Tupperware Party

James Preston Reply 2:05 PM
The final instalment of the "Tandem Blogging Project"! And this week's title is "Tupperware Party". Enjoy. It's a tribute to all the amazing writers writing for this project.

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Kathryn scraped the undercarriage of her SUV as she pulled into Anne's typically tilted Mission District driveway. Kathryn never imagined Anne Rice would have a home as humble as what presented her only 10 feet from the street. She did some calculations in her mind in order to make the best decision about where to park her Ford Edge. There were only four cars in the smaller than average San Francisco driveway, and space was becoming quite the conundrum for Kathryn.

After finally navigating the tight spaces, she felt like she had done a considerate enough job. A final glance in the rear view mirror to confirm her make-up didn't need a touch-up, and a deep sigh to gather emotions. She hated these kinds of events. But Anne had been so persuasive over the phone that she couldn't refuse. And of course; it was Anne Rice.

She could hear the bustle of a good time from the driveway, but this was nowhere near enough to quell her apprehension. She held her finger over the ivory doorbell, and paused. One last collection of consciousness to brace herself for small talk and cynicism.

The doorbells chimed in a way you would expect from a home owned by Anne Rice. A gothic melody of magic. Kathryn heard a distant "coming!" from amongst the chatter. The door opened. It was Anne.

"Hello my darling!"

She threw her arms around Kathryn's shoulders, leaving Kathryn with the option of going under Anne's. Anne embraced her as if she were Kathryn's mother. A welcome emotion she hadn't felt in decades.

"Ah!" exclaimed Anne in a piercing delight, "I'm just so glad you could make it!" Anne's voice contained an air of relief. If coming along was for the sole purpose of supporting Anne, it was worth it.

Anne grabbed Kathryn's arm just above the elbow and pulled her down the hall and into the living room, where seven others were standing and mingling.

"Kathryn Bigelow!" came a cry from the furthest corner of the room. Kathryn could feel her nerves internally standing on end. Seth MacFarlane was always over the top in his greetings. He broke away from his conversation with what Kathryn could make out was Jason Silva. She loved Jason's work. But alas it was MacFarlane so eager to greet Kathryn.

"Kathryn!" Seth praised loudly, drawing the attention of everyone else in the room, as if her presence hadn't been announced enough already, "It's so cool that you could make it!" he proclaimed as he gently held her left elbow and reached out for a double-cheeked kiss.

Kathryn responded warmly, which was only polite. She never had much time for Seth MacFarlane. He was beyond witty and in her mind one of the most talented comics in America, but his skill came at an immense cost. He was just too inconsiderately imbecilic. She often pondered the vast contrast between IQ and EQ, and how people can so often be extremely high in one sector whilst extremely lacking in the other.

Just before he could blast into idiotic smalltalk about her latest project, there came a shrilling *ting!* *ting!* *ting!* from the centre of the living room. Kathryn turned with relief to see Anne in her typically stunning purple velvet calling to attention the talent laden attendees.

The room quickly quieted and Anne asked everyone to sit.

"Everyone. Thank you all so much for coming. I understand it's a small group, and a long trip for all of you," she began with, accompanied by polite snickering, "I'm just ever so surprised no-one could bring their partners."

"We wanted to keep ourselves available!" sputtered Seth.

Kathryn rolled the imaginary eyes inside of her head.

"Oh Seth! Please!" exclaimed the beautiful Victoria from the opposite couch on which Kathryn was sitting. Victoria Beckham had been a mentee of Doris Day's, and coming to any event she was hosting was a given in Victoria's mind. She was a lot more frank with Seth about her disdain for his out of place satire.

"Yes, Seth," continued Anne, "please. We are all responsible aristocrats here."

"Speak for yourself Annie!" Zach Galifianakis piped up from the corner couch, referencing his recent lack of work and unfortunate tax deductions. There was a far more expressive giggle from the group this time. Zach was a lot more warm a comedian. Not quite as sharp as Seth, but a lot balanced in his IQ and EQ metering.

"Please, everyone. I know we are all large personalities here, but let's try and keep it to one conversation for now?" Anne mused, in a questioning tone rather than a polite request.

