Sunday, October 31, 2004

Europa, Rosebank Mall

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Damon's back from his unbelievably long shoot in Richards Bay. He was a featured extra in a British mini-series. Got paid obscene amounts of money, and didn't really have to learn too many lines. All he had to do was make sure his side-burns remained intact over the entire period.

"Great that you're back!" I say.

Europa in Rosebank is a reliable place to thwart the hunger-shakes I've got. I haven't eaten anything except a few pieces of handmade English toffee since breakfast. That's because I've been battling time all day to get my artworks moved into the Craft Market I'm now part of. I've been framing my prints since Friday night.

But the really hard work was coming up with a coding system so that I can track sales of individual prints. Not an easy task, seeing as the till system they use at the Market only allows me three alpha numeric symbols to work with.

I've opted for an all-alpha system, which gives me around 20 000 unique codes. And I had to generate the damn codes manually. Excel doesn't have a function that will automatically increment AAA to AAB to AAC all the way up to ZZZ. (Yes, in excess of 20 000 of these.)

And then making a stock list so that they can enter my codes into their computer.

I tell Damon about my satisfaction about getting my art out into the world.

"And work?" he asks.

My directing gig. "It's turning into a very very hardcore gig very very quickly. We're a bit under-resourced. I've had to campaign really hard to get us a logger to come on shoots with us."

A logger is an essential piece of equipment. It's a person with a brain who writes down the tape number, and the timecode on the tape for every significant bit of action. Ideally, the logger also writes the first few words of each concept associated with those bits of action. So, a logger's output might look like this: "00:21:13:00 -- Marc: How would you say open source has benefited your company?" Followed by "00:21: 36:00 -- Heather: Well, it's all free, isn't it?"

The reason the logger is essential is that editing becomes a fairly straightforward affair. Right now, I have to search through tens of hours of tape to find shots that are by now only a distant memory. This adds dozens of hours to a one-week editing schedule.

We're now WAY behind in editing. (It was my week in the edit suite. Tomorrow I start shooting again for a week. 8:15 call time. Too early for my nervous system, really. But hey.)

Damon just nods sagely. He's totally familiar with everything I'm talking about, being a seasoned veteran himself.

In production, unless there are literally bucket-loads of money, everything is ALWAYS under-resourced. In our case, our wonderful production person, Ronelle, has managed to get us two students to work for free. Yay!!!! One will be coming on the shoot with me, and the other will be logging the backlog of tapes in the office.

My Tra Firenze appears just as Damon has to go. He's helping Wendy set up her sound system tonight. She's performing for her sister's birthday party. The tramezzini is delicious. Mince with peppers. Delicious. Hits the spot.

"Before I go," says Damon, "how's the relationship scene?"

"Well, as you know, Karen and I have broken up. But we're still seeing each other for sex."

"Oh man, Roy," says Damon. "That's so wrong! How do you get away with it??? How on earth did you manage to wangle that???"

"There are advantages to being a good dom," I say.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Cool Runnings, Melville

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * 1/2

We're in the dungeon at Cool Runnings. Yes. It's ACTUALLY called the dungeon. Which is appropriate, cos this is the monthly meeting of a bondage and discipline group. It used to take place at Merlin's Pub a block and a half up the road, but that place is being sold, so Burning Lash, our alpha dom, has negotiated a new space.

Tonight's topic is tattooing. Shani is the guest speaker, and she's set up a computer showing some of her proudest tats.

I'm here with Karen. Yes, it's true that we're no longer a couple. But we've agreed that we'll be seeing each other "extramurally". And it's working very nicely. Now that we're not doing coupledom, there's no pressure to fall in love or anything mushy. Which makes things very pleasant. Especially when she's on my bed and I bring out the chains. Chains are our friend. We love chains.

The talk starts, and Shani is clearly heavily passionate about tattooing. "People ALWAYS ask me, 'Does it hurt?' And I always tell them, 'HELLLLLL YESSSSSS!' But then I also tell them that it's a good pain."

