Monthly Archives: August 2016

The pool

Our journey to install a pool began some six years ago. At the time we were just moving into our newly renovated home and we had the option of getting the pool done at the same time. After much debate and seesaw decision making we eventually elected to wait a few years until our son, then about nine months old, was pool safe.

Eventually, we arrived at that magical point where our eldest was not only pool safe, but learning strokes and our youngest was proficient enough to plop in, make his way to the side of the pool and climb out on his own. So we found a pool company we liked the look of and submitted plans to the rubber stamp gods for approval. The first on the approval list being the home owners association that approves all building work done in the estate to make sure you don’t install a smurf windmill or build a replica of the Playboy Mansion grotto or indeed even commission a train station to be built on your property because you’re really into trains and have more money than sense. The approval process then moves to the local town council where someone presumably reviews the plan you’ve submitted in order to find a place on it where they may ‘ink’ it with the stamp they carry around with them for eight hours every working day. For this you wait two weeks – if the universe is aligned in your favour. Otherwise you wall till the day after hell has frozen over.

Once everything was approved, the pool guy arrived on site bright and early and his team broke ground with shovels and in just a matter of hours, there was a problem. A very large pipe had presented itself like a fossilized dinosaur leg running across the width of the pool. The pool guys dutifully dug around the pipe which was eventually left suspended over the pool like a tightrope while we tried to figure out what it was. What followed was a series of tests of every tap, toilet and shower inside and outside the house, followed by a gutter and storm water pipe test using the garden hose. Not a single drop appeared in the pipe – which was now sporting a rather handy new ventilation/window feature curtesy of one errant pickax swing.

Eventually we just cut the pipe and dropped the shell of the pool into the hole. The pipe and whatever it was initially designed to carry away was buried again and unless the fountain of youth suddenly explodes out of my new lawn at some point in the future, I’m going to assume the pipe was a dud. Big assumption, I know. Still, ignorance being bliss, I’m strangely ok with that.

After the shell went in, the builders began to fill the pool using our garden hose. Some twenty four thousand liters of filling as it turns out. The utility bill for this arrived at our house via hand delivery by the mayor riding in a horse-drawn carriage. Receiving a utility bill that size probably would have been ok if I had had something soothing to go with it like a steel cup full of moonshine or jelly tequila in a teapot or indeed even a harem of belly-dancers distracting me while I read the big numbers – but I had none of those things – instead I had a Rastafarian paver show up at my door to install the paving slabs around the pool.

He looked sleepy, but willing.

The initial round of paving went in around the pool over the course of a week or so but this was a less than perfect experience to paint it in the best possible light. At that point we were about two weeks into the pool process. Four weeks later and the paving had been done several times over in exactly the same way. It was as if the paver was using a Stone Age axe and chisel in lieu of a grinder and measuring his cuts using a joint. Each time we agreed with the artisan that if the cutting didn’t go well after the very first cut, he would stop and we’d reassess our next move. But somehow that message didn’t get through and we’d come home at the end of a day of paving to find more paving stones lying around in various states of decomposition and the paving looking more or less exactly the same as it had the previous day. All carefully cemented in place, just waiting to be earmarked for replacement accompanied by my rising blood pressure and indignation.

It should be noted that when I arrived home on those days, the pool guys had by then always made good their escape so there was never any chance of me bludgeoning one of them repeatedly with a stone axe crafted from one of the several hundred shards of sandstone scattered about my garden. Silver linings…

Then there would be a period of cooling off where nothing would happen and then the cycle would repeat itself in a Groundhog Day fashion. All the while, the pool was a dark green, thick as pea soup, swamp-like looking mess, filled with building rubble, all manner of sand and stone, one stray hessian sack, several thousand small and very dead insects and possibly a few hardy amphibious creatures. In a world without consequences it would probably also have hidden a body by this stage. In short, it was not very inviting for swimming in.

