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.

Ball Talk on the Court

On Saturday, I told a 60 year old man that we needed to “rediscover our magic from last week”.

What can I say, except that I get stressed on the tennis court?

The previous week at social tennis, I was partnered with the Chairman of the Club. It wasn’t the first time I’d played as his partner and I can’t actually remember the outcome of any of the prior games but when we partnered up again, I was somehow certain that I spent most of the match feeling utterly mortified by my performance. This time was no different. We (I) started out badly, trailing 0-2. And then, all of a sudden, we turned things around and won the set 6-3. Yeeha!

So when we got paired up again this past Saturday and were trailing 0-2 once again, it seemed logical to invoke inspiration from the previous weeks’ successful turnaround.

Fortunately, the Chairman is such a gentleman that he merely smiled at my social blunder and I was able to half hide my scarlet face under my cap.

For the next match this past weekend, my partner was a gentleman whom I would say must be well into his seventies. Not a reason to underestimate the man on the court, I soon learned. Some of his shots were so beautiful and so genius, I felt as though I were watching them in slow motion – like perfectly orchestrated chess moves. Thanks to his talent, we were holding our own against our opponents – one of whom was a women in her forties whom I have played against at least four times in the past six months. For some reason, each time we are pitted against one another, she introduces herself as though she has never clapped eyes on me in her life. Grrrr. So beating this woman with the help of my supremely talented seventy-something partner was high on my agenda. I was taking things seriously.

My partner and I were getting along swimmingly, when all of a sudden he asked me whether I was “making love to that ball”.

This was a part of Tennis Etiquette that The Manners Brigade had omitted to fill me in on during their lectures.

Er…I’m sorry…I’m not familiar with that technical term on the tennis court, Gramps…

That’s when he pointed to the ball that I was apparently hogging inside the secret pocket of my tennis skirt. The thing is, I love cute little white tennis skirts but shoving balls “up your broeks” (as Ethel puts it) is neither as easy, nor as elegant, as one might wish. As a result, I tend to leave the third and spare ball in its secret pocket up my skirt, until its really, really needed in the game. I tried to explain this to Gramps.

“I prefer to collect the other two balls,” I say, “because it’s hard to get this one in and out.”

Such eloquence, Natalie!

He smiles, before explaining that my method of making love to the balls “in my broeks” means that one ball is much warmer than the others. Apparently, the balls need to be rotated.

Seriously, that’s what he explained.

I still haven’t worked out whether it’s better to serve with warm or cold balls, but at that point I decided it would be better not to ask. Maybe I’ll check in with The Manners Brigade this Saturday and see what they have to say on the matter.

Or I’ll wear a pair of good old, reliable shorts with pockets on the outside allowing for quick and easy ball access… Hmmm. Might be the best solution.

Anyone for Tennis?

I’ve always loved tennis. The problem is, I’m completely rubbish at it. Which is why it took me seven years to pluck up the courage to start playing social tennis at my local club. I was afraid I would be so bad relative to everyone else, it would be embarrassing.

And that has honestly been the case quite often. But it’s also been lots of fun and I’ve met some classic characters. To set the scene, here’s an interaction that took place during a ladies doubles match a few weeks ago. I’ll call my partner Ethel and I’ll call one of our opponents Granny Dawn. First of all, Granny Dawn is past her physical prime and struggles to move around the court as a result. When we knock up before a match starts, it is customary at this club for two players to hit to one another using half the court, while the other two players do the same on the other side of the court. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not very good, so for me to control my shots so that they land nicely in the middle of the one half of the court, is often impossible.

But when you knock up with Granny Dawn, unless you hit a perfect shot that is neatly placed directly in front of her (which is what I try my utmost to do), she won’t even contemplate hitting it. And that’s when she tells me that I “really need to try to hit the ball to her”. Thanks for clearing that up, Granny Dawn! I totally thought the idea was to hit all over the show!

So, anyway, Ethel and I were playing a match against Granny Dawn and another lady when Granny Dawn hit a terrible shot at net which prompted the following:

Ethel (quietly, to me – actually not that quietly as Granny Dawn is fairly deaf): “You know, when Dawn was younger, she used to be brilliant at net. Really, really fast.”

I’m thinking that I can’t imagine such a time (although, to be fair to Granny Dawn, I’m so useless I don’t even dare to stand at net in doubles) and that it must have been before the Rinderpest, but I’m curious as to how old these women who are still playing some mean tennis, actually are, so I say:

Natalie: Really? That’s impressive. How long ago was that, Ethel?

Ethel: Well, put it this way, I’ve been a member here for 58 years.

