Resuming the position

Don't be ridiculous. This is Ayn Rand.

So it is of course flattering when people say they miss your blog, and inquire why you have not been writing it. “Is jy besig meisie?” Giulietta asked me before the Lions game the other day – the one even before they were so thrashed by the Cheetahs – to which I could barely reply before she continued with, “Jy moet ophou naai, dissie goed vir jou nie.” Well there you have it. The reason I have been lax in my duties to my body of writing work is my one-year-old relationship. Instead of practicing the penpersonship that is going to have to keep poverty from the door once I am too old and too nasty to employ in the company of (or with) other people, I while away my non-income-earning hours in love-soaked delirium. Not.

It is because I go excessively to gym, just in case my love’s interest may really start to wander in the direction of two lithe and uncomplicated twenty-one-year olds I often suggest he might want to replace me with at some point. Not.

No. If the real reason had to stand up, it would be the one on the left called guilt. I did not finish my masters last year like I should have, and have re-registered this year so that I can complete my research report and collect a degree. However, since I have registered I have not done much toward it. Initially I was quite confident that I would make the six-month August deadline that would get me half my money back. Now I am almost sure that I am only going to hand it in at the end of the year. But things have started moving along for various reasons.

Leslie wrote on Basecamp that the university could no longer carry unfinished post graduate degrees, and when we had breakfast to talk about it, I understood why. It’s not the more than 20 unfinished masters’ research reports that are the problem, but the lack of potential supervisors to to supervise the writing of said reports. I guess I get that. In response to her suggestion that I then “book my place” asap, I assured her that I am good to go, and can deliver something as early as next week. Now I have to sit down and actually write something, and I thought the blog would be a good place to start. Although it is not the research report itself, it is ABOUT the report, and it is more constructive than cleaning the house again.

And after all, it was Giulietta who suggested that I blog about the report. I think she might have wanted to say, “for fuck’s sakes, WRITE SOMETHING,” and this suggestion popped out of her mouth instead, but look what it has achieved. Something on paper. I feel pretty good.

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On writing #17

I think of myself as a good writer, potentially. But then I read a sentence like:

“But the rocket engineers’ sense of how to articulate awe, how to inhabit teatime-news psychology, how to manipulate their way around geopolitical fears and ambitions, was very small indeed, which may explain why so many of them disappeared or cracked up after the public frenzy which attended their going into space.” [Andrew O’Hagan, LRB Feb 2010, pg13].

and I just wonder a little bit.

Holiday snaps #3: In the middle of nowhere

The last time I ate in a Spur was in 2003. It was in Fordsburg, it was a group-thing with the folk from the dojo (The Islander was visiting from NYC and I was invited because he was staying with me, otherwise it would have been a black-belt-thing only) and I did now know that the Spur in Fordsburg did not serve beer. It was a bit embarrassing.

Right now I am settled in with a Spur cheeseburger, some wine and the cricket on a huge screen on my left. At the table in front of me two young okes have just downed what I assume are their first shooters and ordered their second round of beers. I suspect they are drowning their sense of impending doom, as the English are fast catching up to our first innings score with six wickets still in hand. Cook is just out for 118 and Collingwood is standing firm with 72.

“Forever Young” (Alphaville. 1987, I think) is on the speakers. In this moment I feel as close to happy as is possible. Pretty damn groovy.

There is a perfectly reasonable near-truth I can tell about why I am where I am right now. I am in the Soaring Eagle Spur at OR Tambo airport, and I could say that I am here because I have a four-hour stopover and I am waiting for a Cape Town flight. This is true, and would even be reasonable if 1) I was going to Cape Town or 2) I did not just fly in from Port Elizabeth. Truth is that I could actually just catch a cab home, and then, be home. But what fun would that be?

I am waiting for Ruth to get in from CT, and then John Barnes is collecting us at half six-ish. So, technically, what I said is effectively true even though the real story is that I made a completely odd lift-arrangement to get home in order to hang out at the airport for four hours. I could have asked a friend to come and get me, or just forked out the R200 for Maxi Taxi – it’s hardly a price above rubies – but here I am, and feeling, as I said, pretty damn groovy.

