Here at The Bush Palace, every hour of the day throws a different light on our 155 deg slice of the Indian Ocean.
And, yesterday morning, while most of you, dear Hatpeople, were recovering from Christmas parties or other gatherings of humungous bonhomie, your faithful “SA-positive blogger” was up with the Natal Robins, snapping a sunrise of increasing phenomenalness.
Just for you. Because I love you. Because I feel you. Because I feel your love for all things beautiful. And I try not to disappoint you. So let’s have a squiz at yesterday morning’s lights display from our majestic mansion nestling in the Umdloti bush…
It's still dark, the ships have their lights on... and this is what happens when I fiddle ignorantly with the settings on my Kodak Instamatic and my hands are as steady as yours were the morning after thaaat Christmas party...
The sky's coming over all deep purple... and my camerashake shows no sign of improving...
Wait. Perhaps if I twist the camera and give my right hand a bit of a rest?
Ah, that's better! Amazing what that first cup of strong black tea (more like Five Roses soup) can do to tighten one's grip on a Sunday morning! All pix: Hatman
There you go. I hope you enjoyed that little show as much as I enjoyed capturing it for you. All in a day’s work on your only “medically diagnosed SA-positive” blog. I’ll be back later with major Bushguy breakthroughnesss. I bumped into our bush-dwelling man of local mystique on the beach yesterday. A short conversation ensued. And a couple of new pix of him playing the incredible Bush Palace Character that he is! All of this coming up later today!
In another of my weekly interviews with interesting folk who live in my beautiful seaside hometown of Umdloti in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, I popped in to visit the lovely and effervescent Michelle Robb at her rather tasty little sex shop in Glenashley…
FH: You run an adult shop. How does a woman such as you break into what is seen as a man’s business? And how did you get to do it?
MR: Initially I was going to open a digital printing business as I have worked in the advertising field before. One of my clients was a large adult shop and whenever they needed advertising done I was called into the shop. My first visit will be forever etched in my brain! There was nowhere to look that didn’t have something scary beaming back at me. All the customers in the shop turned to stare and I have never felt so uncomfortable before. But after going in there week after week I eventually got used to it. My friends would ask me to do their naughty shopping for them while I was there and it always amazed me that the assistants didn’t know much about their products. Anyway, when I told my mother about my new printing business venture, she said that it was silly to start a business with so much competition and that I should open up my own upmarket adult shop! She was so right! There are no other shops close to me and I have been in business for two years now.The shops in town offer viewing booths (nasty places!) which is why they are operated by men.
FH:Pleasures is a welcome alternative to the more seamy and grubby “sex outlets” like the ones you’ve just mentioned. What does your shop offer that makes shopping for one’s essential sex toys a more pleasurable affair?
MR: I have a very small shop and its decorated nicely. It is very discreet and welcoming as most people are shy and I am the only person that you will have to deal with. Not much shocks me and I will do my best to answer any questions you might have. I am a woman so I know what we like! And I have a good idea of what men like too!
FH:Would men feel comfortable bringing their girlfriends or wives to your shop? And, vice-versa?
MR: My customer base is 70% men and 30% women. I do have a lot of men that are sent in by their wives/girlfriends to check out the place and then are happy to bring them in.
FH: Which items on your shelves (or under your cashier’s desk!) are the bestsellers?
MR: Ooooh, my bestsellers? Jumping Jack Vibrators. Real Feel Vibrators and Super Powerful Men’s Tablets (these last up to three days and my male friends are constantly asking me for them!)
FH:You’re another lucky fish who lives in our seaside idyll called Umdloti. What is it about ‘Hloti that you most love and how do you use it, apart from the occasional little drinkie-poo at the Bush Tavern?
MR: Yes, lots of drinkie-poos at the Bush. And I always seem to bump into you there, Mr Hatman! When I met my partner Dave, he was living in Umdloti. Slowly it grew on me and the next thing I had sold my flat and moved here. My son, Bradley, followed and we now call ‘Hloti home. We have amazing seaviews from our place and Dave has actually done the most wonderful oil paintings that have real Umdloti beach sand in them! I have only lived here for two years but it would be hard to picture myself living anywhere else. It is a very special little place with a wonderful sense of community and I have made a lot of fantastic friends here. Oh Fred, before you run away, would you like one of my Super Powerful Mens Tablets to try out?