Now, Ethel is way too sharp to give me enough facts to allow me to calculate her age, but suffice it to say, these ladies have experience behind them. I try to make up for my lack of skills and experience by chasing down almost every ball. During the same match, I hit the worst loping lollipop to Granny Dawn in tennis history. Granny Dawn swung her racquet at my terrible shot and completely missed, but it was such an awful shot, I could hardly blame her, so I apologised. Ethel doesn’t tolerate apologies on the tennis court so she turned to me and said:

“Don’t apologise! It’s not your fault she can’t see the ball!”

Here’s another classic from Ethel from a different doubles match in which we were playing opposite Granny Dawn. Granny Dawn had hit an unplayable lollipop to me which I’d tried my best to return but failed hopelessly. Instinctively, I apologised. Ethel immediately looked slightly annoyed, turned to me and said:

“Don’t say sorry! You can’t return a crap shot like that!”

I have to say that I am honestly very fond of Ethel. She was on duty the first day that I came to social tennis in May this year. Being on duty means you are in charge of allocating people to doubles matches as and when players become available. I thought I was dutifully waiting my turn, when Ethel approached me, wanting to know who I was. When I told her, she replied that she would never have known I was there to play social tennis because I was “sitting in the wrong place”.

“Come sit here!” she ordered and I obediently moved from the bench I was sitting on to a chair about four metres away. This was apparently the “waiting to go on the court” section of the club. Right.

Ethel and I got chatting and I told her that I was useless but that I was hoping that, in time, if I played regularly, I’d improve.

“Don’t worry” she said, “there are alot of people here who think they are stars, but they’re not!”

I liked Ethel instantly and I think she likes me because the chance of me starting to believe that I’m a tennis star, are slim to none.

I also try to make up for my lack of skill by fetching lots of balls. (Being several decades younger than everyone also makes me feel kind of obliged to do so…) Ethel approves of this behaviour and as a result has declared that I am “well brought up”. She doesn’t necessarily think the same of a poor, pimply preteen youngster whose father drags him along every Saturday to play with the oldies. And she lets me know this. I can’t help but feel sorry for the kid. I’ve seen him wearing a bright red jersey with an ostrich on the front that was clearly knitted for him by his granny. Manners or no manners, high school aint going to be a picnic for this little guy.

Other members of the social tennis scene think a whole lot less of my upbringing. And have told me so. A few weeks ago, my partner, as well as one of my opponents, a two metre tall German woman, stopped play and called me to net to lecture me on several aspects of tennis etiquette. I don’t mind being filled in on unwritten rules, like passing the ball under the net – my balls frequently get stopped by the net as I seem to be unable to consistently keep them low enough on the ground, so I confess that I have resorted to gently hitting the ball over the net instead.

“It’s just good manners,” I was told. Apparently, passing the ball over the net is tantamount to screaming obscenities on the tennis court, from a manners perspective. I actually have heard the f-word coming out of an extremely frustrated granny’s mouth during play…

Anyway, I’ll be back this Saturday to hit some more lollipops and to listen to some more lectures on my lack of manners and my undignified up-bringing. At least one can blame one’s parents for those things 🙂

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SandtonMommy is on Twitter

When I saw a Facebook post by my thirteen year old niece calling all her friends to “follow me!!!” I decided it was time that On Sabbatical in Sandton had a Twitter presence.

I roll my eyes at the levels of fear and intimidation that The Mother Figure experiences every time she tries to look at the latest pics of The Princess of Facebook, but I confess that I felt some of that confusion with respect to Twitter and its character restrictions in terms of names, usernames and tweets. A few years ago I caught The Mother Figure laughing uproariously at a Pieter Dirk Uys/ Evita Bezuidenhout quote which went something like “You won’t find me under Facebook or over at Twitter…” Well, I can confirm that even Tannie Evita, at her tender age, has given and can now be found on Twitter: @TannieEvita. Along with my niece’s Twitter presence, I took that as a sign that I needed to get over myself. And so, with a little help from the friendly people at the EC Mac store in Atholl Square, I managed to wrap my head around Twitter’s rules and regulations and settled on:

Twitter name: SabbaticalinSandton

Twitter username: SandtonMommy

You can follow me on Twitter by clicking on the Twitter link that looks like the picture below, in the right hand column on this blog’s homepage, just under “archives” or simply clicking on this picture link below:

You can also get these blog posts straight to your Inbox via e-mail by “subscribing” to this blog. To do this, just go to the homepage and enter your e-mail address in the subscription box that looks like this: (it’s just under the big photo of The Princess at the top of the blog).

Thanks to Blair over at Blairadise for being my first Twitter follower.

