Monthly Archives: August 2016

Camping tents and things

  • A one (wo)man tent does not really sleep one man but a medium sized dog, the only thing that will be able to sit upright (maybe) inside it
  • A two (wo)man tent takes two people of average size and height plus two sleeping bags and a torch and a few scattered bits and bobs. Certainly not all the other things you might need for camping. Like changes of clothes, cooking stuff, toiletries, seats, cooler boxes
  • A three  (wo)man tent will leave a gap the size of an average person to put stuff in if there are two people present. This might or might not be enough for you

Truth is it really assumes you need a car at least for all the camping bit. It is possible you can do it with less. I saw a guy camping who was also biking on a bicycle. But this meant that he was wearing the exact same clothing the next day and everything he had folded down into precise and perfect tiny squares to fit into the saddle bags.

A lot of people these days though seem to enjoy very large tents. That have multiple ‘bedrooms’ and a million guy ropes and bizarre alien footprints on the land. Some of them are, I swear, bigger than the studio flat I rented at one point. In addition to these, they extend their realm on a campsite with windbreakers, fairy lights, artificial turf (no, really, I saw a tent that had fake grass ON the grass…) Of course, I assume these tents are designed for families and there are two people minimum with enough age and dexterity (but not too much age) in order to put these things up. It is not a one man job, especially if you arrive at a site when it’s raining or windy. I would imagine one person trying to set up alone would be a fairly Charlie Chaplain moment.

I’ve been trying to work out how those circus tent things work as a result. Not the real big tops. The ones some people seem to be able to buy just to go on holiday in. I imagine some poor sod holding the central pole to the bigtop inside while another idiot runs around in circles outside pegging down the guyropes. But given these things have to stand in high winds potentially, I don’t think the central ‘mast’ is pinned just by the ropes, it must be anchored in somehow so you have confidence the big pole doesn’t thunk onto your head in the night. I’m sure there is a simple solution but I am, by nature, not a friendly person and couldn’t think of a polite reason to ask someone who owned a tent like this to explain it to me.  (I missed my opportunity with a family who had one who’s little children walked past us with mom saying, ‘no don’t go in there, that’s not our tent.’ ‘But it’s so SMALL’ I heard the child reply, ‘how is it so small?’

Out of the mouths of babes half the size of me and I was meant to fit into that tent…sigh…



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Filed under Holidays, Housing, social, travel


Camping. Not glamping. Which is still camping. Which I don’t want to do because I like to think we have evolved beyond sleeping on the floor effectively in the outdoors. Vulnerable to rain, spiders and grizzly bears.

I’ve been down memory lane with a friend of mine about the merits of camping. For some reason he remembers it as a pleasant experience. Proof that time does indeed mist and befuddle the memory.

We began our journey with an overnight stay at a tomato farm, on the floor of their living room. This sounds civilised but the place was inexplicably full of flies. I’m not sure what state the tomatoes were in but the house was diabolical. They were clustered everywhere, landing in lazy flocks upon you if you didn’t stay in perpetual motion. We feared the food we ate there for as much as those flies crawled on us, they landed on every other surface in the room.

The real tent adventure only began the day after involving an army tent and camp beds. In all fairness, the tomato farm people were gracious and lent us their camping gear, seeing as we were camping with their kids who knew how to deal with roughing it in a way I did not. Their daughter had no fear of spiders or athletes foot in the communal toilet shower blocks. The old army tent was actually cooler and more spacious than many of the other more modern synthetic options on the campsite.

The thing is the second night it rained. And not a little drizzle but a proper South African thunderstorm. The ground turned to mud and slid under the tent and into the tent, dampness seeping up the mattress the tomato king’s son and his girlfriend were sleeping on. for army tent ground sheets are not bonded to  their walls. Not that it would have helped anyways. Peak season had merited we were on a slight incline and we might just have washed away as a few of the newer tents that were not pegged in by pros had done. Everything for the rest of the week was mildly damp.

