Night Nurses and Bad Mommies

The Husband knows me well. He knows how grumpy I get when I am sleep deprived. For this reason, he wanted to arrange a night nurse well before The Princess’ birth. I resisted. I told him I would manage. I said, “So what if I don’t sleep all night? I have help during the day and I don’t have a job to go to, I’ll sleep during the day.” He begged me to at least get the names and numbers of night nurses before the birth. I refused. And so he got onto it himself while we were in the hospital. He asked around and it turned out that one of the Park Lane nurses worked as a night nurse during her off days. She gave him her number. Still, I resisted. We went home with The Princess and I think I lasted one and a half nights. At 3am on the second night, both delirious with fatigue, emotions and, for me, insomnia and hormones, we had a huge blow-up. So when The Husband said, “NOW, can we get a night nurse?” I relented.

Courtesy of the luxury of having a night nurse, we did “date night” one night some weeks later. I squeezed myself into my jeans, my baby belly bulging over the waistband. I then squashed my swollen feet into a pair of agonisingly tight heels and off we went to a restaurant 250m from home. The restaurant was deserted but for a few drinkers. The hostess was dressed in a white mini-skirt that she couldn’t quite pull off. She was overly obliging, she desperately needed to have her roots done and the food was abominable. Nonetheless, we had an amazing time. It was on this night that we discussed how long we were going to employ a night nurse for. I was thinking three, maybe four month tops, when The Husband announced that he would be prepared to fork out for a night nurse for a year. One year? It sounded totally insane. It was around May 2011 at the time and a night nurse for one year would mean having someone until the end of March 2012. The Princess would already be a year old and I imagined her practically reading to herself by then – one year seemed a lifetime away.

Now, here we are, eight and a half months later and I am as attached to Margie, our night nurse, as The Princess is. And this is despite the fact that, very soon after we met, she asked me what I weighed. I resent being asked that by grown women who buy size 13-14 pants. I know she wears children’s clothes because she told me so – somewhat smugly, if I’m not mistaken. She also asked The Mother Figure how old she was. I was hoping my mom would give her the same response she used to give The Sister and I when we were growing up – “I’m as old as the moon and as young as the stars” but instead I laughed out loud at the audacity of the question, thereby disturbing The Princess who started to cry and so everyone’s attention was diverted from the “how old” question to the baby. And of course, I refused to tell her how much I weighed.

My attachment to my night nurse is even strong enough to withstand the fact that, basically, she thinks I’m not the best mother. Here’s how I know this. We brought her to Cape Town with us last week so we’d have the evenings free to catch up with friends without disrupting The Princess’ night routine. Oh yes, and also so we could sleep all night, as we are so fortunately accustomed to doing. Margie was supposed to be off work all day, only working nights, but by 8:30 one morning, The Princess’ crying and moaning disturbed her sleep and she came downstairs looking concerned, if not a little cross. She wanted to know why The Princess wasn’t yet asleep and offered to put her down herself (because I obviously wasn’t succeeding). This is the exchange that followed:

Me: She just won’t go to sleep. I’m not a bad mother, Margie. (Smiling). (I was totally, totally kidding. I think I’m a great mother).

Total, earth shattering silence.

Me: Margie, I can see she’s exhausted, but she refuses to fall asleep. I tried for ages and ages. Seriously, I’m not a bad mother. (Still smiling).

At this stage, I was fully expecting her to say, “No, no, of course, you’re not a bad mother.” Instead, here’s what she said:

Margie: You know, Natalie, it’s not my place to rank you as a mother. That’s not what I’m employed to do.

Dead, dead silence.

I said nothing. I think I just stared at her with raised eyebrows. I was sort of paralysed somewhere between shock and amusement.

Luckily, I’m pretty thick skinned when it comes to people who look after my child while I get a full night’s sleep so I can’t say I took major offence.

Later that day, I gave Margie some proper ammunition to back up her bad mother theory. The Husband had managed to put The Princess down in the afternoon for the first time ever. He was very proud of himself and declared that we were not allowed to wake her until she woke up herself. “I want her to sleep the full time,” he said. “Sleep is good for her, right?”.

