In my quest to discover a form of exercise that burns fat at the speed of light, I came across something called "British Military Fitness". I was flipping through a mag and there was a double page spread on this "revolutionary concept." Even better, classes were purportedly held at the James & Ethel Park which is right up my street – literally. I took this as a sign and decided to enroll. It turned out there was no need to sign one's life away since British Military Fitness was offering a free trial session. Not wanting to go to the army alone, I started a little recruitment drive and before I knew it, five of my mates were keen as beans.

Until the day arrived, that is.

Suddenly, I was bombarded with the lamest of excuses like "I went to gym this morning" and "I've done my back in" and "my gym clothes are in the wash". Thank God, one friend was too nice to bail and so together she and I headed off to Zoo Lake (where the current sessions are being held since the James & Ethel Park is apparently too dark in winter).

As my friend and I approached, we were greeted by the Sergeant in charge. The Sarge was lean and mean and was dressed in full-on camo gear. He basically looked as though he'd just stepped off the set of The Hurt Locker – only better. My friend (a fellow Smug Married) gave me a look that said, "our single mates would never have bailed if they'd known about this piece of eye candy". Oh well, served them right for bailing.

But then she turned to me with a look of sheer terror. She started pointing ahead of us, then turned to the Sarge and stammered:

"Are those… boys?"

"They certainly are!" the Sarge responded with a grin. "We run mixed classes!

Yippee. PT class. Only better. We got to compete with grown men.

Still in shock, we tried to fill out our little health questionnaires while our hands shook. The last question was:

"Are you:

a) extremely fit;
b) very fit;
c) fit
d) average
e) unfit
f) strictly sedentary?"

Since I've done more exercise as a lady of leisure in the last year, than I have done in my entire 31 years on this planet, I was inclined to tick "fit". Something told me not to, though, so I chose to undersell myself and circled "average" instead. My friend took one look at the herd of muscular men, ticked "unfit" and then looked at the Sarge as if to say, "and what you gonna do about it, huh?". Because 50% of us had deemed ourselves "unfit", we were told that we'd be joining the "bottom group". My God, it was exactly like PT. I started having flash-backs to Std 3 Rounders games where the teacher would call on the two cheerleader-types to "pick their teams". I was usually about third-last to be picked and am still undergoing psychological treatment for this. Yet, here I was, in the middle of Zoo Lake in the pitch dark in the dead of winter, being sent to the "bottom team". What the frick was I thinking?

The best was yet to come. The "bottom group" gathered around to welcome us two newcomers, while the Serge made his little induction speech. Something about "it's not a competition" and "enjoy yourself" etc, etc. Whatever. Then came a statement which got my full attention: "Oh, and this is a park, so please watch out for ticks". WTF? Ticks? But before my mate and I could protest our team was "hup-two-three-four"-ing across the Zoo Lake grounds. The rest of the hour was spent jumping, hopping, press-upping, wheel-barrow walking and running around like little spastic soldiers. I discovered that the Sarge had unfortunately been very accurate in his categorisation – I was most definitely on a par with the "bottom group" and only just as fit as my so-called "unfit" friend.

What did I learn? PT is physical AND emotional torture whether you're 13 or 30. The only difference, I discovered, is that when boys become men they drink beer and so they're alot less intimidating during PT – well, at least that was true for the men in the bottom group. I don't think the one dude had lifted more than the remote control since high school. At least his heavy panting drowned out the sounds of our groans and complaints.

We finished off the session with stretches – whilst lying prostate on the mucky, muddy Zoo Lake grass. When I felt something crawling on the back of my neck, I remembered the "tick" warning. I think that about sums up how cut out I am for military fitness – be it British, Tibetan or any other variety.

The next evening, I decided that a leisurely walk around my suburb with my neighbour was a much better idea. We'd been walking for a little while when two enormous Doberman-type hounds came bounding over. I was pushing my neighbour's 1-year old in her pram when these dogs practically appeared out of nowhere and start jumping all over us – barking, licking, slobbering and generally going crazy. As we were looking around to try and figure out which property they'd escaped from, we heard a voice:

"Frankie-e-e-e! Rust-e-e-e!" We looked again. The voice was coming from the inside of an enormous Merc that had just pulled up alongside us.

"Sorry-e-e-e-e!!!" the kugel in the driver's seat drawled when she saw us. "Dzzon't worry, they're v-e-e-e-ry friendly-e-e-e."

Then she pursed her red lips together, made little smooching noises, and yelled ""Frankie-e-e-e! Rusty-e-e-e!". Then she started slapping her one hand against the outside of the her door and screamed, "Come boys, walkies!" before speeding off in her C-class with Rusty and Frankie following in her exhaust fumes.

