May the fourth be with you

I had a groovy birthday. Ruth made kick-ass oxtail for lunch, by way of celebration the next day, and I baked a cake. Many wished me happy birthday on FB. I was against FB for a very long time, suspicious and dismissive, reading all the conspiracy theories and other alarmist propaganda journalism literature. But I succumbed, and am happy that I did. FB reminds you about people’s birthdays – sometimes, and then I can wish them happy birthday in return. This is good. Sometimes you get a request for birthday info from a friend and the request turns out to be some app that demands all your information – email, phone, sexual-, medical- and institutional history, ID number, literacy level and whether or not you can make mayonnaise without a recipe, so I often just cancel the whole process half-way. It smacks of the rampant invasion of privacy that early sceptics warned about. I no longer wish to be reminded of that. Besides, now when I post, the link goes onto my FB page and then, sometimes, more than ten people read the blog.

But back to my birthday. I share the 4th of May with an unsurprisingly long list of people, but not many famous ones, which makes one wonder how Wikipedia decided who to include. Although, I guess if you were a Greek football fan in the 1970s, you might have known who Antonis Minou was. Robbie probably knows who he was, but I don’t think that makes him famous.  (No, Robbie IS famous.) Their general anonymity, on the other hand, is surprising because a large number of these people were actors and musicians. I was pleased to see that I shared a birthday with Audrey Hepburn and Pia Zadora. Better than Hitler, Wouter Basson or Britney Spears, I say. At the turn of the previous millennium there were a couple of heads of state, and in this millennium, one scientist, one mathematician, one trans-gender surgeon-pioneer,  one bishop and Hosni Mubarak. But mostly the list consists of artists, writers, sportsmen (no sportswomen, actually) and a couple of politicians. I am no exception to this rule. Like most of the people on it, I am also not famous. Which I think is OK. Famous people really have to watch the shit they write – just ask Helen Zille.

I am not going to muse more about turning older, except to say that I find it gets harder as you go along, mostly because of constant improvements in medical science and face creams. Combined with the current fashionable tendency to live healthier lives, innovation in these fields means that we are never ever going to be able to afford to retire: by the time we die the annuity would have been kaput for two decades or more. That stuff is expensive, as I am sure you know. Anyway. I had a good day. Thanks for the good wishes, and may we all turn a wonderful age this year.

Things I do not understand #2: the secret life of cat lovers

Barbara told me an interesting thing at lunch today. She said that when you breed Persian cats you have to keep your queen(s) inside all the time and away from the Tom-next-door. Apparently, if said Tom gets a load in, your queen will be spoilt for life, and any chance of cajoling her into putting out for a Persian boyfriend after that will be ruined forever. For… ever. Forever more, she will be pining for Tom – the bad boy who did her and dumped her for the ginger Abyssinian slut a across the street. Figures I guess. I had no trouble believing that story.

It need not be a tragedy, actually. If Barbara and one’s own eyes are to be believed, it is clear that your average Persian is short of leg and large of body, not to mention the mass of fur that could insulate a Boeing. Short, stocky, rotund… these qualities are not high on the list of a Hollywood casting couch looking for a romantic lead. And if this is all a pure-bred ball of hair has the right to dream of her entire life, then I say, screw that, or rather, screw Tom from next door.

OK… so I am not really writing about the cat. I am not a cat lover, or even a cat person. I have no problem with cats and appreciate that they have symbolic value, and are creatures that inspire love and affection in others, sometimes to a rather alarming degree.

For example, all true cat people can speak cat. My friend Bridget has claimed on more than one occasion that she is fluent in Siamese, and over the years I have witnessed very endearing repartee between her and her cats. The tendency of cat lovers to translate such repartee to a heathen like myself, however, is something I indulge only in people that I am terribly fond of. I think lots of people probably know what I am talking about.

What I do appreciate is that this crazy cat-talk activity is only funny insofar as cats are given human characteristics, foibles, and eccentricities by their interpreters. I don’t really know what this means, in the big picture, or if this is significant in terms of our relationships with beings that 1) don’t talk back 2) say what we want them to and 3) are completely at our mercy in terms of the provision of food, shelter and health services.

