Sunday, 30 August 2009

A Lick and a Promise

This was one of my mother's sayings - usually applied to a hasty surface cleaning of the house, meaning to give it a more thorough one later, there being in her opinion, much more valuable ways in which to spend one's spare time. Both she and my father were keen gardeners and she was always busy either outside or jamming and bottling the delicious fruits that they grew or she was sewing for us. I hasten to add that our house was never dirty - she just wasn't fanatical about it. I seem to have inherited this attitude to housework. I like to keep my house tidy and hope that this will deceive visitors into thinking it has just been cleaned. I have long since found that in any case, one's partner (and most other people) will only notice what you have NOT done as opposed to what you have spent long hours doing. So what is the point when one could rather be on the internet? |I do have a conscience though and this pushes me to short bursts of cleaning activity. I have to build up to these craftily as I am great procrastinator in this respect: so I have cleaning materials secreted in cupboards in every room, in case the mood suddenly takes me. For more serious cleaning I pull out furniture and leave it higgledy-piggledy in every room so that I will be forced to do it later that day. One such day, I went off to the shops - meaning to clean later but absent-mindedly left the front door and security door wide open. (Our house is open to the street). When I got home (just after my children), we all thought we had been burgled! Then I remembered and received a severe scolding from the kids. Luckily, we live in a quiet street. The only time I have regularly and assiduously cleaned my house was the brief period when I had a weekly char. Then I would anxiously scrub and dust before she came so she would not think me a slut. I needn't have bothered really. She didn't like cleaning any more than I did.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Romantic Love

Once I made a careless mention of the phrase 'old-fashioned romance' and was taken to task by a reader who reminded me that romantic love is actually a completely new phenomenon as a criterion for marriage as it had nothing to do with the very practical arrangements by which couples had been joined over the past millennia, and indeed in some places, still are today. Looking it up, I found that the dictionary first defines 'romance' in terms of the languages descended from Latin, viz French, Italian, Spanish etc. The second meaning refers to knights in shining armour in pursuit of fair lady and tales told in verse. Thirdly, following on from this is the idea that this kind of romance is an exaggeration or distortion of the truth, even a 'picturesque falsehood'. I must say this is how I used to regard Mills & Boon novels - in that the marriage on the last page was to me always a spurious presentation of eternal bliss, it being (formerly) spurred on by the raging hormones of unfulfilled desire. What would happen when the honeymoon was over? (I understand that M & B has since updated itself -lots of sex now.) Upon asking my friends what they thought 'romance' meant - most said vaguely it was to do with courtship, flowers and chocolates - or the modern day equivalent. In other words - nothing to do with real life. A pity. My own definition is that after 30 years together, my husband is still the only man I want to look at in a crowded room, the only man I want to touch, the only man whose voice on the phone fills me with warmth: his are the only eyes in which I like to lose myself. I suppose you could analyse this in terms of pheromones, or the respect and esteem in which I hold him and the mutual love and trust that has grown over the years. Whatever it is it is impossible to quantify. I think the most recognisably romantic thing my husband has ever done was to send a huge bouquet to my office on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. Perhaps he didn't realise it would stand in pride of place on our receptionist's desk for most of the morning - with its loving message displayed for all to see. That was really something. He's not one to wear his heart upon his sleeve.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Human Nature

I can't believe what I just heard on the radio. There is a pedestrian bridge over a highway in Cape Town which has just won a design prize for 'Best Pedestrian Bridge of the Year' - but no-one uses it! It is just too much effort for those for whom the bridge has been built, to go 'The Long Way Round'. They still cross underneath, dodging between the lanes of a busy highway endangering the lives of both themselves and the legitimate road users. Astonishingly, these bridges are being built all over the country! Taking the line of least resistance is also why there are well-trodden paths through the flower beds in our municipal parks. Do our design engineers not take courses in Psychology? I wonder what the criteria were for 'Best Design'? Presumably, something artistic like it must have 'flowing lines' and be 'pleasing to the eye'.

