Archive for February, 2009

It’s been quite interesting packing up mum’s home. She was a smoker, and the walls of the rooms where she spent most of her time have a deeper tinge of yellow than say, the bathroom.

Yesterday I took down the cuckoo clock. A gift to my dad on my return from a ‘Today’s Tuesday it must be Belgium’ Contiki Tour. It clanged and donged at me as I got entwined in its chains.

Mum got tired of it years ago when the cats kept getting tangled in the pine cones, so it’s hung quietly in her lounge ever since. It looks much the same as way back when, except the numerals are now a rather interesting shade of yellow.


In memory of both my folks, I put it up in my kitchen, pulled on the pine cones and moved the hands, remembering to allow the cuckoo to finish before moving on to the next half hour.

It was great to see the little door open and the cuckoo popping out. I enjoyed hearing the whirr of the mechanism as the bird prepared to give voice for the first time in years.

I counted each ‘cuckoo’ to make sure it was in sync with the hands. After 42 of them, I realised there was a problem. The poor thing has been breathing second-hand smoke for over a decade, and his insides are all gummed up. So I’ve put him out to pasture and renamed him the cucough clock.


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R300 or 3 months

Right now, the latter seems a far more favourable option. 

I made a decision in November to concentrate on writing more.  And better.  Since then?  Nothing.  Nada.  A monumental case of writer’s block.  Going cheap ono.

So why would three months in jail be just right?

Firstly, Mr Muffin wouldn’t be able to drag me out of bed at 5am Every Morning to go cycling in preparation for that most significant of numbers, the 14th Argus Cycle Tour. 

I wouldn’t have to complete any more tax returns for clients who suffer from worse procrastination issues than I do.

My food intake would be curtailed to the extent that I may shed some of the 15kg that have surreptitiously invaded my body in the 5 years of Mr Muffin’s cohabitance.

And I will be able to write.  With pen/cil and paper. No interference from screens.  Cellphone, internet or television.

Ok, my sex life may take an unexpected detour, but I suppose that’s all part of the calling, right?

Woah. Just hold up!  Where’d this come from?

On 17 January I was stopped in Swellendam and fined for not carrying my driver’s licence.  And a nog ‘n fine for a trailer without a licence.  But that’s another story. 

Why I am in Swellendam on 17 January?

We (me and my mum) planned to go on holiday 26 December, after the obligatory joint family Christmas dinner.  But mum wasn’t feeling so hot, so we decided to leave on the 28th of December.  Which we did.  Mum was still feeling grim, so on 29 December, we went to the nice doctor in Port Alfred, who said that mum had pneumonia.  Bloody hell, she said, Where’d I get that from?  Two days later she exited stage left, on cue.  Lying on her bed in the place she loved most.  Kasouga.  Where she’d holidayed for almost 50 years.  She’d waited for Mr Muffin to arrive the day before.  All was good.

We did what she wanted, and cremated her.  Scattered her ashes at Kasouga, close to my dad’s ashes.  When’s too old to be an orphan?

Then we (me, Mr Muffin and two dogs) drove back to Cape Town on 10 January, listening to Anne Robinson’s ‘Memoirs of an Unfit Mother’ on CD.  It was my shift, and just outside Sedgefield I heard a tuk-tuk-tuk and looked at the dashboard.  The temperature gauge was hyperventilating.  So we stopped and filled the radiator with dog’s bowl and soda water.  This gave us three minutes of transport.

I feared the worst when the sound capitalised to TUK-TUK and refused to respond to any stimulation – mechanical, percussive or vocal. 

Mr Muffin had left his AA card at home, so used mum’s number when he called.

AA asked, “Is Ma Muffin with you?”


“Can we speak to her?”

“Um no. Now is not convenient”

Meaningful looks are exchanged.  Mr Muffin mouths, ‘Well, she’s here in spirit, what’s your problem?”


The tow truck comes and we leave the car at the local garage among tut-tuts and sympathetic gestures.  We hire a sewing machine (Atos) to get us and the dogs back to Cape Town.  Only 480km.

Monday sees phone calls to insurance (Sorry for you.  Your car is 10 days past the warranty.  Serious.), and the church for memorial arrangements.  Cool, Friday 16 January is the day to celebrate mum’s life.

Meanwhile, car progress in Sedgefield is slow.  Pick a problem, and a new one says hello.  Each one adding R1,000 to the bill.

16 January comes and it’s awesome.  Perfect tribute to a life well lived.  And what’s more, cousin Matt has flown out from grey London for the party.  And he’s hooked.  On our weather, our mountain, our colours, our people, our sea, our penguins, our baboons, our biltong, our Pronutro.  Our South Africa. Amandla!

Same day, Sedgefield phones and says the car is ready.  So, at sparrow’s fart on Saturday 17 January, I bundle cousin Matt into the sewing machine and make him witness the sunrise over the Hottentots Holland.  He’s sleep-deprivingly gobsmacked. Seeing as we’re so close to Knysna, why not go and see the elephants?   So we experience elephant snot, as I walk with the tip of a very, very long nose in my upturned hand.  Take me God, I’m ready.

Later, I swop the sewing machine for a 10-year-17-day-old car.  Which now sounds like a John Deere.  And head back to Cape Town, stopping every 100 km to see if there’s enough oil.

Outside Swellendam, there’s a roadblock.  Cool!  Checking for drunk drivers and inter-provincial-pig-sickness.  I’ve done this before and can do it again, showing off to cousin Matt how sophisticated we are in Africa.

Lady cop asks to see my licence.  I can do that!  I know my temporary licence is still valid, and it’s always in my purse.  Unless I’ve empty my overloaded purse before the journey with cousin Matt.  Because it’s full of slips and invoices related to mum’s departure – which won’t be needed on a day trip, right?  Wrong.

R300 or 3 months.  That’s my choice.

So it’s a R300 fine plus a sorry-for-you jalopy, enforced early morning cycling and chronologically challenged clients. Or 3 months fully paid board and lodging.

Cheers, see you in May.

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