I am Strapped

It’s official – I have been strapped:

I am Strapped

It all began with the Nike We Run Jozi 10km race two Sundays ago. I was gutted that I missed the Nike night run through the city of Jozi on 21 March this year (we were out of town) and I vowed to do the next one. From June to August, Megan, my running buddy and I, would meet once a week for a 5km trot. We’d chat, run at a nice, chilled pace and just generally enjoy the urban scenery. Then came our family trip to Geneva and Antibes for The Husband’s cycle race, where I figured I’d stretch myself to 6km since the routes on my doorstep there, were nowhere near as hilly as the routes on my Jozi doorstep, plus I was no longer running at an altitude of 1,600m. Then, in the ten days leading up to the Nike We Run Jozi race, I did two 7km trots and one 8km run. I reckoned I was ready for my first 10km in years.

The Husband proposed that we run the Nike 10km together. I agreed but thought to myself, “there is no way he is going to be able to force himself to stick around at my granny pace.”

Since the race started about 400m from our front door, we arrived on foot a mere 15 minutes before the start and took up a place right at the back of the crowd of 20,000 people. There was a fantastic vibe and lots of up-beat music, interspersed by classic comments by the Nike such as:


We felt like rockstars 🙂

Naturally, we were only able to start moving several minutes after the official start. And then The Husband was off: darting and dodging his way through the crowd of runners, with me trying to keep up with him. Along with the other Type A, gung-ho, superstars taking the race very, very seriously, we jumped over pavement barriers (I am still nursing a HUGE bruise on my inner thigh) and we spread out onto pavements alongside the official race path. In short, we did anything to get ahead and make sure we achieved “our” goal (my granny goal) of finishing in less than 70 minutes. After a while, I realised that a 20,000 person race was not the type of race in which one should get hit up about goals, so I told The Husband I was going to quit trying to keep up with him as he gently and politely elbowed his way past runner after runner. It was just too stressful.

A quick aside on the race: I thought it was amazing. Yes, there were 20,000 people and yes, there were times when it was impossible to run and you had to walk owing to sheer numbers, but considering the number of people, I’m surprised we weren’t forced to walk a whole lot more. Running through the streets of Alex was an incredible, unique experience, as was running along the M1 freeway to the finish. The crowds in Alex were out in full support – cheering, high fiving and helping to hand out water. The experience was marred only by some bigot behind me – the kind of a**hole who makes you embarrassed to be South African – who said:

“That’s right! High five and then you touch your face and then tomorrow you wonder why you’re sick!”


Aside from that incident, the race was great. The Husband very sweetly ran with me the whole way. (He even gently and steadily pushed me up one of the hills at around the 8km mark). And, once the field was a little more spread out and it was easier to run at your chosen pace, he encouraged me to push a little to achieve my goal of an average pace of less than seven minutes per kilometre, which I managed to do.

Greatness: when even granny pace gets you gold

The Nike race inspired The Husband and he decided that we should run together again that week. I was keen to slip back to a little 5km or 6km trot, but his view on running 5km is that “it takes longer to get dressed”. (I argue that the veracity of that statement depends entirely on how fast you run, but he ignores me.) He wanted us to run no fewer than 10km “otherwise we’re regressing.” Not in the mood to argue, I grudgingly agreed.

And so, three days after the Nike race, we set off on our own 10km run. The Husband picked the route – a route in which the first three kilometres were uphill. As I was puffing and panting along and thinking that I was in hell and that there was still SOOOO much further to go, the conversation went like this:

The Husband: “So… what’s your goal?”

Me: (Cough, splutter, gasping for air and glaring at him). “I don’t have a goal.”

The Husband: “No. I mean, why do you want to run 10km?”

Me: “I don’t want to run 10km! You want to run 10km!”

And that was the end of the conversation.

As it turns out, I made a slight but critical error of judgement when it came to directions and, as a result, we wound up running no fewer than 11.3km. It was actually fine, because we stuck to my granny pace. The only problem was that four days later, I woke up to a very odd pain on the side of my knee.

Luckily it has turned out not to be serious at all but the physio has advised me not to run more than 5km for now, until I strengthen my weak inner thigh muscles which are not adequately supporting my knee (or something…)

When I told The Husband that we should have gradually built up our mileage, he replied:

“We did. We ran 10km and then we ran 11km.”

Next stop: the Soweto 10km on 4 November.

Getting Your Child Into a Good School in Joburg

Not long ago, I didn’t know the difference between playschool and nursery or pre-primary school. I didn’t know at what age one’s child was supposed to go where. I had a vague notion that these days there is something called Grade 0 (Grade Nought), Grade 00 (Grade Double Nought) and Grade 000 (Grade Triple Nought) which, just to confuse new mommies is called Grade “N”.

But I had heard about waitlists for good schools, even nursery schools and so getting The Princess’ name down has been on the “to do” list for some time now. Without having even seen the playschool in our neighbourhood, I was keen on it because it’s within walking distance. All the “good” (or so we’re told) nursery and pre-primary schools are between 3.5km and 5km away from our house, which may not sound far, but in Joburg traffic, that can mean anything. So I figured that if I could walk her to school and back for the first year or two, amongst the trees, in the fresh air, that would be awesome. So I arranged to go and visit the school in early May – seven months before she would potentially start there. I thought that was forward planning.

