Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986

Security Knickers

Other children have security blankets or well-worn teddy bears. The snortlepig, it seems, has security knickers. They are mine. They are red. She dives for them the moment the underwear chest is opened,  wears them on her head and pings them around the room. Today I had to hastily remove them from around her neck, where she’d slung them like a necklace, because I thought the courier was coming. And I no longer wear them, because I am afraid if they go in the wash she will transfer her affections to another, better-loved pair of knickers and stretch them into oblivion.

What does it mean?


  1. So I wangled a bunch of characters for my practice novel out of thin air, and half a plot to boot. This is well and good, but I need a villain, or at least some form of dramatic tension. Maybe some entity with a moustache.
  2. I think I need to trim the snortlepig. I made her a lovely top which looked, if anything, too big in the making: and now it won’t fit over her squish. I am remedying the situation by lacing the back up corset-wise, but it is not ideal. I did, however, overcome the butterflies in my tum and attempt buttonholes for the first time. After many rippings-out I achieved a set of the sorriest-looking buttonholes ever to grace a garment; but at least the plunge has been taken.
  3. The space bar on my keyboard issticking, which makes me want to KILL THEWORLD. See?
  4. We finally finished the X-Files – including, against sound advice, the second X-Files movie I Want to Believe. Which was rubbish. And it could have been spectacular if they’d only continued with the bally arc (and omitted Mulder’s pedophile haircut and Scully’s greenish dye job and anorexic makeover, and so on, obvs.). So that was depressing. But I was a bit disenchanted with Scully ever since she had the baby anyway. It’s sad when shows leave one with a slightly bitter taste in one’s mouth when they’re over, but I really did enjoy the X-Files around seasons 5-7ish… so that’s something. We’re now finishing off Dollhouse, and thence on to catching up on a few seasons of The Office. It will be nice to watch something with fewer autopsies: the snortlepig has started saying “yucky” when Scully uncovers figures on gurneys, and will probably end up twisted in the head.

Interior Decorating

Somewhat to my astonishment, Helpdesk Man and I passed the police check for having a homestay student. The next step is to be interviewed by a nice lady called Loretta and have the student’s room inspected to make sure we aren’t planning on chucking her in a rat-infested hole in the floor. Which is a doddle in theory – well, except for the interview, which will probably prove us to be antisocial semi-loons with supralapsarian leanings – only the homestay student’s room currently contains fourteen boxes of junk left over from moving house, a large plastic bag full of used coffee grounds, and no furniture.

So I am once again scouring TradeMe. According to the terms and condishes of homestay-student-having one has to provide it with a bed with a Good Quality Mattress, a desk, a chair, a lamp, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe. Privileged little blighter. I don’t even have a lamp. Anyway I was thinking of going for a vaguely shabby chic-cum-Anne of Green Gables dormer room kind of look, with a splash of French Country thrown in. Dusky pinks and greens and creams, kind of demure, an old-fashioned writing desk if I can get one, that sort of thing. We specified a girl homestay student, so hopefully the pink will not be a problem; and it’s a style I like well enough that when the room eventually becomes the snortlepig’s room, I won’t feel the need to rip it all out and start afresh. Hopefully.

Of course, the tricky bit is that one has to decorate the room before the interview, so if one fails one is not only out a supplementary source of income, but the price of a roomful of furniture. Still. We will prevail.

I had a cunning thought the other day. If I am to be making most of the snortlepig’s clothes from now on (and it seems I will, both because it amooses me and because I am Agin the clothing industry and hand-me-downs have slowed down to the merest trickle since she left the baby stage), it makes sense that they all match. Currently she has a pleasing conglomeration of handmade and bought items in varying clashing shades, and only about two tops go with two bottoms on a good day. So next time a new season hits or she grows out of things, I plan to go to Spotlight with a tiny colour palette in mind and buy five or so fabrics – a few solids, maybe some dottos or stripes and a floral – that all mix and match, and then make her clothing accordingly. It seems frugal. Plus, I can then look back fondly on her childhood photos and say “Oh yes, that was during your blue period”, and date contested family holidays by the hue of her trousies. And it’ll force me to make clothes she actually needs, as opposed to things I want to make (case in point: she is currently inundated with tops and rather lacking in bottoms).

