IKEA

The couch I’m sitting on is from IKEA. The company with amusing adverts that sells crappy furniture made by Chinese children. Why do I occasionally support them? Because they’re cheap. I’m cheap. Spending thousands of Crowns at a real furniture store, just for somewhere to rest my arse, is nonsense. This couch does its job. I can sit here a few minutes every day and stare into the oven, because we don’t own a TV. When we have guests they can spend the night developing chronic back pain and, with any luck, they’ll never come back.

Being inside IKEA is strangely calming. Their exhibitions of various functional kitchens, tidy bedrooms and neat homes has a soothing effect. This does, however, create the feeling that you’ve invaded someone’s personal space – someone else’s home. But as a South African I’m comfortable with breaking and entering. In fact, it brings a smile to my face along with a warm sense of nostalgia. I can feel the African sun shining through the window, sirens wailing, police dogs barking and the occasional gunshot. Swedish couples walk past, pretending not to see me as I stand smiling in a bathroom suite with my head tilted slightly back, eyes closed, hands in pockets. They’ll never understand.

IKEA has a very convenient restaurant. Also very necessary as there is no “quick trip to IKEA.” A bit like Hotel California. Couples are doomed to spend at least half the day there. Most of which will be spent arguing about whether or not you really need a set of sun chairs.

“They’re so cheap, let’s just get them!”
“That’s what you said about the tiki torches!”
“But we’ll use the sun chairs.”
“We live in Sweden! The next time we’ll see the sun will be in Portugal!”
“We can give them to my mother.”
“They only take a max load of 200kg.”
“You’re such an arsehole!”

The tension eases as you sit at the restaurant and take in carbohydrates. I recommend the vego balls with rice. It’s cheap. The food is of surprisingly high quality, unlike the furniture. It’s also prepared by underpaid foreigners, like the furniture. You attempt apologies to each other, forget the comment about your walrus mother-in-law and try to ignore all the screaming children covered in ice-cream swarming your table. The noise and stale air aren’t helping your pounding headache. It’s time to vacate.

Leaving IKEA with products you never needed and additional emotional baggage, you’re both exhausted and the rest of your weekend is stuffed. Back to your crappy couch and whatever the Netflix producers have vomited onto the platform.

Hanging Laundry

Putting dirty clothes into the machine is no biggy. Laundry goes in the big round hole. Detergent and fabric softener, however, require an extra braincell. Number one or number two? The bottle symbol or the pretty flower picture? Hope that your phone is in your pocket and Google that bad boy like a real man.

Make sure the machines are spinning before leaving the laundry room. You’ve made this mistake before. You remember because your wife hasn’t let it go since it happened three years ago.

Sit on the couch, open your laptop and find some crap on Netflix. A guy having a love affair with an octopus in Cape Town. Sounds like entertainment. Now that you’ve wasted one hour of your life watching a middle-aged man get fondled by tentacles, it’s time to hang the laundry.

You’re not allowed to throw everything into the tumble drier, because cashmere blah blah wool bleh bleh shrinks blah blah are you even listening? Hanging the larger items like hoodies feels good. They leave a dent in the basket and make you feel productive, like you’re going somewhere in life. Until you lift that baggy T-shirt you like to bum around in. The one your wife hates. Under your favourite shirt are ninety-seven socks. That’s right numb nuts, you lost one!

Tiny white socks, barely visible to the male eye. The missus insists on wearing secret socks because fashion. They resemble toe condoms. Like a traffic cop hiding in the bushes, these little cotton bastards have brought your easy ride to a halt. During the wash cycle they manage to crunch up into balls smaller than your own, which you have to flatten out with your sausage fingers.

By now you’ve lost track of the days since that first sock. Time no longer has meaning and you can see the sun rising for the third time since the spin cycle. Leopard crawling away from the battle, your legs are finished and your throat is screaming for a beer. You’re grateful to have made it out with your life and can’t wait to hug your wife in clean bed sheets. That’s if she hasn’t moved on and found someone else in the time that you’ve been manning the front line.

Selling Dreams

Not sure what to do with your life? Just Google it. That’s where all the answers are. You’ll receive an endless list of gurus and successful business people singing their songs of victory. Check out Ted Talks and listen to hundreds of quacks babble on for twenty minutes about why you should give them money.

And you can do it too! ….. for a small fee….. buy their book, subscribe, like, donate and you’ll receive instant happiness. Put someone on a stage with a microphone and suddenly they’re Buddha selling enlightenment package deals.

