The Elusive Bandit

7 - The bandit

Are you the time square bandit at Jacaranda FM?

 

Jip, I was one of those hopefuls who went to that morning’s location. And whilst driving there, I rehearsed those very importing lines.   Because if you don’t say it right, you simply cannot win. And you could actually be standing right in front of that bandit not evening knowing it!  One word wrong or in the wrong order, and he/she would simply just deny it was him/her…..

 

When I got to Delta Park I first rushed to the bird sanctuary car park. And stood and watched. There were a few people scattered around, some with earphones in their ears listening out for the clues. But something didn’t feel right. Twitter then convinced that me that I was indeed in the wrong spot, as the next photo was taken at the entrance of the Environmental Centre. Which is on the opposite side of the park. Where I then rushed. What was the chance that he would actually still be there, was my first thought. With a bounty of R45,000 on his head, he would certainly not make it easy for anyone to find him? As I got out of my car, walking to the entrance I realised my next dilemma – I simply had no flipping clue what the bandit looks like! Is he young or old, Chinese, White or Indian? Is he alone or hanging around with a dog or a friend? Will he be wearing a tracksuit, to blend in with the rest of the walkers and runners or will he stand out like a sore thumb wearing a Charlie Chaplin suit? Was he hiding in between the tall shrubs at the bottom of the entrance or was he simply out in the open fidgeting on his cellphone?

 

And then came the third dilemma – I had to now go up to strangers, tap them on the shoulder (I think?) and recite the rhyme.

“Are you the time square bandit with Jacaranda FM?”

Oh my soul, this was truly testing the limits of my shyness. I eventually did do it a few times; after all, you’ve got to be in it to win it. At one stage a little car drove past me and stopped a few meters away. In passing, I saw a big computer bag in the back seat of the car.  One is not allowed to approach someone in a vehicle, so I couldn’t go and ask. He was waiting for someone. Within seconds a girl got in and off they went. And I am still wondering if there is any chance of one of them being the bandit. It frustrates me that I would just never know!

 

I still lingered for about fifteen minutes, walking and watching. R45,000 is certainly not to be sneezed at; it was 50% of a Mauritius holiday paid for!   It was quite entertaining too to watch fellow hopefuls walking up and down, some even running towards certain areas, clearly convinced they cracked the clue. There was a woman in stilettos jogging up and down the road in front of the Environmental Centre, cellphone in her hand, frantically looking left and right. Another guy with a beard and longish brown hair, with a camera bag over his one shoulder, kept being harassed by strangers. Eventually he asked me what was going on cause people kept asking him something about a bandit! I overheard two girls discussing the next clue, which was the sighting of a birds’ nest and I figured the bandit had probably relocated to another side of the park. In the car park two elderly walkers were sharing what they thought were clues of what the bandit looked like, with anyone willing to listen.

 

Once the trimming of the grass started giving me the sneezes and reminded me of the sinus headache I had had on and off since Saturday, I decided to give up. No family bush weekend at Kwa Maritane, no new Adidas trainers, no Holiday on Ice tickets, no laminate floors for the spare room. Just me and the physiotherapist and her bill afterwards. Sigh…..

 

The bandit was found that morning, by the way. At Emmerentia Park.

If you read this….

6 - Crime novels

Science fiction? Romance? Crime? Action and Adventure? Autobiographies? Which one do you prefer?

 

After struggling through the first few pages of a Jojo Moyes novel, it wasn’t long before it was covered in a thin layer of white dust on my bedside table. I realised that I am just not a romance novel person. Maybe twice a year? Cause let’s face it, sometimes one does need a break from one’s usual genre..  And Jojo Moyes would then be my first choice for that “scenery change”.  But the time was obviously not right yet!  In my twenties I was obviously more of a romantic. I loved Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Lesley Pearse, Ena Murray, Maretha Maartens. Jackie Collins for glamour and glitz and Jodi Picoult was for something a bit more controversial and serious.  These were the novels where young girls’ dreams started.  And yes, of course I could see my 20-something year old self running off into the sunset with a hunky doctor or a wealthy entrepreneur.  Driving a red Ferrari, owning a holiday home on the French Riviera, summer months living in a Hyde Park apartment, dinners with celeb chefs and famous photographers, going to exclusive night clubs with famous popstars and, at the same time, being a magazine columnist wearing designer jeans with brightly coloured Manolo Blahnik heels.   Ahhhh, how I got transported from my bedroom in my parents’ house to the streets of New York, Paris and London.

