Friday, February 13, 2009

HEADLINE: "Stiff Upper Lip" Proven Pure Fallacy!

You know, it's quite incredible how almost any situation can be twisted to comply with my Soutpiel perspective - whether it's the snow, the current contents of my fridge or my little walk to the village post office this morning! Sometimes, though, I wonder if I sound a little pedantic? But then again, what would be the point of this particularly themed blog if not for its South Africanisms?
Often during the day I think of things I want to write about here - but then it gets swept under the carpet for another day when I think I may have more energy, only - by then - it's completely lost its relevance. Perhaps a solution would be to jot these thoughts down as they happen instead of waiting for some miraculously tantalising topic (which as yet has still never happened upon me.) Hmmm...

Unbelievably the snow swept down upon us last night in another magical but now slightly pain-in-the-arse-ish blanket of icy, dysfunctional whiteness. Joy, my midwife, sms'd me to say we should stay home --- driving in the snow is like wearing two snowdomes for goggles: stupid and dangerous. (We were missing out on the class about pain relief. Figured this isn't too much of a problem: just give it to me, dammit!!) This morning, lovely yellow sunshine really managed to break the coldness that's been keeping this dangerous ice on the roads. So it was in my pink wellies and coat that I ventured outside for a short walk to the village post office. No longer so soft and fluffy, the snow now lay in clumpy, clumsy mounds - looking more like a stale dirt-flavoured Slush Puppy accident - and there were no rock hard, icy bits to slip 'n slide on.
My walk was filled, there and back, with visibly grateful horses being ridden for the first time since the snows began more than a week ago. All women riders, and all with that cultivated English air of tea and cucumber sandwiches, looked down upon me with gracious, elegant smiles, making me feel like nothing more than a waddling belly, desperately camouflaged in a threadbare brown tent of a dress and pink wellies - even drawing a compliment from one lady, "Oh, I just love your wellies!" I glumly threw a reply over my shoulder - "Well, they're the only shoes that fit me these days!"
The post office is usually populated by 2 to 3 pension-aged people, picking up their medication, a card or two, or simply posting letters. And today was no exception. Brenda passed over my medication (an arrangement made for us villagers who can't get to their surgery a few villages away - no bus), and I was hoping for a bit of a natter, as we've always done since I arrived in the village last year. But today, she didn't even ask how I was! Odd. And then she said, in a cold tone as bleak as the pointless, melting slush outside, "That'll be 30p, madam."
"But I've never had to pay before," I managed to squeak.
"Well, you should have been!"
(In my head, I tell her that she's always given me my medicine before and never, EVER asked for this before. My cheeks are red with shame - and immediately, I blame it on my hormones making me overly sensitive.)
"Could I bring it round on Monday?" - she must've heard the tears in my voice. Surely? And do you know what? She didn't even say goodbye. How strange...

Thankfully, shielding my eyes from the sunshiney brightness bouncing off the still pure white fields opposite our house, I bumped into my neighbour Maureen - and within 30 seconds we'd arranged a tea-date for later in the day.
She arrived at our front door, as eager to see the nursery as I was for her not to the see the general mess that comes with being utterly incapable of doing housework! After admiring it all, we ended up back at her house, sipping tea that was so strong and dark that it looked more like coffee: she had me put my swollen feet (look like fat little pig's trotters than feet actually!) up on cushions while the rest of me was draped across her leather sofa, nibbling biscuits and having a grand old conversation like we always do. Popping out the room to feed her cat, she returned with a white plastic packet, sort of rolled up. But inside, was the most gorgeous little pink and grey pullover she'd knitted just for Layla Rose - despite the agony of her visibly arthritic, gnarled hands. Beautiful, perfect.
And what is my Soutpiel thesis for today's story? It is this: we can so easily box people into national/cultural stereotypes - but my encounters with today's English folk prove that we are each unique: uniquely unpredictable, uniquely kind, uniquely spontaneous.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Zulu Dating Styles of the Royal Persuasion

My sore butt finally won in the battle to unplug myself from my little writing area! I've set everything up in this perfect little 'hokkie' where I am constantly plugged into music, electricity, the scanner/printer, the telephone. A happily functioning little office. But after 2.5 hours on a chair that curiously grows more and more uncomfortable till eventually you feel as if you're waiting in purgatory for a bus you know will never come and you are glued forever to the coldest, hardest concrete bench ever invented by the most sadistic, cruel busstop designer - where was I? I got lost in needing to describe my bum-pain!! Oh well - all I'm saying is that I have been forced to forego all the other comforts of my little office in lieu of easing the pain in my gluteus now-very-MAXIMUS!

Craig has been so good to me during these sometimes awful months of pregnancy, that I hardly cook dinner - but last night I concocted a creamy, garlic sauce of pesto, parmesan and buttery leeks to go with the shop-bought gnocchi I usually make by hand. With my bowl balanced on top my bump and between my boobs, I asked Craig to see if there was anything decent on TV. It was either a sickening show about Paris Hilton finding a British best friend - or yet another, bloodily gory* episode of 'Trawlermen' which we'd seen before - or... "Undercover Princes".

Three princes from abroad in Brighton - looking for a soulmate to take back to their kingdoms to rule beside them. Prince #1: Pseudonym 'Mani' from India. Painfully thin, moves like an old man who needs a walker but refuses in his ancient stubbornness. Oh yes - and very gay. Prince #2. From Sri Lanka. Currently exiled with entire family in Holland due to wars - but hoping to rebuild the monarchy and be a 'people's prince'. Is looking only for a woman 'of the blue blood' -- hardly likely when he was living in Brighton and spending his evenings speed-dating!

Prince #2: Pseudonym 'Africa'. From Africa. Original, huh? We tried to unlock all the clues of his accent, body language and other quirks to see just WHICH part of Africa he was a prince of. After just a few sentences, we decided, proudly, he must surely come from South Africa (in fact, he's a Zulu prince) -- but then: shock and horror! when asked what he was looking for in a future princess-bride, he says: "It is not the inside so much that is important to me but the outside. And, aah, she rrreally MUST be pretty. Her personality - we can work on that. But first, it is her looks." How EMBARRASSING!!! His manner and attitude of speaking to his dates was quite abrupt - and he certainly didn't know how to dance the delicate dance of flirtation! Instead he bumbled his way pompously and bombastically like a bull in a china shop. As an ambassador for South Africa, he was closed-minded, quite arrogant and didn't have ANY sort of royal bearing at all. Mind you, the producers of the show didn't do the royalty of these princes much justice. They had Prince Africa Zulu rowing a boat with an 18 year old lapdancer! Perhaps had he been introduced to a segment of the British female population more suited to his upbringing and expectations, things may have panned out differently! It was VERY interesting to see how not a single black woman was presented to him. Was he particularly looking for a white princess? Or was he presented with a racially varied group of girls and his choice included only the white ones in the end?
His final choice was an outdoorsy British brunette of which the Prince's Zulu mama said reminded her of Lady Di!

The Sri Lankan prince took his polite but not-at-all blue-blooded,office-worker blonde home to Amsterdam after revealing his true identity. The Indian prince found true love in his peroxided blonde shop assistant, Mike - returning with him to India to seek re-admittance to his family after being the first Indian royal to step out of the closet! (We can't wait for the final episode which shows how these potential 'brides' feel about becoming part of a foreign royal family!)

*that was for you, Dad ;)