Tag Archives: Johannesburg

Beauty: It’s Relative

19 Jul

For the prompt, beauty, from Viewfromtheside.

Apart from my two babies, obviously, the most beautiful view I ever saw was of the green fields of Greater Manchester from the air, as we came into land.  I had just left South Africa with my children, practically running on to the plane to get away from the violence that followed in the years after the 1994 election.

When I finally went back for a visit, I cried as we came in to land at Johannesburg, because I was coming home.

What did I get most out of my fourteen years in South Africa?  A little crazy.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Hot

17 Jul

This must have been snapped after a sunny day out in a summery South Africa, circa 1987.

I’m obviously reacting to something the Hub said.  This has become my default face.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Red

16 May

The first (but not last) team the Hub coached.  He was driving past somewhere in Johannesburg one day (sorry to be so vague but it was twenty-five years ago and I wasn’t even there) and saw a boys’ football match going on.  He had time to pass so he stopped to watch.  One team was dreadful.  It was Wanderers.  Wanderers is a famous cricket ground in South Africa.  Or is it rugby?  Not football, anyway.

The Hub is not a shrinking violet: at half-time he walked up to the manager and said, ‘Do you mind if I give you a few tips?’  And did.

The manager fell on to the Hub’s shoulder, crying.  He was a young man, about twenty, who played rugby and knew nothing about football.  His brother was in the team and they had no coach, so he took it on.  The Hub was a gift from the heavens.

The Hub loved it.  So did the kids: they equalised in that game, and won many more afterwards.  A novel experience, as they had only ever lost previous games.

I’m not sure how good an example he set, though.  I once went to watch a match and I heard one mother ask another mother, ‘Who is that angry young man?’ 

He was once sent off by the ref, and he didn’t even play.  Hurling abuse from the sidelines doesn’t count as a sport.  If passion for the beautiful game was a sport, however, he’d be the stuff of legend.

A Good Whine

8 Mar
The first developers of IBM PC computers negle...

Image via Wikipedia

You all seem to have fallen in love with the Hub and I can’t have that because I’m the star of the Tilly Bud Show, not Rhoda, so I’m going to tell you about his larcenous past and you can all fall out of love with him again.

We had been married a year and had just moved to Joburg.  The Hub worked as a computer operator.  This was back in the day when technepts like me were afraid of computers, never mind operate one.  It was quite a specialised job, though not particularly well paid. 

I can’t help it: I have to big him up even as I’m trying to do him down.  Why did I have to be happily married to a decent man?  I could have married a bully, a philanderer or a vegetarian.*  Mutleytypemutters.

*Apologies to Flo and NRHatch.  I really can’t help myself sometimes.

  In ye olden days of the Seventies and Eighties, computers were massive – great big IBM main frames with what looked like cassette tapes in the shape of wheels on them.  You had to take off your shoes when in the server room and walk in designated areas. 

To run one programme could take all night on several mainframes (you could do the same job now in a minute on a personal computer).  There was a lot of hanging about and (to my shame) he’s not a reader.  In his previous job there was no security so he would bring his motorbike inside for safekeeping.  Then he got to riding it up and down the halls and stairs to pass the time.  They never found out, and there was some speculation as to whether the mysterious black marks that appeared on the floors and stairs were caused by a poltergeist. 

In the job I’m talking about, there was an office mentality of Bosses and Thedirtbeneaththebosses’feet, Hub being one of the dirt.  There was a fabulous free bar and entertainment room on the premises, intended for use by all staff on occasion, but co-opted by bosses at some point until it became a magical place that staff had heard of but never seen.  A sort of Shangribar.

Never seen by any member of staff except the Hub, that is.  By means unspecified (he’s forgotten), he discovered where the key was kept and sometimes when he was on night shift, he would sneak in and pinch a couple of beers to help while away the time; if there were two men on shift (computing being a man’s job, of course) they’d have one each.  Never more than two altogether: apparently the secret to avoid being imprisoned for life is to take just enough that people don’t notice it’s missing.

