Thursday, March 29, 2007

On a bicycle made for one, or two...

Oh, my shattered g-string... well, almost.

Today, Mills and I took another bold step in our relocation. We met at the Town Hall for an errand and, as a joke, I asked him if he was going to ferry me on the back of his bike - Dutch style. "Sure, we can only try," was the nonchalant reply.

Omigod... so at peak lunch hour, in the middle of town, we gave everyone front row seats in Balancing On A Bike For Two. Having learnt from previous experience, I let Mills start with the pedalling, while I trotted next to him nervously, asking... "Are you ready? Are you sure about this?"

After a few metres, I tentatively launched myself onto the back of the bike and then did my best to cling on/sit still while Mills did his best to keep us upright and moving in the general direction of forward. This was tricky, because with my added weight, I flung the bike to the far right of the road, Mills over-compensated by bringing the bike back to the left/centre of the road and the car behind us dropped back a good twenty metres. Also, according to Mills, I was squealing like a stuffed pig. This was mostly because I did not want to score a perfect dismount (marked ten for difficulty) off the back of a bike in the middle of lunchtime traffic.

I was actually very impressed... if it wasn't for the erratic wobbling, we almost looked like we weren't absolute beginners at bike transportation. Did I mention I was holding a pile of loose papers under my left arm, while trying to clutch my handbag under my right arm, without moving a muscle?

Well, when I say without moving a muscle.. the one muscle that was moving was my right bum cheek. This was because all my weight was balanced VERY precariously on that poor glut. To be clear, it wasn't even the bum cheek that was carrying my balance... it was the bum bone. You know the bit where flesh doesn't quite reach - and you only notice it after sitting through a really long exam, or a really boring meeting? Or sitting on a very sharp and precisely fitted bolt, driven through the back of a bicycle frame..

Everytime we hit a bump or cycled up and over a ramp, my bum left the bike and landed, with great precision, on the same bum bone - on the same bolt sticking out of the back of the bike. And every time I so much as breathed in another direction, my movement would send the bike careening involuntarily into the middle of the road, which would result in Mills telling me to "PLEASE sit still!"

I didn't even giggle. I was concentrating so hard on not moving, not wincing, not breathing. At one stage, I did lose concentration, letting my leg drop low enough to engage in a brief affair with one of the pedals, resulting in - you guessed it - us careening across into oncoming traffic. With only one block to go, I eventually had to concede defeat and walked the rest of the way home because I didn't think that my bruised ass could take it any more.

But kudos to Mills. Although his back wheel does make a funny noise now...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Things that Mills has learnt about me:
  1. I cannot eat with mismatching cutlery. We have three sets of semi- to complete cutlery. If I eat with one fork, I have to use the matching knife. I cannot eat with a blue-handled knife and plain silver fork. Not an option. The food will render itself tasteless and acidic if this were to happen.
  2. I must sleep on the right hand side of the bed. I must also walk on the right hand side of someone I am walking with (this does not apply to strangers, just had to clear that up). You would think that, after four years, Mills would've gotten used to me coming to a dead stop, walking behind him and onto his right hand side when we're out for a stroll, but he hasn't.
  3. I cannot walk over trapdoor or grates in the road/pavement. If it is fixed with hinges, or even screws, I cannot walk over it. It gives me the willies. Even if I'm on the right hand side.
  4. If given the option, I will choose to travel backwards on public transport. I don't like scenery flying towards me at high speeds. It makes me feel ill.
  5. I dance. Randomly... even if there's no music. Most people find this weird.
  6. I am a conspiracy-theorist. I have nothing to back up my theories, but I share them in great detail with Mills. He rolls his eyes. A lot.

He digs me.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On cricket and seaside resorts

I have a theory. Bear with me here... I've heard somewhere (or possibly dreamt it up - I have conversations with myself on a far-too-regular basis) that when Graeme Smith performs, the South African cricket team performs. Ergo, when Graeme Smith is bowled LBW for a plump duck, the Proteas start the game up to their ankles in bird poo. It's a statistical fact. And we all know that you can't argue with stats. Of course, being a journalist by training, I have nothing to back this up, so I'm going to carry right on with my argument.

Take the match on Saturday. Chasing 377 against Australia, Smith took to the crease... and performed.* Smacking boundaries with confidence, the opening pair were not just matching the required run rate, but bettering it. Then Smith started to cramp and crumble, retiring injured. Boucher lost his wicket and SA started to crumble too.

This is my theory. Graeme Smith is the microcosm of the South African cricket team. Kallis became the cramp in the Proteas' left buttock. Even Smith's desperate return to the crease was reflected (in my world, at least) in the vain attempts by Pollock and - bless his cotton undies - Makhaya Ntini to bring the run rate back to a manageable level.

I realise this is a very flimsy argument, but I like it, so I'm running with it. On the other hand, would someone in SA please do us all a favour and have a sit down with Jacques Kallis to explain the finer details of simple arithmetic?

