Downside of country life – Part … whatever

As any homeowner knows, when you go and look at a house you wish to buy, although you do thorough research, check on all the stats, scrutinise everything down to the last detail, there is always something you miss.  Never ever fall in love with a house, because you will overlook one or two very important flaws in the surrounds.

And so it came to pass that I bought a house in a lovely little country town, which happened to have a great big chundering factory working 24 hours a day set right in the loveliest part of the town between a large number of houses.  I never saw it at the time and I didn’t hear it because it was switched off on that day my sister and I drove up and down the streets admiring the view.

So anyway, there’s this factory and because I’m a few blocks away and the town needs employment and a tax base, I made my peace with it, and, in fact, the sound seemed to diminish as time went on.  Until the factory was sold to new owners and suddenly the noise began to resemble Gatwick at noon, 24 hours a day.  Actually, that’s incorrect, for some reason it was dead quiet during the day, only starting up at 11 o’clock at night and continuing until morning.

After more than a few sleepless nights, I decided to find out what the deal was by posting an item on our town’s Facebook page, enquiring politely why the factory was working during the night and not during the day and whether it would be possible for noise abatement mechanisms to be put into place.  Mostly I wanted to find out if it was just me, or if other people were being bothered by it.

Weeeeeel, you’d think I’d snatched the sandwich right out of the baby’s mouth, the response I got.  The employees of this factory laid into me to such an extent that crap was raining down on my head, and me without a helpful sombrero to cushion the blow.  Imagine the irony of a city person, not complaining about the rooster waking me up, or the pigs snorting, but the city noise that that has followed me to this sweet little country town.  Apparently I should go back to the city because it’s QUIETER.

Because this is South Africa, the more resentful members of the community instantly turned it into a racial thing, correctly guessing that I was (gasp shudder) an actual white person (although I’m more pinkish-brownish).  I made a valiant attempt to defuse this through humour and keep the subject on track by posting links to factory noise abatement technologies, to no avail.  In a town like this, you’re still a newcomer after 20 years and since I’ve only been here for two, I should shut my filthy mouth.

Must say, the whole saga was very entertaining for the other members of the community, but this morning when it all started up again, I got bored and deleted the whole post.  Boo sucks, what a killjoy.  Got.  Better.  Things to do.

So anyway, all I can say to people wanting to move to a lovely little quiet Western Cape town, put down that Country Life instantly.  It’s not like that at all.

Must just make a comment on the unemployment situation here.  There’s plenty of work, plenty of work, but as I’ve mentioned before, hy wil werk maar hy willie (he wants to work, but he doesn’t really want to work).  Since we’re in the middle of a hectic drought, I bought a new water tank and needed someone to connect the downpipe for me.  The “plumber” duly arrived, having heard through the grapevine that I was in need.  I showed him what I needed and made it clear to him that I wanted to work with him direct and not through a middleman and that I would rather he collect the entire fee than have someone telling him what to do and taking a cut of his wages.  All fine, and since he was a bit short of money, he borrowed a small amount in advance and promised to return on Monday after the tank arrived.  On Monday, there was no sign of him.  Or Tuesday.  A week later, he arrived outside my house, climbing out of a very nice brand new BMW driven by his “new boss”, a smooth looking dude in shades.  I asked him if he’d come to do the job and he said no.  No, he said, but he wanted to know if I could help him with some more money for NOT doing the job.

Needless to say, I will do the job myself.  And painting my wall and mowing my own lawn, because unlike others, I actually turn up and on time, I can do as crap a job of painting as any man in this town, and best of all I’m completely free.  A win-win for all concerned.

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Charlie Klopjag strikes again

My mother was a regular Charlie Klopjag (a fictional detective from a satirical column in the Sunday Times Passing Show, written by editor Joel Mervis) by which I mean an armchair detective.  There was not a crime or misdemeanour my mother could not solve from the Lazi-Boy with the newspaper clutched firmly in her hands.

Although my mother was pretty good at armchair detectoring, she fell into the trap of all armchair detectives in jumping to conclusions, flying off the bat and making suppositions based on the very little information provided in the paper media of the time.  And naturally, real detectives paid little attention to their armchair counterparts, positively discouraging them from calling up the police station with their expert observations.  More’s the pity, quite a few crimes might have been solved due to the intervention of curtain-twitchers and sundry other busybodies.

