Monday, 5 September 2016

Little Successes

Hello All, I hope you're well.

When one's life feels like "walking through treacle" as dad put it so well, and encouragements feel like mockery and the general mood is a grey one, things seem pretty hopeless and uninspiring. But sometimes it's tiring being tired of everything and one has to attempt to launch oneself out of this mindset with one foul introspective swoop. This post is my swoop.

What is a life if not a series of moments? I tend to get caught up in the long-term and it is classic for me to let weeks go by without stopping to appreciate the little moments. And in doing so, I don't register my little successes which are paramount to my self-esteem. Here is a list of recent Little Successes (I'm hoping it won't be my last):

1) Jessica Steven and a picnic a la plage

So who arrives in the town of massive wealth-gaps and indeterminate weather but our very own Jessica Steven, a mood-lifter if ever I've met one. Scroll down to a couple of last year's posts and you'll be able to place her as my London tour-guide and gorgeous friend who looked after me whilst I was visiting England. I can't tell you how pleased I am to see her! On Sunday a couple of us trundled down to a beach near camps bay and had a breakfast picnic. Does that sound like real life to you? I thought I was in a post-card. it was beautiful, but not quite as beautiful as the company.

2) Getting back into the exercise game

Since running the half-marathon in Knysna and then getting sick I haven't really been doing a lot of exercise. Well, none, I'll be dead honest with you. That might be a lowered-mood factor to think about. But on Friday and Sunday I did 40 minutes on the bike machine, produced some sweaty endorphins, and I'm hoping that soon I will be able to get back into running. I will update you as I go, not only because I know you're all so vitally interested in my fitness plan but also because it helps to have someone to tell when you're trying to achieve something. Thanks for being those people, team!

3) Rob and Jen's Breede Getaway

Since last week was a little UCT vacation, dad and I hopped into the car and followed various horizons until we got to my happiest of all happy places: the Breede River. We took walks on the beach, cooked fresh seafood that dad had harvested himself and I don't want to blow my own trumpet or anything but I made a Risotto that could have given Laurie Nelson a run for her money. Just kidding, Laurie, your Risottos the life and soul of my palette.

4) The Dogs

This is Patrick and Bentley in the car. I'm pleased to announce that after a rocky start they are becoming the best of mates. Chanderpaul had to stay home on our trip because unfortunately his arthritis hinders him from jumping in and out of cars all the time. I love them all so much!

5) The King's Speech with Jose

After years putting off watching the film because I feared my expectations were too high, Josie and I settled down onto the couch once and for all and watched it together and I have to say it was as good as they all said. Yes, of course, Colin Firth's rendition of the King was outstanding and his stammer was brilliant but Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were both stunning too. Their comedic timing was spot-on and everything really fell into place. I'm going to have to compile a list of great films I have put off watching and sit down with Jose to get through them all. Reviews maybe to come. Don't want to commit because I'm not great at committing to things. Although, I would like to note that I am still writing this blog. Another Little Success I've just thought of, go me!

6) Driving in the Yard

On Saturday I had a mammoth driving lesson in which I parallel parked on the right and on the left and I did a three-point-turn, and a hill start. And I did alley-docking a couple of weeks ago, so I know I can do all the the things I need to be able to do for that part of the driving test. Not well, at this point, but the important thing to note is that I can do them. The hill-start is looking a bit grim because clutch-control is rather important and it's not a major skill of mine and not being on level ground throws my confidence a bit but we're getting there!

That's all for this week's segment of Jen and Tonic, folks! I have to go because I need to stop procrastinating with this blog and start procrastinating with some snacks.

I love you all, those in America, France, England, Wales and South Africa.

