The Contented Whinger

Intro: Imagine getting revenge on croc-wearing, cell-phone -speaking, SUV -driving, queue hoppers? Well, Tim Richman of Claremont fulfilled that fantasy when he wrote a no-holds barred, not quite politically correct Is it just me or is everything ka! This was such a hit, that he’s written a sequel. By Dawn Kennedy
Copy: You’d expect the author of a series that moans about the woes of South Africa to open his door spitting with fury. But as it turns out Tim Richman is laid back and upbeat about our country. “At the heart of every cynic there’s an idealist trying to get out,” he says. He sees both his books, Is it just me or is everything ka! and Is it just me or is everything still ka! as good medicine that allows us to communally gripe about the bad things so that we can move on to enjoying all the good that South Africa has to offer.
“When I returned to South Africa in 2001 it was one of those perfect days, with Table Mountain illuminated by a blue Ford Cortina sky. I knew I was home and got shivers down my spine. Since my arrival, I’m more conscious of taking advantage of what this city has to offer and I try to go to the beach and mountain often. Walking up the mountain is a bit of a mission but I love Lions head. It’s a quick 30 minutes to the top for a grand perspective. I’ve become a member of the Kirstenbosch botanical garden, and I even take photos of sunbirds. It’s almost embarrassing.”
Tim spent several years exploring the safe havens where South Africans traditionally seek asylum – New Zealand, Canada and Australia. He describes these sojourns as “all worthy experiences” but missed South Africa and was easily cajoled back to South Africa from New Zealand by a job offer of publishing manager at Two dogs publishing company.
“Nowhere matches South Africa for its vibrancy” he says and warns people against the tendency to view the grass as greener Australia. “I don’t disrespect people who have left but it’s very easy for South Africans to focus on the negatives and forget the positives and look at the positives of other places and ignore the negatives.”
Despite having authored a whingers guide to South Africa, Tim says that while he’ critical by nature he’s recently been training himself to practice contentment. In the sequel he takes a bash at the attitude of living in hope, lambasting it as a useless panacea applied universally throughout Africa. But in the same book he also takes issue with doom mongering. His wry, detached approach to life scans the horizon without preference.
His major complaint about Claremont is the lack of small intimate continental style eateries. “Given that we have the best weather in the world can we at least suffer our dire service and eat our substandard food while sitting in the sun?” he asks. He considers dining in a shopping mall food hall as inviting as eating on a traffic island. He longs for somewhere of the ilk of Giovanni’s in Greenpoint, which is “expensive but good value.”
But the one thing that really gets Tim’s goat are leaf-blowers: gardening enthusiasts who crank up noisy machines on a Sunday morning, disturbing the peace of innocent, hung-over writers. It’s a phenomenon he first encountered in 2001 in New Zealand and since then the habit has pursued him like a swarm of mosquitoes to the shores of South Africa.
Not surprisingly, with someone of Tim’s critical bent, he prefers to entertain at home with his girlfriend Julie. He has a keen interest in world affairs and his ideal dinner party would include a few historic figures. He fantasises about inviting Hitler but thinks it would probably spoil his appetite. He believes Churchill would be entertaining company and would love to invite his three favourite authors- Joseph Heller, John Irving and Martin Amis.
Being a best-selling author is champagne poppingly fabulous, although Tim tells me, modestly, that in South Africa the accolade is rather overblown since a has only to sell more than 5,000 copies to become a bestseller. “Is it Just me or is everything kak?”has sold 10 000 copies to date, not bad in a nation that favour braiing and kicking balls to reading. Also Tim is keen to point out that the idea for the book was copied from the English Is it just me or is everything shi! by Alan McArthur but the style, ideas and observations are Tim’s own
Reading “is it just me or is everything still ka! I’m reminded just how much ka! has crept surreptitiously into our lives since his first book. Take Zuma, Interet rate hikes and load shedding for starters. A sequel is definitely in order and it doesn’t disappoint.
Tim is a wry word wizard. It’s in his genes. His grandfather was dubbed the Press Baron and worked closely with Rupert Murdoch in New Zealand. His mother followed her father’s footsteps and was editor of Fair Lady until 1994. Tim has worked for GQ and Conde Nast. He studied English literature at UCT. JM Coetzee was his professor at the time. “What I admire most about Coetzee is his discipline. I’ve heard that he writes every day from 6am to 12pm and then continues with his normal day of teaching. I’m envious of that.”

Tim works in reverse. “I’m a night owl. When the sun goes down, my computer flickers to life. He admits this isn’t easy on Julie. “I become a zombie for the month before my book is finished. He compensates afterwards. “I like to blow money on a fancy meal, or a weekend getaway.”
The transition into the world of books has been a revelation for Tim. If you’re planning the next version of War and Peace, he offers some insider track advice. His message to aspiring authors is make sure you understand the industry. Writing a book is difficult, but selling it is well nigh impossible. Writing a book is packing your backpack. Getting it sold is reaching the summit.
The one thing that he couldn’t imagine doing without, besides Julie, is an internet connection. “I’m an avid email writer. I have a group of eight friends across the globe that I email daily.” He has a major grouch with the ineptitude of Cape Town 3G’s wireless connection but says, “That’s the price you pay for having a beautiful mountain so I’m not going to hold a grudge.
Black book
When Tim want to live it up a little and appease Julie after he has finished a book, he enjoys splashing out on a meal at Haiku *021-424-47000
For casual outdoor dining he frequents Basilico’s * 021 -683-5989 for pizza and pasta
The only thing that will tempt him into Cavendish mall is Exclusive books *021674-3030 where he likes to loiter and rearrange his books on the shelf.
Giovanni’s is his favourite deli *021 434-6893 and he longs for a deli of its calibre of to open in Newlands.
He enjoys home entertaining and cooking up a steak for a group of friends. He buys excellent meat from the Super meat market on Main Road Kenilworth *021 797-5595
He’s a member of Kirstenbosch botanical gardens *021-799-8899 and find that lounging on the lawn renews his faith in humanity
He loves movies and is deeply grateful to DVD Nouveau in Newlands for their selection of classic and art house titles *021 683-0203

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