Category: tandem blog post


edge

i stumbled upon a piece of a blog called Literary Lion, [who i believe to be Laura Gabrielle Feasey who you can find on the Twitterer as @laurafeasey], in which there lay a challenge to write a 400 word or less piece titled ‘Edge’ and in the absence of regular Tandem Blog posting, i decided to take up that challenge and so here is mine, i hope you will enjoy, or something:

EDGE

David woke up with an impressive jolt.

He’d had that dream again. The one where he was the guitarist that Bono had picked to be in his world famous rock band. You know, U2. Yes, THAT U2. Except that he hadn’t been picked, had he? Because his name was not “out there” or cool like ‘The Edge’. His name was David.

Big world-travelling hit-producing rock bands didn’t choose people named David as their guitarist. They chose someone who people would not make complete eye contact with, who you would half-smile and nod to as he entered the room and quietly made space for him to pass by. They chose someone called ‘The Edge’.

“I could have been The Edge”, thought David, whose last name was Evans. David Evans. You don’t see people getting excited about screaming that name into an announcer’s microphone as a legendary quartet set the stadium on fire. Metaphorically, that is. They didn’t actually set the stadium on fire. Although with U2, who knew what they might try? David Evans clearly didn’t. Because he was lumbered with that sad, ridiculous name?

What if he’d told them that his middle name was ‘Howell’? That was slightly interesting, wasn’t it? I mean, not by itself, but maybe snuck in between the two most boringest names he could think of, maybe ‘Howell’ was just what was needed to have helped him force entry into the band?

David Howell Evans. He whispered it again. As he finally climbed his way out of bed and started getting dressed.

David. Howell. Evans. He liked the sound of that. If he had applied to be a member of the group that would Wow the world with ‘Boy’, by giving them his whole name like that, maybe it would have been he who was synonymous with not being able to find that thing you had misplaced on a badly signposted road somewhere on a clot-ridden Sunday afternoon?

David Howell Evans pulled on his jacket even as his face continued to shout to anyone who might have been vaguely interested that he was sulking. Pouting, even. That could all have been his!

Yet here he was, stuck in a hotel room somewhere in the middle of who knows where, doing he couldn’t for the moment remember what.

David looked up and caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. “Oh, right!” he exclaimed out loud.

edge

i hope you enjoyed reading that – make sure you check out the home page for Literary Lion and all the other entries for this challenge… and maybe consider writing one yourself…

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Following closely in the footsteps of, ‘Breaking Bread [with Trev]: Changing Your Mind’ comes ‘Finding the Words’, the second post in a Tandem Blog Conversation piece which sees a conversation of 5x100ish words each, this time on the topic of the languages we speak [or don’t]:

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Brett: My wife and i started learning isiXhosa just over a month ago which is exciting and long overdue. With a hope of being involved in conversations dealing with race, unity, reconciliation it felt like an absolutely critical part of the relationship building that is happening and still needs to. You are all about connections Trevor and the focus of your blog is on positivity and life. What are some other ways you have discovered that prove helpful when it comes to bridge-building or drawing people together?

Trev: Languages are absolutely key at drawing people together and I am embarrassed that I can only speak English well. I have taken stabs, but need to understand and get over the barriers that stop a proper effort. John Mcinroy is putting in big bridge building efforts. I think that he and Robert Le Brun did this year walking from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades, was an incredible additional step. What we have spoken about though, is how much better it would be for conversations if, while talking, the talking could be in languages which make people feel comfortable and connected.

Brett: i think it is one of the biggest blind spots and areas of entitlement [wow, there’s a minefield word i haven’t gone near yet in my blogging] in South Africa right now. The expectation that someone of another race should speak to me in my language. And i say ‘blind spot’ because it’s not an intentional choice most of us have decided on. We’ve just always had it and so it becomes a natural expectation. Which perhaps is entitlement in its worst form. Hopefully a rich arrogant racist tosser already knows in part that they are that, but for us ‘normal folks’ just trying to live well we perhaps need to be shaken a little bit more by the reality of this?