By almost the same thought process as the pedestrians, my teenage son won't get up one minute earlier in the morning to eat breakfast before school. He'd rather starve.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Guilt is a Waste of Time

There are days when I feel guilty to be able to enjoy so much free time when everyone else (including my husband) is frantically rushing around working and not having enough time in their days to achieve everything they need to let along having time to relax and enjoy themselves. Of course, this used to be me as well, not so long ago, and I remind myself that I have worked full-time all my life until just over 50 and I should take my best friend, M's advice, and relax a bit. This word 'relax' is a new one on me as I grew up with a rather Puritan work ethic as did my husband but M is rather good at this, she even encourages her children to relax from time to time which I have never done with mine. I feel guilty about the poor; I feel guilty that I do not do enough for other people (close family excepted). I have just completed 4 years of volunteering once a week at a home for disadvantaged people - just felt I had to stop that do something else - and I can't even continue shelving books a the staff-challenged local library as it has been undergoing renovations for the past 18 months. I suppose I don't feel useful enough - nor do I have a decent book to read at the moment AND the TV schedule has changed so that I can't watch my favorite shows while doing my ironing on a Sunday after noon. Enough! I must set some short-term goals. I shall shortly divulge my hot tips on "how to avoid cleaning house". Now that is a worthwhile way to spend some time.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Old School Microwave

When he realised that my blind dad could never manage the digital microwave buttons, my brother had an inspiration and moved across to my dad’s house his own 30-year old Sharp microwave - you know the convection oven on top and microwave below - with four big dials that you turn. I should know - my husband and I had a similar one (long since defunct) when we first got married. My brother’s still works as it has hardly been used. For this reason, having surrendered his own one to dad, my brother saw no reason to improve on his old model and was delighted to find one on E-Bay and therefore thought it a bargain to drive the 100 odd miles to fetch it for the bargain price of only ten pounds. The turntable didn’t work and one of the switches was broken but this presents no challenge for my brother and he soon had it up and running. Interesting that I couldn’t find a proper pic of it on Google despite surfing about 40 pages of Sharp microwave ovens - all new of course. The above pic circa 1950 something is the nearest I could get. (Don’t ask me to post my own photo - the USB wire from my camera to the PC is broken at the moment.)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Dolphin Days - the Serious Side

One day I was invited by a training hospital to show our dem. and products to a number of student nurses and healthcare workers. Some of the youngsters were a bit wide-eyed as the dem proceeded but there were a lot of knowing looks from the older ladies. At the end, I felt really that we were part of a much wider “wholistic” team of health workers and that they approved of what we were doing. Another time, I was asked to sell a dolphin to a health worker who was trying to assist a married couple in an institution, both of whom had a debilitating muscular disease which made their movements very jerky. It was thought that the regulated speeds of the dolphin would be beneficial. I hope it was - I didn’t like to phone to ask for feedback as this seemed rather nosy.
Sadly, of course we had our detractors - these would inevitably be people who had never attended any of our parties. I was once telephoned by an irate elderly man who insisted that what we were doing was un-christian (implying that we were a bunch of harlots!) I spent a while calming him down and eventually got him to listen to me. I explained our position and in the end he even decided he would ask his wife is she would like to have a small party at her house. I stressed that no men were allowed. (Actually, it would have been really good for him to attend.) Unfortunately, I didn’t hear from them - I expect his wife was just too shy. What a pity.
These parties were my way of life for 5 years, but then all good things come to an end. I thought perhaps that the time for these parties was past. Everyone seemed to be so liberated these days. But just the other day - I had a phone call.
“Oh, I am so glad you still have the same number. I’ve tracked you down through a friend who still had your business card. Are you still doing those parties?
Fifteen years on!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Middle-aged Sex

Be warned - this concerns Danny the dolphin who is a vibrator……think back about 15 years. (NB This pic I found on Google looks very like our dolphin except that the little object on the side is apparently a 'rockinrabbit' and our dolphin was pink plastic not transparent. No matter. Suffice it to say that any vibrator without 'a little something on the side' is not worth the time of day.)

