"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

an adventure of my own

After not visiting Cape Town city centre for ages, I have recently had reason to spend time there on three separate occasions.  I went to register for UIF unemployment benefits.  Quite a soul-searching exercise.  Standing in various queues, being given instructions and told to "Come back tomorrow, we are offline".  Looking around at the many really needy people sitting and standing around, inside the building and outside, it would have been easy to give up on it but the principle of the matter is that I have contributed to the fund since 1977, collected maternity benefits just once and have never claimed, or needed to claim, again.  So although my new venture is starting taking off, I have not earned a salary for 6 months and am entitled to claim.  In fact if you don't claim within 6 months you lose out.

On my first trip, I parked at the top of town near the Mount Nelson.  The walk down to Plein Street was longer than I thought it would be but I enjoyed finding my way down Long Street, through a couple of narrow alley ways and I was soon on Parade Street.
 I forget what this club/pub/tattoo palour was called but I loved the mosaics

As I turned into Wale Street I walked straight into a demonstration on the steps of the WC Legislature offices where a group of ladies were sitting on portapotties.  I took a wide berth as I did not want to get involved in any mudslinging.

After an hour and a half at the UIF office in the "Help" queue, I was given a form to be filled in by my bank "No mistakes, no corrections accepted".  I left a bit disheartened and decided to find something to eat as it was now nearly 3 o'clock and I was starving.  There are many things that I do and am happy to do on my own.  I go to movies on my own and don't mind taking a seat in a pub on my own and order a drink while waiting for friends.  Eating on my own, unless in a foreign country, I have not done very often (in fact I cannot remember doing it, but surely I must have at some time?).  There is this little cafe / coffee shop near Plein Street called Bread Milk and Honey.  It just looked so inviting and as I was feeling a bit touristy on my own, I went in and dished up a plate of food (one of those R18 for 100g, weigh-your-plate-places) and ordered a pineapple smoothie with ginger.  I did have a bit of that "no feeling" as I sat at a little round table on my own. I tried hard not to play with my phone and look like a total plonker so I took out a pen and made some blog notes (even more of a plonker, I suppose) 
 Chicken breyani, Waldorf salad, roasted beetroot - R32 - delicious
I loved this tweet the other day "People, despite what you think, you can still eat a meal without Instagramming it first"
Sorry Bill Murray!

Okey dokes, this is getting a bit long-winded but not so with my lunch.  It was one of the quickest meals I have ever had.  It is just not the same with no friends, no chats (and no wine).  I decided to buy a take-away, gorgeous looking cupcake for dessert and take a walk back to my car through....

I don't think I had been to the Company Gardens since a Grade 3 outing to the Planetarium many years ago.

I spied Tuinhuis and took a picture through the gate of Helen Zille's beautifully manicured garden......
I found an empty .............................
where I thought I may sit and eat my cupcake and read my book.   However, within 2 minutes of sitting down I had a family of squirrels almost running up my leg and opening my prettily packaged box with my beloved cupcake. Then I spied 3 huge rats running across the path and ducking into a drain.  I remembered the story of a rat biting Helen's toe (not that long ago) when she went down her passage to collect her morning paper and thought "Hells Bells if they went for her toes when she had no bait, what would they do when they saw my beautiful cupcake".    Time to move on, quickly.  I decided to do another thing I never like to do "Eat while Walking in Public".   I remember making my friend Cheryl laugh uncontrollably once about something that I read that "fat people should stay at home and eat and not eat in public".  I think I told her this while she was biting into a Magnum ice cream in Vineyard Road and could not believe that I did not want a bite.  "No Cheryl, overweight people must not eat in public".

So here I was, with my camera and eating my cupcake walking up Government Avenue (a bit like the Pied Piper with squirrels following me for crumbs).  I had been trying to call Gareth because by now I needed a toilet and a cup of tea and he lives not far from the Mount Nelson, which was now in view.  No reply.  So here I am thinking about him and wondering why he was not replying when across my path runs an albino squirrel.

Remember this story:-

"Michael and I had just started formally dating.  We had taken Rusty for a walk through RBHS and had seen two baby owls in a tree on the Oakhurst field (next to the swimming pool and the main rugby field).  We arrived home, pretty excited about seeing the baby birds and Michael, after telling the whole story to the boys, asked Gareth (who was probably engrossed in the newspaper and not really listening) if he had seen the baby owls (he had just returned from rugby practice on the next door field and there were plenty of people around, pointing and looking up at the tree while he was practicing).  Gareth, oblivious to the rarity of the sighting and as only Gareth in his deep, gruff voice can do, replied "NO, but I have seen an albino squirrel on that field".  Subject closed.

Perhaps you had to be there but it has become a family joke. 

When Gareth returned earlier this year from a wonderful holiday at Londolozi he had so many stories to tell about lions mating, wild dogs and hyena fights and for Gareth (who is usually brief and to the point) it was an unusually detailed and animated conversation about the experience.  After listening to his tales, Michael, in his unobtrusive, dry way asked "Any albino squirrels?"

Yesterday was another visit to the UIF office.  I was now armed with all the forms, necessary bank stamps and documents required.  This time I parked on Roeland Street.  I stopped at Fruit and Veg and bought myself a bottle of water and two bananas (on a budget and a cupcake for R12 in a fancy box would just look wrong in the UIF building).  The experience, although over 3 hours long, was not too bad.  I was asked to hold a tiny baby while the mother left to find the toilet.  She was gone for at least 20 minutes.  The baby did not stir but I started to get hot and sweaty and worried that she had left forever (and that I would be arrested for kidnapping).  I even had this story going around in my head that she probably thought I looked the "richest in this room and would be best able to look after feed and support her baby".  She eventually returned with another child, to a very relieved me, and had obviously been outside for a cigarette (or two) and chat with her family.

I was finished by 2 o'clock and left the building in the heaviest rainstorm ever.  I had a rain jacket but no umbrella or hood.  By the time I got to the top of Roeland Street I had taken on my new role very seriously.  I totally looked the part of a wet, bedraggled and unemployed person.  I had even been offered a drink out of paper packet by a group of homeless (and unemployed) people taking shelter in a doorway who spied a very wet me hoppipolla-ing along seemily unconcerned about running or taking shelter.

Since then, I have been caught in 3 downpours of rain in the last couple of days.  Crazy - seriously drenched each time.  You see when you wish to use the word hoppipolla, you wishes come true.  

Makes me so grateful for my warm shower, dry home and Old Brown Sherry.

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