Trev: I think we need to admit that English is a very useful language. People want to learn it. I found being in Sweden and Finland instructive. They welcomed me speaking English as a chance for them to practice. I didn’t have to do the ‘speak in Afrikaans and then hesitantly mention English’ thing I was taught to do in France. The fact is there are thousands of small languages that don’t have the global support of movies, books, theatre, music etc. that make them easier to learn. Think of the difficulty Gluten Free people face going anywhere other than Starbucks and McDonalds. As Global Citizens, I think showing an effort… learning Please, Thankyou etc. and learning any other languages is the important thing. Learning to empathise with the difficulty of struggling to get your point across.

Brett: Perhaps it is a little different in South Africa because of the sheer numbers. English first language speakers are in the minority and so expecting someone to speak in your language [which might be their third or in some cases seventh or eighth even] feels a little lop-sided. I imagine the same would apply in Sweden or Finland if you lived there – that you would need to make a bigger effort to speak the local language. The first step is definitely learning greetings and the basics but my personal conviction has been that I need to try and learn as much as possible so as to start bridging the gaps. Actually the process of learning from and with someone can be huge as a means of relationship building in itself.

Trev: Absolutely, living somewhere makes a difference to which languages you would choose to learn. I like the idea of being a Global Citizen, and so in trying to prioritise which languages to try I have been looking at where it could open up the most connections. French and Arabic seem to me the most useful in an African context when combined with English. Because of its dominant colonial history, Spanish is one that would open up many conversations. Gabe Wyner from ‘Fluent Forever’ is doing some epic work on language learning. His method starts with the most common words, and getting pronunciation correct. Then it is all about creating connections to words, so you aren’t ‘translating in your head’.

Brett: i should take a look at that as i can definitely use as much help as i can get. My wife and i are studying through an organisation called Xhosafundis  but there is huge emphasis on finding a practice partner to meet with regularly and to just be brave and start speaking to people you meet on the street. The theory can be helpful but you need to dive into what feels like the deep end [what if i mess up? what if i’m embarrassed? /oh no. Really?] to really see how your language is coming along. A little bit of embarrassment, laughter [on their part] and stuttering [on mine] feels like it is worth it if i end up being able to engage in some kind of meaningful conversation starters at least. The Global Citizen question really changes this whole conversation. Mandarin, anyone?

Trev: It does. Zulu, my first stumbling attempt at a third language has 10 million native speakers. Roughly the same as Czech. Xhosa, my second stumbling attempt at a third language has about 8 million. About the same as Belarussian. Mandarin (935m), Spanish (390m), Hindi (310) and Arabic (295) are in a different league. Borders are stupid. I think we live under a system of Global Apartheid where passports are dompasses. Learning to get over the emotional stumbling blocks and getting to the point of a Xenophilic exchange of flavour is very exciting. We can choose the best from everywhere and build a bigger tribe. Social media helps make borders redundant, but I am very aware that all of my exchanges are currently in English. Learning a new language is like getting a new passport. It opens up the world.

by Jroehl

Brett: That is true. But it does feel very overwhelming and when you put it like that [in terms of your border talk] even more so. One language we can all speak and understand feels like the way forward but i imagine none of us will be too quick to volunteer that that language not be our own. We clearly can’t learn every language and be able to have everyone in our tribe or community and so it makes sense to me that this becomes an area we are intentional about. Understanding which language groups of people are most going to be in the circles i choose to move in i should make my language learning decisions based on that. But at the very least be prepared to step beyond the comfort of just doing and expecting everything to be done in my own language.