As a result we arrived at The Husband’s brother’s house about an hour late, at 4pm, for The Princess’ first meeting with her three month old cousin. The Princess’ supper time is normally between 5 and 5:30 but somehow, I was feeling super relaxed, we were on holiday and I just went into some sort of zone where baby chores don’t exist.

When we got back from our late tea date, I dashed straight to Woolworths to shop for a dinner party we were hosting that night, while Margie and The Husband bathed The Princess. I was back by about 6:30 and as I walked in the door, The Husband shouted down, slightly annoyed: “Has she had supper?”

I paused… slowly re-entering the zone…Hmmm….Food…The Princess…5pm…supper time…


I forgot to feed her!

Bad, bad, bad mother!

Of course, Margie had noticed that there was something remiss during bath time and wanted to know if she had eaten, given the fact that feeding her would have been her useless mother’s responsibility.

Whilst frantically preparing The Princess’ supper, I tried to make light of my oversight by reminding Margie and The Husband, that very often The Princess refused to eat more than one or two tiny mouthfuls of supper anyway. But of course, Murphy’s Law, on this particular evening, when offered food at 6:45, The Princess ate like a ravenous wild animal. At one stage, she even grabbed the spoon out of my hand because I wasn’t shoveling the food into her little mouth quickly enough.

Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad mother!

Now, we’re spending eleven nights in Hermanus without Margie. I am viewing this as training for when her time with us comes to an end on 1 February next year. So far, we’ve sort of survived three nights. The first night was a very rude awakening to night-time parenting. The Princess woke up at midnight for some reason and just wouldn’t go back to sleep until 3:30. We walked, we rocked, we sang, we shushed. We tried everything. We would’ve dosed her with Calpol but we recently discovered that Calpol is like Espresso for her – it totally gives her a buzz. Luckily, the past two nights have only involved a few dummy dashes and she’s slept like a little angel.

Holding thumbs for the next eight nights until we’re re-united with Margie for one more blissful month of sleeping all night…

A Funny from The Garden Route Mall

The Father Figure is currently in hospital in Oudtshoorn and so The Princess, her nanny and I are staying with the in-laws in George for a week while The Husband is overseas so we can visit him.


This morning, The Mother-in-Law, The Princess and I headed over to the Garden Route Mall for a morning's entertainment and some Woolies cappuccinos – as you do in George. I was pushing The Princess through the mall in her stroller, minding my own business, when I came across this sign for a shop:

But it gets better. Contrary to all logic, this is not an adult bookstore. Cum to think of it, (sorry, I could not resist) an adult bookstore would be mighty out of place in the middle of a mall in uber conservative George, sandwiched between Reggies and Clicks or something to that effect.


I mentioned this curiously named bookstore to The Mother-in-Law and she said she believed it was a religious book shop. I was about to start my blog by remarking on the crazy things one stumbles across in small towns, when I decided to Google "Cum Books Garden Route Mall". I was a bit concerned that Google would return a list of pornographic sites, but it seems my search was specific enough and eventually I found the book store's home page.


Wait for it:


I am not kidding here. Type it in yourself.


Anyway, so much for a far-flung, small town phenomenon, CUM Books/ Boeke is in fact a nationwide chain of 40 bookstores, their by-line being "Christian Family Bookstore". And no, CUM is not actually the acronym "C.U.M." – or if it once was, or is indeed supposed to be now, then this is truly not obvious from their signage or their web-site. In fact they are so very, very comfortable with their name, that the e-mail address advertised on their web-site is:


[email protected]


It's as though they want to see how many times they can say "that" word…


I mean, cum on!


Again – couldn't resist 🙂

Fine Dining, Doggy Style

I believe I have a fine appreciation for most things French. I love their beautiful language, their sense of style, their magnificent gastronomic flair…but I have never understood their willingness to share all of this with their dogs. At a guest house in the Alps last year, I was horrified to find a rate card in our room for "nos amis a quatre pattes" (our four-legged friends).

