Pinke Magnolia

daughter and sister with a mild case of middle child syndrome. serial spooner. second hand shopper. falls in love easily. has a love of food, wine and coffee as if born european. lover of languages, and infatuated with devil's peak. finds herself most often on the dancefloor, in the kitchen or in townships.

by day: community developer | project manager | tedx curator

in the dark: singer | dreamer | changemaker
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De Botton is undoubtedly one of my favourite writers who manages to profoundly examine human nature and present it to readers in a very tangible, manageable, and somewhat life-altering manner.

Although I have yet to get my hands on “Status Anxiety”, his book about the human desire to climb the social ladder, his TED Talk titled “A kinder, gentler philosophy of success” really resonated with me, and the experiences that I and many friends of my generation have grappled with in our twenties, especially those related to our careers and working lives.

His thoughts on meritocracy as a cause of chronic status anxiety and as a system which insists on success as a direct result of talent, energy and skill- somewhat ignoring circumstance and inter-generational poverty- resonates soundly with the work I do and conversations my peers and I regularly engage in. It appears to be a view of the privileged, protecting their status, to believe their success is the direct result of their own energy, hard work and skills. This however suggests that an equally talented, hard working and determined young woman from rural Transkei would reach the same levels of success as an executive of a large corporate firm as would the advantaged privately educated male whose been exposed to internships or semesters abroad, or has the economic freedom afforded by permanent electricity and water supply, a brand new car, and a bedroom of his own in which to study. These are many differences that are often ignored in the argument for a meritocratic system.

This discrepancy in basic services and opportunities forms the basis of many inequalities in South Africa, and the perpetual lack of such services in many communities ensures their residents remain at the bottom of the meritocratic ladder of success. It is difficult to strike a balance however; in between creating a more level playing field without removing the incentives which encourage and reward hard work and determination.

The TED Talk thus provides valuable lessons in how we start to interrogate and understand success, for our own sanity at least.

There is a particular excerpt from “Status Anxiety” that I think is important for South Africans to mull over as we approach our National Elections. It talks to an acceptable level of basic services delivered as a result from a belief in the preciousness of every human being.

"There are countries in which the communal provision of housing, transport, education and health care is so inferior that inhabitants will naturally seek to escape involvement with the masses by barricading themselves behind solid walls. The desire for high status is never stronger than in situations where ‘ordinary’ life fails to answer a median need for dignity or comfort.

Then there are communities—far fewer in number and typically imbued with a strong (often Protestant) Christian heritage—whose public realms exude respect in their principles and architecture, and whose citizens are therefore under less compulsion to retreat into a private domain. Indeed, we may find that some of our ambitions for personal glory fade when the public spaces and facilities to which we enjoy access are themselves glorious to behold; in such a context, ordinary citizenship may come to seem an adequate goal. In Switzerland’s largest city, for instance, the need to own a car in order to avoid sharing a bus or train with strangers loses some of the urgency it has in Los Angeles or London, thanks to Zurich’s superlative train network, which is clean, safe, warm and edifying in its punctuality and technical prowess. There is little reason to travel in an automotive cocoon when, for a fare of only a few francs, an efficient, stately tramway will provide transport from point A to point B at a level of comfort an emperor might have envied.

One insight to be drawn from Christianity and applied to communal ethics is that, insofar as we can recover a sense of the preciousness of every human being and, even more important, legislate for spaces and manner that embody such a reverence in their makeup, then the notion of the ordinary will shed its darker associations, and, correspondingly, the desires to triumph and to be insulated will weaken, to the psychological benefit of all.”
― Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety

Our politicians and leaders have lost this reverence for individual South Africans, and somehow we need to find ways of holding them accountable. Making sure to vote on 7 May is one such way in which we can leverage our right as citizens to hold them accountable. Do so for the “psychological benefit of all”.

I got me another brother…

And the promise of a third in the pipeline.

A lot has transpired in the last half a year. I changed jobs. The boyfriend and I travelled to Asia, and returned as betrothed f-bombs. My younger sister and first brother (in-law) celebrated their 1st wedding anniversary. The Sunbeam Tiger became roadworthy. My mother went back to work, while juggling the job of planning the build of their new house. We got cats. My older sister got engaged. And just very recently we celebrated the marriage of said older sister to the man I now get to call brother number two.