I must be honest: if I’d known I was marrying a petty criminal, I wouldn’t have.  However, I made vows and I stuck by him, despite the drinking.

One night there was a marathon bosses’ drinking session to celebrate how well paid they all were, and the managers boozed hard until after two in the morning.  I can’t help wondering how they stayed in business.  Mind you, it’s not the bosses who do the work is it?**  **Good grief.  Never knew I was a closet socialist.

Once they had all gone home, the Hub entered the left-open bar room (no need for a key) and helped himself to three of the many bottles of red wine left on the tables.  In the spirit of wealth redistribution, of course, comrades.

I really don’t know why: neither of us have ever drunk red wine.  I go pink from time to time, but I don’t think that counts.  He believes he was just hacked off at their outrageous display of capitalist consumption when the proletariat could only afford to eat rib eye steak for breakfast instead of fillet.

Not being true criminals at heart, we didn’t know what to do with the swag.  We couldn’t drink it (eurggh); we couldn’t offer it to our more cultured friends (didn’t have any); we couldn’t give it away (accessories after the fact; enemies after their arrest: fact); we couldn’t destroy it (waste perfectly good wine?  We’re northerners; we don’t do waste).  Result: the bottles sat in our wine rack gathering dust for twenty-four years and spreading guilt (me) and irritation (the Hub: ‘Can’t you dust just once every couple of years?’) with each day that passed.

I felt a little better when we emigrated back to the UK in 1996, though I was worried customs would nab us on the way in (of course we had to bring the wine that we would never drink back with us, and leave my state-of-the-art microwave and its boomerang turntable behind).  Customs let my eleven trunks through without a hitch, even though the wine was listed in one of my eleven itemised notebooks (‘Lego: 10 x onebricks, blue; 30 x twobricks, blue; 17 x threebricks, blue; 375 x fourbricks, blue’).  When she gave the notebooks back to me, the officer couldn’t hide a smile as she said, ‘You are very…thorough…aren’t you?’  Good job she wasn’t or I’d have been arrested for receiving stolen goods and harbouring a fugitive for ten years.

And, at last, at long, long last, we reach the point of my story: here’s one of the three stolen bottles:

Isn’t it lovely?  Dusty?  Empty?  It done gone sprung a leak up there on the wine rack.  I walked into the kitchen and thought someone had murdered my fridgefreezer: wine was everywhere, in the egg rack, the cheese rack, the milk shelf, culminating in a pool on the floor. 

It was all the Hub’s fault, of course – a wife, like an elephant, never forgets; twenty-four years is nothing to an outraged woman facing red stains in her brand new kitchen, and a charging elephant is pretty dangerous to a Hub, as he knows, having once escaped one in  Zimbabwe.

Of course he claimed it was my fault: ‘You told me it was leaking when you packed up the kitchen.  Why did you lie it down again when you got it out?’ 

I hate it when he’s right.  Please tell me you don’t like him anymore: it’s all I’ve got.  That, and a fridge with pink innards.


I’m shocked!  For years I’ve been proud to support the South African wine industry, no matter how dishonestly come by, and I’ve just noticed the bottom part of this label:


Weyhey!  I’ve just realised I’m not such a good girl after all!  This proves it.  They say confession is good for the soul.  I hope they don’t also say the South African Police read this blog: if I have to go on the lam, who will do the dusting?

The Laughing Housewife And A Cast Of Minions Proudly Presents: Who-He?

3 Feb
Toilet Paper Roll

Image via Wikipedia

Something that keeps coming up lately is back history: when I’m new to a blog I like to know something about the writer, such as age, family, hair colour, bank details.  The usual stuff.  Many blogs have running gags or themes; many writers have history that it’s necessary to know in order to fully enjoy what I’m reading so, prompted by Cin (not ‘sin’; I’m a good girl, I am.  Cin left a comment the other day about just this thing), here’s the story so far. 