I hear a thick Afrikaans accent behind me order a cup of rooibos tea with cold milk. I look. A tall, well-proportioned man is ordering for his mother, a wiry and elegant but clearly conservative mevrou in a blue pants suit. Her air is stern and pleased, as if she has noticed that I noticed how well she has raised him. The boys ahead ask if I am (sic) finished with the tomato sauce, and ask if I am charging for it. I say maybe. A couple with an animated infant leaves. The baby waves and drools goodbye in baby talk. His father encourages him and waves goodbye to the whole section on his behalf.

There is a strangely uncontested freedom in the anonymity of being alone in the throng of a public place. Airports are places of transit. They are not as such the beginning and endings of journeys I think. The Golden Eagle Spur at OR Tambo is a halfway house.

Somehow the time in PE passed too quickly. We did not finish the quilt, in the end (although I will put up a picture of the work-in-progress as soon as Ben emails it to me), for a variety of reasons that will only make sense to people who make quilts. (We had to unpick the border because it turned out we were working with two different colours white and we had a helluva time deciding how to actually quilt it, so we ended up unpicking again. But it will still be beautiful when done.)

I did not even finish my book, although I think I am going to take quite a chunk out of it as soon as I have posted this blog. I still have an hour and a half to kill.

Christmas and the 26th were spent with my mother’s siblings and their broods and grandbroods. It was great to see everybody together, briefly.

And now, too soon, I am back in Johannesburg. My holiday is over. On the one hand it felt too short, on the other, long enough. I have a lot of work to do to prepare for the work I am going to do next year, but I will also have time to settle in, file 2009’s reading away, and think about what the hell I was thinking when I thought I was going to write for a living.

But first I am going to put my feet up on the plastic cow hide and read my book and keep an eye on the cricket and wait. And all of that other stuff will wait for me.

Sunday, Potch and the bad sex fiction awards

I am back in Potch. My father is in bed with pleurisy and quite sick. As I only had the CI manual to finish start I thought I would come over and babysit him. We have abandoned the million-inch big screen in the lounge for the 70cm antique in the bedroom. I have the laptop in my lap, and am supposed to have my nose to the grindstone.

Instead I am responding to e-mail from an old lover while sharing my father’s grumpy happiness with the Lions’ Currie Cup victory over the Cheetahs earlier on. We are watching the Bulls whip Province, and are feeling equally pleased. We are Lions fans, but will support our neighbours in a game against any team hailing from a province that did not have the suffix “transvaal” tagged onto its name in the bad old days. For me this is simply a geographical marker, for my father… well, I am not sure. Anyway. His first loyalty lies with the Leopards (Wes Transvaal), actually, but after that, in order, with the other teams that live withing driving distance somewhere along the N12 to the North.

(This feels like an appropriate moment to offer my father’s rugby joke for the weekend.

“Ek loop nou die dag in ‘n ou pêl vas, en vra vir hom hoe gaan dit. ‘Ag,’ sê hy vir my, ‘ek sukkel so met my selfbeeld.’ Nou hoe dan so? Vra ek vir hom. ‘Nee,’ sê die ou, ‘dis nou al so erg, gedurende die rugby wanneer die ouens so sak in die skrum, dan dink ek hulle skinder van my…’” (I thought it was very funny.))

I want to write many things that, unlike the corporate identity guidelines, will make no difference to my bank balance.  Having finished my illicit correspondence for the morning, I now want to work on a 3rd Potchefstroom story. It will be called “Potchefstroom Mon Amour” and will be about being cold, footprints in the frost on the lawn, childhood memories of a smallholding called “Ommidraai” and the smell of the dry grass of the Highveld winter. But this will have to wait. First, to work. I have to work today because Thursday was, well, Sunday.

Anyway. While ruminating on the practice of spanking and the joys of literary pornography earlier on, I remembered the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Fiction Awards, and I wondered if they had been dished out yet this year. They have been, but were not as entertaining as last year I thought, so I am posting a few of the previous winners. (Just in case the papers are boring today.) The sex may have been bad, but the writing is, on occasion, wonderful.