So that's how it's done! So much for PT at Zoo Lake. I really must get a better grip on this Lady of Leisure thing.

Runaway Make-Up with David-John

I’ve been in hiding here in Jozi for the past few days. On my second last day in Austria, I managed to break out in some sort of scaly, vulgar face rash. It started on top of one eyelid and spread to my forehead, my chin, my upper lip…You get the picture. I figured it was either the sub-zero temperatures, the dry air, or the lack of sunshine and assumed that it would disappear after a day at the pool back at home. No such luck.

I decided to call my dermatologist’s rooms just for a laugh. The receptionist usually offers me a slot around mid-2012. This time was a little better. I was offered 1 July 2010. Fortunately, she was suitably grossed out by my description of my flaking face that 1 July, turned into “I have a cancellation in an hours time”.

An hour later, I learned that I am experiencing an allergic reaction to nail varnish. One little forehead scratch with a painted talon is apparently all it takes. Who knew? Naturally, I’m delighted to have gotten to the bottom of the Sci-fi story on my face, but it has meant that I’ve had to cancel my manicure at the Nail & Body Lab. And I was SO looking forward to catching the latest kugel goss (by eavesdropping, obviously). I was also banking on my Blubird visit to provide me with a little material for this posting. I was beginning to despair, when I happened upon the gem in the picture above.

While I was paying for my parking at Hyde Park centre, I saw a Rod Stewart poster. Since I was convinced that the old fart had to be dead by now, I looked again. Not Rod Stewart. Alex Jay, the Wedding Singer? Wrong again. Meet David-John, people. “International make-up artist”. I was busy taking down his number to call him and tell him that Duran Duran is dead and that he can’t keep his hairdo as a shrine to them, I noticed the poster’s copy. My personal fave is the second last bullet point: “Runaway make-up for fashion shows”. Not the effect you want to have on your clients, Dave.

Then there’s his name. I’m not sure if it’s a stage name that he thought gave him a sort of je ne sais quoi or if his parents just couldn’t reach consensus and decided to take matrimonial compromise very literally and just call him by two very common boys names stuck together. I mean, can you imagine: “David-John! Dinner’s ready!” or “David-John! Leave your mother’s eye-liner alone!”

I guess Dave got used to long names and couldn’t quite stop at “David-John Make-Up” as a business name. Nope, it had to be “David-John Make-Up INTERNATIONAL”. Maybe he tagged that on after a wedding in Mauritius when he realised that “David-John: Make-up for SADIC” didn’t sound quite as cool. Oh, but wait. Please note the info. at the bottom of the poster: “David-John travels world wide”. ‘Course he does.

And thank GAWD for that! I may just need him for my next trip to Austria when my face breaks out from supposed schnitzel-induced scurvy. “Please, cover me in base, David-John!”

Home Exec Seeks BFF

During my sabbatical, there’ve been some signs that the whole “Home Exec” thing is not exactly for me. This morning I awoke to another such sign. Overnight, the ceiling-y-thingy underneath our upstairs balcony collapsed. It collapsed in exactly the spot where The Husband spends a significant amount of time puffing on his Peter Stuyvesants. Of course I was suitably grateful that the ceiling-y-thing did not fall on his head, but it would really have killed two birds if it had fallen on a couple of hadedas (‘scuse pun). At least that would have solved one home improvement problem (apparently it’s illegal to shoot the b*ggers) so a fatal piece of falling rhinoplast would have been ideal.

“Oh, Mr Conservation Officer, there’s been a terrible accident…” Instead, nothing but more Home-Maker maintenance. Not my strong point.

On the bright side, however, “my renovator” (that’s what I’m calling him from now on, even though I only met him this morning) could not be sweeter. He’s been running to me excitedly every time he figures out yet another source of our internal waterfalls, looking like he’s cracked a code or something. He then proceeds to explain the solution in great, painstaking, slow motion-like detail. Bless. Now, I want to live in a house where I won’t get rained on while I’m watching TV as much as the next housewife, but it really is a struggle to stay animated about drainage, plaster and pipes.

Aside from the fact that project managing home improvement is not my forte, there’ve been a few other signs that full-time home-making may not be for me. Looking back, I think I began to realise this a couple of months ago. It was after I got it into my head that I needed a partner in crime to help me through this life-changing phase. I rationalised that new mothers had Mom & Snots, the baby boomers had bridge and bowls and the kugels had Tashas. But what about us child-free ladies of leisure? What did we have?

I decided I needed a friend. I just needed to find her. Shortly thereafter, I started seeing this nice, normal-looking girl at the gym in the middle of the morning. She looked about my age and she wasn’t drawling “Hiiiiiii!” to every second gym-goer. “Aha!” I thought. “A fellow outsider! And if she’s working out at 9:30 in the morning she can’t have a regular day job. Maybe we can be friends!!!”