Right. I now need to go and complete my hour of fiction writing for the week. I have successfully managed to do my hour of housework every day, even going so far as to do an extra hour the day before we went to the beach (more on that later). None of the editors I queried have gotten back to me about my print articles, though; nor have I utterly mastered the Road Code; and I totally forgot about the fiction writing thing until now. I should really use this time to work on My Novel, but I’m getting rather sick of it; perhaps I’ll start something new. We shall see.

Oh, yus. Question. If you were a nearly-two-year-old snortlepig, and it was going to be autumn/winter when you were twoish, what kind of colours would you want to wear for that season? I fancy dove-grey at the moment, but it might be a little drab for a toddler. D’you think? Dove-grey accented with blue or possibly maroon? Maybe I should save that particular combo for when she’s a sedate matron of four.

Star Wars

The outcome: Peridjinndalmationwhatsername liked A New Hope enough to watch The Empire Strikes Back, but did not feel a pressing need to continue on to Return of the Jedi – excusable, because it was after midnight at that point and we are not as young as we once were. (With the exception of the snortlepig, who napped from Tatooine through to the Imperial Walkers, then perked up and spent all of Dagobah and Cloud City bopping around the living room, sitting on people’s knees and taking their empty candy bar wrappers to the bin. Then as soon as everybody left she marched into the bedroom and said “Bed” very firmly. This is the second time in a week that she’s asked to go to bed – maybe our lazy anti-routine attitude has finally reverse-psychologised her into a Ferber toddler. Maybe I should deny her vegetables in order to imbue them with alluring mystique.)


Sorbet and Snortlepants

So, Star Wars in a few hours. Luckily I got a head start on cooking last night – we watched Julia & Julia instead of Up as we’d planned, and I got inspired and started peeling onions at 9:45PM. The snortlepig helped. She is good at onions. So the kidney bean sauce is simmering away in the crockpot, the mince just requires seasoning and cooking, and I’ve made the mango sorbet and strawberry sorbet. Actually I’ve made the strawberry sorbet twice. The first time I made it I found it a bit on the sweetish side, and being confident and well-adjusted immediately started to worry that people would think less of me as a sugar-gobbling shill with no appreciation for the natural subtleties of fruit. (This is a Thing we me. I think it stems from growing up with sisters who ordered orange juice when I was wanting milkshakes. It is only in recent years that I have learned to man up and order a caramel milkshake and fries if I want them, even if my sister is ordering a vegan panini and spirulina at the shop next door. It’s so good to grow as a person, don’t you think? Anyway.) So I ruthlessly halved the sugar in the next batch, and it turned outr wimpy and pallid. So I melted it down again, added some more sugar and will shortly plonk it back in the machine to freeze anew. Never let it be said that I lack commitment to my Art.

On the subject of Julie & Julia, I finally got around to looking up Julia’s blog today, and was faintly if illogically surprised to see it looked just like the one in the movie (for the record, atrociously ugly). She comes across better in the blog than the movie – wittier and better at cooking and generally less cutesy and Meg Ryanish. And that’s not a slur on Amy Adams, who is awesome: it was a badly-written character, and Nora Ephron is culpable. For one thing, it sounded like most of her lines were taken from her blog (although I haven’t read enough of it yet to determine whether or not this is the case). Who says “Dreading, dreading, dreading” in real life? And another thing – which was also an issue in You’ve Got Mail, Nora, sorry – people don’t emote when they blog. With their faces, I mean. All those shots of Amy and Meg sitting in front of their laptops, eyebrowing and grimacing away to their voiceovers? Doesn’t happen. Look in an internet cafe sometime. Does the glassy, vacant-eyed, slightly grumpy stare emitted by the average inhabitant give you the slightest clue to what he is typing? No, it does not. It could be a sonnet, a thesis or a Dear John – you just don’t know, because we don’t feel the need to toss our little heads and smirk in synchrony with our thoughts.