"Okay, Big J, when chasing a run rate of 10 an over, you need more than a few singles. Because... yes, that's right! Because there are only 6 balls in an over! Very good! Okay, now let's hold up all our fingers... yes, both hands... okay, now that's how many runs we needed every over... okay, now take four... yes, drop those four fingers... how many do you have left? Stop squinting like that, it's making your eye twitch. Right, so can you see that if you only get a single on every ball, it can never meet the run rate of 10 an over? Can you..? Okay, okay, let's pick this up again after your nap..."

My only remaining argument is that losing to Australia now means that we haven't used up all our BMT too early in the tournament. We have been known to peak too soon... again, I have no stats to back that up. Right, cricket rant over.

In other news, Mills and I went to the beach today. It was 15+, the sun was shining, and everyone was out in their wellies and jackets, wallowing in the muddy brown water of the North Sea. Simple delights. We wandered around for a bit, turned around and came home. I guess once you've holidayed on the Transkei coast, northern European seaside resorts just don't cut it.

The really big news is that I cycled the whole way - didn't get off once to wheel my bike. I'm going to be one tough Koekie by the end of my time in Holland.

*My boyfriend taught Smith every thing he knows about batting. Their paths split at a young age: Mills went on to support his live-in desperate house-girlfriend; while Smith became an international cricketing hero. Both noble causes.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just done it

I did it. I actually did it.

Mills popped home at lunchtime to find me psyching myself up on the couch. TV off, radio off... I was literally psyching myself up for The Bike.

Go downstairs, get bike wedged sideways in storeroom as I attempt to turn it around. Get bike through first doorway, get stuck between bike and door. Get stuck between bike and next doorway. Get front wheel wedged at an angle up first step and between second doorway. Hide out of sight as neighbour comes down the stairs. (Sure, they must have thought the spastic abandoned bike looked odd, but at least they couldn't see who it belonged to.) Get bike up small flight of stairs. Get bike and self halfway through front door, front door closes on bike and self. Disengage bike and self from front door. Get on bike.

And off I set. Anybody listening to my mutterings as I cycled past would've been treated to some pearlers, especially when I hit bumpy patches in the tarmac: "Oh my verkrampte koekie!" Although, most of the trip was spent chanting, "pleasedon'tcrash, pleasedon'tcrash, pleasedon'tcrash..." The gusts of strong wind certainly don't help, and it did take a while for me to get enough feeling back in my fingers to type, but I made it.

I'm in town, and I cycled here. I'm not fooling myself though, there's no ways I look like a local. When pedestrians see me coming towards them, they smile knowingly and then take an extra big step back on the pavement.

Now I've just got to get home again. I hope I can find my bike.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Biking it

This weekend we made a big step towards our cloggie acceptance. We bought (secondhand) bikes.

Buying a bike goes something like this: they are all expensive. Second hand or not. Adding locks to them makes them twice as expensive. We were advised to look on for the best deal, but - having looked on marktplaats and establishing that it's all in Dutch and we don't know what we're looking for anyway - we decided to actually let a saleman do the talking.

Our saleman was very patient - he found a bike for me to look at. "What you think?" he asked with a hint of pride. "It looks like a bike," I replied with confidence.

That's when he knew he was dealing with idiots (well, at least one idiot)

Having each settled on a bike, we then had to add the (second) locking mechanism. No bike is really safe with just one lock to crack. The second lock has to be long enough to stretch around the bike, the wheel, possibly the front wheel, a tree or metal pole, and a inbred alstation-cross-doberman.

Unfortunately, with so much coil to work with it took me longer to unlock the lock, unwrap it from my now-entangled left ankle, re-wrap it around the bike (keeping hands and knees out of the way), than it took us to get home. And it took us a while to get home, because I refused to actually ride my new bike. So we wound our weary way home with Mills cycling behind me, impatiently ringing his bell and chanting, "you have to get it on it eventually, you know..."

And I do know that. And I will. I'm at the library now and you know what... I took the bus.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In the real world

You know you've been out of a touch for a month when you get back online to learn that Manto has a new liver (I trust they are keeping her well-nourished on African garlic and potato. None of that foreign Irish potato, thank you) and that Chelsea fans can no longer throw celery. I didn't know that Chelsea fans were fond of celery. See how much I've learnt in one hour online?

"...the English Premiership champions issued the warning on Friday after recent referee reports mentioned the throwing of the salad vegetable at matches."

I mean really, what is this world coming to?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

OCD - Online Complusive Dymentia

In preparation for the fact that I was going to have internet access this afternoon (since I have learnt that the Haagse Bibliotheek allows access, no Subway sarmies today), I decided to type up my post from home and upload it here. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. You see, our computer at home (which wasn't working at all in SA, but after a few months at sea magically turns on and is semi-functional) does not have internet. So I can type on it - very cathartic and all - but there's no one to read it. I need an audience. Anywho, so I saved my weekly rant on a flashstick and pottered off to have a chat with the friendly bibliothekares about internet access. It turns out that internet access means just that. You can use the internet and nothing else. There is no access to any form of external drive. I can understand the safety concerns (bloody third-world terrorists and all that), but I'm sure you can understand my frustrations... this means I have no means of signing up for a recruitment agency, even though I have my CV saved on the USB flashstick. I have no means of saving anything useful that I do find to my USB flashstick. And I have no access to my beautifully worded, meticulously editted, witty and insightful blogpost. So you get to read this crap. Sorry.

