Sunday, 6 May 2018

Things a Granny is Ill-Advised to Say to the Parents/Grandchild

Google image

"If you let them walk around with their food, it's no wonder the dog eats most of it. Why don't you put the dog outside when they eat?"
"Shouldn't they be in bed already?"
"If you bath them later and put them to bed straight away, they will sleep better and not run around outside and get dirty again".
"Don't they have all these tummy upsets from too many take-aways?"
"You really will have to restrict the time he spends on that Play-Station".
"What are you going to do with that trunk of Lego pieces?"
"You shouldn't make empty threats."
Why can't they play in the garden instead of having to take them to 'Adventure Playgrounds' in the school holidays?"
"Don't they eat too many crumb-covered things cooked in the Air Fryer?"

On the upside though:
"It's so nice to see them eat a home-cooked meal"
"I am so glad they don't have TVs or cell phones in their bedrooms."
"I am so glad you still read to them in bed every night"

However,  my 7-year-old granddaughter can be mean: when reprimanded by me for cheeking her mother in the car, there was a silence - then:
"I don't want Granny to baby-sit me tonight.  I want Elise (their maid)."
"You can't have Elise".
"Then I want Nana - Granny can go home".

Luckily, I didn't react to this and later, after 4 games of Junior Monopoly and half an hour of shooting a netball in the garden, peace was restored, baby-sitting went like a charm and bed was half an hour earlier than usual.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Learning to write a Novel


 
Google image - me 40 years ago

I mustn't make all my posts a moan about something, so I just thought I would share a few insights, now that self-publishing is so easy.  I've spent a long time - maybe 5 years, thinking about writing a novel (as you do).  I've now got to the stage that I've worked out the bones of a plot and have started.  I've worried that I find dialogue difficult, but a light bulb shone recently.  It all depends on the style you have to chosen. Predictably, most of the first part is based on people I have known and on my own experiences. This is the safest way to go, considering that everyone is on Internet and if you are inaccurate about anything, someone will pick you out.  This is daunting. Almost gone seem to be the days when you could write about fictional characters and fictional places, unless you can write in the science fiction mode.  At the moment, my book club is reading biographies and auto-biographies. Guess what?  Hardly any direct speech.  I don't miss it when the writing is basically a memoir. Apparently, 30 000 to 80 000 is the number of words required for an average length novel. But what about font size and the number of blank and half pages to be seen in a lot of popular fiction?  I've often been irritated by pages and pages of dialogue and no descriptive detail and chapters a page and a half long.  But then I've never thought to be popular: truth be told I am only trying to do this now because I have the time and need a new challenge in my life and it's so far only for my own satisfaction.  I've just read Joyce Carol Oates'  "A Widow's Story",  typically a thick piece of writing, pouring out her grief and how she dealt with it after the sudden death of her beloved husband.  It clearly helped her to heal: I would recommend it to anyone whose partner has just died.  Most of the book deals with a moment-by-moment account of her feelings during the first three weeks of widowhood. Very interestingly, her husband never read any of her fiction.  After he died, she discovered that he had been writing a book dealing with his problems with his father and his Catholic upbringing. He hadn't told her. Should she read it?  I am reassured: I don't want anyone I know to crit. my work - least of all my husband.  I am now at a painful 12000 words.  Thanks to Facebook, I am touch with a girl from my school who now writes.  She is actually on her fourth novel - based on the neighbourhood in which we both grew up.  She has a bona fide publisher and deadlines and freely confesses that she hates the 'research' part of the writing.  So I feel encouraged. Happily, our themes won't cross:  she was very much in the Mods and Rockers club scene, whereas I was a stay-at-home introvert.  Her family life was clearly very happy: mine was strained.  The hardest part I am finding is - now that I know the plot, beginning, middle and end - all the rest seems to be padding.  Not easy to be both the writer and the reader. Fun though.  Also  - thank God for computers - and that I learned to touch-type when I was a student, and for the Delete Key!  Happy writing.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A Trying Week

 
A great looking older lady (Google)

