the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

I'm going to be a husband!

This is a bit late, but Ronwen and I got engaged on Friday morning. Yes, morning is not a common time to pop the question to yer beloved. Yes, most people wait for some stability in their lives before doing something like this. We're different :-)

{2004.06.27 20:32} : Comments (4)

Pumula

A quick note on our holiday. We spent a few days in the 'Berg. After taking care of some resignation-related admin matters on Wednesday, myself and Ronwen set off south towards the Drakensberg. We took the 'back route', which included going down Oliviershoek Pass and going past the Sterkfontein Dam. Absolutely beautiful sites. The last stretch of the journey was in the dark, but we got to the holiday cottage in time for a quick dinner with Michael & Belinda (Ronwen's brother, and sister-in-law) and young Kieron. Since I'd had an hour or two's sleep the night before, I was soon lights out in front of the fire. Woke up the next morning to look out of our bedroom window and realised just what the cottage looked over: a couple of Drakensberg mountains in all their glory. Mountains like Cathkin Peak, Champagne Castle, the Monk's Cowl. Beautiful. A few notes on the cottage we stayed at. A short stretch up the road from Champagne Castle Hotel, this log cabin (actually, two cabins, one built a while after the other) looks out over Champagne Valley and the mountains. As Ronwen said, you couldn't get much closer to the mountains without sleeping in a tent. The cottage's name is Pumula (Zulu for 'rest', I believe). It's also referred to as Verster's Cottage. At first I thought this was simply because it belonged to a Dr Verster and thought little of it. However, we found a small, limited-edition booklet containing a retrospective written by the good Dr Ryno Verster, and I spent an afternoon battling through the doctor's Afrikaans writing. I learned that it's called Verster's cottage because this remarkable man not only owned it, but built it. Literally. In his mid-forties (the doctor was born in 1897), he discovered the Champagne Valley area and fell in love with it, and spent every holiday and long weekend hiking through the mountains. He documented many of his recollections of his experiences in the mountains and with the local people, and how things had changed over the years. Years later he was able to buy the piece of property, upon which Pumula is now situated. He planted a small forest of pine trees, and hit on the idea of building his 'dream cottage' on the property. In his 60s or so, he started planning out the house (with no other examples to go by, he designed the house and roofing by building a small model). Slowly but surely, he started construction. With the help of a local Zulu worker, he spent 7-odd years building the cottage, painstakingly preparing and treating logs from his plantation, stacking and unstacking and shuffling and hoisting them as he tried to build the walls, sometimes going so slowly and having to retry so many different combinations of logs to get a proper 'fit', that an entire day's work resulted in only two or three logs being laid down. A few things about this story moved me. First was the fact that Dr Verster's love affair with the area only happened so much later in his life. For someone who's just getting into his thirties and still bemoaning the fact that his twenties are over, it was a wake-up call for me. At my age, the idea of me only stumbling onto something so life-changing and fulfilling, only in another decade or two's time, is incomprehensible. It gave me a sense of what it might mean to say one has had a full life. 90 years on this planet is a long time, if you use it wisely. Also, it completely changed my perception of the building we were staying in and just how much we take for granted. When we arrived, I thought 'nice, rustic', and by the end I found myself in love with the place and its nuances (often documented and explained by the doctor). It gave me a completely new appreciation for things we'd have thought little of. For example, parts of the floor were incredibly uneven - apparently because they were done by the doctor's Zulu helper, who was (in the doctor's translated words), "going through one of his heaviest drinking patches at the time." The doctor passed away in 1990, at the age of 93. The cottage is still owned by his family, and rented out to others whenever the Verster family aren't using it. A guestbook contains entries of visitors as far back as 1986. Included in the guestbook are write-ups by Ronwen and her family, from the 80s. That's history for you. We did two hikes in the Monk's Cowl nature reserve. On Friday we hiked towards (without reaching) the Sphinx (a rocky outcrop in the area looking like the uh, you guessed it) and back. On Saturday we spent two hours schlepping to the Sterkspruit Falls. By the end, I was well and truly hiked out. Beautiful scenery, though. Apart from that, the week and weekend was spent chilling out, spending time with Ronwen's family (her folks joined us over the weekend as well), and destressing. The whole resignation thing put a damper on things to an extent, but hey - what better place to sit and think about things than in front of a fire on a cold winter night, knowing that mountains that have been around since time immemorial are just outside your window, reminding you that in the greater scheme of things, some things are far more important than others.

{2004.06.22 00:50} : Comments (2)

Barbapapa

Oh man. Abiola Lapite's post on Barbapapa smacked me with a nostalgia stick the size of a barge pole. It's perhaps more pronounced because I still can't properly put Barbapapa into a childhood when-where context, but taking a squizz at some of the images at this site brings back a flood of memories. ... which surprisingly still ranks more highly at Google than the official Barbapapa home page.

