The DAMH excuse

[accent=”Yorkshire”] When I were a lad [/accent], I always used to scoff at the kids that turned up to school claiming that their dog had eaten their homework. Not only was it the most obvious cliché, but it was also wholly unbelievable. Dogs don’t eat homework. Dogs eat dog food, human food, bones and – sometimes – socks. Sheets of A4 covered in conjugated French verbs don’t make the grade. Literally.

Je mange
Tu manges
Il/Elle ne mange pas

See?

I never had a dog, so I was never able to use this excuse. That said, I’m pretty sure many of the kids who used it never had dogs either.

Fast forward a few years into what should be adulthood, and people are still using the DAMH excuse. But now it’s been suitably upgraded.

Take for example, the case of Nigerian Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) employee Joan Asen and the 36,000,000 Naira (R1,193,040, $100,080) which was found to be missing from the organisation upon audit.

That’s a lot of moola to have misplaced, and clearly too much for your average beagle to have devoured, sir.

But no, this was no canine-related disaster. This was basically just theft. No, there’s an equally implausible excuse for not having the money to hand right now, officer:

It was a mystery to me too. I have been saving the money in the bank, but I found it difficult to account for it. So I started saving it in a vault in the office. But each time I open the vault, I will find nothing. I became worried and surprised how the millions of Naira could be disappearing from the vault. I began to interrogate everybody in the house and office, and no one could agree on what might have happened to the money. I continued to press until my housemaid confessed. She said that the money disappeared “spiritually”. She said that a “mysterious snake” sneaked into the house and swallowed the money in the vault.

Ah, yes. The old “A Mysterious Spiritual Snake Ate My Thirty-Six Million Naira” excuse. That old chestnut.

But then, if there was any animal which could have sneaked into the vault and eaten all that cash, it would most likely be a snake. Larger animals would have struggled to get through the keyhole and smaller animals wouldn’t have been able to swallow the money. But snakes are brilliant at getting into small spots and equally good at eating things which initially seem too big to go down the hatch.

The best of both Naira-pinching worlds then. Hmm.

And to be fair, just this morning when I was searching for my car keys and (while looking suspiciously at the beagle), asking if anyone had seen them, my daughter told me that she had seen a mysterious spiritual snake slithering off with them yesterday evening.

Of course, this turned out to be complete nonsense: they were behind the fruit bowl. But the fact remains that they could have been taken by a mysterious spiritual snake. It’s just that this time, they weren’t.

Now that we actually have a dog, I see the world through entirely new (often rolled) eyes, and consequently I believe that anything is possible. Thus, I’m (belatedly) coming around to the idea that actually the dogs could have eaten all that homework.

And if I’m going to make that concession, then it seems only reasonable to admit that Joan and her housekeeper’s mysterious spiritual snake story might also be true.

I’m planning to write a letter to the Nigerian authorities demanding Joan’s immediate release, while also advising the local police to step up their mysterious spiritual snake patrols before any more cash or bunches of car keys go astray.

Prevention is better than cure.

Tomtop

Let’s run through a quick backstory here.

New school year, new extra murals for the kids. But there’s bad news: the boy’s cooking class (which he loves) has been cancelled because there isn’t enough interest. Sad.
Instead though, because every cloud has a silver lining, he’s joined the Photography Club at school.  Chip off the old blog and all that…

An old camera is a helpful thing to have for this sort of thing and he’s extremely lucky in that I have kept my old Panasonic and my old Sony. Given the choice, it seems sensible to use the Sony, which is still a really good, solid bridge camera. The only issue being that I can’t find the charger (it does have a microUSB to charge through though, so still usable) and the one battery doesn’t hold charge as well as it did. Still, it’s more than fine for an eleven year old starting out at school Photography Club.

I wondered how much it would cost to get a new battery. Turns out that it’s fairly pricey everywhere, but there’s this Chinese online place called Tomtop which has a typically eclectic selection of goods at all too reasonable prices. I’d never heard of Tomtop, but two appropriate batteries and a charger were available for the princely sum of R150.33 including tracked shipping. Still too good to be true? Well, no issue if so because payment was via PayPal, meaning that I’m covered should this turn out to be a complete scam. Back of the net!

I’ll keep you informed as to any progress.

Inevitably though, there had to be a downside. Life, ne?
That downside is that the google ads on every webpage I visit are now Tomtop ads.

All of them feature the actual product that I purchased, which doesn’t really make sense to me, but to be honest, that all pales into complete and utter insignificance when you look at what else it’s suggesting that I should buy.

I don’t have the cleavage to carry off that bottom outfit.
I do have the legs for the LBD above it though.

But… but… the man praying in the big black genitalia suit?
Why on earth would I be interested in that sort of thing?

I’m an atheist.

Best Line from an Educational Psychologist in 2018

(So far, anyway.)

We went along to the High School introduction evening yesterday. It included details of how they were going to teach our high school child, some information about the school camps, and a talk by a local educational psychologist.

Lot of the stuff she said made a lot of sense to me and the assembled parents of pre-teens. But then she came out with this quote, and it was perfect:

I was talking to a group of parents of toddlers yesterday.
I love to talk to parents of toddlers: there’s still so much hope!

We all laughed. But then… actually… ouch.

Back to school 2018

And so, the day I was dreading on Monday has come to pass. And it wasn’t so bad after all.

Looking back now (and to be fair, it is some chronological distance), I can’t recall my feelings at heading back to school after the summer break. Obviously, coming from a Northern hemisphere nation, we started back in September, but other than that, not much has is very different, and when I dropped our two off this morning, there was the usual melange of oversized school bags, new uniforms, smiles, tears and anxious parents.

Not for us, of course. Our kids were gone – Single Use Plastic-free lunchboxes in hand – just as soon as the car doors opened. They’ve headed back to school with a good deal of enthusiasm, tempered with perhaps just a touch of resignation at the end of the holiday and a smidgen of trepidation at the challenges that lie ahead. But the experience was overwhelmingly positive – they enjoy school and they react well to having more structure to their days – especially after 7 (seven!) weeks of holiday.

Last year was exceptional. Let’s see if we can do even better in 2018.

Ecobrick

I said that I was going to try to use less plastic this year. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to stop using plastic altogether. Don’t be daft. Plastic is ubiquitous.
Where I can then, I’ll make appropriate and sensible choices, but it’s inevitable that I will still use some plastic.

We’ve been recycling our plastic, glass and paper waste for several years already, but now I’ve come across another way to recycle our plastic waste.

Step forward, the Ecobrick:

What are Ecobricks?
Ecobricks are low cost, thermally insulating bricks that are made by simply compressing unrecyclable plastic into 2L bottles.
Why we’re in love with them
Making ecobricks is a way to save the environment whilst supporting a needy community from the comfort of your kitchen counter.
What do we do with Ecobricks?
Affordable housing for you and me
Raised beds for our gardens
Benches for parks and gardens
Boundary walls
Temporary exhibition structures

And it really is as easy as poking plastic packaging into a 2 litre Coke bottle (make sure you drink the Coke before you start poking) (messy otherwise).

It’s easy, fun and actually quite addictive. You’ll be amazed how much plastic disappears into one of these bottles once you squish it in a bit. It’s like an inverse Magic Porridge Pot – there always seems to be space for more.

And once you’ve made a few, you simply drop them off at one of the Ecobrick Exchange handy hippie drop off points in Cape Town, Johannesbeagle, Pretoria or Mordor Port Elizabeth:

Or you can build something yourself.

It’s a great, safe, fun and simple way to involve the kids in recycling, and you’re actually doing something good with all that nasty plastic.