Of course, I realise she was probably just trying to jazz up the inevitable eighteen scenes of Julie sitting in front of her laptop, and perhaps she thought the glassy-eyed stare would have gotten a bit much after awhile. But still. There’s “winsomely perky”, and then there’s “I want to chuck you in a flotation tank for eight straight days and we’ll see if your cute bob is still bouncing around your cheekbones then, wench”.

Yes, well.

I made some shorts for the pig today. At least, they were supposed to be shorts: I realised too late that snortlepigs have a crotch-to-knee measurement of about an inch, so they’re kind of three-quartersy.

I like ’em. The button detail on the hems pleases me, and the ungathered panel on the front waistband (which was due to running out of fabric and having to piece the band) gives the thing a vaguely sailory, Donalf Duckish, Frenchish air which the pig carries off rather well. I can see this in beige and blue for a boy, can’t you?

Helpdesk Man artily arranged these standing up by themselves on the couch. Very Dr Seuss.

Helpdesk Man artily arranged these standing up by themselves on the couch. Very Dr Seuss.

Button detail on hem of trousies

Button detail on hem of trousies

The snortlepig, struck by a momentary panic: "Is my squish still on?"

The snortlepig, struck by a momentary panic: "Is my squish still on?"

"Smile for the camera", I said, and she did this. She didn't get biddable photogenicity from my side of the family. Freak.

"Smile for the camera", I said, and she did this. She didn't get biddable photogenicity from my side of the family. Freak.

So, yup. I gotta go wash my hair. It’s got a sort of “Anglo-Saxon warrior after a week of battle” vibe, and one cannot watch Star Wars with hair like that. It would be disrespectful to Princess Leia.

PS: Helpdesk Man had the grace to admit that the “Sherlock Holmes” movie was a bit rubbish. We may make it to our fourth anniversary after all.

A Number of Matters

The snortlepig and I have broken a cup each this evening. I wonder what it portents. Thirst, probably.

You know how one occasionally buys a kitchen appliance and then never uses it? I have personally moved the majority of the food processor attachments from house to house three times, while being absolutely convinced I will never use them. Yet somehow, I can’t bring myself to break the set by chucking them out. What if Helpdesk Man loses his job, the snortlepig requires a brain transplant and I have to sell the food processor on TradeMe in order to afford a pair of nifty wristlets?

Beside the point. Where I was going with this is that our new ice cream maker (Helpdesk Man’s present to me and vice versa for Christmas) is not one of those items. We’ve had it for ten days and have already used it five times… seven by tomorrow. I love it dearly. Lemon sorbet, frozen Coke, vanilla ice cream, butterscotch maple ice cream and strawberry sorbet so far… and another strawberry sorbet and some mango sorbet are in the offing. For the record, sorbet is an excellent answer to the question of What to Feed One’s Vegan Sister, as well as What to Feed One’s Lactose-Intolerant Friend.

Speaking of lactose, the snortlepig has finally mastered the word “milks”. Until today, I had thought that this was a good thing – arguably more subtle than clawing at my chest, would you not think? Only today I was sitting on the piano stool at church, eagly alert for my cue to play “I Stand Amazed In the Presence”, when the snortlepig eluded the clutches of Helpdesk Man and ran up to me shouting “Milks!” Helpdesk Man had to carry her down the aisle as she shouted “Mummy! Milks! Mummy! Noooo!” in full-blown tragedy voice. The congregation was most entertained. I think I’ll pack a cosh in my handbag next week.

