Isolation in the time of Plague

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So, this is Quarantine?

Quarantine. Isolation.
Silence but for my own breathing in this mask. I shout again for food, through the sealed door, but nothing. Supplies are running low. I am down to just two 1-liter bottles of duty-free Absolut Vodka, 3 low-carb protein cookies, some cheese, a few tins of tuna, coffee, berocca, 48 Nurofen, some soup and…well ok, supplies are not running low but I have always wanted to say that. I hear happy laughter through the window and yearn for fresh air, for freedom. I tell myself to man up. Bravely, I pour a small daytime Vodka and put on the new season of Castlevania on Netflix. Its not easy, but I soldier on. Wonder what Day 2 will be like?

Isolation Issues

I have stopped the Protein shakes and Creatine. My body is collapsing into pale flab as I watch. Literally, I spend a lot of time just staring at my body. Also at the wall, floor and couch but…those don’t seem to change so much.
I have begun the 1:30 diet. For each Vodka I drink, I do 30 push ups.
Started strong as I was in morning-drinks mode.
Just two shots of Vodka with my coffee as I re-watched last night’s Netflix -total blank due to the previous evening’s night-drinks mode.
Things got tougher around midday – a few more voddys whilst posting outrageously politically incorrect comments on one of the forums I frequent.
Or used to frequent. Seems the mouth-breathing vegan limp d*** ****** ***** ****ers have banned me. Honestly, some people are so sensitive!
Anyway, I fell behind on my pledge and had to thrash out 120 push ups just to catch up.
Now sitting on 330 and sunset is still a way off. Terrified of sobering up if my arms give out.
Thinking about bringing wine into the game, but am I setting myself up for more pain?
Just going to have a half-shot with some diet Fanta while I think about it…

Quarantine Hangover

So last night is a bit of blur.
I woke with an empty bottle of Mezcal clutched to my chest, and wearing a small Mexican sombrero as a face mask. Scorpion from bottom of the bottle is missing in action.
Crushing headache slightly eased by my emergency hangover routine – 3 or 10 Nurofen chugged down with two beroccas, followed by an hour long power-blackout.
Still a bit misty.
I must have watched more Netflix, because I actually felt the base of my skull to see if I had one of those things in there from Altered Carbon.
Pretty disappointed I didn’t.
Remember challenging myself to 50 crunches per glass of wine. Given that I can barely stand straight from the cramps in my abs, I estimate around 8 glasses of varying volume.
Also starving.
Not first-world-problem starving either – don’t think I have eaten for a few days. Although that Scorpion couldn’t have scuttled off on its own. Could it?
On the up side, got through the day without tapping my vodka supply, due to aforementioned withering hangover. Time to stand at the door and beg for food. Something that will go with this rather fetching Bordeaux blend…

Caged Rage

I cannot take this! So frustrating. It’s…stupid!
How…I mean, is this even possible?
No matter what I do that little f*cker Blinky chases me down.
This Iphone Pacman is…broken.
Seriously, my blood pressure.
Deep breathe to calm down before my temp goes up and I think I have the virus again. Then I panic and straight into the Vodka.
Which, you know, ends with me sh*t-faced, knee-walking, blackout drunk.
Then wake up with a hangover, think my headache is from the virus, panic, Vodka…and so on.
Anyway, spent most of the day with my dark grey bath sheet over my shoulders pretending to be Darth Vader. My breathing through the face mask, you see, sounds like Vader. A little.
At some point I challenged a pack of five assholes to a window fight. They were walking by, happy as you like, in a tight little group, sharing breath and possibly the same brain cell.
‘Practice Social Distancing you w*ankers!’ I roared.
They responded with some expletives of their own, and as per my cunning plan, approached the window where I stood, resplendent.
‘Do you know who I am? I breathed in my Vader voice.
More expletives, but nearer still they came.
‘That’s right,’ I whispered, ‘closer, little padawans…’
Unfortunately they heard me, just out of reach, and seemed suddenly afraid. They made some excuse about me having the virus and a mental condition, and were gone.
So close.
There’s always tomorrow. Although…is there?
No! Enough of that talk. The sun is getting real low, and I have made it through to another evening. Time to Wodka and reflect on the days achievements.

