Category Archives: anecdote

Technologically challenged

So someone pretty close to me – I shall not say who because it’s frankly idiotic and embarrassing – upgraded their phone.

I complained the day I synced my fingerprint to my work phone, I clearly had really rough skin or a big cut or something on the day. But it does not recognise the whorls about 90% of the time. Fortunately, the technology allows for five fingers to be imprinted. And my other finger mostly works.

So this other person says but they don’t think five fingers is enough… We all looked confused. Most people have a preferred finger or two per hand so four is usually more than fine with a spare for a loved one to get into your phone.

The phone this person used to use was just touch activated. Apparently (and we had a demonstration of how this worked) they sometimes use the one hand or the other. And almost all digits, including the RING finger. ‘HOW,’ demanded their other half incredulously, ‘are you using your ring figure on your non-dominant hand to activate the phone? Why wouldn’t you use your index finger, or maybe your middle finger which is longer? And why use the hand you don’t use for anything else?’

‘Oh, you know,’ said the person, ‘sometimes you are sitting there working and then the phone rings and you choose the closest finger.’

‘And it is your ring finger?’

‘Yes and then you know, sometimes the phone is on one side of the table and then maybe it’s on the other so you want to use your other hand and then when it’s IN your hand you want to use another finger… the phone needs to be able to accept more fingerprints because this is confusing to me.’

Perhaps, my dear. But only confusing to YOU. The only person I know who tries to apparently hit all sorts of random digits at random locations to activate their phone.

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All Change

I was standing on the platform last Friday, waiting for a train. The notice board tiresomely said ‘next train not in service’. Which seems to happen a lot on that line. It’s like at that junction point they remove a third of the trains from service because they think there is a lesser population stupid enough to go northwards to nowhere.

Which is sort of true except an INSANE number of people, including myself, want to go one stop north and we want to get out the barriers as soon as possible which is at the front of the train. So I shuffled to the head of the track and tried to position myself near where an entering door might ultimately stop. This was not helped by the fact that, as usual, what are usually young east European or Asian (see ‘Indian’ if you are South African) women – not to generalise of course – tend to quite aggressively calculate where the space is and then park DIRECTLY in front of it. So they bump backwards into you when a train stops and people have to get off to let them on. They stand as close to the edge as is possible without you pushing them onto the track and elbow outwards with their oversized tote bags to maximise surface area (of very skinny girl) in front of the doorway. There was one there on Friday.

The station master was getting quite fed up with staring across a cold platform at what were clearly, to him, mentally deficient people. ‘The train on Platform 2 is terminating here. Do NOT get on the train. It stops here. If you don’t want to listen to me, at least try observe and notice that when everyone gets off, you should not get on because the train won’t go anywhere.’ And when it pulled in, ‘To the people ON the train, get off the train. This train terminates here. Follow the other people who already got off.’

So the train departed and the top end of the platform crowded up with all the idiots like me trying to get on a carriage near the exit on the next stop, bunched up together like penguins in a polar gale keeping warm.

‘There are two minutes until the next train, I’d advise all of you squashed up at the top to move down the platform. You have a better chance of boarding if you move down the platform. The train after the next train is not in service and this next train will be full. You have a MUCH better chance of getting onto this next train if you move now. You have two minutes and you have legs, I’d advise you to use them and move down while there is still time… or you can just stay where you are and ignore me.’ (Obviously we were ignoring him.) In all fairness, he had guessed right, the next train WAS full and it WAS very hard for people to get on. I was just lucky to be hot on the heels of the crazy chick as I’d actually been on the platform before her and before most of the crowd of people.

Oddly enough I seemed to be the only person on the platform who was amused by the conductor’s sarcastic personality. The rest of them didn’t seem insulted either. They all seemed to be deaf to what he was saying. So maybe he was onto something when he questioned our general listening capability and/or understanding of English?

 

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Homeless

Homelessness is a growing problem. What with refugees and economic migrants escaping into ‘safe’ countries then falling through cracks, ex-military staff, people escaping abuse, drug addicts, the list goes on and so does the list of homeless.

I once thought if I was ever about to become homeless I would use the last of my savings to buy a ticket to somewhere permanently warm and verdant, like the north of Brazil. Where I would require less clothes to sleep on a beach and be able to poach coconuts from neighbouring trees.

Apparently there is a growing list of people who may hold jobs but still not be legally living in sheltered accommodation and paying rent. Difficult conditions, especially in the northern hemisphere where, this weekend for example, the sun shone gloriously and the frost sparkled underfoot as we ran through the park. But sitting freezing in the park overnight… that may be a different story.

This weekend I got on a train and immediately thought, I need to move seats. But unfortunately, have been in Britain just long enough, my blunt SA self would not kick in to allow me to very obviously get up and move half a carriage down from a man passed out face down across two seats. He smelled vaguely of sick and someone who had not properly been (literally) face to face with hot water and soap for awhile.

What was worse was when he finally got up and started scrabbling around in his bag. We all pretended we couldn’t see him. As much as it is no doubt terrible to be stared at, perhaps it is worse when people act like there is an invisible black hole around you.

