On Re-entering the Hallowed Halls of Academia

Ever since I quit my job in April 2009, I have been toying with the notion of studying Economics. Before my kids came along, however, I was extremely tied up doing all the things I didn’t have the luxury of doing when I was working full time, like travelling without counting leave days, taking afternoon naps, checking Facebook, going to gym, getting my nails done and shopping at 11am on a Wednesday morning. In short, there was simply no time study. No time at all. There was no way I was going to choose a tutorial on marginal costing over a cruise on the Peruvian Amazon.

And then my beautiful kids came along and now a romantic cruise in search of pink dolphins in the Amazon seems about as likely a trip to the moon. Being able to take a sabbatical before having children was possibly the greatest gift my husband could ever have given me. And having the opportunity to enjoy the first few years of motherhood free from the stresses of the workplace is something I am immensely grateful for.

But tonight I will attend my first university lecture – the first step in a journey towards re-entering the working world in some shape or form.

In November last year, when The Prince was four months old, I took myself off to Wits Plus (centre for part-time studies) to hand in my application for 2014. When I started at UCT in 1998 I was more worried about what to wear to class and whether the drunken words of “fresh meat!” being bandied about in a Rondebosch bar were being directed at me or not. The administrative details of actually registering were a very minor priority in my life at the time. Now I was returning to university as a…ahem… mature student, concerned only with being accepted for my choice of subjects. I had diligently prepared my application pack exactly according to the university’s specifications. I had noted that I needed sign-off from a certain member of the Economics department, but an e-mail sent to the lecturer in question, requesting such sign-off, had gone unanswered for weeks. On the day of application, I was sent by the Wits Plus staff to track down this lecturer in the Commerce building. As I set off, I wondered whether I looked like those mature students I used to see sticking out like sore thumbs on the UCT campus. And then I was addressed as “Ma’am” by a student I approached for directions and I had my answer.

I finally found the office of the lecturer I was looking for. There were many names on the door and each name was accompanied by a weekly sliver of office consultation time: for example: Tuesdays from 12:30 to 2pm. I was in between breastfeeds, eager to get my application in on that day and just praying that I would be able to sweet talk this man into signing my form outside of his usual office hours.

If only I could find him.

A polite knock on the door yielded one lone voice seated at a desk in a sea of empty desks. Of course, it would have been too coincidental if he had been my man, but at least I could ask him where to find said lecturer. Alas, the colleague did not know his whereabouts but suggested I e-mail him. I told him that I had done so many weeks ago but had received no response. Only then did was I told that, in fact, he hadn’t been seen on campus “for weeks”. In short, I wasn’t going to track him down between breastfeeds. I was directed to the office of the Economics co-ordinator instead.

After getting somewhat lost again, I found myself outside the co-ordinator’s door. I could hear him on the phone which meant that he was in – phew! While I waited patiently outside his door, I had plenty of time to study the very detailed process flow diagram he had designed for the channeling of Economics queries:

The Hallowed Halls of Academia
The Hallowed Halls of Academia

I decided to feign ignorance and did not attempt to plug my query into his process flow chart, fearing it would direct me elsewhere. When I could hear that he had finished his phone call, I knocked on the door. He barely looked old enough to drive but he knew alot more than I did when it came to applying to study Economics. He pointed out that if I intended to take Economics to third year level, I would need to study Computational Maths and Business Statistics. This was news to me, but I was glad that he had brought it to my attention. Since my brief interaction with him thus far had been positive, I decided to ask him a question that was fairly central to my long term study plan: would I effectively hold a major in Economics if I completed the course to third year level, since I already held an undergraduate degree?

Before opening his mouth to respond, he looked at me pointedly for what felt like hours in the way that people do when they want you to know that you’ve asked a really, really stupid question.

“Here’s the thing,” he said: “Wits Plus doesn’t award degrees. Faculty… “(he said the word ‘faculty’ extremely slowly and with emphasis in case it was new to my vocabulary) “awards degrees. Do…you…understand?”

“Uh, yes, well, sort of… er… I have a vague recollection of the term “faculty” from the hazy days of my undergraduate degree,” I stammered, tempted to add “which I obtained while you were in pre-primary school.” But I smiled meekly because I had no idea what he was talking about and I need him to sign my application. Thankfully, he signed but not before sending me off to the Office of the Dean (or something like that) to find out whether there were other subjects I needed to take if I intended to study Economics to third year level.

I found the offices without getting lost but there was a small hitch. The offices were all housed behind one master door with a list of names and extension numbers next to an internal phone. I was literally locked out and didn’t have an actual name of someone to phone so I would have to irritate someone with my whole story and hope that they would  be able to help me. Fortunately, someone decided to exit at this point and I politely accosted her with my problem. She was unable to help and in fact, in her opinion, this bank of offices was not where my answer would lie. Instead, she sent me off to another branch of academic administration in the building. Before long, I was lost again but I saw a Professor-y looking type to ask for directions. He was very nice and started explaining where I needed to go but then looked down at his watch and looked back at me with empathy: “You’d better hurry because it’s ten to one and admin staff take their lunch breaks very seriously.”

I literally RAN (one benefit of being a stay-at-home mom is that I’m always in flats) to said admin office. There was still someone behind the reception kiosk. Relief. She directed me to another person within a corridor of locked offices which she granted me access to. The office of the person I was supposed to consult with was empty. I scanned through the offices to find a human. I happened upon someone and explained that the Economics co-ordinator suggested I confirm what other subjects I needed to do in order to be allowed to take the subject to third year level. She told me to have a seat and started leafing through a rather thick official-looking handbook.

“Hmm,” she said, “It doesn’t look like there are any pre-reks for Economics.”

“Um, by pre-rek, do you mean a pre-requisite?”

She looks at me as though I’ve just asked whether Maths is short for Mathematics.

Okay, I could change my vocabulary but I was a bit concerned that she wasn’t 100% certain of her answer and that the answer may or may not have resided in a very thick book where it could very easily be over-looked.

I asked her if she was sure about four times and I found none of her answers to be re-assuring.

In the end I left and convinced myself that Computational Maths and Business Stats sounded like good subjects to do and if they turned out not to be the correct “pre-reks” for obtaining a major in Economics that may or may not be granted by “faculty”, then so be it.

On Khloe Kardashian, Self Esteem, Liz Hurley & White Jeans

Having a new baby means being awake at all sorts of ungodly hours. Thanks to The Husband’s generosity and pragmatism, we have a night nurse. I say “pragmatism” because he knows how grumpy I get when I am sleep deprived and he knows there is a practical – albeit costly – solution. Her name is Precious. She taps me gently while I am sound asleep and says with urgency:

“He’s awake!”

