Review: The Imaginary

The Imaginary
The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My mind is being torn in two about this book. You see, I think children will like it. But I kind of like it when I like the children’s books as well. I like it when it is written in a language that is kind of ageless, perhaps. I think that might be what it is. This is a truly wonderful story with some excellent imagination happening all over the place. I just didn’t like the way it sounded in my head, which was a bit of a pity. Of course that’s just me though. the illustrations are lovely, the idea is lovely, and honestly if a movie is ever made of this story I will gleefully take my children to go and watch it, and I will be more excited than they will be.

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Review: Horseradish

Horseradish by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I completely forgot to mention that I re-read this little gem of wisdom over the weekend. Funny enough it actually did quite a bit to uplift an otherwise dreary mood. I think it might be one of those books I should read yearly, like Love That Dog (Actually maybe I should go and re-read that one now!) as it is one of those that gives far more than it takes. Thanks Mr. Snicket, sir. You have served me well once more.

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Where do all the spoons go?

20150511_180458I have come to the realisation that we have only three teaspoons in our house. This is not long after buying new teaspoons because of the dwindling stock. Is this a thing? Like the thing where socks go missing because some sort of magical force is trying to free all the house elves? Or like where your underwear goes missing because you have dodgy neighbours? Because unless I have the old “it happens to everyone” explanation, then I really just can’t come to terms with this spoon thing. It’s weird. I cannot for the life of me imagine a scenario in which it makes sense for spoons to keep getting lost. Of course, I do have three children, so that usually explains everything. But seriously: where the hell did all the spoons go?!

Temporary Tribes and the Curse of Being Too Nadine

1551885851When it comes to writing on my blog, and writing in general I guess, I tend to be pretty honest. I’m kind of crap at making stuff up really, which I guess makes me a bad writer. Pretty much anything I write is a kind of truth for me. Even if it is made up and not based on any particular thing. Even if it is only a temporary truth.  But if I can put out some real raw honesty right now, then the truth would be this: I’m kind of fucking sad. I have this general cloud of unease that I can’t seem to shake, a permanent lump in my throat that threatens to spill over during almost all interactions with other people – or books, or television. At the moment I’m not even sure if I have actual flu or if my body is having a physical reaction to an increasingly dire emotional state.

Every now and then I sort of slip into a bit of a PTSD funk. I feel stupid even saying that because it doesn’t feel like I should be allowed to claim something quite so legitimate as my own, but I don’t really know what else to call it. It hits me every couple of years and then it takes a couple of months to talk myself down from it. I shared a very watered down and vague version of the cause of it with someone only once, because only once has someone ever noticed, and to this day I regret it. Sharing it doesn’t fix it. It only makes me feel stupid.

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The Tampon Terrorist

untitledSo my cat – Jonny Lee Mewler – has a new favourite game: Tampon Tennis. My tampons are kept in a basket next to the loo in my bathroom with the toilet paper. They are in reach for when I have need of them, obviously. But of course, Mr Mewler has discovered that if he jumps inside the basket and opens up the little blue box next to all the toilet paper (ok fine – the empty toilet paper rolls) a whole bunch of wonderful little toys fall out and he gets to have a grand old time chasing them all around the house. Of course this inevitably led to me finding a tampon in the kitchen and I was having a little giggle about it with my 14 year old stepson when my 12 year old stepdaughter noted how “embarrassing” it would be if someone were to come and visit. And suddenly I found myself grateful to my tampon thieving cat because I was given a perfect opening to casually chat to my kids about girl stuff and how there is no shame in it. You see, I’m a little tired of living in a world where the workings of the female body are considered taboo. If you walk into my house and there’s a tampon in the kitchen it is because, I as a female human being, have a normally functioning body. For you to find the evidence that I use tampons to be at all distasteful makes you a bit of a tool – whether you are male or female. I’m so sick of the cliched male (and sometimes female) specimen who is revolted by the workings of the female anatomy, that idiot who slips into his dramatic gestures of revulsion at the mere mention of anything to do with procreation, barring the expelling of his own semen. I can’t help but be tempted to fall into a lecture laced with obvious scorn. I spoke to my children nicely though. Pointing out the silliness of feeling shamed by the humble tampon, and even going so far as to mention that the person who buys my tampons is, after all, their dad. Their dad does all the grocery shopping, so he buys all the tampons. Why? Because the grocery store is right there where he works and his dutiful housewife generally has zero money and quite likes to get out as little as possible if she can help it (don’t bother making the hermit jokes…really…way too easy!). I was then conveniently able to point out how silly it would be if my big burly husband refused to buy my tampons. We would then have to spend more money on petrol going to the shops, wasting  more our most precious commodity – time – and for what? Embarrassment over the purchasing of a tampon? I don’t think so. This made all the sense in the world to my son, but he’s always been quite receptive to my somewhat not-always-the-norm ideas on things. Sadly my daughter is a little more prone to the worldly conditioning that we’re trying so hard to iron out. But maybe she’ll come around. She’s going to have to if she ever wants to invite her friends around here. I don’t see this tampon tennis stopping any time soon. And what kind of catmother would I be to deny my precious Jonny his fun?