Once done, I’m going to have a bash at making another blog page where this info will be stored.  Wish me luck and if you never hear from me again, know that technology finally killed me and I love you all, each and every one of my dear readers (that’s you, Tory Boy; and Robert).

The Laughing Housewife

That’s me.  In my late forties at the moment (how did that happen?).  Born in the capital of Ireland (Liverpool); grew up in Wallasey and Runcorn.  Emigrated most reluctantly with my family to South Africa at age eighteen.  You can read all about that at my other blog South Africa – A Love/Hate Story.  Don’t expect funny though; I wasn’t a laughing teenager.  It’s mostly poetry and angst and angst-ridden poetry: you think Spiderman was miserable?  Meet me.

I lived there fourteen years and came back to the UK in 1996.  I’ve got a degree in Literature from the Open University.  I’m married to:

The Hub

He’s from the capital of Crimeland (Wythenshawe, Manchester) but spent three years at my school in Runcorn, where we didn’t meet.  He lived in South Africa for eight years; had three years back in the UK; and then went back to South Africa in 1981.  We met in a car park in a tiny dorp in the middle of nowhere.  Ain’t life strange? 

We were engaged after three months and married three years later.  It’s lasted twenty-five years so far but I figure, if the three motif recurs, one of us will be free in eight years’ time.  Or even five, because we will have been together thirty-three years in 2008.  You maths wizards out there might be scratching your pencils right now but factor in that we married in the middle of a year and that you really don’t need to care about this stuff, and just take my word for it.

We fight a lot.  Squabble, really.  All day long.  Who said what to whom about when and why and where.  Stupid stuff, but we are both easily irritated; and irritating.  I hang onto him because he fixes the computer and even does it without moaning if it wasn’t me who broke it.  He moans a lot.  What I really love about him, though, is his ability to put down the toilet seat and replace the toilet roll.  Things like that matter after twenty-eight years.  He is forever leaving love notes for me and being romantic, but I try not to mind.  I must have not minded it at least twice, because we have two children:

Tory Boy

Born in Johannesburg, he is the first fruit of my loins and Conservative Prime Minister-in-Waiting.  Currently in his last year at Lancaster University, where he’s studying Politics & Philosophy.  That’s kind of our fault: the Hub was telling him while he was still in my womb that he was going to university.  The Hub and I are great believers in getting an education and thinking for yourself and all that junk. 

Tory Boy spent his whole life listening to his parents argue about politics and issues of the day and who put the toilet roll tube in the wrong recycling box, so I suppose a career in politics was inevitable, given his megalomaniac tendencies: the first thing he’s going to do when he takes over the world is send all the teachers to Antarctica and put the toilet roll tube wherever he feels like.  There should have been a swear word-well in that last sentence [put the toilet roll tube wherever he swear word-well feels like] but he’s scared of his father and respects his mother so there isn’t.  He’s also a good big brother to:

Spud Bud

Like Princess Diana, I, too, have an heir and spare.  He was born in Alberton, South Africa and cost us a fortune because we didn’t have medical aid at that point and it wasn’t a natural birth.  It would have been cheaper to adopt.  Still, we decided to hang on to him.  Well, he’s family.  He worked out as a good deal in the end because he’s on a full bursary at an excellent grammar school here in Stockport, where we now reside.


Features a lot.  As does the Viaduct, the railway station and the Stockport Express.  

Toby & Molly

Our dogs and the cutest Yorkies on the planet.  We have a fish tank and thirteen fish, four shrimp and two butterfly loaches.  Until recently, we also had gerbils.

Also, you will find that a lot of dead pet references tend to appear in this blog.  Pay attention because I may set a test at any time.  We have three cats and seven gerbils buried in our garden (my brother says we are on the RSPCA’s hit list).  We loved them all, but the Hub is daftly ridiculous about animals.