I fly out of bed in response to the urgency in Precious’ voice, dash to the nursery and then flop into the feeding chair and sometimes even fall asleep while Precious changes The Prince’s nappy and readies him for his feed. And then I generally sleep through the feed until she prods me and tells me it’s time to change sides. I can safely say that I would trade in my car if I had to, for the luxury of a night nurse. I feel human the day after Precious’ shift and like a dead woman walking the day after her night off.

Most nights I crawl back into bed and pass out after the feed, but some nights (and, fortunately, so far, not many) I simply can’t get back to sleep. This was the case a few nights ago. I was so wide awake that I eventually crawled out of bed at 4am and crept to the TV room.

I happened to turn on M-Net just as a show called The Talk started. It featured a bunch of women sitting around a table. Amongst the women, I recognised Sharon Osborne. As the introductory music ended and the audience applauded, one of the women introduced the first topic of the talk show with the solemnity one would expect were she reporting on a grave political crisis: Khloe Kardashian’s poor self esteem.

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The camera then cut to this round-table of female presenters looking traumatised by the news and brimming with empathy for the reality TV star. In order to give viewers a real taste of the emotional hardship endured daily by Khloe, the presenter quoted Khloe who had said that “being compared to somebody else every day does sort of beat up your spirit and soul.” Apparently Khloe reported that she had been called the “heavier” and “less attractive” of the sisters. Luckily for Khloe, Sharon Osborne was the first to comment with a statement that is bound to reverse all her psychological trauma:

“I just think she has the BEST personality out of everyone!” Sharon gushed, to rapturous applause from the in-studio audience.

Thanks, Sharon. You do know that you basically just called her ugly? When my dad was at university in the sixties, the prevailing catch phrase for an unattractive woman was: “She sure can cook!” With the emancipation of women and Woolworths microwave meals, the modern version of this maxim has morphed into: “She sure has a great personality”.

I konfess that I just kan’t watch Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie Kardashian/ Jenner and their show at the best of times, although I can’t think of a better cure for insomnia than Khloe Kardashian’s complexes. If only I’d been able to keep the TV on for an extra minute or two, I would have been able to pass out from absolute apathy.

Aside from bad TV at 5am, the weeks following the birth of a child can be tough. Especially when they happen to be the very weeks when Hyde Park and Sandton City go on sale. About a week after The Prince was born, The Husband’s favourite Hyde Park store was offering 50% off all their merchandise and he was looking to spoil me. What could I do under the circumstances other than engage in aspirational acquisitions? I was immediately drawn to a gorgeous pair of white, skinny jeans with gold zips. Tres, tres St Tropez or tres, tres Sandton. But as I picked them up, I was reminded of something a friend told me last year. She told me that it had been said (by some famous and fabulous male stylist, I think) that if you’re a woman and your name is not Liz Hurley, you simply should not wear white jeans. Sorry, honey. Although I agree that I am not Liz Hurley and that I should not wear white jeans, I have always loved white pants and am delighted that white jeans have made a comeback. So I now have this pair – that cost 50% less than usual – hanging in my cupboard, staring at me and taunting me. I should somehow sticky-tape them to the fridge…

Liz Hurley Leaving Her Home London June 17, 2008

But since that’s not terribly practical, I decided to re-join Weight Watchers instead. I polished off a cupcake in the car on the way there and arrived ready to take a deep breath and step on the scale. The last time I attended Weight Watchers was before I found out that I was pregnant with The Prince – a time when I weighed a lot less than I do now. For this reason, I made a point of mentioning to the Group Leader that I had stopped Weight Watchers because I’d fallen pregnant (they don’t allow pregnant people to follow the programme) and that I was returning because I’d just had a baby. Clearly, however, I did not place enough emphasis on the word “just” because a few minutes later I climbed on the scale to hear the Group Leader say (raised eyebrow and all):

“I see… yes… well…your weight has gone up quite a bit.”

“I literally just had a baby eleven days ago!” I snapped.

To this, my fellow members responded as one would hope the Sisterhood would respond with remarks like:

“Oh my gosh, I’d still be in bed!” and

“You look amazing for someone who just had a baby!” (From my observations and my own behaviour, women say this to one another post babies, no matter what, but somehow it’s still nice to hear even if you know it’s a big, fat lie.)

I automatically felt better.

But sisterhood or no sisterhood, I still have to find a way into those designer white jeans before they go out of style again.

The Dangers of Housewives Alone in Coffee Shops

I confess that I am not used to strange men approaching me in coffee shops. This happened a few weeks ago when I was replying to some e-mails in a coffee shop in Benmore while The Princess was at school. I’d walked in and seen only one table with three casually dressed guys who appeared to be in the midst of a business meeting. I’d deliberately chosen the table furthest from these guys so as not to fall prey to accidental eavesdropping.

Whilst fully immersed in all-important, housewife admin on my I-pad, I sensed that a figure had approached my table and I heard a deep voice say:

“Howzit, doll,”

I could not believe the audacity of this man and began lifting my head with the full intention of blurting out:

DON’T YOU DARE CALL ME DOLL !

But as I looked up, something stopped me and I realised that I would have deeply offended (or amused) our good friend Erik, who relocated to Windhoek six months ago.

I had to remind myself that not too many men want to pick up a chick who’s eight months pregnant – at all – and certainly not at ten in the morning in a coffee shop.

This past week, however, “it” happened again. I was sitting at a table outside at Europa, Melrose Arch, guiltily devouring actual sushi with raw salmon and everything. (I was busy convincing myself that French women eat unpasteurised cheese – and probably don’t give up coffee, cigarettes or wine either – throughout pregnancy, so what was a bit of sushi between me and the 3.2kg buffeltjie still  apparently growing in my tummy? He’d survived 30 Stopayne tablets the week before so I was sure he’d survive a bit of raw fish…)

I was looking down at my food when I caught a glimpse of a strange man approaching my table. From my experience with Erik, I’d learnt that it was unlikely he was trying to pick me up, so I was a little more pragmatic this time. Was he a husband coming to chastise me for eating sushi at 38 weeks pregnant? I felt slightly unnerved…

“You look like someone who’d know this,” he began. “Is there a spa in Melrose Arch?”

I guess you can take the girl out Keurbooms and put her in Sandton, but you can’t take Keurbooms out of the girl: when someone in a shopping centre asks me if there’s a spa around, I think of the Spar.

I was about to respond,

“No, sorry, there’s only a Woolies.”