I don’t get the whole thing, actually, but Ruth said that as long as I accept that there are things I will never understand, that is OK. It does not make me a bad a person. I have let Ruth’s kittens jump on me and eat my ears. Bridge can also confirm that in spite of the fact that Snowy sprayed his horrible male cat juice all over my couch when I moved in with her, he only died many years later of natural causes, and that I had a splendid (and affectionate) relationship with Wallis for most of her life.

I read no papers today, but did go and see Sunshine Cleaning this evening. It is wonderful, and there is also a cat in it, one that causes a woman to burn down a house. Nuff said.

A weekend away

I think the final count was something like 27 bottles of wine, eight bottles of vodka, four bottles of whiskey and a couple of beers.  We were 12 for the duration, but a bunch of extras joined in on Saturday.  I cannot quite believe the numbers as I did not do the calculation myself, but generally they are uncontested.

The weekend was always going to be a decadent one.  But we were celebrating not only Bridget’s birthday, we were saying cheers, in a way, to her childhood home and the place of many rites of passage.

I brought Jack*, thinking at the time that I may well find eight hours to spend on getting my abstract right and fixing my essay on the tabloids.  We were, after all, going to be in the company of hard-core party vets who were bound to sleep until mid-day.  On Friday night I retired at ten while feeling still fairly sober.  Of course when I got to bed and the spinning started, this turned out to be an illusion.

As was the notion that the HPV’s would be lying low until after lunch.  The girls must be admired especially.  It is unbelievable how much stamina and resilience can be packed into a size twenty eight pair of Diesel jeans.  Perfect highlights, big glasses and a couple of runny eggs later, they were as ready to go as three-year old fillies on race day at Turfontein.  Chomping at the bit. It was amazing. The fact that they looked like famous rock-stars to boot was particularly infuriating. Give or take five years we are about the same age. How DO they do it?

But I like them a lot, and it would not have been gracious to sulk.

Anyway. We had Bloody Marys at ten, shots of vodka at eleven, and opened the first bottle of Krone shortly after that. This was followed by a bottle of Villiera Brut Rose. Then we abused all colours of wine for the rest of the day so it passed languidly in a happy haze. Lunch was prawns and boerewors… after lunch I made the Gateaux Laurence.  (I should just call it The Cake. As it stands, it sounds very complicated when it really is ridiculously easy to make). The final election results came in. Michael pointed out that the two-thirds majority-thing was a bit of red herring. We could not quite figure out why it had been such a bête noire.

We chose not to try, and instead we retired to the lounge and played Agatha Idols. I was Jana from Killarney, I sang Janis Joplin’s (of course) Bobby McGee and won the first round. I was very proud. Later I told Brad that to this day I have a secret yearning to be a doo-wap girl. (We sang Happy Birthday many, many times.)

In the early evening we lit the fires and ate the cake, incredulously, in tiny slices, while it was still slightly warm, and before the chocolate icing had set. It was delicious. Even Bridge ate some, and she does not have a single sweet tooth in her mouth.

Some went to bed late, some early.  

Sunday started with more of the same, except that there were newspapers. A few wandered off to the Coach House for a classical music recital. I stayed in the room having fought and beaten various challengers to one of the two copies of the Sunday Times that were floating about. Later I walked through the famous gardens of Kings Walden. At the end of my stroll I found Bridget and Paige on the stoep under the dead tree and we opened up the last bottle of pink bubbly.

And so the last day started.  People came back from all over and we ordered pizza for lunch.

There is something profoundly lovely about spending an entire weekend either pissed or pleasantly hung over. Events have more meaning in the moment, and are funnier in retrospect. It was also great to reconnect with people I have not seen for years.

It occurred to me, for the first time, that if friendships were organic… eh… organisms, and if they had, as a result, a limited shelf-life, surely then by the same token, they should be recyclable? I wondered about old friends and things that come and go, and come back again.

It was a great weekend.


* I have decided to find a name for the laptop, as I spend more time in bed with it (I especially love the morning lie-ins on the weekends with the newspapers) than I do with an actual man.  I am trying “Jack” for the moment.