Saturday, 27 February 2010

Toddler Language

My daughter is a bit concerned that her almost-two-year-old speaks only about 10 words, preferring to think he can get everything he wants by repeating the word, “Ta!” in all tones of voice, rising or falling, increasing the charm level, rather as if he were learning Chinese. I consoled her with the conviction that once he attended play school for a few hours a day, constant contact with other children would soon get him to talk. Well, after the first week, that was true in a way – he learned two new things: “Oh dear!” and “Ouch”.
Makes one wonder what goes on at the school? Should be fine though as he now even fetches the car key and tries to drag my daughter to the garage on a Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


It’s almost a calendar year since my mother passed away yet her absence haunts me daily. Wearing her beautiful ring is at times a comfort and at other times my heart aches when I remember how she wore it on special occasions and how she looked after it. Then I want to take it off and keep it out of sight. I am plagued with regret that I live so far away that I couldn’t visit more often to lighten her last years. Should I have left my own family to fend for themselves and gone more often as she wished? I don’t know. I’ll never know: I think that I did my best. She had my dad, but they were both so deaf they had long since ceased to be company for each other, especially as my dad was virtually blind as well. I am haunted by her last weeks when my brother and I watched her waste away. She couldn’t speak so we didn’t know if she was in pain. It was terrible to see. She looked straight into my eyes when she drew her last breath and then she was just not there. I don’t know where she has gone. I have as yet no belief in the hereafter. It’s dust to dust for me. One day the grief will fade and I’ll think of the good times. I hope it won’t be too long. I don't want to spoil anyone's day - sorry. I'll be OK tomorrow. I told her I had tried to make her garden nice and mow the lawn. I think she heard that but there wasn't much left of her gardening skills. These are real pics.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Lovely Bones - The Movie

As this film was nominated for a Bafta award this year, I went to see it at our local cinema today. I thought the story had to be intensely personal to the writer and indeed, it appears she herself was raped as an 18-year old freshman. The device of having the raped and murdered 14-year old protagonist narrate much of the story from her place half in limbo and half in the sort of idealised pretty heaven which many find comforting is novel, interesting and (for me) slightly uncomfortable to watch, and did seem somewhat reminiscent of similar scenes from “The Shack”. Just as weird is seeing her walking and running around in the same clothes she was wearing on the day of her murder, looking for all the world as if she is still live and unharmed. Whether you buy into this story depends on both your views on life after death and whether you believe that there are tenuous mental links between the departed and those left behind. The film is really about learning to deal with the loss of a child killed in the most horrific way, how the family works its way through it over time and how the murderer does in the end get his come-uppance in a most unexpected and satisfactory way. I recommend you see this film - it’s a bit different from the norm. I don’t know how good it is compared with the book.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Best Moments of My Life

It occurred to me today that unless one has had a lot of misfortune in life, by the time you get to my age (fifty-pushing), there are a lot of moments from the past that stick in one’s mind for one reason or another as having been great. They deserve to be dredged up from time to time for a variety of reasons of which two good ones are firstly, they just bring a warm glow and brighten one’s day and secondly, they have something to do with that age-old search for self, the “who am I?” question which seems to plague a lot of us more and more as we get older. So for what it’s worth, these are the moments that spring to my mind today: my dad swinging me round and round by the arms until I was deliciously giddy on one of my birthdays; lying far back on my swing so that I could watch the world rushing up to my face upside down; climbing the highest tree in the park, looking down and being frozen with fright because I was too scared to move and no-one knew where I was; riding an elephant at the zoo, galloping on a horse, thundering down a pavement on my go-cart, climbing a six-foot piece of sheer cliff in Scotland without a rope; skiing in Switzerland – too incredibly beautiful for words. Then there is the less physical stuff: reading the last volume of ‘Lord of the Rings’, reading William Horwood’s “Skallagrigg”, being transfixed with joy at the perfection of the quintet in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”, singing in the chorus of our university choir and falling hopelessly in love with the young baritone who came up from the London Opera Centre and sang the role of William Tell. Shamelessly watching over and over my video copy of Cliff Richard singing “Say you love me every day, each moment….” with Sarah Brightman in that marvellous love song where they are both dressed in white on a beach. Then there’s the real stuff – marvelling at the perfection of each new baby and taking them home from the hospital, snuggling up to my husband every night and hearing his sigh of pleasure as I do. It’s still the best moment of every day. Of course, there were some moments that should have been great but just weren’t, such as the time I lost my virginity. I recall feeling nothing at all except great anxiety that my parents would descend from their bedroom and find us at it. Of the young man in question, I remember almost nothing at all. Such was the burden of virginity in the Sixties. We just had to get rid of the embarrassing thing. But those are other stories….