But then I caught sight of my newly pedicured feet, clad in open-toed, bedroom slippers on loan from the Melrose Arch Spa. I also noticed that my “suitor” looked like the quintessential metro-sexual. He’d noticed my red nails and toes as opposed to my face – a face which still lives in fear of Botox, can’t be bothered with facials and which boasts bushy, dark eyebrows which I’m too afraid of waxing for fear the therapist will virtually denude me of any eyebrows to speak of.

I may feel more at home in a Spar than in a spa but at least I had fabulous red nails and toes which The Princess took note of immediately when I fetched her from school:

“Mommy’s nails are RED!” she announced.

That’s my little Sandtonite girl! 🙂

The Root of the Problem

I had great plans for the past week – my third last week before becoming a mother of two. I was going to tick off a whole lot of things on the “to do” list, such as:

– huge Baby City shop
– take friend for belated birthday lunch
– do fun-filled, half-term, holiday activities with The Princess
– arrange preggy belly photo shoot
– birthday and kitchen tea gift shopping
– clean-out my half of the study
– learn how to use sewing machine inherited from Gran
– buy final pieces for nursery
– go to theatre on date night
– host a weekend lunch

And the list could well go on… So yes, I had great plans for this past week and a bit. But my 37 week pregnant body, together with the universe, had other plans for me.

On Wednesday last week, I felt the onset of sinus pain. By Thursday it was making me miserable and I took myself off to my GP. He thought my pregnancy heartburn might be aggravating my sinuses. (Time to stop with the over-indulgences.) Still, the pain persisted. I tried to ignore it and get on with important things like attending Disney on Ice with The Princess last Friday. By Friday afternoon, I thought I just might be experiencing tooth pain, not sinusitis, so I called my dentist. He was in theatre that afternoon so he couldn’t see me until Monday. By Saturday mid-morning, I was literally lying on the couch, curling my toes and groaning in agony. A hot water bottle to the cheek brought some relief. Challenge: you try to get hold of a dentist in Joburg on a Saturday. Mine was on voicemail. Another I knew of in the area was out of town. Another, offering “emergency services” (which turned out to be a one-man show IF he answered his cell phone) was delivering a training course in Kenya.

The result was that I was referred to a medical centre somewhere in the vicinity of Strijdom Park. Not to be a snob, but it is an area I associate more with warehouse-based businesses or panel beaters rather than top medical practitioners. And of course I got lost on the way trying to find the centre. Evidently, asking the receptionist: “Should I travel north along Malibongwe Drive from the intersection with Republic?”, was a bad idea for the clarification of directions. I know we don’t have Table Mountain as a landmark in Jozi, but seriously, the general direction of Pretoria is north and the general direction of the CBD is south. Right? As a result, I wound up in Kya Sands at 10:27 am when I was supposed to be in Strijdom Park before the dentist closed at 10:30.

When I tore into the rooms at 10:31, dragging The Princess (who insisted on walking around in her socks) behind me, I was asked to fill in a form. At this juncture, I was in so much pain that the prospect of two pages’ worth of admin was more than I could face. I was more than happy to turn on the waterworks. I had applied Make Up Forever’s “Smoky Lash Mascara” that morning which is no longer available in SA in waterproof. (Evidently, people in emerging markets don’t cry.) Needless to say, in a few seconds, I had mascara running down my cheeks. I think myself and my toddler in her socks in the middle of winter were a real sight for sore eyes – even in Strijdom Park. Fortunately, one of the receptionists took pity on me (admittedly not the receptionist I’d called an idiot for not knowing north from south – understandably, she did not look very sympathetic). The nice receptionist filled out my form while I dictated my personal information to her in between sobs of pain.

I then got to see the dentist, while The Princess sat on my lap. She x-rayed my teeth, where I was complaining of pain, and could find nothing. Absolutely nothing. Fortunately, she was ethical and said she didn’t recommend performing root treatment if there was no evidence of any problem. At that stage, I was in so much pain I was tempted to tell her to rip out all three suspect teeth, but my better judgement prevailed and I tried to think about what to do next. The Husband was out cycling and not answering his phone and I wanted my mommy who was 1,200km away. The Mother-in-Law was about to board a cruise ship in Copenhagen and I realised that I was going to have to put my big girl panties on and make a plan myself. The Princess, however, had other plans. She chose this moment to flatly refuse to be strapped in to her car seat. No amount of begging, blubbing or beseeching would change her mind. At two years and three months old, she instinctively knew that in that moment, she had the power and she was going to use it.

Force was my only option.

Eventually, I managed to strap my kicking and screaming child into her seat, but as I climbed into the drivers seat, a defiant and triumphant little voice declared:

“Look, Mommy!” and she wormed her arms out of the car seat straps.

I turned away from her, took a deep breath, waited a few seconds and then told her very calmly and very clearly though teeth clenched in frustration and pain, that she’d better put her arms back in VERY QUICKLY! Miraculously, it worked! I tried to hide my relief that I’d managed to win this battle as she elicited a guilt-ridden cry of:

“Help me, Mommy!”

And so we were off. But where to? 1) The only dentist apparently available on a Saturday in this 12 million person city could find nothing wrong. 2) I had been on meds for sinus relief for three days and they were not helping at all.

I really wanted my mom.

Thank God, just then, The Husband called. He took me to our GP who was still finishing up with his Saturday patients. The GP surmised that I might be experiencing referred tooth pain from something to do with my sinuses, although he too, could not find much evidence of this. I spent the rest of the weekend popping Stilpayne, Panado and antibiotics which brought periods of relief followed by periods of intense pain.

On Monday morning I raced to my dentist. He too, could see nothing but suspected immediately from my symptoms that there was something going on inside one of my teeth and sent me to an endodontist. Yes, an endodontist. Before Monday, I had no idea that a branch of dentistry called endodontics existed. By the time I got to Dr J, I was so overwhelmed by the pain that I was in tears once again (but at least I’d remembered to apply my waterproof MAC mascara instead) and begging for his help. His x-rays could not reveal anything either but he strongly suspected that one of my back teeth on the left hand side was infected internally. As to whether it was a top tooth or a bottom tooth, he couldn’t even be certain because apparently intense pain often presents itself as referred pain. He then set about bashing and prodding each tooth to try to ascertain which tooth was experiencing the most pain so that he could figure out which tooth to open up. I felt like an actor who had to perform on cue to the pain signals (despite the fact that everything he did hurt) or else he would hack into the wrong tooth. I eventually blurted out:

“I can’t do this! I am so stressed at the prospect of misdiagnosing myself. It’s all really, really sore!”

I think if I wasn’t 37 weeks pregnant he probably would have given me a tranquiliser at this stage.

