Thankyou, thankyou Vince Vaughan…

… for not pairing yourself off with one of the young-and-lovelies in your latest movie, The Internship.

internship
I’m so thoroughly sick and tired of leading men of a certain age being romantically partnered in movies with women who are just much too young for them. Men may age more gracefully than women (although, truly, how much is this because we’ve been conditioned to think that grey hair on men is distinguished while the same on women is old-croney; and that men with lines around their eyes show character while the female equivalent is called ‘crow’s feet’?) but for those of us with eyes in our head, it’s still jarring to watch a romance unfolding on screen between a man who’s clearly way too old for his female counterpart.
I suppose it doesn’t help that I’d just watched Hugh Laurie (aged 54) get jiggy with Leighton Meester (aged 28) in The Oranges. I really admire Hugh Laurie’s prodigious talent, which is saying a lot because I grew to so loathe his persona in House that I stopped watching it; but even taking into account Meester’s character’s aggressive sluttiness in The Oranges, it was still pretty icky to watch her kissing the old guy from next door (who happened to be her father’s best friend – double-yeuch).
I was thoroughly put off these ‘May-December’ onscreen matches back in 1992, when the reptilian Michael Douglas, already then a somewhat scaly 48, played opposite the sizzling Sharon Stone, a truly stunning 34, in Basic Instinct. When he donned that ridiculous V-necked sweater (which showed his nasty old man boobs and wrinkly neck) to rub up against Sharon Stone (looking like a goddess in gold) in the nightclub scene, my eyes threw up a little.
A similar thing happened for me in Up Close and Personal a few years later, when a grizzled 60-year-old Robert Redford locked lips with Michelle Pfeiffer – one of the most beautiful women in the world at 38.
I was under 30 years old myself back in those days, and had been freaked out by my fair share by ‘old men’ coming on to me at nightclubs – to be fair, anyone over about 35 I considered to be ancient, but the principle stood: I wasn’t impressed by their hip-and-happening-ness, hanging around clubs and bars on the weekends with people half their age; rather, I wondered why they weren’t home with their wives or helping their kids with their homework.
Anyway! The movie The Internship is very silly, but I really enjoyed watching it. It’s a great underdog-makes-good story and the fact that it was filmed on Google’s actual campus in California made it even more appealing. The one thing that prevented me really getting into it was waiting for the inevitable moment when one of the male leads (Vince Vaughan, 44 and looking it; and Owen Wilson, 45 and hanging on by his fingernails to that tousle-headed surfer-dude look) hooked up with one of the very young female interns. I was gigantically relieved that didn’t happen, although Owen Wilson’s character did get together with Rose Byrne’s workaholic manager (Rose is 34 in real life) – so they didn’t quite manage to sidestep the temptation to pair one of their older male leads with a much younger female star.
Harrison Ford, that icon of midlife crises (when he hit his 50s, he got his ear pierced and married Calista Flockhart), was also recently paired with an unbelievably (literally) younger woman: in Firewall, his grizzled 63 years are cozied up against the luminous Virginia Madsen’s 44 – a yawning 20-year age gap that made me grind my teeth. And there are plenty of other recent examples of this mismatching: Denzel Washington (pushing 60) and 35-year-old Kelly Reilly in Flight; 49-year-old Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley (27) in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World; and 61-year-old Liam Neeson and 29-year-old Olivia Wilde in Unknown.
The only onscreen older female/younger male equivalent that jumps to mind is Kim Cattrall, the ever-older woman in Sex and the City – and her almost unfailing ability to lure younger men into her bed is unashamedly attributed to the fact that she’s prepared to do anything sexually; basically, she’s a big fat slut.
So, once again, thankyou, Vince Vaughan, for not getting off with an implausibly younger female in your latest movie. And please don’t do it in any of your future movies either.

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I don’t want to boast or anything…

…but this is where we live!

Last weekend, Richard, Axel, Jason and I climbed up to the letters above Riebeek West. It’s a lovely energetic walk, about 30 minutes uphill for those who don’t wish to die prematurely of a heart attack; and the last part is more or less vertical and strewn with loose stones, so expect to slip and slide a bit. But the views are spectacular – it’s really worth the effort!

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Above: If you look very carefully on the slope just below the very prominent ridge about halfway up the mountain, you can see the letters spelling out RIEBEEK WES.

Below: The view from the top of the ‘I’; Jason standing on the rock.

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Above: The view across the valley from the top of the ‘I’.

Below: Richard and I and ‘I’.

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Another step closer to a grown-up house

For the first 10 years I lived in this old house, there was never any money for anything but the absolute basics – repairs to faulty geysers, occasional patching of crumbling walls, DIY paint jobs that were painfully obviously DIY, makeshift plugging of holes in the roof. Practically all my furniture was either hand-me-downs or gleaned from secondhand shops; kikois covered some windows although most were bare; not a single room in the house could be considered finished.

