Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Societal relativism

When I went to London, at the end of 2006, I thought everything was wonderful. Public transport that worked. And I felt safe, even when I was walking home alone in the dead of night. Of course, I was subconsciously (and not so subconsciously) comparing London to Cape Town.

When I visited again in October 2007 it was great to return to the familiar home of HP. But some things had changed. I found myself clutching my bag to my chest whenever I ventured outside, and complaining if the train was a couple of minutes late. Now I was comparing London to Liechtenstein/Switzerland, and it didn´t quite measure up.

Three things that annoy me

1. Mim and Pim's Internet is very slow and temperamental. Also, I can't use the HTML edit function when writing my blog cos of some strange setting on both their laptops that we haven't been able to fix, despite recourse to blogger help groups. I can't access the Internet on my own laptop, as no one can find the password for setting this up. If anyone knows how to solve any of these grave problems, please give me a shout!

2. Pim is constantly listening to talk radio. Talk, talk, talk. It is driving me crazy. What's wrong with a good, old-fashioned melody?

3. Even though our ground-floor apartment is north-facing, it still receives little sun, due to a wall, a tree, and the fact that Jozi is having unaccountably rainy weather for winter.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A few more comments about comments

According to this blog post, brought to my attention by Mark, I have committed the cardinal sin of writing a "nobody is commenting on my blog" post. It seemed to work for me, though. I don't feel like conducting a detailed statistical analysis, even supposing I were capable of one, but I can confidently say that comments have increased since the post in question - thanks guys!

In the course of my extensive research about blog comments, I came across an article by one Rachel Johnson, sister to the 21st-century reincarnation of Bertie Wooster. Despite Ms Johnson's whining, I find the blog a rather amusing read, although she seems to have discontinued it. Perhaps now she's found the carpet of her heart, "a beautiful jewel-hued Roger Oates runner that comes with darling pewter rods and will, trust me, look utterly super on our stairs", there's nothing more to live for, or to blog about.

But enough of other people's blogs, lets return to my own. Like I said before, thanks to all of you who made the effort to comment. If you don't yet know how to comment, just click on the "comments" link below each post, and it's simple from there. If you do post a comment, please click on the "Email follow-up comments to yourself@yourdomain.com" box, and then you'll be notified when I reply to your comment. If you write frequent comments you could even have your own 15 minutes (seconds?) of fame by being recognised as one of the top 10 commentors on my blog. Congratulations to Kim, currently the #1 commentor!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Are you a winner?

Competitive comments result, at last. Sorry it took so long, but am having Internet problems.

General notes: many of my readers appear to have felt too much pressure to be witty. So from now on, I think I'll just do a best comment round-up at the beginning of each month, without making the process overtly competitive.

Best comment by a Saffer goes to ABJ for his comment on Comment is free, for telling it like it is:
"Trinkel, you are so funny! And a complete jealous, feckless, blogger-comment-whore! haha. Can't wait to see you... Bring me a present. ;-)"

Best comment by someone overseas goes to Zsa Zsa, for her comment on On the wrong side of the (smoking) law - my dear, your English is much better than you give yourself credit for!
"Well, I must put a comment, because it's such a nice blog about Liechtenstein.....
But it's gonna be hard, because my english isn't that good. Actually, I guess, you should wrote "than I went"....... ;-)) So my english is starting to be good enough to enjoy your humour:-)))))"

I guess now I should start thinking about your prizes ;) But before I forget, there are also some honorary winners.

Most frustrating comment goes to anonymous, for their comment on Random fact of the week:
"to "life, left liech":
What does doubly landlocked mean? 2 countries between it (the country) and the sea? Did I just answer my own question? was i correct? does it matter? I suppose it does for those doubly landlocked, but I am getting off the subject.
From an anon person who you know but you dont know who. ay shall give you a clue. i am friend of the monkeys."

At first, I thought I had an idea as to the identity of anonymous. But now, I don't feel so sure, and it's really bugging me. Whoever it is obviously knows just how to get under my skin!

Most helpful comment goes to Mark, for his comment on Comment is free:
"T, As discussed, my effortless wittiness has dried up under the pressure of this competition.
So I have decided to post a link to a blogpost advising people how to get more comments. Here it is http://www.jamieharrop.com/2008/04/11/20-ways-to-get-more-blog-comments/
OK it is not looking like a link. I don't know how to link things in comments yet. Hope this wins me the prize. Although, I think I might've missed the deadline. Too frazzled right now to check."

A very useful link; have discovered I have broken all the rules about how to get more blog comments - more on this issue in a future post.