Fortunately, some more prodding and hot and cold tests and my apparently appropriate and somewhat differentiated squeals of pain led him to choose the correct tooth to open up and begin the first of a few procedures in what is commonly termed “root canal treatment”. Phew! This first stage he called a “pulpectomy” where he removed the “pulp” of the tooth containing all the inflamed nerves, etc. This was supposed to bring relief.

But it didn’t. Despite the local anaesthetic I was still in agony when I left his rooms. I took two more Stilpayne which brought some relief, but once they wore off a few hours later, I was in hell again.

The next day, Tuesday, I called Dr J as soon as his rooms opened, crying and begging him to fit me in to finish the root canal procedure that day instead of three days later, on Friday. He is one of those special kind of medical practictioners gifted with a brilliant bedside manner and who know just what kind of a note to hit with an hysterical patient:

“No, that won’t be possible,” he replied, “I squeezed you in for a pulpectomy yesterday and my day was all out of kilter as a result.”

Really, dude? Your day was out of kilter? Are you frigging kidding me here? I was blown away. But I was so desperate that I accepted his offer of squeezing me in to check things out at 1pm that day.

I climbed into his chair and he started prodding around to ascertain what the problem was. When he put pressure on the tooth in question I nearly went through the roof.

I think he got the message that there was still a problem.

Apparently I had a rare complication of some sort and the solution was to “adjust my bite”. Of course, as a layperson, I knew exactly what that meant. The previous day I had actually wanted to ask him to please stop speaking behind his little dental mask and to

e – n – u – n – c – i – a – t – e 

his words, rather than swallowing them at the end of every sentence. (Slightly patronising, though, so I refrained.) But, as a result, I later learned that I had completely misunderstood him. I learned that one needs to wait several days after a pulpectomy before the time-consuming process of having the root area filled in, is done. Thank you Dr Communication Skills for mumbling under your mask and telling me that I threw your schedule “out of kilter”!

Fortunately, that afternoon, I managed to find an endodontist who could look me in the eye, explain to me in simple English what had been done and what still had to be done, could warn me about unlikely, but possible, further complications and could set my mind at ease by opening up the tooth again and checking that everything that needed to be taken out, had indeed been taken out. Thank God for medical practitioners who can communicate with their patients!

The long and short is that after 8 days of being in varying degrees of pain, the pain finally stopped. After this root canal, experience, I feel almost ready for natural childbirth in 15 days time – with epidural, bien sur 🙂

Mommy’s Big Night Out/ In

Ever since The Husband went on a five night cycling trip in mid-December, followed by a four night cycling trip in late January, I have been fantasising about going away… all by myself… just me and my beloved Macbook… relishing the quiet… not worrying about anyone but yours truly… sleeping… reading… maybe even going to gym… shopping… napping… writing… reading… sleeping… Sigh.

There were just a few snags with the fantasy. I am over aeroplanes (I’ve taken over 40 one-way flights since The Princess’ birth two years and three months ago) and I don’t like driving long distance. Oh, and I regard Sandton to Monte Casino as long distance. Naturally, this limited my options. Also, I genuinely like Joburg. I like the shops, I like the choice of gyms on my doorstep, I like the vibe, I love the winter sunshine… I actually really like my home too. But despite my love for The Husband and our beautiful, super intelligent and amusing daughter who adores me, sometimes I just feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor and I simply “vant to be alone.”  It doesn’t help that our house is very, very open plan, so sitting down to do something simple like write a blog while The Princess is awake is completely impossible. And so I fantasised about checking into a local Sandton hotel for a few nights and squeezing in all the abovementioned things…Sigh.

Well, after six months of vivid fantasies, yesterday, I finally took the plunge and booked myself into a hotel for Thursday night, 20 June. Okay, the hotel is 300m from my house and although check-in time was from 3pm, I felt too guilty to leave The Princess for the afternoon when she only woke up at 2pm after school… I vowed I would leave my house for the 30 second commute (quite literally) at 5pm when the supper/ bath/ witching hour began. But, having no deadline, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to leave this little angel who adores me and wants to be with me whenever she stops to think about it. And so I stayed to read her a story and put her to bed at 7pm. Then I left home with my suitcase full of one night supplies: my laptop, my book, my i-pad – all my little “me-time” indulgences – and promptly sms’ed my nanny with the hotel’s phone number and my room number – in case of emergencies. (The Husband was at a work function).

A word or two on present-day decor trends in hotels: since when did it go out of style to have actual lights fitted to the ceiling in hotel rooms? Somehow, it’s become de rigeur to simply bathe a hotel room in the gentle, romantic light of bedside lamps and perhaps a desk lamp or passage light. WTF? I happen to like light. So, in an effort to create some additional light in the room, I decided to turn on the desk lamp. I have to say that it was no small feat trying to locate the hidden switch on this baby:

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I eventually gave up and asked the Room Service waiter to turn it on for me. He fiddled around for the elusive on button and eventually confirmed that lamp wasn’t working. He’d call maintenance.

So much for “vanting” to be alone! I was now waiting for maintenance, as well as housekeeping because when I checked in, the very thoughtful lady at the front desk took one look at my enormous belly and said, “When I was in your condition, I found the type of hard pillows the hotel provides highly uncomfortable. May I offer you some feather pillows?” I had to smile at her pregnancy euphemism: being in a “condition”. In some ways it sounded so Victorian and, in some ways, with all the glorious ailments that have been plaguing me (heartburn, indigestion, bloating, weight gain, shortness of breath) I honestly did feel as though I were in a “condition”. And yes, I would need those feather pillows in my “condition”, please.

While I was waiting for maintenance and housekeeping, I decided to fire up my Mac and start this blog. I had been assured that getting connected was fast and free and did not require an impossible combination of illogical letters and numbers as a password – all I needed was my surname and my room number. Something I thought even my technologically-challenged self would be able to cope with. But apparently not. After several attempts to go on-line, I kept getting a “back-end error” message. I suspected that this was not good. I called the lovely lady, Jacky, at the front desk.

“Oh yes,” she confirmed, “we’re off-line at the moment because the IT department in London is in the process of up-grading our line from 4 megabits per second to 10 megabits per second.”