Now, my parents should please note:

adult content warning 3

 

2003 Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal (Faber & Faber)

She’s taking off her blouse. It’s on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She’s taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There’s a design as well. You gasp.
‘What’s that?’ you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator…
As your hands roam her back, her breasts, and trace the swastika on her mound you start feeling like an ancient Aryan warlord yourself…
She sandwiches your nozzle between her tits, massaging it with a slow rhythm. A trailer to bookmark the events ahead. For now she has taken you in her lovely mouth. Your palms are holding her neck and thumbs are at her ears regulating the speed of her head as she swallows and then sucks up your machinery.
She is topping up your engine oil for the cross-country coming up. Your RPM is hitting a new high. To wait any longer would be to lose prime time…
She picks up a Bugatti’s momentum. You want her more at a Volkswagen’s steady trot. Squeeze the maximum mileage out of your gallon of gas. But she’s eating up the road with all cylinders blazing. You lift her out. You want to try different kinds of fusion.

2005 Winkler by Giles Coren (Jonathan Cape)

And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.

2004 I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (Jonathan Cape)

Hoyt began moving his lips as if he were trying to suck the ice cream off the top of a cone without using his teeth. She tried to make her lips move in sync with his. The next thing she knew, Hoyt had put his hand sort of under her thigh and hoisted her leg up over his thigh. What was she to do? Was this the point she should say, ‘Stop!’? No, she shouldn’t put it that way. It would be much cooler to say, ‘No, Hoyt,’ in an even voice, the way you would talk to a dog that insists on begging at the table.
***
Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns – oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest – no, the hand was cupping her entire right – Now! She must say ‘No, Hoyt’ and talk to him like a dog…
***
…the fingers went under the elastic of the panties moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers until they must be only eighths of inches from the border of her public hair – what’s that! – Her panties were so wet down…there the fingers had definitely reached the outer stand of the field of pubic hair and would soon plunge into the wet mess that was waiting right…therethere

2002 Tread Softly by Wendy Perriam (Peter Owen)

She lay back on the bed while he positioned himself above her, then she slid her feet up his chest and on to his shoulders – Mr Hughes’s shoulders. She closed her eyes, saw his dark-as-treacle-toffee eyes gazing down at her. Weirdly, he was clad in pin-stripes at the same time as being naked. Pin-stripes were erotic, the uniform of fathers, two-dimensional fathers. Even Mr Hughes’s penis had a seductive pin-striped foreskin. Enticingly rough yet soft inside her. The jargon he’d used at the consultation had become bewitching love-talk: ‘… dislocation of the second MTPJ … titanium hemi-implant …’
‘Yes!’ she whispered back. ‘Dorsal subluxation … flexion deformity of the first metatarsal …’
They were building up a rhythm, an electrifying rhythm – long, fierce, sliding strokes, interspersed with gasping cries.
‘Wait,’ Ralph panted. ‘let’s do it the other way.’ Swiftly he withdrew, arranged her on her hands and knees and knelt above her on the bed. It was even better that way – tighter, more exciting. She cupped his pin-striped balls, felt him thrust more urgently in response.
‘Oh yes!’ she shouted, screwing up her face in concentration, tossing back her hair. ‘Yes, oh Malcolm, yes!”

2001 Rescue Me by Christopher Hart (Faber & Faber)

Her hand is moving away from my knee and heading north. Heading unnervingly and with a steely will towards the pole. And, like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Pamela will not easily be discouraged. I try twitching, and then shaking my leg, but to no avail. At last, disastrously, I try squeezing her hand painfully between my bony thighs, but this only serves to inflame her ardour the more. Ever northward moves her hand, while she smiles languorously at my right ear. And when she reaches the north pole, I think in wonder and terror…she will surely want to pitch her tent.