There is an enormous market of unmotivated individuals searching for greater meaning in their average lives. Why not capitalise on their lack of direction? Enter Tim Ferriss, Robert Kiyosaki and the circus of Get Rich Yesterday. Their talks are packed with catch phrases, parallels which don’t really have anything to do with your situation but sound great and metaphors which will have you fired up and on the edge of your seat with credit card in hand! Tell me that my dreams can come true!

Kiyosaki’s own ventures flopped like a fat man off a diving board. He then opened his own business school. You know, to share his knowledge of how not to run a business. Today we know that his books and seminars were all lies and the company is bankrupt. He’s still a millionaire while his followers are poorer in both cash and confidence.

Ferriss at least made some dollar before selling the 4-hour toilet paper series. Hey here’s a unique idea! Come up with a vague business plan, like selling sketchy supplements, lie in a hammock and outsource the work to over-qualified Indians. Who’s with me?

Josh Kaufman is willing to sell you the dream of learning any skill extremely quickly. Just whip out that bank card, plug yourself into the matrix and download guitar fingers in under 20 hours. Of course people are going to buy the book! Who doesn’t want ten years worth of competence in just a few days? But that’s not all! This magician has another cash cow up his sleeve. Don’t have the time or money to invest in an MBA? This is so ridiculous it’s sad. Josh can show you how. Just pay him.

All these men take advantage of people who are looking for ways to better their lives. Average people are willing to pay a lot of money for reputable advice on financial independence and quality of life. Donal Trump was quoted as saying to a sales rep at Trump University that they’re not selling degrees, they’re selling dreams.

Their tactics may be immoral and occasionally illegal, but it’s the general public who behave like salmon every time their favourite lure lands in front of their gaping mouths. Whether it’s financial freedom, business knowledge or a ukulele in a banana hammock, everyone is after happiness. And they’re willing to pay clowns to give it to them.

Home Office

Working from home is one of those millennial goals that constantly appear on Facebook. It’s always a photo of some twat in a hammock with a Mac Book, pretending to focus on their screen while holding a beer. We get it. Your partner took the picture with their iPhone while you updated your Facebook status. #unemployed #imsomiserable #foolingmyself

Mac Books are not designed for work. They are built specifically for sitting at coffee shops, scrolling through Facebook and watching videos of your favourite ideologue destroying college students in debates. Put on your best checkered shirt, polish those thick-framed glasses, comb your non-binary facial hair and ride your electric skateboard straight to Star Bucks, like the anti-capitalist you were born to be!

Their Instagram profile reads something like “travel blogger, entrepreneur, explorer.” Entrepreneur because they’re desperately scrounging the web for easy cash. Their favourite YouTuber guaranteed that once the first step of a spiritual path had been taken then the rest would fall into place. A falling bank balance wasn’t part of the vision which came to them during their meditation retreat in Bali. Explorer makes them sound edgy and unique like everyone else born after 1984 with an internet connection. Employers love that mysterious shit!

Three years ago they bought a physical newspaper at Heathrow airport and added “journalist” to their resumé. If you can read an article then you can write one.

Meanwhile, back in Corona-land, people with PCs carry on with real work and keep the global economy ticking. But now they do it from home. The question we’re asking ourselves is why didn’t we do this sooner? Working from home in our underwear affords us more sleep and saves us from drinking the sewerage which the office calls coffee. No more tea breaks with Sandra from HR telling everyone about Mr Fluffle’s appointment with the vet and how it rained during her Saturday brunch with the Crazy Cat Lady Committee.

Studies show that the average office employee is only productive for three out of eight hours. Why do nothing at work when you can do it from home? Give your bluetooth mouse a shake every ten minutes to keep your profile icon green and do something you actually give a damn about. You’re not really passionate about environmental urban development. You pulled that out of your arse to ace the job interview and snatch a stable income in return for your soul.

Use this time to clean out your wardrobe, bake bread, continue to ignore your in-laws, get to know that oddball you married and write down life plans together. Cancel Netfilx, it’s garbage, you know it. The guitar on your wall is not only for decoration, your mountain bike is collecting dust and your dog wants more cuddles. Or go back to the office and pretend.

Raw Meat

I’m a vegetarian. Kind of. At home I’ll only cook vegetarian food. After watching Cow-spiracy and other documentaries on the meat industries, I decided to do the environment a solid and go green.

But not when I get invited to someone’s home for dinner. Then I’ll eat what’s cooking. I’m not one of those obnoxious tree-huggers with a loudspeaker who insist on making a public statement and putting it on Instagram. “Sorry, but the candles on this table are not vegan, I can’t sit here. #beesarepeopletoo” Go sit on a pineapple. They’re vegan.