He was scrabbling for a cigarette and succeeded in lighting up a stub of very ‘fragrant’ tobacco, causing a bunch of us to choke. Still we said nothing although we all stared at each other shifty eyed. None of us looked at the Problem however. You could see us thinking, ‘Maybe he will go away soon? What if he gets violent if I ask him to stop? Is someone else going to do something?’.

In the end the Problem resolved itself in that the stub only had a few drags in it and Mr Man stumbled off the train shortly after.

But I felt embarrassed how I had handled the Condition of Being Alive. The same way I am slightly embarrassed and irritated that, after texting a man to donate to him quite a good oil heater and having someone meet him to hand it on (it’s very hard to donate electrics in the UK, they need to be safety checked and ‘normal’ people have gas/central heating with no need for oil heaters), he, who is on some dodgy verge of being homeless, although has somewhere to plug this heater in, promptly bombarded me with requests if, please, Sister Juliet (that is NOT me but the person who put me in touch with him), I had blankets and warm clothing to help him out. On top of my work place looking for help for Syria.

I have more coats than I really need. And I can say I worked hard to have them, therefore deserve them. I have enough food in my belly. I could drop a few coins a few times into a number of hats that may or may not convert to food or drink. But where does it end?Others would say, there, but for the grace of God, it could be me so should I not be sharing them? As my eyes slide over that space where ‘invisible’ lurks…

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Crush ’em

The Pokemon-go thing seems to have calmed. There have been less incidences of my being run over by random hipsters standing in spastic clusters pointing from their phone to spaces of air on the roadside. Funny how quickly some trends blow over. I thought it would last at least as long as those terrible little elastic bands loom band things that even the British Royals were seen wearing at some point. (No doubt gifted by some little child at a function instead of a more easily disposed of posy.)

One trend that still seems to be going strong is Candy Crush, more than two years on. I’m not going to lie, I play it sometimes on the train as it doesn’t take a lot of brain and uses up time when I’m too tired to read or have nothing to read. (I’ve also been stuck on the same level for weeks now so the allure is paling.)

I tend to try not to let people I know know I have it on my phone though. It’s like admitting to frequenting those dodgy no name brand fried chicken shops they have here, picking your nose, shopping at Ackermans and, in the Big Smoke, admitting you voted Brexit.

It was therefore astounding to me that two young strapping Aussies sat opposite each other on the train  yesterday leaning over a communal phone. I think one of them was teaching the other about the game. Frequent exclamations of ‘ahh yeah’, ‘yeah, ah yeah’, ‘ah, that’s a bummer those chocolate blocks,’ emitting from the two of them. The guy who’s phone it was admitting with pride that it was a great little time waster while travelling.

Candy Crush, despite it’s name, it’s brightly jewelled graphics and cheesy cartoon characters, has transcended both genders and a huge age demographic. I’ve been surprised at who else has been playing it next to me on occasion.

Still, those two put me off a bit.

It might be time to find the next big thing.

 

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Sterotypes

I had to work late last night and as a rule if you commit past a certain hour the company is obligated to get you food. Issues with the usual delivery company and a credit card followed by a long wait time resulted in a decision to rather do a takeaway from the local Vietnamese restaurant.

One of the guys went off to pay and collect the telephone order – quite a big switch from our usual impersonal internet order with delivery.

Later in the day I made a factitious comment and then apologised that it was bordering on racist assumption.

‘That,’ said my colleague, ‘is nothing. Do not send an oriental guy in a white shirt to pick up an order at a Vietnamese restaurant. I stood for ages at the bar and all the staff just ignored me. But customers kept coming up to me and waving their arms in the air for the bill, like I worked there or something.’

On the upside, the food was good, still warm and the order was correct which is more than I can say for the delivery company.

Oh, and we didn’t have to tip.

 

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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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Summer

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…

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The stuff in your head

We were watching TV the other day when a truly diabolical advert with a super annoying but addictive sounding soundtrack appeared on the screen.

‘This advert’, I said in irritation, ‘is ridiculous. It has no bearing to the product and it’s completely crazy. What were the makers of the advert thinking?’

‘Really?’ said Plus One, trying hard not to laugh, ‘I always imagined that is what the inside of your head looks like.’

‘What? Random animals bouncing around and chaos? And that completely mental music?’

‘Yes,’ he responded, ‘I honestly think your head is not a quiet and orderly place to be. If anything, it’s messier in there than the advert.’

I was going to be insulted.

I was ready to be insulted.

But I then recalled a conversation with a colleague when I was going full steam about how much needed to be done and when and in what order. And she also commented how everything must just rush non-stop in my head and didn’t I ever just pause and take a mental break.

‘What,’ I asked, ‘Do you mean? It’s not like I can control the fact there are thoughts in there, I can only direct them.’

‘You know, when you just sit. And think of nothing.’

‘How do you think of NOTHING? You must be thinking something, even if it’s only ‘I’m thinking of nothing’.’

