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:


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 Princess & Her Playgrounds

The Father Figure has made friends with the six year old daughter of the owners of his favourite coffee shop in Prince Albert. Her name is Katie. The other day, Katie came bounding over to show him her new pet hamster.

“Where’s his friend, Katie?” the Father Figure wanted to know.

“He doesn’t have one,” replied Katie. “He’s a loner.”

The point of this very sweet story is that we had a resident mouse whom I’m really hoping was a loner too… About a week ago, I thought I spied something scurrying around in the garage. A few days later, the sight of a dark mouse against the kitchen’s cream, travertine, could not be disputed. The Pied Piper was called in and that afternoon, our housekeeper reported a twitching, whimpering Mickey, behind the fridge. Mickey duly went in search of water outside and so, kindly passed on in the garden, but I am just holding thumbs that he operated alone…

Last week was a week of home maintenance and besides getting pest control, I also booked a household carpet clean. Clint, the owner of the business saw our giant canvas of The Princess in the living room and said:

“She’s gorgeous! You’re so lucky to have a little girl. I only have boys.”

“How many?” I politely asked.

I was expecting an answer of two, perhaps three.

“Five,” came the reply.

Wow! Five children!

“We really tried for a girl.”

No kidding, Clint!

“And how old are your boys?” I asked.

“Eight, seven, six, five and three.”

Wow, wow and wow again. Apparently, at one stage he could fit all five of them in a trolley and was somewhat of a celebrity in his native suburb of Boksburg. Not surprising!

Naturally, a few hours after Superman with Five Kids had transformed all our carpets, The Princess decided to crouch down and have a wee. I have warned The Husband that he needs to be pronto about putting her nappy on when she gets out of the bath, but he says she’s so funny to watch, running around naked and showing off in her birthday suit. So, it was really only a matter of time before we had a weeing episode after the bath.

This past long weekend, The Husband went off to Mpumalanga to ride in a four-day stage race and so The Mother Figure flew up to keep The Princess & I company. Over the the past five days, we have been discovering playgrounds across Jozi. At thirteen months and walking, it’s such an exciting time seeing her beginning to climb and slide and crawl through tunnels. Here’s where we’ve been and what we though of each of them:

Mushroom Farm Park (bordered by Daisy & Linden Roads in central Sandton):

Only a few weeks ago, an afternoon visit to Mushroom Farm Park (behind the Radisson Hotel, where the unsightly Hyandai balloon is parked) was not all that eventful. Now, since she’s grown in confidence, she crawls through the swinging barrel and has an absolute ball with the other kids in the giant sandpit. Mushroom Farm is a lovely, central spot with a pristine playground and feels very safe in the afternoons and at weekends when it always seems to be busy. A coffee shop for the mommies would be nice, though. Not a bad idea to take along a bucket and spade and/or a ball/ and or a scooter/ car etc.

Grand Central & other spots on the Melrose Arch piazza

On Friday afternoon, The Mother Figure and I took The Princess and her Barbie car to Grand Central on the Melrose Arch piazza. There are usually plenty of other kids zooming around there on various forms of transport and you do need to look out for speeding older kids. The road is also deceptively close, but far enough that if your child sticks more towards the centre of the piazza and you keep an eye out, you could dash after them if they started heading in that direction. The Princess ran into a crawling little boy from her Clamber Club class who was most interested in her Barbie car, as was another little girl there. The Princess was having absolutely none of it and guide her pink pride and joy with her life, swatting away and violently shouting at, anyone who came near it. Sharing is not caring, at thirteen months!

The Garden Shop nursery in Bryanston

This is a good spot for the entertainment of plant-loving grannies, as well as toddlers. There are heaps and heaps of jungle gyms and sandpits. The only snag is that only one section of the playground is next to the coffee shop and there are so many pathways amongst the flowers to explore, it’s very tempting for little ones who’ve just become mobile, to run amok, so be sure you are energised before heading out there.

Delta Park‘s playground in Victory Park

This is HEAVEN for toddlers and parents of toddlers. We went with friends for a picnic on Sunday afternoon and it was very busy, but there was still more than enough space for everyone. The ideal is to set up camp near the playground, which we’ll definitely do next time. Besides the fact that there is a ton of play equipment, what’s also great is that there are little mini slides and other things for babas who have only just started walking and climbing. The Princess had an absolute ball. She couldn’t get enough of the baby slide and I think just loved the excitement of being surrounded by so many kids having so much fun. At one point, we were standing at the top of the slide behind a seated kid who must have been at least five years old. He was taking ages to slide down because he was waiting for his mother to come over and watch him. The Princess thought this absolute nonsense so she decided to push him. Luckily the weight of her little 10kg body can’t budge a five year old, else we would’ve hand one irate older kid on our hands.

