Jobcentre leads me to Milk

what have you been doing to look for work Mr Monkey?
Water is no longer allowed

I was disconsolately meandering back from the Jobcentre Plus where I had discovered that I was not eligible for jobseeker’s allowance. Apparently I should never have gone there in the first place, but the consultant who set up the appointment on the phone didn’t ask me the right screening questions.

About to leave the Jobcentre, I was thirsty. I asked if I could get some water. The security guard told me the government cut the budget for the water-coolers and the plastic cups, so no I couldn’t. Is there no water piped into the building? Do the staff just not drink anything all day?

Regardless, the government still had budget for several security guards from G4S.

Milk Bottle
If the place looked like this, I would not have gone in

Still thirsty, I looked for a place to get something to drink. Milk is a drink, so an establishment with that name caught my eye. I didn’t actually order any milk to drink though.

It looked a bit of a hipster place, and the Milk website confirms my suspicions (look at all those retro film filters on the photographs). Who cares? The food was outstanding. I ordered the Cashew and Mango salad. It is not something I would have enjoyed as a child. The flavours were too nuanced and complex. In short, it kicked ass.

I also really enjoyed the mismatched antique cutlery that sits on the tables, and the old weathered wooden benches.

If you happen to be in Edinburgh (I hear there is a festival on the go there at the moment, so you just might be), you should absolutely go to this place.

I’m probably not enough of a hipster to hangout there too much, but damn the food was good. The coffee too.

Little Neil’s 3rd (Decade) Birthday Party—Story

3rd Birthday InvitationLittle Neil, being me, is actually all growed-up now. I suppose that, despite what I like to think, I’m not all that happy about being 30 years old. This conclusion is obvious when one considers that I hired a jumping castle for my 30th birthday party.

But so what? Jumping castles are awesome!

If you couldn’t make the party because you’ve gone overseas (or just never made the migration to Joburg) I missed you. The more jumpers on the castle, the merrier it would have been.

Not only was there a jumping castle, we also had Zoo Biscuits, Chomps, Creme Soda, and Sparberry. Adam and Nadia seemed to think that Pick ‘n Pay’s No-Name brand Creme Soda and fake Raspberry soda didn’t cut it. “It just doesn’t taste as good,” they (especially Adam) argued.

“Elitists!” I labelled them.

As retribution for my venemous attack, they left behind the bottle of Sparberry they brought. Now I have a full bottles of both varieties of imitation raspberry drink—disgusting. Why didn’t people drink the stuff? It was a 3-year-old’s party. At least the Creme Soda was polished off.

Even 3-year-old children cannot survive on crisps and sweets alone, so we also provided a vodka-soaked fruit punch. To this day the remains of it lurk in the fridge, although about two-thirds of it was consumed on the day.

Hamburgers were prepared as lunch. Since 3-year-olds should not be allowed near fires, the grown-ups cooked the burgers on the braai. By grown-ups I mean, my dad Tony and Angie’s dad Bill. None of my friends complained about the burgers, so good work Dads!

Launch 2
Peculiar jumping castle sports

The jumping castle provided plenty of laughs, but kids these days have such short attention spans that they were quickly looking for something else to do. Fortunately the party organisers had prepared for this eventuality by arranging for incredible party games—with incredible prizes! Of course, along with the short attention span, these kids have become so cynical and they disputed the magnificence of the Made-in-China Bought-at-Crazy-Store plastic toy prizes. I guess they all want cell phones or something.

Pass the parcel
Pass the parcel about to be initiated

Game playing did take place, and the worthy games master, my mum Annie, made sure that no cheating took place. We had Pass the Parcel (won by Jenny) and Pin the Tail on the Donkey (won by Rachelle). The parcel was thoroughly wrapped as only Mum could do—layers within layers within boxes within other boxes within more layers. Every seemed to expect the prize to actually be in the parcel, and so it wasn’t long before they were complaining that the “incredible prize” was most likely to be a small piece of fruit, or possibly a nut of some sort.

Ungrateful bunch.

Mother pins the tail
Pinning the tail on the Donkey Ass (despite treachery)

Pin the Tail was no less tricksy with my mother at the helm. The donkey was twisted and turned and cunningly rearranged so as to fool the participant. Expecting such trickery, I pinned the tail on the donkey’s neck. The trick for me was that there is no trick. Very Zen. Thanks Mum.

On the cutting of the birthday cake, I was compelled by those gathered around to make a speech of some sort. Boy did they regret that. I think I make good speeches, but I’ve never been too fond of impromptu speeches. They need to be prepared. Plus I was fairly tipsy by this point in time.

So basically I complained that everyone liked me too much because they had all accepted my invitation (almost no-one declined it), thus destroying my budgeting for the party and rendering me insolvent… but it was worth it I quickly added, realising how piss-poor the preceding sentiments sounded. But if you cut through my issues with spending money, you’ll see how I was actually really pleased with the turn-out. Hopefully everyone who was there had a lot of fun. I know I did, and the fun would’ve been diminished if it was me alone with a jumping castle (fashioned after a clown, so in fact the fun would have been creepified).