Apparently not. The owner of the playschool duly showed us around and put The Princess’ name in her book, but told us that she was “full, full, full” for next year and that The Princess was around 12th on her waiting list.

The funny thing is that I’m not even sure I want to pack my 22 month old angel off to playschool for three hours a day. I just want the opportunity to be able to send her to a playgroup if, at the time, it feels like the right thing for her. But apparently, in this competitive day and age, I wasn’t to have that choice because I had woken up too late.

Fortunately, The Husband insisted on putting The Princess’ name down at various private schools from Grade 000 or Grade 0 at birth. It was during that delirious period for me, of having just given birth, suffering from insomnia and sleep deprivation, battling to breastfeed and not having a clue how to care of this new helpless creature. Schooling could not have been further from my mind. Thank God for The Husband’s insistence, but mainly, thank God for his PA, who ensured that The Princess’ application forms were filled out and her application fees paid, when she was less than two months old.

But with this whole playschool scare, The Husband started panicking about her chances of getting into primary school. He wanted me to call the schools and find out what her chances were looking like. Here’s how the phone calls went, in general:

Me: (icky sweet, wanting to make good impression in this hyper competitive environment for the sake of my fourteen month old child’s future) I’m SO, SO sorry to bother you. I was wondering if you could spare a VERY brief moment to chat to me about my daughter’s entry into your school in, er, 2015. I really wouldn’t bother you so far in advance but my husband’s panicked, if you can believe it.

(Awaiting wild laughter at a panicking father, three years before his child’s entry into a new standard called Grade 0. I mean, I don’t actually even know what they do in Grade 0).

Lady from school: No problem at all. Your husband is absolutely right to be panicked. (Very sweet and patient but no sign of amusement whatsoever.)

Me: (Gulp). I see.

Silence while she finds our application.

Lady: Okay, here it is. Oh! it says “name taken off list. Tried to contact parents but no response.”

Total shocked silence from my side. I am picturing The Husband skinning me alive for yet another disastrously managed admin task by his darling wife. I am also thinking what a terrible home schooling teacher I would make and thinking that emigration to a country with less competition for good schools may not be such a bad idea…

Lady: Hahahahaha! Just joking! She’s on the list! Hahahahahahaha!

Me: (attempting to fake hilarity in the interests of camaraderie with this woman who holds my child’s future in her hands). Ha…ha…hahahahahahahahaha!!! How funny! Oh gosh, you really had me for a moment. Hahahahahaha!

Communal laughter ensues for a while – a sufficient amount to convince me that we’re best friends and that she’ll remember me and the plight of my fourteen month old daughter who is currently playing in her sandpit, shoveling spadefuls of sand into her mouth.

Lady from school: Okay, so I see you’ve had her down since she was about two months old. Okay. That is fairly far in advance, so she SHOULD be alright BUT, I cannot guarantee her a place.

I’m thinking: “Fairly” far in advance? Lady, are you frigging kidding me! Two months old for crying out loud and you cannot guarantee her a place!

Me: (very, very politely posing a question which I would prefer to lace with sarcasm.) So, er, just out of interest sake…you know… I mean, for next time, when would be a good time to apply?

Very tempted to add: “Would that be the day of conception, when we just had a feeling that, on that particular day, The Husband’s swimmers were going for gold? Or should we wait until we get two red stripes on the pregnancy test and pop that into the application envelope as proof?”

Lady from school: Well, some of the mothers put their foetuses name’s down when they are pregnant.

Me: Gosh, wow. What forward planning. Very impressive. I must remember that. Only, we don’t like to publicly name our babies until they are actually, you know, er, born, so how would that work? Would we need to nickname our foetus for your list?

Lady from school: Hahahha! No, no! The mothers just put “Baby Smith” on the application form, for example.

Me: Okay, fabulous! Will be sure to do so next time! Thank you so much for your time!

So there you have it. If you want your unborn children to go to the best schools in Joburg that you are fully prepared to pay good money for (a small car per annum, to be precise), put your foetus’ “names” down PRONTO!

Turns out that old girls and siblings get bumped up the famous “lists” so that’s one of the main reasons it’s so tough for the poor little Princess whose mother went to Plett Primary.

The good news is that, out of the blue, two weeks after being told that the local playschool, was “full, full, full”, I got an e-mail from the owner offering The Princess a place for 2013. I swear, I could not have been more excited if she’d been offered a place at Harvard. I was bursting with pride, even though she was fast asleep when we went to see the school and had absolutely no idea why I couldn’t stop giving her congratulatory kisses all day.

And the competition has only just begun. My poor baby!

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