Was I meant to be excited for them? Here I was, paying a small fortune for solitude, 300m from my home with its very own 10 Mb per second, uncapped ADSL line… It felt as though, after six months of fantasies, the universe was truly conspiring against me…

Jacky called back shortly afterwards asking me to try to connect to the internet again. I tried and failed. She then wanted to know what computer I was using. The “Aaaah…. I SEE…” response I got did not sound good either. Basically, it was my fault I was having trouble connecting with a Mac? Jacky then explained that whilst she would ordinarily love to send the technical guy up to my room to assist, it was a really busy time of night and could I perhaps come down? I pictured the scene in the lobby that I’d witnessed when I entered the hotel to check in. Having only ever been to this particular hotel during the day, it had escaped me that the bar was more or less positioned smack in the middle of the entrance. It was pumping with British-accented flight attendants and crew whom I knew were a primary target market for the hotel. (I had seen and overheard this crowd around the corner at Tashas enough times while The Princess was a babe in the pram and we practically spent our lives escaping to Tashas). I looked down at my newly purchased, breastfeeding-friendly, spotty pink and black pyjamas from Woolies and declined coming down to the front desk for technical assistance.

Then Maintenance arrived. The representative was charmingly honest. After a quick once-over, he confirmed that he couldn’t change the bulb in my desk lamp because the particular globes that these funky desk lamps required, were not available in South Africa. A minor oversight during the furniture and decor installation! Oops!

In the hotel’s defence, the Maintenance man very quickly replaced my lamp with a similar looking device. Perhaps this globe was one of the original imports from when the hotel opened for the World Cup in 2010? Nonetheless, the funky lamp now worked. And then through some fiddling around on my Mac, in my spotty pink and black PJ’s, this technologically challenged Mommy managed to connect to the Internet. Yeeha!

All sorted! Except for the feather pillows which hadn’t yet arrived. The problem was that by this stage it was 9:30pm and I couldn’t have cared if the pillows were made out of sand and the Internet had never been invented. I was ready to pass out.

My bladder woke me up at 02:30am with the imported desk lamp still burning, clutching a rock hard pillow to try and support my oversized belly.

And that is the story of my big night of “me-time”. Of course my internal mommy alarm and my squished bladder woke me up at 5:55 am this morning but the good news is that check-out time is 12pm and I don’t plan on getting out of my spotty pyjamas until then. Mmmm.

The Red Bus Tour of Jozi

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In the inner city there is no excuse for loneliness and this is in welcome contrast to suburban life where so many live behind high walls and commute by car.” (Spaces & Places Johannesburg by Gerald Garner, by p. 75)

For Sandtonites who have never worked in Jozi’s CBD, the idea of venturing into “town” can be daunting, especially if one never has to. Back in the day, I recall trying to get from Parktown, through Braamfontein, to one of the Absa towers in the south east of town. I’d driven the route with my boss before and it seemed simple enough, yet I managed to get lost, driving up and down one-way streets, for up to an hour, every time I tried to go through town. Not even Africa’s tallest building, The Carlton Centre, helped as a landmark. I found it just blended into its surroundings, flanked by fellow tall buildings and shabby yet vibrant streets. After one or two experiences like that, I resorted to taking the freeway to my client, where I could more easily memorise the few one-way turns I had to make in order to locate the relevant Absa parkade.

I also found that even though I may have grown comfortable over the years with making my way from Jozi north to one particular pocket of town, I still had no idea how these pockets connected to others in the CBD. As a result, “town” simply remained a scary mystery.

Until last Sunday, that is.

I heard about City Sightseeing’s Red City Tour of Jozi a few weeks ago and had been keen to check it out as a weekend outing with The Husband and The Princess.

Our outing started off in “European Vacation”  style as a comedy of errors (less funny at the time). But instead of acting like ditsy Americans unable to find their way out of the Arc de Triomphe’s maze, we acted like ditsy middle class South Africans who go everywhere by car and who can’t navigate public transport for love or money. I had an old Gautrain timetable (back when they still printed them) for the Pretoria to Park Station line, but it dated back to the days before trains were even running to Park. At 10:43am, I realised that the next train from Sandton to Park Station was at 11am and that trains only ran every 30 minutes on weekends. With that realisation, we made a mad dash to drive the 1.1km to the Gautrain station, park the car, set up the pram, get The Princess in the pram, buy tickets and get the lifts to the platform. By some miracle, we actually made it onto the platform with a couple of minutes to spare. Just as I was thinking that it was odd that the train had not yet arrived, it dawned on me that I had led us to the northbound side of platform B8 where trains headed for Pretoria stopped, rather than the southbound side, to catch our train headed for town. And so we had 29 minutes to spare until the next train to Park Station at 11:30. A real rookie rail-user error. Grrr. Once we were on the correct platform and had caught the train, it was a mere 8 minute journey for the bargain price of 22 ZAR per adult (one way).

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When we arrived at the immaculate, brand new Park Station (I confess to being a HUGE Gautrain fan), a Gautrain employee told us to take the well-marked Wolmarans St exit (serviced by lifts and allowing us to avoid road crossings with The Princess in her pram) and to look out for a dude in a red jacket – a representative from City Sightseeing. Our lack of planning meant that we’d just missed the 11:38am bus and so had to wait for the next one at 12:20pm (they run every 40 minutes from 9am).

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Looking heavily laden with The Princess in her stroller, we were ushered onto the bus first and so got the best seats in the house – upstairs in the front row. We were able to leave her McLaren stroller downstairs in an open area with no seating (which I assume is intended for strollers and wheelchairs), secured by a special seat belt. Upstairs, The Princess insisted on having her own seat and the stewardess even brought her, her own pair of earphones so that she, too, could get connected for the tour’s commentary.

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With a toddler in tow, I wasn’t expecting to be able to take advantage of the individual plug-in earphones and audio guide but The Husband started listening right in the beginning and encouraged me to do the same. The Princess was naturally less fascinated by the commentary after a minute or two but she was excited by the prospect of being on a double decker bus and having a great view of the streets of Joburg. This meant that both The Husband and I were able to listen to most of the commentary.

I have to say, we were both absolutely fascinated.

My knowledge of the history of Joburg’s CBD before this tour was more or less limited to my memory of Eloff Street being prime real estate in Monopoly (and in real life before the mass business exodus and subsequent urban decay that set in, in the early nineties). So those who are more knowledgeable about the city’s history might already know all the basics the Red Bus tour has to offer, but for us it was the perfect amount of content to whet our appetite. Here’s a brief overview of the bus’ twelve stops, interspersed with some pictures:

1. GAUTRAIN PARK STATION

2. GANDHI SQUARE

Statue of Gandhi in the rejuvenated Gandhi Square
Statue of Gandhi in the rejuvenated Gandhi Square

3. CARLTON CENTRE

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4. SANTARAMA MINI-LAND

With a two year old, we decided that either Santarama or Gold Reef City would be our stop of choice, but we learnt that Santarama is currently undergoing refurbishment, so we decided to save it for next time. Not having grown up in Joburg, I had never heard of Santarama, but to The Husband, passing its entrance was like a blast from the past as he recalls going there as a young child.