Fifteen years ago I had been married for 15 years, we had just moved provinces and it was becoming clear that I would be unable to find a job in my previous field of employment (teaching). My husband saw this ad. “Agents wanted……’ and persuaded me to go to an interview. So began a 5-year involvement with a party-plan oganization which took the entire country by storm. We sold underwear, sex toys and vibrators of which by far the best seller was “Danny” dolphin. From my point of view our parties had both a fun and a serious side . I was then in my forties and found that my husband and I were not averse to investigating some ‘fun’ ways of varying our bedroom experience and I was on a mission to promote the importance of maintaining the sex lives of long-married ladies as, according to my husband, some of his colleagues occasionally let slip that their wives had mostly lost interest and this was starting to cause problems. One very attractive woman, with an equally attractive husband, confided to me that she had hoped that ‘all this business’ would stop now that they had become grandparents! They were only 45. “Remember, ladies!” we would admonish, “men produce new sperm all the time and it builds up pressure. Rather this is released in your bed than in someone else’s!” “We have been designed to be accommodating,” we would emphasize. Not for us, the physical difficulties of having to be obviously lusting for one’s partner! No, we can easily pretend when necessary, and with a little forethought and love - we can always make our partner think he is a marvellous lover and that we welcome his attentions. Usually, we can even orchestrate things to the point that we get an extra hour’s sleep! For those with lubrication problems, we would recommend a quick self-ministration in the bathroom, after cleaning one’s teeth. This ploy would delight the man and shorten sometimes tediously long sessions of foreplay, which, though well-meant can be totally counter-productive when the recipient is exhausted and merely longing for sleep. Let him drive your dolphin however, and you might even wake up! With 3-speeds, a modest-sized plastic male member for inside and the sweetest little dolphin with a naughty nose and his own motor for outside - and with these two working independently of each other in different directions - well, need I say more?

There was a huge demand for dolphins across the spectrum of the married, the single and probably the in-betweens. We did stress, however, that he could not substitute for a relationship. He was just a piece of clever plastic and the waters needed to be tested before simply arriving home with a vibrator and waving it excitedly about. My husband couldn’t keep up with repairs - sometimes the gears needed adjusting as they might arrive ex factory overgreased. Once he removed the insides from one dolphin whose owner complained she had only had it a month and it had packed up.
“My God, she’s burnt out the motors!”, he breathed, impressed!
Thank goodness, that with careful maintenance mine is still going as I wouldn’t know where to buy one today. What fun we all had.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Last Post from the UK, September 7th 2007

Yes, really is the last post from the UK. Armed with my paper GPS printout from the extremely helpful RoutePlanner on London Transport’s ‘tfl’ (Travel for London) website, I can now navigate my way by bus, tube and train to Gatwick, leaving from my son’s flat with every step of the way clearly shown, with times like ‘walk 5 minutes to bus stop’ etc. etc. So off I go….oh, ABF stems from the days when we were all drinkers, last drink before leaving a party (Absolutely Bloody Final). Not now of course!

