97. The mile high club.

I am not, by world standards, a particularly large man. I weigh between 80 and 90kg, depending on how much I have needed to run away from Mrs 23thorns in any given month. There are times, however, when I feel like a huge, misshapen freak. Antique shops terrify me.

Aaaargh! The horror!

Aaaargh! The horror!

They all seem to have been laid out by the same entry-level sociopath, who gets his kicks out of watching physically awkward strangers sweep tiny glass statues of swans off tables, or knock over hat-stands that form the supportive bases of complicated structures made out of imitation Ming vases and peeling mirrors in elaborate gilded frames. Continue reading

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90. Safety vest.

We have a neighbour across the road who is almost painfully shy and reserved. We run into him often, and always greet him with a wave or a flash of the eyebrows, but in all the years we’ve lived here, we have never said more than two words to each other.

I don’t have a problem with this. I’ve never taken to the sort of enforced bonhomie we all feel compelled to express with people who are often in our orbit but not actually our friends. Quiet neighbours suit me, and besides, if he turns out to be a serial killer, I can deliver the required lines to the visiting press with real conviction; “He was such a quiet man. Never caused any problems.”

It's always the last one you would suspect.

It’s always the last one you would suspect.

Continue reading

81. It’s just an expression.

English is a beautiful language. Not because it is rhythmic or melodic or filled with words that slip off your tongue like caresses. No. English is a beautiful language because it’s a bloody mess. It’s a quilt made up of random scraps. A potluck dinner of a language. One of those cocktails students make by mixing every drink they have together in a hollowed out watermelon. And then drink. Without gagging. Because they are students.

On a more positive note, they are into recycling.

On a more positive note, they are into recycling.

Continue reading

67. Do they know it’s Christmas?

I’m feeling a little embarrassed. I was going to amaze all my Northern Hemisphere readers with the strange new tradition that has recently sprung up down here in the South Africa. Christmas in July.

But I'm completely out of shape!

But I’m completely out of shape!

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere can be a little incongruous. It happens in midsummer. And it’s hot here. Everyone sets off for seaside holidays or trips down to the bush. There are bikinis and board-shorts, ice-cream and swimming parties. Continue reading

66. Safari

I’m back. I interrupted my 100 posts in 100 days in order to go and sit in an unpowered bungalow out in the wilds of Africa for a week with two small children. As one does. I’ve actually been back for a day, but I didn’t post yesterday because it was Christmas. Again. I’ll explain tomorrow.

What kind of person would blog on Christmas Day?

What kind of person would blog on Christmas Day?

We were out in an unfenced wildlife area in the Lowveld next to the Kruger National Park. It really is a wild place. There are lions and hyenas and elephants and (last week at least) my children walking around. And giraffes. Continue reading

65. Tiny Houses.

We bought our house for the garden. It’s a little narrow, but nice and long, and the combination of plants and terraces makes it look like it goes on forever. There’s nothing wrong with the house. It’s prettier from the inside than it is from the outside, but it does the trick.

It’s certainly not a mansion. Each of the kids has a room of their own, and Mrs 23thorns and I share one. The same cannot be said about our cupboard space. But my shoulders are broad, and I soldier on (although I would just like to point out that the one with the broad shoulders should have the most cupboard space. My jackets are much bigger). There’s a bathroom, a TV room/lounge/office, and a kitchen. And an odd little space we laughingly call the dining room.

It's a little on the small side, so we hardly ever use it.

It’s a little pokey, so we hardly ever use it.

We’re very happy there, but if I were to be honest with you, I would like another bathroom and a reinforced concrete bunker where we could lock ourselves away from the kids on weekends. It is, I am trying to say, a little on the small side.

Or rather it was. Until this morning. The house didn’t get any bigger. Someone new just started following my blog. I clicked on their Gravatar, as I often do, and a whole new world opened up to me. She was, you see, a practitioner of Tiny House Living. Yep, those capitals are there for a reason. This is, officially, a Thing.

It used to be much bigger. The rest of it is at the bottom of the hill.

It used to be much bigger. The rest of it is at the bottom of the hill.

There is a community of people out there who want to live in cupboards. To each his own. They will tell you that they want to do so because they are saving the environment. Tiny houses, or rather Tiny Houses, use almost no energy compared to normal houses. They use far fewer raw materials, take up much less space, and can be moved around fairly easily, especially if you build them on wheels.

It may look a little silly, but it spells the end of drinking and driving.

It may look a little silly, but it spells the end of drinking and driving.

Those are the reasons that those who practice Tiny House Living will give you when you ask them why they are living in a cupboard. It is, of course, a lie. They are living in Tiny Houses because living in Tiny Houses makes them happy.

It doesn’t really matter why it makes them happy. They aren’t hurting anyone. But trying to understand people is fun. And I think I know why this makes them happy. When I was younger, we used to take the overnight train to boarding school.

Yes, it was a steam train. No I did not go to Hogwarts.

Yes, it was a steam train. No, I did not go to Hogwarts.

The first time I went on one, the train took my breath away. You walked into a little room. There were two benches, a little table, and two panels on the walls. When the time came, you lifted the table. There, miraculously, was a sink where you could brush your teeth. Done? Time to go to bed. The panels folded down into bunk-beds. It was cool. It was like a Swiss Army knife room.