Several of the submissives in the audience start giggling, and their doms give them affectionate pats on the head. I give Karen an affectionate hard tug on the hair. "Hmmmmm!" she says.

When question and answer time comes up, one of the doms asks, "What's the MOST painful place to tattoo someone?"

Shani points to the top of her head. "That's bad," she says. "But a lot of people say the base of the spine is really hectic."

"Ah, cool," says the dom. "Base of the spine it is then!"

I say, "Is there any way to make the tattoo hurt even more?"

Shani just rolls her eyes at me.

Just then, there's a weird drunken chuckle from the back of the room. It's in shadows, so it takes a while to notice that we've got visitors. A trio of very smoked-up rasta guys. They've slipped in through the back door, and they're now getting heavily entertained by these odd people. My bum is lifting off my chair to help get rid of them when Burning Lash steps up to the plate.

"This is a private function, I'm afraid," he says. And it's clear he's afraid of nothing. "So you guys must leave."

One of them says, feebly, "Oh, sorry, man, hey, like, we didn't, like, know, hey? Cool brother? One love." And they leave.

Shani tells us about ultra-violet tattoo ink. "Invisible under normal light," she says, "but amazing under ultra-violet light. A bitch to work with though, cos you've got to do the tattoo in the dark."

Burning Lash exclaims, "Bar codes!!!" Several of the doms echo him. From his enthusiasm, and from his rushing up to Shani at the end to get her business cards, it's very clear that his slave may very well have his ownership barcode drilled into her skull sometime very soon.

While we're milling around, someone whips out a handmade flogger. It's basically a stick with a dozen or so light leather thongs attached to it. A bit like a cat o' nine tails, but without the embedded bits of lead. Buring Lash orders his slave to bend over, and he gives it a test. It swishes like a martial arts move, and connects like twenty thunderclaps.

I've never used one before, so I'm curious. I watch his technique, and when he's finished, I ask if I can try it. He hands it to me, and Karen bends over without needing to be ordered. I give her a couple of hard strokes, and find it a little bit puny. "How was that?" I ask her.

"Very light. But you got me warmed up a bit there at the end."

She's spending the night at my place tonight. Looks like we're both a bit warmed up.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Pizza Pronto, Sandton

Monday, October 25, 2004

Service: *
Food: *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * *

Tonight I'm doing battle against the mighty Tony Lelliot.

"What are you doing for coffee now that your Ethiopian supply has dried up?" I ask. Tony's a coffee aficionado, and a buddy of his was based in Ethiopia for a while.

"Oh, I just buy stuff at ridiculously high prices," he says.

We set up the backgammon board, and I start pounding him with heavy artillery. I take a convincing lead early on, and it looks like tonight's gonna be a cinch for me. I spot an opportunity to shed some blood. Tony's blood. I offer him the cube. He takes. A few quick blows later and he's got five blots on the bar! That's FIVE! Count 'em!!! Viva! I smash him down, and beat him not with a gammon (which is a double game), but by a backgammon -- a triple game. That's six points.

This is Adeline, my buddy Charl's girlfriend. They've actually agreed to get married to each other after several years of blissful cohabitation."Hey, Peter!" I shout. "Do you want my ten bucks now?" Anyone who beats someone by a backgammon in our club has to pay ten rand into a kitty. At the end of the year, all of the winners in the kitty draw to win the full amount. Winning a triple game is non-trivial. It takes balls of steel and a certain amount of foolish play to pull it off.

I'm gloating deluxe when suddenly Tony sits back in his chair, concentrates, then rubs his fingers up and down his moustache. "Right," he says, and starts flinging dice across the board. Suddenly my 14--4 lead starts narrowing. Suddenly we're at 16--15 to me. I stay just ahead, but Tony's playing fearsome backgammon.

My phone rings. It's an international call. "Tony, do you mind if I take this?"

"No problem," he says, and rubs his moustache again.

"Hi," I say to the phone, "this is Roy."

"Hi, Roy," says an American voice on the other end of the line. It's one of the people we're interviewing for Go_Open, the tv show I'm co-directing. He chuckles, "Are you deposing me?"