Bambanani Restaurant in Mellville

If Bambanani hadn’t come so highly recommended, I think I would have continued to avoid Mellville for the next seven years. It feels like an area that used to be cool and trendy when you were partying until all hours in your twenties, but in the light of day, in your thirties, it looks…er… less cool. Once inside Bambanani, however, you forget that you’re in dodgy Mellville. We went straight to the play area at the back of the restaurant. The Princess thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Baby slides, toys, mats, baths of balls, things to climb, dolls’ houses, you name it. What I love about Bambanani’s play area is that it’s totally enclosed so you feel as though your child is safe and you can relax, without worrying that they’ll wander off. There are also numerous, wonderful childminders who are on hand to help, while you eat, sip your cappuccino or glass of wine. We didn’t eat but I’ve also heard that the food is actually good – very unusual for a kiddie spot. I just wish it wasn’t so far from Sandton although it’s definitely worth the drive.

Serendipity in Rosebank

The Princess’ very runny nose stopped us from heading to Serendipity yesterday. The last time we went there, The Princess was only ten months old, so I am dying to see how she responds to all the play equipment when we head there tomorrow.

And that, dear readers, sums up our action-packed girls weekend. More fabulous playspots will be added to the list as and when The Princess and I discover them.

Natalie xxx

Birthday Mommy

On Wednesday 25 January, I turned 33. I like the number 25 and I’m really glad I was born in January. It meant that my mom could convince the powers that be, back in the early eighties, that I was ready for Sub A at the age of five because I would practically be 6 for the entire year. This in turn meant that I had an “extra” year after high school, the way I see it, which I personally think is great.

Actually celebrating one’s birthday in January, however, can be a bit shite. Who feels like planning a party right after the hectic chaos of the Christmas holidays? Everyone’s feeling fat, vowing never to drink again and pretty much flat broke, counting the days till pay-day. When I first started working (and actually well into my career, I’m afraid), I had almost always spent my entire salary WAY before pay-day on 25 January, so I could never plan birthday drinks the weekend before my birthday. No doubt most of my mates would’ve been in the same position and no-one would’ve rocked up anyway.

This year, the thought of dealing with guest lists, party planning and chasing after RSVP’s was more than I could bear so I figured that, at the last minute, I’d say “hey, anyone who’s free and keen, come and join me for birthday drinks.” And, honestly, besides my huge 30th birthday bash, it was one of my favourite birthday gatherings. Someone suggested the Fire & Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch. I’ve literally been either pregnant or mommying a young baby since the day the place opened so I’ve never set foot inside, but oh my greatness, what a fabulous bar and outside drinks area! There was a 150-person function going on at the same time, so we were treated to a DJ and a rather annoying super, sexy Vanessa Mae-esque violinist in hot pants. Rather annoying to the girls, that is. To the guys – just fab, I’m sure. From our particular vantage point, her head was being chopped off by an umbrella, so we could only see these really, really long, (and yes, really, really hot) legs and this tiny teeny pair of hot pants. But that is besides the point – the point is, the vibe was great, the venue was amazing – I highly recommend it.

The fact that the drinks start time was 6:30pm was also a treat – I would never, normally arrange any evening plans before 7:30 because 5pm to 7pm is non-negotiable Princess Time: supper; play; bath; play; “read” (for 2 seconds before she attempts to destroy the book); bed time. So meeting up at 6:30 made me feel like I was still a sophisticated career girl, flying in from the office for post work drinks in her super sexy heels and ultra chic. Sigh. I remember those days fondly…

OBVIOUSLY I wouldn’t trade being told “Natalie, we need to work on your visibility management” (Seriously? Visibility manage my butt!) with the freedom to do my own thing and be with The Princess whenever I want. I totally realise how lucky I am to have the option to work or not. But I do miss the clothes 🙂 I still have an entire cupboardful of suits and shirts that I just can’t bring myself to turf…