A post about…um…Black Widow…

download*WARNING: possible spoilers for a movie that I have not seen yet so I can’t be sure that they’re spoilers but they might be and there’s a Grey’s Anatomy spoiler thrown in just for kicks so if you’ve been living under a bridge I’m so sorry*

Greetings fellow humans! It seems that today the topic on my mind is none other than the currently controversial Black Widow. Why, you ask? Well…I have to admit that it is because I am confused.

I am not a comic book reader by any means. I am not nearly cool enough to fit into the geeky world of The Big Bang Theory boys or to hang out with those folks who play Dungeons & Dragons in storefront windows. I am a story lover, yes, and it is possible that I have read every single comic book about Casper the Friendly Ghost as well as all of those dorky Archie Digests, but those things count for naught as far as this particular topic is concerned so I admit that today I come to you from a place of not knowing at all what I am talking about.

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Watching Black Box

MV5BMTkyMDQ1ODMwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkwNjU2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_I’m currently watching a series called Black Box and I’m finding that it has me a little out of sorts. It kind of makes me think of that saying that goes something like art seeks to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I think I might be being disturbed. The show is a medical drama about a woman, Dr. Catherine Black, who is a neuroscientist with bipolar disorder. Now I know nothing about mental disorders – I have a few friends who suffer from various mental ailments from anxiety, to depression, and bipolar itself, and to be honest I even sometimes wonder if I don’t suffer from a disorder or two myself – but I most certainly do  think it is important to try and understand these issues. I certainly have learned very little from personal experience (knowing someone with a disorder – even if you are close – does not mean you understand it) and so I find myself wondering if this effort into the complicated playground of mental issues should not be highly commended. Of course I can’t say for sure that accurate portrayals of anything are happening here, but I think sometimes that even if when television “gets it wrong” it at least plays a huge role in getting us to wake up and pay attention. I wish I could say that I was empathetic enough to understand these things simply by having an open dialogue with friends and loved ones, but we all know that honesty when it comes to the real ins and outs of such things is a rare commodity. So few feel comfortable enough expressing themselves honestly without fear of shame, and rightly so considering how few are willing to step up and truly try to understand. Getting a true understanding from personal experience is seldom possible. I may be alone here, but I find that I am constantly learning really interesting things from this storytelling marvel that we so love to refer to as “the idiot box”. I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool. Stories are such a great way to begin to understand things, and though stories are seldom able to give an entire picture, they certainly offer a place from which to start. Or is that just me?

Finding Happiness Apps

Photo on 2015-05-04 at 6.01 PM

So I’m a little over-stressed and run down these days, which is kind of a ridiculous observation because I think I am probably always over-stressed and always run down. I seem to have a bit of residual flu that I can’t get rid of, a persistent ache in my bones which is not too bothersome except for the fact that it has me in a kind of perpetual blah  mood. It could be flu. It could just be my body protesting all of the stuff that is out of sorts around me. The stupid thing tends to do that to me a lot.

Anyway, I need to find something that is kind of nice. For me. Before the damage becomes irreversible.

I can’t afford a therapist – especially not since I would probably have to go through at least ten of them before finding one I like –  or any lovely life-altering weed, so my only alternative is to find a costless solution that is not too time-consuming since my three children and their never ending education needs take up all my time these days.

So? YOU app. My husband introduced me to the thing a couple of weeks ago and it had him all warm and fuzzy, so it’s worth a try, right? It kind of works around making and then sharing micro changes in your life. It kind of makes sense to me, but what mostly makes sense is that I am sucking at keeping all this shit sane myself, so why not hand the reigns over to my phone which already half-rules my life anyway and let it tell me what to do. Right?

A happiness app. Seems like a couple of us could use that these days.

Of course today’s little “micro action” is a bit depressing, which strikes me as mildly counter-productive, but let’s leave it to the professionals, right? And stop trying to micro manage every little thing…

That seems like a good place to start… Maybe.

Ah fuck knows.

What do you think?