Jen x

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Day They Loved You

I would really be lying quite exceptionally if I said this year hasn't been tough. Of course it has, it has been a hoard of new things. I have had to learn that things that I am bad at are not things that I will always be bad at, but simply things that I am not good at yet. I have had to learn how to fail. How to get back up and then fail again. How to push myself and how to not feel guilty for relaxing. I've had to learn how to do everything on a rather thin budget, but not use the money-excuse to say "no" to everything. I have even learned how to use my diary/planner efficiently - something I didn't manage to do in 12 years of schooling. I have not learned how to drive but please give me time, can you not see the other mountain of things I am trying to learn? Anyway, learning curves are always hard. And sometimes life is a bit disheartening. But days like today stand as a reminder that even in the midst of losing battles, if one is surrounded by people who love them, there is always hope. I had to record the day so that I will never forget it, so here it is Future Jen: The Day They Loved You (important to note: they love me everyday, and I them, but today in particular).

It's the 16th of August 2016 which is exactly two decades after the day I was born into this world. A twentieth birthday isn't wildly exciting as all the fun stuff that one can do at 18 has been celebrated and dealt with and the big 21 is still to come so 20 is a bit intermediate and uninteresting. I thought the day would be a reflection of this. Turns out I couldn't really have been more wrong about that. Today was monumental.

Lets do a play-by-play:

6:30am: I am woken up with the singing of happy birthday, a sparkler and a cup of tea. Accompanied by six human beings who aren't human beings at all but actually angels sent from the heavens. Six of my friends had gathered at my home to wake me up and welcome me into the day.

7:00: I am lead downstairs to a feast of strawberries, yoghurt, egg, bacon, champagne, orange juice ect. Chris and Dad are key orchestrators in this spread and deserve a big cheers.

7:something (I wasn't really keeping track of time): I get presented with a jar of messages from a wide variety of special people. Josie Anne Roux, with the help from a couple of my friends, has organised for friends and family to write lovely things which have then been painstakingly written out (can we give Sarah and Natalie a round of applause) and popped into a jar that I would like to have buried in my coffin with me please. Many messages were whatsapped so they wrote them out by hand. Neatly. I read them all when I came home from varsity and was reduced to tears. It really was ridiculous. If you're reading this and you wrote something: I really don't have words for you. How can one person be so loved?

8:15: We all head off to varsity, armed with coffee from a nearby cafe that makes a hellava cuppa joe.

10:00: Natalie and Sarah and I meet for coffee which turns into lunch at Cavendish and then dropping me off back home around 12:30. Here's when I read the jar of notes and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with love for and from everybody.

Like 2-ish?: Matthew comes over and spends the afternoon with me even though his schedule is jam-packed and stressful and full of scary things like a finance test coming up on Thursday. But he puts on a playlist and chats about life and nothing and everything.

4:00: Matt has to leave but to be replaced by Granny Mum, and a hoard of cousins and aunts and uncles. Crunchies are involved. Cake is involved. Tea is involved.

Jose comes at some point and I almost suffocate her in a hug because look what she has done. I think expectations are high for her birthday, so if everyone wouldn't mind pitching in - I want to organise a trip around the galaxy for her because, you know, she is a real living star.

5/6 who knows at this point: A couple of neighbours pop round and they are lovely and give me hugs and how could I possibly feel more loved and yet I do.

Everyone leaves around supper time, so I reread my jar of notes and chat to Dad and Chris who are catering to my every need and being generally lovely (for a change. JK. Maybe).

Now I am in bed being comfy knowing that I am putting off quite a bit of work but not really minding because today has been a bright sparkler in the midst of a shroudy darkness.

Thank you to everybody who thought of me, wrote to me, sang to me and ate with me today. It is a wonder that I am surrounded by such incredible friends and family, although I feel like those two terms are starting to meld into one. I'm a lucky girl.

 After getting over initial shock I am filled with genuine happiness. Exhibit A.

Exhibit B. Initial Shock. 

All my love to you,

Jen x

Friday, 22 July 2016

Runny Noses and Runny Feet.

Evening folks, do you still recognise me? I realise I've not been around for a while and I'm looking a bit unkempt, dishevelled and generally disorderly.