Trev: I think the key point is a shared journey of going beyond our comfort zone. I am no expert on the starting, but think most of the barriers are emotional rather than walls that can’t be broken. Google Translate and Artificial Intelligence might help us with the factual translation. Imagine a world where we have personal UN style translators sitting in our ears. I am a big believer in making small attainable goals. Creating habits. Your suggestion of having groups and people who want to learn helping each is a good one. Partnering with someone who wants to learn English and speaks a language you want to learn sounds like a great idea. Like a running buddy, feeling some sort of responsibility towards them gets you out of bed early. After all, it isn’t the language that is the important thing. It is the relationships.

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You can take a look at Trevor Black’s first guest post on my blog, titled ‘One Person who Gives me Hope in South Africa’ as well as taking a look at his blog, ‘Swart Donkey’.

[To see our conversation about People Changing their Mind Mid Conversation, click here] 

This is the last post in a series of four Tandem Blog posts where Dave Luis and Megan Furniss and myself have each picked a title and the three of us have written whatever it has inspired in us. So far we have done That Nagging Feeling… followed by 37 Million Miles… and lastly Boundaries. The fourth and final title was opened up to the Facebook and the most popular suggestion was by Valerie Anderson aka tbV [the beautiful Val] and it prompted the following piece. Be sure to read Dave and Megan’s pieces once you have finished with mine and if you like them, please leave a comment and tell us why…

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twit

The Age of Outcry

It was the best of crimes. It was the worst of crimes.

He stared at the newspaper headline, unable to believe his eyes. Although ‘newspaper headline’ felt like a bit of a misnomer as this barely 60 word information snippet had been buried all the way back on page 9, opposite the local entertainment page, where non stories came to die. Or began their mere breath-of-a-life relatively stillborn.

Yet there it was. ‘Another cheetah killed by hunter’. Another cheetah? Poor bugger didn’t even get a name.

One of the lost girls coughed anxiously behind him. Poor children. Ever the eternal optimists. But it was his turn now and he wasn’t going to hand over the newspaper so quickly. They could drink in their disappointment later. He hadn’t even attempted the chess problem yet.

But the front page? The opening page of yesterday’s newspaper was announcing Woman’s Day – the one day in the year when men were supposed to treat woman as people, or something. Get their own damn coffee for a change or something equally as life-transformative.

He glanced across at his Twitter feed. #AllAnimalsMatter. He liked that one. It was good to see the #BlackLivesMatter movement using his moment to refocus the world on them. He had even chuckled out loud at the meme. COL. That should be a thing. He made a mental note to start using it.

Clicking yet another tab to see how Facebook was faring, he quickly noticed that all the rainbow-faces which had given way to pics of him [or one of his ‘kind’] were now largely filled with an assorted arrangement of pictures of statues with women’s lingerie hanging off them.

Cecil sighed a deep sigh. “Must be cancer awareness time again.”

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Be sure to check out the other amazing posts with this same title with:

roid

37 Million Light Years

It arrived on the screen as a message of hope: “37 Million Light Years”

The number seemed so ridiculously large that Corporal-Sergeant Janet Witherspoon wondered how it had ever been cause for concern in the first place. How does an exploratory spacecraft fitted out with all the latest technology still somehow manage to mess up so badly? ‘Human error’, she thought to herself. Living in a futuristic society beyond anything most people could have begun to imagine even 60 years ago, the harsh reality was that human frailty still got to play a part.

Still, everyone else in the Terminus was in full-on celebration party mode. She should probably go and join them.

7 days ago, there had been the world-shattering announcement that there was a body from space hurtling towards the planet at break-neck speeds. Everyone had sprung into action from scientists  to NASA hierarchicals to the military, but no-one seemed to have any kind of theory or plan of action that provided much help. The most immediate move that could be made would be to send an unmanned probe directly into the path of the object to try and collect some more dependable data to give them some kind of idea just how much time they had.

Janet’s eyes paused on the screen once more as the flashing numbers seemed to be trying to get her attention. That nagging feeling that she had had the week before was back. 37 million? Why did the number seem so familiar to her?

