things, September was full of a range of wonders. It’s spring here, so my garden is alive with the smells and colors of a new season, I tasted a cocktail made with spekboom and cinnamon, and I was surrounded with good friends and positivity. What were some of your September highlights?

In a world of Ana Steeles we need more Katniss Everdeens

In the lead-up to the premier of the film-adaptation-of-the-novel-based-on-online-fan-fiction that is 50 Shades of Grey, I’ve been reading a lot of opinion about what this book and its huge following mean for society.

Ana Steele

Ana Steele submits to an abusive sexual relationship in 50 Shades of Grey

As a disclaimer, I have never read the trilogy myself, I believe too strongly in good literature and BDSM just isn’t my thing, in light of which I can’t really comment on the merit of the prose or the structure of the story. What I can comment on is the fact that the story involves a young impressionable woman becoming involved in a relationship with a destructive young man who takes sexual pleasure in inflicting pain because of abuse in his childhood. That’s not a judgement call, that’s the story’s plot.

The thought that a book about a woman who submits to physical abuse out of fear she’ll lose her lover can be so record-breakingly popular causes a visceral reaction in me. It got me thinking about my female literary heroines, especially because I am busy reading the Divergent series which, though teen fiction and simply written, has a strong female lead who allows herself to be fearless and selfless for those she loves.

Tris Prior in the Divergent series (also now a motion picture) cuts a small but intimidating female figure

Tris Prior in the Divergent series (also now a motion picture) cuts a small but intimidating female figure

Comparatively, the first literary heroine that comes to my mind (besides Scarlett O’Hara, whom I adore as a pillar of feminine strength and idiocy) is Jane Eyre, who rejects the pursuit of the man she loves and turns instead to a possible life of poverty because she doesn’t want to live a compromised moral existence. Of course, she returns to him on her own terms, a wealthy woman who can love Rochester freely without compromising on what she believes to be right. Unlike Anastasia Steele

Bella Swan is another sulky weak female character

Bella Swan is another sulky weak female character, but she’s still a better role model than Ana

But of course 50 Shades of Grey is a modern “love story” based on fan-fiction that developed online as a response to the wildly popular Twilight series. While it gets a lot of flak, and the movies were poorly cast and cheesy, I still enjoyed reading those stories and I wasn’t overly offended by the somewhat conservative view of femininity portrayed in them (I mean, Bella is a pretty sad excuse for a female lead). Then I look to teen fantasy that has emerged since the Twilight phenomenon began, and I am met with Katniss Everdeen.

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I would make the argument that Katniss, while she may be emotionally unhinged at times in the story, is a far better role model for young women than Ana Steele could ever be. (Sure, totally biased opinion here, I stayed up all night to finish each book in the Hunger Games series). Katniss takes on the burden of providing for her family after her father’s death, and when sister Prim is impossibly selected as a tribute for the Hunger Games, Katniss doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice herself instead. She nurtures younger people around her, like companion Rue, and becomes a symbol for nationwide rebellion and ultimate freedom through her selfless actions. As Lorde’s song for the Mockingjay soundtrack croons “I’m a princess cut from marble, smoother than a storm. And the scars that mark my body, they’re silver and gold.” I would rather aspire to be this kind of woman, one who’s altruistic and generous actions speak volumes that changes lives over being chained up in the Red Room of Pain for the pleasure of a broken man.

Soul detox

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Perhaps you’ve noticed that things have been a little quiet on this blog lately, perhaps you haven’t noticed at all, and that’s okay too.

I’ve heard it said that comparison is the root of all unhappiness, and in the 21st century, social media is the source of all comparison, isn’t it? Social image projection is something I have been wrestling with since reading this particularly insightful article on why millennial’s are the way they are. It occurred to me that when I scratched below the surface of those who I admired (and envied) on social media, friends and former colleagues who just seemed to have everything going for them, I found unhappy, broken lives. This came as somewhat as a surprise, I know these women personally, I go for coffee with them, but what I find is that what they portray and where they are genuinely at, are chasms apart from each other. And I am guilty of doing this too.

So after a recent particularly rough patch, I decided to push the “reset” button on my life. For me, this included coming clean on social media about how hard life had actually been and then detoxing from the poisonous comparison that social media incubates. It has also meant that for the past two weeks, I have not been on my personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profiles, I haven’t even been on this blog. I even deleted the apps for these sites off my phone. When I got an email yesterday from Facebook (in my spam box) that I had 41 notifications pending, I wasn’t even tempted to look. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is trying to get hold of me through the platforms, and then I think that the people who really matter to me all have my cell phone number and email address, so they can contact me that way.

