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.

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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.