So this story is about a dog, a fictional dog to be sure, a dog that might have been but fortunately wasn’t due to the channelling of Charlie Klopjag.

This weekend, somebody posted a request on the town’s Facebook page for a dog to protect her family.  Not just any dog mind, a pedigree puppy that would grow up to be a large dog.  Unfortunately she did not have the money to buy said dog and was hoping one of the townspeople would take pity and provide aforesaid large pedigreed dog.  Inevitably someone asked how she planned to feed the dog if she was not in possession of the money to buy a dog.  The person immediately replied that she had the money to feed the dog, but was reluctant to buy a dog as she had done so before and it had died the next day.

Hmmmm, Charlie Klopjag’s ears started twitching.  A pedigreed dog with all it’s special dietary requirements and expensive veterinary needs?  Surely a good pavement special would be a far better choice.  So he did what anybody would do and had a look at the Facebook page of the dog requester.  And there it was.  Another begging post, this time for information on how one would borrow money against a SASSA card.

OK so this is getting into sensitive territory now.  A SASSA card is the card parents use to draw their children’s monthly social grants.  It is illegal to lend money against a SASSA card, although this doesn’t stop unscrupulous lenders who invariably hold the SASSA card hostage until the money is returned.  Pretty morally wrong if you ask me, but we mustn’t judge must we?

So Charlie Klopjag (ie, me) posted a comment that she should perhaps think twice about getting a large dog, as the dog would eat up the children’s entire social grant and most probably chew up the card itself.

This helpful advice resulted in a diatribe that would curdle milk, to whit “keep your nose out of my business”, “you’re not my mother” (shoo, dodged a bullet there). and …. and “stay out of my Facebook”.

Charlie Klopjag had no knowledge of Facebook, but as everyone knows, you can see other people’s Facebooks if they leave them on the Interweb-tube thingy for everyone to see.  Unfortunately the encounter then degenerated into random allsorts of accusations and insults until the owner of the page took the entire sorry mess down.

Sorry not sorry.  I don’t get involved in arguments with people I’ve never met on social media but I hope, with the assistance of the inimitable Charlie Klopjag, I have prevented a dog from ending up as a meal or a puppy manufacturing enterprise, or chained up in a backyard chewing it’s tail off in frustration.

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How to keep cool in fortysomething degrees

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Picture :  Husky safari in Finland

Find a movie or TV series set in a polar location and watch it while everything around you melts slowly into the tarmac.  This really works.

I discovered this fact many years ago when Northern Exposure was shown on SABC.  It was called Goeie More Alaska (Good Morning Alaska) because for some inexplicable reason it was dubbed into Afrikaans.  Not that inexplicable, because dubbing provided a lot of employment for the connected luvvies that roamed around the SABC back in the eighties.  Anyone who thinks the SABC only recently became a jobs-for-pals racket is missing something.

But anyway, despite the surreal experience of seeing Maurice and Maggie and (god help us) Marilyn Whirlwind speaking the taal, it awoke a lifelong fascination with Alaska and the icy wastes at the edges of the earth.  A book from the library called The Quest led to an obsession with dog sledding.  The Quest is a dog sled race, much like the Iditarod, but quite a bit more difficult.  The Quest allows fewer dogs, has fewer rest stops.  The Iditarod is more glam and attracts the big money and famous mushers.

So this week, while the temperature rose to disturbing heights, I watched the Iditarod.  There’s a big difference between reading about it and watching it.  For instance, there are people who think it’s cruel on the dogs.  Running in a pack across the snow is cruel?  Let me show you a husky sitting behind a suburban fence with nothing to do in the boiling heat but kill random cats straying into its territory.  That’s cruel.  By contrast, the dogs in harness waiting for the signal give every indication that they can’t wait to be off.  The natural instinct of a husky is to pull, just as a retriever … retrieves.  If you look carefully, the harnesses are slack, and exert very little pressure on the dog once momentum takes over.  Mushers depend on their dogs for their lives, and no reputable musher would run a dog that is sick or injured.  Injured dogs left at checkpoints to be returned home, suffer what they call “doggy depression” as the pack leaves without them.  Watching a working dog do its job across a fabulously bleak and beautiful landscape is a wondrous sight to behold, and you’ll likely end up with a trip like this on your bucket list.

