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Things you think about when sitting at Tasha’s

18 Jan

It is decided. Tasha’s in Morningside is the best place in Joburg for people-watching, better even than Tasha’s Rosebank, Tasha’s Melrose Arch, or Tasha’s Hyde Park.

I met a friend there this afternoon to brief her on a freelance writing job and eat cake, and we were so entranced by the people around us that we almost didn’t notice that Patience the waitress seemed to require ours.

It’s all very LSM 10 rainbow nation shallow magnificence. Everyone hangs out at Tasha’s Morningside: black and white, Jew and Muslim, gay and straight, celebrity and ordinary mortal, pensioner and primary school kid. In many settings in South Africa, people hang out at the same venues, but the groups sitting at tables are fairly homogenous. At Morningside, there were plenty of mixed tables too. (Yes, this is 2014 and yes, we still have a way to go.)

Tashas table

The new generation of kugels is here and it’s fabulous. They’re in their 20s, they all wear huge sunglasses and fabulous weaves and staggeringly high heels. They do seem to be allowed the option of tiny tiny shorts or very very skinny jeans.

Also, we need a name for them. Kugels is too 80s Style Magazine. Nugels maybe? Twugels? (All kugels are glued to their phones, so I’m leaning towards this one.)

Trips to the loo are an opportunity for Twugels to Be Seen. Heading off to powder your nose is a major expedition requiring as much sashaying and strutting between the tables as possible. “Did you see The Strut?” the woman in pink shorts at the table next to us (pictured above) asked her friends when her friend (picture below) headed into the corner. They were both tall and skinny and gorgeous, and could well be sisters. They were also very aware of how much attention they attracted. I’m pretty sure they knew my friend and I were skinnering about them – we were repeatedly given the knowing side-eye – and they enjoyed the attention.

Tashas Strut

Nobody wants to be the chunky girl with the hot friends. If my friend and I had friends who looked like this, we’d be the chunky one. This is why we only hang out with ordinary women who need to spend more time at the gym. Just like us.

Handbag carrying techniques are something that should be explored. Crook of arm with limp wrist? The shoulder hunch? The firmly gripped dangle? Surveys must be done. (I’m a shoulder-huncher myself.)

Here is an example of the grip-dangle:

Tashas handbag grip

I would also like to explore a new theory. Is BMI correlated with the recency of wealth acquisition? I ask because Sandton people are generally slim and fabulous. It is rare to see very overweight women  in this town because everyone is so obsessed with paleo and CrossFit and Sweat1000 and Tim Noakes andandand. So when I do see very overweight people who clearly have money, I wonder how long they’ve been living here.

People are still showing off in sports cars. This guy showed up in a Porsche and alley docked in his parking space for maximum impact. Apparently one of these guys is hip hop star Da LES:

Tashas Da Les

The buff guy/ skinny girl stereotype holds. I once had a massive row with someone on Twitter over a tweet about the Tasha’s stereotype. It wasn’t that obvious here – most of the tables were either families or friend sof the same sex – but buff guys and skinny girls were everywhere.

Everyone wears giant sunglasses. 

And yes, it’s mildly surreal. Alex isn’t so far away from here, but this is a different world. Any overseas journo wanting to write a story about the Juxtaposition Between Rich and Poor should probably start here. My friend is under sequestration and I live with family, so the fact that they allowed us in the door was remarkable. But we could pay for our freezochinos and our shared red velvet cake, and in Joburg, all that matters is that you have the money when they ask for it.

Filming an interview when you don’t have an office

17 Jan

Carte Blanche interview 2

I don’t have, shall we say, a conventional work set up. This is part of the challenge of being a portfolio careerist. Yes, I’m a partner in an agency that has actual clients and is making money, but we’re keeping our overheads as low as possible. While we sort out a solution for offices, I work the way I have for the last two years: out of my parents’ home (they have wifi) or out of coffee shops.

So when people want to interview me as a social media expert (rather than an artist or an author) finding a suitably businessy location is a challenge.

My options include:

Continue reading

What happens when you tweet about paying etolls

8 Jan

etoll response

This afternoon, I queued at a shopping centre in Sunninghill to pay my etolls and tweeted about it. I’d used a car that isn’t registered in my name on the highway, and my family asked me to please sort it out. If the car was mine, I might have been more sanguine about civil disobedience, but this wasn’t strictly up to me.

The response was interesting. It ranged from mockery:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 2.00.36 PM

to threats of vandalism:

etolls bullying 3

I’ll admit that I thought twice about tweeting about standing in that queue. Then again, I was curious about the response, and since I tweet about being divorced and having bad hair, I might as well tweet about etolls too.

To admit to paying etolls is socially unacceptable in some circles. It marks you as a traitor, and certainly would have back in 2012 and 2013 when the anti-etolling campaign was at its peak.  The tide is definitely shifting though, and judging by the number of people in the queue, I’m one of many:

etoll payers

I braced myself for the bill. Since etolling started in early December, I’ve used the highway several times and been through countless gantries. So when the bill came to under R24, I was – yes – pleasantly surprised.

What’s interesting about this, and what I’ll explore in more detail, is how the debate around etolls has moved from mass civil disobedience, where Sanral was probably the greatest unifying force in the nation, to a sense of resignation. This ship has sailed, and while hardliners might threaten me (some of them really need to join the fake interpreter for a spell in Sterkfontein if they think that committing an actual crime – damage to private property – somehow enhances their case against the government) the battle has been lost. Most people will kak en betaal because the threat of further inconvenience is worse than the threat of being accused of being a veraaier. Already the tide is turning; the queues at Sanral customer service centres are evidence enough of that.