Engagements, weddings and marriage present such a wonderful opportunity to be reminded of the joy, love and utter craziness of families. And in the case of Leigh and Steve, the just plain craziness of their friends too! (Flashbacks to karaoke and free-falling impressions by Nadine and Crew!)

They become ways of ensuring family reunions that might never have been realised happen, and witnessing our loved ones getting married also reminds us of the partnerships that have had great influence on our own lives. And they present opportunities for older couples to share their own wisdom with us young’uns.

There was no doubt of course, based on the personalities of Leigh and Steve alone, that this wedding would also be one big party. And their love for wine didn’t hurt either. In preparation for the day Steve personally selected 180 bottles of bubbly, red and white, just in case people were REALLY thirsty. It turns out everyone tried very hard to help finish them off, but while making good progress, especially towards the end of the evening, the mere 100 of us present just couldn’t manage the task! (Thanks especially goes to Kelly for plying us all with Jager and Tequila throughout the evening which hindered the wine consumption somewhat!).

My father said in his speech that evening that Leigh is a person of passion. And when she is passionate about something, she commits to it with everything she has and puts all of her waking energy into it, with ridiculously successful results. Her efforts towards planning and decorating a wedding within 6 short months was evident in all the little thoughtful DIY details she had planned for the day.

But beyond that, the passion my father referred to is not just about her work successes, or her incredible attention to detail, but about her commitment to her partner. Leigh is sure to try her absolute damn hardest to make every moment of her marriage a success. Steve, in the wise words of my father (and if I’m not mistaken – the pastor too!), make sure to keep that passion alive! Whatever it takes, wine, weekends away, date nights, more wine (diamonds?), nights in - sharing meals, stories and your weakest and strongest moments together. Here’s wishing the two of you a phenomenal, exciting shared adventure ahead, and welcome to the fandam Step Hen. I am sure you will survive just fine in this crazy collection of individuals that I call my own.

All the pics and a lovely slideshow video from the talented Bond Freyer can be seen here:

On becoming a Cat Lady

I grew up with dogs and cats in my parents’ home. The standard recipe for us was one beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback and a very cute and clever Miniature French Poodle. How’s that for a combination of Africa and Europe’s finest?

My parents seemed less concerned about ‘thoroughbred this’ and ‘pedigree that’ when it came to cats, so I enjoyed the company of two wonderful cats in my childhood, both of “unknown origin”. The most we knew about “Whiskey” was that he was born in a random farm bar.

I learnt my first lessons about life and death from our first kitty, Tippy (named for the white tip at the end of her pitch black tail). I recall our family getting ready for a dinner at my sister’s godparents’ house, prior to which my parents sat my sister and I down to “discuss something very serious”. The house was almost in darkness, as most of the lights had been turned off before locking up the house, and they sat us down in the dim lounge. I thought we were in trouble, and were about to have a disciplinary session about appropriate behaviour as guests in other people’s homes.

They then tried to explain to two young pre-teens the concept of ‘putting down’ an animal. Little Tippy had a kidney problem and was so ill that regardless of treatment and tests that would “aid veterinary science” there was nothing they could do to really alleviate her pain, or keep her alive. And us two little girls had to suddenly grow up pretty quickly and contribute to the decision of whether to allow her to go through all the painful tests, or rather put her down.

Tippy was conveniently sitting under the coffee table in between us all, as if she knew this was the conversation which would determine her fate. We both climbed under the table in tears and tried our hardest to express the enormity of love we had for her in a few affectionate gestures.

Trying to understand her pain, and make a decision to alleviate her pain was possibly the first really tough decision I had to make as a young girl, and was it tough. But we were sufficiently mature enough to accept the reality of the decision, and in the coming weeks found our own ways of bidding her farewell.

The loss of subsequent feline and canine pets were equally as tough, some less anticipated, but perhaps better understood. And perhaps it was learning to handle the loss of much-cared for pet friends that enabled us to better understand the concept of death and better handle the loss of our dear granny when I was 14. In fact at fourteen and twelve, with a maturity and sensitivity I didn’t know we could posess, we two girls actively assisted in nursing our gran during our very last Christmas and holiday with her, and felt all the more closer to her when we did suffer her loss.