In other news, some how, with much confusion, I have gotten a short term work permit and a tax number. I am now legally able to work. It's just a pity I can't sign up for any online recruitment companies. I NEED INTERNET ACCESS. I feel like a junkie, although my addiction seems to get more intense with time, it doesn't ease. The weather is lovely, the sun is shining, it hasn't rained the whole week. The swans are a-swimming and the squirrels are out of hibernation. In short, living unemployed in The Hague at this time of year is divine. And all I can think about is being online. I get an hour of access to the internet and I soak it all up like a starving Ethiopian let loose in Harrods. I've got at least 10 Internet windows open - gmail, blogspots, yahoo, hotmail, facebook, news24, Dutch recruitment agencies, bbc news...

Anyway, so I've got a short-term work permit. I've figured out how to beat the system of red-tape and paperwork. If you manage to confuse the bureaucrats into a state of reciprocal incomprehension, chances are high that you will actually come out the other end with what you wanted in the first place. Either that, or you'll leave City Hall with a vasectomy. It could go either way. Right, my small-fortune worth of online access is almost up, I'm off to go piss off some ducks and swans in the forest.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Best behaviour

"Well done for not being the most embarrassing girlfriend there this evening!" Mills said, giving me a congratulatory high-five. You see, I not only had I not tipped my drink down the front of my top, I had also managed to not be the one at the table with tampons sticking out of my nose.

We went out with Mills's group of expat colleagues and their partners. Earlier in the evening, one of the Danish girls thought she was whipping out her box of ciggies, when in fact she had casually tossed a packet of super tampons on to the table. Much awkward mocking followed.

Later, after a number of beers and a sambucca or two, the Danish girls decided to give the boys an education in feminine hygiene. The box of tampons were hauled out with pride and one was lit. Another was unwrapped and dangled from an earlobe. Yet another was stuck up a nostril, another in an earhole. Still more were unwrapped and tossed at the poor Southern co-worker from mid-Texas.

This morning, a pub employee would have been cleaning up around our table of 25-35 year olds, wondering how the hell a bunch of 13-year-olds got into their establishment.

Good, clean, adult humour.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

IKEA-fying the flat

Wooo hooo! Internet access! Well, just for a little bit anyway. I am sitting at our (newly constructed) dining table. I would never have thought that Mills and I would ever be building home furniture, but there you go. And we both survived (although we have the injuries to prove it).

A few lessons I learnt from setting up our home: don't sit under the computer stand when piecing the computer stand together. When computer stand collapses, it lands on you. Do try to move furniture and other obstructions out of narrow walkways before trying to lift heavy objects because when hand gets trapped between heavy object and obstruction, it hurts. Don't try to move a lamp that has been on for several hours - certainly not if you intend to actually touch the light bulbs. When hanging curtains, leaning too far off the bed results in smacking your forehead on the nearby wall. Don't do that. These are just a few suggestions. Use them, don't use them.

So, our furniture arrived on Friday. 61 boxes of it - which I unwrapped with the delight of a four-year-old at Christmas. I made full use of my hands, feets and even sometimes my teeth. There was much joy at finding some of the items tucked away in the packages (like my hairdryer, my boots, my pink fluffy tiara); but there were also some very random finds: a number of tupperware lids (minus the tupperwares themselves), a few empty ice cream tubs (can never have too many of those), and the Gauteng Yellow Pages.

After unpacking, we made the obligatory trip to IKEA to get some cupboards and other livable-space stuff. We borrowed a station wagon from work. This added another interesting aspect to our bickering, because while Mills was trying to change gears by the door handle on his left hand side, I was trying to navigate on foreign roads without a road map. The highlight of the trip was turning into a road and both of us completely forgetting which side we should be on... so we just drove down the middle to be safe.

We managed to buy 19 items from IKEA - which was also interesting: trying to get a dining room table, a number of chairs, a few cupboards, several chests of drawers and two rugs around a parking lot. Especially with me getting the giggles at every corner.

Then the fun part started:

"Okay, now you need to line up that leg with this one..."
"Uuummphf... it's too tight. I just can't line up with the hole."
"Maybe if I change my angle. You come around this side..."
"Ooomphf... okay, that's better. I'll have to give it a bang. Just hold still..."

And, of course, a number of "Wanna screw?" jokes from me while Mills was actually doing the work. Most of it has now been constructed. Most of it - because after about a cupboard and a half, I lost interest and got bored. In other news, the washing machine is now fully functional, and we have a tumble dryer, so no more Laundroflat!

So Mills and I survived our weekend. I'm actually quite impressed and proud at just how handy my boyfriend has been... and it looks like most of the furniture will actually stay standing (provided I had nothing to do with its construction). We were a smooth operating team. When I wasn't giggling.

Although I won't be signing us up for The Amazing Race just yet.