Funniest comment goes to Leez, for his comment on A royal day:
On a different note... I thought that champagne socialist was exactly that: someone who socialises when under the influence of champagne.
Followed the link and found out something new. As a teacher you should be proud."

Not a bad definition of a champagne socialist, actually ;)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Stella's birthday or, selling my soul for Freshlyground

Saturday night in London, and I could either go to N's birthday in Soho, or Stella's birthday in Putney. Of course, I wanted to do it all, but didn't feel like spending half my evening travelling across London. I'd already seen N for my own birthday celebrations, so figured I'd go to Stella's do. Also, she happened to be in possession of the latest Freshlyground CD, which ABJ had left with her for me.

So, off I went to Putney. Walkabout in Putney. KR had warned me not to sully my soul by entering this den of iniquity, but I really wanted that CD.

It was lovely to celebrate with Stella, but the rest of the evening was a shocker. I mean, it never ocurred to me that I would ever find myself inside a Walkabout, so I was ill-prepared for the many drunken Ozzies and Kiwis, Saffers and Brits. They were all wearing T-shirts featuring slogans such as: "My drinking team has a rugby problem." Well, that was the polite version.

Up until now, I'd been happily oblivious to the fact that the rugby world cup was taking place. Liechtenstein does in fact have a rugby club, but it's not exactly the national sport. Thankfully, I was able to ignore the first half of the actual match as it took that long to get to the front of the queue at the bar and procure a beer. England were doing well, and all I remember of the second half was the repeated refrain of "Swing low, sweet chariot". No one seemed to know the rest of the lyrics, so it soon became rather tedious.

At the end of the match everyone was in high spirits due to an English victory, but I didn't fancy spending another 40 minutes getting a drink, so I left pretty sharply, clutching my new CD to my chest. Big thanks to Stella for sending P home to fetch it!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Random fact of the week

If you bothered to click on the link in my last Brighton post, you will already know that Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan are the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world.

Bizarrely enough, I met someone from Uzbekistan when I was in Liech. He was doing his masters in business and wrote all this bumph on his application letter about being an ambassador from one doubly landlocked country to another. Seemed to work though... Personally, I'm very glad to be home, if still some distance from the sea.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Mahendra´s wet dream

During my time over the seas there have been many people, places, and weather patterns that I´ve missed. One of these is the indomitable Mr Raghunath. Why, oh why, can´t I watch the SABC3 News over the Internet?

As I was walking back to the train station in Brighton, I had a particularly sharp pang of Mahendra nostalgia when I passed GBties.com. At first I thought it would be Mahendra´s wet dream, but realised most of the ties were too garish even for the Raghunath´s tastes. Unfortunately, I couldn´t go inside, as it was closed, but had some fun window shopping - with Mahendra in mind. I think he might have liked the purple tie (second row, fourth from the right). Which one do you think would have taken the Raghunath´s fancy? (Btw, you can click on the pic for a close-up view).

Brighton "beach"

I ended my time in Brighton with a trip to the beach. It felt like forever since I´d seen the sea. I guess that´s what happens when you live in a doubly landlocked country. Although it had stopped raining, and was almost sunny, nothing could compensate for the horrendous pebbliness that was the beach. Sure, I´ve seen films of beaches in Britain. But I didn´t think such beaches actually existed in real life. Certainly not any more. I imagined they were a quaint feature of the "olden days" before people had it so good. You know, that long-ago time when the world was only in black and white, as evidenced in classic movies.

But finally my oversized bag came into its own, as it provided a comfortablish seat: certainly better than those bloody pebbles. I plonked myself down and took out my copy of Odd Girl Out. There was a rather cute girl also sitting on the beach who looked a bit like Saint from Sugar Rush, but alas, she didn´t seem too interested in my choice of reading matter...

A royal day

Have been doing some higgledy-piggledy posting recently, but this post marks a return to my Brighton excursion. It was still before ten in the morning, so the rides on the pier weren´t open yet. I just wondered around in a daze, bombarded by loud music and flashing lights (these were working in all their technicolour glory). "Kitsch" doesn´t quite describe it: I think "tat" is more apt.

I really wanted to explore the lanes next, but in a rare moment of pragmatism I had to admit that it is easier to lug a heavy bag around museums than shops. So I checked out the Brighton Museum, an Art Deco wonderland. But my favourite piece was from the surrealist school: Mae West Lip´s by Salvador Dali and Edward James. Such a pity I couldn´t sit on this artwork! (NB. I took the pic before I discovered the "shooting-behind-glass" function on my camera).

