Tag: south africa

South Africa at the British Museum

This exhibition is on until 26 February, so you still have time to go. It was highly relevant for me because I was just in South Africa a few months ago, learning as much as possible about the country and culture.

Items in the exhibition include some very ancient artefacts but the aspects I found the most interesting were the political items from the 1980s and 90s and then the contemporary art.

I want to point out several things without writing a blog post that’s the length of a book. See how many of these things you can spot.

  • A black cherub with an AK-47 and a red nose. The red nose was made famous by British charity Comic Relief, which has been criticised for investing the money it raises in oppressive companies and industries in the countries it claims to help. Artist Johannes Phokela says: “Once I bought a red nose and it fell off when I tried to fit it on to my nose. That’s when I found out that the noses were not designed to be worn by someone with a flat nose like mine.”
  • A maid in a Victorian dress. When I was in South Africa, I saw cleaners in shops and also domestic maids wearing dresses that were not much better than this, just with knee-length instead of floor-length skirts. Sculpture by Mary Sibande.
  • A conspicuously white person absurdly inserted into a black African soap opera (Candice Breitz).
  • A sangoma (a shaman, a healer) holding a consultation (Siyazama Project).
  • Human figures with horns (Jane Alexander).
  • Steve Biko, who died in police custody (Sam Nhlengethwa).
  • A 1994 ballot paper, showing both Nelson Mandela (ANC) and F W de Klerk (National Party).
  • Black workers sleeping on a bus (David Goldblatt). Public transport is important in South Africa. When apartheid was introduced, black people were evicted from their homes and forced to relocate to designated areas which of course were in undesirable and inconvenient locations on the outskirts of cities. Therefore the cleaners and domestic workers who I mentioned above, who aren’t being paid a whole lot, are travelling very long distances for the privilege of getting to these demeaning jobs. A significant amount of their time and their money is sunk into bus travel. The workers in this picture are sleeping because they do not get adequate time for sleeping at home.

In which I take on slightly too much, because it’s all I know how to do.

Crikey. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it is that I do better when I am busy. After thinking that I was going to have a nice, relaxing time, further to leaving the World’s Worst Company, my life is bursting at the seams with activity. I hardly know what to tackle next. Let’s have a quick roundup of non-work things.

  • Gym. I am in the gym regularly and although I’m not yet weighing myself, I can feel that I’m starting to lose some of the fat that I stacked on over Xmas. My pot belly will be the last thing to go and I am not ruling out liposuction if I can make time for it. Gym uses up a lot of time and, as we all know, you have to keep going several times a week if not every day, but it is well worth it.
  • Dentist. I am at the dentist aaaallllll the time. Fillings, cleaning, this and that. Periodontist on the 22nd.
  • Other beauty stuff. Hairdresser because my hair goes grey so fast. Laser hair clinic. I need to see my Botox man again, haven’t seen him since October.
  • Dating. I am very popular with boys at the moment, which is very welcome after being unmercifully dumped by someone I’d sustained a 14- or 15-month relationship with. I went on a date yesterday with an absolutely beautiful model who kissed me at the tube station. When I say model, I don’t mean some 50-year-old, silver-haired character actor, I mean an actual model.
  • Art and Culcha. So much of this. I saw the South Africa exhibition that is currently on at the British Museum and will blog about it separately. I am going out again over the coming weekend to hear more music.

british-museum-south-africa

  • Choir. Is this evening. Need to wash my hair and iron a dress because it’s a big social event of the week.
  • Friends. I have miraculously seen 4 of my long-suffering friends who have to wait two years in between meetings.
  • Housework. I can tell I am super busy because the house is getting out of control again even though I only cleaned it up last week. I still have not unpacked the boxes that I brought away with me from the World’s Worst Job and I seriously want to clean and renovate the back room, which is now my clothes room.
  • Gaming. I have done no video gaming for a solid week, even though I am desperate to get back into it. I am absolutely desperate to play Battlefield 1 and Resident Evil 7.

battlefield-1resident-evil-7-hands

So there you go. The things on that list, as well as work, are merely the things I’m actually managing to do plus the most immediate priorities. We won’t even mention the second tier of priorities, such as playing other video games, reading, pursuing half a dozen other hobbies and trying to get back into learning Chinese.