There are only two that I mention with any frequency:

The Boy Nik

An ex-addict who isn’t really a boy but talks and acts like one, and who I first met when he knocked on my door just before one Christmas to ask me to phone the nearest prison so he could visit his mate; and who has never stopped knocking since, for a hammer, a bin bag, a spade…umm, I’ve just made a connection here.  I’ll get back to you on this one.

Next Door

Housewife whose husband works away and who spends all her time hammering nails into our shared wall.  I think she’s building a secret extension in my lounge.

A Few Important Facts

Necessary for comprehension.

  • Maltesers – probably the single-most important influence in my life.  No Maltesers for Christmas sets the tone for the following excruciating (for my family) year.
  • The hub has severe CFS/ME and a host of other ailments which means he spends all his time in pain and a lot of time unable to do stuff; and by ‘stuff’ I mean if he takes a shower then that’s it for his day. 
  • As a result of his illness he hasn’t been able to work for many years.  He became ill when I had a baby and six-year old on my hands.  Before he learned to manage his CFS he would spend weeks in bed, unable to get up, so we ended up on benefits once our money ran out.  It’s one of the reasons I got my degree, so I could go back to work once the boys were old enough.  That plan didn’t work out so well because I graduated at the height of the recession.  Timing is everything.
  • Christmas and Maltesers must be done to excess; everything else is showing off.
  • We live in a council house on a council estate.  Expect a lot of posts about crime.
  • Poetry – I write it.  Deal with it.  Or ignore it, if you like: this is the internet, after all; how would I know whether you read my poems or not?
  • I’m not soppy.  Mush embarrasses me.  What can I say?  I’m British.  I’m so un-soppy that I even have a special category – ‘Feeling Sentimental’ (see right under ‘Category Cloud’) – for days when the hormones take over and a nice thought bursts out.
  • I make up words.  Did you spot the one under ‘Toby & Molly’?  I figure if Shakespeare could do it, so could I.  Pity I don’t have my own theatre in which to try them out, but them’s the breaks. 
  • My motto: you can never have too many Maltesers (the roof of your mouth is raw from eating seven boxes on Christmas Day?  Suck it up, you wimp!)

And Finally…God

I’m a Christian – I know, incredible, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t have believed it if I’d been reading me, either.  I have a strong and enduring faith, but that’s not what this blog is about.  This blog is about poking fun at life: if something funny happens in church, you’ll hear about it; but otherwise, no preaching.

On the strong and enduring faith bit: the Hub reckons if it was that strong I wouldn’t have married what he calls an ‘agnostic’ and I call ‘a rabid atheist’.  The Hub is really annoying sometimes.  We have learned not to argue about religion (much), but everything else is on the table.  Unless he feels like winding me up and we fall out over the monarchy (he’s against it) and I swear I really am killing or leaving him this time.

Happy reading!

The Reason I Don’t Do Housework…

27 Jun

…is moths. I don’t do mops because of moths; I don’t do cloths because of moths. Moths are just nighttime butterflies. I saw a daytime butterfly (aka, ‘a butterfly’) last week; it was minute, about the size of my little fingernail. If you saw my delicate hands you’d be impressed with just how small this butterfly was. It was tiny. I said to the Hub that it must be a baby butterfly and he agreed with me. In his defence, he wasn’t really listening. It took my fourteen-year old son to remind me that there are no baby butterflies; well, there are, but they’re called ‘caterpillars’.

I’m not afraid of moths. Apart from the monster ones dressed in metal that we met while driving through the night from Jo’burg to Durban. It was Margate really, but if I wrote Margate you’d wonder how we got from South Africa to England overnight by car and it would be one of those enduring mysteries, like how did Frankenstein’s Monster travel weeks by ship without being detected despite being eight feet tall and made of spare body parts? Then I’d have to explain that there is a Margate in South Africa, probably named after the British Margate, and that would take too long.