If you don’t fancy mushing, there’s always the famous Scandi-noir.  The Scandinavians make absolutely great television series that are very different from the usual bland American fare.  Start with Bron and Forbrydelsen, then go to Iceland for Trapped, then Norway for Dag and to have a laugh.  You won’t be sorry, you might well become addicted.

And as a bonus, you will feel very very cool.

Word of warning, just in case, like me, you’re ready to pack it in and move to Alaska, read this blog to see how very difficult it is to live in an environment of extreme cold.

Taking the plane to buy the groceries?  Bears rooting through the freezer?  I’ll stick with the baboons, at least they’re not going to eat me.  Basically I’m a candy-ass, a sweaty candy-ass but at least winter is coming.  Eventually.

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Amigurumi : The fine art of Japanese torture

Alas I’ve never been to Japan, but I have the impression that, as a people, they are somewhat masochistic.  Take foot binding for instance, which resulted in what was called the “lotus foot”.  What looks to our eyes a hideously deformed foot was considered sublimely beautiful and erotic, indicating that the foot owner was someone untroubled with the bother of walking on the actual ground like the rest of the human race.  Sort of like those long, useless fingernails that show their owner does not have to wash any dishes in this lifetime.

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But I digress. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting cute little animals and I can report that it’s quite ridiculously addictive and not without a certain amount of masochism.  Crocheting into a tiny ring of six stitches is not for someone with huge farmer hands.

But it’s fun

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Lot of work, but it allows me to make animals that don’t come out well in fabric.

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Until now I’ve only made South African animals and there’s no shortage of those

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I’ve also ventured into animals we only see in the zoo.  Polar bear

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and llama

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Wikipedia sez amigurumi predated knitting and crochet and was practised and developed  by the samurai, yes, those ferocious warriors, and might also have been indulged in by sex workers in Japanese brothels between clients!  Clearly it does not deserve it’s reputation as a craft for dotty old grannies or giggly Japanese schoolgirls.

One of the requirements of amigurami is that it’s cute and I don’t do cute too well.  Clearly I’ll have to learn to like the cute, or to use the correct Japanese word Kawaai or Kyuuto.  Luckily I have tiny little hands, but due to a lifetime of nail chewing and gardening, they can hardly be described as kyuuto.  No worries, at least they can kawaai.

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Downside of Country Living : The Illuminati

I don’t mean to give the impression that I dislike country life, on the contrary, I love the mountain I get to gawk at every morning through my front windows.  I love my creaky groany house.  I love my garden, with all its dandelions and thistles and strange orange fungi.  I love the loudmouth little iridescent birds sitting on my washing line.  I love driving through the farms and vineyards and canola fields and rubbernecking the cows and sheep.

As always the problem is people, in this case the local Illuminati, the individuals who seem to have an inordinate amount of power and influence in these parts.

As mentioned before, I have a warehouse next door that is rather hideous, but in a certain light has a strange spooky gothic charm.

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I was extra pleased when the building was sold and the owner began to fix.  I braced myself for the noise on the basis that it would be worth it in the end.  This week they began replacing the roof and crumbling sandstone bricks.  I retreated to my workroom and left them to get on with the job.

I do my gardening in the afternoon after six, due to the heat and when I emerged from my bubble, I found that the workers had climbed over my fence, rigged up this incredibly dodgy looking scaffolding, bracing it with a plank held down with bricks.

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MY bricks.

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In the process, they broke one of my yuccas

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“trimmed” fronds off my palm tree and dumped those on the ground

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Serious health and safety non-conformance coming up

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Not that anyone around here cares too much about the health and safety of the populace.

Instead of simmering over the weekend and tackling the owner on Monday with a full head of furious steam, I called him right away and was very reasonable and polite.  He apologised and said he didn’t know what they were doing.  And isn’t that just the problem?  Let your workers loose on a building and don’t take the time to check on what they’re up to.