Tiny Houses are like Swiss Army houses. Things flip over to become other things. Things fold in and out of roofs and walls. It must be like living on the inside of one of those Transformer toys.

How much would this suck in your Christmas stocking?

How much would this suck in your Christmas stocking?

There are lots of people doing lots of peculiar things out there. Some people climb mountains. Some people make quilts. Some people get genital piercings. Some people beat their children or murder prostitutes. I like the ones whose pleasures are harmless, or even better, beneficial.

Look, dear! The Jones's have added another story. How wasteful!

Look, dear! The Jones’s have added another story. How wasteful!

Tiny House Living is beneficial, on every level.  It is to be encouraged. But I do have a couple of questions.

1. What do you do when you fight?

Seriously. I’m going to assume that the sorts of people who are into Tiny House Living are windswept and interesting. Windswept and interesting people generally have partners. And partners have fights. You can have a fight in a cardboard box. It probably helps. But you do need a bit of room for the aftermath.

You need to flounce across rooms in tight-lipped but eloquent silence. You need to slam the odd door. You need to “be alone” as ostentatiously as possible. You can’t really get a good flounce going if your bedroom/lounge/TV room is only three steps wide, and when the only door is the one to the bathroom/kitchen, slamming it more than once will just see faintly ludicrous.

I just feel like I need a little space right now.

I just feel like I need a little space right now.

2. Does your underwear all smell of food?

We used to live in an even smaller place. We slept up in a loft, which happened to be both open and above the kitchen. It was all terribly cosy and romantic until we decided to cook up some butter-fish. Then we smelt like Unhygienix, the fishmonger from Asterix for six weeks. We could have fitted two Tiny Houses into that place. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the kitchen in a Tiny House is not a separate room.

Honey, I think that we should become vegans. It's just so much more.... ethical.

Honey, I think that we should become vegans. It’s just so much more…. ethical.

3. How big is your shed?

Part of the thinking behind Tiny House living is that you are forced to let go of the stuff you don’t need. Our society is far too materialistic. We all have clothes that we only wear once or twice a year. Get rid of them. Those things in the kitchen you never use? The popcorn popper, the fondue set, the three-speed electronic knife sharpener? Throw them away.

"nuff said?

“nuff said?

But what about the stuff you really do need. We all have that stuff. I have a pair of roller-blades I simply cannot throw away. Granted, I haven’t used them since 1990, but what if I want to go roller-blading tomorrow? And where do you keep your books?

I’m sure the rules allow you to have a shed. But it has to be a Tiny Shed. If you live in a Tiny House and have a shed the size of the Vatican so you can hang onto all your stuff, you’re just cheating.

4. Ever heard of these guys?

Not Tiny Houses on wheels. experts can spot the difference.

Not Tiny Houses on wheels. Experts can spot the difference.

Just asking.

5. Do you have tiny cars, too?

Because that would just be cool. You could keep them in your tiny garage. Where you could also keep your tiny tools. Just in case your tiny car ever had a tiny breakdown.

I'm just taking it in for a service.

I’m just taking it in for a service.

6. Do vandals ever move your house while you’re sleeping?

Because I would totally move your house while you were sleeping.

I think it's only fair to warn you.

I think it’s only fair to warn you.

I’d never even heard of Tiny House Living before, and now I’m intrigued. I want in. Not to live in one or anything. But I know a couple of people who would love to. There must be thousands of others out there. I’m going to become a Tiny Property Developer.

I’ll buy up vacant lots in the suburbs and turn them into Tiny Housing Estates. Nice ones. Really upmarket. The streets will be lined with bonsais, and each home will have parking for two tiny cars.

I've already chosen a landscaper.

I’ve already chosen a landscaper.

There will be a tiny communal swimming pool and clubhouse, where the owners can get together for tiny parties.

Everyone will just be super happy. And if they’re not? Well that’s easy. They can just take their Tiny Houses and @#$% off.

And don't come back!

And don’t come back!

*****

60. Grappling-hook baby

I am not done yet. Last week I made a coffee table by hammering two old pallets together. It went to my head. It fuelled my ambition. I’m making an outdoor dining table, by hammering six old pallets together. I’m still at the crowbar and sledgehammer stage, which is the part I enjoy, and it let me spend a little time with the kids.

Family time with 23thorns

Family time with 23thorns

Not that I gave them a sledgehammer or anything. They took it when I wasn’t looking. But it did give me an opportunity to be with them without engaging with them, apart from having to relieve them of the occasional sledgehammer. It was educational. Continue reading

58. Dave

The Japanese are sending a man into space. There’s nothing unusual about this; he’s just going up to man the international space station for a while. What is unusual is that they are sending a robot up with him. This is Kirobo.

Now also available from Toys'R'Us.

Now also available from Toys’R’Us.

One day, the Japanese designers of Kirobo hope that they can design robots to actually perform useful tasks up in space, but that’s not what Kirobo’s going for. Kirobo is going up into space to chat to the astronaut. That’s it. He is programmed to have conversations. And take pictures. Continue reading

55. Eight weeks.

gr

Well here we are. I’ve officially passed the halfway mark. It’s all downhill from here. For those that are new here, I’m doing 100 posts in 100 days. And trying to get 60 000 views. And failing. I am still getting pretty much half the views I had aimed for. The graph I have been making has no magical uptick in it. It’s rising at a slow and steady 45 degrees. Which appeals to me aesthetically. Or that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Continue reading