Right now, to paint you a word picture, I am snuggled up in bed surrounded by tissues, medicine, a book I'm supposed to (but not going to) read and empty mugs, some of which still have cold rooibos tea with lemon slices in them. And there's a cat curled up on my legs who has been here for such a long time I've decided to rename her Planter Wart.

Why did I decide to reopen this jenandtonicc tab? Oh good question.

I am currently quite ill. I have the flu. Not the flu that people yell about being plagued by when they have a snotty nose but can still stand upright. I have the flu that makes you feel like you have rocks in your throat, a blacksmith hammering out various steal-wear in your head, a lower-back that's slowly coming apart vertebrae by vertebrae and a stiff neck that recalls sleeping in a funny position for about a week. Also a snotty nose. My poor doctor was treated to me trying to relay all this information through a stench of inexplicable sobbing that I can only apologise for in hindsight. That could not have been pretty. Anyway, while laying curled up in what at one point I thought was my deathbed, I decided if I had one last dying act, it should be to update this blog. I have neglected this thing I love for too long. (that kind of behaviour worries me for if I have children one day). So here I am, on the mend (one hopes), bashing out an entry on this online diary.

What's new:

I'm embarking on a second semester at the University of Cape Town! True, it's not off to a great start since I'm holed up in bed, too weak to go to lectures, while on campus my allies get given assignments that I will have to catch up on eventually. Nevertheless! Let us not be disheartened, discouraged, or dismayed. For if we do, we will spiral into unhappiness despair, I've learned that from experience. So I'm going to have to start exercising endorphins into my brain again. Which brings me quite seamlessly to my next scrap of news.

I ran a half-marathon. I know. In the months leading up to it I thought: what a lovely challenge this is! Setting goals! Breathing fresh morning air into ever-improving lungs! Life is so precious! Whilst running the marathon I thought: Oh cool, so this is what Satan makes the guys do in hell. And then when I was finished it was all great again, because even though I had blisters and chaffing I also had a sense of achievement. And it was so lovely doing it with a friend - Cannelle Gazeau, I completely forgive you for looking stunning both before and after the run while I looked a bit like a sweaty Elmo shoved in running gear. Also Natalie Fraser, who was taken down by an arrow to the knee (not quite but it was a knee thing), next time. I will not cease in my physical exertion until you and I have set 21kms behind us. The sun on our backs and pride in our hearts.

Next new thing! We got a little addition to the family, a puppy called Bentley who is part Retriever and part Labrador and part thief of hearts because he certainly stole mine. He brings joy to all, naturally, and I forgive him for all his poos and wees that we've made Chris clean up because it's his puppy. He's a cheeky blighter but I tend to go a bit blind to his flaws for some reason.

That's it for the new things, I'd say. I left out all the time spent with my big sister (who came to visit us from England while she fought both the British and the South African bureaucracy tooth and nail (and won, *fist pump*) but has left again) because our time was very special filled with long chats, playing with Bentley and the Pad Thai from Thai Cafe in Palmyra Junction. That is probably the most satisfying meal one can possibly eat.

Love to you all!

Jen x

Monday, 11 April 2016

I am to Uni as Dogs are to Orchestras

I've had a term at UCT and I can generally say that I am to university as a golden retriever puppy is to an orchestra, I'm deeply confused by all the moving parts and nobody is really sure what I'm doing there. Of course that's an exaggeration, I'm not completely lost but in true Jen form, I'm not completely on top of things either. I've definitely managed to achieve some important student activities which I'm pretty sure are mandatory for all those hoping to get a degree:

1) Starting an essay the day before in a blind panic.

2) Realising you're not going to finish the essay tonight, better wake up tomorrow morning early and finish it.

3) Hating past-self for being lazy and going to sleep because it's four in the morning and no one up at this ungodly hour should have to churn out an assignment.

4) Working like a trojan on a test, putting all other subjects out of sight and mind only to fail test.

5) Putting failed test out of sight and mind and pretending everything is great and cool until you're alone with your pillow and feeling like a general failure.