2000 Kissing England by Sean Thomas (Flamingo)

It is time, time to fuck her. Now. Yes. Brupt, he rises, turns her over, flips her white body. Her smallwhite tidy body. She is so small and so compact, and yet she has all the necessary features… Shall I compare thee to a Sony Walkman, thou are more compact and more
She is his own Toshiba, his dinky little JVC, his sweet Aiwa.
Aiwa – She says, as he enters her slimy red-peppers-in-olive-oil cunt – Aiwa, aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

1999 Starcrossed by AA Gill (Doubleday)

‘…His tongue is long and hard and tastes of mint. We don’t say anything, but he pushes me to my knees in the middle of the shop. It’s difficult to undo his flies. I put my hand in. It’s hot and damp, and then, Christ; it’s amazing, huge. It just goes on and on, as thick as…’
‘As a magnum? A jeroboam? A methuselah? A bitter pump?’
‘A fucking salami. Shut up, John.’
***
‘…he takes his clothes off until he’s just wearing his boots. I hook my nails into his really taut bottom and he pumps and nearly chokes me.’
‘How did he get his trousers off over his boots? I mean, does he take his boots off and put them back on again?’
‘Shut up. I pull my dress off and I’m naked. He reaches down and roughly grabs me between the legs. I can feel his long, bony finger slip inside me. His thumb slides into the crack of my bottom and lifts me like…’
‘A bowling ball? A six-pack?’
‘Like I was light as a feather.’
***
She got to his cock and stuck it between her teeth like a cigar…

(And so on.)

On writing #4: hara-kiri of the mind – part 1

One begins to understand how impossible it is for people of different cultures to cross that divide when one finds a Google ad for a “Belly Fat Cure” on a webpage offering the details of suicide by ritual disembowelment, or the Japanese tradition of hara-kiri, or seppuku.

Yukio Mishima, the pen name of Hiraoka Kimitake, born in 1925, was a frighteningly patriotic Japanese novelist, playwright and actor who committed seppuku after a failed coup attempt in Tokyo on 25 November, 1970.

Mishima and four other men barricaded the office of the commandant of the Eastern Command of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, and tied the commandant to his chair. Mishima then stepped onto the balcony with their manifesto and list of demands to address the soldiers gathered below. He meant to inspire a coup d’état restoring the powers of the emperor. Instead, he was mocked and jeered. He returned to the commandant’s office and committed seppuku. The man who was assigned the customary duty of lobbing off the head at the end of this ritual, the story goes, failed after several attempts. Eventually one of the other guys had to complete the ceremony. It reads like a scene from a Nagisa Oshima film (In the Realm of the Senses, perhaps more than Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, I think) rather than one from recent history.

The grisly act was symbolic, apparently, of Mishima’s strong opposition to “Japan’s close ties to the West in the post-war era (notably the new constitution that forbade rearmament)”, as well as his yearning to “preserve Japan’s martial spirit and reverence for the emperor”, who,  according to Mishima’s ideology, was more than the reigning Emperor, and embodied the abstract essence of Japan.

In Eirei no Koe (Voices of the Heroic Dead), Mishima apparently denounced Emperor Hirohito for renouncing his claim of divinity at the end of World War II. I am not surprised that Hirohito did such a thing: the feverish adoration that came with the job (see above) must have been incredibly creepy. It would have kept me awake at night for sure.

Considering the gravitas of the event, I found Mishima’s choice of the date quite perplexing. November 25 is no more or less significant than any other day, really. It is the 329th day of the year (330th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, leaving 36 days in which to decide whether or not a new set of New Year’s resolutions will be helpful or defeating.

It has seen its share of famous natural disasters, with the Great Storm of 1703 killing 9000 people (more than swine flu ever will) in gusts up to 120 mph in the southern part of the UK. Apparently it blew like that for two days.

It was the birth date of Joe DiMaggio (1914), and the day on which JFK was buried at Arlington National Cemetery (1963).  On this day in 1867 Alfred Nobel patented dynamite and Panama became a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty in1913. The first “systematic Hollywood blacklist” was created on 25 November 1947, the day after ten writers and directors were cited for “contempt of Congress” after refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and were promptly fired in an announcement that became known as the Waldorf Statement. The men were called the Hollywood Ten.