5. JAMES HALL TRANSPORT MUSEUM

6. GOLD REEF CITY

Gold Reef City is exactly half way along the two hour round-trip bus tour and so it took us an hour to get there from the Gautrain Station at Park. En route, we entered Jozi’s southern suburbs and passed places I had only ever heard of by name like Turfontein Race Course and Wemmer Pan. The Husband has often spoken of his rowing training and racing at Wemmer Pan when he was a teen, so it was great to be able to place it geographically.

7. APARTHEID MUSEUM

Having visited the Apartheid Museum before, I personally wouldn’t choose to combine a visit there with the bus tour. The Apartheid Museum is brilliant but obviously harrowing given South Africa’s recent history. It is also very detailed and best absorbed if you do not have time constraints. In my view, if you have the option, rather go straight there by car or dedicate a few hours, or a morning, to the museum.

8. MINING DISTRICT WALK

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9. NEWTOWN PRECINT

Balconies of flats in Newtown, replete with the essential Saffer accessory - a Weber braai
Balconies of flats in Newtown, replete with the essential Saffer accessory – a Weber braai

10. ORIGINS CENTRE AT WITS

Sunday worshipers near the Origins Centre, Braamfontein
Sunday worshipers near the Origins Centre, Braamfontein

11. BRAAMFONTEIN (THE GROVE)

Graffiti in Braamies
Graffiti in Braamies

12. CONSTITUTION HILL

Passing the entrance to Constitution Hill
Passing the entrance to Constitution Hill

and back to the GAUTRAIN @ PARK STATION

Although we hadlofty plans to leave the house by 9:30am on the morning of our bus tour, we actually left much later and then proceeded to miss our train, so by the time we got to our chosen stop, Gold Reef City, it was already nearly 1:30pm and The Princess was very much ready for her day sleep by then. We popped her in the pram and, after fatigue overcame her curiosity with her surroundings, she dutifully fell asleep. We then decided it was pointless to go into the theme park with a sleeping child and went in search of lunch instead. I had heard of the restaurant Back of the Moon many years ago, so when we happened upon it inside the Gold Reef City hotel and casino complex (right where the red bus stops), we decided to try it. The Princess happily slept through the live band while we enjoyed a romantic lunch – our day was working out perfectly 🙂

We then checked the timetable and hopped back onto a bus at 14:45. Although The Princess woke up when we wheeled her on-board, she knows that she is no longer allowed to keep her dummy once awake and so she feigned sleep every time we looked her way for the rest of the tour! We decided to play along and left her in her pram, secured by the bus’ special seat belt situated near the front of the downstairs area and settled in to enjoy the rest of the commentary. The one down-side was that one doesn’t get nearly as good a view of the sites from downstairs as one does from upstairs. Yet another reason, why we are keen to take the tour again.

All in all, I would highly recommend the experience. We were fortunate in that The Princess really played along and so we were able to absorb the historic and cultural experience. But even if this hadn’t been the case, it would have been just as fun to experience The Princess’ excitement at going for a ride on top of a big red, double decker bus.

http://www.citysightseeing.co.za/joburg.php

Mr Fix It

When it comes to DIY, I have long lived by an insight gained from my university digsmate, Olivia, when I was twenty.

Olivia’s watch had stopped working. In light of this, she mentioned that she’d be seeing her high school sweetheart, Andrew, at a family function that weekend and that she thought she might take along her watch for him to look at. I was slightly surprised since I’d help to set her up with her current boyfriend, David, just a few months earlier. With the vague notion that her actions may leave her new beau feeling somewhat emasculated, I said:

“Um, why don’t you just ask David to look at it?”

When she responded, she looked at me with the full weight of the two years’ seniority she had over me. It was as though she was trying to say that some day, I, too, would understand:

“Natalie,” she said, “David is intelligent.” She paused to allow the statement to sink in and then continued. “Andrew is Mr Fix It.”

When The Husband and I moved into our home six years ago, I began building up a network of handymen. Our gardener, Dezmond, is a machine with a drill and I look forward to Thursdays when Dez is at work and can tackle my list of chores.

Unfortunately, not all things can wait for a Thursday. Last Saturday, our neighbour and her 23 month old (The Princess’ BFF) arrived with the very generous gift of this car for her second birthday:

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Only, it came flat-packed. The Husband rose to the occasion beautifully with an audience consisting of the following women:

1. His two-year old daughter
2. Her best friend of 23 months
3. Her best friend’s mommy
4. His mother
5. His mother-in-law
6. His wife

I suspect that The Husband was probably most concerned with trying to impress numbers 1 and 2 on the above list and so he set to work at once. Baby/ toddler paraphernalia is never that simple to assemble but what made The Husband’s task that much more challenging is the fact that The Princess insisted on sitting inside her half-built car during its construction. Nonetheless, The Husband managed to attach the roof and sides of the car.

The only snag was that the “door frames” – which were supposed to attach to the base of the car and which, in turn, were attached to the roof – kept popping out. The Husband declared that the car must have been poorly designed to begin with as there seemed absolutely no way that they would ever fit securely. Not one to disappoint his two-year old daughter, however, he came up with an ingenious plan: superglue.

I ventured that although I couldn’t do a better job at assembling a toy car, I was certain that superglue wasn’t the solution. This comment met with a black look from The Husband who proceeded to pour superglue down the plastic cavities on all four sides of the car, before shoving the door frames into these cavities. But the door frames refused to stick.

This gave rise to Ingenious Plan No. 2:

1). Balance a 5kg decor piece in the form of a wooden hippopotamus on top of the car’s roof, together with a large bag filled with cycling kit.

2). Lean on said hippo and bag with the full weight of a grown man.

3). Try to be patient whilst waiting for superglue to stick (all the while allowing one’s two year old daughter to remain seated in her semi-assembled car.)

Once again, I gently ventured that perhaps when Dezmond came,  he could start from scratch. The Husband looked insulted and insisted that despite my lack of faith in his DIY abilities, he hadn’t “made any mistakes.”

Twenty minutes in to Ingenious Plan No. 2, The Husband made an unexpected discovery: holes for bolts where the door frames could be screwed in.

Who would have thought? (Not me, to be fair…)

We now had a car with a roof which no longer popped off. But the front wheels were having trouble advancing. Th Husband’s mechanical analysis of the problem involved him turning the car upside down for inspection. This resulted in the excess superglue spilling out of the cavities onto our wooden floors. During this time The Princess was running around barefoot. Chasing after her to pick her up and get her away from the glue patches seemed like a most amusing game to her. (Much scrubbing of feet went on later in the bath).