It’s been an extremely liberating exercise to do this. I no longer feel constantly bored, I find other ways to stimulate my mind, I’m not constantly checking my phone, and I have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives. I have a deep joy knowing that my identity is not found in what I want other people to think of me and how I manage my online personality profile. I’m taking joy in interacting with real people and not being flooded by information which is at best 40% true. Its a soul detox, and its been good.

 

The A-Z of shuffling

I've shifted from shuffle to alphabetical.

I’ve shifted from shuffle to alphabetical.

I’ve been trying somewhat of a musical experiment on my IPod recently. In fact, I got the idea from one of my Twitter followers, who mentioned that he is doing the same thing at the moment.

If you are anything like me, you have reams and reams of music on your IPod and if you are like me, you permanently have it set to the “shuffle” function. Yet no matter how much new music I put on the thing, it always seems to go back to its firm old favourites, meaning that I probably haven’t heard some of the songs on my IPod for years.

So, I have changed from “shuffle” to playing songs in alphabetical order and I’m loving what I’ve discovered. Not only will I have listened to every song on my IPod by the time I get to Z (which will probably only be in a few months time) but there seems to be somewhat of a trend within letters themselves. This is what I’ve found so far:

A- Is populated by very “worshippy” songs, like Hillsong and WOW compilation type-tracks.
B- I found this to be a very profound section, with titles like “Beautiful Love” (The Afters) and “Back to the Beginning” (Switchfoot) in fact, there is a lot of Switchfoot in this section, they seem to favour the letter “B” for many of their songs. B is full of thought provoking rock songs with deep lyrics and excellent construction
C- This is where I am at the moment. “C” is fun, and full of dance tracks, the kind of thing you would put on when you’re planning on going out on a Friday night.

I’ll have to let you know what I find when I get to “D”, but why not try this experiment for yourself and let me know what you discover about your IPod and your taste in music.

My parents aren’t perfect

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Today’s topic for the #writersbootcamp is My Parents.

Although I often skip topics because I’m too busy, I must pause to write on this one. (I am also surprising myself by how personal this very impersonal blog is becoming).

I can say with full confidence that I have been utterly blessed in the parents that I have been given. My dad has dedicated his life to working hard to provide for us, even having to move 1000 kilometers away in order to do so. My dad was born in Scotland in 1953 and moved to South Africa at the young age of four years old. He’s nuts, but he has worked his way to the top of his field while teaching my sister and I that we are princesses who deserve only the best in life.

My mom is a saint. She was born on the East Rand of Johannesburg in 1961 to two saintly parents who gifted her with a love for God, which she has passed on to me. Nothing was too much for my mom when it came to providing for us. Between her and my dad they sacrificed so much for me, and when I started working in radio, they would wake up at 2 am with me to drive me to the studio 20 minutes away because I didn’t have a license, and then fetch me again at 4 am.

My parents aren’t perfect, but they have provided a platform for me to live my best life. No, they are not perfect, but they are perfect for me.

An ode to the advice of grandmothers

rena nanna

This piece forms part of the month long challenge #writersbootcamp. It is day 10 (one, two skip a few, I got busy). Today’s topic is: The best piece of advice I ever received.

Everyone thinks they have great advice to give, but there are two pieces of advice that I have kept with me every day.

The first piece of advice came from my Nanna, God rest that blessed woman’s soul. She told me when I was about five (and had slept over at her house) that every morning before nursery school I must wash my eyes out. Otherwise the other children will see the sleep in my eyes. I’m now 26, and I swear to you that every morning when my alarm clock goes off, I wake up and wash my eyes out, even before I get around to making coffee. This small piece of advice taught me three things: The value of routine, the respect of self, and the respect of others (no one likes to stare at a dirty face).

The second piece of advice comes from the portly Scottish woman who has a passion for wedge heels and her nightly lollipop, also known as Granny Rena.  The woman is 81 and just got off a 17 hour flight from Houston. She once told me, I think I must have been about 12 years old: “Eemee, ya’ve go’to be able t’ laugh at yourseylf.” And I do, all the time.

These are the two best pieces of advice I have ever received, both from my Grans. May they help you as much as they have helped me.

Dear Pedestrian

This writing is part of a challenge called #writersbootcamp. Today’s topic on day 8 is write a letter to one of your pet hates

Dear pedestrian

I know what it is to have to walk everywhere, I’ve often been in your shoes. Sometimes you have a long way to go with heavy bags to carry, and sometimes you have to cross dangerous intersections.