Anyway, so had a fabulous birthday, celebrating the very arbitrary age of 33: an impromptu breakfast with The Husband & The Princess at Tashas, a lovely lunch with two mommy friends AND The Husband who took time off work to come and talk baby with us, followed by said drinks with a handful of friends. I vowed I would not throw name that evening and would act like the mature adult I am supposed to be at the age of 33. And I actually achieved that goal. However, Ronnie, our fabulous waiter was just WAY too attentive to the birthday girl and wouldn’t let my glass of sparkling wine ever, ever go empty. Which was lovely at the time but the next morning, needless to say…aaaaaaaaaaaargh… I felt like doggy doo 🙁

And it was The Princess’ first Clamber Club lesson that morning, so I had to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I thought Clamber Club meant babas clambering all over fun obstacles outdoors. Who knew that it actually entails sitting on a mat while the teacher clangs and bangs pots and pans? Not ideal when you’re coping with a post birthday hangover and a 10 month old who does NOT want to sit on Mommy’s lap to clap handies. Fortunately, the head-splitting mat experience ended and we were allowed outside for coffee while the babas had free reign on another mat full of items to interest them.
All in all, my first birthday as a Mommy was great. Now to planning The Princess’ first birthday bash at the end of March…

Alarms & Shorty Pyjarms

I have to say that being on sabbatical after a December holiday really helps the back-to-school blues. Despite having trouble keeping track of the days of the week when I got back to the Big Smoke, I managed to rock up for my bi-weekly personal training slot.

At 9am.

I’ve had this decadent, late morning slot for the past 6 months but have struggled to find a training partner – go figure. So when The Iron Man (my personal trainer) asked me whether I’d like to join his A-team of female clients at 6am in the morning, I found myself saying ‘yes’. The word just flew out of my mouth without any instruction from my brain. I think my brain may still have been on South American time, which tends to be a little “behind”.

In order to make the red-eye slot, I calculated that I’d have to get up at 05:30. I also calculated that to get 8 hours sleep (another New Year’s Resolution which is danger of being struck off the list for non-implementation) I’d need to be asleep by 21:30. And so, on Monday night, I dutifully climbed into bed really early and willed myself to sleep. I then fell into a a state somewhere between slumber and alertness, with my mental alarm going “FIVE THIRTY! FIVE THIRTY! FIVE THIRTY!” Needless to say, when that delightful hour finally rolled on, I felt like I’d been hit by a TGV. It was, after all, the crack of dawn so I figured the gym would be a morgue and I figured I could roll out of bed and stumble through the doors without so much as a smidgeon of mascara.

Apparently not.

Who would’ve thought it but Melrose Arse was positively heaving. Even the normally ultra-calm Iron Man was in overdrive. I was hustled to the step machine with the A-teamers and told to “warm-up quickly!”

Jeez, dude. There was none of the customary “hey, how’re you doing, how you’re feeling”. Which was just as well since I would have launched into a long lament over my lack of sleep, how the red eye slot might not be for me after all, etc, etc, etc. But none of the A-teamers had spoken a word so far, so I felt compelled to shut my mouth and to try and imitate their seemingly effortless pull-ups. Each of the girls was even tinier than the first and when The Iron Man did eventually initiate some conversation it was about their marathon training programmes.

“Ja, you need to be doing about 20-30km per day,” he was saying. WTF? (Mind you, I have also heard him say that he “chats to Lance” (Armstrong) on Facebook, so perhaps some of his assertions need to be taken with a pinch of salt.)

Then I learned that super sexy A-Team Member 1 has given birth to two kids and that A-Team Member 2 is in her early forties and five-months pregnant with her third kid. I think the three of them (2 A-teamers plus 1 unborn baby) collectively weigh less than I do.

Suddenly, in my semi-sleepless hungover state, I got the Iron Man’s plan for me: competition. I decided to chill out and just enjoy the work-out. The great thing about Melrose Arse is that no matter how gruelling one’s programme, the characters that frequent the place provide you with priceless entertainment. My current fave is what I’ve termed the “shorty pyjamas”. A few of the guys wear the tiniest, teeniest little pairs of shorts imaginable. I’ve seen similar proportions on Clifton beaches, but these are even better, because they’re nice and loose – they let the breeze in. And then a loose T-shirt is worn so it’s impossible to tell, for sure, how high the shorts have been pulled up. The whole ensemble is just a beaut. The best is – it cracks me up and improves my mood every single time. Bring on the pull-ups!