Having not lived permanently in my parents’ home for the last ten years (phew that is a long time) I have had less and less opportunity to spend time loving our pet friends. The stock standard recipe has changed somewhat. First my dad bought a Toy French Poodle instead of a Miniature one as a gift for my mother. By Toy read “when wet shrivels to the size of a rodent”. Then “someone” let said Toy Poodle out while on heat, and a couple of months later the little rodent body gave birth to three “Jackapoos” – an annoying Jack Russel had batted way above his average!

Being responsible for the interbreeding, and having the pups born the very same evening as we played host to 80 plus friends and family for my 21st in our family home, I felt as though they were mine to take care of. Here more lessons were learnt about the natural world and those things beyond our control. When they were born, the little runt was immediately shunned by its mother. Upon deciding it needed to be hand reared we visited an emergency vet, and headed home to feed the poor thing every hour through the night. The hard lesson here was that the poor thing was never going to survive, as much love and care and formula I could give it, his mom knew instinctively not to share the milk with the underdeveloped pup. It died in my hands, the next morning. I was heartbroken, but nature was indeed teaching me that there are just some things we can’t attempt to change.

As compensation my parents allowed us to keep one of the Jackapoo pups – who has since become my very firm favourite. Scamp as he was very affectionately named, is a gorgeous looking dog with the most wonderful and warm nature – it seems the overwhelming high-energy nature of his birth parent breeds cancelled each other out. Heaven forbid it was accumulative.

But I don’t live there anymore. And I only get to see the four mini dogs about thrice a year (the pack grew when my folks adopted my older sister’s dachshund when she moved to Aus for a while). I slowly began to realise every time I visited home, just what gap existed in my day to day life, and the enormous pleasure and joy pets give. That gap grew every time I visited other homes with pets. Until it was just too large not to be filled with my very own.

And so, after much deliberation about when would be the right time, especially after several discussions about moving to Johannesburg, the f-bomb and I decided 2014 was it. And because cats are a lot more independent, and let’s face it, don’t really need humans in their lives, we chose the feline type over dogs. So began our journey towards cat-ladyism.

Firstly Mr Sensible decided we should have two kitties, as they could keep each other happy, and according to Google would guide each other in socialisation and daily habits. So two kitties we got. Hoping for two girls we ended up with a brother and sister. So if we don’t responsibly ensure that at least one of them is ‘taken care of’ we will take another step towards this cat-ladyism.

Secondly, I have realised, much to my (pretend) dismay, I photograph them a lot. A significant lot. And so does the f-bomb. And we post them to social media. #catsofinstagram frequently appears.

But it must be said:

There is cat-ladyism and all its sexist connotations of single un-marry-able women, and there is acceptable doting on little creatures that do in fact bring bucket loads of happiness into my every day. Somewhere in between that there is the tendency to talk about your cats as if they are your children, inundate friends and followers with cat pics, or dress your cat in matching outfits with yourself, behaviours which may be more or less acceptable depending on the context. Finding that balance is hellish important if you wish to still be invited to dinner parties (or dress up parties).

Sometimes I have a mini internal panic that these kitties are for life. Kittens are cute. Cats not nearly as adorable, but wonderful companions (on the most part). But they do live a fairly long time, and if no evil intervenes, they will be our pets for at least the next decade. A decade in which we may buy our first home, have our first child, or move to another city or country. They are a very big commitment, but, one which I am absolutely delighted to have made.

As a post script, a dear friend bought herself a pet at about the same time as Mekong and Piccolo joined our household. One that lives far longer than cats, and is possibly more rodent-like than a Toy French Poodle (sometimes hard to believe). He is Henry the Chinchilla. I have yet to meet the fine fellow in person but I believe he brings just as much joy to her heart as our kitties do to ours. #petsforever #petsofinstagram

Day 3 of #100happydays and very much to be happy about. We’ve been spending much of this month hunting for a the right place to marry each other. So many things to consider, but mostly it just makes me excited that we get to do this, you know, say I do and marry the shit out of each other!

Impromptu date night! Picnic in the lounge. Day 2, #100happydays

Pride of India blossoms forming hearts in the summer sky! Isn’t it too pretty. #100happydays

The Metrorail Sarmie

One of the things that greatly informs the love part of my love hate relationship with Cape town is access to reasonably safe and easy-to-use public transport. As of 1 October I started a new job which fortunately allows me to make use of the train to and from work every day, and spend far more time walking in my daily routine. 