The rest of the camp site was grumpy as a consequence I think, for everything from then onwards was sort of muggy and muddy while we were on site. While rave music was acceptable on a night one of the groups had wanted to relax, the one evening we stayed up past ten we were told off by the self same group for making a noise.

The funny thing is I don’t really remember much more of the trip.I remember vaguely it was frustrating having nowhere to sit ever as we didn’t have enough stools or chairs. And that there was a cabbage in the blue cooler box. But that’s about it.

I wouldn’t have said though as my  friend did, ‘good times man, good times.’

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Filed under Holidays, travel

Old before your time

Plus One  often complains I don’t seem that interested in drinking with him but I will go out all hours with other people. I say it’s also his fault because he refuses to be baited into having a glass of wine with me at home, although he will do so at a restaurant. This means I won’t open the bottle because I don’t want to drink alone. (I wish I could say this means he doesn’t drink at all at home but this is not true. He necks cream liqueurs by the wine glass and tells me this is because they have the same alcohol content as wine so therefore it’s okay. I can’t seem to convince him by default of the cream and the fact it is a liqueur you are meant to sip them slowly not chuck them down like a thirsty American footballer at half time.)

So yesterday we compromised on being social not quite at home but at home by asking the flat above us if they would join us at our ‘local’ for the pub quiz. They promptly annoyed me by being nearly late. And on arrival, choosing NOT to get anything to eat and drink for the whole first half of the quiz. Which I found slightly strange and antisocial. The friend attached to them did get herself a drink. And another drink at half time with the rest and a third one when the quiz ended.

I was in an Appletiser mood so probably just fulfilled Plus One’s prophecies of my not wanting to drink with him. He pretty much paced with the friend – but in a more laid back fashion as we’d been there longer, having arrived early enough to munch and sip before the quiz.

The guy from the flat above did not comment on Plus One, perhaps because he didn’t know us well enough. But he put in at least three not very subtle digs at the friend saying she’d had enough, didn’t she think she’d had enough, didn’t she have work tomorrow, did she really think that last drink was necessary? Sort of ironic when his other half had said to me they would be delighted to join us because he never has drinking partners nearby.

I think they are younger than us.

I reflected that I have gotten to the stage where I don’t count my drinks but I try stay within sober enough to get home okay and feel not too bad the next day. But I am pretty sure I have done at least three if not more ciders as that girl did, plus other stuff, fairly recently in my past on some random evenings. I’m not saying that is wise or acceptable and it is over the limit the NHS recommends.

If I had had that guy judging me the whole evening I think I would have been tempted to break a bottle over his head. Maybe it is possible he knows this girl better than me and she can’t contain her booze, although she looked okay to me. But I just thought, you are too young to be this old. You are still supposed to be out there acting silly occasionally too not spoiling other people’s evenings being a dad.

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Filed under anecdote, modern living, Relationships, social


Highveld Summer (Suburbia):

  • The prickly feel of grass beneath the feet outdoors, cool tiles indoors
  • The scent of watermelon, fresh cut grass and chorinated water
  • The buzz of mosquitoes and chirp of crickets in the night (And the endless itchy from the former all through the next day)
  • Endless blue skies and fluffy clouds viewed from the silky coolness of the swimming pool
  • Heat sizzling off the pavement and sharp hard pellets of rain hitting you after the deep rumble of thunder that almost makes the earth shake and flashes of blinding lighting
  • The smell of wet earth and ozone after, cleansing the earth
  • A burning blazing sun, fading the washing on the line, bleaching blonde hair white
  • Christmas beetles drowning in the pool, crashing into light fittings, being chased by the geckos
  • Braai vleis smells in the evening
  • Slip slop and swimwear tans
  • The scent of jasmine on a hot wind and jacarandas squishy underfoot

English Summer (Inner City):