6) Remembering to pull yourself together, life goes on and you're not doing that badly anyway. Things could be worse. You could be living in the 1800s. Women couldn't vote and Harry Potter hadn't been written yet. Also there's no wifi.

7) Falling asleep in a lecture and waking up with a line of spit from your mouth to the desk and obviously everyone saw because unlike you, they had their eyes open and their brains conscious.

8) Setting a timer for a 15 minute nap because that will give you enough time to wake up and go to your next commitment.

9) Blearily waking up after the 15 minutes, deciding to not put on make up for your next commitment, rather set timer for 7 minutes time and then just leave straight away.

10) Feeling underdressed always because WOWZA people dress well on campus. I look exactly like this sloth every day in comparison:

I've picked up a second job (waitressing at an Italian restaurant, I start this week, cross fingers for me) and have made maybe the biggest mistake in my human existence so far by signing up for a half marathon in July. I'm currently able to do a slow and steady 6k. It's April. Refer back to the sloth.

Until next time, 

Jen x

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

University Day 1: A Reveiw

Friday the 12th of February, 2016, was my first day at UCT, not including all the orientation days in which we sat in circles desperately trying to think of interesting facts about ourselves, traipsed around upper campus (which is on a mountain side) and sat in massive lecture halls trying not to snore too loudly while getting doused in information about curricula, courses, and General Important Things (GITs). I was not sleeping, however. I was paying close attention and writing notes. The very definition of an eager beaver. So why did I feel as if I was getting waterboarded on my first day?

It honestly felt like I had just been explained all the rules of a rather complicated game and then all of a sudden I had been thrown into it, amongst experts, without even really knowing how to score points.
I ventured forth with a timetable in hand, ready to take on the world and my future early, Friday morning. My first lecture was the introductory lecture to English, one of my majors. I was seated near to the back, my reasoning two-fold: 1) I had dawdled outside, fretting about whether the lecture hall was MY LECTURE HALL and also I saw a friend who could answer all my obvious questions that I just wanted to know for SURE (thank you for your patience) and 2) I didn't want to draw too much attention to myself as the risk of humiliation is far too high and to be honest if there is a slight risk of humiliation, it is more than likely that I will suffer the worst possible consequence.

3 minutes into the lecture and I realized that I was definitely one of the least cultured and worst read students in the hall. I managed to get about 2 references made out of the total 143 (I assume). Luckily my cousin who is doing a couple of my courses was doodling next to me which put my mind slightly at ease. You have your future hanging in he balance here, Jen, calm down and stop taking everything so seriously.
Fortunately most of the people lecturing me seem inspiring and passionate and all the things important in someone teaching English. However, one of my lecturers I think had the impression that his voice was loud enough to carry throughout the lecture hall and this resulted in him not speaking into the microphone and instead walking around the hall and up and down the aisles. This is about as wise as thinking your voice will carry around a stadium. Slight exaggeration but you do get my drift. He did, once or twice walk past the microphone so I did catch a syllable of his words a couple of times but this wasn't quite enough to put together what he was trying to say. Still, people laughed at regular intervals so he seemed nice enough.

I missed my next lecture due to the unfortunate event of not have my ever-refreshing e-mail celotaped to my forehead in front of my eyes but no matter. I have since been to a lecture in the subject and I didn't miss much.

Otherwise all has been relatively successful. I am writing this paragraph whilst sitting outside a lecture theatre the Wednesday after my first lecture and I am feeling significantly less like I'm drowning. I'll update you as things continue!

Until Next Time,
Jen x

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Time I Hugged A Mumford

I can't even talk about the heat in Cape Town City Bowl in midsummer without breaking out into sweats. Or maybe I'm just sweating right now because I haven't written a blogpost since October last year. The bottom line is, it gets hot here, especially in the middle of Cape Town where there is not a breeze to be felt. I honestly would stand next to a butterfly in the hopes of cooling down. I hate the heat. It envelopes you like warm syrup which would be great but there are no waffles involved. I would do anything to escape the heat. So why would I possibly get myself to exactly the hottest place in Cape Town and stand for hours under the beating sun? Oh yeah, the promise of a Mumford and Sons concert. Probably the only thing that would induce such behaviour.