In addition to that, every day our boys would gather around the pool with us and ask the most pertinent question of all, “Can we swim now?”

The answer was of course always no, because the pool was not clean. One day, the little guy spotted the automatic pool cleaner, the Kreepy-Krauly as it is affectionately known in South Africa, sitting in its box on the patio and asked me what it was. I said, that is a pool cleaner my boy. He immediately rushed over to it and set about trying to open the box asking us why we couldn’t just unpack the cleaner and throw the bloody thing into the pool already.

Ok, so he didn’t say ‘bloody’. But the tone he used definitely indicated he meant to say it. This then was the very question I asked the pool guy. Can we just get this pool cleaned already so that my children can swim in it? I think I might have even quoted a favorite television show of mine; How hard can it be?

And so finally, Friday the 27th of November 2015, our journey was almost at an end. It was D-Day. The pool guy promised on his nether regions to be finished on this day. My children were wound to the snapping point and I suspect that if the pool had not been cleaned, I would have had to drop the boys off at the pool guy’s house so that he could deal with their very justified indignation. In the end though, the pool was cleaned and that evening, the minions lept into the clear blue, solar heated, water with all the abandon of water sprites.

I too was very keen to have it all done by that day. It had been a long winter and summer had officially arrived in my city so I was more than long overdue for my first swim of the season in the privacy of my own home. With the winter fat still clinging tenaciously to my midriff, I was not what one would call ‘beach ready’ so a private swim was definitely in order.

Also, swimming at home has the added benefit of not being restricted to a speedo which, let’s face it, is not going to look as fetching on me as it once might have and also not having to resort to boardshorts  which, at my size, weigh more than a sack full of garden gnomes when wet.

My first swim in the pool then was therefore, inevitably, ‘free willy’. Literally. Any neighbors looking in through the recently thinned out trees and shrubbery around the border of our property, would have been subjected to my awesome flabbiness covered in hair, in all of its dimpled, rolled and anemic pale glory.

And to that I say, voyeurs beware.

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The danger zone

So now we live in a house where there is a danger zone. A zone which, when breached, results in anything below your knee being subject to an aggressive assault complete with growls, grunts, barks and bites. It extends from the front door, throughout the entire house. The zone excludes the upstairs study, because there is a baby gate in place there and it excludes the couches, chairs and beds (for now) because there is the small matter of legs being comprised almost entirely of paw and not nearly enough leg.

The puppy that patrols this zone is now well over ten kilos in weight and growing by the day. She seems to operate in cycles. There’s about an hour of frantic activity where the zone is patrolled looking for chewable artifacts. So that’s basically anything left lying about, including feet. The brown fluffy bear in the blog image is taking a hit because he wasn’t able to get on the bed in time. This phase of activity is followed by a cool down phase where she’s still alert, but not actively patrolling the zone probing it for points of weakness. She can however be coaxed into action by one filling the cat’s bowl with kibble or indeed by the cat simply making an appearance from the other dimension she hides herself in during the puppy’s activity cycles. Finally there is a genuine rest period where sleep decends on the little creature and her ears cover her face while she snores and chases the cat around in her dreams.

As an aside, I’m not sure she’s going to make much of a guard dog. Her nose is acutely sensitive and can smell food from anywhere on the property and in any tense. But her long flappy ears, which if frozen over could function like wings on a glider, seem to be quite effective at blocking out sounds. Especially those sounds uttered in high pitched voices screaming words like ‘No’, ‘Stop it’, ‘Bloody hell’, ‘Ow’, ‘Ouch’, ‘Dammit’ and ‘Outside’.

She has several of these cycles in a day and interposed with them are three separate feeding times. Aside from the opportunistic pillaging she does in the cat’s bowl, she gets around 200 grams of puppy science diet a day spread over three installments. She supplements that with other foods from a range of food groups like fluff from pillows or plush toys, the odd piece of Lego, slippers and wellingtons, the bases of couches and beds and of course anything that you happen to drop on the floor in her presence be it animal, vegetable or mineral.