We've had one of my sister-in-laws visiting for just over a week. She has had more stents fitted after an initial two six years ago.  It's hard to believe how much medical science has advanced. Now, instead of hearing that someone has died of a heart attack, you hear that they have had stents fitted.  A new word. The prolonging of life. Mixed feelings.  This lady looks so marvellous - at 78 - you could be forgiven for thinking she is fine.  After a week, I know she has many signs of dementia: this is not the person I have known for forty years. Her interests have dwindled to:  manicures, pedicures, being groomed, visits to the hairdresser, clothes - and her boyfriend.  She looks amazing: I remember when she was young - at 5'10" it was thought that she should enter for the Miss South Africa competition and she still looks stunning.  She and the boyfriend live in the same old age home - he is clearly smitten and would have been with us, looking after her, this week as well, except that he went down with a virus and had to stay instead with his daughter, about 100 miles away after a family wedding.  He is 81. I have to keep thinking to myself - this could be me.  She suffers so much with swollen ankles (I Googled - is typical of heart failure) that she couldn't walk much and so restricted what we could do with her for the week.  Suffice it to say, that we at least gave her daughter a break - to enjoy Easter with her husband's family - before she had to fetch her mother.  I remain thankful every day that I still have all my faculties (I think).  My husband was remarkably patient, spending more than an hour in a shop selecting a new pair of shoes for her aching feet while I chatted to the owner and had heard his entire family history by the time a purchase was made.  I've had to button my lip, when my husband's patience deserted him every now and again and he started to take it out on me.  Funny that now that we are on our own again and relaxed, the last week seems to have gone by in a flash. Time is a funny thing.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Elephant in the Room

 
Google image

Our three children organised a lovely week-end away for all of us further up the coast at a very nice home  (airb&b) and we had an awesome time for our 40th wedding anniversary, culminating in a wonderful lunch/cake at a wine farm.  There were 11 of us and although it rained it didn't dampen our spirits.  Until we came to the Saturday night and my family demanded a speech from their dad.  He was very serious about it and, not being good at words, he confined himself to thanking all of them for their thoughtfulness and telling them how proud we are of them all and that we couldn't have wished for better children. I added that when I had posted a picture of their dad playing Scrabble with me on a Saturday night at home - that is what constitutes love (he is not fond of Scrabble) and when there is a picture of the two of us on his boat, likewise they must know that I do this because I know he loves going out on the boat and I steel myself to both drive the trailer and encounter the sea (of which I am very afraid.)  I suggested they extrapolate from these behaviours to their own marriages. My daughter then called upon my oldest son to reply but he was clearly totally unprepared and had nothing to say, so my daughter, bless her, the middle child, told us what wonderful parents we have been and we glossed over his embarrassment.  Was there an elephant in the room?  Does he not think we have been wonderful parents?  Is it because of the unspoken 'situation' with his illegitimate child?  My husband is going to visit his brother on 10th April (this means an airflight up North) and I shall have a chance to speak to my son alone.   Will I do it? I'll let you know.  I thought I might first ask my daughter-in-law how she feels about the whole thing.  She supported my son at the time.  They had been a couple at school, had a few years break,  and then when 'it' all happened, she went with him to London.  They were there for seven years and then returned to South Africa with their newborn daughter. Life quickly gets complicated. At least from my point of view.

Monday, 5 March 2018

The Past Comes Back to Haunt You

 
Google image - happy family?