Mumford and sons were only playing at 10pm. I arrived at 4pm, my friends had been there since 3. This was our opportunity to be front and centre of a concert that promised to impress. It overshot impressive by a few hundred miles. 

We stood in a queue outside the Grand Parade waiting desperately for the gates to open. Everything was hot and melty. I could practically feel the makeup on my eyes melting onto my cheeks and mixing with the beads of sweat running down my face. So I wasn't the picture of beauty. The tarmac under our feet had absorbed as much heat as it could which resulted in us feeling like we were standing inside a pizza oven, our feet placed where burning embers had been moments before. There was slight shade on the other side of the road and we took turns going across the street and enjoying the shade for 15 minutes at a time while the others kept our spot in the queue. When 5 o'clock arrived and the gates opened, the queue started inching into the concert venue which wasn't much of an improvement, besides the fact that there were food trucks open selling water and ice-cream. Ice-cream for once, however, wasn't the priority. The first thing we did was run to the front of the area in which the audience stands to make sure we were as close as we could get. To be fair, one of our number did the running, the rest of us casually joined him after purchasing merch. This was where we would stay for the next 7 hours. Brutal. 

Three opening acts adorned us with their strumming, drumming and humming. They were singing too but that last sentence sounds cool with the rhyming. One of these bands were called The Very Best and they really were brilliant. I would suggest a quick google (or a bing for those of you in Washington, sorry about my loyalty). They managed to hype up the crowd to an incredible level, I felt like I was at a festival and that really usually isn't my thing. After The Very Best were a South African duo called Beatenberg and despite dressing tragically grade-ten-dance-like with buttoned, yet untucked blue shirts, chinos and a flat cap, I was impressed with their music. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't downloaded one or two of their songs since. Especially when they brought out THE Marcus Mumford to accompany them on a drum. 

Come half-past nine and we're getting tetchy for Mumford to come on stage. 15 minutes later we were not disappointed. They started playing. 

I have never seen a concert performance like that. The production value was though the roof. These guys are good. I've never properly appreciated them until I watched them in person. It was after the first song that I turned to my mates and suggested that they turn professional. (I'm kidding.) But in all seriousness if one listed the amount of instruments that all these guys can play I swear we'd be well into the double digits and still be talking about strings. Let's not get started on percussion. I couldn't help but dance and jump up and down and hold my hands to my face and say "I can't believe it" periodically. Marcus Mumford was leaping about on the stage and I felt like he was singing to me personally. Then they played Ditmas. It was during this song that Marcus walked off the stage and danced in amongst the crowd. I have no idea how he did this whilst singing, and singing well I might add. When I say  'danced' amongst the crowd, I really mean that he made like a tornado with his arms and just ran. It was when he got to where I was that the title of this post comes in. Every one was trying desperately to put their hands on him and hold his arm or basically just be as close to him as possible, as you can imagine. The security guards were with him and they were making their way towards MY VERY SPOT so that they could lift him over the low fence that separated the crowd from the stage. This was when I assume he had a little trip because he landed IN MY OPEN ARMS. This situation called for quick thinking. My idea was simply to wrap my arms around him and try not to hyperventilate. The guards eventually got him up and over the fence quite gracefully and I was left covered in Marcus Mumford's sweat. I don't think I've ever loved sweat more in my life.

Immediately after that they played The Cave and there was lots of pushing over of drumming equipment, shouting into microphones and general craziness which I joined in whole-heartedly as I still was riding my high from hugging Marcus. (I'd still be riding that high now but there's nothing like boring work-type things to bring one crashing back into reality.) 