Considering Mishima’s disgust with the West, none of these events, auspicious as some of them might have been, should have (I would imagine) struck him as the appropriate moment for a spectacular and physical declaration of his daunting traditionalist beliefs.

In fact, I cannot imagine that ANY day of the year would be suitable for such a declaration. Think of  the events that lead to his death: it seems that they were doomed from the start. The Free Dictionary suggests that Mishima “seized” the military headquarters. But conning your way into a military base, locking the door and tying up the commandant hardly seem to qualify as “seizure”.  Surely he had some idea of what the response would be to his manifesto and demands? Or was he simply both a writer AND a dreamer? (I think they are not always coincident.)

Mishima’s former friend and biographer,  John Nathan, suggested that the coup attempt “was only a pretext for the ritual suicide of which Mishima had long dreamed.” He composed the traditional jisei (death poems) and had planned the suicide for more than a year before the event. The men that followed him into that base on the 25th, however, really should have known what he had in mind, if he had hopes of being canonised for his imaginary patriotic zeal. (Or whatever they do in Japan.)

At this point, I would like to say that “I digress”. However, considering that I have not even achieved an entry-level paragraph on the subject that I wanted to write about immediately after the heading, I can’t. At the same time, to end here with Yukio Mishima, and to offer nothing else, might well cause a bit of “WTF?” in the minds of the netball team. Why do we care about this guy? (See how I have avoided calling him a nutcase.)

We don’t, I guess, seeing that most of us are not evolved Yogi’s with an intimate physical connection to all sacred living things (and people, probably) and inevitably, as a result, the history of misery and madness.

So. WTF is the story with the story of Yukio Mishima?

I wanted to write a blog about modern fiction being, (as I finally managed to formulate all by myself after multiple, determined attempts to read Kiran Desai’s Man Booker Prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss), the equivalent of examining one’s own entrails after committing hara-kiri.

And I can NEVER remember how to spell that. So I looked it up…. and then I found the story of Mishima… and then… well here we are. And now my blog time for today, in spite of it being Saturday, is over. But there will be more about Obsession, Lunar Park, Hanif Kureshi, Andre P. Brink, Tim Huysamen and Elmore Leonard tomorrow. Really. Now I have to gel down my hair and go and watch Wolverine.

On writing #2: S is for Solent

An adjective, (I know, it’s turning into a bit of a thing), “solent” is descriptive of the state of serene self-knowledge reached through drink. We are back with Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, and only because the Deeper Meaning of Liff has to go back to its owner this week. (Now there’s a blog – “OH? You wanted that BACK?”) And because there has been a second entry for the competition. Yay.

Anyway. I love “solent”. It is the moment in which the burrs of what one’s done with one’s life-so-far turns into sought-after dalrymples (dalrymple, n., the things you pay extra for on pieces of hand-made craftwork – the rough edges, the paint smudges and the holes in the glazing), with meaning, and so on. This is very useful when the expected results of the necessary changes one had to make to ensure one’s long-term happiness are very slow in materialising.

In a sentence: “Macy secretly regretted and often denied the many revelations she shared with Pooky in what she would call, many years later in an award-winning memoir, her Solent Period.”

In spite of the ridiculous amounts of fun that they can generate, adjectives have been maligned a lot. Very much like cocaine, come to think of it. LC once said to me that if you need an adjective, you are not using the right noun. Ben Yagoda is even more damning. His book on The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse, is called, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It. If I was an adjective I’d be drinking a lot.

Moving on (or back, if you like) to the competition. I am determined to announce a winner at the end of May, so the closing date for entries will be, eh, 30 May. So there is still lots of time to work with:

  • swanibost – “completely shagged out after a hard day of having income tax explained to you”
  • duntish – “mentally incapacitated as a result of a severe hangover”
  • climpy – “allowing yourself to be persuaded to do something and pretending to be reluctant”

I told Susan about the competition (oh must send her an e-mail) and although she co-wrote The (“thee”) Book on how to write a great research report (with the fabulous Barbara English, called Putting it into words) her first reaction was… “oh, that’s difficult.” When true wordsmiths consider it a challenge…

But do not be afraid.

