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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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

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

The problem with dialogue.

The whole point of this blog is that I am using it as an aid to writing a book. It’s going swimmingly. I have a plot laid out, and am slowly but surely creating a whole new world for it to take place in. I am getting to know what my main characters will be like, and how they will drive the plot forward. But that leads me straight into my first (and biggest) stumbling block. They are, at some point, going to have to talk to each other. Continue reading

Every story needs an antagonist.

Since my first post, I have written precisely two paragraphs of plot development for the book. So far I know it’s going to be about thorns. I’ve never seen a work of fiction about thorns before, so I know it’s going to be original at least. This will, in light of what I said about the book trade and their fear of taking chances on new ideas, ensure that, even if it turns out to be good, it will never be published. Maybe I should throw in a sparkly vampire or two.

I have discovered a rich source of inspiration for the villain of the piece. It turns out that my three year old daughter may well be a budding psychopath. She hasn’t murdered anyone (she hasn’t discovered the drawer where we keep the knives yet), but she is developing a rather startling talent for deception. Continue reading