Beloved pedestrian, I have also been a driver. I know what it is to feel the pressure of the road, to have to constantly consider the lives of fellow drivers, and pedestrians like you, each time I take to the tar.

That’s why, dear pedestrian, I must ask you to obey the rules of the road when you are walking. Dear pedestrian, when you decide to jay walk 100 meters from a pedestrian crossing, it really breaks my heart. It means I have to swerve a little into the next lane to avoid crunching your toes. It doesn’t take much to walk the 100 meters to the pedestrian crossing, where you would be safe, and where cars are legally obliged to stop for you, like a magical island of safety in the chaos of traffic.

Dear pedestrian, when we meet at a traffic light, and you decide to cross when the little man is red for you, but the light is green for me, it makes me very angry. Pedestrian, there is a queue of tired and stressed drivers behind me who want to get home, and do not want to have to wait while you disobey the traffic rules. Really, you are not playing fair. My lovely pedestrian, I am concerned about your intelligence, is it hard to understand that when the man is green, you may walk and when he flashes, you must hurry across because he is about to turn red, meaning that three tons of high-speed traffic are about to go through that intersection.

Dear pedestrian, we all have the right to use the road, and just because I’m in a big car and you are on your two legs, it doesn’t give me more right than you. But you are more vulnerable, which is why I need you to pay heed to attention to the road signs. Stop at a red light, use the pedestrian crossing, that’s all I ask.

Yours truly,

Concerned driver

WANTED: Cashier…

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WANTED

Cashier for Checkers Riverside Centre, Rondebosch
Must have Matric
Remuneration: R3000 monthly.

 

My nametag tells you in black and white that I’m Candice, but who I really am is Candice Willemse from Belhar and I’m much more than the few minutes you spend at the till with me.

Before I was a cashier at Checkers, I worked as a cleaner in the Absa Building in Cape Town. It’s a fancy place with more than 30 floors, where lawyers and accountants and big managers come and go. I would spend most of my time making sure the mirrors in the five elevators shone, so that mister lawyer could make sure his tie was as straight as his shoelaces. Few people notice cleaners, we are kind of invisible, even when you’re stuck in a lift with one for 26 floors.

A cashier is less invisible, though maybe more mute. The people who flow through my till each day think all I say is “Do you want a plastic bag?” or “Cash or card?” really I have a lot more to say than that.

I like this job; I get to spend time analysing people. You can always tell what someone is like by their groceries. This one is a baker; see all the chocolate bars, flour and eggs. The one after is a health freak, buying nuts and fresh fruit. The old people always pay in cash while the students in the queue are either on their cell phones or talking loudly to one another about what happened on campus.

I wonder what campus is like. I’m 22, the same age as many of the students who buy their groceries at this store, but I couldn’t afford to study. I got my matric; it was a proud moment for my family. My sister and her husband, who I live with in Belhar, threw a small party for me when I graduated.  But the jobs I’ve managed to get since then, like this one, aren’t exactly mentally stimulating.

Of course I don’t want to be a cashier forever, but for now, it’s all my matric will get me. I am more than just the monotone beep of the scanner and the “cash or card?” I’m doing a computer course at our community centre to upskill myself.  I work one weekend a month, but when I’m not working I like to sketch some of the faces I come across during the week. You would know this about me, and more, if you made eye contact with me and used my name, so clearly printed on my nametag. But you don’t. You unpack your trolley of cans, milk, bread and dogfood, I scan them, you pay and leave and don’t give Candice a second thought.

My name is Candice Willemse from Belhar, and I’m much more than the few minutes you spend at the till with me.

 

This blogpost is a work of fiction and forms part of the #Writersbootcamp currently running for the month of July. 

 

I can’t live without…

This post is day 4 of the very fun and exciting #writersbootcamp

I can’t live without…

What a sad indictment on our society that there are certain material possessions we can’t live without. Not that I’m judging anyone, believe me I know that I can’t live without my IPhone or my coffee machine, I just need them to be a fully functioning human being.

So long as we don’t measure ourselves by how much we have, it’s fine. Here are a few things I can’t live without, what makes your list?

My books- whenever I move, my bookshelf is the first thing I populate, my books always make me feel at home

My perfume- Marc Jacobs Oh Lola for a fancy dinner, but if I’m going to the theatre, its Taylor Swifts Enchanted

My IPod- or music in general, especially if it’s the new Jason Lancaster, Passion Pit or Foo Fighters

My Car- or Optimus Prime, as I like to call her. Cars represent independence and freedom and mine just happens to be an adorable Kia Picanto

My family- Because life just wouldn’t be worthwhile without friends, family and love in our lives