I am getting enough sleep, so there’s that.

2016: The Year in Review

The story of my life is documented in these pages, I see that now. Six years of my life are here. I see how it all fits together. I see the successes, the plans that didn’t quite work, the changes of direction, the life-changing events. I was 44 when I started this blog and now I’m 50. I don’t live a quiet life. I travel and I run at my work responsibilities head-on at 100 miles an hour.

So, let’s do a review of the story so far and 2016 in particular. The beginning of 2016 found me three months in to an unexpectedly gruelling job at an unexpectedly disorganised company. A job which I took to resolve an economic and career crisis of 2015, which in turn was precipitated by experiencing violent crime in 2014. By the beginning of 2016 I was working at full pelt for a company that was giving me enough work to keep three people busy and just barely keeping my strength up.

January

I returned to the World’s Worst Company for a second season of work, which was predictably horrifying and involved more 14-hour days at the office. I was being illegally overworked, harassed in the workplace and facing a prisoner’s dilemma about whether or not to quit. At this point I’d neglected my private business for a few months and I was not yet economically stable so I couldn’t afford to make any rash decisions, rash being a good word for the state of my skin at that time.

I was terribly in love with the Person Who I Wasn’t Supposed To Be In Love with and this was by far the high point of January as well as the low point; this pattern persisted through several other months during 2016.

Photo: nicely-packaged chocolate and toffee in a shop in Hampstead. I was passing through on my way to a business meeting.

ocelot

Tune of the month. DSK: What Would We Do

February

More of the same. Work, stress, work, love, disappointment, work, hope, rinse repeat.A grim, dark month. I was caught on a hamster wheel of workplace abuse and my health was suffering for it. I tried to make a plan to deal with the situation.

severe butthurt

Tune of the month: Derajah Ft Paketo: Inna De Yard gave me strength.

March

March was better because the spring season at work was coming to an end. I could see light at the end of the tunnel and my sense of humour started to return. I have some really nice photos to show you from this month.

Firstly, because I like to show you photos of London, here’s a tray of rings that I photographed at Camden Market one day on my way to work.

camden-rings

And now for the best thing about March. l became aware that the World’s Worst Company holds an annual art competition. I further realised that a lot of people take it very seriously and spend hours at home labouring over paintings of bowls of fruit. I desperately needed to cheer myself up so for a few days I spent every spare minute at work, including during boring meetings, drawing giant cartoons on pieces of A3 paper, using marker pen. They took ten seconds each to complete. If anyone asked me what I was doing, which they did, I replied ‘I am entering the WWC art competition’ and they would nod sagely. I enjoyed this a lot because I was blatantly just taking the piss. I entered some of my drawings into the competition. To my astonishment and joy, they actually liked my work and exhibited it alongside the more serious artists. LOL. 10/10 would produce terrible art again.

Tune of the month: there wasn’t one. I was still quite worried about tax and possibly going bankrupt.

April

Hooray! The hellish spring season at work came to an end. At last! Summer arrived early and I took this photo of birds sitting right in the middle of the flower bed in the park, as though they owned the place.

bird-flower-bed

My clients loved me and I experienced applause and emotional return from large numbers of people, which was fantastic. I am a crowd-pleaser. I please crowds. It’s very thrilling. This was also a point in the year when the Person seemed very emotionally involved with me and I was drunk on it. I was loved and in love. It wasn’t a bad month.

Tune of the month. Duke: So In Love With You.

May

Quite unexpectedly, and just in time for the off-season at my day job, my private business started to pick up. I did some commercial work for a French company that more or less solved my tax problems, at least in theory.