"Now, Doris has called us all here for an extremely important cause. One that none of us would have responded to if we didn't believe in what she was doing." The group all nodded amicably.

"Doris has asked me to host the evening, and as host she wanted me to chair proceedings as well."

"Well I'm glad someone brought their own chair!" piped Robin Williams, with a blurt of his own narcissistic laughter. Robin Williams wasn't narcissistic at all, he just enjoyed his own jokes.

"Robin, please! I am trying to talk!" retorted Anne. "Now, let me get straight to proceedings as I can see keeping you all attentive is going to be harder than writing for my teenage audience sector."

The group erupted in a cheerful giggle. It seemed more polite than responsive, though.

Anne continued as if nothing happened, "Doris, would you like to say a few words before I get into it all?"

Doris, looking delightfully elegant despite her ailing health at 87, shook her head in a confident sort of way.

"Right then. So! You all know why you've been invited, and again thank you for being here," continued Anne in a grateful tone, "but let me tell you what it is that you have been invited for.
Some time last year, Doris wrote to me with the most hideous description of what the feral cat and dog population of LA looks like. Friends, let me tell you, it is atrocious.
We then conversed over email about how we could raise awareness and funds to end the scourge of feral animals in the major cities of our beautiful country."

This is why Kathryn was here. She loved animals, she had three cats of her own.

Anne continued with her firm but convincing tone, "We came to the conclusion that coupling our channels of influence with our combined intelligence..."

Seth spluttered on his Diet Coke. Kathryn found that ironic.

Anne rebuilt her sentence, "...with our combined intelligence, we could come up with a plan that could effectively end feral animals in our country."

Doris jumped in. Being frail and quiet, she raised her finger first, Anne immediately turned toward her and paused.

"I have a goal, everyone," her voice was barely above whisper level, "that we can end the feral animal problem within the next ten years. I very well may not be around then, but of all the things I am passionate about..." she coughed on a clearly dry throat. She gracefully took a sip of her gin and continued, "Of all the animal projects I am passionate about, this is the one I want my legacy to leave." She stopped and looked up from the group back to Anne, indicating she was done.

"Thank you, Doris. And we believe in this goal. That is why we are all here." Anne responded.

"So you see, this is a Tupperware Party with a difference. I want to sell you something that could literally change the world."

Sir Terry Pratchett leaned forward and piped up and raised his right hand, "excuse me Anne!" his hand shaking conspicuously from his disease, "but you don't need to convince us about buying into this project. We are behind you and Doris with our whole hearts. Please, don't be apologetic. This means the world to Doris, and so it means the world to us!"

Terry had always been one of Kathryn's favourite humans. He was, in her mind, by far the most intelligent person in the room. Not only that, he was immensely generous. The fact that he even flew out from London in his condition showed emphatically what kind of a friend he was.

The night had officially begun. Two hours later, Kathryn had settled and was a lot more comfortable with the brainstorming and invigorating dialogue. This really was a Tupperware Party with a difference. Anne mused how she had paid for her first typewriter selling Tupperware, and she was so thankful all those years of hosting such parties came in handy for a cause so great as this.

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This post was a lot of fun to write! But extremely difficult. I hope it wasn't boring, as I can't imagine how a Tupperware Party for celebrity Animal Rights Activists would come out.

In tribute to all my fellow writers, I compared them with celebrity characters that reflected what I had got to know about them from engaging on Twitter, Facebook and their Blogs.
And please, Nick! Don't take any offence at the picture I painted about Seth MacFarlane. It was purely for story reasons, no innuendo intended whatsoever!! :)

Kathryn Bigelow: www.meganshead.co.za/
Anne Rice: https://medium.com/@ricegirl2
Terry Pratchett: http://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/
Seth MacFarlane: https://medium.com/@nick_frost
Zach Galifianakis: https://brettfish.wordpress.com/
Doris Day: https://cathjenkin.wordpress.com/
Robin Williams: http://squidsquirts.blogspot.com/ 
Victoria Beckham: www.kerrycontrary.com/

Mumbai

James Preston Reply 2:00 PM
By now you should know the drill of this "Tandem Blogging Project". (If you don't click here to go to last week's Post and read the intro for a summary.)