 

So which authors’ books fill my bookcase these days? James Patterson and the Women’s Murder Club series. Four friends regularly meet up to talk about a murder or two being investigated. They share clues and discuss theories while dining and drinking Marguerita’s at their favourite Mexican restaurant. The stories about their personal lives and challenges, makes it feel like you could easily be the fifth friend sitting at their table at Susie’s in San Francisco.

Peter James’ series featuring main character DS Roy Grace, takes place in the seaside town of Brighton. His life is certainly not boring and while solving murders, he continuously ponders the disappearance of his wife Sandy. As the series progresses, you find out that she ran away when she found out that she was pregnant. But Roy does not know this….

 

I find that my favourite female crime novelists are a lot more explanatory and surprisingly graphic than their male counterparts. Karin Slaughter pulls no punches. Her website states “stories that get under your skin.” And that is not an understatement. The murders are brutal, chilling, disturbing. To such a point that I sometimes have to catch a breather after a hectic chapter, just to slow down my heart rate! Martina Cole writes about the gangs that rule the East End of London. She lets many “f-bombs” drop, writes about child molestation, affairs, betrayal, paedophiles and prostitution. Ruth Rendell, Chris Carter, Michael Connelly, Jo Nesbo, Tony Park, Chris Karsten, Wilbur Smith, Michael Robotham. The list can go on forever.

 

My latest read is a true life story, which shockingly (and sad) reads like a novel.

“If you are reading this, then I am dead.”

A confession to a murder in the form of a letter, found under a carpet in a house in Kenilworth, Johannesburg. A cold case re-opened after 12 years – lies, abduction, excavations, secret recordings, private investigators, handwriting experts, missing files. The biggest challenge however was that this was to become a murder trial without a body. The author takes the reader on a journey into the real world. Where getting hold of DNA is not as simple as it seems on CSI.  Where people continue to lie or conveniently forget the names of roads or forget that they were actually friends with certain characters significant to the trial. Where investigators work tirelessly at the risk of their personal relationships. Where vital evidence like paper hospital records were destroyed years ago and possible eye witnesses just cannot remember what happened over a decade ago on a busy road where white men tried to bundle a black woman into a car. Where there are no tearful confessions or revelations. Where family members eventually get closure, but never find out why an ordinary woman, called Betty Ketani,  a cook at a popular Rosebank restaurant, was murdered. The book is called Cold Case confession, by journalist Alex Eliseev. In my opinion, a must read on any “crime reader’s” wishlist.

 

What is it that attracts us to certain genres? And what does this say about us? What does my fancy for crime novels say about me? I did some research because I was really hoping that my love for crime novels doesn’t mean I am some undercover crazy psychopath. One article summed it up quite nicely and at least confirmed that I was still, well, normal. Not many of us have the inclination to be a policeman, serial killer, drug lord or gangster, but we are intrigued by these people and novels take us to the core of these people’s lives. Due to the accessibility of social media, we are exposed to stories of kidnappings, murders and terrorism on a constant basis. But we rarely know the intricate details of these stories and crime writers fill the gaps for us.  And fortunately, in most of these novels, the bad guy is caught by Karma eventually.  Whether he/she dies at the hands of a policeman’s gun, being strangled by a rival, buried alive or just goes to jail, the satisfactory ending leaves us with a feeling of hope and that justice has been served.

 

Because let’s face it – “…the danger and thrill of the chase is undeniably ‘cool’.” (quote)

 

References

http://alexeliseev.co.za

https://www.profwritingacademy.com/why-crime-fiction-is-so-popular/

Happy Mother’s Day

5 Mothers day

Is there anything specific you would like for Mother’s Day?