Where’s My Suitcase - Or is It Menopause? 9th September, 2007

This is how it went down. It was Friday, I had to get myself to Gatwick from North London. Leaving my son’s flat on schedule, if slightly paranoid about not forgetting anything because once outside the front door - keys had to be left inside their top floor flat. I managed the very narrow stairs leading down past the middle flat into the Black Hole of Calcutta, (the flight leading down to the front door), lugging my suitcase and backpack. (I trod warily as my husband fell down this same flight of stairs on his last visit!) On arrival, I spied a package lying on the mat - excited because it looked like the DVD my brother had posted me at the last minute - a film he assured me I MUST see. We had thought it wouldn’t arrive before I left but there it was! I opened it to make sure and then clutching it, its packaging and my backpack I emerged from the front door and set off for the bus stop across the road, congratulating myself on the benefits of travelling light... ?? How could this be, when my suitcase was actually very heavy? Discover I am without my suitcase. Shock, horror! It is nowhere - well, it is in fact behind the front door and that door is now stonily shut! No-one in the building due home until after work tonight. I have my cell phone - on 1 bar of battery because I haven’t charged it the whole holiday, not having an adaptor plug. I phone my son’s work - Answering Machine!!! Panic. Worst case scenario? He never picks up the message and I have to go with only my backpack - nothing of value in my suitcase except my make-up, so not too bad. Upside? Travelling really light. Just enough battery to phone my brother - also Answering Machine !!! Now what. Pray. …Prayer is answered. My brother phones back, thinks situation very funny. Likes ‘Last Minute Panics re travel. (See earlier blogs.) He promises to keep trying my son’s phones. Soon, my son phones. Unphased and uncensorial. Says casually he will be home on his scooter in 25 mins. All is well as I have prudently allowed about 8 hours more time than I needed to get to the airport. (Well, you never know.) It is now 11.45 a.m. Son arrives at 12.10, lets us in and proposes first to make blueberry/apricot muffins, before driving me to tube station. I realise I actually have plenty of time. Son remarks that most of London doesn’t go to work on a Friday in any case and ‘town’ will be half empty. He has decided to work at home himself for the rest of the day. This plan worked on all fronts and I arrived at Gatwick with a very safe six hour wait for my check-in. At least I had my suitcase - although I did leave my handbag on the trolley which wouldn’t push when I swapped trolleys. Luckily, I noticed after about twenty paces and hared back for it. Still there - the airport being practically deserted at this time.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Midnight Snack

September 6th, 2007

A rare treat for me to be up at this time (12.30 pm.) so fun to see who blogs this late at night. I am sleeping on a couch in my son’s lounge and he goes to bed late, so I have had to change my time clock. Got to change back again when I go back to SA on Friday night. Will have been away 3 1/2 weeks. Neglecting my duties at home. I think my husband is now really tired of cooking, washing & ironing etc. etc. At least I get appreciated on my return. Was in central London today at lunchtime. Everyone out eating at the hundreds of tiny, exquisite sandwich bars. I bought one in M & S. “Wensleydale Cheese & Caramelised Carrot Chutney”. You pull a little strip and the packaging opens out into a tray. It bears this legend: “We use 100% sustainable packaging for these sandwiches. The window is made from corn starch rather than plastic, and the cardboard’s from an FSC certified source, which means we’re supporting responsible forest management.” Suitably impressed! Just thoughts at midnight…….. zzzzzzzzzz . (PS - I had an e-mail from a PR person at M & S - a few days later, thanking me for my appreciation of their sandwich. You never know who’s surfing about out there do you!)

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Old Bailey, Drugs

September 5th, 2007

The second case I watched was a serious case of cocaine smuggling. An innocent-looking, young Asian girl was sitting in the dock with a translator whose voice continually droned quietly through the speakers next to the Public Gallery. A long time was spent examining her travel documents and her itinerary, which started in Singapore, and ended at Heathrow, via Nairobi. An alert official had found her hand luggage to weigh 16 kilograms full, and 7 kilograms empty. Hence the find. As in the first case, I was struck by how young both counsel seemed and how deeply courteous was the judge to everyone. This time it was an elderly gent on the bench – the essence of aristocratic good breeding. I haven’t heard such exquisite English spoken since the last time I watched an episode of Jeeves. At one point the suitcase was shown to the jury in a plastic bag and the judge explained that any jury member could examine the case if they wanted, but he must warn them that the contents could be conducive to cancer and they would have to wear gloves. No-one took up the offer. Again everyone took lots of notes and the jury was kept busy with their bundles of photocopies of documents and statements that had to be referred to. Once the judge lost his place and needed help. That case adjourned for lunch and I went for a quick look at the awe-inspiring St.Paul’s cathedral which is just round the corner. That’s the brilliant thing about London - you find your way around best by walking. NB. Have a comfortable pair of shoes. Don’t consult your A - Z too publicly though, or you will have every second lost tourist accosting you begging for directions. My best was the year my son and his girlfriend lived south of the river. I got on the bus just outside their flat, sat upstairs at the front with its panoramic view as we crossed the river and got off at the terminus - just outside the British Museum. I must have been the only visitor bundled up in scarf, gloves and overcoat inside the building. Everyone else left their outer garments with the smiling cloakroom attendant but it must be remembered that I live in South Africa where everyone you know has been burgled and we just don’t trust any public place.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Old Bailey