Caped Capers

By lucky happenstance, the same bath sheet I used for my brilliant Vader impersonation doubles as a cape for my equally convincing portrayal of a Vampire.
Always wanted to be a Vampire.
The stylish, handsome kind, you understand. Living for eons, attending all the great parties and events in history, slaying the ladies. Not literally though, I don’t really care for blood. Which is a problem, if you yearn to become Nosferatu.
Spent most of the day flapping my cape and coming up with workarounds. Also fashioning a pair of fangs from an old candle I found on the bookshelf. Other than that, same same – standing at the window trying to levitate.
No groups of idiots walking past today, but I did call out to an elderly gentleman as he shuffled by.
‘Hello there sir. How are we feeling today? Looking good!’ I saluted him with my glass of red wine. Yes, yes, it was only 10:30am – but I was nibbling on a half-eaten burger that had been thrown through my door (rudely, I thought) and it needed something to go with it.
So…wine, obviously wine.
‘What business is it of yours?’ he retorted. Which, again, rude.
‘I was just…’
‘You shouldn’t be drinking wine at this time of day!’ he snapped. ‘And what the shit are you wearing? I swear if this is the end, maybe it’s time. You young people are so lazy and pampered and disrespectful. I know I am ready to go!’
He called me young, I thought.
I nearly thanked him, but then my simmering anger at the world took the wheel as I realised he had insulted wine, and drinking in general.
‘In that case, I am glad you are ready to go, because I lied. You don’t look good – you look fucked! Jog on, granddad.’
In retrospect, not my finest moment. But what with my wax fangs falling out mid sentence and the wine thing…
Tomorrow I will try make it up to the olds by being super nice to any I see staggering by the window.
For now, nightfall is near.
I have applied black eyeliner…well crayon, to my eyes, red to my mouth area, and I have two full bottles of Sangiovese good to go.
Going to Vamp it up all night.

Day 7 – Crazy Quarantine Cut

I awoke with wax in my mouth. I spat it out and rubbed my lips and my hand came away red!
Panic.
Flashback to Kuala Lumpur after that crazy night on the snake whiskey with a local lady named Nic. Unusual girl – strong hands and this deep, throaty voice. How she whirled me around as we danced. I felt lighter than air.
We laughed because her bench-press matched mine and…anyway that night was a blur too. I mean, we had fun (I think) but you know, he never called or wrote.
She never called or wrote…haha, look at me mixing up my pronouns!
A quick squint at the room, however, confirmed I was still just in quarantine. I was strangely relieved.
Halfway mark already!
To celebrate, I decided to cut my hair.
It did not go well.
I under-spent on the clippers, you see. Like, I am talking 10 bucks, so…
They always say ‘you get what you pay for’ – don’t they, the smug pricks?
Anyway, apparently the guard-thingy slips very easily, with the result being that I abruptly went from a number 4 to a number 1 .
It looks…crazy, to say the least.
My efforts to blend the glaring mistake only made things worse.
Think Trainspotting meets…some other thing that has been had-at by moths.
Thusly, I have made the tentative decision to self-extend my quarantine by another month.
What with my now very pale skin, wild eyes, alcoholic persona and psychotic hairdo, they would probably arrest me as soon as I got out.
That, or hunt me for sport.
My fate now rests with hats. Need to find a decent one pronto, as I have an early video conference with the boss lady.
She has already cooled towards me after our last Skype meeting when I forgot to press mute and she heard what I really thought of her pant-suit.
On thin ice then, me. Ooh ice! Time to stand at the window with my evening tipple and give the passers by something other than the virus to avoid…

