Wonder Women


Cuba 2008 Havanna

I spent last week in New York on a work trip, and while the schedule was packed pretty much from the minute we landed at JFK, we did manage to find a few moments here and there to take in Manhattan. I am a huge fan of the Big Apple.  I am a city girl at heart and New York is by far and away the Big Momma of all mega-urban-metropolises. It’s the backdrop to almost all of my favourite films, it boasts skyscrapers that light up the sky by the hundred, coffee to die for, and food to make any gastronomical critic weep. Other than eating our way through Soho, the highlight for me was catching up with a good friend who has recently moved state-side.

Walking up the High Line on a Thursday evening in mid summer having a good old fashioned gossip I was reminded how lucky I am to have friends scattered all around this world, that arriving in a new city more often than not I can pick up the phone and meet someone. Or at least get a few recommendations from mates who know the globe pretty well. Londoners are well travelled folk and I’m very lucky to count so many of them as friends. And equally that being oceans apart means very little to the relationships I have made and the ones that I have back home in South Africa.

Back in my teens it was near impossible to go without making contact with your mates at least every hour or so. This in the days before social media and mobile phones (imagine) we saw each other in class, while writing letters to the ones that were in the other class, swapping letters at lunch, repeating the process a few times over. We then go home and spend hours hogging the landline until one of our parents picked up the extension and threatened grounding or lack of lifts at the weekend.  One day off school and the fragile alliances could change. A year was like a lifetime. And in a time when your parents didn’t understand you and your siblings were just hopeless, your friends are your family, your therapists, health advisers (all with dodgy consequences) your partners in crime. Which means they were INTENSE. Fights were life threatening, and epic. Political manoeuvring legendary;   why do you think teen movies  are so popular?  All of the drama, less the expensive adult stars, historically accurate costumes or pyrotechnics.


Me, Sandi and Danni aged 16/ 17


New friends were made at university due to shared interests as opposed to post code proximity. A few school friends remain, the ones who genuinely rather like to hang around you, rather than needing a brain to help out in double maths, or being the one who knows how to roll a fag or the best way to escape school during free periods. These friends argue with you about de-constructed post modern feminist theory. And music. And help you out with part time work, tutoring, waitressing, internships.


Me, Danni and Sandi aged 21/22


Post university I left all my friends and family and followed my heart to London. Here new friends are people I meet through work, when at 23 your Tuesday night could be just a raucous as the Saturday night. I meet people out clubbing, through friends of house mates. Friendships in my twenties are defined by booze, banter and boys, while trying to carve out a career – working hard playing harder. Travelling around the world and generally behaving badly. Its a riot and I’m thankful everyday that a huge chunk of it was before the days of Facebook.



But in this decade, friends start to find their own paths that don’t necessarily join up with yours. Some get married and move outside of the M25 (and are never seen again). Others  leave London altogether  to head back to places like Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Bali, Canada, USA, Dubai and a huge chunk return back to South Africa (in a space of two years about 8 friends relocated). And here I am very grateful for Facebook.

But there are a few that have remained, who travel with you from one transition to the next with or without access to wifi.  I don’t need to see these friends every day, every week or even every year. These are the types of friends that no matter how much time has passed I can pick up a conversation where it left off as if nothing has changed. Except now we’re talking around toddlers, or at train stations, on skype or via social media. Our friendships have survived the trenches of high school, university, marriages, children and all this while thousands of miles away. Thankfully, no heart shaped origami letters in sight.

And if the last ten have been anything to go by, I can’t to see what the next 10 years brings









Not in Front of the Grown Ups

Over the past few months I have found myself in a number of scenarios talking to people either finishing school, starting university or embarking on their first jobs. The excitement and nerves about exam results, waiting on job offers and the thrill of the possibilities of what comes next – it’s an infectious optimism.

It’s been 16 years since I finished high school, over ten years since I finished university but I remember the feeling well. The sheer awe of opportunity, that anything was possible, and there was so much time it almost seemed to much to take on board. Like being handed the keys to your first car and maps to every highway on offer.

Finding your feet in the adult world isn’t that dissimilar to learning to drive. You get all the qualifications but you still don’t have a clue what you’re doing. I was smug as a Persian cat having got my license on my  first attempt. I put this down to my father’s endless patience and constant presence in the passenger seat of the family Honda.  I drove in circles around the local cemetery (everyone was already dead, there was very little risk of further damage) getting my head around the clutch and starting on a hill without flooding the tank.

I passed the theory easily, moved on to take a few more formal lessons and then booked my test. Which remains, to this day, the most nerve racking two hours of my life. I nailed parallel parking, and alley docking but I stalled the car twice and nearly went through an amber light. I was distracted by my driving examiner’s spectacular mullet and the tortoise-shell comb sticking out of his knee high khaki sock. Minor whiplash aside (from sudden braking at said amber light) he handed me a brand spanking new licence. A ticket to freedom. And that was that. I was released onto the mean streets of Jo’burg without any experience of driving on the highway, in wet weather, or at night. Qualified I was, prepared I was not.

