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Inside/out with Charlene Smith, writer
September 08, 2008
yourself in five words?
Happy, hectic, hippy, honest, never humble
the best piece of advice you've ever received?
My mind went blank when I saw this question. I'm very good at giving
advice, as all the worst nosy parkers are, but shocking at heeding
it. A newspaper editor who bravely employed me three times - recruiting
me every time he changed newspapers, once wrote of me: "Charlene
is possibly the best journalist I've ever employed but she is wilful."
the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
Bought my son a pig for his 10th birthday, truth was I'd always
wanted a pig. As I proudly took little Wilbur (the pig) wrapped
in a tartan blanket with a tartan bow down the passage to present
to my son, his mouth dropped (my son's). "Mom," he said,
"other boys get bicycles for their 10th birthday." So
Matthew got a bicycle too and ultimately grew to adore Wilbur who
became a Very Famous Pig, all the school children would come by
to visit him, or we would take him on his red lead to school. He
trained the other animals to watch TV and at 6pm, TV watching time,
they would all troop in and obediently sit behind Wilbur who would
snort and grunt until the set was switched on. When JM Coetzee's
brother, Dirk, came home after living in exile for many years, he
and I had polished off half a bottle of red wine when Wilbur ambled
in ready for a spot of TV viewing. Dirk looked at his glass, looked
at the pig, looked at the bottle, wiped his eyes and said, "that's
a very interesting dog." 'It's not a dog,' I said, 'It's a
pig.' Dirk pondered this, "do many SA's now have pigs as pets?"
He left not long after Wilbur threw a squawking grunting tantrum
because he wasn't allowed to watch TV while a guest was visiting.
None of us have ever eaten pork since. My children have talked me
out of converting the swimming pool into a duck pond, out of buying
a charming goat, of taking home 5 chickens owned by a friend who
was leaving the country and who called them "the girls",
presently I'm building a pond in my backgarden for singing frogs
is your most treasured possession?
Paintings done by my children. The one was done by my daughter Leila
who after her brother was born painted a picture of a baby with
an umbilical cord still attached (she was 7) and the words "I
(heart) our baby." And then Matthew once hammered two pieces
of tomato box together and wrote on it in black khoki pen: "God
bless you. Happy birthday Mom. I just cant believe that you getting
older by the minet your already 37!!! Happy birthday. Happy birthday."
do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Not loving, nor being loved
have any strange hobbies?
My life is strange enough to most
do you dislike most about your appearance?
My hands, they are short and stubby and I've bitten my nails ever
since I've had teeth
is your greatest extravagance?
Sheesh, there are so many where do I start? One of my favourites
is sitting in a beautiful wicker chair on my patio next to my big
goldfish pond (I have 3) at the weekend in the sun, reading, watching
the birds, smelling scents from plants occasionally waft past me
(I plant for scent and birds) and thinking how incredibly lucky
I am and how much I love my life
have you got in your fridge?
Ginger beer, sparkling ruby grapefruit juice, a big bottle of home
made peri peri sauce, olives marinated with bay leaves and orange
strips (also homemade), homemade green tomato chutney, homemade
marmalade (it's Spring - Spring and Summer are my two big pickling,
bottling and preserving seasons), 4 different cheeses, organic veg,
a lovely bottle of pink Pierre Jourdan Tranquille wine, double thick
Greek yoghurt, strawberries, blueberries, Irish butter, a magnum
of Veuve Clicquot, garlic and organic eggs
What is your greatest fear?
Anything negative happening to my children
have you got in your pockets right now?
which is par for the course
is your favourite journey?
There isn't one, I love, the road from Salta to Tucaman in Argentina;
any road in Tuscany; walking through Shinjuku or cycling through
Ookayama in Tokyo, Japan; taking the Eurostar from London to Paris;
any road that leads to my children
are your heroes in real life?
As opposed to my unreal life? That makes it harder. Sheena Duncan
of the Black Sash, one of my all-time role models with Audrey Coleman
who founded the Detainee Parents Support Committee in South Africa,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his heart and humour, Mahatma Gandhi,
Martin Luther King ... Any person who stands up for social justice
and speaks out regardless of the consequences and who puts action
behind their words. Most of all I love and admire the 'invisible'
people, those little people who put the 'extra' into ordinary and
who do the work, the backslogging that make people like Tutu, Gandhi
and Luther King household words. Those people who every day perform
extraordinary acts of courage, compassion and love to people around
them, who will never receive thanks, their goodness never noted,
they are the people I love most and are my biggest heroes and heroines
and where were you happiest?
Here. Now. Happiness is a choice, it's a conscious decision, a daily
act. The more we take an interest in people the more their positive
energy reflects back on us and gives a sense of fulfilment and real
ongoing joy. On the burglar bars outside my bedroom window (this
is Johannesburg after all) I have a metal sign, with the words,
"Happiness" on it. Happiness is our greatest single quest.
It makes life worth living
your biggest vice?
Oy oy oy! I must say this in public? And tell the truth? I never
stop at one glass of wine, I always have two, but thereafter I stop.
I'm a bit boring really, but once my book is finished (I'm working
on my 11th), I hope I have time to create more vices
were you like at school?
Clever, rebellious, shy
What are you doing next?
Finishing my chapter on "The Challenges Facing Men: Belonging
and Identity" for my next book :) After that only two more
chapters to go and I will be finished. Hallelujah!!!
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