Bloody, Bloody Book Week

I am always saddened when the Bloody Book Week, brainchild of Jenny Crwys-Williams, ends every year, as it is a week filled non-stop with the magic of books and lots of truly fascinating people.
The Bloody Book Week over the last three years has given this humble coffee shop owner the opportunity, not always afforded to us ordinary mortals, of meeting and more importantly interacting with a host of some of South Africa and the World’s most amazing authors

This year has been no exception and whilst I didn’t get to host Peter James and Deon Meyer this time around I had the immense luxury of spending an incredibly entertaining Thursday evening with Jacques Steenkamp, Amanda Coetzee, and newcomers Penny Lorrimer and CM Eliot, as well an outstanding Saturday afternoon with 702’s Ray White, Dr David Klatzow and Paul O’Sullivan.

It was fascinating hearing about the different writing styles of the lady thriller writers, to plot or not to plot is the question, character development, getting to know the characters and the joy of discovering the various protagonists, from CM Eliot’s Sibanda in the African bush to Amanda Coetzee’s Badger, a hunky sinewy Traveler (Gypsy). It does take a little leap of imagination to see these ladies sitting at their laptops plotting murders most foul, particularly in the case of Amanda Coetzee who is the bouncy, happy, irrepressible creature who talks at twenty to the dozen and writes a fabulous thriller.
Jacques Steenkamp the absolutely charming crime journalist who lead the conversation spent a few minutes chatting to me about his non-fiction book about the Griquastad murders, also the Steenkamp family but luckily no relation. I wouldn’t be lying if I said it was a truly enjoyable evening.

Four Deadly Authors, Their Books…

Four Deadly Authors, Their Books...

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jacques steenkamp

penny lorrimer

Some of the evening’s picture highlights with Authors, Mtutuzeli Nyoka and Mariyln Cohen De Villiers in the audience

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A magnificent Saturday afternoon event spent with three very interesting characters, Dr David Klatzow, Paul O’Sullivan and Radio 702’s Ray White.
What can I say about Ray White apart from the fact that he is a delightful human being, charming, lovely eyes, softly spoken but with some steal under there I think, and a great sense of humour. There are rumours that he too, has a book coming out at some point. I cannot wait for that to happen! Watch this space about Ray White!!!
Paul O’Sullivan and David Klatzow, couldn’t be more different. Paul’s CV must make for fascinating reading, I honestly cannot remember how many different types of policing or police/security services he has been in both locally and abroad. His accent is an unusual mix of Irish, Afrikaans with a little R rolling. I perceived him as a little uncomfortable to be around, he doesn’t radiate warmth but maybe that has something to do with his choice of career. I did fully expect him to arrive with hunky, chunky Kevin Costner, bodyguards in tow, alas I was disappointed. I am pretty sure he is not at the top of Jackie Selebi’s Christmas card list and I never said a word about Glen Agliotti, having taken center stage at Indulgence Cafe last year, with his charm at volcanic level charm. What is it that makes the bad guys charming and the good guys not quite so?
I realize it isn’t polite to have favourites but David Klatzow could quite possibly get a Valentine’s card from me next year. I think that gruff exterior and furry face hides a supremely sharp mind accompanied by a sharp wit and a very dry sense of humour. He does have a lovely smile when you catch sight of it, but the thing that strikes you the most is the passion with which he speaks. He positively radiates when talking about his chosen career and the work he does. For me it was an absolute privilege having spent the time listening to him talk to Ray White at Indulgence Cafe and Alex Eliseev at Bookdealers, The Colony.

The Books…

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david klatzow

A couple of the pics from Saturday afternoon’s event

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Thank you so much Jenny and Co, for including me and Indulgence Cafe in the 2014 Bloody Book Week events, it was an honour and a privilege
Until next year..