I'm going to get straight into this one. Yes, as in right now... this is my post. In the first person. Speaking to you directly.

I went with this format because I am privileged enough to have been to India. And whilst there, the country experienced one of its worst terrorist attacks in its history. And it happened in Mumbai.


I was in Delhi at the time, but the nation was in absolute shock. These attacks were arguably worse than the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in 2015. I felt the impact of those attacks more than most, so when someone says "Mumbai" (even in cricket), it brings back pertinent memories.

So what I will do is, in honour of the 164 innocent people who lost their lives in a Mumbai November 2008, I will take you on a journey through my experience of India.

Many of you having traveled there yourselves I'm sure, and being good Geography students of the internet, would know that India is the world's 2nd largest country by population (1 billion people) and 7th largest by land area. It has 29 States, with 46 cities populated by 1 million or more people. 13 of which have populations of over 2 million, with 8 of those having populations of over 4 million.

The top 3 most populated cities in India are 1-Mumbai (12,4 million) 2-New Delhi (11 million) 3-Bangalore (8,4 million). Just get your head around those numbers.

I so wish my trip in 2008 took me to Mumbai, but having immersed myself in Delhi in 2008, I felt it was a good second best.

New Delhi is up in the mid-North of India, and is the nation's capital. While Mumbai is on the mid to South-West of the country's coast.

I loved the country! And what I want to do off the back of that intro is take you through a bit of a photo journal of my experience and give some thoughts as I do so...


I found the people to be among the most friendly and hospitable of any nation I have ever visited. And I have been privileged enough to travel to a fair amount.

These kids, complete strangers who had just come out of school as I walking the streets, saw me taking some shots and wanted in! They embodied the hospitality and fun-loving nature of the Indian people.


In stark contrast to young children in decent school uniform getting a good Indian education (which we know provides a good stead!) was a woman in what I could only describe as "abject poverty". Her eyes were blank, her stare eternal. If you think South Africa has a crazy divide of middle-class and poverty, take a trip to India. The poor are "truly among you".


Travel to anywhere in the city is easy and cheap on a "Tuk-Tuk" or "Auto". A little three-wheeler mo-ped type of thing. Just know where you are going! And hope you get an English-speaking driver!


Depending on your budget, accommodation is pretty affordable on the South African Rand. This hotel would easily have passed as 3-star in South Africa, and if my memory serves me correctly cost us less than R500 a night per person including breakfast, internet, aircon and a daily newspaper. Again though, the contrast of middle-class and the feeling of poorly managed suburbs was intriguing. Despite the fact that this is one of Delhi's upper end suburbs.


A trip to New Delhi is not complete without a trip to Old Delhi, the original bustling hub of the city. The bustle hasn't left. Traffic moves from 4 lane chaos, to all out open-ended anarchy. Drivers are confident. To say the least.


Old Delhi's heart. One of the most populous places on earth. You're literally walking in a sardine can...


India to this day remains one of my favourite memories, unfortunately marred by the justifiably sombre mood which overshadowed the nation in the wake of the atrocious attacks in Mumbai. I long to visit India's most populous city, do some business, meet the people, and watch some cricket.


Here's to Mumbai!

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To see what the 8 other Blogging talents came up with for the title "Mumbai", check them out below!
(One of our Bloggers, Nick Frost, is celebrating his birthday TODAY!)

Megan: www.meganshead.co.za/
Sarah: https://medium.com/@ricegirl2
Dave: http://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/
Nick: https://medium.com/@nick_frost
Brett: https://brettfish.wordpress.com/
Cath: https://cathjenkin.wordpress.com/
Scott: http://squidsquirts.blogspot.com/ 
Kerry: www.kerrycontrary.com/

Tonight You're Mine, Completely

James Preston Reply 6:58 PM
So, I'm into Week 3 of this Tandem Blogging project (where 9 different Bloggers write on the same topic, without seeing each other's material, and release those 9 posts at the same time - Wednesday at 7pm).



This week's topic is "Tonight you're mine, completely". The above pic is from the office I was working in today, and whilst getting into my scheduled time to write this week's post, I looked around for some inspiration, and you should be able to see what inspired me to write this...