September 5th , 2007

I’ve always wanted to attend a court case and see how much it resembles those on TV but I never thought I would get to the Old Bailey. When I left my folks and returned to my son’s flat in London, I just got on a bus and went. A little different from Dickens’s time, so quiet almost like being in church, but very impressive nonetheless. The sheer politeness of the proceedings and the dignity of the bewigged judge and lawyers and their black gowns are enough to intimidate. There are 18 courts and not many cases were being heard but I spent an hour in one court listening to two police witnesses and hearing statements of absent witnesses read. The prosecuting counsel and the policeman played the parts of the accused and the interviewing policeman – who really got into his role. The wheels of justice grind slowly however and every painstaking detail has to be dissected. This was a case of assault, boyfriend/girlfriend. I see that everyone keeps themselves awake by taking copious notes, this includes the judge, jury and all the lawyers. No cell phones or computers allowed except for the Clerk of the Court who keeps his eyes glued to a screen. The elderly lady judge had a quiet authoritative presence interjecting occasionally to explain things in a kindly way to the jury. At one point the two opposing counsels were whispering to each other for a number of minutes which occasioned the judge to point out that if they carried on much longer, she would have to “rise”. When there was a 10 minute procedural break, she did indeed ‘rise’ and the Public Gallery was emptied – we are not allowed inside if the judge is not present. I left at this point, before the doctor’s testimony was read, the judge commenting with some asperity that she didn’t know why he couldn’t be present as defence counsel would have liked to question him. I went to collect my cell phone from the sandwich kiosk across the road (a profitable sideline business) where it had resided safely all day in a packet with my name on it. I love London.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Culture Clashes

September 5th 2007

I’ve whittled it down to Moslem men who won’t smile back at me – usually the corner shop owners where I buy my bus pass: I suppose they think a white woman is being shockingly flirtatious and they are affronted. Fair enough. I think it’s sad though and hard when you have been brought up to be polite and pleasant to people as a matter of courtesy. I suppose it is no different from black people who shout to each other in the street (polite to make sure you can be heard) or domestic workers (in S.A.) who won’t look you in the eye (polite, but suggestive of shiftiness to the uninitiated.) There’s also the example of black men going through a door before a woman – in order to defend the female from a possible enemy on the other side (I’ve been told.) I just wish that we had all been taught comprehensively about cultural differences in school. I certainly wasn’t. Do they do it today? I guess when these things enter the routines of comedians we have to look ourselves in the face. There is an Iranian comedienne in the UK one of whose jokes is: “When I say my body clock is ticking, everyone hits the deck.” I did laugh, but it’s tragic really.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Tomato Festival