This is a risky post for me, but here goes. First, my own past. Perhaps we all become stuck in the moral climate in which we grew up.  The more enlightened are perhaps able to move on.  I salute those that can adapt. In my youth,  becoming pregnant as a teenager was a common occurrence (it was just before the 'pill' became generally available). In England, it was kept as quiet as possible, it was considered a great shame and for the most part, babies were adopted or couples opted for marriages which were usually short-lived.  There was no fashion for single mothers to keep their children and claim government grants. I remember the one girl it happened to when I was at school: naively, I didn't relate her growing stomach to pregnancy. She married the guy and it lasted five years.  When I was eighteen and far away in my first year at University I became pregnant:  it followed a traumatic time and an affair with a married man when I was still at high school.  I fell in love with him the way other teenagers revered pop stars. My parents eventually found out, ended it and I almost immediately left home and chose a University as far away as I could get.  I thought of myself as a seriously flawed person, I had almost broken up a marriage.  I dated two guys and wasn't sure who was the father. My parents were completely confused, but they supported my decision to have the baby adopted. Throughout the pregnancy I was able to hide things under the 'tent' dresses we wore in 1969.  Luckily, the last two months were during the long summer vacation. My mother joined me and we knitted for the baby, I gave  birth and relieved - handed him over to the foster parents until the adoption could take place.  I have never had a single regret, I was totally not at in a place in my life where I could contemplate motherhood and I was not in love. All along, I told myself I was acting as a surrogate for the adoptive parents who were unable to have children of their own.  
At that time, the law was that children could not find out details about their birth mothers. Almost 50 years later I have been happy with my decision. That was before the Facebook generation and other social media.  My son got a girl pregnant when he was 21.  It was a brief relationship of 6 weeks: she had told him she was on the pill.  When he confessed to us, I was so angry - he had told me her mother was a single mom after three marriages and I was wary. He had been bragging about the great salary he was earning in IT and I immediately suspected this girl was out to get him.  So I blurted out my whole story (which incidentally my husband had always known).  
We told my son to disentangle himself from this girl and we sent him to England before the birth.  Nevertheless, he opted to take responsibility and has supported her financially every since.  Now my husband tells me that the girl is now 18 and would like to meet her other family.  I of course, suspect her motives.  Logically, I tell myself I cannot blame the child for her parents' indiscretion - but I have no wish to meet her.  My other children, especially my daughter, can't see the problem.  They would like to meet. What do you think?

Friday, 2 March 2018

Buckets of Love? Not so much

Google image

I have really been enjoying belonging to a ladies' club here in our small town.  We meet once a month, have a speaker and a 'tea' and a bit of a natter.  The club is thirty years old and it's main function is merely to socialise and get to know each other a bit.  As a sideline, we knit for charity and collect groceries/donate money for any poor families that anyone might know in the area.  Plastic buckets containing 'essentials' are made available for anyone to take at the end of the meeting. These are voluntary contributions but it has to be said that our last committee meeting, there was a suggestion that some members don't donate at all to these worthy causes.  There were some strong feelings about this. We pay an annual (very small) membership fee and about $2 per meeting for the tea. I confess that I find myself reluctant to contribute to these buckets because of the name.  Love?  I can feel sorry for anyone who is poor, a victim of circumstance, but if I want to support them it is not through feelings of love, neither do I feel any need to feel guilt because of my own happy circumstances.  Also, I feel that most of us donate privately to our own preferred good causes. This word 'love' is not bandied about easily in my family.  I am sorry to say neither my mother nor father ever told myself or my brother that they loved us.  Well, not out loud.  The British custom is to buy birthday cards with sentimental messages signed 'love mom and dad'.  Similarly, we would reciprocate with cards on our parents' birthdays.  It seems to be a modern trend for everyone to express love very casually on the social media, but not me.  Do you think I should just suck it up and put some money or groceries in the box to keep the peace and satisfy the eagle eyes who are clearly watching? I think not.  Some things are a matter of principle. They just need to change the name. NB I do tell my own kids/grandchildren that I love them (but not all the time).

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Interesting Biological Parallel with a Car Exhaust

Not this bad yet

I admit to feeling very sorry for my husband this week, as he has had a recurrence of the very painful complaint 'anal fissure'.  The last time was two years ago when I was so upset with him after the Christmas party and thought it served him right.  This time I am more sympathetic, having picked up and practiced Oprah's lessons about forgiveness.  However, our elderly chemist decided to do his own thing regarding making up the prescription and ignored what the doctor prescribed with the result that the cream is so runny it is difficult to insert. For the first two days, things got worse, particularly so on the day we had to visit the children in Cape Town and while the ladies were out, my sons wanted to go for a walk with their dad.  Hardly able to sit, he certainly couldn't walk and had confessed the reason to big son.  Too embarrassed to answer to small son's question, big son piped up,  "Dad has a crack in his exhaust system", at which small son, of course, packed up laughing.  Husband was not amused.  We have since addressed the problem by keeping the cream in the refridgerator, and the judicious use of a syringe. Not nice.