{2004.06.15 01:27} : Comments (0)

When I'm in charge...

Entertaining delusions of grandeur is a highly underrated pursuit. I just followed a link from Gauteng Blog, to a character I'd never heard of - His Majesty Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico:
At the pre-emptory request of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine years and ten months past of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself the Emperor of These United States. - September 17, 1859
Emperor Norton released a number of proclamations, covering everything from the abolition of the Republican and Democratic parties, to the banning the word 'Frisco. Why not, I say... Plundering another link from GP - the Joshua A Norton wikipedia page. There are some lessons to draw from this. For one, life's far more bearable if you don't take it too seriously. Also, don't gamble your entire personal fortune on rice.

{2004.06.15 00:02} : Comments (0)

Working Saturday

There's nothing like a greasy Wimpy dagwood for breakfast. Up at sparrow fart again to take Ronwen through to the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria where she's doing a fossil preparation workshop today. Now to get back to work... I also noticed for the first time that after all the talk and PR, the city of Pretoria has finally been renamed to Tshwane. Ch-ch-ch-changes...

{2004.06.12 10:31} : Comments (4)

Y'ello!

This should be an interesting sight... thanks to cellular network operator MTN, the roof of Sandton city is changing colour for a month:
In celebrating its 10th year of operation, MTN will light the top of Sandton City y'ello. The prism that sits on the top of Sandton City is currently green, and this will be the first time in Sandton City's 30 year life span that an external organisation will be branding the Sandton City sky scraper. From 10 June until 10 July, Sandton's most famous landmark will be y'ello and visible from when the sun sets.
(Thanks to Paula for the link)

{2004.06.09 16:01} : Comments (0)

More druks

On the speed freak note, did any other Sefricans see the Special Assignment documentary on tik (Crystal Meth) junkies on the Cape Flats last night? I get cynical whenever the whole drugs are bad, mmmmkay, thing comes on TV. Any semblance of objectivity is so lost in hyperbole and prejudice and sensationalism ("nowadays youse can find out how to make all vis stuff on ve Internet"), that it's no wonder that kids don't believe any of it, and end up doing stupid things because of it. I mean, it's obvious that the stuff ain't good for you, and it's caused huge social problems, but they have the forensic chemistry copper preaching from on high about how evilly awful and dangerous the stuff is, and only in passing do they mention that it's virtually the same drug that's freely available in nearly every diet pill and flu medication in the country. Now, admittedly, not many people sit around smoking their Advil-CS tablets, but when mom's speeding off her noggin because she's trying to shed a few kilos, or has the sniffles, and then gets all righteous because her kid's turned into a brain-dead tik-tik fiend, you have to know that the issues are not as cut and dried as people would like to believe.

{2004.06.09 13:13} : Comments (2)

Horrid stuff

The Kauai cafeteria thingamidoo at the Randburg Virgin Active has a scratch-card promo competition. No holidays at a Generic Game Reserve for me, instead I won me a free Booster. Being a staunch Energade/Powerade post-gym tippler, these new-fangled concoctions are all foreign to me. Boosters are fancy-schmancy 3-buck supplements you can get mixed into a fruit juice or smoothie. There are quite a few types of Boosters, some far more dodgy-looking than others. 'Cause I'm a real live-on-the-edge kinda guy, I figured I'd try an L-Glutamine booster, which is basically a pure amino acid supplement to boost muscle recovery and my immune system, doll. Freshly squeezed orange juice + pure amino acids = Blehhhh. Lesson learned. I wasn't expecting much, but a free coupon is a free coupon, dammit. Maybe it's just me... but the way I see it, these supplements are there to basically bring you as close as possible to being a speed freak, but without the legal issues, the rotting teeth, internal organ failures and impotence. Aaaanyhoooo. At least I didn't get a coupon for a wheat grass shake. 'Cause man, I still have a tough time coming to terms with seeing live, green, growing grass in a punnet, chilling next to the sarmies and muffins in the refrigerator. What gets me, is that every now and then, you'll see that some of this grass has been trimmed, which tells me that people actually drink the stuff. Have any of my few intrepid readers tried it? Is there any corner of this planet where this self-abuse in the interests of clean plumbing is considered a delicacy?

{2004.06.09 11:52} : Comments (4)

Bring on the cheese

Heh. Heh. Admittedly, it's around 34 years old, but you get a sense of just how far things have come... a Warner Bros radio advert for the debut album of those hip cats from Aston, the funky section of tough Birming-ham, England:
Warner Brothers, aware as always, offers you a music as gentle as an open wound...
At least WB chilledthefsckout by the time Paranoid was released.

{2004.06.02 00:23} : Comments (0)

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