Although I ended up not hiring a clown, Dave provided a clown service absolutely free, and provided a beautiful demonstration of how to use the jumping castle in a most exciting manner. Thank you Dave!

There was also the incident of the destruction of my son’s favourite soccer ball, and I have the ruffians Quinn, Gareth, and  Chris to thank for this. They devised a number of peculiar jumping castle sports, and one of them seemed to involve the ball. The ball rebounded off one of their heads, struck a rosebush, and deflated. Their excuse-making is best illustrated in pictures. The rest of the party pictures reside on Flickr. Click here to see them

Saga of the burst soccer ball 1

Saga of the burst soccer ball 2

Saga of the burst soccer ball 3

Saga of the burst soccer ball 4

Saga of the burst soccer ball 5

I have a dog who eats socks

My dog’s name is Kelty. He is known to eat socks. Literally eat socks. Not just chew holes in them, but actually devour the fabric.
He also eats other underwear, baby clothes, and anything that smells and tastes dirty or like baby formula.

This is Kelty:

Kelty Welty Dog
Kelty Welty Dog

We have several nicknames for Kelty. One of them is “Fats,” because he just is. Another is “Welty” or “Welts.”

I complain bitterly about the things he destroys, but I complain the most about my lost socks. I have no matching socks left, and wearing mismatched socks makes me a little sad — though I have come to accept my fate. To ease the pain a little Angie bought new socks for me, to replace those that Welts had devastated with his insatiable appetite.

Read the label. I’m not sure these socks are going to last too long, or at least the lycra bits won’t.

Lycra in all welts

Birthday Observations

Angie turned 28 yesterday.

As part of the celebratory activities, we went for dinner at The Observatory Restaurant.

The restaurant is part of the Aloe Ridge Hotel which is situated in a game reserve. I didn’t properly register this fact before arriving there. The reality of a restaurant inside a game reserve was driven home to both of us as we drove there.
The tarred roads ended and we drove upon the dirt roads. Depending on where we were along the road, the quality of the road surface sometimes left much to be desired. As we drew closer we were warned to drive slowly as there might be hedgehogs crossing.
Didn’t see any though. Perhaps this was because of the next warning sign which mentioned the crossing of rhino and hippos at 40km/h. I felt a little more nervous at this point, but I figured they wouldn’t want to stampede over my car.

Once we finally reached the restaurant (for some reason I was surprised that it was placed near the top of a ridge) we got out of the car and were met by zebra.  Up close and personal. They wandered over to us and seemed to expect us to provide them with something to eat. When we didn’t oblige, they ambled off amicably.
We started to follow them since they were headed in the direction of the restaurant, but another restaurant patron stopped us.

“You can’t go there. There’s a rhino in the path.”

Ha ha. These jokers.
And yet there was a rhino in the path. I took some photos, but they came out blurry since I wasn’t brave enough to use the flash and risk enraging the rhino (who seemed a little restless in any case, especially when it started herding the zebra).
Eventually the hotel staff herded us to the restaurant and the security of brick and mortar.

Food at this restaurant is excellent, and I highly recommend it.
In addition, during the night one is called from their table to take a look at the night-sky. I vividly saw a cluster of stars on the edge of the milky-way that appeared as a fuzzy, barely discernible blob by the naked eye. I saw another galaxy, beyond our own.
My understanding was that we would also be shown a comet, and possibly other sights during the evening. Unfortunately we had to leave a little early because the Neil-and-Angie-Spawn was making Angie tired and nauseous. Even so, we both had a wonderful time and are probably going to be forced to return in the future.

The Breakfast of Champions!

It wasn’t long ago that people were describing custard on toast as an “unusual breakfast.”

How times have changed. More and more people are adopting the Custardy way of life.
Just the other day I persuaded my friend Rob, out from the UK, to give it a try. He added a little innovation of his own, first spreading strawberry jam on the toast for a treat most heavenly.
My brother Stuart has been converted, and has promised to evangelise about custard/toast combinations in Cape Town.

First they ignore the custard on toast, then they laugh at the custard on toast, then they attack the custard (with savoury spreads), then the custard on toast wins.

Anniversary celebrations at Valverde

Way back on the 30th of August, Angie and I anniversaried! That’s four years of married love (plus five earlier years of unmarried, sinful love of the flesh).

Valverde buildingsWe went to a place called Valverde Country Hotel for one night. It’s situated in Muldersdrift, along the M5 beyond Oakfield Farm.
It being situated beyond Oakfield Farm is significant, because we were married at Oakfield Farm. Sneaky me.