September 4th 2007

My son and his fiancĂ© have just come back from a few days in Spain, to which they fled in desperate search of a little sunshine and fun, after a long wet summer in the UK. They got what they went for – on the beach - temperatures of 40+ and the annual Tomato Festival. No, this isn’t a decorous show with the biggest vegetables on display. Far from it, 40,000 people line the streets and 120,000 tons of tomatoes are dumped by a number of lorries. And then…..AND THEN! You wade into this knee-high, lumpy soup and throw the stuff at everyone around you, friend or foe. What a fantastic way to de-stress (if a shocking waste of tomatoes, but no matter.) They came back grinning from ear to ear and completely relaxed. A small downside was that it took my daughter-in-law-to-be 3 days to get all the gunk out of her lovely long hair but this is hardly worth mentioning in proportion to the psychological benefits – she abandoned her usual restrained, lady-like self and got stuck in with the rest of them. I have never been a fan of the ‘primal scream’ method myself – just couldn’t do that, but I quite fancy this. I would have to do it on a bad hair day.

Celebrating Diversity

This is really just a posh phrase for trying to force people of different ethnic or cultural groups to get along with each other. I last heard it when I was working in a South African university. That is until today. I just heard on Radio 4 a programme in which a young (black) woman interviews a successful black business man who has bought himself a farm in the south of England somewhere and has become a ‘gentleman’ farmer, meaning that he doesn’t do any hands-on work himself. The dynamics of the interview were really interesting as the interviewer (black father, white mother, adopted by a working class white couple) seemed to really resent the fact that this man had ‘bought’ his way in to the community. In my experience, money is the great leveller. Even within an ordinary family, you relate much more easily to the ones who are ‘in the same boat’ financially as yourself and who share your own views on how disposable income should best be spent. How easily we judge people for ‘wasting money’ in our view. Always interesting when anyone (including self) says, “oh, I can’t afford that” – but “can afford” something else. My husband has 6 brothers and sisters and there is great diversity in their financial positions spread out over a normal distribution curve from bottom to top. I wondered if therefore they would inherit in different proportions when my in-laws died but in the event, each child got exactly the same. Of course this was best, no favouritism: for some it was a real windfall and for others, not so much. It’s all relative after all

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Selling Yourself

My mother tried to tell me this years ago but she and my father had delivered mixed messages when I was growing up and I ended up leaning towards my father’s philosophy of believing I that everyone else was better than me at everything. Likewise I believed that in any situation I was always the guilty party. These convictions have not served me well in life and I hope I have not passed them onto my children. Luckily, my husband comes from a large family whose mother gave them a more balanced view: “No-one is better than you, and you are better than no-one.” This seems to have produced a bunch of really nice, capable people. But old habits die hard and when I heard a discussion on the radio this morning about the obvious need to be self-confident in the job market, I nevertheless cringed automatically to hear a young woman respond to the question: “How good are you at your job?”, with the genuine reply, “I am brilliant at it”. Good luck to her. It’s a tough world out there. Survival of the fittest. I really wish I could say the same thing she did just once in my life. I did hear something that stuck recently though: just because someone you know has made a success of something - it doesn’t by implication mean that you are a failure.

The Fifties are Weird

September 2nd, 2007

Being in one’s fifties is a bit like being pre-adolescent, you are having to say goodbye to an old life but have not yet started the new. Hit menopause and your body changes into something foreign which doesn’t perform the way it used to and your face doesn’t correspond to the way you remember it when you look in the mirror. In fact you look like someone else. This is hard. I am not a grandmother yet and still have a son in his final year at school. I would have liked a ‘gap year’ to enjoy some freedom with my husband, but it looks as if we shall still have our youngest at home whether he studies or not and my daughter is having her first baby in March. I have always worked but not really had a career and my last job was mornings only, two years ago, so I have been since then just a housewife for the first time in my life. The fifties are weird. I feel as if my life has been back to front.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Stephen Fry