The situation with the Person Who I Wasn’t Supposed To Be In Love With heated up so much that the air would crackle if we were in the same room together.

Then business picked up again, I won an exciting and wealthy new client and I realised that the summer was going to involve a lot of travel. Hooray for travel and money! This was the economic turning point of the year.

May was not a month for photos. We did have a few tunes.

James Brown: I Got Ants In My Pants

June

June was a bit nuts. We had Brexit, so embarrassing. So expensive and embarrassing. I was quite fat at 160lbs. I am not going to show you the actual best photo of the month because it is a photo of me and the Person at an event together. Oh god, I was so in love it was the most exciting thing for years. I cancelled a date with the Head Honcho for the very last time and broke off a budding relationship with a professional footballer who was crazy about me, because the Person was all I could see. It was very intoxicating.

Here’s the second best photo of June instead.

london wall

Tune. D/R Period: MoneyAs you can see, I was experiencing renewed financial confidence this month, despite Brexit causing the pound to lose value. I played this tune a lot over the next few months as money, or at least contracts representing money, started to roll in. What a blessing. Just what I needed and at the right time.

July

July absolutely kicked ass. I couldn’t have asked for more. I went to a party in New Jersey and went shopping and museum-visiting in Philadelphia and got paid for all of it. It was great. I love business travel more than I love almost anything else in the world. It was beautiful. The only thing that could have made it even better would be if the Person had been with me. But you know what, although they were back in London, they were in constant contact during this period, we talked on the phone, and it was beautiful. I stayed in an incredibly swank hotel, ate well, enjoyed the sun and the locations. Life was really good to me in July.

Various photos of New Jersey and Philadelphia. It was so lovely. I felt re-born.

August

As you can see, July smashed the ball out of the park, so I could not believe my good fortune when August got better and better. I packed another suitcase and made my first visit to South Africa, where I was taken on an expenses-paid tour of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. It was beyond my wildest dreams, I stayed in more excellent hotels and had my 50th birthday in glamorous surroundings, while being fed and treated like a celebrity. It was totally amazing.

I hardly posted any South Africa photos at the time, so let’s remedy that.

Music in August, recorded in Cape Town.

September

After two fantastic months of travelling, I returned to London feeling valued and well-paid and thus with more of a sense of normality. September meant returning to work for another season at the World’s Worst Company. I knew it was going to require all my strength and initiative to get through it. Fashion was my main strategy for keeping my morale up for the next few months, and so September marked the beginning of a three-month period in which I wore more dresses than I’ve probably ever worn in my life. It was quite something. I kept 15 pairs of shoes at the office and wore tulle petticoats as a matter of routine. The person who I was not supposed to be in love with could not stay out of my office.

By this time I was only one bad cup of coffee away from quitting the World’s Worst Job and so I played a lot of disco at work as well as wearing flamboyant clothes, to keep my spirits up. It worked and my customers loved all of it.

Tune of the month. Suzanne Paul: Blue Monkey

October

I finally got paid by one of my commercial clients, after waiting for only several months. I instantly became solvent again. I went to Human Resources at the World’s Worst Company and handed in my notice. Thank god for that. That was the worst experience I’ve had in 30 years of going to work.

Yet another commercial client came on board, securing my financial future for a bit longer. I was well happy. Around this time my workload really became quite hard to manage. I was being illegally overworked by the WWC as per usual and in addition to this the new commercial client started generously handing me projects that all needed to completed by Xmas.

I ate things like this, that’s salmon, a poached egg and some French onion soup. I was eating at a restaurant at St Pancras station, en route between meetings.

october-meal

The Person who I wasn’t supposed to be in love with continued to hang around and it was like this, considerably helped by the outrageous fashions I persisted in wearing.

snow-white

A part of me really believed that the relationship might last.

Tune of the month: The Shirelles

November

Dental work. Fatigue, extreme fatigue. Working two full-time jobs. Counting the days until I could stop going to the offices of the World’s Worst Company.