You will be happy to hear that so far, I have not broken any of my New Year’s Resolutions. On New Year’s Day, despite the fact that it was a public holiday, I put in my time and did my hour of housework. And didn’t I feel smug! I have also made some progress on the road rules, although it may come down to working the psychology of the multi-choice quiz rather than actually knowing the rules. The test is kind of passive-aggressive, so when it says things like “How fast can you drive if you see a school bus letting off wee cherry-cheeked urchins?” and the options are A) 20 km/h, B) 3o km/h, C) 40 km/h and D) 50 km/h, you can just tell it’s waiting for you to tick D and then scream at you “FIEND! BLACKGUARD! WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!” So you tick the holier-than-thou-est answer listed, A, and lo and behold, you are right. (Don’t even get me started on its smugly leading questions about the Effects of Alcohol.)

Tomorrow Betty Scandretti, as she is known to her adoring fans – Uncle Bizzy, as she is called by the snortlepig, and practically my only sister – is gracing our township with her presence. The plan is to watch Up while Helpdesk Man and Betty’s somewhat male nattily dressed counterpart go out to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. This is partly a Plan B occasioned by the inability of the snortlepig to behave in a movie and the inability of my mother to babysit said pig, on the grounds that her home became inundated with fleas while they were on holiday (!) and has to be fumigated. However, let it be noted that I am also not attending “Sherlock Holmes”* because, if the trailer is any indication, it is a travesty and a farce and should be boycotted by all right-thinking people. K? 🙂 (Uncle Bizzy and I were going to see The Lovely Bones, but it is not to be. Up is smashing, though.)

Then the following night, several of my dearest friends (a phrase virtually synonymous with “only friends”, for the record, meaning “ones I can run into without having to say things like “Hey, didn’t you have a baby?” and “So are you and, um, still – no? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Oh, well, OK then!” “) are coming over to eat nachos and watch Star Wars. As little as watching Star Wars needs a reason, we actually have one – my belly-dancing friend codenamed Perdita, it transpires, has never seen it. Can you imagine? And I met her working at an arthouse theatre, of all things. So this is very exciting. We have managed to work her into a state of cautious anticipation, and will do our best to avoid peering at her avidly and nudging her in the ribs to make sure she takes in all the good bits. From time to time I feel a moment of panic, thinking “What if she doesn’t like it? S– from the movies didn’t like it. What if she thinks it’s rubbish?”… but then my inner Yoda calms me, replying “S– is dead inside, and Harrison Ford will work his magic. You are trying too hard. Do, or do not. There is no try.”. And then I am calm anew.

Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars, then? I will always associate it with Raro, a repellent powdered drink mix, because I first saw it on TV with the Raro logo popping up at vital moments. It wasn’t as earth-shattering an experience as the first time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring or even The Princess Bride, mostly because I initially watched half of The Empire Strikes Back late at night and didn’t have a clue what was going on, and had to get my friend’s little brother to fill me in weeks later on who was doing what. But it was still pretty awesome. And much more memorable than my first taste of Star Trek. (“Dark Page”, the one in TNG with Deanna’s dead sister. I mostly remember a lot of shots of people climbing down Jeffries tubes… not exactly the stuff of legend.)

Also, I am making the snortlepig a pair of shorts. And the mango sorbet is almost done, and tastes pleasing. And that is all.

*I usually italicise movie titles. This is not an inconsistency. Those are scare quotes, meant to indicate a withering sneer at the thought that THAT film is worthy to lick the boots of the great detective himself. K? K.

New Year’s Resolutions

Right. After much deep thought I have finalised my list of New Year’s Resolutions. Here they do am.

Now I need to figure out some kind of spreadsheet dealio to put on the fridge and tick things offa, because we all know ticking things off is the essence of success. (Or crossing things out, if you swing that way.)

I also need to hunt up my old road codes. I’ve been taking this test several times a day with increasing levels of success, but I’m still a bit fuzzy about the colour-coding of cats’-eyes and tbe exact applications of the Give Way rule. Once I figure out the soonest time I can go in to take the test, I’ll make a plan of study. (Does anyone know? Do you have to book, or can you just show up?)

Last night we had a successful if sparsely attended braai in order to celebrate the New Year. We drank peach-flavoured grape juice (forbidden under Levitical law, but extremely nommy), watched Zombieland and got sat on by the snortlepig.

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