If I were Sanral, I’d be rubbing my hands in glee at the prospect of anti-etolls hardliners threatening members of the public. Nothing makes a bully more sympathetic than excessive aggression by its critics.

Things we found in the China Shop in Knysna

26 Dec

China Shop Happy bag

I love China Shops. They are an excellent metaphor for the state of consumerism, an outlet for mountains of cheap facsimiles of useful things. They look functional, but break almost immediately.  They are a physical representation of what somebody thinks we want, and they are hideously wasteful. But somebody will buy them because they are there on the shelf, and they have some sort of symbolic exchange value. Barthes would have a field day.

This cap, for instance, came with a price tag of R180: Continue reading

We need this road sign

24 Dec

Several Harleys have just driven down the quiet road on which our B&B is sited. They reminded me, yet again, that there is one very important road sign missing from our regularity arsenal. This one.No doosesa


Self-medication for the depressed

2 Nov

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 5.26.17 PM

I am severely depressed today. This is nothing new; it’s a demon I’ve battled since the age of 9 when I had my first major episode. As I’ve rationalised the risks in my life – eliminating relationships, jobs and money, I’ve focused on one thing, and one thing alone as a source of meaning: the work I do. When that fails, everything falls apart, and no amount of prescribed medication can fix it.

(And yes, to answer the question I’ve never fully acknowledged before, at least not in public: I am on medication for clinical depression, and have been for the past two decades.) When it is worse than usual,  I also self-medicate in various ways. As Erik du Plessis said in the Neuromarketing (or, as he termed it, Neuro-decision making) talk I watched on Wednesday, our entire quest in life is the pursuit of dopamine. So how do I trigger dopamine?

1. Alcohol, mostly in the form of low alcohol dooswyn.

2.  Chuckles from Woolworths.

3.  Gym, when I’m feeling virtuous.

4.  Carbs, when I’m not. (What would Tim Noakes say?)

5.  Art and, finally,

6.  Trying to make others happy. Sometimes this involves Chuckles, sometimes not.

Today, I tried options 2 and 6 (and now, 1).

For weeks, I’ve noticed a woman standing at the corner of 12th Avenue and Wessels Road in Rivonia. She sells things I have no use for, and do not particularly want: tablecloths. And yet, it struck me when I saw her after leaving the gym today, that here is someone who has real reason to be depressed. There she stands at the side of the road, waving her wares in the breeze for an indifferent public while they drive off.

I drove off today.  I wanted to get to Herbert Evans at Fourways Crossing to get more art material to paint more work that nobody wants. But instead of going home afterwards, I drove back to Rivonia, hoping I’d find her. Because if there’s nothing else I can do, I can make someone else’s day just a little bit better  – even if I am a fake and a failure, and there’s no escaping the truth of that.

I found her sitting on the side of the road. I had R185 cash on me, not quite enough for the Christmas-themed placemats going for R200, but she was willing to part with them at that price.  I asked her where she lives; she explained that she is a widow from Zimbabwe. (Virtually all the street entrepreneurs I encounter in Sandton are from the north.) The placemats are not my taste at all, and not the sort of thing that I would ever buy for myself. But I hope that in buying them, I brought a little happiness to her day. You can see her posing with her placemats in the photo above.

This is the thing. If we can’t make ourselves happy, if life seems relentlessly, tiresomely  pointless (even for those of us who are privileged and single and childless and have savings we can live off so not being paid isn’t the end of the world), we can at least try to improve the lives of others. In small ways, perhaps; in ways that aren’t necessarily sustainable, and will take away the pain for a day or two – but better than nothing.

BTN. Always be better than nothing.

From Tannie Evita to Vusi Pikoli to Ryan Gosling

25 Oct

One of the things about being an influencer without a proper day job is that a) you get invited to events and b) you have the time to attend them. Most of the time, events are the hash tags I see while I hunch over my desk working on PowerPoint – but sometimes I do crack the nod.

Last night, it was the opening of the always brilliant and thought-provoking Pieter-Dirk Uys in Adapt or Fly at Montecasino. (Naturally, in his Adolf Hitler cameo, he talked about another gamble – at Monte Cassino in 1944. A personal detail: my grandfather flew a Harvard in Italy and recorded strafing Monte Cassino in his logbook.)

This afternoon, I went all groupie on Vusi Pikoli at the Exclusive Books wish list launch and insisted on a selfie:

Vus Pikoli

Then it was off to the Lifestyle Confessions event at Eastgate. I wasn’t able to get dessert at the Exclusive Books event because I had to leave, but that was ok because there was some pretty fine cake at the Lifestyle event. Also, Ryan Gosling was there:


He was part of a confession booth made up to look like a girl’s bedroom. On one side was product:


On the other, a keyboard and a screen for visitors to type in their Facebook confession:

Facebook App

I ummed and aahed over my confession and eventually settled on something about the guy curtain because it was easy to type and people were watching.

All in all, it was a successful afternoon. I ate cake and nougat, got a neck and shoulder massage from Mangwanani Day Spa, and went home with a gift pack that included Honest Chocolate, a pamper voucher and a beautifully simple pendant from Waif by Gisele Human. The voucher will come in handy for a manicure after I’ve done all my painting this weekend for an exhibition in November.

Together with two bottles of Porcupine Ridge and a pair of Nando’s boxer shorts from the Exclusive Books event, it was a very nice collection of gifts. I won’t drink the wine just yet, but I can’t wait to try the boxer shorts tonight.

The instant prizes on  Lifestyle’s Facebook app include things like dance classes and cooking classes, both of which I desperately need. Excuse me while I enter again.

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