At exactly this moment, just when I was really using all the strength I had to meet my work obligations, the Person pulled the rug from under my feet, right at the end of a blissful day together that had seemed to secure our future. Fucks sake. I was so physically exhausted that my regret and disappointment about the relationship were overshadowed by the feeling that he could have bloody WAITED until December to stop being supportive of me because I really needed some kind of support.

I took some beautiful photos of my beloved Person in November, I suppose the last ones I’ll ever take of him. How I loved him. If I could, I would show you. Instead, here are a couple of photos from around London in November.

December

At long last, December arrives, bringing it with the last days and hours of the most demanding, on-site aspects of the World’s Worst Job. I was very sick by this point, that job made me so ill, every season. I was surviving on basically no sleep and experiencing constant tension headaches.

Then, as if by magic, things started to wrap up. Things started to reach a conclusion and other things did not spring up to take their place. I stopped going to the WWC every day, which was a gigantic relief. I finished my project for my most recent and most demanding client. Somewhat to my own amazement, I thoroughly cleaned and decorated my house, all before 21 December. And then it was holiday time, and then it was actual Christmas. I had 9 consecutive days without any work and all I did was eat stodgy food and play with the Playstation and it was a fantastic way to end the year.

That might be one of the most eventful years I have had. Thank you SO MUCH for coming on the journey with me. I wish every single reader a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Socks and other life-changing events.

I am working at full pelt at the moment. I need to write up my South Africa project, invoice everybody, do another tax return, do a quick turnaround project for another commercial client that’s due next week and prepare my work for the upcoming autumn season at my horrible day job. In between all this I am making time for urgent dentist visits. My teeth look like shit again and they need attention. In between that I’m dealing with incoming conference speaking invitations, sending stuff to new clients for new business and having meetings that keep my existing clients happy. As you can see, I have a lot on as usual and this is why I am at my desk at 10pm because where else would I be.

So – this weird thing happened yesterday while I was working. I’m doing a quick business research project that concerns how people manage their housekeeping. Always an interesting topic, but I’d failed to notice that I could actually use this insight myself, because I was so immersed in it as a work thing. Solely for work reasons, I very quickly read Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2015. She is Japanese. She is pristine. She has some interesting ideas about de-cluttering and storage. She tells you to fold your socks, knickers and tights and you will feel more serene. Like, come on. Seriously. Folding knickers and tights.

After a while, though, like any good researcher, and also because I started to need a break from sitting at my desk, I went to the bedroom and sat on the bed. There is a chest of drawers that is overflowing with millions of balled-up socks and knickers because I am always buying multi-packs when I go travelling, and there’s a whole shelf that is a giant messy tangle of tights where you don’t know which ones have got ladders. On the one hand, I thought, who the hell is really going to fold things like that, I haven’t got time for that shit. How much difference does it make if you fold your socks or ball them up? On the other hand, I thought, I am tired and I don’t want to look at my screen. I just want to sit here for five minutes. I will attempt to fold a pair of socks like Marie Kondo says, just to have the experience.

Here’s what you do:

kondo socks method

I totally ganked that off Pinterest and there are various iterations of it around the web. So, I did one pair of socks, like you see here, and ended up with this flat, smooth little envelope made of sock fabric. It was tiny and precious and the socks looked brand new!

Something came over me and I folded four more pairs of socks and stacked them together, just as you see above. They were even more flat, tensile and neatly folded than that picture. I opened my sock drawer and pulled out all the contents and put the five little sock-envelopes in. They took up almost no space. In a wave of compulsion, I swiftly folded ALL the socks I could find in the entire house and stashed them in the drawer, a drawer that formerly I could not close and that needed overspill carrier bags. I looked at the results. The drawer was less than half full. I had reduced the mass of my sock collection by 50-67% without even throwing anything out.