Part of my reason for taking a new job was to escape the excessive air travel I was doing to and from Johannesburg on a regular basis, which in itself had various pros and cons. The cons included disruption of routine, lack of sleep, and a general bad mood that this induced. However the two wonderful pros offset the cons when possible, and that included the ability to meet up with some of my favourite people in Johannesburg when overnighting there, and secondly the chance to people-watch in airports and meet a ridiculous mix of random people, from quirky air crew and philosophical shuttle drivers, to generous couples returning from weddings with their hand luggage stuffed to the brim with edible goodies.

Using the train now allows me to get my daily fix of people watching, not in the creepy judgemental way, but in the sociological study, cultural nuances kind of way. I believe that the more you observe the behaviour of your fellow human beings in a variety of settings, the more empathetic you can become to their circumstances, choices and ways of life. Obviously watching someone sit or stand in the train cannot provide eureka style unveilings of human nature, and more often than not it provides great stories for the dinner table, but nevertheless it makes for a diverse experience of your city-wide neighbours.

That being said, the first story that must be shared as part of “Oh the people you’ll meet” is that of the Metrorail sandwich. This can come in many forms, but believe me very rarely would it be appealing, appetising or delicious. What I have noticed so far, after only a few days of using the train, is that between 7am and 7:30am the trains are packed. So full that you have to force your way into the carriage and ensure your bag (or limb) doesn’t get trapped in the door. It sounds unlikely that a leg or arm may be caught in such a manner as with an elevator, but a family member of mine once got her head, yes head, stuck in a train door, so don’t be too dismissive!

Once safely inside one of these bulging carriages, the first prize would be to squeeze yourself into a spot near a pole so that you can hold on in the event of sudden braking or speeding up on the train. However, when the capacity of the train has reached something like twenty people per square metre, you are usually so tightly wedged in between other passengers that it is unlikely that you will be moving anywhere regardless of the smoothness of the ride.

Enter the Metrorail sandwich. Upon forcing my way onto the train last Tuesday, I found myself conveniently entrapped in a human sandwich. My boobs somewhat resting on the belly of a tall man directly in front of me and my bottom protruding directly into the crotch of the man behind me. At this point I would like to advise all women who are not attempting to re-enact their Saturday night Galaxy moves on the morning train to NEVER stand parallel to men in the train, whatever you do find some way in which to angle your hips to avoid this unintentional threesome. It is Just. Plain. Awkward.

As soon as I could I managed to escape what some would like to call this spitbraai and worm my way, bag in tow, towards a less dense area of the carriage. The boyfriend however was not so lucky. As I was able to worm my way free, he found himself trapped between the same tall beer boep on legs, and what some would call the tallest man in Cape Town. Maybe he wasn’t that abnormally tall, but in comparison to my poor short sh*t of a man friend, he was a giant. A giant whose deliciously warm (read “train sweaty”) underarm rested perfectly on top of the boyfriend’s head while holding on to the overhead handles. It was basically a re-enactment, or perhaps a lekker Kaap production of The Hobbit. This obviously resulted with me, being the nice girlfriend that I am, in tears since I was laughing so hard. 

Fortunately since then I have not again partaken in the Metrorail sandwiching practice. But I am certain it will reoccur. And I am just hoping that when it does I just happens to be in the same carriage as Ryan Gosling and his secret identical twin. A girl can dream. 

No, this is not a post about Mike Ross, or the brilliant TV Series Suits. I chose this picture of Mike Ross because he is probably the ONLY individual (fictitious I might add) that can get away with practicing law without a law degree.

Those of us who are suddenly exposed to the ins and outs of court cases via our beloved Facebook and Twitter CANNOT. Surprisingly, following @barrybateman or signing Avaaz Petitions does not make you a legal expert.

I am not innocent when it comes to formulating my own misguided or ill-informed judgements about those on trial, such as our notorious/famous Oscar, but we have got to start being careful about the broad statements we make on social media, or the petitions we blindly sign without allowing the justice system, and those who are actually qualified in that system, to do their job.

I’m talking about this with reference to Sanele Goodness May, and the Avaaz petition regarding his murder charges related to the horrific accident that took the lives of 22 people on Thursday 5 September 2013, in Pinetown, KZN.