I didn’t tell Angie where we were going, so as we drove past Oakfield she suddenly looked a little perplexed. Hehe. I was a sneak.
After a little while she eventually asked where we were headed, and I refused to say.

As we came into sight of the place, the first thing I noticed was the sign advertising Paintball. I was already a little nervous about the whole thing because our anniversary is special and I wanted the venue and the experience to be beautiful. I was quite worried that Angie wouldn’t like it, and since I hadn’t been there before there was no sure way of me knowing the quality of the place.
Signs advertising paintball at a supposedly romantic venue gave me cause for concern.

Fortunately, as we drove in it became apparent that the paint ball facilities were situated on one side of the property.

On checking in, the receptionist seemed to take a liking to us, and upgraded our room to the honeymoon suite (something I’d kind of asked for when booking, but hadn’t received confirmation on). Nifty!
The room was wonderful, with four-poster bed, rose petals on the sheets, and complementary champagne. Everything had dark wooden finishes, and all of the windows were fitted with blinds. When we arrived, the room was clean and tidy (it didn’t stay tidy for long, but that had nothing to do with the hotel). The only improvement I could suggest was that the on-suite bathroom be fitted with a larger bath. We could both fit in the bath that was there, but it was a little bit of a squeeze. Seriously, honeymooners want to share a bath with enough space for movement.
But even if the bath wasn’t big enough for movement, the king-size bed certainly made up for it.

The venue itself has lovely, landscaped gardens, with fountains and pillars (but no gnomes). The gardens edge towards kitsch, but stay far enough away from the full-blown cheesiness border to maintain the illusion of authenticity.

Valverde Gardens (with fountain!)Angie in the garden, with the pillars. Angie is not a gnome
We walked in the gardens and took in the fragrances of the herbs that were planted there. It is unfortunate that the metropolis is slowly encroaching on Muldersdrift, and evidence of human activities nearby are very prevalent. Occasionally busy roads pass by the venue, and if you are looking for a complete sense of isolation, Valverde might not be your best choice of venue.
No-one was playing paintball while we were there, but I imagine that had people been playing while we were there our experience may have been a little different (although not necessary worse). Valverde is also a wedding venue, and I sincerely hope they never double-book weddings and paintball sessions. There is an open-air chapel, and the paintball area has line of sight of it. Certainly potential for a Gary Larson “trouble brewing” comic panel.

Albino llamaWhile exploring the venue we discovered two llamas in an enclosure. The discovery of the llamas played a big part in how much I enjoyed the venue, but I am a little quirky.

We went for dinner at the restaurant and, thankfully, there was no llama on the menu. I’m not sure what they keep them there for.
The restaurant had a set menu, with a number of options, which included a vegetarian selection — something which is very important to me. The food was outstanding, and I highly recommend eating there. The service was perhaps a little slow, but we weren’t in a hurry. We could excuse slightly slow service because I’d gone and been a little difficult.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we found it in a thatched roof building with fluorescent lights mounted high up. The lights cast a harsh glow on the room, and it wasn’t subdivided at all. Not exactly the most romantic setting.
I was difficult because I went up to the waiter and asked whether we could set up a table in a more pleasantly lit environment. I identified a lovely spot just outside the restaurant, where the light from inside filtered through the window providing a much more appealing, muted lighting. Out there it would be possible to hear flowing water from the fountain. The skies were clear and starlit, and the temperature that night was quite comfortable. Add some candlelight and I was certain the ambiance would be perfect.
I asked that they move a table to the desired spot, and provide me with a candle and fire with which to light the wick. The staff were completely accommodating, very helpful, and overall friendly throughout the exercise.
As I mentioned, speed of service (but certainly not quality) was slightly impacted upon, but understandably so considering how we were no longer in the restaurant.

If you are looking for a spot to get away for a night, don’t want to travel too far from Joburg,  and don’t want to pay any of your limbs, give Valverde a try.


Yesterday we tried a bottle of Gôiya. As a wine, it wasn’t too bad. Not brilliant, but reasonable.
It is exported to the US market, and amusingly to me includes a Surgeon General’s warning about drinking while pregnant, or operating heavy machinery.
The real amusement is not the Surgeon General’s warning, but rather the marketing blurb on the back of the bottle. You may require your cynicism cap if, for some reason, you don’t keep it on at all times.

Gôiya means wine in the language of the San people. Their unique subsistence lifestyle, now under threat from the modern world, is the inspiration behind this wine.

WestCorp International, one of the largest single producers of wine in the Southern Hemisphere … [is] ideally situated to produce excellent red and white wines.


Yip. Our old friend, ad-watch, is resurrected today on a whim.

I bought myself an Aero Cappuccino. They’re cheaper than the mint one’s for some reason.
On the packaging, in a little text box, is written

Good to remember
Relaxing with AERO bubbles will help you unwind.

I think I should call Nestlé’s consumer services line and query the scientific validity of this bold claim.