As 2010 drew to a close, however, I learned that it is not just the Frenchies who treat their pooches like people. I learned this when I discovered we were sharing our Umhlanga hotel's fine dining restaurant with not one…not two…but THREE pampered pets. Since when do silver service and slobbering dogs go together? Admittedly, we probably would never have noticed the little mutts, had our waiter (the man has a sense of humour) not decided to quietly point them out to us. It wasn't so much their presence that he wanted to share with us, but the matter of their finely developed taste buds. Two of the coochy-coochy poochies apparently preferred still water, whilst the third had a penchant for sparkling, which our waiter had just served them in their silver-plated doggie bowls. Next up, the hounds were going for the Fillet Bearnaise, served with potato dauphinoise. This was straight from the menu ordinarily reserved for humans. For the more neglected pets out there, however, their owners have the option of a specially designed "pet menu" which the hotel offers. This menu doesn't offer Fillet Bearnaise, but instead Fluffy can feast on some delicious "Woof Waffles" – grilled waffles which are served with "a large boerewors sausage and gravy". Mmmm. Or if Fluffy has had a big night and wants a morning after fry-up, then he can have the "Full Doggy Breakfast" which consists of: scrambled eggs, pork sausage, bacon and hash browns. And all of this is on offer for the yummy price of 95 ZAR.

Who said pets were cheaper than kids?

Because it was New Year's Eve, this doggy-friendly fine dining establishment was offering a "dinner & dance" combo. When we saw the band, we suspected that the music may be a bit before our time – the average age of the musicians was about 75 squared. I guess it made sense since the average age of the guests was in that region as well. Which would have been fine, except that these people belong to an era when white men really could dance. Not so, for The Husband and I. Our little foray onto the dance floor went something like this:

The Husband: Okay, we can do this. We can show those old-timers. My mother sent me to some lessons for my matric dance and I know what I'm doing here.

Me: Great, because I have no idea what you're doing.

The Husband: It's easy. I lead, you follow.

Me: How am I supposed to follow when I have no idea what you're about to do next?

The Husband: You don't need to know because you're following me. That's the definition of following. Your problem is that you can't stand not being in charge.

Me: My problem is I can't read your mind.

The Husband: Just follow me, for Christ's sake. I'm in charge!

Me: I get it – you're in charge. You just don't seem to be in charge of your feet because you just crushed my baby toe with one of them.

During this spectacle we managed to collide with a Swiss couple a few times. They may have been in their twilight years but when they got moving on the dance floor, they did these one-legged jigs that would have put 16 year old gymnasts to shame. And they weren't the only ones who really knew how to shake a shoe or two. The rest of the couples were spinning one another around, looking like Strictly Coming Dancing for seniors.

Mercifully, we were put out of our misery by the ringing in of the New Year when everyone stood in a circle and did some kind of a folking dancing, can-can number in lieu of a countdown. Clearly, that's how they did things back then, before the war.

After the old Auld Lang Syne sing-along with the old folk, we discovered a venue upstairs with dancing and music from this decade. At least there we could steer clear of one another's two left feet. Only thing was, the floor was dominated by 21 year old girls in the highest of heels and the shortest of dresses. Not one to be up-staged after being shown up by the senior citizens downstairs, I was determined to get "low, low, low" with Flo-rida and the best of the twenty-somethings.

Not a good move at 29 weeks pregnant…Needless to say, I retired to bed soon afterwards, leaving the respective dance floors to the very old and the very young.

Happy New Year, everyone. Remember: never start a New Year's Resolution on a weekend!

Zooolooo Hospitality in the Midlands

Just in case anyone had any illusions that paternalism in South Africa was dead…I can report from personal experience that it is alive and kicking in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands.

First of all, someone needs to tell hotel owners that no-one cares who they are or what they've achieved in their long and illustrious lives. Second of all, someone needs to tell them that we also couldn't give a cr*p about their socio-political views.

Allow me to elaborate…

The Husband and I set off on our annual adventure yesterday afternoon for a two-night stint in the KzN Midlands en route to Umhlanga. I had been dying to visit this particular Midlands establishment – renowned for its award winning cuisine – for years. At 5pm, we arrived and confirmed with the manageress that we would most definitely be "joining them" for dinner. We were told that we should present ourselves at 7pm for aperitifs, which would be followed by a speech by "Mr Blah-di-Blah" before dinner. Mr Blah-di-Blah's name (which I honestly did not catch) was pronounced so matter of factly that she may as well have told us we were to be addressed by Nelson Mandela himself. Although I suspected that Mr Blah-di-Blah was the hallowed owner of the establishment, I couldn't resist asking, "Er, who's he when he's at home?" It was then confirmed that he was indeed the almighty owner.