I'm a bit baffled, but I assume he's being playful, so I laugh with him and ask him what he means.

"Well," he says, "the video link-up centre you're asking me to go to? Well, it's a deposition centre, and I can't go to a deposition centre. It's just not possible for me."

I have no idea what he's talking about. A deposition centre??? This is so weird. "Uh..." I say, "I'm not sure why that's a bad thing."

"Well, how do I know you guys aren't working for S.C.O.?"

The way I hear him, over a muffled international cellphone connection, I hear some weird US government agency acronym. What he's ACTUALLY referring to is a company that's systematically suing huge corporations who use Linux, claiming that Linux has a piece of code in its kernel that they own, and that they want royalties from. So because I mis-hear him, I make a complete fool of myself by saying, "Working for S.C.O.? I don't even know what that IS?"

"You don't know what S.C.O. is???" he says. "You're doing a show on open source! I think you'd better do your research."

Oh man. This conversation is tanking fast.

He says, "Well, whatever, how do I know you're not working for them?"

I've twigged by this point what he's talking about, but there's no graceful way out.

I tell him that we've done a video link-up with Richard Stallman.

"Did Richard Stallman go down to a deposition centre for his link?" he asks. "I don't think so."

I explain how this video conferencing thing works. "There's a South African video conferencing company we outsource to," I say, "and they find a venue closest to the person we're interviewing. We have no idea what type of facility it is. I has no idea that we were sending you to a deposition centre." (And frankly, even if I'd known, I wouldn't have guessed in a million years that it would be quite such a hectic place to go to.)

"Yeah, yeah," he says. "Anything can be explained away."

This guy genuinely thinks that some two-bit television production company in South Africa is trying to trap him into saying something on camera that could ruin his career. I dunno. If I WERE working for some major conspiracy, I'm sure I would know my mark a bit better, and I'm absolutely certain I wouldn't have attempted to get him to do his video conference link-up in a place that would scare him. If I were a conspiracy dude, I'd probably try and lull him somehow. Sheesh. I dunno.

"Well," I say, "how do we get around this?"

"Well," he says, "why don't we just use the video link-up system at my office?"

WHAT??? This is just not believable. Who has a video link-up facility in their own goddamn office??? If we'd known this from the beginning, there'd have been no problems at all.

I end the conversation by letting him know that he won't be forced to do the link-up at the deposition centre, that our researcher will send him the list of questions we intend asking, and that our production manager will sort out how to do the link-up at his office.

I go back to the backgammon board.

My supper has finally arrived. I ordered the tuna salad. This is simply one of the worst salads I've encountered. It's basically dollops of mayo with about a third of a tin of tuna splayed over it, on a bed of lettuce, with some cherry tomatoes and onion. Ugh!

Tony plays like an S.C.O. agent... aggressively, mercilessly, and with vast amounts of money backing him. He beats me 21--20.

I guess I'd better wake up and smell his Ethiopian coffee.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Lonely Oaks Lodge, Polokwane (was Pietersberg)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * * *

Brand, our camera-person. He shaves his head, and normally wears a fez, specifically to keep his head warm in winter. But probably also to cause a bit of mischief.Brand has decided not to eat. "Not hungry," he says. "I'll see you guys in the morning." It's about eight o'clock, and even though I've just taken a shower, I'm hot and sticky. Polokwane is a very hot city. Brand leaves, and Refiloe and I are left alone at the table.

I'm acutely aware of the number of moustaches in this place. And they're all twitching at this white guy with this black babe. "You should have seen the looks we got when Brand and I arrived in here," says Refiloe.

Brand is our camera person. He's somewhere in his fifties, and he shaves his head, and he kinda looks like he could be Refiloe's guardian uncle.

We've just been shooting stories at the HP i-Community Centre in the nearby township. It's an unbelievably awesome project to bring sustainable development into the area. When the program I'm working on goes to air on 20 November, you'll be able to see the fruits of our labour. The show happens on Saturday afternoons, from 5:30pm till 6pm, on SABC2, and it's called GO_OPEN. It's about open source technology and the open source movement.

