The romance of steam

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We live in an ugly age. Almost everything is cheap and plastic and disposable. And we are cheap and plastic too. Don’t be fooled by the glossy pages of the fashion magazines. If you want to experience the true aesthetic of our time, take a stroll through a shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not pretty.

I don’t know why. Back in the day, they used to do this properly. They had style. Ladies and gentlemen dressed for dinner. If a gentleman popped out for a stroll on a Saturday afternoon, he wore a high collared suit and a top hat. Continue reading

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Learning to read

Lyle Krahn is an awesome wildlife photographer. He is not, however, a very sensible man. How do I know this? Well, the other day he set off into the frozen Canadian wilderness, on his own, on foot, to follow the trails of some animals because I told him it would be easy.

Lyle Krahn following some bad advice

Lyle Krahn off to follow some bad advice

Continue reading

Gourmet Cooking With 23thorns

I must confess to being a little taken aback. In my last post, I mentioned two minute noodles. Without any explanation. Sorry.

I try to be careful about this. If I am using words or concepts that I know are uniquely South African, I try my best to translate or explain. If that’s too tricky, I just avoid them.

This is why you will never read my absolutely fantastic post about the time I took 2kg of kudu biltong to a friend’s braai by mistake. He had asked me to bring the wors, and thinking he meant droewors, I decided to go for biltong instead. He actually meant boerewors. It was hilarious. We still laugh about it today. Luckily his wife had made enough sosaties to sink a battleship, and there was pap, so the braai turned out OK. Continue reading

Gulag Zen

My wife has a bit of a flair for the dramatic. Years of chronic drug abuse have left her emotionally unbalanced. This morning, I woke to find her standing fully clothed at the foot of the bed.

“I”, she said, fixing me with an unnervingly level stare, “am going out!”

“What’s up? Have we run out of milk?”

“No. I am going out. For the day. Alone.”

“But what abou….”

“I”, she cut in, “am going now.”

“Are you taking the ki…”

“ALONE!” her voice cracked like a whip and she was gone. Continue reading

Parenting for Dummies.

About a year ago, in the middle of a short holiday at my folk’s place down in the bush, I drove over my son with a Land Rover. It was a very good day.

There was, of course, that white-knuckled, loose bowelled, heartbeat free moment that every decent parent should be familiar with when you think “Oh my God, I’ve killed my son! All the books said we weren’t supposed to do that!”, but a second later he popped up looking as white as a sheet and a little battered, and I thought, with huge relief, “Thank Heavens! I’ve only maimed him! Continue reading

This is the third part of what was supposed to be a quick post on the creepy crawlies of the lowveld in South Africa. I need to create an ecosystem for a book I am writing, and in the absence of any genuine creative talent, I’m plagiarising one that I already know. In my first two posts, I covered the “cute and cuddly” (https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/226/) and the “terrifying but harmless” (https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/this-is-the-sec-9/) categories. Now we can move on to the really fun stuff; the tiny little creatures that can hurt or even kill you. Continue reading

It’s the small things that count (part 3)

Oprah lied!

If you had asked me before I was ten, I would have told you that I was an underprivileged child. Not because I was cold, or hungry, or unloved. I was none of those things. Ever. It was because of the A-Team.

I grew up in the golden years of TV shows designed to drive boys wild with excitement. There was MacGyver, there was Knight Rider, there was Airwolf. And there was the A-Team. Play the theme tune from any of those to an entire generation, now pushing forty and trying to work out whether the Jonas brothers are a band, a TV show, or a family owned furniture removal company, and they will stop what they are doing, just for a moment, while a slow, goofy grin toys with the corners of their mouths. They will zone out for a second while they try to dredge the names from the depths of their minds: Hannibal, Murdoch, Michael Knight, Stringfellow Hawk. And then they will carry on with their lives, saddened a little that their own kids will be doing this themselves in 30 years. For the rubbish on the Disney Channel.

Not me though. MY parents thought it would be good for us not to have a TV in the house. It was certainly character building. I went to an all-boys school, and had to learn to negotiate a complicated daily greeting ceremony which involved gangs of small boys in huge grey shorts shouting “Jeeeez! Did you guys check what BA did to Murdoch last night?” I learned very early on that the appropriate response was not “No, but I listened to a fantastic BBC radio play!” To this day, one of my most useful social skills is the knowledge that, if you have absolutely no understanding of what everyone else is talking about, smile and nod. It makes them very happy- not only do you agree with them, you’re not trying to muscle in on their valuable spot in the limelight either. Continue reading

Write about what you know.

“Why are you writing a book about thorns?” I hear almost no-one ask. Well, since you have brought it up I will try to explain. With pictures.

They say that a first book is almost always semi-autobiographical. In order to be selected for the journey he must undertake, my protagonist must be both extremely clever and extremely athletic. So that door is closed to me. I’m going to have to fall back on that old schoolteacher standard: “write about what you know about.” I know about thorns. Continue reading