Moths are despised because they fold their wings; they tuck them neatly away. Butterflies basically prop their wings up like unused skis; and have you seen the way they discard their winter coats? Our house in South Africa had stipple on the outside walls and the caterpillars would crawl up to rub themselves out of their skin. V. untidy.

So, butterflies are sloppy little bugs and everyone loves them. Moths keep themselves nicely presented and get squashed to oblivion by nervous slobs wielding bulky newspapers. Not wanting to be slapped around the face by The Sunday Telegraph unless I’ve had a cracking good row with the Hub and I have a telephone directory in my hands for retaliation, I decided dirt was the safer option.


I’d like to thank the moth who visited me in my bathroom tonight for this post. I couldn’t have done it without you and I’m sorry I accidentally flattened you when I shooed you out of the window. At least butterflies keep sociable hours.

I’d also like to clear the Hub’s name: he is far too scared of me to raise a paper to me.

Don’t Call Us; We’ll Call You

17 Nov

Don’t you hate those awful cold-calling companies?  They have the temerity to call at dinner time and then make you wait before they speak to you.  Old ladies are frightened by them and young ladies irritated.   Whenever I hear that pause, I hang up; so be warned: if you phone me and don’t start speaking the second I pick up, then you have wasted your money and you’ll have to call back, talking all the time. 

Spud knows how the Hub and I feel about such calls and has suggested that we have some fun with them, thus turning a negative into a positive, like his father always says.  Last night as we were eating the inevitable call came, wanting us to buy a house, a phone, a spare cat.  The Hub had just finished so Spud told him to have some fun:

Caller: Hello, can I speak to the phone owner?

Hub: I don’t have a phone.

Caller: … …

Hub: Hello?

Caller: Can I please speak to the phone owner?

Hub: I don’t have one.  [Relenting]  I only have a mobile.  Where are you calling from?

Caller: Talk Talk.

Hub: I remember them!  From the Eighties!  [Sings] Talk talk!  All youdotome is talk talk!

Caller: … …

Hub: [Still singing, and enjoying it]

Caller: Umm, are you a singer?

Hub: [Modestly] Not any more.

Caller: You’re very good. [The Hub chooses to hear this as the truth and not flattery]

Hub: Thank you.  I used to be in a band called Hub & the Termites; have you heard of us?

Caller: [Embarrassed] No, I’m sorry.

Hub: I thought you would have; we had a little colony following us.

Caller: … …

Hub: Where are you calling from?

Caller: Talk Talk.

Hub: Not your company; what country?

Caller: South Africa.

Hub: [Delighted] No kidding! [Breaks into excited and extended Afrikaans chatter.  Lots of sighing at the other end while she waits to start her spiel].  We’re in Alberton!

Caller: Alberton?

Hub: Yes, just south of Jo’burg.

Caller: [Is utterly confused because she’s in a call centre in South Africa, selling phones to Brits in the UK, and doesn’t understand how she got through to a local number]  Umm.  I’m sorry; I must have the wrong number.  Thank you for your time.  Goodbye.

Hub, Spud, Me: [Hysterical laughter and rolling around]


The best thing is, she will never be quite sure if she was the victim of a prank, because what are the odds of calling England and getting a broad Mancunian who speaks fluent Afrikaans and knows Jo’burg so well?

A favourite one of mine was when someone called, trying to sell us new windows, and the Hub told them we didn’t need them because we live in a cave.   A stunned silence is worth a thousand words.

Then there was the time he called my Dad and asked to speak to Miss Wall.

Dad: Sorry, there’s no-one of that name here. 

Hub: Mrs Wall?

Dad: Nope, no Mrs Wall.

Hub: How about Mr Wall?

Dad: No [Patient but grinding his teeth], I’m sorry, there’s no Mr Wall.

Hub: Are there any walls there?

Dad: No.

Hub: Then how does your roof stay on?


The Hub is a minx.

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