Rhameez phones. "Hey, Roy," he says, "I'm just gonna chill. See you in the morning."

Which leaves me and Refiloe to have a long discussion over supper about racism and white men and black women and affirmative action and anti-semitism. I make the thesis that even though I'm not black, and even though I haven't grown up with apartheid, I tasted a little of it growing up Jewish in Germiston in the seventies.

I recall having a fight almost every single day of my life during primary school, with people calling me "Jewboy" and stuff like that. (Of course, my memory is exaggerating things a tad. Couldn't have been DAILY fights. But that's how I'm recalling it.)

I clearly recall my ex-best-friend at the time, Gayton, and his buddy, Sascha, trying to force me to go into a Lutheran church one day on our way back from school. I punched them both and ran all the way home in terror. And never spoke to Gayton every again.

"Yeah," says Refiloe, "but you don't know the EXTENT of it!"

"That's true," I say, "I don't. But I know a tiny bit."

"Have you ever had a black girlfriend?" she demands.

"No," I say.

"Proof!" she says.

This is Karen. Alas, we've just broken up, due to us not reallllllllly connecting. Sigh. She's just as tired of dating as I am, so we're both a tad bemused by all this."Of what?" I say. "All it proves is that I've not had the opportunity to fall in love with a black woman."

We decide to can this conversation. It's just getting heated, and there are no real answers anyway.

The food arrives, and that shuts us up. I've been very specific about ordering a half portion of the oxtail stew. A three-legged potjie arrives. That's mine. "No!" I say, "I asked for the half portion!"

Sharon, our waitress, says, "I know. This IS the half portion."

"Are you sure there hasn't been a mistake?"

"You should SEE our full portion," she says.

I'd rather not.

What I AM glad about is this. First thing this morning when I woke up, while Rhameez was showering, I phoned Ronelle, our production manager. "Hello Ronelle," I said.

She said, "What's WRONG????"

"Oh," I said, "nothing much. Apart from this terrrrrrrrible place we stayed in. I've spoken to Brand and Rhameez, and there's no way we're staying here tonight. We've gotta have separate rooms. And not here."

"Okay," she says. "I'll work on it."

The reason we were sharing in the first place is that this is quite a low budget shoot we're doing. We kinda figured that we should save money on the luxuries. But I can tell you this... next time you're planning a shoot, make SURE that your people have separate rooms. You CANNOT work with people all day and then still share accommodation. It's just too much. No down time.

As we were driving into town this morning, Rhameez spotted a sign. "Hey! I've stayed there before," he says. "It's not great, but at least it's got separate rooms."

I phone Ronelle. "There's a place Rhameez has stayed at," I say. "It's called 'Lonely Oaks'. He says it's okay. And it should be a similar price."

She phones back and says, "You're booked in there tonight. No sharing."

Refiloe and I say goodnight. "Let's just watch our backs on the way out of here," I say. Those moustaches are bristling. This is white-might territory. "Can I walk you to your room?"

"I'll sms you when I'm safe and sound," she says.

The sms arrives two minutes later, and I don't have to worry about being a Jewboy here in the heart of the great racial divide.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Monate Rest Camp, Polokwane (was Pietersberg)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Service: * *
Food: * *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * * * * *

I'm in Limpopo province. Brand is our camera person. He's camping in the lounge, due to privacy issues. He needs his space. Rhameez is our sound dude, and second unit camera bloke when needed. He and I are sharing a room. I'm the director on this particular shoot.

This means we've got one non-practising half-Jew (me), one non-practising Muslim (Rhameez), and one non-practising Christian all under one roof. An unholy trinity, if you ask me.

Refiloe, our presenter, has her own chalet.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" she screams. Brand is out the door first, seeing as he's in the lounge.

"What's happening?" he asks.

This is the welcome sign on the front gate of the Monate Rest Camp. To the right, in the background, can be seen a small prefabricated hut. It's one of the showhouses next to the church. This guy probably tries to sell these things to his congregants!"Yuck! Yuckkk! Yucckkkkkk!!!" says Refiloe. "There are creatures in my room!" Refiloe is a creature who single-handedly pushes the babe count up from zero to off the scale.