  • Humid heat coming off the hard surfaces
  • Half naked lobster red bodies on sunny days, in parks, in pubs, on balconies
  • Pork sausages and burgers on a bbq
  • Hot heat inside the train tunnels, condensing into static air inside the actual trains
  • Warnings to carry bottles of water in case of dehydration
  • Cloudy days and cold rain interspersed at random
  • Long summer evenings filled with glowing endless twilight late into the evening
  • The smell of cigarettes and stale beer as pubs and bars overflow into the streets
  • Softball in the park, along with picnics bought from the supermarket nearby
  • Strawberries and tennis somehow being associated
  • A whole week being able to wear open toed shoes
  • Outdoor theatre and children shrieking in water fountains

Personally I still miss the summers of my childhood…


Filed under anecdote, memories

‘Real’ writers

Once, just once, I went to a writers club. I realised that if you want to be a ‘real’ published author you need to be focused, dedicated, sacrifice, keep a steady eye on the target.

I thought perhaps this focus would be easier found in a group. I imagined this eclectic bunch of people, meeting in beatnik locations, drinking green tea and debating semi colons and metaphor.

The internet told me there was a writers circle at the library (how fitting) down the road from my house.

I carefully constructed a short story and even edited it out and copied it a few times to take along.

It was with some trepidation I went to meet the group. They were both more and less than I had imagined in my head. Run by a very friendly young man, who gave me a printed (self published I suppose) beautifully professionally bound book of short stories done as a collective by the group. Apparently they give one complimentary to all new members.

The intense young man was accompanied among others by a bearded Terry Pratchett character (sans hat) and a housewife who clearly had a lot of time to write, along with a random scattering of people who definitely came from all walks of life.

The thing is, when it came to discussing work, the Terry Prachett character, intense young man and frustrated housewife hauled out actual scripts to discuss. With full plot, chapter, in depth character analysis.

I felt completely out my comfort zone, me with my casual blog postings and the flippant Bridget Jones style writing I was doing. (Even though I had tried for a more dramatic short story that day.)

‘Your issue,’ said Terry Pratchett guy,’is your blogging. It’s like turning on a tap and letting it drip. All your creative juices are dripping away. You need to be more focused.’

I’m sure he’s right. Focus is something I’m seriously lacking in general, unless given an actual incentive, good or bad. Like a penalty for not completing. Or a huge book advance (yeah right). Something that has consequences and also makes the actual production of work a priority rather than a luxury.

Needless to say I did not return to the writers group although I meant to.

I still feel guilty I got a free book out of it as a consequence.


Filed under balance, memories, motivation, work

No fool like an old fool

The Pokemon-Go craze has hit the world. Well. Parts of the world with internet and phones that connect to 3G/4G services and wifi.

It is huge news in London as almost everyone here has a smart phone with few notable exceptions. Like the early 30 something weirdo in my office who’s too young to have a phone that only has buttons and a monochrome screen. For some reason he is the only person that young I know who thinks a tablet compensates for the fact that he can’t connect to any social media on his phone or googlemaps on the go.

He is also weird in other ways though.

Anyways. People catching Pokemon are just as odd. I thought it would mostly incorporate people in their 20s and early 30s who had watched the show. No it’s not.

It’s women and men in their late 30s and 40s too.

Apparently the makers of the app have said it hasn’t really helped the company’s overall stocks which are still down.

They missed a trick. They needed to strike better deals with cellphone companies before launch.

Apparently the app drains data like nothing else. My colleague was sulking yesterday as he’d run out of data allowance after catching a Pokemon on the head of the person opposite him in the office. He’d used the rest of it running around a park looking for them. We can’t get connected to the wifi in that particular corner of the office and he’d resigned himself to the fact that as that isn’t exactly mandatory to his job he’d have to sit data-less til the next month rolls.

Which is still a shade better than almost getting run over by cars jumping in front of things trying to catch imaginary creatures. Or, true story, hovering like vampires in a graveyard with phones pointed up, jumping around like idiots, trying to catch an invisible creature.

They are NOT REAL.

I got an actual update from a friend on his holiday to Sri Lanka that he was upset the rare Tamil Pokemon had been rendered extinct centuries ago by Buddist monks. Like that was really a thing.

He is also in his late 30s.

Talk about reliving your youth.




Filed under modern living, social, technology