The good and the bad of it

I recently had two service experiences that couldn’t have been more different. One was with VIP Pool Care in Vredenburg, the other with Dawn Wing Couriers.

I’ve been trying for months to find someone to come and quote me on refurbishing my pool pump and filter. It’s been impossible. Several companies have promised to come; one promised to come if I paid them R450 (which I agreed to); but none has arrived. It’s one of the downsides of living in the country: we’re a long and expensive drive from many services.

I finally tracked down VIP Pool Care in Vredenburg. Glynn, the man I spoke to, was both thorough and honest. First, he pointed out that the +-250km round trip was going to be costly in both time and fuel. For that reason, he said, it wasn’t worth sending someone to quote – he’d take down the details on the phone. He then guided me through a most sensible and thorough verbal diagnosis of my pool’s many problems. I emailed him some photographs of the pump arrangement and a few other pertinent details, and early the next morning I had a quote to replace the whole kit and caboodle, which included R600 in travelling expenses. I accepted immediately, was told they’d be here on the Monday to do the job, and put down the phone with hope in my heart.

At the same time, I phoned Twisp and ordered an electronic cigarette kit. (My friend Terry gave me his old kit to start with, but one of the cigarettes was already broken and the other gave up the ghost within a few weeks.) They said, understandably, that they wouldn’t dispatch my order until the payment was cleared. It cleared on the Thursday and I got an email to say the package had been dispatched with Dawn Wing Couriers, and that it would be with me on the Friday. By the time the package finally arrived on the Monday evening, I’d phoned Dawn Wing at least six times and been falsely promised its imminent arrival three times. I’d also been fed a variety of different stories to explain its non-arrival including at least one blatant lie and, amazingly, that old South African chestnut, ‘It’s not our fault’ – Dawn Wing had outsourced the delivery to a third-party courier who didn’t work on the weekends, and whose problem is that, I ask you? Mine, apparently.

Now, what’s the point of dispatching a package lickety-split via courier, if that courier is going to take four full days to deliver it? And don’t irritate me even more by telling me that two of the days were over a weekend – you’re a courier, for god’s sake, not a school. To add insult to injury, every time I phoned Dawn Wing to find out where the damned parcel was, the prerecorded message I had to listen to repeatedly told me they were ‘quick, smart and reliable’. What a load of old hooey.

By huge contrast, the VIP Pool Care guys did pitch on the Monday, as promised. And they were, in fact, quick, smart and reliable – and knowledgeable and friendly too. They completed a big, messy job in the boiling sun in about three hours without any fuss or bother, gave me a clear, intelligent refresher course on the care of the new pump, and cleaned up after themselves. And, when I got the bill and saw they’d charged me only R300 for ‘shared travel’, I realised that they must have found another job to do in the same area – a little fact they certainly didn’t have to tell me, so they’re honest too. What a pleasure!

A note re Twisp electronic cigarettes: they’re great. I haven’t smoked a real cigarette since 1 January. I really love smoking, so going cold turkey wasn’t an option for me, and Twisp fills the gap nicely. And, bonus: the galloping psoriasis I’ve battled with for years on my arms and feet is slowly but surely clearing up.

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Coming soon… a brand-new human!

baby2My daughter Isabella will have her first baby in July, which is exciting news for us. She and daddy Ryno are very happy and looking forward to a whole new adventure.

I’m unsure how to feel about being a grandmother, since I’m only 48, which doesn’t seem to me to be old enough, although my own mom became grandma to her first natural grandchild at age 48, and she’d already been a grandma to my brother’s adopted daughter for several years by then. Also, I’m not really over the experience of being a mother yet – but maybe this will be a good thing, if I can just segue the whole have-you-got-clean-underwear-on, eat-your-veggies-they’re-good-for-you schtick into grandmotherhood.

It’s been a long time since I was pregnant but I do clearly recall getting the positive test back for what turned out to be Isabella, and feeling very frightened because I knew that the baby, once grown, was going to have to come out, one way or another. With my son (my first child), I tried one way through a 22-hour labour; he had to come out another when a doctor smelling strongly of wine did a sloppy emergency caesarean at some ungodly hour of the morning.

I was, it must be said, a clueless hippie who genuinely thought labour would be such a breeze that all I’d need was a game of Scrabble to keep me amused between contractions and a lollipop to keep my mouth moist (because, thanks, Lamaze teacher, that’s what you told me). It was as much a surprise to me as it was to my then husband and the hospital staff when, 16 hours in, I went completely demented and started screaming for narcotic intervention. (My husband: ‘Remember, sweetie: candle breaths.’ Me: ‘Candle breaths?? CANDLE BREATHS?!? YOU breathe like a fucking candle! I WANT DRUGS!!!’) I admit it wasn’t my finest moment.

And then, after the hard work of delivering the baby, and just when you need and deserve a nice long rest, you discover, to your disbelief, that for the first six (at least) weeks of your baby’s life, you sleep a daily total of about 30 minutes, and none of them consecutively.

It’s these types of horror stories that I’m trying to prevent myself telling my daughter – partly because I’m obviously wishing her a completely stress-free pregnancy, delivery and new-mommy experience, and partly because, if that turns out not to be the case, she’ll find it all out for herself in due course. She doesn’t need me to say, ‘After you’ve had your first child, you’ll never sneeze again without peeing a bit.’

Adventures with Harry

tackling a spider Harry the African striped polecat is a total character. Awake, he behaves like the spoilt child he is – demanding attention, biting (often quite hard) when he doesn’t get it, making his body all long and boneless when he’s being held and doesn’t want to be, challenging the other animals (At left, he attacks a very realistic and very large toy spider), pooing in secret places (for later, revolted, discovery by unsuspecting humans), eating voraciously and always enthusiastically on thetiny little pawasleep half out the cupboard move.

Asleep, he’s a Sid the Sloth – he’s practically unwakeable, and he gets so floppy that his long body just drapes over whatever he’s fallen asleep on. [At left, he’s out-for-the-count upside-down on my lap (love his little paw!); and asleep halfway-in and halfway-out the under-sink cupboard.]

For the last week or so, he’s had the run of the garden because he seems to have figured out how not to fall in the pool (following an early mishap) and also how to look after himself – he may be the smallest animal in the zoo but he’s certainly the most aggressive and has by far the loudest alarm call: an ear-splitting shriek that can freeze the blood in your veins. His favourite daytime sleeping place (he’s nocturnal) is in one of the henhouses, which has lovely warm little straw nests for him to curl up in.

But a few days ago, late in the afternoon, a neighbour came knocking, asking if we’d lost one of our animals. ‘Could be,’ I said. ‘What animal is it?’

He looked unsure and said, ‘Um… a skunk?’

‘Yes, that’s Harry,’ I said, and accompanied the neighbour next-door to fetch the little monster. Apparently Harry had forgotten, that day, that he’s nocturnal, and had spent most of the morning playing with the chickens, and then the afternoon exploring the neighbour’s property. He (and we) are fortunate that he wasn’t stolen (or, worse, injured or even killed), and plans are now afoot to build Harry his own custom cage to keep him safe.

In this video, he ignores the various bowls of water dotted around the house and garden for all the animals, and quickly gets in on the act when Isabella tries to have a drink of water from her own glass.