Then my sister reminded me of the fact that it is illegal to build any structure within a certain distance from a boundary.  This issue arose when my pyromaniac mother burned down the neighbour’s shed full of furniture and was required to pay for the damage.  My mother claimed the structure was not within the permitted distance, and although she had to pay for the furniture, the neighbours had to demolish the structure, so it was a lose-lose for both parties.

So anyway, I consulted the oracles and although the permitted distance varies from area to area, it seems to be 2,250m.  Out came my trusty tape measure and the distance is a mere 1.10m.  I am within my rights to call for the partial demolition of that entire building.

I’m not going to do that.  I don’t want the hassle and I’m a very reasonable person, but I see no reason to allow strange men to creep around my backyard breaking things, and if that sounds sexist, sorry, not sorry.

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Busted!

Well, someone’s having a bad day and it’s not the law abiding people of my town.  An hour ago, my neighbour spotted two men climbing over the fence of a house across the street that she knows to be currently empty.  When questioned he claimed to be doing the garden.  It just so happened that police officer Adam was driving past and within minutes one of the miscreants was collared and loaded into the van.  The other got away, but the locals had seen him with another well known skelm and off went Adam to fetch him.

We all got a good look at the poor unfortunate in the back of the van.  I can’t swear to it, but he looked very much like one of the two who tried the same agile maneuver over my fence.

Good job wide-awake neighbour and thanks to police officer Adam for making our streets just that little bit safer.

AND AN UPDATE :  It turns out that these two individuals discovered the house was empty some time ago and were using it as their hidey hole, making forays into the rest of the village for plunder.

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Downside of country life – Part 3

There’s a very common dream in which, when faced with danger and we try and scream and only a squeak emerges.  Or we try and run, but our limbs are frozen.  I have this to report, when the time comes, believe me, you will scream loudly and you will run, and you will be filled with the kind of courage and recklessness you never knew you had.

A week ago I had a dream that someone had broken into my backyard and I shouted for my neighbours and nobody came.  It was one of those morning dreams, very vivid, a dream with a message.  I’m not going to bore you with my dreams.  The most boring things in life are other people’s dreams, drug experiences, horrible marriages and medical problems.  My take on that dream was that I needed to pay some attention to my security as I could not depend on anyone to help me when the time came.

So, long story short, one night this week I was preparing for bed, washed the face, filled up the cats bowls, checked the garden for snails, set my computer to download some interesting BBC programmes on anthropology.  The way one does.  I looked through my bedroom window to see what the next day’s weather would bring, and saw two guys walking down the road, strolling down the road, but then they turned, came up the driveway towards my garage and started climbing over the palisade fence into my yard.

A week ago, my garage was broken into, nothing stolen or broken, so imagine my astonishment to see two guys climbing into my yard right under a street light at the exact moment I chanced to look through the window.

I screamed.  Yes I did.  LOUDLY, and they ran off.  Lucky me, I got a pair of girls.

Until now, my security consisted of this ferocious ginger attack kitty

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and this

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Don’t laugh, that’s some serious habanero chilli in that bottle and the knife is a Morakniv. Both pretty effective at close range, but you don’t want “them” getting THAT close.

So off to the co-op for some of this

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and a few of these solar garden lamps to light the dark corner between my garage and the house

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5 litres of white paint so I can paint my walls and double the amount of light.

I hate to do this.  I never expected I would have to do this, considering I left the dark, dangerous city for this lovely country town, but needs must.  There are desperate people out there, folks.  Girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

On the subject of the police, I called them.  The phone rang and rang and rang.  I put down, called again, they answered quickly and were at my house within 5 minutes.  They were so great it shames me to have to call them for something so trivial.  They drove up and down my street for a couple of hours afterwards, but they have a huge area of farms to cover with the paltry two cars they have at their disposal and can’t be everywhere at once.  We owe it to them to give them as much help as we can.

So therefore, I have an appointment with a guy who will help me with a firearm license.   I’ll be off to the shooting range and blam blam blam.  Don’t want to do it, but girl’s gotta do …

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