Masked Mania

Couldn’t find my face mask this morning.
We have become close, like…really close, and I was suddenly afraid I would never see Masky again.
After searching high and low, I collapsed on the floor, crying.
‘MASKY!’ I cried, ‘MAS…’ and then I saw her, discarded beneath the TV cabinet.
‘Masky, never leave me again,’ I sobbed, ‘I am sorry Masky…’ and so on and so forth, until I came to my senses and realized I was hugging a crumpled face mask and wailing.
That helped me.
Dumped Masky right in the trash.
Turns out old Masky was actually filthy and damp, with one broken strap. Dirty old bitch. She was making me weak.
Now I have a stylish camo face mask, which matches my edgy haircut.
Lets just go with edgy, alright?
Heard worrying things about authorities around the world trying to ban alcohol! When people are locked away, confined in their own homes, this is the time they pick?
Think of the children!
The institution of marriage is barely holding on as it is. 3 weeks locked up with your spouse, with alcohol, is sheer torture.
Remove booze from that situation and I tell you, governments have fallen for less.
It’s like they want us to break quarantine, drive to that bistro with the outside fridge in their courtyard at 2 am in a camouflage face mask and break the flimsy lock with a hammer, and take some but actually all of the booze.
Or something.
Anyway, a quick inventory check tells me I have acceptable reserves stashed in that empty bit under the couch cushions, so Ardi’s Bistro (you know, on the corner there near the Nando’s) is safe for now.
From me.
But if anyone else is interested, its really easy.
Low wall, flimsy lock, lots of alcohol.
That will teach him to refuse me service because ‘You are unruly’ and ‘You have had enough’ and ‘You are bleeding on my carpet’ blah blah.
With that, time to celebrate my plump reserves with a drink. A double, because I managed to go booze free last night, like a damn…hero.

Saturday

For Super Saturday, I will leave this here. Not written by F. Scott himself, although he did write a letter in 1919 whilst hospitalized, which was a little…dark. This short piece is more contemporary, and borrows of his style and persona, with the addition of comedic lift. I too would love to be punched by Hemingway, perchance to absorb a fraction of his literary superpower. I salute these two titans with my G&T, and with my feeble endeavors to write in a manner that may echo the faintest shadow of what they have gifted humankind. LETTER FROM F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, QUARANTINED IN 1920 IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE DURING THE SPANISH INFLUENZA OUTBREAK. Dearest Rosemary, It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources. The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us. You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow. Faithfully yours, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Day the Last

Here it is, the Last Day of Quarantine.
I shall miss my Kennel. No more Darth Vader window fights, no more late night levitation vampire magic.
I never did beat Blinky on that final level.
I did, however, reanimate the scorpion that one Mezcal-fueled night. At some point, in the darkness before dawn, using Mexican Mezcal Magic, I set him free.
I asked him, as he struggled to life, ‘Are you a Mexican, or a Mexican’t?’
He looked at me, stinger poised to strike, all twelve eyes glittering, and said ‘I am a Mexican!’
Then he tipped his Sombrero to me with his stinger, as if to say ‘Thank you for freeing me from my amber dreams’ – and was gone.
Yes, pretty sure that’s how it played out…
Having said all that, Quarantine is not what it used to be.
When it began, people were interested in my plight. They would say ‘Hang in there’ and ‘We look up to you’ and ‘You are an Alcoholic’ and so on.
But now everyone and his dog is in lockdown or whatever, and I have been cast aside. Everybody is talking about their own problems and ignoring mine, selfish pricks.
And so tomorrow I stride out of my nest into the great unknown. Or the kitchen, as you may call it.
To celebrate, I have brought K.O time for drinks forward and I am on my second beer and 3rd G&T. Because saw that thing going around – which, pretty sure is medically proven advice that if you have a drink in both hands you can’t touch your face.
Sounds legit.
On that note, Happy Friday everyone!
Raise a glass, and let us face this new world together.

Timescape

Gamkaskloof is in my head again.
Like the Wild Coast, or the Namib desert, it is a place of such raw presence and beauty that once you have been, you can never forget.
Time becomes strange in this hidden valley.
In the other world, our daily world, time flows by like water, rushing.
It can create panic.
In that world you may find yourself thinking of a life gone by, opportunities missed.
In that world, time leaves us gasping. We say, ‘I wish I could have, but I am too old now.’
But here…here time becomes big. In the heat of the day, time slow drips like honey.
You can breathe, seemingly for the first time.

You can open up your eyes – yet gaze within.

I awoke alone in the dead of night, down in the far campground.

Something had scratched at the door of my dreams.
I clambered from of my tent, chasing a whisper.
The moonlight made skeletons of the tree branches, painted black on the white dusty earth.
‘Wha..?’ I asked, but the silence stilled me.
A kudu crashed through the thick bush. The baboons were quiet, and the leopard sought them out.
The river gurgled and splashed while the stars spangled, and I listened.
There, in the powder dark of the African night, I learned a secret.
I left the kloof the next day.
Baboons barked goodbye, insects buzzed in omnicolour, and the leopard slept.
The river sparkled as the sun blazed, and the slate headstones stood guard in the graveyard.
The web of life in this hidden world gently released me, knowing I would always return.
I took my secret with me, a clue on the path to my far horizon.