A Beautiful Family…Not

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A golden family, a happy, a beautiful family. The gorgeous wife who never has a hair out of place, with that handsome, blue-eyed, Charlie Hunam, husband, the self-made millionaire. He always looks handsome and debonaire, he holds the door, lays his jacket over the puddle so she can cross without getting those beautiful feet wet. Those amazing straight-A children, who excel at everything they do. That private education is certainly paying off. They look happy, they look fabulous, they’re rich, how could life be anything but perfect? How could you be anything besides envious?
How little we know about what goes on behind closed doors.
How little we know about the people next door.
How little we know…

This book, A Beautiful Family by Marilyn Cohen De Villiers was thrust under my nose by a friend of mine, Marcia, who sent me articles and links and really pushed and shoved me towards reading it, but still I hesitated. I really didn’t feel like a family drama and especially a family drama about a Jewish family. Particularly at this time in a world where Jews are under the microscope and antisemitism is right back in fashion. Who, right now, wants to put the Jews, my tribe, under the spotlight for…..shhhhhhh, don’t say it out loud….ABUSE!
Abuse doesn’t happen in good Jewish families, well not that one would know because what happens in a Jewish home stays in a Jewish home and anyway, how could that pillar of the community truly do the things that he is accused of, it is not possible. Or is it?
This incredible book opens the doors to your mind. It is a book that everyone should read, this could be any family, this family just happens to be Jewish.
Marilyn’s book is a comfortable read, it makes you feel at home. For those who grew up in Johannesburg’s north eastern suburbs there are many bells rung, as familiar corners are turned and local spots are mentioned. Damn, I grew up there, I can picture in my mind exactly where that little car is or the tree lined drive in Westpark Cemetery.
Marilyn’s book is also an uncomfortable read, its topic, disturbing. A Beautiful Family, was not quite the “drama” I expected it to be, the book is more of a suspense drama with a twist, and well worth a read. I loved it and I cannot wait to host Marilyn Cohen De Villiers at Indulgence Cafe so that we can explore the family in more depth! She is apparently working on her second book, but I suggest you don’t miss her first!

Marilyn lives in Johannesburg with her husband, Poen. You can find her on Facebook
The book, A Beautiful Family, is available in limited print editions from Skoobs as well as an e-book, from Amazon. Priced at around R220.
Do yourself a favour and discover what having a beautiful family can mean

Simon Dingle, Forward Thinker

Simon DIngle, Forward Thinker

Simon Dingle, Forward Thinker

This morning I had the privilege of spending an hour or so with a few of South Africa’s more fascinating human beings. We managed to put politics, war and wildlife in distress aside for a while and chat about technology and the human condition. Being a bit of a technophobe I had wondered how much of Simon Dingle’s chat I was going to understand because you know these techie types, the run on acronyms and abbreviations and sometimes they use really long technical terms that the plebs amongst us have no absolutely no understanding of.

I was most pleasantly surprised, and if Simon did throw in a long word here and there it was quickly explained and of course the long words made perfect sense in the context in which they were used. I think I managed to keep up 🙂

The basic premise being that human beings, though being at the pinnacle of the evolutionary table are not necessarily logical thinkers and do not necessarily make rational decisions and choices. Given the example of the car salesman who is about the clinch the deal on your fabulous new R400k vehicle, tossing the suggestion of one or two minor extras into the mix. In the “hot state” or emotional context the odds are you are going to take the extras and to hell with the extra costs involved; in for a penny, in for a pound so to speak.

Simon Dingle’s core belief is that “Innovation starts with understanding people”, and that the sooner that big corporations understand this the soon things will start to turn around, this being particularly evident in industries like banking and telecommunications. When was the last time your bank understood your needs and assisted you according to those needs? Do you even know what your needs are?

Simon’s desire is to work with companies who wish to change their business models in as far as how they look at and deal with their clients. The important question as a business being, how are you going to change lives, moving towards being a force for good instead of a force for evil, which is exactly what prompted Simon to answer my emails requesting him to come and speak at Indulgence Cafe … “That’s why I will reply to Mandi’s email when I won’t respond to some of the major banks “, he was just showing appreciation of me as an end user… 🙂

As technology forces the consolidation of many items into one, i.e. your smartphone now having replaced your radio, camera, diary, alarm clock, diary, book, torch, map book and social life etc. to name just a few gave rise to a conversation that touched on “Contextual Computing”; Information looking for human beings instead of humans having to look for the information, finding out who that information is most relevant to, and giving you answers to questions you don’t even know you should be asking. This is an area that Google has taken the lead on with Ray Kurzweil at the helm, Google being the world’s most powerful contextual computing engine and the world’s biggest brand.