 

It is one of those days that many people immediately complain about –

Just a money making scheme

You should spoil your mom whenever you feel like it and not only on Mother’s Day

The whole thing is so commercialised

Of course there is truth in this. Walk into Woolies and there they are; the big curly-swirly signs announcing that Mother’s Day is on the 14th May. And that you could spoil that special mom of yours with pink slippers, a fluffy (and very expensive) gown, or buy-2-and-save-25%-Minnie-Mouse-fleece pajamas. Red Square has 25% off on all their fragrances and takealot.com has huge discounts on coffee filters, food steamers and fitness goodies. And yes, I then jumped on the bandwagon too by advertising my tissue boxes, trinket boxes and discounted, personalised shopping bags. Because let’s face it, us moms have more than enough bubblebath and body creams and as much as we love chocolates we could do without!

 

The idea of Mother’s Day didn’t just fall out of the sky –

“The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.[6] Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed that they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Thank you, Wikipedia x

 

I must admit, I love these “commercialised” days.  It gives us an ideal opportunity to spoil and thank our moms, who, at the best of times, we take for granted. We expect them to just always be there for us, because that is what mothers do, right? And there is nothing quite as special as giving a gift that is carefully thought through and chosen, and to then see the happiness on that person’s face when they receive it.

 

So what do I want for Mother’s Day? I suggested to Andries that he take the girls to Clicks, and let them pick a handful of items they think I would like. I am really looking forward to seeing what the three of them came up with!

 

To all the mothers out there – whether you are single, divorced, happily married, young or old – happy mother’s day. And treasure those handmade cards and hugs and kisses you will be receiving.

 

And pretend to absolutely LOVE that cold mug of tea that is brought to you in bed.

Class of 93

Reunion

How many of you attended your high school reunions?

 

I read in a magazine once that your 10year reunion is usually the “show-off” one. Everyone shows off their other halves, they brag about their jobs, and purely by chance they mention the car they drive and where they went on their last holiday. A simple spit-braai that turns into a huge contest, while the men are downing shooters and the ladies are discussing those who are not in their circle of conversation at that given moment.

“My wife is a fitness instructor”.

“My husband is an architect”.

“We got married in Mauritius, an intimate ceremony with only 200 guests.” “Yes, we live in Bryanston”.

“We have just returned from a 3-week Mediterranean cruise”.

“My BMW 3 series has so much power that the cops couldn’t catch me on the N1 the other night”.

It is all about showing your old classmates how successful you have become since leaving school. That you are no longer that 2-meter slightly awkward beanpole, but that you have actually become quite muscular and attractive. Or that you have replaced your nerdy glassed with contact lenses and lost your plumpness since you started cycling. It is of course also an opportunity to rekindle friendships and maybe even a relationship that broke up as people grew in different directions.

 

Then, 20 years one, as everyone is heading towards the dreaded 40, the picture is slightly different. The beer bellies are out, and frankly, they don’t care that they are no longer driving that sporty BMW. A double cab Toyota is way more suitable for their changed lifestyle and their growing families. Some arrive newly single, or with a second wife or a friend. And instead of bragging about themselves and their successes, the focus changes to their offspring and their achievements. Karate champions, provincial netball players, rugby captains and little beauty queens. And the cellphones are full of pictures of their amazing kids. Parents living their dreams through their children.

 

I unfortunately cannot talk from experience, as I have never been to any of my school reunions. I was in three different high schools, and no, not because I was a menace or I was expelled! In five years we moved from Vereeniging to Kimberley to Vanderbijlpark. As far as I know at least two of my 1993 matric groups had 10-year reunions. Living in the UK at the time, I wasn’t able to attend any of these. 20 years on, two of my schools did have reunions, and yes, I contemplated attending both. Mainly because I am FOMO (fear of missing out), and extremely inquisitive and interested in people. But I then looked for every justifiable excuse imaginable, not to go. To either reunion.

The truth is, that firstly, I truly believed that no one would even remember me. Imagine arriving at your school reunion, introducing yourself to people you remember and they just look at you blankly?

I use to sit behind you in Biology and you regulary slipped me answers? And in the holiday winter school we were part of the same group who went to Spur instead of attending extra Maths class.”

“No sorry, I don’t remember that.”

I would rather die a thousand deaths! SecondIy, I get quite anxious at the idea of going to places by myself and not having anyone to talk to. There is an Afrikaans phrase “sy staan daar soos ‘n muurblommetjie”. And that has always been one of my biggest “phobias”. Being this “sad case” person, awkwardly standing against a wall, hoping someone would pluck up the courage to talk to her, or ask her for a dance.   Even today, I will never attend a party or a function if I did not know that there would at least bone person I knew and that I could chat to.