As inspiration, here are the first two entries.

From Hardspear, we have… Continue reading

Insights that are both profound and important

According to Lesley, to say “…the Sowetan has been recovering from a lengthy crisis of semi-erection; hovering between the la-di-da of respectability and the economic imperatives of crass commercialism…” is not academic, and even though she thought it was amusing, I have the opportunity to better my ways.

I knew of course, that this would be the response to what I thought was a particularly witty observation. Essays on Jane Austin’s entire oeuvre and Shakespeare’s Richard II (I can still not figure out why the hell I got to write two essays on Richard II) and The Tempest elicited a similar reaction. Then I was quite floored. Now… it is great that, as one gets older, one can quite easily accept that although one is unspeakably smart, there is a lot of shit one does not know, and that other smart people may even disagree with inventive opinions one may hold on the basis of shit one does know.  Still, it was my first attempt at academic writing since pa fell off the bus, and I thought I could test the waters.

And so on.

Questions to be answered in future:

1.         I don’t understand why the fucking Woody Allen festival should be AFTER the fucking 8pm movie on a Sunday. Does fucking e-tv not understand that 10pm is too LATE for Woody Allen fans? We are OLD now, and we have to fucking work on Monday. More than this, one cannot fucking tape/PVR the film and watch it at some other time because there are other things, equally important to watch, like 30 Rock on a Monday. I’m not even going to go to that place where people have a dish. I have not had a single afternoon/evening to sit through five episodes of ANY of my five favourite series and I don’t even have a real job. My mother calls me and tells me to watch Oprah in the afternoon, and I just don’t have the time. PLEASE!  When you hit the couch, THAT is the moment in which you have to engage. Putting it off is like getting an extension on an essay. Things pile up like old copies of magazines and newspapers.  Why why why?

2.         Is it possible that the continual, if vague, desire I have to find a guy with whom I could have an extended monogamous love-relationship with, is similar to the one my friend Katrien had when she bought a gun. In her mind, the gun would have been useful. She imagined that a robber would come, she would shoot him in the knees, he would fall in the pond (I don’t remember her having a pond) and then the police would come and take him away. Realising the absurdity of the fantasy, she took the gun back to the shop. Can one recycle a man in the same way? Or would one have to do more penance than a simple, “sorry, I thought I was in love, but it turned out to be an middle-ear infection?”

3.         What is wrong with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt?

4.         Is it OK to point out to etiolated vegans that they should either do something about their diet or stay the hell away from the rest of us?

I think that’s enough for the middle of April. I just realised that, although I thought of her all day, I did not actually call Ruby for her birthday, and she would be asleep for two hours already.

Shit.

Scotch? Irish? Single Malt?

“To blunder around a woman’s breasts in a way that does absolutely nothing for her”  is to “meadle”, according to The Deeper Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd. “Lemvig” (n.) is the person that you can rely on to do worse than you, and a “fraddam” (n.) is the awkwardly shaped piece of cheese left after grating that enables you to grate your fingers.”

I loved the Meaning of Liff and am at least as partial to the Deeper Meaning of Liff, perversely so since Miss Gubb told us in English class centuries ago never to use the term “deeper meaning.” Something either means something or it does not. It can “also” mean something… or it can mean “many things”… but there is no such thing as “deeper meaning”. For me, it is one of the eternal and unchanging truths that I hold onto, one which helps me distinguish between potential suitors and the dead-in-the-water on the internet dating site.  (As does the word “lady”, and those who come from Benoni… but that is another story.)

But Douglas Adams, I am happy to say, was in a class all of his own, and therefore I embrace, unconditionally, the sequel to Liff. Such dedication to making our linguistic lives richer by creating wonderfully outrageous meanings for ordinary place names must be celebrated.

Some of the words are so perfect, one wonders why they are not in the Oxford English Dictionary, and why they were not invented AGES ago.

The adjectives, however, I often find slightly puzzling. Although the definitions are entertaining, using them in a sentence is not for the faint of heart. Not that I am against adjectives. I am perhaps too keen on them, and have to monitor my usage carefully. I am not the addictive type, but when it comes to a good adjective, or even a string of them, I really have to hold myself back.