The rest of the concert was just as powerful as the first half. I sung Little Lion Man with the crowd and being in that situation was so spectacular. I kind of felt like I was a tiny cell in a huge animal that was the crowd, all shouting the words to this song along with the band. And when they played Ghosts That We Knew I may have melted a little. This was a different kind of melting that I had been doing in the heat. This melting was the tingling kind of melting fuelled by a huge wave of emotion. Often we, the crowd, were complimented by the band as they convinced us that we were the BEST and they had never had more fun in a city. But I'm sure they say that to all the audiences. 

By the end of the concert we all felt pretty shaken as we had been taken on quite the emotional rollercoaster ride. As soon as it finished all I could think was that I had to write this blog post as I couldn't stand the thought of forgetting a moment of what we had experienced. 

(If I can beat my own drum for a minute: I am so proud of myself for going to this concert and having  an exquisite time! I don't think I would have been able to while I was in matric and spending most of my days crumpled up into a ball ensconced in duvet because I was scared of people. There definitely would have been frightened tears and laboured breathing. But I did it!)

I don't want to describe this as a "Life Defining Moment" or "The Most Incredible Thing" for fear of sounding dramatic and insincere but I honestly felt a happiness I sometimes forget that I can feel. That happens, sometimes unexpectedly, and it puts my whole life into perspective and I forget for a second about how I buckle under responsibility and my general fear of adulthood and those things. 

I love a lot of things. Mumford and Sons is one of them and it's incredibly likely that if you're reading this then you're probably one of them too. 

Until next time, 

Jen x

P.S. Sarah Wallace, Nicci Lotz, Britt Watkins-Baker and Cameron Seegers: I'm not sure my night would have been half as successful without you four. Thank you!

Friday, 23 October 2015

A Rugby Match, A Picnic and Some Apologetic Words

I went to the rugby, girls and boys.

What an experience.

The following photos are shown in chronological order of them being taken.

Angus and I, prematch. At this moment, we were surrounded by people shouting "U! S! A!" but there were definitely more South Africans in the stadium than USA supporters. This match made me see how many South Africans actually are in England. The answer? Plenty. Loads. It was actually quite nice. 

How good were our seats? We were close enough that I saw the faces of the players who were on our side of the field. When somebody got an injury they would get the big players on the side to do stretches and warm-ups that was more like a display of their muscles to take up time. I'm not complaining though. 

Proud South African in this pic. As you can see the flag is ripped down the side. That's because it was attached to a stick but I waved it with such enthusiasm that it ripped off the stick. 

The last moments of the match. Although we were kind of flattening USA I was impressed with the fans who were still shouting "U!S!A!" at this point in the match. 

After the match with Jess - the reason for my ticket. What a precious slice of comfort this girl is. 

A little bit less contained picture, but who could blame us. The bokke had won some Rugby!

I so enjoyed the gees ("gees" kind of means "spirit" or "excited atmosphere") of being at that Rugby match. I think my favourite moment (not including watching the actual match) was when we were going home on the tube and a whole load of people started singing Shosholoza. That was a skin-tingling moment. 

(In place of these brackets I had a paragraph on the protests going on in SA right now but I realised I actually don't have the energy at this second to be as radical as I want to be. Does being away from a problem mean I am exempt from doing anything about it? Obviously not. Do I stink of white privilege? Maybe. Oh dear. Moving on.) 

Another part of my trip has been spending time with my long-time best man Alexander John Middlebrook. Here's the evidence: 

This was our lunch from the Shake Shack. Treat yourself to a Shake Shack meal if you can at some point. Not bad. I was savouring every bite. 

Not a fab picture of either of us but its the only pic I have of us from this particular day. 

Picnic at Green Park! Health! Also I love the leaves on the grass. 

I don't think this needs a caption. Basically we're looking at a stud here. 

My favourite picture of the day and of the two of us I think. I so adore this human!

Maybe you can tell from the writing but this isn't my best post. To be 100% honest with you all, my team, I am a bit tired and feeling very much like I want to come home. That's not a great mindset to be in when you want to write fantastic and witty blogposts. But I also don't want to forget any of this stuff so that's good motivation to get it down here.

Until next time,

Jen x