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!

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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).

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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?

My favourite movie quote ever…

Well that’s an impossible task now isn’t it? Asking a movie-boff to pick ONE favourite movie quote is like asking a mother to chose a favourite child. So instead, I’ve chosen my top five, what are yours?

5. “Thank God for Rednecks” – Tallahassee, Zombieland (2009)

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4. ” If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy furniture and give the cat a name.” – Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

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3. “Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you” -Dennis, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

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2.  “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it…White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” – Gandalf, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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1. “Why do you keep using that word? I do not think it means what you think it means” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride (1987)

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Life is full of guilty pleasures…

Ahhhhhh guilty pleasures, yes, a post I can relate to, and believe me, I have plenty.

A guilty pleasure is gooey cheesy pizza, a glass of crisp white wine and an Audrey Hepburn movie

A guilty pleasure is Milo in bed on a cold winter’s morning, instead of getting up for work.

Nutella out the jar? You bet, that is a guilty pleasure!

Making Nigella Lawson’s super chocolaty brownies just so you can lick the bowl = guilty pleasure.

Trying on that beautiful pink dress you can never hope to afford but decide to screw the budget and buy anyway, that’s a guilty pleasure.

A guilty pleasure is lying in bed on a Sunday to watch back-to-back episodes of series.

Cancelling your evening plans so you can snuggle in bed and read instead, that’s a guilty pleasure!

Running after your soon-to-be-spouse to steal one last kiss before he heads home, that is a guilty pleasure.

I can keep going for hours, what are some of your guilty pleasures?

 

This post forms part of #writersbootcamp, a month long challenge to bloggers across South Africa.

In defense of the Maltese poodle

The world is wrong about…

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Today’s topic for day 16 of #writersbootcamp is a tough one. I think the world is wrong about most things but the number one thing I think the world is wrong about is Maltese Poodles.

If you bring up this touchy subject, most people will respond with something along the lines of “I hate Maltese poodles, they’re such yappy dogs.” INCORRECT.

Maltese poodles are second in intelligence (in the dog world) only to border collies (I have owned and loved both). Like cats, many say that Maltese poodles have nine lives. They are not the fluff-some creatures of old ladies nor are they the hand-bag dogs of the rich and famous, but rather, they are really like the plush-cuddly warriors found in Star Wars.

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Yes, what you have believed your whole life about Maltese poodles has been wrong. Maltese poodles are highly intelligent and are armed with the power of manipulation. They can make you believe that you are the head of the household when really, it’s them running the show. They like to take themselves for walks and will often make friends of your neighbours, inviting themselves over for tea, or just to sleep on their beds and couches.

They make excellent guard dogs because they are possessive and good at alerting you to intruders. They can be vicious with people they don’t like, I know, mine once took the skin off my face while I was cuddling her. But they can also be great with kids (I used to dress the same in my old baby clothes).

Maltese poodles are tiny balls of fluff that are the perfect combination of personality, intelligence and viciousness and have been accused of vacuity by the world at large for far too long!

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

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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