August 29th, 2007

Just watched him as ‘Jeeves’ on a free movie CD, supplied with my mother’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper. Great, witty, troubled, upper class homosexual actor/writer/raconteur as he is - I feel that I shall enjoy reading his autobiography “Moab, My Washpot” - no idea what this means, but suspect biblical reference - because he is so unpretentious and admits to liking Abba’s music, Georgette Heyer’s writing and Wagner all in the same breath. He likes what I like - so I there’s a good chance I shall like his writing. He has put me in my place though regarding swearing - I had subscribed to the view that people who swear excessively have limited vocabularies. He disses this smug, superior attitude with huge contempt, saying that everyone enjoys a good swear - and it is absolutely nothing to do with one’s range of vocabulary. On second thoughts, (which are much more honest than my first), I have to admit he is right.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dad, Life Coach

1st September, 2007

Well, last post from the depths of the British countryside anyway. I go back to London tomorrow for a few days to my son, before flying home on Friday. I see that in my efforts not to write anything negative about my family members, I have painted my dad in rather too rosy a light - giving the impression that he is a sunny-tempered, happily-occupied 90-year old who is like a busy bee from dawn to dusk. I have now been asked to forward my father’s philosophy of life re love, marriage, career advice etc. Little does this person realise that in fact my father is deeply pessimistic about life in general and always has been: he regards himself as a complete failure in his career and as a father and generally as a human being - to talk to him for more five minutes is to deeply depress yourself as well. It is for example, extremely difficult to discover in him a sense of humour. So when I showed him this e-mail request although he was quite pleased and flattered - and has indeed filed his copy to review later - the irony of the request struck him as very funny indeed and for the first time in years I saw his habitual frown replaced by genuine laughter. Nonetheless, knowing him it may well sit on his conscience that the writer deserves a considered reply and he will probably try to compose one - it may take a few months. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Dad, Genealogist

September 1st 2007

Dad’s latest project is to try to trace his forebears on the 1891 London census. He first discovered street maps on the Internet and managed to locate where he grew up and has since researched some of his relatives this way. Now he has paid for a number of searches into the census document itself. He has been involved in this for the last two years - this is mostly because with his limited vision he can only see about a square inch of his computer screen at a time and thus spends a vast amount of frustrated time deleting things he is supposed to be saving/printing etc.etc and trying to locate his cursor. (Can you imagine trying to work like that?) Sometimes he gives up for days in frustration as his computer often gets as confused as he is and therefore does funny things which can only be solved when my brother is around. Luckily, dad is networked with my brother’s computer system next door and he can often spot when dad is in trouble which really helps because so often dad is too proud to ask for the regular assistance that he needs. This week he has been trying to send an e-mail enquiry. He has made several drafts (which he then couldn’t find - finally after 3 days asking my help). But then (typically), after enlisting my assistance and having me send the e-mail, he then solved the query himself - the answer lying amongst the pages of ‘help’ documents about the census that he has printed out. He now thinks however, that his grandfather must have lived in a tenement building which is why our two ‘clicks’ on the ‘Search’ button have so far yielded no result and have used two of his credits. The project is now on hold while he reorganises his search requirements and calculates how long his 148 credits will last.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Dumbing down Language

31st August, 2007

Because I enjoy the music and rhythm of words, I have never liked The New English Bible. I grew up with the King James version and although I didn’t understand all the words, I loved the majesty and grace of the writing, I still do. The New English seems to me to have been written for children or for those for whom English is a foreign language and must be simplified. As far as I can see it is spoon-feeding. I used to read everything with a dictionary next to me so that I could improve my vocabulary - but then I love words. I understand that not everyone does. Authors that I particularly relish for the grace of their writing are Dirk Bogarde and C.P. Snow. P.D. James’ detective novels are another example. In one of these I have just come across a quotation (used to comfort someone sleeping near to a dead body!) from the evening service that I remember in my youth. I think it was the benediction at the end of the service: “Lighten our darkness we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy, defend us from the perils and dangers of this night.” I think that would comfort me. I have never like poetry much either, but this I remember learning from Robert Louis Stevenson’s. ” A Child’s Garden of Verses” when I was 10 - just because I liked the rhythm. “Over the borders, a sin without pardon, Breaking the branches and crawling below, Out through a breach in the wall of the garden, Down by the banks of the river we’d go.” The words of the hymns we sang in school are etched in memory as well. And as we walked up to Heather’s yesterday, my mother looked at the signs of approaching Autumn in the hedgerow and quoted the whole of a Wordsworth poem she had learnt at school. Amazing the things that we never forget. My point really is that we must never underestimate the value of reading to our small children, a bedtime story is so magical - and lets keep the TVs out of their bedrooms. I heard that Stephen Fry has recorded all 7 (is it?) of the Harry Potter novels. There is nothing like an audio-book to stimulate the imagination. In the last month of my pregnancy once when I was still teaching, I found BBC radio recording of the complete The Lord of the Rings, and I played it for all my English classes. You could have heard a pin drop.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Intrepid Toddler