Er ja, that’s very good of you, Michelle. Any chance you could donate me two? Double the pleasureness. Thanks!
* You can run an eye over Michelle’s wares by popping into her website.
Here in Umdloti we are very accustomed to dealing with cheeky monkeys.
There’s Julius Malema, the loudmouthed oke from the ANC Youth League who uses any media forum available to tell all South Africans what to do and not to do, there’s the Manchester United chop at the Bush Tavern who never fails to get on my case when Liverpool FC lose (currently every time they play) and then there’s the local troop of vervet monkeys (see one of them below) which use Hatman Mansions as their local supermarket (well, they would if The Scrapster and Doodlebug, my Jack Russells, weren’t constantly barking up their blue arses).
Yes, the southern African vervet monkey (male gender) have bright blue arses and, wait for it, crimson-red penises. They are colourful characters and I apprehended three in my bedroom the other day just as one was about to chomp into the Hatman Mansions copy of Kama Sutra 365 (Dorling Kindersley, R106).
This is what Juli, I mean the southern African vervet monkey looks like (when it’s not making inroads into my bedtime reading)…
A vervet monkey, not in a book-eating frame of mind
Apologies for not showing you the blue derriere and red “tummy banana” but this is a family blog, OK?
OK. So then there’s something else completely. A monkey that takes taking things to a new level altogether. Allow me to introduce you to, at first glance, a rather charming little monkeyette (a Tamarind I believe, and not indigenous to South Africa) which I stumbled upon on Umdloti beach while cowrie-collecting with The Darj. It managed to nick her ear-ring and, as swift as a Julius Malema insult, deposited it in her pram from whence it never returned.
That’s right. I said “pram”. Patience, please. Watch this most heinous of South African crime stories unfold before your astonished eyes…
Tammy, dressed for the beach in her best pink frock, sucks up to me (and my leg) in order to strike up an instant camaraderie. Please note the ring on her finger... this will become important as we go on...
Tammy, by frolicking in a most appealing manner on the arm of The Darj, shrewdly engages with her sweet nature and lulls her into a sense of false security...
All the fun under the sun turns into felony as, suddenly, snatch-bang-wallop, The Darj's right earring disappears into Tam's little pink frock...
Quick as a thief, Tam's back in her pram, the earring is secreted away deep in her stash and she's already scanning the beach for her next victim...
No pork. This is actually what happened. What do you think of that? I’ll tell you what I think of it. The couple who were sitting next to the pram and to whom Tam intermittently jumped to and fro from her pram, probably receiving logistical instructions, remained silent and stared out to sea while all this was going on. When The Darj exclaimed “Hey, it’s taken my earring” – to which I responded with a loud “What? The monkey STOLE your earring?!” – the couple turned and looked northwards down the beach with deadpan faces.
When I moved in front of them and said, far too politely, “Excuse me, your monkey appears to…” the guy looked at me, smiled and shrugged his shoulders. At the sight of me starting to suck in my stomach so as to increase the size of my chest, The Darj said “Hey, Hatman, they’re cheap earrings, just forget about it.” I stared at the guy and he gave me the laziest of eyes, as if he were from Kakkiesfontein and didn’t understand English.
We continued our search for the ever-elusive cowrie shells while I toyed with various guesstimates of how much jewelry was hidden under “baby” Tam’s pillow in that ridiculous pram.
Yowzerness. Given the tough economic climate and all that, I reckon that couple are on to something there. Catching a tan on the sun-drenched sands while putting your pet Tamarind monkey to work on innocent beachgoers is taking “Living The Holiday” to another stratosphere, isn’t it?
I learned how to rort (fight) at two months old, beat up my younger sister just eight months later (after intensive training), flattened a string of boys in the school quad, saw things in the South African army that would make Chuck Norris’s knees like granny’s Sunday jelly, have been a battle-hardened journo since time began and have stared death in the face a number of times (2. Well, it is a number, isn’t it?).
So I don’t do nice, OK? Nice is a cup of tea and I only drink tequila. Nice is the scent of granny’s perfume when she hugs you as a kid and my granny was too terrified to come near me. Have I made myself clear? What? Speak up. That’s better. Now sit down and shut the chuff up. I have a video to show you.