We’ve managed to teach her to ‘sit’. Though really, on its own, that’s not such a prodigious skill for her to have learnt to execute on command. Sure she sits, but then the moment you break eye contact with her, she launches herself at your shoes, pants, socks, feet, shins, calves whatever. I think we should probably have started with ‘stay’ as the first command for her to learn. Hindsight being 20/20, that would have been infinitely more useful. We could then have, for instance put her in her bed, said ‘stay’ and then operated normally while we got on with supper, breakfast, dressing, showering etc.

Instead we find ourselves constantly warding her off with foot shakes and shrieks of ‘no’. Actually, I’m beginning to think she’s probably confused about her name at this point, we say it so often, it might as well be ‘no’. The little guys have taken to operating like they’re lost boys in Neverland. They dart from the safety of the couch to the table or bed. It’s almost as if they’re using happy thoughts and fairy dust to fly around the house.

Fortunately, night time is sleepy time and after supper, she usually settles in for the night and can be transferred to our bed with one quick comfort break detour outside on the way. Did I forget to mention she sleeps on our bed? Yes. In the mornings, we now have a mom and dad, two imps and a Bassett Hound all crammed into a queen-size bed. On the plus side, it is an extra-length bed, that I was tall enough to have warranted, but only my feet sleep comfortably. The rest of us are left with unenviable choices like, do I move the dog from a perpendicular position in the bed to a parallel one and run the risk of her waking up thinking playtime has just started, or do I vasbyt and endure the knots in my back and cramps in my legs. It’s a tough call sometimes.

Lately we’ve been palming her off onto the bed of the little guy who seems so have developed a special bond with her that not even the Mom (who is the main feeder) has. One night last week I found him sitting up in bed, at midnight, staring at her – she was snoring with her  ears over her face. I couldn’t quite figure out if he’d woken up to find her there and decided to watch her sleep or if he’d woken up to find her there and was waiting for her to leave. The little guy is somewhat mercurial in that way.

She is, in a word, Armageddon for the garden. Recently landscaped, our garden was slowly growing into itself much like a child growing into an outfit bought two sizes too big. Now there are patches off once pristine roll-on lawn that have huge trenches carved into them that could easily support another trench war the likes of WWI. Every single plant she exhumes is shredded and the pieces put on display on top of the pool cover (which incidentally she uses like a trampoline). She has a bottomless appetite for destruction of property. She’s a force of nature on the scale of say a tornado or a flash flood.

The dog has also, through no fault of her own, introduced a new problem we have to resolve – and soon. She’s been using the cat flap to get in and out of the house. This has been a boon to us but now she’s gotten so big the flap has been knocked off the door and what remains is a gaping hole through which the winter weather freely makes its way into our kitchen. This is not a superfine thing. To make matters worse, she hasn’t stopped growing yet and I’m quite sure that we’re going to come home one day to find her wedged in the door, indignantly barking at the world and then we’ll have to revert to a manual entry and egress system that will be far less convenient. One option is to make the hole bigger and get a new flap for it but that brings with it its own problems. The cat, for whom the flap was originally installed was never exactly brimming with the initiative required to actually open the flap on her own and I suspect will be much less inclined to do so going forward, if we install a larger flap. Leaving the flap open permanently doesn’t sound like such a great way to keep the house warm in winter either.

That said, to backpedal at this stage and try convince the dog she’s not in fact a human and belongs outside during the day (in a dog house if the weather is lousy) seems like a bridge too far given the whole ‘sleeps in the bed’ thing.

In a word….conundrum.


The play station

So as a bit of preamble to my story today, let me tell you about the time I acquired a PlayStation console.

My company rewards performance using a number of channels; one of which is a point-based system where points are awarded that can be accumulated and later redeemed against an online catalog. The catalog hosts everything from toasters to helicopter flips.