 

All photos copyright of Stuart Henshilwood



Fear of the Dark

 

Sunrise

The sunlight burns like napalm

I know because I put my hand out once

I watch these weak white worms wake

Shake off their nighttime terrors

So brave in the daytime

Strutting and squawking

Safe beneath the cruel sun

This is their time

But my time will come

This vampire life

I must wait for Nightfall

 

Nightfall

Darkness suits this pretty little town

With its dirty secrets

These people are dark inside

Upstanding citizens yet it appears

They like shadows and blood

As do I

The lights are on in the village

Time for me to walk amongst them

To drink and make merry

And remind them why they fear

The fall of night

© Dion Loubser

 

Fear of Flying

Dream flying


I fly a lot.

In airplanes mostly, which I loathe; but also in my dreams.

In my dreams, flying is the most magical and amazing single thing imaginable.

Sometimes in a dream, I am running, and then I realize that I can kind of skip the odd step without touching the ground.

Then a few steps at a time, and suddenly I realize I can fly!

This realization is so thrilling that I only use my new gift sparingly, and secretly. I hover just a few feet off the floor in my room, or float out of my window at night and drift over the city, or fly silently through a dark forest, like a vampire.

It is possible I was a vampire in my previous life.

I like my steak done very rare, for a start – lightly stunned, preferably.

And I tend to say ‘wodka’ as opposed to ‘vodka’.

Not sure if vampires drink wodka, but they should. It would give a glass of blood a nice bite.

Pun intended.

Also, my ears are rather pointy, and I enjoy getting about in a black cape.

Sometimes, I stand over girls as they sleep, and watch for that tiny pulse in their neck. Not just any girls, you understand, it’s only girls that I know.

All right, it is only my wife, but don’t tell her, she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown as it is.

On the other hand, I am not afraid of Garlic – far from it, I reek of the stuff.

And you wouldn’t catch me dead in a coffin! Not while I am alive, anyway.

You know what I mean.

So, perhaps I wasn’t a vampire. Maybe I was just a vampire bat.

Or a moth.

Anyway, dream-flying or being a vampire is way better than being a passenger on a plane.

From the awkward disrobing and paranoia at security to the endless wait for your bag at the other end, it ranges from mildly unpleasant, to panic-inducing nightmare.

And that is if you make it to your destination.

Well, ok, you will almost always make it…unless you fly regularly in Nigeria.

Some flights are so cramped, long and painful that the thought of suddenly losing both engines at 30 000 feet becomes an attractive proposition.


My last flight went something like this –


I arrive late at the airport.

My luggage is too heavy and I have to remove books, put on two jackets and trade my runners for my 3kg cowboy boots.

A pair of red underpants flies into the air as I pull the boots out the bag. 

I consider ignoring them, but two girls are snorting with laughter at my predicament.

My attempt at a carefree swagger as I retrieve the garment fails because it is impossible to swagger in socks.

After the ordeal at security, the departures board tells me my flight is delayed.

I soldier on, knowing I can have a few wines while I wait, and at least I will have time to go to the toilet.

The wines work their magic, and I smile at the pretty air hostess as I board the plane.

She smiles politely in return and tells me that I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe.
Even the magic of wine has its limits, and my brief optimism evaporates.

The safety demo further darkens my mood. 
It is just insulting.

You have more chance of winning the lottery than surviving a plane crash.

They should do the demo on how to behave if you win the lottery – it would be more useful.

There is so much turbulence that the refreshment trolley is stubbornly parked in the kitchen for most of the flight.

The passengers are dying of thirst, I am dying of sobriety.

I am trapped next to a sweaty narcoleptic snorer.

The person behind me is racked with an Ebola-virus cough, and from all quarters comes the sound of wet, flabby sneezing.

Narcolept awakes, stinky of breath and bleary of eye, only to kick off his shoes and slump aside again, snoring peacefully.

As the stench and suffocating proximity of moist humanity presses upon me, I feel my mind begin to release its tenuous grip on the ledge of reason.