Then, all in a rush, I sold my Yzerfontein flat and so was able to pay off some big debts; and my kids left home – and suddenly I had a bit of disposable income. At around the same time I gave up all my vices except chocolate, which resulted in a fairly substantial saving each month. So I began spending money on my house.

It’s been a slow but very satisfying project. I’ve now got the most amazing garden; inside, spaces that I’ve ached to change for years but have never had the money for have crept into being; I own some real grown-up furniture for the first time in my life; and I’m slowly replacing the kikois on the windows with beautifully custom-made blinds.

The latest room to get a makeover was my bedroom. (I’d considered leaving it until last but I spend so much time in it that I moved it up the list.) It has only one window, so it’s always been a dark room – although it gets glorious morning sun, by 11am the light is on the other side of the house and lamplight is needed inside. Not only that, but its long wall is a north-facing one, so it gets fantastic winter sunshine – but because there are no windows on that side, the interior of the house gets none of the benefit of this, with the result that the room is as cold as a witch’s tit in winter. I knew its walls were riddled with damp because in places I could stick my finger right through the plaster.

So I engaged Lood, my ever-trusty handyman, to do the necessary, and within a week he’d installed a high window that lets in light but not curious eyes; and which will catch winter but not summer sunshine (thanks to a combination of the high angle of the sun in summer and how deepset the window is). He’d also stripped, treated and repainted all the walls; and the wooden trim is no longer that ghastly dark-brown and yellow-beige, but a lovely clean sandstone-cement colour.

bedroom before b

Above: Before

Below: After

bedroom after b

‘I absolutely loved it’

 

That’s a direct quote from Nesha Wakelin, a happy reader of Life on a Permanent Wave: Hair-raising Stories from a Shipboard Stylist. ‘Although I was a Carnival [cruise lines] girl and the book is mainly about the QE2, I absolutely loved it and it bought back some amazing memories,’ she wrote on her Facebook page. ‘While reading the book I felt like I was living in that world again. I recommend anyone who has worked on ship buy this book.’
blue cover
Take Nesha’s word for it! If you don’t have your copy yet, there are various ways you can get one.

Buy the paperback
If you’re not South African (and therefore not hobbled by a weak currency), the paperback is very affordable through mail order. It’s available from amazon, here.

If you are South African and you live in the Western Cape, please speak to Richard about ordering a copy from him.

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If you pre-ordered a book from Richard, it’s arrived – here he is, above, at his salon Just Gorgeous, with the books.

We sold this first batch of paperbacks for R160 per copy but we’re going to have to up this to R180 per copy for future sales. This is mainly because we do have to pay shipping/postage on the copies we order in bulk. According to a highly placed source in the local publishing industry, that isn’t an outrageous price for a paperback – she says that it’s not uncommon to pay upwards of R220 for a similar book in a bookstore.

Get the e-book for Kindle
Available here.

Get an e-book you can read on your PC, Mac or smartphone
The app is downloadable for free when you buy the book – details here.

If you have any questions, please email me at traceyhaw@mweb.co.za

No, it’s not a sex toy

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These are the cleaning and maintaining instructions for, believe it or not, a baby high chair.

This hilarious ‘Operation Instructions’ manual includes, on its cover, a wavy tagline that reads ‘To accompany and grow up with your baby attentively’.

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Its warnings include casual instructions to ‘fasten the seat belt at any time’ and ‘keep your child in eyes at any time’.

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Jessie isn’t wild about her high chair, which she quickly figured out is actually a trap, designed to keep her relatively still and in one place for longer than 30 seconds.

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Hiking (half) the Harkerville

harkerville group‘If you are unused to carrying a full pack and not conditioned to hiking, this may prove to be a trail too far. Also ensure that you are able to pull yourself up a chain ladder while carrying a full pack or the experience may be … trying.’

That’s what Ralph Pina writes on his ‘outdoor blog’, and he’s spot-on. And while I did indeed find negotiating the chains, ladders and steel pegs with a full pack above roiling seas a challenge, it wasn’t that that got me in the end. It was the fucking boulders.

I must say right off that I realise now that if I’d been wearing hiking boots (as is, ahem, strongly advised), my experience could very well have been different. But I’ve been hiking in the same old takkies for a few years without too many problems and I didn’t see why this experience would be different.

But let’s go back to the beginning, when we arrived at the Harkerville Hut after dark and found a hand-written note taped to the door telling us it was closed and referring us to a list (lying on the floor nearby) of rangers on duty. Fortunately we live in the tech age, so I was able to call someone who redirected us to the nearby youth centre, where we spent our first night. It was perfectly adequate, if a little roomy for just the 8 of us, but considering our organiser, Louise, had booked the trail about a year before, and that Cape Nature had that very morning emailed her to remind her to pay some outstanding fees, it was just slack of them not to tell us ahead of time that our first – and last (but more about that later) – night’s accommodation was closed, apparently for renovations.