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Slumdog Heath, as he was known to everyone in town, had been dry for an agonising two years. The pain of his self-discipline outweighed the pride that was meant to accompany such an achievement. Most of the one hundred and forty two citizens of Westing didn't really notice anyway. There was no appreciation to be bestowed. No significance to blow the balloon of pride that would normally go hand in hand with such a lengthy period of sobriety.

Heath's addiction began in the basement of his parent's townhouse in New Orleans. He would quell the pain of their fighting with his father's stock of moonshine. It didn't taste like much, quite the contrary. But it sure made life more bearable.

After stumbling through the US Airforce's 24 month Heli Academy, he was stationed in Keylong, a remote mountain village in Northern India. With regular cargo missions into the depths of the Himalayas, he became one of the most skilled helicopter pilots ever to serve in the Force. His commanding officer willingly overlooked his all-too-obvious addiction to the bottle because his skills had become far too indispensable.

After 15 years of tediously unvaried cargo work, his break came when the Rwandan Genocide exploded. Heath was commissioned to Butaro, a small town in the North of Rwanda, not far from the Ugandan border. The US Airforce had agreed to send a small consignment of troops and assets to Rwanda as part of a United Nations agreement.

If Keylong was tedious, Rwanda was pandemonium. Fifteen years of high altitude cargo loading, with a spattering of hiker rescues here and there, numb the mind of mankind's potential for brutality. On-the-ground-Rwanda in 1994 was like anaphylactic shock.

The images his mind had absorbed for the three months he worked in Butaro provided a lifetime of haunting memories. His alcoholism had transitioned from an inherited genetic condition to a tranquilliser. Five bottles of his vice (cheap Spanish Sherry) every day had to be escalated to give the effect his disturbed consciousness so intensely craved. Scotch, Vodka and Gin all added to the daily sedative consumption.

He could barely walk by lunchtime, and by three o'clock in the afternoon he had passed out along one of the many beach walks of Ewa Beach, not far from his new posting in Hawaii. It was here that he earned the nickname Slumdog. Hickam's Airforce Base would get the usual phone call from a local to inform them that one of their officers needed collecting off Ewa's sandy white shores.

"Slumdog's on pier two!" the call operator would shout to the unit.

After three years of the consistent rehab relapse cycle, he was honourably discharged. His addiction too hefty for his skills to carry.

He needed to work to service his addiction. He didn't want to do anything else but fly. It was the only thing his brain had become wired to do without the need to be sober. A helicopter charter in the small town of Westing, a fishing village in Northern Alaska, was the only outlet that would take him. He would stay conscious enough to perform the morning routes without much hiccup (besides the odd conversation unwitting passengers would attempt to strike up).

By forty two years old he became all too aware that his addiction would be the end of him. Heath battled to hold any kind of relationship, be it companionship or friendship. No one wanted to take on the commitment of a drunk. It was either drink himself to an early demise, or attempt change.

He took two weeks leave to see Canada's most prominent alcoholism psychiatrist, which, after his intense assessment, required a further six months rehab program.

After fighting his demons through six months of rehabilitation programs, he graduated with a confidence he hadn't felt since hitting a home run in fourth grade little league. He made his way back up to Westing, and restarted.

Things were going fine. Until one dark, fateful Winter's afternoon. It was July eleventh, 2002. What was a glorious and crisp Winter's day, was the beginning of a great ruin in the life of a fighter.

A passenger had come with his typically overprotected and privileged wife to Westing to witness the phenomenal Northern Lights. Heath by now was used to engaging in good conversation with his passengers, but today's engagement would have been best left to the days of Slumdog's incoherence.

The passenger was from Spain. In a small town called Montilla. He owned a vineyard. A vineyard dedicated to making the finest Sherry in the world. This passenger was proud of his work, and graciously bestowed his product on all who did him well.

Heath couldn't say no. He couldn't comprehend at the time whether it was his gentle, receptive nature, or his fifteen year long relationship with Spanish Sherry. He had to accept the gift.

After his last flight had landed, and his final passenger checked out, Heath did his final checks on his Robinson R44 Raven, and gathered his belongings. The Montilla Sherry whispered its presence amongst the pilot paraphernalia of his chopper.

