Friday, January 29, 2010

Oh, your cleaning lady knows EVERYTHING....

I was going to start by saying that most bad behavior occurs at the weekend, but maybe that's only me. Certainly this weekend it's going to be true for all of us, since those of you who watch the Aussie Open and snack whilst doing so will get into big trouble if you're still trying to stick to your New Year's resolutions. Me, I probably won't have much time to watch any television at all, because Mr D returns home late tonight after two weeks away and he rules the remote control with an iron fist. Still, I have a feeling that TV won't be first thing on his agenda. Guess I'll have to put on my running shoes if I want to stay out of his clutches.

And yet.... This girl does love a good cardio workout at home.

And that, my friends -- the idea of running shoes in the bedroom -- reminds me of a saucy tale.

In England, at the Royal Berkshire Health and Racquets club, I played lots of tennis on various teams. The Americans amongst us were noted for being better trained in general, and for coming into the net and being ... yes... rather aggressive. What, me? Well, the English roses, proper and polite as they were, sighed and raised their eyebrows when we Americans were lauded by the tennis pros for our assertiveness.

There was one American (we'll call her Karen) who was roundly despised for being over-the-top in the aggressiveness department. She was a fairly quick player, about my height and weight, and she had the most terrifying overhead smash you've ever seen. She'd race in to the net, and any high ball was furiously slammed down the opposing team's throats. That was bad enough, the bald-faced glee with which she traumatised her victims, but she also had an awful tendency to sometimes let out a kind of Sioux Indian war-whoop at her moment of impact. It was pretty off-putting and frightfully not English. Not done, really.

Too, she was a tiny bit butch, so tongues wagged and people made entirely inappropriate comments when they'd been pasted by yet another Karen overhead and were feeling mightily affronted.

As it happened, all of us expats tended to share household help, trading tips on good repairmen, butchers, and cleaning ladies. Even I, slattern that I am, sprang for a cleaning lady every other week. Three teenagers at home meant I really couldn't keep up. It was expensive, but there were extra benefits that I only realised after some time.

Terri, my cleaning lady, was really the talker. She was very fair, very blond and very plump, and once she got to work her cheeks went bright pink with effort. Yet the house looked sparkling after four hours; I could never believe what a hard worker she was. You know you're paying a lot of money for the service when your cleaning lady has her own horses. She told me that in her younger days, she'd ridden side-saddle professionally, and even been in a lot of BBC (Masterpiece Theatre) dramas as a stunt horsewoman, as side-riding is a fairly uncommon skill. So she was full of interesting tidbits. You couldn't help but learn more than you ever intended to, about whatever she was on about that day.

One day she came in, and fixed her light blue eyes on me, and breathed, "Ellie!"

I looked up.

"Ellie. You won't believe whot I seen!"

"Ummm. G'morning, Terri! How've you been?"

"Oooooo, Ellie. Not so good. Not so good at all. I'll ask ye now, is that Karen a good friend o' yers?"

"Mmm, not really. I hardly know her."

"Ah, Ellie, that's a very good thing. I've just started over at hers, and you'll never imagine whot's in her master bedroom."

"Ummm... gosh, what?"

"Ellie, it's a portrait of her! She had it done fer her husband, and he paid for it! He must ha' liked it, I guess, then."

"Well, that sounds okay. I might like a portrait painted of myself, I suppose..."

"But Ellie, not like this 'un. She's in the nude!!"

"Ooo. Well... there's a whole long tradition of nude portraits, I suppose...." I frowned, thinking back over Ingres, Picasso, and Renoir, Lucien Freud, and Jenny Saville.

"Naw, but Ellie! She's all nude but she's holdin' her tennis racquet and wearin' her socks and tennis shoes. It's ... it's... it's not right!"

Yes, I could see that Terri was entirely correct. As an art connoisseur and historian, I too realised it was clearly not right.

"And you know what else, Ellie? Chocolate body paint! In the dresser drawer. Cor, I never!"

Moral of this story?

If you're going to invest in bad art... (here's a similar example):

then either DON'T have a cleaning lady, or don't wear your tennis shoes for the portrait sitting.

Some things just don't fly.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

RIP David Evans

If you've been following this blog for a long time, you might remember this post, from early days in South Africa, July 2005. David and Tuppy Evans walked us through much of our acclimatization to South Africa, helping us negotiate household staffing and a plethora of security issues, smoothing corporate workplace transitions, and making us feel at home early on.

It was with such sadness that we learned today that David was killed in a road accident on September 1st, whilst returning to Johannesburg. He was hit head-on by a truck. South African roadways are so bloody dangerous. It's carnage all the time and it seems damned unfair that such a wonderful, great guy should meet this end.

Rest in Peace, David. I hope the golf is really good upstairs.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rebranding needed, or When good art supplies go bad

Mr D, slave-driver that he is, made me open a few more packing boxes in my office this weekend. He's doing me a favor, really, because we have to make room for even more boxes to be delivered this Wednesday.

Yes, it's true. The moving company somehow misplaced a portion of our stored goods. Seven long years, these 20 tonnes of items were stored, and in May, upon our return to the states, they were delivered back to our house. (Along with the 18 tonnes of stuff we'd dragged all over the globe with us.) When one of the large crates (6' x 6' x 8') turned up empty, the moving guys shrugged and said, "Awww, it was probably just an administrative error. Ya got all yer stuff, right?"

And we looked around our house and figured, "Yup, we sure did." Because there wasn't another free inch to shoehorn even one more thing into the house at that point.

A month or so later, I remembered we'd had two filing cabinets. And another bookcase or two. And a little table. And ... gosh, what else? I called the movers, and the admin guy said, "Fill out a claim, but really, if the label fell off the crate, we have no way of locating it."

Mentally, I kissed it all goodbye.

And then two days before Christmas, Steve the Admin guy rang saying, "I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is, we found your crate. The bad news is, I don't think you have any room left in your house."

Ho ho ho, Steve. How right you are. Merry Christmas.

Anyhow, in the mad rush to finish unpacking the first and second shipments to make way for the third, I unpacked a box of art supplies and old art projects.

"Mom, what are you doing?" shrieked Tarquin Jr, as he looked at the kit strewn about the place.

"Uh... speedballing?"

Artists. So decadent.