'Hey," I say, "no need to panic. It's just a picture." See, there are pictures of wildlife on the walls. And there's a mat on the floor with a leopard woven into it.

"NO!" she says, "It's a frog or something!!!!!"

Brand gingerly goes into her chalet. "Yup. One frog," he says. And he shoos it out.

"Let's pray for it," I say.

See, it's easy to pray for things here at the Monate Rest Camp. Because there's a church on the premises. Yep.

And it's not just any old church. It's a prefabricated church. Built by the owner of the rest camp. Who has also built every single one of the chalets. And they're all prefabricated too. See, the owner happens to have a company that builds and sells prefabricated dwellings.

But wait, there's more... the owner also happens to be the pastor at the church.

We sort out Refiloe's creature issues, and we get into our prefabricated dwelling. This one is the medium-sized dwelling in the catalogue. Which means that with the single bed crammed into the lounge, there's JUST enough space to charge the camera batteries there. And in the bedroom Rhameez and I are sharing, there's a quarter metre between the two single beds. And it's hot. And there is no netting over the windows. And the mosquitoes have been praying for this day. In the church. On the premises.

It's going to take me a good four hours to fall asleep here. That's because the linen is that horrendous half-nylon stuff. And my skin doesn't react well to it. Ugh. What's more, I'm thinking about supper at the Spur in town, and the excellent service given us by the lovely Rinda. And I'm thinking about Karen and me breaking up on Tuesday night. And I'm thinking about Jacqui. And I'm really just wishing I was back in my bed at home. Alone.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Pizza Pronto, Sandton

Monday, October 11, 2004

Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

Okay. I understand something now.

I've been playing Harold tonight, and we've been neck on neck. But I've been at somewhat of a disadvantage. I've got a snippet of Country & Western music on constant replay in my head. I can't recall the band's name, but the female singer has one of those hiccuppy voices where she twangs every word into a snot-soaked stream of tears. You know what I mean... that post-nasal-drip gasp in a sugary throat.

You know WHY I've got this snippet of "music" running through my head? Because a few weeks ago, Harold lent me ten cds from his collection. He selected his favourite music to introduce me to it.

Which I THOUGHT was very noble of him. Until tonight. Cos you see, I've uncovered his nefarious plan. He KNEW that I'd feel obliged to listen to the things. And he KNOWS how godawful they are! He KNEW that he was gonna be playing me tonight, and he must have planned this months in advance.

So here I sit, trying desperately to focus and concentrate and whip his skinny little butt.

But all I can think of is, "I-iiiiii-iiiiii.... lurrrrrr-urrrrrrr-ve... you-ooooooo!"

So when I turn the cube to 4, and he takes, and a win for me will take me to 20-19 ahead, and a win for him will mean he's won the entire match 21-16, instead of being present at Pizza Pronto, thinking about the delicious artichoke pasta I've just eaten, instead of observing Harold's Country & Western eyebrows and glaring him into submission, instead of being the Shaved Tormentor that I am... instead, I'm battling the yodelling snot eater in my head.

So, I lose.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Ocean Basket, Menlyn Park Valuemart, Pretoria

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

Karen and I are in Pretoria because I've decided to actually do something with my art. Thanks to encouragement from Karen, I've approached The Crafters Market to get shelf space in one of their stores near my flat. They've got six branches, and the only time Ute can see me outside of normal office hours is today.

So we've just finished with the meeting, and I've got the contract in my bag, ready to sign. For a ludicrously low rental, and a small percentage of my marked price, I get my art into a space where lots and lots of people come to shop for gifts.

Right now, Karen and I are eating the fish and chips special, and marvelling at the number of moustaches in Pretoria, the world capital of moustaches. The restaurant manager has a little bristle moustache. There's a 40-something dude just to my left with a 20-something trophy wife. He looks like he could be a regimental sergeant major. His moustache is one of those long ones that curls up towards his ear hairs.