At this point, I lost control. Apparently it is quite common for this to happen to people who think they are innocently dabbling with Kondo. The thing is, when you look at what she is doing, it isn’t the product of an entirely sane mind. The little row of wafer-thin sock-envelopes that stands up on its own – as I looked at what I had made, I saw the tangible product of another person’s madness operating through my mind and fingers. And I went a bit nuts, such that after I’d done all the socks I folded probably 60 pairs of knickers into even tinier fabric envelopes, then I folded tights and made them disappear to almost nothing and then I started folding t-shirts. And I as I folded and looked around crazily for more things to fold, the available space in my flat grew. By the time I’d exhausted myself, about eight cubic feet of space had appeared in my spare room and I was able to physically retrieve the ironing board and put it in the hall. It might be two or three years since I last wanted the ironing board (and I literally just typed ‘ironic board’, best typo ever).

Here’s some more Pinterest content that shows what happens when you do this to your socks (I can get my socks way smaller and flatter than that), t-shirts and knickers (good job on the knickers, whoever that was, mine look just like that). The size of your house literally expands as you make things almost-disappear, it is incredible. I still find it incredible. I am on a mission now to fold everything in the house that can be folded. I am going to do fitted sheets and everything, the works. It’s like having a special shrinking ray-gun. Whole drawers and cupboards suddenly become vacant and you realise how much storage space you actually have.

OK, so as you can see, the house is suddenly getting tidier. Not because I have successfully engaged with the hated mission of Cleaning the House but because I’ve discovered this new superpower of making everything 50-67% smaller, with the result that the house is tidying itself(!!)

Then I had to stop and go back to my desk because deadlines, although I now regard folding tights as a pleasant thing to do during a break. I continued to work on my project. I talked to some of my friends about what they do with their time at home, assuming their house is reasonably tidy already. Know what they do? They do things like ‘make a pot of tea, bake cookies, knit and watch TV’. Suddenly I was overcome with longing. It is not that I know jack shit about baking cookies, but being British I know everything about how to make a pot of tea, cookies and cake can come from anywhere, and there are films I haven’t seen. And I used to knit. I used to knit quite avidly, about a dozen items a year.

The fact is, I cannot have this type of relaxing evening because my house is usually thoroughly messy unless I am expecting guests the next day and I have too much work on all of the time. So when I get a break, my living room is not a relaxing environment, I can’t find or remember what I was knitting, I don’t watch films and the best option is escape into World of Warcraft for a couple of hours.

I now see that this can change. Kondo promises this sense of serenity; it is a sense of something, that’s for sure. I returned to my sock and knicker drawer several times and it looks like the work of aliens. It looked like someone had broken into my flat and starting tidying it, using remote, foreign techniques that I’m not used to.

This blog is about the life you want. Building the life you want. Much of the time and especially for the last 3 years, it has been about some big, heavy life issues, career changes, and god knows what. We are still not out of the woods. However, this experience of the last couple of days has caused me to realise that if I Kondo my entire life then an evening will come, quite soon, where the living room is clean, papers are filed and I am making a pot of tea and knitting a sweater while watching a movie. Which would be great, wouldn’t it. I would love that. Here are some visual notes to help me remember. I am making this promise to myself. I am going to have this evening quite soon, no matter how much I work I have on.

LINKS:

http://tidyingup.com/

https://konmari.com/

NOTES TO SELF:

This is just some of my yarn that I keep because I think I am going to knit with it. This particular shot is the yarn I brought back from Greece when I was with Klaus.

yarn

This tea pot is not mine, it is the Golden Carp tea pot in the shop at the British Museum, but it is still nice.

teapot

Lemon cup cakes from Costa Coffee.

lemoncake

I still haven’t seen this.

Straight_Outta_Compton_poster_usa

or this.

where-to-invade-next-poster

And here is today’s South Africa photo, in case you thought I forgot. It is a photo of a photo, spotted at William Kentridge’s studio and art school in Johannesburg. Imagine my joy. About Kentridge, not so much the hornless cow. It is funny but I don’t know if it something one should rejoice in.