 

For many years, I did however have these visions of going to my reunion facing the girls who were nasty or the boys that never returned my affections. Imaging myself as this butterfly who escaped her cocoon before entering adult world. I few years ago, working as a receptionist at a private hospital, an old school acquaintance crossed my path. He brought an injured colleague in from a nearby building site. VB was one of the cool boys, who looked up his nose at my friends and me. And there he was, standing in front of me, with dusty clothes and dirty fingernails. I was my usual friendly self, without making too much of a fuss. While he was so obviously flirting with me, asking me where I lived, etc. And I was like “seriously, four years ago you didn’t even know me and now you want to know where I live?” Giving him the cold shoulder, made me feel like I at least got my own back in a tiny way!

 

Recently, after an old high school acquaintance passed away, a school whatsapp groups was formed and stories and photos are shared on a regular basis. We talk about our current lives, our kids, our holidays and we even ask for advice about school speeches and marketing our businesses. I wasn’t in matric with this group, and part of me wish I was. I never had that sense of belonging in my matric year. That feeling of being part of a special group of young people. It sounds like they share fond memories and formed special bonds. The whatsapp banter amongst everyone is light hearted and there is a sense of camaraderie between most members of the group. I do wonder though if the bond is also part of the 40somethings within us that crave to be those teenagers whose biggest worry was passing an English Romeo and Juliet exam or getting a date for the matric farewell? Oh to be those young adults again!

 

So what are your fond, funny or memorable reunion stories?

Their future is bright

Schools.jpg

Why is it such a big deal to get your child into the “right” high school?

 

Will School A further my child’s aspirations in becoming a  Protea cricket player?  Will School B ensure my child gets the best matric results?  Will School C enable my child to study in England?  My parents did not have these issues back in the 90’s. We lived in Arcon Park, a leafy suburb in Vereeniging. The Afrikaans high school in our area was Hoërskool Overvaal. And that’s where I went – it was as simple as that. There weren’t any Marketing strategies by the various high schools to visit the primary schools in order to get the best academic students or sportsmen. They were all pretty similar and one didn’t stand out above the rest.  The best the Vereeniging high schools had to offer, were things like an outdoor swimming pool, music as an additional subject or boarding facilities.  Provincial rugby coaches, astro turf hockey fields, epic theatre productions, overseas school tours. Those were all foreign concepts to most parents of 20th century teenagers! And certainly not on offer in small Transvaal schools.

 

Maybe, living in Johannesburg, we are just so spoilt for choice? Too spoilt. And that is why we are so unsure and confused and why we are constantly fretting about which school would be best for óúr nearly teenagers. Like most of my friends, I have been to a few high school open days. And most of them are obviously keen to impress and to attract the best caliber child to their school. A friend, whose daughter went from private primary school to government high school, confidently tells me that private high school is a waste of money. That there are still some excellent government schools out there, you just have to find them and of course find ways to secure your child being accepted there.

 

And let’s face it, how many of us knew, at the age of 11 and 12 what career path we were going to take? Throughout my school career I had dreams about being an actress, journalist, gymnastics coach, hotel manager, beauty therapist, clothing designer. The choices varied tremendously! And, as you can imagine, subject choices didn’t come easy because I didn’t know what type of adult I wanted to be. I admired people like Michelle Bruce and Annie Malan and Ena Murray. What did that say about me back then? I don’t know….I did know however I was never going to be an engineer or a teacher or a computer programmer, so why I suffered through the agony of Maths and Maths extra classes, is a mystery. I believe there is however a small amount of young people who know exactly what they want to be and pursue that from a young age. And that makes high school and subject choices just a little easier.

 

I hear of schools who put a lot of pressure on academics and wonder if that is really what I want for my children? What is it that I want for my 11year old daughter who, in 2019, will start a huge chapter in her young life? High school. I want balance for her. I want her to feel she fits in somewhere and that it is OK if you are not the most popular, coolest or richest. I want her to experience there will always be families better off than us, but there will also be families a lot worse off than us too. I want her to experience life and different cultures and to explore different activities.  And by getting exposed to all these different things, find her passions.

 

Thank goodness high school is only in 2019. Good luck with your choices!