No big deal, you might be thinking. But The Husband and I have had our fair share of boutique hotel experiences where self-important proprietors actually think your life's goal is to belong to their inner circle. We were really looking forward to a private, romantic dinner to kick-start our holiday and we just had a niggly feeling about this scheduled "speech".

At 7pm sharp, we were seated on the guest house's stately patio for appertifs when, soon enough, Blah-di-Blah came bounding over to introduce himself. We decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and were on our best behaviour, exchanging pleasantries on the weather and other such engrossing topics. He then bounded over to introduce himself to some more guests as they stepped onto the patio. "We've met twice before," they reminded him politely, to which he swiftly responded, "Of course! Jolly good show! I thought you looked ever so familiar!" Yeah, right.

By 7:45 The Husband was ready to eat the 18th century stonework on the guest house walls so I gently asked if we could be shown to our table. "Sure," the manager told us excitedly, "it's almost speech time!"

Oh, goody!

At this point, I suspect the owner sensed the hunger of his guests, and, eager to now get us to our tables, he let forth with a joke for the benefit of his 15-odd guests which resounded across the dining area: "Gentlemen! You pay so much to marry our wives and then you can't even get them to join you for dinner! Hahahahahahahaha!!"

I don't even know how to comment on that, er, joke. I think it speaks for itself – although God knows what it's saying.

But his speech proved even better. Guests were treated to a 15-minute history of the his childhood in the Transkei, playing cricket with his best friend, Prince What's-his-face. During these idyllic times, the Prince bowled, while Blah-di-Blah batted, because, of course, such was the hierarchy in those times. (This was also put forward as the reason behind the Eastern Cape producing international stars like Makhaya Ntini who's "a phenomenal bowler" but who "can't bat".) We were then reminded that nowadays, the inverse is, of course, true: "the white boys" are bowling and black people are batting.

Just then, with no sense of irony whatsoever, he moved on to the topic of his "zooolooo" staff members, for whom it is apparently still "a pleasure to serve". Guests were then told that in many places in the world it is "no longer a pleasure to serve", however, we were assured that here at Paternalism Place, it is still indeed a "pleasure to serve". We were told that we would not experience Swiss hospitality. Instead, we would be privileged to experience "zooolooo hospitality" – something that "takes a little longer", but that is "much better" in Blah-di-Blah's (ahem) humble opinion.

At this point, The Husband looked as though he was ready to throw up. Trapped in my seat, with Blah-di-Blah sounding like he could go on all night (he hadn't ommitted to mention that he'd been a lawyer in his "former life"), I came up with the ultimate act of defiance. I reached into my handbag, pulled out my faithful Tabard stick and began painstakingly Tabard-ing my big toes. Fortunately, my strappy sandals meant that protecting the top of my feet from the mozzies was a really delicate affair, requiring enormous amounts of concentraion. In this way, I was able to drown out the remainder of the discourse, until eventually, mercifully, it came to an end.

At breakfast this morning, our waitress wanted to know whether we'd be "joining them" for dinner this evening. We told them that we would like to, but gently enquired whether they would be any speeches to look forward to? Our waitress informed us that no, there would be no speeches. And I could swear I detected a bit of a twinkle in her "Zooolooo" eyes.

Kiddie Class

Note to self: never catch a flight the day before schools re-open. When I boarded my flight in George after visiting the parents in the Southern Cape, I thought I’d climbed onto a charter flight for the under-aged. A few of the rows were literally full of kids: one, two, three, in a row. Adult supervision was an entire aisle away. Isn’t that a breach of aviation laws or something?