‘You just DO, you don’t do that?’

‘You manage to just have nothing in your head?!’

‘Yes, especially when it’s really stressful at my desk I do that for a bit.’

She is not a stupid girl, she is actually very smart and organised and well put together. But apparently is capable of blank periods.

I still don’t get it. How do you think NOTHING? So nothing is going on?

Although perhaps the noises and movement in my brain are a bit extreme? I can’t tell. It’s like asking someone who is blind what blue looks like.

PS the advert in question if you are curious. Credits to Ribena and co

 

 

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Last Friday

Last Friday evening was one of those magical nights when all was right with the world. Which was great given it was on the back of a not great week.

But, after having finally gotten bank cards back, I was flush with cash (well, not really but I was able to at least BUY stuff without borrowing off other people) , the weather was balmy and I was meeting friends by the riverside.

As usual a shambolic system as we are incapable of managing time or location very well. But we eventually managed to find each other and after forcing our way past a load of young men who had managed to Bring You Own with two crates of Fosters and bags of Doritos, we found a place on a series of steps leading off a pub into the river.

The Thames rushed in eddies and whirls past us, reeking pretty much of refuse from the boat just downstream from us, with river boats flying downstream and literally chugging with effort upstream. We pretty much took a safe bet on drowning if any one of us was suicidal enough to try get into the water. Not to mention if you managed to not drown, inhaling any of the Thames would probably kill you more slowly.

‘There are three things essentially that float’, declared my friend wisely as we watched a box float by and wondered what was in it, ‘wood, and there isn’t a lot of it on this river, plastic and condoms, which are mostly just plastic.’

‘WHY on earth did you choose that as an appropriate subject to prove what floats.’

‘Oh, you know, my friend used to kayak along the river but tired of all the condoms that would slap him in the face when the paddle came up bring up debris.’

I’m not sure that was a true story.

What was true was at some point a police boat raced up the river at speed. It was yellow and blue like police cars and vans here. Inexplicably it also had a whirling light and a very loud siren, both of which were on.

‘What,’ I found myself asking, ‘Do they need THAT on for? It’s not exactly like the river is so crowded they are going to be weaving between a traffic jam of ferries, it’s a bit show offy and extreme, no.’

That’s me, cynical.

Other friend pointed this out to me on leaving, that I needed to stop grumbling as she knew I didn’t mean it but other people don’t always.

That’s what true friends are there for. To point out the good and the bad.

It was a good evening.

(Until I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a raging thirst regretting the last half pint – oh wait, does that make me sound cynical and whiney again?)

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Places starting with a D

I have a general rule. If you can pay to fly direct, generally fly direct. There will be a time when you are very young and very old where you have the luxury of time but no financial ooph. Then you fly via via via but otherwise, try go direct.

So I had to fund a holiday for two and I had to break the cardinal rule. I had to go via via via.

I refused to go via Charles de Gaulle because that airport is infamous at losing either me or my luggage or both. It is impossible to get round that squashed doughnut shape quickly enough to make connecting flights (or have your luggage moved onto them) if you are even slightly delayed from your start point.

So we went via Dubai. I generally avoid anywhere connecting that is firstly in a desert and secondly starts with a D (and thirdly but not exclusively usually hosted in a place where they cut your hands off for theft and women are lesser citizens). So for me that means I generally don’t go via Dubai, Doha, Dakar and Abu Dhabi (I know the D is in the wrong place) – or Accra for that matter (A apparently being the other letter to avoid.)

Airflight was fine. Good in fact. But I remembered why I don’t do via. You land in a timezone that is in the middle of the night EVERYWHERE, including the place you are in, which just adds to the jetlag.

Bits of the airport smell like curry for some inexplicable reason and you can’t tell if it’s due to other weary passengers or a food house. Despite ‘duty free’ and ‘tax free’, many things are not particularly cheap. And noone really needs to own a giant Toblerone. Or, for some very strange reason, plastic containers making up jumbo litres of flavoured water when diluted out and mixed up. Or dates. (not the fun other half kind, the fruit type) Or alcohol. Or luxury brands you couldn’t afford BEFORE you went on holiday – and which don’t become MORE affordable just because you are in an airport.

The edges of the building, near glass doors or escalators onto atriums, are very hot. Because outside even in the middle of the night it’s over 30 degrees Celsius. But don’t worry. The inside areas are very cold. So you wish you had stolen the airplane blanky, such is the airconditioning.

Over half the restaurants, aesthetics AND branding looking like they have escaped from a mall in London. With excessive tourist prices to boot. Due to the jet lag/time lag issue, these restaurants live in some twilight limbo and serve breakfast next to supper according to diners needs.

Staff all clearly never see sunlight, working these strange graveyard shifts, and mostly appear Filipino, Indian, the odd Caucasian, the so called ‘locals’ clearly have better things to do, like SLEEP.

I’ve heard if you actually exit the airport prices drop (temperatures no doubt rise unless you are in airconditioning.)

Whatever. Personally, so far, that is another step too far for me.

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