One year, I decided to redeem my points against a PlayStation 3 console (PS3). Now this seemed like a perfectly logical choice to me at the time but, hindsight being what it is, I will admit that it probably wasn’t the smartest move.

You see my wife and I were the proud parents of both a newborn baby boy and a very spirited two year old toddler. Our toddler had just been moved from his cot into a big bed and putting him to sleep at night was a like patting a ball of cotton wool to sleep using a Velcro glove. Every time we stepped away from the bed he lept out of it. Our newborn was also having trouble at night with reflux and was understandably quite grumpy about that. We spent night after night, patting his back, doing laps around his room with him over a shoulder getting dizzy staring behind us.

In short, life was busy. There was, as I recall, not a great deal of sleeping going on in our house in any bed. We all felt a little like we were living out an extended episode of the Twilight Zone.

Still, while browsing the company online catalog one day I saw that a PS3 was on offer and suddenly visions of lazy Saturday afternoons lying on the couch playing some kind of shoot-em-up against aliens or driving a Ferrari around a virtual Nürburgring flooded my mind. So I redeemed my points against the promise of escapism into PlayStation land.

Yes, true story. This to the raised eyebrows of my wife who couldn’t see how I was going to find the time to play with it enough to justify even spending the virtual currency of my points on such a frivolous thing.

A week or so later, my brand new box of wishful thinking was delivered to our door and that first weekend, I went out and bought a couple of games, games that cost a small fortune I might add. I rationalized my purchase of the games by telling myself that I got the console for ‘free’. This of course is the very same sort of thinking that people do when they see something they don’t need on sale and then buy it and tell everyone how much money they ‘saved’.

That day, my wife took our two precious boys out for the afternoon to visit her parents (who live about five houses away from us) and I got a comfortable seat on the couch basking in the glory of the big screen television as I hit ‘play’.

Then three hours vanished into the ether without so much as a blink of an eye getting squeezed in. It was like time travel into the future where you arrive at your temporal destination with nothing more than what you left with but you’ve lost a decade. I lost a afternoon and was only pulled out of the void by the arrival home of my wife with baby and toddler and pram and bags in tow.

And immediately, there was a problem.

My wife looked, shall we say, a little piqued. I could only imagine the afternoon she must have had looking after the boys given her fatigue and persistent lack of sleep and I of course didn’t improve the situation by continuing to recline on my couch in a very Roman sort of fashion with the PS3 wireless controller in my hands.

Now I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t just switch everything off and leap into action to take over from her. I can only assume that the few hours of PS3 that I had imbibed, had somehow blunted my capacity to recognize a potentially hazardous situation and take corrective action to avoid it.

Inevitably over the course of the next thirty minutes or so my wife, quite justifiably, boiled over and the net result was that the PS3 was closed into the cabinet under the television and was not touched (literally) for four years.

Time passed and our situation changed where we now have two little guys aged six and four who are always looking for new and interesting forms of entertainment. Their grandparents, having recently returned from an overseas trip to visit my brother in-law and his wife and two children arrived home with literally a suitcase full of Lego and PS3 accessories and games in tow.

Yes. True story. PS3 games.

It seems though that I still haven’t learnt anything. Immediately I went out and bought more accessories for the PS3. My boys and I played the infernal thing for four hours straight this past Sunday and this time when we time-travelled, because it’s winter, we arrived at our destination in the dark.

The difference now though is that my wife understands it all. She understands the promise of PlayStation, where our boys can play together (literally side by side watching the same split screen) without uttering a single clamorous shout for Mom or Dad to do anything for them. She understands the giggles and yelps of excitement as lightsabers and Wookiee’s and Droids do battle. She understands the quirky little shuffle the little guy does while standing up with the camote trol (remote controlin his hands and running on the spot to speed up the superhero avatar he’s playing on screen. She understands that this is what I got a glimpse of four years ago.

And she looked upon the PlayStation and saw that it was good.