The next logical step? Between all the available social media platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, your Garmin etc, there is enough information out there in the ether to form a virtual blueprint of the person you are and behavioural patterns can be observed at which point the computer, your virtual PA can start to make decisions on your behalf from ordering your lunch at your local nosh stop to notifying the client you’re going to be late for a meeting due to the traffic! Scary much? I think so, but, Simon finds it an incredibly exciting space to be in. His view being that if the computer handled those types of things, it would give him more time to spend with his children.

Out-sourced Consciousness, artificial/synthetic intelligence, I have to wonder if the human species will survive its own inventions. Synthetic Intelligence may question the ultimate good mankind has done to the planet and decide that we need to be eradicated. Movies like Terminator may very well become reality shows.

In summing up, Simon said….:)

It doesn’t matter what your business is, whether you are selling a cup of coffee or a vehicle, the fundamental question remains…….How can you make a positive impact on someone’s life, they won’t know, how do we go and find out that will really a make difference!

Simon’s chat with us was incredibly informative and very, very thought provoking and I can only, most humbly, thank him for giving us his time…………The most precious resource that there is!

A little recommended light reading:
Ray Kurzweil – How to create a mind
Tom Kelly – The Ten Faces of Innovation

Who is Simon Dingle……
Simon loves disruptive new things that deal with finance,
technology, design and behavioural sciences. He is an advisor to 22seven and hosts a radio show on 5FM that focuses on consumer tech. He also co-presents a podcast called Take Back the Day and writes about technology and trends for Finweek magazine.
He is often asked to discuss innovation, behavioural economics, disruptive technology and business trends on television, radio and as a keynote speaker at conferences.

Until next time
Love ‘n Lollipops
Mandi

Changing Direction

I have taken an executive decision and created a new blog that I shall use for life events and my MS journey so as to not burden those of you who really are just interested in the wherefores and what-fores of Lollipops Catering and Indulgence Cafe

My first post is up, please feel free to follow to accompany me on this life journey and all the other adventures along the way!
The blog is called The Journey, Destination Unknown

And you can find the first post right here ….

Love ‘n Lollipops
Mandi

Dealing with My Shit ….15 May 2014

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There comes a time that in spite of how much resistance you’re putting up, that being in hospital really is the only choice to make.
I developed a new symptom about ten days ago, my right leg has begun to go lame when I stand on it for any length of time, from brief to long. One can only ignore it so long before action is required…even if it’s something you’d rather avoid. So a quick call to the doc’s rooms and off I  trundle to the clinic.

Of course now that I think I’m having an MS episode with feelings of dizziness and, pins and needles and some lameness in my right leg, an MRI is going to be the order of the day.
My mind is in turmoil, a new lesion on the brain will show the disease is gathering a little momentum, whereas no additional lesions will show slow progress which is what any sane person begs for. However no new lesions is not going to get you the medication from the medical aid that would actually prevent or rather delay the advent of new lesions. A perfect catch 22

The next exciting (Not) hurdle to jump was getting the medical aid to pay the MRI. Turns out that I have a limit on what can be spent on scans per year, whether  hospital our not and but having this latest one, brain and c-spine, going to be R8.5k short. Who knew that getting sick was going to be so Fucking expensive!! I signed my life away and made a promise to myself that there would be no more hospital visits or MRI’s this year, I can’t bloody afford it.

The MRI and two nights in hospital later and I have been sent home as an outpatient. No new lesions to speak of, unfortunately or fortunately. 5 massive doses of cortisone to have administered in the hope that it will help my leg get to its pre-lame stage in  the meantime.
The lack of knowledge and understanding of the disease the medical aid is frightening. At least this admission for a relapse will lift my score to a 3,  meaning that now they may look at a little more seriously.