There are two grave dangers when it comes to kiddie-infested flights:

1.      1) screaming
2.      2) seat-kicking
On tonight’s flight, I got the latter very severely.
Within seconds of buckling up, the kid behind me started going for goal. I got a left footer in the small of my back that would’ve made Lionel Messi proud. (A month ago, I would’ve someone if they’d told me that Messi was a famous Mafia boss – gotta love the World Cup!) Anyway, so I slowly turned around in my seat, looked very pointedly at the parental figure sitting next to Junior Messi, and raised my eyebrows, as if to say “You’re a bad parent”. From what I can gather, this is most parents worst nightmare, so I felt a great sense of power when I dispensed my “bad parent” glare.
I was really expecting the woman behind me to have turned puce, before grabbing little Johnny’s spasmodic leg and hissing at him to stop. Tonight, however, the parent in question was one of those “don’t-you-dare-say-A-WORD-about-MY-little-Johnny-because-he’s-completely-perfect-you-COW!”
Now, I do love a challenge, so I put on my best fake smile, raised my eyebrows extra high and said between clenched teeth, “Your…child…is…kicking…my…chair”.
“No, he’s not!” replied Defensive Parent.
“Er, yes. He is.”
“No, he’s not!”
“He totally is and it’s driving me insane.”
“No, he’s not!”
The best fun was, this little Johnny was a wiley one. After 15 minutes of kicking my seat, without stopping, he sat there all doe-eyed with his little feet crossed, acting as though kicking a chair were the FURTHEST thing from his cunning little mind. Grrrrrr. Of course, this gave Defensive Parent the opportunity to turn into Smug Parent and to look back at me and raise HER eyebrows. I was then forced to have a bit of a staring contest with Johnny, trying to will the little brat to kick my chair again – to prove to his mother that he was indeed the pest I was accusing him of being. But Johnny was alot smarter than he looked and he just stared back. At this point, I was forced to concede defeat (something I hate as much as I hated losing at Ludo at the age of 5) and I turned around.
Naturally, not 5 seconds later, the football match against the small of my back resumed.
I could just FEEL little Johnny and his over-protective mother high-fiving behind my back. To give the kid credit, he must have been some kind of genius multi-tasker because the kicking continued all the way through the high-fives.
The rest of the flight was spent trying to block out the sound of blood-curdling screams and “you poked my eyeball, man!”
The joys of flying kiddie class.

A Clockwork Orange Sends Diego Back to Montevideo

By Saturday evening I decided that I was supporting whichever football team was winning.

This was after I rooted for Brazil on Friday, only to see them get wiped out by The Netherlands. Later that day, I screamed my head off for Ghana but then they were beaten by cheating Uruguay. The next day, I draped myself in an Argentinian flag and cheered for the South Americans LIVE at the Greenpoint stadium, only to see them be thumped by the Germans.

Clearly, I was backing the wrong horses here. So tonight, when the men in orange starting leading 2-1 against Uruguay, I decided I had better back them. It wasn't easy. I mean, I know Hermes' signature colour is the same revolting, tangerine hue as the Dutch team's outfits, but still… Someone needs to tell them that fair-skinned men look mildly jaundiced in orange…Plus, there are all of their fans who have to be seen in public in bright orange – a colour which should really be reserved for traffic cones and car guards on night shift. As if this isn't bad enough, Dutch fans are expected to mix their orange garb with the red, white and blue of the Dutch flag – not the best combo. One solution for fans is to simply wear the wackiest kit ever. Like this dude who was celebrating Friday afternoon's victory:

The crazy thing is that he's not even Dutch. Nope, he's about as South African as droe wors, but something inspired him to back the boys in orange and he was running around Caveau in Cape Town in his tangerine dungarees, looking might chuffed with his team's performance.

On the bright side, the Dutch team exacted revenge on Uruguay on behalf of Bafana Bafana, as well as on behalf of Ghana, so I am genuinely thrilled about that. And judging by some of the Facebook posts that I've just seen, we now have a nation in mourning. And I don't mean Uruguay – I mean a nation full of South African women who would rather not see Diego Forlan return to his homeland. One can see why. I mean, clearly, he's not just a pretty face – he can actually kick the ball into the little box quite regularly.

Sadly, though, his World Cup glory is over and he is to return to his hair-dressing business in Montevideo. At least the force behind Bafana Bafana's defeat did some good by providing SA women with some eye candy. Hell, old Diego is probably a rare exception and is possibly one of the few fair-skinned men on the planet who could look good in orange…