The probe had launched successfully. Four days later it had been able to pinpoint within 0.3 of a parsec the expected trajectory of said body and since then had been making super sophisticated calculations which specialists at the station had been reviewing and trying to draw accurate conclusions from. Space debris, wind vectors, planetary gravitational pulls and of course the frequent showers of meteors in its path all meant that it was nearly impossible to know exactly when and where it would hit, if anywhere at all and so minute by minute, and hour by hour, the calculations continued to furiously be made by man and machine alike as they had to adjust and realign and recalculate once more.

If anything, the silver lining on this cloud had been the Dispersement. Even twenty-five years ago, an event like this would have meant the end of the human race. But with the advent of inhabitable space stations and locating three other planets able to sustain life meant that humankind was now more spread out than any single tragedy would ever be able to touch. A week ago the likelihood had been strong that one of the planets was within range and so the big question the calculations was predominantly trying to answer was ‘Who is in the line of fire?’

Janet shut her eyes involuntarily as a wave of nausea hit her and it was all she could do to keep her lunch down. Kepler-186f! What were the stats on that again? She flung her arms into the air directing holographic computer screens to do her bidding as she searched for the number she was seeking. Kepler 186f was the first planet they had discovered in the habitable zone of another star that had a similar radius to earth, and the second new planet the Dispersement had targetted.  Discovered by NASA’s Keplar spacecraft using the transit method [along with four additional planets ruled out because they orbited much too closely to the star] it had provided much of the initial research and prompting to move out at all. Where was the information she was looking for?

And suddenly there it was, in front of her, blinking on the screen. The party music in the background drowned out Janet’s agonised shriek as the familiar digits lined up in a way she was hoping she’d been mistaken about as she slumped back into her seat:

Planet: Kepler-186f

Governer: Sardun Ahlop [a popular leader from the Krouton quadrant, now in his third year]

Population: 37, 036, 219

37 million! The number was too close to be a lucky coincidence. How did it work again? The probe directed the information to the researchers and scientists who worked the data and then sent the results to Command Centre via voice recognition software and it got displayed across the main screen for all to see.

This was not human error after all. The message they had received which gave them the impression that all was well was not the message of hope they had received at all, but rather a pronouncement of a present tragedy that had already taken place. Bloody voice recognition software!

Numb and frozen in her seat, as the tears streamed down her face, Janet whispered the intended message to herself:

37 million lie! Tears…

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Be sure to check out the other amazing posts with this same title with:

And we’re back – just three bloggerists this time, but two amazing story-tellers joining me for another season of Tandem Blog posting. Join myself, Megan and Dave as we take the same title and give it our own personal and unique flavour…

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THAT NAGGING FEELING

‘Gently does it. Keep your speed average. Not too fast. Not too slow. We don’t want anyone suspecting anything out of the ordinary.’ Nick was talking to himself in his inside head voice again.

But everything was out of the ordinary. Nick Jenkins had been planning this moment for two years and as he tried to remain calm as he drove down the main road and made a right on to the highway, his mind was in absolute panic mode.

‘You did it. Everything happened absolutely according to plan. You have gone over this a thousand times and today, this day, everything has gone according to plan. Stop worrying. You are only going to cause yourself to make a mistake.’

Nick glanced at the clock on the dashboard. He had synced it with the satellite time and checked it three times today already. 23 minutes. Twenty three minutes until the bomb goes off. More precisely his bomb. The one that he had made. From plans he found on the internet. ON THE INTERNET! That fact still drove him a little mental. That he was able to find a way to craft a bomb in one tab while playing a ‘Words with Friends’ move against his mom on another. He still felt a little embarrassed at making the word ‘COCK’ in a Scrabble game against his mom. But she would know he meant the bird and it had allowed him to put his ‘K’ on a triple letter!