He stopped...

For a few seconds.

Gazed at it like he were face to face with a polar bear in the arctic.

And placed it in his bag. The drive from the airfield to his home was only three minutes and sixteen seconds. Doing it so frequently for so long a season he had timed it.

Heath remembered eleventh grade science. Einstein's theory of relativity came back to mind as those three minutes felt like an hour. An hour alone behind a well-stocked bar. This was not happening.

It was. And living alone didn't help. He put his bag on his desk in his makeshift home study, opened the fridge, peered into its austerity, and reached for the only drink within; a Cherry Coke. He slumped into the couch and turned on episode 41 of the West Wing's season 2.

He could barely hear the words coming out of his DVD's high end sound system. His mind was on one thing, and one thing only.

It was as if it were possessed by another life. As if it could communicate with his mind. It started with a whisper in his stationery helicopter. It was now a loud and commanding call to action.

He cracked.

He had expended every last unit of emotional energy needed for self-control. He had nothing left.

He left the DVD running as he briskly leapt to the kitchen. He rummaged through his cupboard, grabbing a rusted corkscrew and the only wine glass he owned, a gift from the Keylong Airforce Base.

He hurried down the passageway and entered the study. Not setting eyes on anything but his duffel bag, which he unzipped and penetrated. Grabbing the neck of the sublimely crafted bottle he rushed back to his sofa, hitting the standby button on his remote as he sat. He was going to savour this moment.

He peeled away the finely coated layer of metallic plastic, and thrust the rusty corkscrew as hard as he could, a little off centre as it stabbed into the cork. He twisted with enthusiastic vigour, and had to stand to loose the cork from its sturdy grip in the bottle.

"Pop!"

The delightful sound represented the dawn of his next season in life.

He slumped back into the sofa with a sigh, and with it in his right hand, stared at the bottle with lustful desire.

It whispered again with captivating thrill.

"Tonight you're mine, completely."

Slumdog Heath smiled in defeat, as he waited for the Sherry to breathe.

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This week was fun! Definitely my favourite writing experience thus far! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I wrote it!
I'm excited to see what my partners in crime came up with. You can check out what they came up with below:

Megan: www.meganshead.co.za/
Sarah: https://medium.com/@ricegirl2
Dave: http://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/
Nick: https://medium.com/@nick_frost
Brett: https://brettfish.wordpress.com/
Cath: https://cathjenkin.wordpress.com/
Scott: http://squidsquirts.blogspot.com/ 
Kerry: www.kerrycontrary.com/

Ninety-Nine

James Preston Reply 6:55 PM
As mentioned last week, I am privileged to have been included in a Tandem Blogging "experiment" with some of SA's most gifted bloggers.

Every week 9 SA Bloggers are given a random title, and asked to create a piece around it. We each publish the piece on our Blogs at 2pm now 7pm every Wednesday. This week's title is "Ninety-Nine". Here's my piece... an experiment with very basic poetry. Forgive its primal form.

(See below the Post for the links to other Blogger's work!)

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Ninety double figures in the first set,
a common number for high-odd bets.
A long way off from the last single figure,
but you get here fast enough if you count with vigour.

One of Jesus' most popular stories,
but only a single digit gets the glory.
Anyway, I prefer the big crowds for me,
it's where the party gets wild and free.

I'm only one percent short of perfection,
but if your score is mine you'll get almost equal satisfaction.
The mathematician that decided on percent,
clearly didn't know that it was me he meant.

A mirror image of two sisters,
two curved lines below two blisters.
One short of three figures am I,
yes you got it now... I am Ninety-Nine.

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That's it for this week's contribution! Excited to see what the great Dave Luis gives us as a title for next week!

Check out what the other great Bloggers came up with below:

Megan: www.meganshead.co.za/
Sarah: https://medium.com/@ricegirl2
Dave: http://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/
Nick: https://medium.com/@nick_frost
Brett: https://brettfish.wordpress.com/
Cath: https://cathjenkin.wordpress.com/
Scott: http://squidsquirts.blogspot.com/ 
Kerry: www.kerrycontrary.com/

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