Only Turpentine would get rid of the glue on the floor, leaving the living area awash with a distinct chemical smell.

With The Princess’ best friend’s father overseas on business for another week, The Husband had offered to assemble her car too. By now it was early evening and bath time for The Princess. While The Husband was upstairs with her, I quietly packed away her near-complete car together with her BFF’s unbuilt car. On Monday evening, I asked Dezmond to come past after his day job, while The Husband was still at work. A few days later, The Husband saw the girls tearing around the complex in their vehicles and I had to confess that I’d outsourced his job.

The Husband: “How long did it take Dezmond to assemble the second car?”

Me: “Um… just over an hour.”

The Husband: “But it was obviously much easier for him because he could use the car I’d assembled as an example?”

Me: “Of course, Sweetheart.”

The Scary Sandton Hairdresser

I love myself a great blowdry. I really do. If there was a mobile service in Jozi that you could call last minute to come to your house to blowdry your hair, I’d be their best customer. But since Janine from Jeauval in Hyde Park left the hairdressing profession nearly eight years ago, I just haven’t found that perfect combination of hairdressing skills and personality coupled with a fabulous salon experience, to be a regular salon goer. I’m also fortunate in that I actually like my natural hair colour and so, because I don’t have root issues and because I don’t have a hairdresser and a salon I love, I hardly ever get my hair done.

But on Tuesday night I had a function and the thought of squeezing my bulging belly into a nice outfit for it was more than I could bear. So I figured that at least if my hair was fabulous, I’d feel better about having nothing to wear.

I managed to get a last minute appointment at the salon closest to me. I’d tried them before. The hairdresser I’d been to was a genuinely lovely person but we couldn’t have been more different. I realised this when I caught him eyeing my Woolworths water bottle. He said something which I interpreted to be critical of people who drink exclusively bottled water. I quickly assured him that this was not the case and that I refilled my bottles with tap water and only replaced them a couple of times a week. Apparently, it was the issue of replacing the bottles that concerned him. He wanted to know why I didn’t use a permanent sports bottle which didn’t need replacing…

He was also an avid cyclist. At first I thought that he did this for sport, rather than with the sole purpose of saving the planet. He told me that he did all his grocery shopping by bike, but this did have some limitations, especially when it came to items in “unnecessarily large packaging” such a as boxes of cereal. Still not really understanding I said:

“But why don’t you just take the car when you need to stock up on cereal?”

“Oh no,” he said, “I sold my car years ago. I really don’t want to leave any footprint at all.”

Ooooooooh! I suddenly got it. He was what the Mother Figure calls a “greenie beanie”.

That was just over four months ago. This time, with my last minute booking, I was given a new guy in the salon: Benji. Benji introduced himself, took one look at the tufts of pregnancy hair growing vertically from the edge of my forehead, raised an eyebrow and said in a camp Joburg, drawl:

“Oh my GAWD! What ARE we going to do with THOSE?”

Me: “Um… Hide them?”

I explained that they were from pregnancy and that they’d disappeared a few months after my last pregnancy so he shouldn’t be too shocked etc, etc. Still, he looked mildly horrified.

Once my hair had been washed, I asked the lady not to brush or comb it while it was wet as I had a problem with split ends. I then explained this to Benji.

Benji: “This is a special salon brush. The bristles are springy and they bounce off the strands of hair so they can’t split them. But these ends look like they need a really good cut.”

Me: “Yes, yes, I know, this was just last minute and I have a scan in an hour from now so I’ll make a plan to come back when I have more time.”

A pregnant (excuse the pun) pause ensued…

Benji: “By the way… exactly when last did a pair of scissors go near these ends?”

I begin counting the months in my head as I prepare to answer but Benji is quicker:

“1642?” he suggests and promptly cracks up at his own joke.

Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Me: (squirming in my chair) “Um, about four months ago, actually.”

The truth is closer to five months but I decided to round down…

But Benji has more in store for my ailing self esteem:

Benji: “Maybe your ends are in such bad condition because of this bad dye job?”

Me: (spluttering decaff salon cappuccino in shock). “Actually, this is my natural colour. The last time I dyed my hair was in 2006.”

Benji: (with a raised eyebrow which seems to be his specialty) “Really?”

He then takes my split, obviously lighter, probably somewhat sun-damaged ends and places them against my roots to demonstrate the difference in shade.

“You see how much lighter your ends are compared to your roots?” Benji looks at me smugly like a detective presenting a criminal with damning, hard evidence.

Dude, why don’t you just cut to the chase, call your new client a liar and tell her she has crap hair?

But it gets better.

“Or, is it possible, that these ends still have dye on them from 2006?” Benji looks as though he truly believes he may be onto something.

Despite dear, sweet Benji I do walk out of there with a beautiful blow dry, although my pregnancy tufts are threatening to start standing up any minute with the spontaneous downpour that begins just as I step out of the salon’s door…

Who needs a shrink to sort out your self-esteem sh** when you can just get some tough love from a scary hairdresser?

My Heart Bleeds Lumpy Prawn Cocktail for Lady Gaga

I normally take my packet of tissues to concerts in case they run out of bogroll in the toilets. Who knew I’d need my stash of Kleenex at Lady Gaga on Friday night to dry my eyes instead?

This poor, poor woman. I can scarcely hold back the tears right now at the thought of all she’s been through. All of which she was kind enough to share with us, her devoted audience, in great, intricate, painstaking detail – first in words and then through three moving ballads. I wished those ballads would never, ever end, but eventually, they did. The Husband said it was because our Lady was getting chilly sitting at her piano but he just doesn’t understand her like I do. I mean, this poor girl was sent to a private school in New York’s Upper East Side (I hear that’s a really kak area) and she told us that while she was there, the “pretty, skinny girls with straight hair” were mean to her. (Aren’t straight-haired girls just THE WORST?) They bullied her, she said. Wikipedia has the audacity to quote acquaintances from her youth who have tried to discredit her horrific high school experience, claiming she was actually popular and totally fitted in, (although they say that her dress sense smacked a little more of Jersey Shore than of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. So OBVIOUSLY not true!) Clearly, they’re just jealous. During her performance on Friday night, she told us that she’d always vowed to herself that she’d “show those witches”. Not that it was “about revenge” or anything, she hastened to add. ‘Course not. Who would’ve thought it was? At the ripe old age of 26, Lady Gaga has clearly worked through her issues, put her high school hang-ups firmly behind her and moved WAY beyond petty vengefulness.