All these thoughts were racing around in my crazy little head, but of course, I was far too cool (too shy) to introduce myself. Then, later that day, I saw her at a coffee shop at the Blubird Centre.

“Oh my God,” I’m thinking, “This is DESTINY! We’re like…TWINS! We hang out at ALL the same places! And she doesn’t have any friends either!”.

It got even better: she had a huge slice of carrot cake in front of her! “She does gym AND she eats cake – OMG, she’s PERFECT”. I’d just arrived at the coffee shop with my current best friend (who was up from Cape Town) and I didn’t want her to think I was completely loony, so I just said, half-joking, “Hey, that’s the girl we saw at the gym this morning. She obviously doesn’t have a job either. Maybe she can be my friend”.

Now, Current Best Friend (CBF) is all about the confidence. At 19, she dragged me into London bars frequented by Naomi Campbell. (Not kidding, I actually saw Ms Campbell once). CBF would walk in looking like she owned the place and, more importantly, like she was simply born to drink champers there. I, on the other hand, would be hiding behind her, praying no-one recognised me as the waitress from the Spur-style joint down the road. So Current Best Friend leant over to New Best Friend and went:

“Hey. We really should sync our schedules”.

New Best Friend looked a bit confused but Current Best Friend was undeterred:

“We saw you at the gym this morning,” she explained.

By this point I was bright red but simultaneously imagining us as mid-week pilates partners and godmothers to our unborn children. I also seemed to have swallowed my tongue but fortunately, Current Best Friend is never short of a word or two, so happily, the conversation was flowing.

As I was half-way through my speech (in my head) for her kid’s christening, we learnt that she was out from London for two weeks her best friend’s wedding.

And that she had a job – and a personal trainer (thank you very much) – in London. (The little beetch). And that’s when I realised I needed to get a life – or a job. Or more Facebook friends. For now, I’ve settled on the latter.

And yes, it’s working pretty well. Thanks for all the birthday messages Facebook friends – you’re the best!

Vanity Fair at The Lab

I have to admit that I’ve worked hard at taking my sabbatical seriously. Having said that, travel research, travel bookings, packing for travel, actual travel and then recovery from travel, should not be under-estimated.

As a result, I was still deep in recovery phase late last week when an ex-colleague called about some contracting work (bearing in mind that I have not engaged in actual work, per se, since April ’09). When we met to discuss the project, she looked so fab in her tailored shirt, fitted skirt and pointy shoes that I felt a rush of nostalgia for the glamour of a working wardrobe. “I miss suits and heels!!!” I thought and promptly accepted the piece of work. As it turns out, I ended up doing the work at home in my PJ’s. I can’t say it was exactly brain surgery but it was a bit of a shock to the system – what with its deadlines, timelines, frameworks and all those other workie-type things.

So when I finished the work yesterdday, I really felt as though I deserved a reward. I thought about it and then settled on a mani and a pedi at the Blubird’s Nail & Body Lab.

There are many things I love about The Lab. I love settling down into the big, leather Lazy Boys and coming out with perfect little, bright red fingers and toes.

The part I enjoy less is the: “Howz-i-i-i-i-t, D-o-o-o-o-o-o-ol!” (think: ULTRA nasal).

“Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd! You look a-MA-a-a-a-a-zing!”

“ Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd, I’m so exh-a-a-a-a-usted. Ricky had a Board function last night and all I’ve had today is two freezocinos and a Super C.”

“Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd!” And so forth.

Obviously if the cheerleaders actually spoke to me, I’d put on my best nasal drawl and drawl right back,

“Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd! You ‘usso’ (read ‘also’) look aMA-a-a-a-a-zing!” But since they don’t, my strategy is to look intellectually intimidating. I take along a copy of Vanity Fair and smugly immerse myself in one of the regular articles by Nobel Prize-winning economists such as Joseph Stiglitz.

That’ll teach ‘em. Today, however, I have a somewhat post-modern moment at The Lab. Instead of the latest Vanity Fair, I take along the book I’ve just started reading: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young (it inspired a recent movie by the same name). Turns out, the book is actually based on Toby’s experiences as a writer for Vanity Fair itself.

A chapter or so in, it dawns on me that my visions of the magazine as the seat of cutting-edge journalism and the mouth-piece of world-renowned economists, may be somewhat off-base. From Toby’s descriptions, Vanity Fair is starting to sound more like Cosmo – except the editors are richer and bitchier.

And then comes the quote that pretty much settles it: APPARENTLY (according to Toby), Vanity Fair was once described as “a magazine read by women in Illinois while they get their nails done.” Touché, dol.