Recently I caved in to the idea of biltong. It didn’t take much convincing. I’m weak. One “home-made biltong” video on YouTube later and I woke up at the hardware store. Making a biltong dryer is insanely simple. I could buy beef jerky in Sweden, but it’s expensive and tastes like a vegan candle.

Finding a butcher was surprisingly difficult and the price of meat obviously follows the gold index. Then I remembered that this isn’t a banana republic with livestock grazing at the airport. Gone are the days when flat goat off the runway was on special.

My home now smells like a dead animal. A delicious dead animal, marinaded in red wine vinegar and spiced with pepper and coriander. I’ve decided that biltong is a vegetable (bovine flora) and cows produce too much methane. We should eat them. You’re welcome, Nature.

 

Mountain Biking

Moving from the coast of South Africa to inland Sweden takes some adjustment. Let’s forget that Swedes speak a language derived from drunken Vikings and poor German farmers. We’ll just focus on outdoor activities for now.

Such a move requires sacrifices. Odin sacrificed his eye for knowledge. I sacrificed surfing for free education. It’s basically the same thing.

There is actually a surf scene on the east coast of Sweden, but the waves are tiny and they only roll through with the winter storms. That means your meatballs are submerged in sub-zero Baltic water, for the pursuit of waves you could find in a bathtub.

So surfing is off the list of sane sporting activities. Considering that Sweden is just a giant forest dotted with villages, serial stalking would be perfect. Somehow I ended up with a mountain bike as a birthday gift and felt compelled to use it.

Falling off a mountain bike is far less forgiving than wiping out on a surfboard. The Indian Ocean’s soft, warm embrace has been replaced by the cold, hard rock and root of Swedish terrain. Additionally, the solid saddle of a mountain bike acts like a jackhammer when riding over rough terrain. Ride standing or get your rear end pounded.

In South Africa one can surf all year round. While Sweden is covered in ice for eight months of the year. Not a problem! I ordered ice-tyres that look like a torture device from Medieval times. Cycling into the forest at -10 Celcius is beautiful and terrifying. Snow covering sky-high pine trees in crisp winter air is postcard perfect. At the same time, ice covering your single track is like cycling on a giant bar of soap. Crash now and your corpse will be found thawing in spring by an old lady’s poodle.

Was the move worth it? Yes. Do I miss surfing? I would give up a meatball for some sloppy PE waves right now.

 

Coffee

I am hopelessly dependent on coffee. Not in the way that I consume seven cups a day, but I need my shot of murky delightfulness in the morning. I can’t consume my drug on an empty stomach, and sometimes I think the only reason I eat breakfast is to get my dose of caffeine.

Coffee is enjoyable, especially when sharing it at a trendy, over-priced café with friends. The kind of place that serves drinks in jam jars, as though every other café isn’t already doing that. Their cups and plates are unique in that they were made in a preschool pottery class and painted by blind chimps. Minimalism is hip right now and the chairs look like they came from an Auschwitz canteen. Tables that don’t wobble are immediately thrown out.

It’s Saturday morning, your schedule is empty, the weather is warm and the waiter with a BA degree just served you a steaming Americano with oat milk on the side. That cheap little biscuit they put on the saucer is so small that you burn your fingers while trying to dip it.

You could order one of their “home-made” cookies they keep in a glass jar at the counter, but one of them costs more than your shoes. Everyone knows the biscuits come from the supermarket across the street and were baked on a giant conveyor belt nowhere near anyone’s home. Apparently, they become worth their weight in gold once placed in a transparent container with a hand-written note stating that they’re home-baked.

The waiter puts his university education to good use by skilfully removing the smallest one with a pair of metal tongs and places it on a side plate. You think he’s flirting and giving you his phone number. But no, that’s just the price of the goddamn biscuit.

Returning to your table, the figures run through your mind. One Americano and a factory biscuit has cost the same as two packets of ground coffee beans. That’s about eighty cups of coffee at home, where you make it the way you like it, the tables are level,  your arse doesn’t sweat against cheap plastic chairs and the music doesn’t make your ears bleed.

Your hard earned cash could have gone towards supporting coffee farmers in Uganda. Instead you’ve helped Eduardo on his path from BA graduate to aspiring actor. At least the coffee was good.