A few completely disjointed thoughts on embracing my own humanity…

Photo on 2015-04-01 at 11.50 AM #3I’ve just finished reading this article which I found so exceptionally spot on when it comes to human nature that I kind of feel like I need to talk about it even though I barely know what the hell to even say. I think about stuff like this a lot, and I’ve been thinking about it even more in the wake of the drama over Trevor Noah’s questionable tweets. I must admit that when I read them I kind of facepalmed a bit, and shook my head and went  oh no dude, but I didn’t find myself wanting to hate him. Which I suppose made me question myself. Nadine! You can’t excuse such things!  Except that I can, and I kind of have to. Because you know what? The writer of the aforementioned article is right: We’ve all done it. And we’ve done and continue to do worse! I’ve been flippant about rape culture and rolled my eyes at those trying so hard to negate it. I’ve perpetuated misogynistic stereotypes at the expense of others as well as myself. I’ve said “that’s so gay”! We all do it. Does that make it ok? Of course not! Acknowledging that maybe it isn’t ok (when we are the perpetrators) makes it a bit more ok though. It means we get to remind ourselves to grow and learn. Getting a little honest and introspective can go a long way to developing our own humility and to progressing as a good human being. 

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Review: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So a kind of weird thing happened: I ended up enjoying this book. For me the story started out exceptionally slow and I kind of struggled to care about it at all for a long time. The popularity of this series kind of boggled me a little and even irritated me. I was probably a little bitchy about it. I can’t say why (and by “why” I mean why I wasn’t enjoying the book, not why I was bitchy – that I know the answer to). Perhaps it was not my scene. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it. Perhaps the beginning is actually kind of slow. But something happened during the last third of the book that took my rating from a 2 to a four. I can’t even quite explain it exactly, but I think there suddenly seemed to be a point to it all. I started to understand it a little better and it even kind of made me feel hopeful. Tris grows into a being of substance which is quite refreshing. I tend to read these sorts of books with my pre-teen daughter in mind. Am I ok with her learning from the protagonist of this story? Sadly the answer to that question is often no. But today it got to be yes. And that’s pretty cool.

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Review: Willful Creatures

Willful Creatures
Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this one but not quite as much as I did the others. I still can’t five it a lower rating because if nothing else I’ve been super inspired to write a few more short stories. That friggen counts a lot!

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Review: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m giving this book a 5 because I think that being the type of person who writes these sort of weird and confusing – for – most – people stories is kind of important. About 4 years ago when I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake I did not love it as I expected to. I have kind of evolved since then. I have become more open to obscure voices sharing beautiful content. I have learned to set aside expectations and receive what I am given instead of bemoaning what I have not. I cannot help now but envy Ms. Bender. How free she is in spirit. How unconventionally wise. How odd. How exquisite. How real.

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Review: An Invisible Sign of My Own

An Invisible Sign of My Own
An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Feeling humbled by the (to me) unpretentious quirk that is Aimee Bender. How glorious when reading feels a little bit like falling in love – something that you instinctively understand but could not possibly explain. I must admit that for this novel a lot of the charm lay in the reviews of others. Indignant school teachers offended by an inaccurate portrayal of teaching and children. Fussy readers who cannot cope when a story is not “just so” – as if being “realistic” and “structured” is the only way to be when it comes to putting yourself on paper. And yet here I sit, grateful for strange minds that take me to different worlds, and especially grateful that my own mind allows for me to be taken there.

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DSCN8551I’m currently on a bit of a road trip through the Western Cape with my husband. We like to do this for ourselves from time to time. At the moment we’re a bit broke, but it was our anniversary on the third and I guess sometimes love needs to trump questionable bank accounts. As much as I adore being in my home (anyone who knows me well knows that I tend towards being a bit of a hermit sometimes) I do admit that combatting cabin fever becomes a delicate balancing act, which is best performed by leaving our fair city behind. These little road trips have healing powers. They have restorative powers. And to be a little too honest: they have marriage saving powers!

So my husband and I are road tripping, and we’ve been to an array of strange places over the last week. Letting my husband take control of the planning has lead to far stranger experiences than if I had been in charge. His relaxed approach to life is certainly more conducive to adventure than my uptight and systematic need for control is. Again, you see: balance. Last week we stayed in a tepee. This is a decidedly un-South African way to spend the night, of course, but it was a new experience nonetheless, and new experiences are the point. We even got to have the strange experience of stumbling upon a (possibly) biker bar in the middle of Prince Alfred’s Pass where the owner had a stuffed springbuck’s hind quarters set up on the wall (instead of a traditional hunting trophy head) and if that wasn’t bizarre enough, he had, for reason’s known only to the infinite cosmos, rigged it up so that whisky could be tapped from the poor creature’s lady bits. I learned of myself that evening that I am quite the prude and that there are some authentic experiences that I am happy to skip out on. The indignity of it all still haunts me, days later.