I feel this taking a toll on my mental state and I am grateful the love and support I around me. The MS future is a pretty bleak place without that kind of support.
The journey continues……

Here are a few amusing pics from in and around the hospital

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Please excuse typos and grammar errors, I’m writing on my phone and don’t always manage to catch autocorrect before it does it’s thing
Mandi

Dealing with My Shit ………….9 May 2014

My medical aid in their blessed wisdom has seen fit to refuse me the medication I need to prevent having further MS episodes, essentially because I am not sick enough. So in order to qualify for the medication I need to have another episode and get a little sicker. The logic, in my very humble opinion, sucks. This medication will, I am told, effectively help to prevent further attacks from happening as well as delay the physical deterioration associated with the disease. I dread the thought of having to land up debilitated and in a wheel chair in a few years time, dependent on the help of others. Accepting help is not my greatest suit and I struggle with it, being Miss Independence does have its downsides as well it appears
The conundrum for me is having to decide if I am having an episode or not and if I think I am, then taking my self off the clinic to get checked in and go onto meds. There are two questions that you may be wondering at this point, 1…what constitutes an episode and 2….Why is going into hospital such an issue you for me?
An MS episode is different from one person to another, thus far in my case it has started with one of my limb joints becoming painful and my head becoming dizzy. Not the kind of fall over, vertigo dizzy but the stoned, turn your head and your brain seems to follow a brief moment later dizzy. I find myself a little forgetful and I get incredibly tired. Doesn’t sound too bad does it, except that the pain in the joint lingers after the episode has passed and I am slowly gathering an entire collection of aches and pains.
As far as going into hospital is concerned, I am only too happy to go in and spend three or so days abdicating my responsibilities to the world while massive doses of cortisone are fed into my veins in an attempt to end the episode and dull the pain. Except in order to prove that this is an episode I am required to have an MRI and a lumbar puncture? Have you ever had either of these things? An MRI means lying absolutely still for a minimum of 45 minutes in what feels like a round coffin with drums beating to no particular rhythm. Thump, thump, thump, brrrrrrrrrrr, thump……clank, clank, thump, clank, thump, thump and on and on it goes. The only way to deal with it, for me, is to attempt, in completely inappropriate circumstances, meditation, as much as medication would be preferable, none has ever been offered! Of course, if you twitch a little too much, the whole thing is a washout and they have to start all over again…………moral of the story don’t twitch and practice a little meditation in a noisy environment as a back up plan.
As far as a lumbar puncture, the only advice I can give you here is to ensure you have a very empty bladder before they start sticking needles in your spine, and if possible establish a good rapport with the doctor who is going to be doing the procedure. It is something you want done as gently as possible and then of course you have ten hours on your back to look forward to with no popping out of bed to go to the loo. Did I mention the whopping great headache that follows? There is that to look forward to but staying in bed on your back will mitigate the severity. Now do you understand why going into hospital at the drop of a hat isn’t a prospect that I jump at?

The other side of this swiftly rotating penny is that unless you go into hospital and subject yourself to the tests you cannot prove to the medical aid that you have the lesions on your brain caused by the disease in the first place, that will get you the medication that they should have given you a couple of months, earlier that would have prevented this attack from happening.
I rest my case

The Hardship of Living…

Mark Reichman 13 Dec 1963 - 1 April 2014

Mark Reichman
13 Dec 1963 – 1 April 2014

I wasn’t there
I didn’t see
I’m left to wonder how this could be
Is this a nightmare from which I’ll wake
Was there no other choice that you could make
Had the burden of life become too much to bear
Was living a torment
Your Life,
One of despair
I don’t understand it
None of us do
Was life a Winter landscape,
So gray and so bleak
Did you think of the destruction you’d leave in your wake
The havoc your untimely passing would create
Your daughters who love you
A Mother, burying a son
Your sisters, as one
Your choice was a sad one
Reality bites
Did none of us see
This
As a possibility coming to pass
This April Fools joke was a little extreme,
The punchline not funny
What does it all mean
You spoke to your mother
You spoke of the future
You sounded happy
And now we know why
Your decision was made, the decision to die
Be at peace
Be pain free
Find sunshine and solace where ever you are
Outshine the stars like a diamond in the sky

Have you ever wondered what the point is? Why is it that you wake up every morning of every day to face the world again? Is it a conscious choice that you make or something that you just cannot avoid? A friend of mine has an expression “The Tyranny of yes, the freedom of no” in my head it resonates as the “the tyranny of life and the freedom of death” but, does death actually bring you freedom or does it merely facilitate the escape from one living hell into a deathly one? And therein lies the rub for me because do we live or do we just exist and if we just exist is there any real point if that is all there is to life?