But as everyone knows, you learn to drive after you get the piece of paper  stamped and your picture taken. This goes for your career in being a tax paying individual, you learn on the job. The same advice applies for when you stall at a busy intersection during a thunderstorm as to when you go completely blank during a dream job interview: Don’t Panic. Breathe. Start again (and turn on your hazards).

Nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when you have to step up and speak at a funeral, when you have to take responsibility for a major cock up, or call emergency services. No one will tell you how to leave a relationship, how to support a grieving friend, the best way to negotiate a new salary, wedding venue, holiday discount. You learn as you go.

Twenty years ago, I was 13 and starting high school with dreams of being either a forensic psychologist or investigative journalist (I wanted to be a kick ass combination of Clarice Starling and Nancy Drew). Turns out I wasn’t all that keen on all the stats in Psych, and there didn’t appear to be any access to interviewing serial killers.

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My friend Jasna and I taking graduation very seriously

Ten years after that I ended up in media and advertising,  working with a different brand of psychopath altogether. But the fun kind. Another ten years on from that and I am working in publishing. At least now the psychos are mainly fictional.

I switched up, changed paths and tried new things. And I’m not done yet. In fact most of the most inspirational people I know and look up to have done just that. They keep learning.

Which was why I was really surprised to find that all of the younger people I have been speaking to are still focusing on becoming a ‘something’. Trying to figure out the right subjects, take the right courses, land the one job. And I remember this fear really well, desperate to choose the right mix of courses so as not to limit my career choices. The fact is that my choice of second year electives have very little bearing on what I do today other than to make very useful at certain pub quizzes that feature Greek Mythology. Few of us have a job for life. We get to make mistakes, discover new talents and pursue unforeseen opportunities.

That said, I am now 33 years old. Officially in my Jesus Year (yes apparently this is a thing now) and I am expected to get a move on and get my shit together. Or have some spiritual awakening. So I guess my choices are to have some fantastic career breakthrough or head to Cambodia to meditate.

But I still have no idea what I want to be. I am taking this as a good thing and a sign that there are still many more adventures to be had.

Any other Clarice wannabes out there? Love to hear what you lot want to be when you grow up





Fighting the Cookie Monster

This week, I have been lucky enough to have the week off work while my sister and her family are visiting from South Africa. While we have planned a pretty hefty itinerary, with 7 days to play with I was also hoping to catch up on my running, finish off a few blog pieces I had written and even scope out the yoga studio down the road that a friend recommended. Plenty of time too, I thought, to catch up with freelance friends and check out the summer sales.

Its already Thursday and I have done zero running, very little writing, no yoga and one whistle stop visit to Gap. And while I have spent some fantastic quality time with my family, playing tourists and eating cake, I have also slept in far too late, wasted hours and hours watching Law & Order Criminal Intent and re-arranged my entire social media profile. Queen of Time Wasting. Turns out, I regress to a surly teenager when I lack structure and I revert to hibernating, eating badly and zoning out by staring at a variety of screens. I avoid being productive and become self sabotaging.

It’s not new and its not clever, and I do it because it easy, instant gratification and I am lazy. Classic avoidance strategy. But in the long run it feeds into a much more insidious low level anxiety due to too much sugar and caffeine, general lethargy due to the few additional pounds acquired and a general apathy that is in no way A Good Thing.



A  few things have changed in my thirties. Time isn’t something I am comfortable wasting any more. And not in the ‘go faster, do everything’ mentality that the city demands, but more about the quality of the activities I give my energies to. I am becoming more ruthless about how I spend my time and with who, acutely aware that Life Really Is Too Short. This requires a bit of discipline, planning and structure to make the most out of it.

But how to stay motivated and on course when you hit an unexpected ditch?

When I’m locked into a positive cycle of eating well, exercising and looking after myself its not hard to do. The benefits are obvious on both a mental and physical level and I feel energised and engaged. But what I have found is a small change to my schedule, a bump in the road or a left field challenge leaves me stranded back in duvet land eating magnums by the carton load.

And life is made up of bumps, changes, out of the blue emergencies. I need to be able to address these and not fall out of whack. I am finding this is coming up in the blog project. The quest for perfection for every piece means I am writing less and not more. In fact it gets to a point when I don’t write at all. Its too easy to just stop than trying to work through when it doesn’t come naturally.

This is a default setting for me. If its not perfect first time I tend to give up. When I was sixteen I tried to learn guitar and it was hard (obviously, its a musical instrument!) so I gave up after two lessons. I gave up martial arts as it required more training than twice a week classes and my flying kick was terrible, so clearly I just ‘wasn’t cut out for it’. I dropped kick boxing as I was too tired to train regularly, I’d take the whole week off as I had missed the Tuesday class, so I had somehow broken the schedule. I demand perfection of myself immediately. Its the all or nothing approach and and the moment I am opting for nothing.

So I am going against my default setting here and writing anyway, a spontaneous post that I know isn’t quite on point but is going up regardless. I am trying to practise being a bit more relaxed, flexible and open, so that when life happens and that curveball hits, I don’t let the whole plan fall to pieces. One cookie is enough. And a 5km run is not hard. In fact I could run and eat the cookie. AT THE SAME TIME.

Problem solved.