"You also have one," says Karen, "so you shouldn't point fingers."

"Yes," I say, "but I've got a beard with it. My moustache isn't flying solo."

My artworks make their debut at the Randpark Ridge branch of The Crafters Market in Beyers Naude Street at the Top Crop centre on the 1st of November. I really have no idea how I'm going to get all of the organising work done in time. I'm fully engrossed in the tv show I'm directing. Luckily, this coming week is Jonathan's shoot week, and I'm still doing research and scriptwriting. But the following week it's my turn, and things are gonna get really really busy, really really quickly.

On the relationship front, it looks like Karen and I might possibly be drifting into friendship territory. While we both like each other, it seems as if something's not quite clicking. But we're working on it.

Right now it's just really lekker having someone to share the excitement with. Thanks Karen.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Missing Link, Northriding

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Firstly, the babe count. Three babes, one in an office, another at the bank of computers. The third is a little scale model of a porn star, with real nipples and vagina. She's on the boss's bookshelf.

The service. That would be Andre. Cappuccino maker par excellence. Hospitality king.

The food. Two items. The little chocolate biscuit, and the trademarked way of consuming it. Chew off the alternate corners, dip one end in the cappuccino, suck coffee up through the biscuit. As soon as the coffee hits the mouth, insert biscuit in mouth, and chew.


They import the biscuits specially so that their clients can do the mouth sex thang.

And then the two slices of cake. Chocolate cake and caramel cake. Yes yes yes.

Ambience. Yup. Definitely a place to lust yourself into. The place looks and feels like a coffee shop. But there's a very big sign up that says, "We are not a coffee shop."

That's because they're NOT a coffee shop. They're a company called Missing Link, and they've got a few operating slogans. "Saving the world, one bored audience at a time." And, "Because you're boring and we're sick of it."

They make presentations for challenged companies. And there are heavy metal music videos playing on multiple screens hanging from the ceilings. And there are skateboards and drumkits in the spare room. And the MD has a little artists' model in chains, wearing a gimp mask. And there are dudes with tattoos and fuck'n hairstyles, and bolts in their eyebrows and nipples and other places. And they're seriously passionate about communicating and about being themselves. No shame. Viva!

Brad and I are here cos we're delving into the world-famous blogsite they've created. They are the dudes behind Jo'Bloggers! ( And we're going to be featuring them on the tv series I'm co-directing. Watch this space.

And do drop in and ask Andre for coffee. But be prepared for the little reflex-testing gadget they bring out on special occasions. It's really quite shocking the lengths to which they'll go.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Pizza Pronto, Sandton

Monday, October 04, 2004

Service: * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

I'm playing Barry. And boy, is he suffering. In fact, his misery is more abject than Sophia's was last week. This is my second match in the new cycle, and it looks like I'll be winning two in a row. Barry's so far behind me, and he's been comprehensively crushed psychologically.

"But Roy," he says, "this is impossible! I sacrificed a Woolworth's chicken to the ancestors this afternoon!"

"Maybe you should have tried a Checkers chicken," I say, slapping my dice across the no-man's land of my home board. Barry lets out a mild yell as he sees my double four, and chucks his own dice into the pile in disgust.

He extends his hand. "Thanks for the match," he says.

"Pleasure," I say. And I break a backgammon rule. I gloat. I've beaten him 21-11. I call across the room to Peter, our resident surgeon. "Hey Doc," I shout, "how do you treat a ripped rectum?"

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ububele, Kew

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Service: * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Lionel Abrahams, my friend and mentor, the way I loved him best. Smiling devilishly.Karen and I are at a do in honour of Lionel Abrahams. He was my friend and writing mentor, and he died recently. I didn't go to his funeral, cos I don't do funerals. In fact, I don't want anyone I know to have a funeral for me if I should die. Let it be known that I want my body donated to medical science. NO FUNERALS, okay?

Anyway, this event is quite interesting. I know about half of the people in the room. Most of them I know because we spent time together in Lionel's Monday writing workshop. I was a stalwart there. Went for about ten years. Wrote the first draft of my novel there.