After the night of strange taxidermy and authentic American tenting, we spent the night on a lovely farm that is completely off the grid. This of course excited Ty no end because he just wants to live off the grid. Having a proper off-the-grid experience was a nice reminder of the possibility of it all.

We’ve actually been having a lovely time. We’ve driven through farm after farm. We’ve admired exquisite protea bushes and gasped at the beauty of the wine lands and marvelled at the brownness of the Cederburg area. I’ve taken a thousand photographs of clouds. And all the while I have been reminding myself: we are nothing without our farmers. These folks who make this all happen are our unsung heroes. We should thank them more often. I can barely grow tomatoes in my veggie garden, never mind feed a whole country.

And yet…there is something that is missing…

Please don’t get me wrong. I love our country. Our country is beautiful and magnificent and we probably have the best weather in the whole world. We have this beautiful diversity, which makes me smile. We have great food. We have our odd colloquialisms and our specific brand of humour. I love all of those things. And I miss them when I go away.

But when you’re road tripping in your own country you never really properly feel like you have left home. You never experience that exquisite spark of fear that is brought about by being faced with the unknown. You never get to stand still for a moment, look around you and tell yourself, “I have absolutely no idea where I am”. I must admit, I am addicted to that feeling.

I tried to tell myself the other day that I need to stop having lofty and impossible dreams about trips overseas that I cannot afford. I should just be quietly content to explore my own country. Exploring my own country is doable. But my other self only started to laugh at me. Because as much as I do love exploring the wonders of right here, my other self knows that there is something far more empowering about that feeling of not knowing where you are. Of feeling un-findable. Of being no one in the midst of everyone.

If you’ve ever read The Alchemist you might have noticed that there is a quote by Madonna on the back. It says “The Alchemist is a book about magic, dreams and the treasures we seek elsewhere and then find on our own doorstep.” To me this is a gross misinterpretation of the book. To me, The Alchemist is about how you should seek out adventure despite the fact that everything you need might be on your doorstep.

My own interpretation of the story sticks with me and causes my mind to scheme constantly. It is why, even though I am not wealthy, I have begun to stick small amounts of money away in a “flight fund”. And it is why I am constantly on websites like webjet checking out what it costs to fly where. Because it is important to know these things. It is important to know that if you don’t get yourself the latest iPhone, you could actually afford to purchase a ticket to Vietnam. It is important to know that if you save x amount of money for y amount of months that you could give yourself a trip to Prague.

Because you know what? As healing and restorative and marriage-saving as a road trip through the country might be, a plane ticket to anywhere holds within it a thousand times more power. And yes, everything I need might be on my doorstep, but the world outside of my doorstep is calling me. And I will keep checking on those ticket prices. I will keep working out how much to save. And soon I’ll be on a plane again.



Harry versus Christian: A suggestion on how to make things right.

download (1)OK so I admit that the 50 Shades stuff has me thinking too much about possibly more than I should be thinking these days but I just can’t help it. I have just shared my Goodreads reviews of the three books because I didn’t actually share them on here after I read them and because they’ve been getting a bit of attention lately so I re-read them and they sort of made me laugh. It takes quite a lot for me to be that nasty in a review. I know a lot of people are happy to leave exceptionally nasty reviews for every second book that they read, but I don’t do that. Perhaps I am too aware of just how much goes into writing a book. It feels like absolutely bad karma to be unnecessarily hard on someone’s life’s work and I try to find the up side in everything I read. In fact it is almost impossible to get absolutely nothing out of anything you read, so there should always be something good to say. The 2 (3?) years that have passed since I read the Fifty Shades series made me forget just how much I genuinely loathed that story, though. I definitely hated it more than I remember. There was nothing good to say. With the exception of Mr. Grey’s refreshing indifference to menstrual blood, I clearly could not find anything redeeming. Although I guess if I think about it now, it did teach me a lot about my own thoughts on this particular subject. My reviews may not have reflected that particular silver lining…

Anyway – I was thinking yesterday that the absolute worst part about the Fifty Shades nonsense is that the books sales surpassed those of Harry Potter. This strikes me as exceptionally ridiculous. The absolute work of art versus the barely edited Twilight fan fiction. What the hell, world? Have you all gone mad?!

I think us Potter fans need to do something about this. I think we should all go out and buy new sets of Harry Potter. Why? Because they keep bringing out new sets and we all need those pretty new sets to put on display. Or maybe we could make a pact to start giving Harry Potter books to all the 11 year olds in our lives. Then when they’re 12 they can get book 2. And so on. Or something!

Really. We need to reverse that thing where E.L James outsold our queen.

Please. Let’s do this.