OK. So don’t get me wrong but I have a thing about Jack Russells. I have two. That doesn’t make me nice, all right? Anybody who owns a Jack Russell knows what I’m saying here. They’re not nice. Well not after they’ve stopped being puppies, that is. They turn into stark raving loony monster dogs. Mine are so bad, I’ve had to stop taking them to Umdloti beach because the locals have ordered a hit on them.
This morning, The Scrapster got hold of one of the troop of vervet monkeys which charge each morning through Hatman Mansions to devastating effect and we nearly had an international incident on our hands. I threatened to take her and her mate Doodlebug into the local petshop and swap them for a pair of hamsters or goldfish but that would be just too nice.
So when I came across this sickeningly nice video of South African songstress Verity teaching some kid to sing and “reach her dream” of becoming a pop singer, I was about to run for the sickbucket. But then I noticed that little Lize’s song “Song for July” was a tribute to her life with a Jack Russell and I instantly felt her pain.
I began to feel some sympathy creep in… and, well, here’s the video…
OK. So I admit that I was moved by this. Not by Verity’s humility and kindness in helping this kid, who is indeed a cutie, but by “July”, her Jack. Schweetness! Beautifulness. I hope you enjoyed this divine little piece of inspirationalness. I did.
So much so, I feel inspired to share a pic of my Scrapster and Doodlebug enjoying a jolly jape on Umdloti south beach at the weekend…
That's Doodlebug trying to rip the ball out of my hand after just having had a piece of his left ear removed by The Scrapster (left), still frothing at the mouth
Shell collecting. The most innocent and becalming of pastimes. Fresh sea air. Crashing waves caressing one’s ears. Kids building sandcastles. Seagulls wheeling and whingeing. Dogs with sticks in their mouths shaking saltwater over bodies browning under sun’s grill.
Time was when Mom and Dad would take us down the South Coast for a Sunday of bodysurfing, Coke floats and burgers and Swingball on the beach. We would wade in the rockpools, wonder at crabs and gigglingly stick our stubby little fingers into ever-alert anemone. And pick up, seemingly, huge cowrie shells almost at will.
Many years later, now that I enjoy the “live-the-holiday” luxury of blogging on my Umdloti verandah instead of enduring endless newspaper strategy meetings in drab offices, I have begun to take walks on the beach – just 40 metres away from my front door.
Bliss. It is during my seaside solo sojourns that I feel the eye-crustiness of hours spent hovering over my laptop wash away, cleansed by breezes surfing off the Indian Ocean, my feet cooled by flirtatious tides, the scrunching sand exfoliating my toes.
Umdloti beach: in more chilled times
That was until I rediscovered what I remembered to be the joys of finding the enticingly elusive cowrie shells. Those subtly coloured beetle-body shells of porcelain sheen, with the tiny teeth that once protected the gogga which lived inside. The shells that, centuries ago, were used as currency in much of the world. Eulogised in myth to boost fertility in women whose bodies are adorned with them. Oh, what elation to be had when, among myriad fragments of oystershells, mussels and limpids, I spot a cowrie furtively shooting off a watery wink at the wintery sun.
Shells on the seashore: can you spot the cowrie?
Aaah, got it... did you get it?
But no more. I have stumbled upon a secretive, sophisticated network of local cowrie collectors. And they’re scary. They emerge silently and menacingly at the crack of dawn from their hi-des double-storey homes lining Umdloti South Beach Road, clutching roneo’d copies of tide-tables in one hand and Friendly Store plastic bags in the other.
Wearing crazy-paved, granny-knitted and grotesque jerseys to defeat the early-morning chill, they fan out on the sands with nary a glance at sky or surf. Heads down they plod away, scouring around every granule of sand for any cowrie which may be trying to hide behind a piece of seaweed or Coke bottle-top. Raised glances are reserved for me, an Umdloti newbie, and they wordlessly say: “Hey, out-of-towner, don’t tread on our turf. You’re welcome to surf or build sandcastles but we have sole mining rights for cowries on this beach so naff off.”
I pretend to stare out to sea, waving occasionally at a bloke in a microlight or at a container ship headed for the Far East, all the while poking a toe around in the sand for a shape resembling that of a cowrie shell. It’s not nice.