 

 

Couple Sailing

An old-time sailor from our club told us that every new boat tests its owner. Sailing can break you down and make you regret ever leaving the comfort of your couch. Sailing as a couple creates some of the most challenging situations you’ll ever face together. You either bond and build a stronger relationship, or one of you becomes fish food.

“Sweety, pull the red rope!”
“Call me sweety again and I’ll hang you from the goddamn red rope!”

Communication in a relationship is vital. The same is true for the crew on a sailing vessel. Now your crew is your life partner and your relationship is crammed into 9×3 metres of fibreglass. This is like couples therapy in an octagon, without the referee or anyone to witness a body going overboard. “He tripped and fell, your honour.”

During and argument at home there are other rooms in which to hide and doors to slam to display frustration. Unfortunately, there are no doors on the boat. Sliding a curtain angrily doesn’t have quite the same effect. One could stomp, from the cockpit to the bow and pout into the distance, while your partner in crime sits with the tiller in hand wondering what the hell you’re doing. You are two fish in a jam jar.

One of you refers to pieces of equipment by their correct names, because life is easier when everyone knows what we’re talking about. Your loved one calls them “thingy-thing with the stuff on the thing.” Any apparatus which uses electricity is a charger and all ropes on deck are halyards.

Once the anchor is down, the engine is off and the still water reflects shades of purple and orange from the sunset, all arguments seem trivial and tempers cool in the evening breeze. The effort was worth it and you both realise, you could not have done this alone.

img_2424  At anchor for the evening

 

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Sailing from Uppsala to Stockholm on Octavia

 

 

 

Plett Rage

Being in Plett, during Rage, in my thirties feels like accidentally walking into a pre-school full of unattended toddlers, shitting and vomiting all over themselves while pissing their parents’ money onto the beach. From the Ragers’ point of view, I probably seem like a geriatric just waiting for the reaper to deliver a swift, merciful death any day now. Is there even life after 25?

A number of years ago I happened to be in Plett, during rage, at the age of 24 and was horrified at the sight of drunken children, wearing whatever fashion dictated that year while attempting their first weekend of adulting. Students cannot wait to cast off the chains of uniform, then simultaneously flock to one town and wear the same clothes as their peers. Their faces wore a smirk of cocky achievement because they had just conquered the mountain that is High School, blissfully unaware of the bitch-slap that life was slow roasting for after uni. I immediately pulled the old-man-card of ‘We weren’t like that at that age.’ It’s a filthy lying card. We were exactly like that. Possibly worse. We just choose to remember that we didn’t behave like babies away from mom, playing crap music and drinking purely because we damned-well could do so legally. Such rebels.

Meanwhile, in 2019, nothing has changed. The teenagers are doing all the same, dumb shit while believing that they are as unique as granny tells them. Except, this year, the fashion gods commanded the Ragers to dress like Rick Astley, and they obeyed by the thousands.

 

Going Ape

I was invited to spend a week in the mountains with family. Without thinking, I accepted the offer. More decisions should be made this way.

Once we had packed the car and were on the road, I decided that now would be a great time to ask where we were headed. “Mpumalanga”, came the answer from the driver’s seat. Excellent! That narrowed it down.

Arriving at our destination I assessed the surroundings and immediately started planning how to survive the coming week while exposed to the African elements. We’d be roughing it, camping at the foot of the mountain, under the stars, in a five-bedroom chalet. Armed with nothing but a fully equipped kitchen, three bathrooms, two weeks worth of food and a wi-fi connection, we were helpless.

Navigating through the vast expanses between the kitchen and scullery was excruciating. Praise Santa for the cleaning staff who came by twice a day. That dishwasher was a minefield.

Mother Nature is as beautiful as she is dangerous. The old lady did not allow me to forget this when, on the first morning, a beast of the forest entered our dwelling. In the early hours of dawn, the birds began announcing the start of a fresh day. It was 09:45 and I lay asleep with the window open. The sound of an intruder triggered my cat-like reflexes – I screamed as though someone stood on my tail. That’s when I saw him. A 5000 gram vervet gorilla, seated on the nightstand. Foolishly, I had left a packet of mixed nuts in the open. A potentially fatal error. As a shark senses injured prey, the vervet sniffed out my nut sack.

The predator noticed immediately that I had awoken. With lightning reflexes, perfected over millions of years of evolution, the hunter snatched its prize, mosquito repellent, and escaped back through the window. Clearly they have developed a desire for certain comforts and are brand-loyal to Peaceful Sleep. Soon they will be leaving comments on social media, using catch phrases like yolo, wearing Monster apparel, subscribing to Breitbart and listening to Die Antwoord.