We were at our holiday house for the week-end. It’s a double storey with 16 steps comprising the staircase. I know this for I idly counted once when I was cleaning and also because my husband made wooden risers to cover the concrete base and we needed to calculate how much wood to get. They look very nice now all varnished and not very slippery. We’ve put a child gate at the top so that we can relax when we are all upstairs where the living rooms are. I was upstairs, drying my hair and everyone else was downstairs when I heard a small, high voice say interrogatively, “Ta? Ta?” I didn’t take much notice as I wasn’t on baby-watching duty at the time. A few minutes later I emerged from my room to find small grandson at the top of the stairs trying to close the gate. Clearly, he had asked for help - someone usually holds his hand while he tries to climb the stairs. This time, his request falling on deaf ears, he had clearly thought to himself, “Sod it! I’ll just have to go up by myself”. Or this is what he might have said, had he more than just the one word in his vocabulary. He is 16 months old. They can always do more than you think.

Luggage Trade

August 30th, 2007

My brother and his family arrived home safely and my small nephew was thrilled to unwrap his nearly-new birthday trumpet, bought for a very reasonable price on e-bay. Chatting in passing about luggage and about insurance - the documents for me to drive my sister-in-law’s car for two weeks went with my brother to France whereas the travel insurance documents for his own holiday arrived after he had left. This reminded me of once when my parents came to visit me in South Africa. On returning home complete with alltheir luggage - my dad discovered that the insurance company had undercharged him - so he posted them a cheque for the difference! I don’t pack anything but old clothes now when flying as so much baggage goes missing. Last year, when I arrived at Heathrow at the then new terminal 5, there were mountains of ‘found’ luggage lying around the walls surrounding the carousels. One had to actually step over them. So much for the important announcements about baggage being destroyed if left unattended! Auctions take place once a month and one woman (interviewed on the radio) has a useful business going. She said that she buys about 30 suitcases a month. Sometimes she even finds passports inside - which she thoughtfully posts back to their owners! How very British. The rest of the stuff she sells profitably on e-bay. Oh, this pic from Google is a bit unfair re Heathrow - the suitcases there were actually in neat, if high, piles. This looks more like the situation we faced at Dar-es-Salaam once, on our way to Zanzibar. We actually were told to find our suitcases, watch them loaded onto a trolley and then to follow the porter out to the small plane and make sure our own luggage was loaded on.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

GPS Magic

Sunday 3rd August, 2009
When you are visiting on farms in the Karoo, whoever is ‘going into town’, gets a number of tasks to do. This time we were asked to give the builder and his mate a lift, and to cash the cheque for their salaries at the garage as we went into town. They packed their small bags into our boot, alongside the springbok carcass that we had to deliver to an elderly tannie whose husband had recently died. During the 45 minute ride the two men were much entertained by the seductive English voice of the GPS, telling us where to go. Just for fun, we had asked him for his street address and typed it into the little machine, so they were very tickled when we were directed straight into the dusty township, right up to the wire fence surrounding the builder’s tiny house. Very impressed we were too: I mean who would expect to drive to the humble suburb of ‘Barcelona’ on the outskirts of De Aar, in the Cape Province.