The next morning we set off in high spirits, and the first 10km were easy walking on a shady, narrow path through the forest.
forest
fallen tree

I had, in fact just commented on the fact that this hike was proving something of a breeze, when we reached a cliff edge. A hair-raising climb down some wooden ladders and then a near-vertical scramble down to a boulder-beach marked the end of the breezy section – not that I knew it then.
above first boulder beach
down first ladder
down to first boulders beach
While we sat at the edge of the boulder-beach and had a bit of lunch (it was about 12.30pm by that time), Louise told us that friends of hers who’d done the hike advised her that, with only 5km to cover during the rest of the afternoon, we should take our time and loll about near the seaside for a couple of hours.

Thank god we didn’t.

That boulder-beach proved the first in a series, seemingly neverending, interspersed with promontories that had to be negotiated one way or another. I fell heavily on that first beach, which shook my confidence, and from then on I was too tense to trust my balance, which meant that every beach-crossing was an exhausting stop-go for me. I lost my balance and plunged into bushes regularly, relying on fellow hikers to haul me back onto my feet, and amassing an impressive collection of splinters, scrapes, cuts and bruises.
ladder
In between the boulder-beaches were steep promontories that required climbing either up and over (often with the help of ladders), or out and around (sometimes with the help of chains and/or steel pegs).
Louise on chains
This boulder-beach/promontory sequence went on the entire afternoon. The boulders (which my fellow hikers took to calling ‘Tracey’s fucking boulders’, because that’s what I called them) proved my undoing. Even when, towards the end of the day, my sister pointed at a path that shot straight up a cliff in the full blaze of the afternoon sun, and I realised that it would have to be climbed, I wasn’t fazed – I would have climbed 10 similar cliffs if it meant I never had to negotiate a boulder-beach again.

I found the climb tough because by then I was tired, but I took it slowly and got in to the Sinclair Hut at about 5.30pm – the last hiker in, as usual. I had, on walking the last kilometre or so of flat ground (with fantastic views) towards the hut, decided that if the following day was as boulder-strewn as this first one, I wasn’t going to tackle it. I just wasn’t having any fun.
Sinclair hut
Technology came to the rescue once again, and I called up Ralph’s review of the hike on my phone. ‘Day 2 starts out benignly in the fynbos,’ he writes – and that word, ‘benignly’, gave me a shiver. ‘The path then snakes down a spur … where soon after the chain and ladder obstacles begin.’ (‘Obstacles’? Oy.) ‘The coast is rugged, jagged and steep from here and the clambering is more strenuous than on Day 1.’ ‘More strenuous’?? Fuck, quite frankly, that.

Cape Nature once again showed its apparent disinterest in walkers on this hike by not having bothered to replace a broken kettle at the Sinclair Hut. This may seem no biggie back in civilisation where boiling water comes at the flick of a switch, but when you’re longing for a cup of tea or coffee at the end of a strenuous day, the lack of something to boil water in can cause near-dementia. Louise phoned the ranger, who arrived 20 minutes later with … a potjie*.

There were two things about this that irked: the first is obviously the unsuitability of a potjie, still coated with the grease of the last stew cooked in it, to boil water for tea or coffee. The second is the inappropriateness of our hiking into and through what feels like wilderness all day, only to have a person in a car pitch up in the evening. It completely spoils the get-away-from-it-all feeling that most hikers walk for hours to achieve.

The next day, my sister and aunt chose to walk with me back to Harkerville, a lovely ramble along about 8km of logging roads and through forest.
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The other 5 members of our party went on to do the official second day, and that evening one of them remarked that the fynbos on the outgoing path was quite overgrown, which made us wonder how many people actually did tackle the second half.

More horrifyingly, on our way back through the forest, we met an outbound party of 6 – a dad and mom, and 4 teenage girls (presumably their daughter and her friends), all of the teens looking decidedly unthrilled. It was the girls’ first hike and none of them looked in any way, shape or form ready for what lay ahead: one was sick (she coughed and blew her nose repeatedly while we stood chatting) and another was exhausted, having apparently just flown in from Italy the day before; a third actually asked one of the adults if she could walk back to Harkerville with us. I noticed that all the girls were wearing running shoes, not boots. I was really irritated with the father, who said he’d done the hike before and was aware of the degree of difficulty. Why subject 4 clearly unwilling teenagers to a hike of this strenuousness on their first trip out? I can almost guarantee, with the Harkerville as their debut experience, none of those girls will ever tackle a hike again.

We’d already been told by the disorganised folk at Cape Nature that our third night’s accommodation would be in a hut similar to the Sinclair Hut – ie, without electricity, hot water or showers – which all of us agreed wasn’t on. Instead, we booked into the Harkerville Forest Lodge, where the friendly and easygoing Siegie made us feel very welcome and comfortable. To anyone tackling the Harkerville Coastal Hike, I highly recommend the surprisingly affordable Harkerville Forest Lodge (with its clean showers, swimming pool, koi pond, landscaped gardens, pub with TV, sunny breakfast room and other amenities) for your last night’s accommodation.

* For non-South Africans, a potjie is a 3-legged pot designed to go over an open fire and used to slow-cook layered meat-and-veggie stews.