To the spiritual answers I have no clue and only give a passing thought to when I feel the brush of another beings energy pass across my skin, so it is really the earthbound questions I give pause to in my daily life.
Life is tough, dealing with the reality of one’s daily issues is a challenge that even the toughest, the richest and the happiest face. So what is it that drives a person to the point where opting out appears to be the ultimate solution to one’s woes whether they be real or imagined.
Why do the people who live life on the fringe carry on living? Their lives appear to be miserable with no money, no facilities, no daily shelter and wondering where their next meal is coming from that you have wonder why they choose to do it every day, what not just step off a bridge and end it? Is the human will to live so strong that the thought of ending it all does not enter their heads?
At what point does the need to cease living become greater than the will to live? At what point does the desire to end it all overwhelm the thoughts in your head of the devastation and grief that you will leave behind? What does it take to happen in your brain, what chemicals take control, what thoughts take command that are strong enough to suppress the basic human will to survive? Give thought for one second to the survivors of the concentration camps who lived in spite of the horror and deprivation they were subjected to, give thought to those who suffer from illness and disease whose days are filled with pain and no possibility of relief, they go on every day in spite of the inelegance of living.
Living or existing is the difference between relishing each day and not so much living each like it is your last but rejoicing in the fact that you are alive, that you have a roof over your head, even if you cannot really afford the rent or bond, seeing the sun shine in all its glory every day and laughing in spite of everything.

I too have questioned the point of working long hours, sore feet, soured relationships, the bleakness of the future of the planet, mankind’s inhumanity towards his fellow man and animals and I know in my heart that that it is the way we treat the planet and its bounty that depresses me the most. To me, the people who take it upon themselves to challenge society on the choices it makes are the real heroes, the anti-trophy hunters, the vegans, the people on the ground who face the miserable plight of our lions, dogs, elephants and primates, amongst others. When I see man’s cruelty towards “others” I wonder at the future of life on this planet and I am grateful that I do not have children who will be left to fight the fight for the well being of planet Earth, when the water runs out, when the rain forests are decimated, when the fundamentalists take over, when freedom of choice is no longer an option. Is there any wonder then, that some people choose to opt out early. You’re wondering why I don’t choose to end it early if this is the bleakness I see ahead?
I know I have had days or weeks even when I have wondered what the point of all this is. Why it is that I get up every day to face the hardship of the daily grind. Admittedly my life is a bowl of cherries when compared to the millions of others out there who struggle with their daily existence.
To quote a friend, life is relentless, it just keeps on going! You can opt out for a while but then you pop your head back out and life, like the steamroller it is just rolls on over you and carries on, your choice is whether you want to stay in it’s path.
I think life is more like a roller coaster, exciting and scary, with never a dull moment but it’s your choice if you want to close your eyes, hold on tight and scream in the face of it or put your hands up and yell out your challenge to the skies with your eyes drinking in the ride.

Would I ever consider suicide as an option?
Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. Possibly. The day that my disease reaches a point where the quality of my daily life becomes a chore and I am a burden to others, maybe then.
Until that day NO, not whilst the sun shines, I can laugh at my foibles, paint a canvas, sculpt out of clay and work for my daily bread. Not whilst I still enjoy the feel of rain on my skin, the pleasure of living is not a hardship to be endured.
I have now experienced those mangled emotions, suffered the grief, wondered why, questioned why, found a few sad answers and realized that so many of the questions will remain unanswered. Now I know the devastation of suicide is not just something that happens to other people’s families, now I know that suicide is a choice that anyone can make

The thirsty days of mourning is over, but my life will go on
Rest in Peace brother