Then it was off The Royal Pavilion. Wow: the Prince Regent could teach today´s celebrities something about conspicuous consumption! I loved the banqueting room, but my favouritest was the music room - simply glorious.

You know, I don´t always love visiting places such the British Museum, full of artefacts plundered from all corners of the colonial empire, deprived of their original context. As a nominal socialist, I do find the Pavilion´s unashamed ostentation somewhat grotesque. That said, I really appreciated seeing the all the prince´s treasures (and modern replicas) in the surroundings that were their home, instead of at some stuffy museum.

And, since we all know I am really a not-so-closet champagne socialist, I began mentally planning a dinner party (with postprandial entertainment in the music room, naturally) hosted by myself and ABJ. Hiring the Banqueting Room, Great Kitchen, and Music Room would only set us back £4 520 after all. And room hire isn´t even subject to VAT - what a bonus!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Theresa´s friends

You know, one of the reasons Pim left academia is because he saw no reason to do his PhD - not such a hot idea in terms of career advancement. But why bother to write it all down when he has "at least seven PhDs" in his head?

I myself have a couple of MAs, an MSSc, and an MBA all fighting for space in my head, but haven´t quite graduated to PhD-level fantasy yet. Perhaps it is a genetic condition? Or merely the human condition ;)

Then there are all my other unrealised cutting-edge concepts that have nothing to do with academia. One of these is an annual magazine called Theresa´s Friends. Features in the mag would be about, um, my friends. The target market would be people who want to be friends with all of us, cos we are that cool. But now that several of my friends have started their own blogs, you don´t have to wait around for some magazine that will, most likely, never make it into print.

On that note, it´s time for an introduction to my friend (no acquaintances for me!) Sue´s blog. I may bitch and moan about being depressed in Liechtenstein (a tautology?), but really, I have nothing much to complain about. Sue has had an unbelievably tough 18 months, but her fighting spirit shines through, and hopefully she will be all fixed up soon soon soon!

Sue and I also have a cunning plan that currently is pretty much at the "Step 1. Collect underpants, Step 2. ?, Step 3. Profit" stage, but she will make it happen (not suffering from fantasy-PhD syndrome) with a little help from her editorial lacky. Watch this space for details...

By the way...

Bean pointed out to me that she hadn´t commented on my blog yet because I didn´t allow peeps to comment unless they have a google account. Thanks Bean, for bringing this major defect to my attention. I have changed the setting, so now anonymous and sundry are free to comment away...

Friday, 09 May 2008

Comment is free

I know that I have some loyal commentators (commentors?) out there; you know you are, and thank you muchly. Nevertheless, it has not escaped my attention that my friends Bec and Mark consistently receive more comments per post than me.

Not that I´m competitive or anything, but I think it is time to rectify this situation. Of course, as well as promoting activity on my blog, I would really like to hear how you all are, as well as as your responses to my writing. So, for the next week there will be a running competition for the wittiest comment on my blog.

The rules:
1. There are two categories. The best comment by a Saffer (prize: a present from Liech, TBA) and the best comment by anyone else (prize: a present from South Africa, TBA).
2. Comments may be on any post; I am notified whenever anyone posts a comment, so don´t be shy to comment on older posts.
3. Past comments are not eligible for the prize, although may receive an honorary mention.
4. You may post as many comments as you like. But if they are spammish, I will delete them.
5. I reserve the right not to award prizes, should comments be of insufficient standard.
6. Closing date: 16/05/08, 11:59pm.
7. Winners will be announced before 18/05/08, 11:59pm.
8. I will make every effort to send winners their prizes, but am not responsible for any failings on the part of the South African postal system.
9. Please note, the judging is an entirely subjective process. However, while my decision will be final, I will gladly enter into correspondence with any agrieved entrants, if it means more comments on my blog ;)
10. Anonymous comments will not be eligible for the prize.

Right, that´s it. Now, get commenting!

Thursday, 08 May 2008

On the wrong side of the (smoking) law

When I was in the UK, I wanted to see as many friends as possible. "Come to Brighton," suggested KR, so I came. After a suitably decadent Friday night, KR was up brighton early (sorry!) to go to work, and I was at the train station. With a lamentably heavy "overnight" bag. (My packing problems are documented here, and here). In the rain.

I was only due back in London that evening but, despite my heavy load and the shite weather, I was tempted to spend the day exploring Brighton. First up, I asked a policeman at the station if there was anywhere to leave my bag. Now, KR had already informed me that there wasn´t, but I figured there was no harm in a second opinion. The policeman dispelled any lurking doubts with a brusque retort: "We don´t have lockers. Terrorists are likely to put a bomb in them."