And yes. I made it! The redraft is complete, and is sitting with Jacana, along with 97 other novels. I pity the pooooooor judges! When I was very actively running Barefoot Press, my poetry publishing company, I grew allergic to poetry submissions. If a single page of poetry could send me into tremours, I shudder to think how 98 novels must make an editor feel. Oh man. The horror!

But mine's a clean 70 300 words. And it feels like a weight off my mind. Which is definitely contributing to my feeling that the depression might be lifting. (Still lots of physical fatigue, but my mood's shifting.)

Molly Seftel might have something to do with my mood lifting though. She's standing at the microphone and she's reading extracts from Lionel's last novel... THE WHITE LIFE OF FELIX GREENSPAN. I was one of his preliminary readers, so I'm very familiar with the book. I read it from cover to cover twice, making extensive notes for Lionel. I own two copies of the book.

Molly Seftel is reading. And reading. And reading. She's a very good dramatist, so she's injecting lots of animation into the text. But she's going on a bit.

Jane Fox, Lionel's widow, asked people attending the dinner to prepare a very short piece in tribute to Lionel.

Behind the podium, there's a giant photo of the lovely man. Lionel's two pairs of glasses are below the picture, along with the stick he used to press keys on his computer keyboard. He was severely spastic, and could only type one letter every two or three seconds. I helped him put his glasses on hundreds of times in the fifteen years I knew him.

So it's strange to me that as Molly Seftel reads yet another extract, I'm pressing me hands to my eyes to hold back the tears. Except they're not tears of sorrow. I'm desperately trying not to piss myself laughing. And Karen isn't helping either. She's also sitting gouging her fingers into her eyes, and if I look to the side, I can see her body shaking, which sets me going. Our faces are both wet, and we're making those little desperate moaning grunts that people make when the laugh almost escapes.

Molly says, "And now, just another passage. This one about Felix's politics." (Felix is a character Lionel created as a thinly disguised version of himself.) "I'm ALLOWED to!" she says. "I was Lionel's BEST FRIEND!" And off she goes. More reading.

Nadine Gordimer. She was the chair of COSAW, the Congress of South Africa Writers many years ago, when I was a member.Every now and again, I get my mirth under control. But then Molly starts reading ANOTHER extract from the book, and I look around, and I see yet another person falling asleep. Nadine Gordimer is sitting pertly at the table in front of me. She's paying polite attention, but I can see her head drooping.

And then I look at Erich Viedge. He and I met at Lionel's workshop, and we've been great friends ever since. His head is in his hands, and he's looking desperate. Bulging eyes. Despair. When will this woman stop reading???? And I almost lose it completely looking at him. And Karen looks up to look at what I'm looking at. And sees Erich's face. And very nearly loses it completely too, and she's making terrific little gagging noises, and I call on all of my powers of concentration to prevent a wail escaping my own lips. And then, thank Lionel's mischievous soul, Molly shuts the fuck up.

The applause is strained. I look around. And I judge that I'll be second at the mic. I'll set the tone for people to follow.

"Hi," I say, "my name's Roy Blumenthal." Inexplicably, people applaud, loudly. This is weird, cos while half of them know me personally, I'm not THAT applaudable. When it dies down, I say, "I've just finished the redraft of my novel, and I'd like to read the entire thing. But unfortunately, I've left it at home."

Applause. Then Jane says, "Less than five minutes, Roy!"

I say, "Much less than five minutes. I want to say thanks to Lionel for something in particular, something people find low and crude in me, but which Lionel loved. Lionel was a punster. And if he could love puns, so can I. He was a surrogate father to me in many ways, and I loved him. And you too Jane."

"Thanks, Roy," says Jane.

"And here's a very short poem," I say. "It's exactly eleven words long, so I'll say it twice."

I recite my poem:

I touch your photograph
too often
for my heart to heal.

The applause is long and satisfying. And Nadine Gordimer nods meaningfully at me. Which is good. Cos she's one of the judges in the Jacana novel competition.