‘Are you sure you kept to the plan? You’re very nervous now and nervous people make mistakes.’ Nick systematically went through the plan in his head as he indicated right and then made to turn off the highway, now just a few streets away from his home, where he would be far enough away to be as shocked and surprised as the general public when the announcement flashed across their tv screens.

It was the perfect bomb. No mistakes there. He had checked and rechecked and made sure that he had kept to the plan. The miniature version he had put together and tested in the local quarry had gone off perfectly and so there was absolutely no reason to assume this more powerful model would be any different.

‘I will show THEM. They will be sorry that they treated me so absolutely disgustingly. As if losing my job was not bad enough, for them to embarrass me so disdainfully in front of the whole office…’ Nick realised this was really extreme, but he reconciled it with the fact that nobody was going to get hurt. He was going to hurt the company. And it was going to cost them a lot of money. More money than if they’d just kept him on and allowed him to try a little harder. He had made absolutely meticulously sure that everyone would be out of the building. Cleaners and everything. The building would be as empty as his impending bank account.

Right turn. Two streets to go until the safety of home. Nick replayed his movements as if watching them on a camera. ‘Gloves on. Security cameras disabled the night before. Each piece of the bomb bought at a different location over a 6 month period so there was no way even two of them could be placed together. Bomb checked and countdown started before leaving his house, giving him plenty of time to make it there, place the bomb and return home just before it goes off.

‘Why is it something doesn’t seem right? Surely i’m just psyching myself out here? I know this. I’ve gone over it and over it until it is so deeply engrained in my mind that there is no way i could…’

Nick turned into his driveway, mind suddenly racing. ‘Wake up. Get dressed. Check bomb. Set bomb.’

With a foreboding feeling now surging through his entire body, Nick is starting to visibly sweat as he grabs the car keys and walks nervously to his car boot.

‘Put bomb in car. Cover bomb. Drive at average speed on practiced back roads route to office so that car would not be seen. Arrive at office.’

As he shakingly tried to turn the key in the boot, the realisation hit him like a waft of hot air completely knocking the breath out of his body. In his hurry to ensure that he was in and out of the office with no one noticing, with no-one in a neighbouring office perhaps remembering that his rust blue mazda had been the last car seen parking on the edge of the car park, he may have forgotten one tiny detail.

 Nick Jenkins finally managed to get the unwieldy key to turn and flipped open his car boot to catch sight of a digital display, attached to a bomb, still sitting in the back of his car, displaying the numbers, ‘7…6…5…’

bomb

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Be sure to check out the other amazing posts with this same title with:

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

…No! It’s Jonty!

And with one scoop of the ball and full-on dive into the stumps, Imzamam Ul Haq was run out and Jonty Rhodes changed cricket fielding. For. Ever.

jontydive

Until that point i had kinda watched cricket a little bit and tried to pick a guy – Richard Snell – to be my guy. But to me it was this weird, alien confusing beast that kept getting me to peripheral glance towards it and acknowledge its presence with a slight nod, but not too much more.

In that moment i suddenly had a guy. And a reason to watch. And support. And embrace and wear all the highs and lows [and believe me there were lows – being a South African cricket supporter is somewhat like winning free tickets to an 8pm movie screening at Cavendish, before realising, as the lights go down, that it’s to watch Adam Sandler’s latest ‘thing’.] that come with it.

Being a Jonty supporter was the same. As much as he was the world’s best fielder EVER [and i will gladly punch anyone on the nose who suggests Ponting or Gibbs was better] his batting regularly left a lot to be desired and his career was marked with a series of almosts and could haves and not quites… with the occasional 50 or 100 every now and then just to timeously extend a lifeline to his career for one more series. But his fielding made up for it. “15 to 20 runs on the board before he even went in to bat”, they would say.

catch2

And they were right. But it would be a year later, in Mumbai, that would prove it to the world.

On paper the result would look like a normal, if not sub par result. South Africa beat West Indies by 41 runs chasing a meagre, by today’s T20 standards, 180 which they had scored for 5 in a whole 40 overs [Now they do it in 20 without blinking].