When I first watched the footage of the accident I was mortified. My parents both used to work in the Westmead area and use that road, and that offramp in particular, every working day for many many years. For my father he must have cycled and driven that offramp for at least 2 decades. It is a busy and notorious road for its gradient and scary bends.

And the footage looked like a scene from an action movie, not something that happens in real life. I can’t even begin to imagine what those mere seconds must have felt like for 23 year old Sanele who was driving the truck.

Absolutely horrifying. I don’t think any of us can imagine the grief, shock and fear he must be living in right now being charged not with 22 accounts of culpable homicide, but with murder. MURDER. x22.

Over the last few days the Avaaz petition has been circulating, calling for justice for May, saying that he should not be facing these charges, but that the company that allowed him to operate an unroadworthy vehicle should be the ones being held to blame.

Please do not get me wrong, I do not sit here placing all blame on the young man, nor am I “un-empathetic” towards him. I hurt for him and the pain and guilt he must be feeling with every waking second. But neither you, nor I, nor the next person, know what went wrong with the truck.

My father has worked in the transport/truck industry for  at least 40 years. When I asked him what he thinks went wrong and if the brakes had failed, this was his response:

Trucks brakes do not fail as they have emergency systems, but what does happen is that they are not properly maintained or are cooked through overuse down a long hill and fade because the brake linings lose their friction qualities as they get hotter. So to sum it up it is human error either in the maintenance of the system or the driver abusing the brakes on the many downhills. That is why they have compulsory stops where they are supposed to engage low gear for the duration of the descent, utilising the engine to assist the brake system.

According to him, and I would say he is pretty well-qualified in the mechanics of 18-wheelers, it could be either negligence from the company OR the driver.

I most definitely agree that Sagekal Logistics (if that is indeed the employers, and owners of the truck) should be charged alongside him - if that is even how the justice system works. But either way they should both be subjected to investigation to get to the bottom of this.

Trucks should technically not be using that road, but should rather be making use of the N3 toll road between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and this tragedy may be used to change the rules of the road in that particular area to prevent further such tragedies from occuring. But it is essential that the investigations focus on finding out the reasons for this truck losing control, and then the relevant authorities must ensure that the person who is at fault is held accountable, and do whatever is necessary to try prevent the same occurring again.

It would be completely unacceptable for Sanele Goodness May to be the scapegoat for a negligent trucking company if they are allowing trucks that are not roadworthy to travel our roads, but we need to make sure we allow for the proper legal proceedings to take place before we make sweeping judgements that the driver is not at fault. (Similarly on the other hand we must guard against aggressively blaming May for the tragedy in its entirety).

I really do feel for the young man. Whether he is charged or not I believe the memories of that night will live with him and haunt him for decades to come, and for that I believe he should not be denied adequate counselling, not to mention he is absolutely entitled to fair legal representation.

But just remember, those of us who do not have law degrees, and do not have the IQ of Mike Ross, need to be careful when signing petitions about legal proceedings. Pity for the young man must not stand in the way of a just criminal trial, in the same way pity for Oscar should not.

Let’s be careful not to become legal experts by virtue of who we follow on Twitter, or which petition we happen to read and sign. The owner of that truck should DEFINITELY be brought under scrutiny, and we need to ensure that May is provided with the appropriate legal representation for his case to be handled professionally. These things can and should be included in a petition, but let us not immediately assume the innocence of the man behind the wheel. Most of us are not in the position to do so.

You are tired, (I think) Of the always puzzle of living and doing; And so am I. Come with me, then, And we’ll leave it far and far away— (Only you and I, understand!) You have played, (I think) And broke the toys you were fondest of, And are a little tired now; Tired of things that break, and— Just tired. So am I. But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight, And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart— Open to me! For I will show you the places Nobody knows, And, if you like, The perfect places of Sleep. Ah, come with me! I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon, That floats forever and a day; I’ll sing you the jacinth song Of the probable stars; I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream, Until I find the Only Flower, Which shall keep (I think) your little heart While the moon comes out of the sea.e.e. cummings

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I’ll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

e.e. cummings

This week is our last botanical drawing/painting class. My Freesias from last week. Watercolour is HARD. That is all.

It was quite a learning process having to start acquiring a skill from scratch, as watercolour is so different to acrylic or drawing (two mediums in which I am far more proficient!). It was equal parts humbling and frustrating.