So, even from an enthusiast, “foffarty” (adj. meaning “unable to find the right moment to leave”) is a bit confounding.  As an adjective, it would qualify a noun…. hence… can one speak of a “foffarty” guy, the “foffarty” look, a “foffarty” feeling… how would “foffarty” work in a sentence?

“John’s terror mounted…  his aunt’s gaze was like a withering, foffarting grip, and the blue of the day that sparkled just outside the window, in that instant, was another country.”

Or should that be…

“John’s foffarty terror mounted… his aunt’s gaze etc…”

Or…

“John was foffarty…”

Or what?

Hard huh? So, to win a bottle of whisky, take a shot at making sentences with all three adjectives below.  If you can do it in one sentence, that will get extra credit. Post entries in comments or send entries to bettynoire@rocketmail.com; all efforts will be published on the blog and the winner will be announced when I think I have had enough.  It should be not much later than May.

Entries will be judged on length; wit; meaning and spelling. 

And the three words are:

  • swanibost – “completely shagged out after a hard day of having income tax explained to you”
  • duntish – “mentally incapacitated as a result of a severe hangover”
  • climpy – “allowing yourself to be persuaded to do something and pretending to be reluctant”

I am tempted to say I will send a bottle of whisky of your choice, but I might have to limit this choice to scotch, irish or single malt.

On writing

I was once friends with a sweetie-actor called Evan Klisser. This was many years ago, when I just moved to Johannesburg and was still figuring out how to get into the film industry. Evan referred me to my first ever crew agent. Now that I think about it, he may have a helluva lot to answer for.

But I guess I did really dream of being a film director back then. Considering that at the time I also wanted to have many (5-6) children with a man who adored me and whom I regarded as my absolute equal, I can be only grateful that a woman is allowed to change her mind about anything whenever she pleases. Although on that last one it was not so much a case of changing my mind. It simply turned out to be yet another example of how Theory and Practice, like Mars and Venus, are usually different planets.

The reason I am thinking about Evan today is he had a passion for writing, and was the first person who told me that “a writer must write every day.” Which is why I am here, I think. To write every day.

The problem with “writing every day” is that one has to suck both witticisms and wisdom of quality out of one’s goddamn finger, and express these in original English. On a daily basis, it becomes an extremely laborious process. Sometimes one just does not feel witty or wise. And NOBODY likes a moaner. So there I would be, in my best Polly-Anna, trying to whip up something entertaining for the netball team who reads my blog. And myself, of course. One could argue that all jobs have a slog-element to them. There are very few professions that do not require some paperwork, so to speak.

I look at other blogs, Continue reading

Shit. It’s APRIL again already.

I am beginning to notice that I my preoccupation with time is more than just the average, casual unease of a woman who has turned forty without making millions or marrying a millionaire. Being neither in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease nor peri-menopausal (that word is so new it does not even exist in my Office 2007 spell check) the panic that the minutes in the day inspire in me whenever I must make a decision on how to spend them is inexplicable. In the back of my mind there is something vastly more important and lucrative to do in any given moment, and I can never quite remember what it is.

The fact is that since I have given up working for a weekly fee to pitch my lot in with freelance writers and other poor people, the fiscal value of 60 seconds has acquired new meaning. And it is agonizing. I hardly start doing something without thinking that I should be doing something else. Except when I am working on my masters, which I will return to as soon as I have finished writing 700 words for no money whatsoever. I think of my masters as a weird form of  punishment for resigning from a real job, and for the moment, not as something to improve my credit rating.

The past year has been one of both struggle and success. 

I managed to get stories published without the editor in question being a member of my circle or friends or my alma mater, but learnt that it is impossible to actually make a living writing as a freelance journalist for websites, newspapers and magazines. You also have to do some copy editing, some teaching, and slide back into the odd TV job just to keep yourself in Crabtree and Evelyn body butter.

I discovered that the adult WASP male is unadventurous in bed and both surprised and ridiculously pleased when a woman doesn’t just lie there.

Most importantly Continue reading