But it would prove to be a day that would set the cricketing world alight as on the 14th November 1993, Jonty Rhodes [who had already scored 40 off 42] ran and dived and threw himself around and at the end of the night held the world record for cricket catches in an ODI by a single fielder.

5 catches in all. And it happened at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai.

What was particularly incredible about the achievement is that Rhodes did not field at slip, where you could understand five catches being taken, especially with South Africa’s famed fast bowling attack. He fielded at point, and at least 3 of the 5 looked a little something like this:

jontycatch

Magical. Mesmerising. Miraculous.

The Brabourne stadium in Mumbai erupted, not unusual for an Indian stadium packed to the brim, even though the home team was not even playing. Fireworks and chanting and banners and celebrating all over the place being the norm. It was like no place on earth could have topped it at that very moment…

…excepting perhaps for the lounge of 18 Markham Road, Claremont.

where a series of five over-the-top-throat-numbing screams had prompted a knock on the front door…

on the front door of the house, separated from other houses in the street by the usual driveways and gardens and gates…

and an obviously irritated neighbourly father figure looking at me sternly with ire bleeding from his eyeballs…

“Can you please keep it down. My children are trying to sleep.”

“Mmm… bye.”

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This was my latest offering in a series of Tandem Blog posts where we are given the title and this week nine of us valiantly attempted to write our most inspired piece thereon. The other legends, who i encourage you to go and read are:

Cath: https://cathjenkin.wordpress.com

Scott: http://squidsquirts.blogspot.com

Kerry: http://www.kerrycontrary.com

James: http://www.jamespreston.org

Megan: http://www.meganshead.co.za

Sarah: https://medium.com/@ricegirl2

Dave: http://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com

Nick: https://medium.com/@nick_frost

[To read the stories that have happened in the journey so far, click here]

i am loving being a part of this Tandem Blogging series with 8 other very creative and very different individuals. There is the dual satisfaction of having a very focused piece to write on a topic i didn’t choose [which is incredible for creativity] and then also the thrill of bouncing from post to post once we’ve released them, to see how differently each writer interpreted the title each week. Last week was my favourite week out of the 5 i have been part of, and despite this week’s title being a little more dangerous, i am looking forward to seeing how everyone tackled it. Hee, hee, i said ‘tackle’.

So read this one and then please take a look at as many of the others as you can and please do us the honour of sharing any of these that you really enjoyed:

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Tonight you’re mine, completely

Draft 1: Tonight you're mine, completely.
Draft 2: Two Knights. You're mine. Complete. [Leigh]
Draft 3: To Knights, Ewe are mine! Compete? [Leigh]
Draft 4: Dear Members of the Round Table. The female sheep belong to me. Wanna fight about it? [Lee]
Draft 5: Deer members. Get off the round table. Wool bearer ownership decided. A duel? [Lee]
Draft 6: Buck! Remove yourselves from the wooden table! A knitter has been duly decided upon.
Draft 7: The buck stops here. Unstable. A familiar pattern has been selected.
Draft 8: President. Unstable set. Recognition. Choice.
Draft 9: A precedent has been set. I recognise this in the one I have chosen.
Draft 10: Tonight you're mine, completely.

join

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Having read the rest of the posts for this week i feel like everyone has done some amazing incredible work and so please give yourself some time to read at least a few of the others, if not all of them.

The writing is all different flavours of great, but which one will be YOUR favourite this week?

Cath: https://cathjenkin.wordpress.com

Scott: http://squidsquirts.blogspot.com

Kerry: http://www.kerrycontrary.com

James: http://www.jamespreston.org

Megan: http://www.meganshead.co.za

Sarah: https://medium.com/@ricegirl2

Dave: https://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com

Nick: https://medium.com/@nick_frost

[To return to the first Tandem Post i took part in with the theme of ‘Meeting the Queen’, click here]

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