I was tempted to reply: "And Eid Mubarak to you to sir," for it was indeed Eid, but figured that wouldn´t go down too well.

I decided to have a cigarette while I pondered my plans for the day. I went and stood outside the station, but under the shelter, due to the rain. At which point the policeman chased after me, to inform me that the station was a no-smoking area. Apparently, you can´t just be outside the actual building to smoke, you have to walk a few metres to outside the station gates, because what I took to be outside is still technically part of the station.

Pernickety fucking Brits. In Zurich, you can smoke in the train station itself. However, I duly had my cigarette outside in the rain, as I am scared to death of the British police. Gone is the image of the friendly bobby from my childhood; instead I live in fear that one of the paranoid freaks will randomly gun me down just because.

The altercation had put me in a defiant mood. "Damn my packing skills, and the bloody weather," I reasoned: "When am I ever likely to be in Brighton again?" So I set off for the pier weighed down by my bag, but buoyed up by an intrepid spirit.

Monday, 05 May 2008

From a disgruntled passenger

What with my busy schedule in London I spent a fair amount of time negotiating the tube, and South West Trains. Never mind the gap, while travelling by train I had to contend with the following announcement:

"This is a passenger announcement. Beggars occasionally board trains, and ask for money. Please do not encourage them by giving any. If you see a beggar on this train, please tell a member of staff."

A "passenger announcement"? I noticed when I was in the UK that the Brits (recently?) seem to have developed an annoying habit of stating the bloody obvious, at least when it comes to officialese. And "beggars"?! It beggars belief... I suppose being PC isn´t that high on Londoners´agenda, considering their newly elected mayor.

Having to listen to this announcement roughly every 30 seconds (or so it seemed), was certainly just as intrusive (albeit in a different way) as any number of people asking me for money. (And I used to travel by train in Cape Town, so I have also experienced the latter.)

My levels of irritation rose to such heights that I took to scanning the carriages for anyone who looked likely to approach me for money, just so I could defiantly give them all my small change. There were people snogging, and reading, and talking too loudly on their mobiles, and reading, and drinking beer, and reading. But no one ever asked me for money, which was perversely disappointing. Time to can that announcement, methinks.

Sunday, 04 May 2008

Subscribe to my blog

Hey guys, am finally starting to get (slightly) more hi-tech. Now you can subscribe to my blog by clicking on the link at the top right of my page. If you do so, you´ll automatically be sent an email every time I update the blog.

This means I will probably close the facebook group I created about my blog. Unless you´d like me to keep it running? Please give me feedback!

A night at the theatre

Back to my time in London. My friend (like I said, I don´t do acquaintances), Martin McCutcheon (that´s Martin, not Martine) was appearing in a play at the Pacific Playhouse while I was in town, so naturally I said I´d go along.

Cut to my birthday celebrations in London. My friend Warwick and I were making plans to see each other again. "I´m busy tomorrow," he said. "Going to a play." "What play?" I asked, curious. Turned out we were both going to see Martin´s play, and London was starting to feel as small as Cape Town.

It was ages since I´d seen any theatre, and Kikia Te Poa was just the ticket. Boers, Kiwis and rugby, not my usual style, but it worked. Aaron Hapuku was outstanding as the half-Maori/half Irish soldier, and Martin held his own as a boer commando, although I did tease him about his Afrikaans accent (more than passable to an English ear, but may not have cut it in Pretoria).

However, I was somewhat distracted by the conviction that the people sitting opposite us in the small theatre were none other than JM and Dot. Considering the man has written about rugby, and that it was a play with a South African connection, this hypothesis seemed not inconceivable. I asked Warwick for his opinion. "You would know," he said. But in the absence of my glasses (a story for another post), I didn´t.

So, after the play, I covertly followed the couple out of the theatre to see if I could garner any further clues. A few metres down the road, I realised this was supremely stalkerish behaviour, and decided a couple of drinks and post-performance shmoozing was the more dignified option... The "night I saw JM and Dot at the theatre" still makes for a pretty good story; who cares if it´s "true" or not?


A friend just sent me the link to another friend´s blog, Arselickocracy. I guess Mark is more an acquaintance than a friend, but I don´t do acquaintances, only friends and enemies.

Acquaintance, friend, whatever: his blog is a cracking good read. And he updates a lot more frequently than I do. Welcome to the blogging world, Mark!