Category Archives: Family

The dog that ate Vaseline Intensive Care Cream

I wrote this a year ago on my old blog. I think it’s worth sharing again in the lead up to a new blog feature I’ll be introducing...

When my best friend and I were 13, we dreamed of sharing a big house with a menagerie of mutts. Toy poms and huskies for her, golden retrievers and ridgebacks for me.

Last night we watched Marley & Me … Two of the most unsentimental 27 year-old women on the planet sniffling away in the cinema, our hearts aching for the dogs we’ve loved.

I desperately scratched in my bag for the one tissue I had. I held it up and carefully tore it in half, handing the other piece to Leanne. We looked at each other and laughed at ourselves through snotty tears. Leanne said to me afterwards, “The movie must’ve been sadder for you. Marley looks like Prince.”

Prince – the canine vacuum cleaner

Prince (aka The Dog Formerly Known As Slobber Chops) was my childhood dog, a gorgeous golden retriever with soft fur and the patience of a mother.

I was eight and my brother five when we brought Prince home. Dad grumbled about paying R300 for a dog, but Mom insisted retrievers were good with children. As always, my mother was right.

Why all kids (& moms) should have a dog like Prince:

  • We would sit on a dinner tray, hold Prince’s tail and throw a piece of food down the corridor for him to chase. Hours of fun during school holidays.
  • Being a retriever, Prince needed to carry something whenever you arrived home. My mother gave him her keys and he would drop these somewhere in the house. Hours of playing ‘find Mommy’s keys’ while mommy relaxed.
  • When we got a pool, we would watch Prince dive spread-eagled into the water to retrieve various items – including us. Hours of lifeguard duty.
  • Prince would eat anything (except veggies); we called him the vacuum cleaner. Vaseline Intensive Care Cream was one of his favourite foods, squeezed straight from the bottle into his mouth. Hours of hysterical childhood laughter.
  • When we got a dishwashing machine, it was just the right height for Prince to lick all the juicy tidbits off the plates. My mother called this “the pre-wash cycle”. Hours of dish-rinsing time saved.
  • Whenever we got home, Prince ran around wagging his tail with delirious delight. One day the garage door slammed and nicked the tip of his tail off. Prince carried on wagging obliviously… Hours of telling school friends how our house looked like a horror movie.
  • When I was a depressed teenager, I kept my sanity by going for long walks at night with Prince by my side. Hours of free therapy.
  • Before leaving for work, my mother often left a frozen chicken or margarine tub to defrost in the sink. Often, it disappeared. Eventually the garden service called to ask why there were frozen chickens and margarine tubs decomposing in our hydrangea bush. Hours of amusement when retelling this story.

Prince died just before my 21st birthday. That’s 13 years of unconditional love and memories that inform my childhood. How many people can you say that about?

To my husband on our Second Anniversary (29 March)

Dear Alistair

  • I will cook and bake for you until I need my hips replaced.
  • I will never understand why you loved computer games. I’m so happy you don’t play them anymore.
  • One day we will have a house with a garden and lots of dogs.
  • I’m sorry darling but the dogs will be allowed in the house (although not on the bed).
  • I only want children if they’re your children. Otherwise I’m not particularly interested.
  • I will give our children all the things you missed out on. That includes making them sandwiches (I know I’ll regret this).
  • I cannot be away from you for more than a week. My heart slows down too much.
  • Our wedding day was, and still is, the happiest day of my life.
  • I hope that I die before you. Selfish, I know.
  • You are brilliant, seriously. And everything you’ve achieved has been done without a safety net.
  • You are the bravest person I know.
  • You are the most intelligent person I know. That said, I wish you’d read more books and less of The Economist.
  • Your poetry is so good that it makes me jealous.
  • I love how we can debate everything from game theory to Homer (Simpson).
  • I forgot to get you a present again so this will have to do for now.
  • I think you will forgive me since you were in Jo’burg yesterday while I was at home, sick and alone. Sniff.
  • “Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee! And when I love thee not, chaos is come again.” (I know Othello is a little depressing but the passion is apt.)

Love, Am

Things that made me smile this month

  • Wandering around the rest of the museum and feeling just like a kid again.
  • Two-for-one cocktails with Kate at Neighbourhood, discussing life, love, in-laws and the vagaries of advertising.
  • A phonecall from MSF to thank me for my donation and keep me informed of their work in Haiti.
  • Funny holiday photos I hadn’t seen yet.
  • Saying sorry for something I should have apologised about ages ago.
  • Teaching a beautiful redhead toddler how to get all the foam out of her babycchino cup.
  • The same little girl asking for bits of my omelette breakfast, the sweet cherry tomatoes in particular (she obviously has good taste).
  • Talks with the ‘Byn, a brilliant woman who I admire and respect more than any other.
  • Fruit & Flowers, Thrupps, fresh fish, braai, swimming and meeting many incredible people in Joburg.
  • Futurama dolls. Unfortunately they belong to Chris and I couldn’t distract him long enough to steal Bender.
  • Back rubs, hugs and kisses. X.
  • My husband stroking my forehead when I was ill.
  • A great annual review with my Creative Director.
  • Finding out that my colleagues are a bit scared of me and think I’m good at what I do.
  • Sea of Love by Cat Power (and the rest of the Juno soundtrack).
  • My mother’s face when she opened her birthday gift.

The tyranny of the Christmas turkey

Every year at Christmas time, thousands of South Africans insist on cooking and eating a dry, less flavoursome chicken because “it’s traditional”. For most, it’s the only time of year they’ll eat the giant American bird.

Why do people do this? We have our own giant flightless bird to eat. Ostrich meat is richer in protein, tastier and doesn’t take six hours to cook. It might not fit on the dining room table, but it goes really well with gravy and cranberry sauce (if you insist).

Why is turkey traditional here? It’s not a universal Christmas meat. Most countries have a smorgasbord of ham, fish lamb or beef and their own unique Christmas comestibles.

I happily grew up in a Mediterranean-inclined household where slow-roasted Greek lamb and roast chicken (preceded by copious amounts of champagne and orange juice) was the order of the day.

Every Christmas my grumpy English grandmother would say, “Oh, we’re not having turkey?” She would also refuse to have any lamb, “Too much garlic for me.” It’s testament to my mom’s patience that she never told her mother-in-law where to get off. She did however stuff the roast chicken with loads of garlic, especially for Gran.

My brother’s girlfriend is of Polish descent and they have bisgos stew. It takes three days to cook and usually contains cabbage, beef, cabbage, pork, cabbage, mushrooms, cabbage and anything else lying around. They also have carp. Yes, carp, soaked in water then vinegar for a week before Christmas. And I thought Greek Easter’s painted eggs were odd.

It seems that in South Africa most people have dishes particular to their cultural heritage, but most of the time there’s the obligatory turkey. My husband’s extended Afrikaans family always have chicken pie and a shredded lamb concoction that offends all my taste sensibilities. Everybody prefers the other dishes, even the cruelly masticated lamb, but they all feel obliged to have some stuffed bird too.

I think it’s time we freed ourselves of this turkey tyranny. Our local lamb, beef, chicken and ostrich meat is exceptionally good and does not bow down to a hegemonic American ideal of what constitutes Christmas lunch.

As for the hideous evil that is Christmas pudding, only my father likes that. And that’s because my English grandmother made him eat it.