IMG_1199

Thank you.

I am listening to SuperBetter by game designer Jane McGonigal. It is about developing resilience: physical, mental, emotional and social. The book opens with four quests. I’ve just got to the fourth one and it involves thanking someone, so I am thanking you.

Thanks for reading my blog! This blog has been one long quest for self-improvement and I still have a long way to go,  so THANK YOU for coming with me, some of you since we first started on Day 1 in 2010. Come to think of it, I must clean the house.

Here are today’s South Africa photos. In Durban, which is on the coast, there is a place called Le Shaka Marine World with touristy shops and suchlike. There is a very exciting restaurant that contains a large aquarium, so that sharks and stingrays can swim right past you while you are eating your dinner.

The Entertaining Book Shop

I just awoke from an actual nightmare about having to go back to work at that HORRIBLE job. Oh god, I don’t want to go. It is horrible. I am focusing on the fact that they are going to make 20 people redundant. It can’t happen fast enough. I wish they would make me redundant but I will have to stick it out for another year before I’m entitled to any redundancy pay. I’ve just looked at the financial forecast for that company and we are forecasted to lose 8% of our revenue in the coming 12 months because of lost customers because it is a TERRIBLE COMPANY. I wonder how many of our staff even read those figures. I bet they stop reading when it gets to the numbers. Maths is hard.

Now I’m awake I have to go and see my newest and richest client about even more new work. FFS. If they want me to go abroad again it’s going to be very hard to turn that down in light of the competition. Hopefully I can do the work in the UK, fingers crossed.

Here’s a South African photo to cheer us up. It is a book shop. Just to make it even better, it is a CHRISTIAN book shop. How much do you love that? It is at the Gateway mall in Durban, if you want to go.

IMG_0531

 

Gloria and the Herbalists

herbalist

A rare sighting of your loyal correspondent. That’s me on the right, chatting to two boys. They are selling African medicinal herbs and are very knowledgeable. They are in some famous gardens that I’ll tell you about later that surround the art museum in Cape Town, which is that white building behind us. Table Mountain is the background. Nice shot, huh. How often do people take photos of you from behind with both Rastas and famous landmarks in shot? Not very, that’s how often.

There will be a lot more photos in due course, I think I shot 1,400 in total, most of them boring work shots but also a lot of stuff that you will like. It takes time to sort through that many photos, so that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days, so I can get my work report written.

While sorting photos, I’ve been thinking very carefully about what to do about this horrible day job because the World’s Worst Company’s new season starts in two weeks and once it’s up and running I am tied in until Xmas. Here is my decision: I am going to give it another 4 months, until the end of this calendar year and will not quit before then. Analysis:

  • I am loyal to the CEO, aka The Terminator. He hired me. He is shit-hot. He has a tough job on his hands trying to make this company recover its health. He will be disappointed if I walk out. He doesn’t want to give up on me yet, and I would like him to not give up on me yet. I would also like him to take me with him to his next job.
  • I am loyal to our customers, some of whom have signed contracts for this coming season based on the expectation that they will be working with me, because I am a ROCK STAR and outshine any other client-facing member of staff.
  • My new line manager, Brian, seems like a reasonable person and The Terminator likes him, so that’s the sole recommendation that I would value.
  • I like a challenge and I don’t like to fail at things.
  • In my career history, I have almost no experience with office politics, this is because I own the company. You agree with me or you can go and work elsewhere. However, in companies that I do not own, there will be politics that I cannot deal with using the usual tactics. As much as it does not benefit the organisation when our staff behave like tossers, it also does not benefit when I make it clear that I think they are tossers. If I am interested in what benefits the organisation, which I am, and of being some use to the Terminator, which I am, then I need to become a diplomat. Because working here at a high level of seniority means managing these people, no matter how incompetent they are, or how far away from what I was led to expect, it is what we have to work with. For now. So I need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

FFS. Being a grown-up is hard.

Jehst: Weed