I felt so sorry for The Husband. He had a really urgent call of nature right when Gaga started opening up to us and just quit singing altogether for a while to really engage with us. Shame, the FNB Stadium is so huge that it took him AGES to get back to the show (he later confessed that he stopped off for a beer and a boerewors roll – he was obviously very hungry after all Gaga’s emotional talk). I was so sad for him that he’d missed connecting with Gaga but he said he that the sound in the stadium was so good, he’d actually heard every word, despite a desperate attempt to dunk his head in the toilet to drown out the sound of her voice. Men!

So, thank goodness, he did hear her revealing how she’d left her family home in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (also a really kak area, I believe) and set sail for an NYU dorm room many, many moons away on 11th street in Manhattan: “I left my family at the age of seventeen!” she confided. She wanted to make it on her own, she told us. Somehow, Wikipedia says, her Dad managed to track her down and paid her rent for a year when she dropped out of her musical theatre programme at 19 (apparently on condition that she’d go back if she didn’t become a star). What a chop! She told him she wanted to go it alone! Parents just never listen when their teens clearly know best…

I’m just so glad that, finally a star has come to South Africa who is able to to stop her show and preach to 100,000 of us misunderstood, misfits. I mean, here we were, thinking we were going to a pop concert and instead Lady Gaga literally stopped her singing and gave us a therapy session based on her own, traumatic humbling experience in New York’s slums. So, so grateful. My life will never be the same again. I’m going to end off with my favourite quote of the evening:

Don’t give a f*ck about what people think or say about you. It doesn’t matter if your parents don’t have a seat for you at the dinner table, because they can’t accept you for who you are. You will always have a seat at my table. We are family!

Sniff… I just felt so alone before I knew I was related to Gaga. I can’t believe that Die Antwoord refused to become part of the Lady Gaga family and turned down her offer of opening the concert for her. And then they made this mean video clip of her birthing a prawn – seriously, people? – and being mauled by a lion. Shame, some people have some serious issues. Here’s the clip. Not for sensitive Little Monster fans.

It Is About The Bike, Apparently

A few blog posts ago (I Am Strapped) I wrote about a running injury I had developed. The physio’s final diagnosis was that the pain was caused by a weak inner thigh muscle. She showed me some exercises that I was told to do ten times, three times a day, for the rest of eternity. She even drew me this nice diagram:

The problem was, I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I knew I needed to do the exercises lying on the floor. I’m actually quite a fan of lying on the floor. The thing is, it’s not all that practical – it’s not something you can do while you wait in the queue at Woolies or while you’re stopped at a red traffic light. Not like Kegels (those exercises you’re supposed to do when you’re preggers) which you can, theoretically, do anytime, any place. I can’t say that I ever remembered bothered to do my Kegels so the chances of me lying on the floor and doing something I don’t really understand, were looking slim from the outset…

Enter The Husband’s take on my injury:

“Cycling really strengthens that muscle.”

Ordinarily, I would have been suspicious of such a statement but since he started cycling, he has often thrust a flexed thigh at me and gone: “Look at my muscle!” I then need to exclaim on the magnitude of the protrusion above his knee. In fairness, one day there was nothing and the next day, after many months of intense cycling, there really was a protrusion. It was this development that led me to the following conclusion: if I got my arse on a bicycle once in a while, then perhaps I wouldn’t need to do three sets of three things I didn’t understand three times a day. You see the logic?

Given his obsession with cycling, you’d have thought The Husband would’ve jumped into immediate action when I announced that I would deign to don a pair of thigh hugging lycra pants with a built in butt cushion. Instead, this is what ensued:

The Husband: “Hmmm. We’ll need to buy you a bike.”

Me: “You own eight bikes.”

(This is not an exaggeration, although two are fixed, indoor trainers and one is on long term long to his cycling partner. Still, every time I drive into the garage, I see FIVE BIKES taking up valuable storage space. Space where I could put unused baby baths, the spare desk that is an eyesore in our study…the list goes on. In short, I do not want another bike on the premises.)

The Husband: They’re all special.

Me: You are joking, right? You’ve been begging me to cycle with you for four years and you won’t lend your special wife one of your FIVE special bikes? Here…What about this one?

The Husband: The Eddie Merckx? Are you INSANE? My Eddie Merckx? Have you lost your mind?

Me: It’s the prettiest one, but whatever. What about this one?

The Husband: This Giant is a top end, top quality bike. Carbon fibre, integrated seat post…(and various snoring, boring, apparently fantastic features which I obviously can’t recall)

Me: Sounds good. I’ll take it.

The Husband: You can’t. Even if I wanted you to ride it, which I don’t, you can’t because it has an integrated seat post.

Me: What the cr*p is that?

The Husband: The seat was especially built for me. You can’t change the height.

Me: Well that’s just stupid. But fine. What about this Giant, seeing as you have two of them.

The Husband: They’re not the same.

Me: They look exactly the same. But whatever. Why can’t I ride this one?

The Husband: It also has an integrated seat post and don’t bother eyeing my Yeti because it has one too.

Me: What about this one here? Old Scotty Boy?

The Husband: I would MAYBE consider letting you ride the Scott, even though it’s a really special bike… But it doesn’t have pedals.

Brilliant. Five bikes with immovable seats and no pedals.

Threats to never climb on a bike as long as I lived mobilised The Husband to make a plan. He bought pedals for his beloved Scott and painstakingly attached them to the bike with complex looking, tool-like things.

(I have often asked him how it is that he can morph into a bike mechanic with a toolbox the size of Bob The Builder’s but can’t put up a picture. He tells me it’s like me and cooking – meaning, I can cook but I just don’t want to.)

Finally, after about two weeks of discussion on the topic of me riding a bike around the block, we were all set this Sunday afternoon. The Princess was asleep. We’d raided the neighbourhood’s nanny network and found someone to babysit. I was wearing the most unflattering pair of cycling pants that helped to expose a beautiful set of muffin tops. The Husband was hopping with excitement. In short, we were all set.

The ride was very pleasant. I was thinking that this was a really pleasant way to spend time. You could get to all your favourite haunts so much quickly, in the fresh air (e.g. red velvet cupcakes at Belle’s Patisserie). You can stop off along the way, grab a coffee, chat while riding. This was fun. I could do this.

And then The Husband decided to introduce statistics.

“We’ve ridden just over 8km in 52 minutes,” he announced. “You can run as fast as this. Only just, but you can.”

I thought it would be too demotivating to ask what his little gadget said about calorie burn. Probably one whole skinny cappuccino.

And to top it all off, my arse is still sore four days later.