By the time they announced we were in a holding pattern due to heavy air traffic, I think I was pretty much gone.


This then is my Fear of Flying.

It is not fear of a fiery death, but rather the fear of a long and pointless life, breathing the recycled exhalings of decaying bipeds trapped in a tube, with artificial lighting and dry skin.

One of many in a shuffling herd, robbed of my sparkle and individuality, hoping for salvation; or at least one upgrade to first class.

Just once!


Ok, I will wrap this up. Time to get on my next flight.

The boarding chick is giving me the stare.

Maybe because I am the last to board, or it might be my black cape and pointy teeth.

She does have a nice neck. 




 

FOMO

Balangan
Surfed this epic point, after I saved the Dolphins from those hunters, and before the cocktail party at the Swedish  Embassy…

FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out. 

It is an epidemic, and it is on the increase. 

New research has shown that over 60% of western teens and adults suffer from FOMO.

Not MOFO, mind you, that is something else entirely. Although I am sure there are plenty MOFO’s that suffer from FOMO.

I know I do.

Technology is aiding the spread of the disease. 

Mobile devices and social networking have now made it easier than ever to find out just how much you are missing out on.

Everybody is having a better time than you.

It recently took me over a month to settle on a new pair of work shoes. Every time I tried on a moderately suitable shoe, I was aware that the perfect shoe might be just two shops down.

It was agony.

Eventually, I cracked and bought a good pair in Italian Leather, a few hours before I saw the perfect shoe. 

Now, every time I lace up these boring work…slippers, a memory of those spectacular Spanish wonder-shoes flashes before me, to remind me that I am, in fact, missing out.

Facebook is terrible for sufferers of this disease because people tend to update their status more often when they are having fun, or winning.

Getting regular updates on the awesomeness of Stuart’s Indonesian surf expedition, whilst plugging away at your pointless job as an underpaid desk jockey, is quite likely to have you frothing at the mouth with FOMO.

‘Sundowners on the beach. Saw huge Moray and rode a turtle’ or

‘Life is brilliant. Off to Rome tomorrow, then Positano for 3 days’ or

‘Got upgraded on my London-Hong Kong leg! I am seated next to Eva Mendes, and she said she loves my accent! Man, these A380’s are huge!’

Status updates like the above are keeping Psychologists in business, as FOMO-related depression reaches crisis levels.

How can all these bastards be having such fun?

Am I really 40 this year? What did my wife mean when she said my mate Andrew could ‘come around anytime?’ And what is this – a tax BILL?!

All these thoughts and more swirl inside our heads.Well, my head, anyway.

I have decided to act.

I am too lazy to change my job. I can’t afford a second pair of work shoes, let alone a tropical holiday, and no amount bench press is making the slightest impact on my ridiculous pigeon chest.

So I am now living a separate Facebook life.

For example, it appears that I enjoyed the degustation at Nobu last night. 

And this weekend, I am doing a 15km trail run before Christine’s party on Saturday night and beach volleyball on Sunday. Also, apparently I am blessed to have the best friends in the world, love and kisses all around!

My life on Facebook is fantastic!

However, I have found that it is not easy being this perfect.

I have started photoshopping a few pics to match my increasingly outrageous postings. I have to keep double checking everything and make sure it all adds up – locations, prices, photo’s, anecdotes and the rest.

Recently I had to field some awkward questions posted on my wall regarding my attendance at the Model of the Year awards.

Thing is, after a little investigation, I have discovered that most people are doing this to some extent. 

Turns out they are posting away like shiny social butterflies when most of them are couch-bound, overweight social lepers and alcoholics!

This was such great news, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

My FOMO all but disappeared shortly after these revelations, but my relief was short-lived. What with my elaborately fabricated Facebook life, I have become a nervous wreck trying to hold it all together.

I have been having panic attacks, and eventually went to the doctor.

I have now been diagnosed with an advanced hybrid form of FOMO. 

It is FOBFO – Fear Of being Found Out. Apparently, it affects 87% of Facebook liars and fabricators and is affecting productivity in the workplace.

No wonder – it takes a lot of time to maintain a virtual life complete with life-like images of yourself finishing 3rd in a little-known, yet prestigious, marathon.

There is always something, isn’t there?