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Best Friends

My best friend since high school days is planning to visit us here in South Africa from New Zealand in September of this year, together with her husband. I am so excited about this as the last time she was here was more than 28 years ago when my eldest son was just eighteen months old. He is now married with his own six-month old so it will be quite a thing. I’ve never met her husband but her looks nice on photos. We’ve never lost touch; when we left school I went to Scotland to university and she joined British Airways and went to work in London. I’ve still got all her long letters. I’m even still using as a bookmark a postcard she sent me in 1991, when her daughter was 5. How sentimental am I? But old friends are so precious. We started out bicyling to school together in 1961 – I remember sliding down the icy hill next to her house on the way to school. We often fell off our bikes and got ladders in our stockings. Her granddad taught me to play cribbage after school and I remember having a crush on her older brother. We even shared a boyfriend. Through the years we’ve both been through divorces and heartache and we shared our trauma through all the dramas. We were friends through thick and thin. When we lost our mothers, we shared our heartache. I know that when she gets off that plane, the years will fall away and we’ll be just as we were. I can’t wait. Six months to go!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Bright Boy

Couldn't resist this one - it's also the only personal photo I have managed to upload from my new Mac! We spent a long day in the car not long ago - nine hours in fact, what with all the roadworks - but my small grandson was facinated by his uncle's Rubriks' cube. I thought the caption should perhaps be: "Now how did I solve this last time?"

Good Friends

I was too late to find a table to myself at my favourite coffee shop yesterday, but a group of friendly, laughing ladies said I could sit at theirs as there was one seat vacant for a lady still to come. I squeezed in and changed my mind about doing my household accounts which would involve some spreading out of papers (no laptop for me) and decided just to have my coffee and cake and run. As it turned out I had plenty of time for these activities as the other lady didn’t turn up. There was some concern expressed at her absence so I saw fit to mention as I vacated my seat that had I been waiting for my best friend in similar circumstances she would have later claimed that I had told her the wrong café and the wrong time and probably the wrong day to boot. I hastened to add that I nevertheless love said friend to bits even though we seem to be diametrically opposite in many respects. This fascination with opposites is surely the foundation of our twenty-year friendship. One could say much the same about one’s choice of husband. Those of you who’ve got your T-shirts will know what I mean.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bang bang bang!

This was last week at our house. They say things happen in threes. I can vouch for that: we had a twenty-year-old wild strelitzia push over two sections of the concrete wall at the back of our garden. Fortunately, the house behind has been uninhabited for the last year. At the same time we had to replace the entire old and leaky roof of our house with ‘Zincalume’ – between you and me, that’s thin sheets of expensive tinny-looking stuff: and then we finally gave in to pressure from our family to get solar heating panels for our swimming pool. All this possible because after eighteen years of residence we finally have the money to do these things. My husband is due to retire in five years but now thinks we should sell this house soon while it’s finally in better shape - I’d better do a lot of swimming in a hurry. …By the way, my timely trip to the dentist was well-advised – I just have to visit the oral hygienist for a clean – no root canal necessary!

Lost and Found

I’ve been lucky with losing things. I lost a favourite ring in the middle of a lawn – it literally slid off my finger without me noticing one cold day – but my friend’s daughter miraculously found it two weeks later. I had a locket and chain my mother gave me. The chain was so fine it frequently broke but usually I was on the spot and all was well. One day I discovered that the chain was around my neck but no locket. It was found no less than three months later on our driveway near to the road! A friend had come early one morning to go fishing and while he was standing on the driveway, the rising sun suddenly shone right on it in his line of vision. I had given up on it that time. Then there’s my cell phone: once I left it behind on the seat at the Wimpy. I returned pessimistically to enquire about it two hours later – a waitress had handed it in. I gave her a decent reward (it was an expensive phone and they have a good street value here.) A year later I left the same phone on a seat at the hospital. Likewise a young man had picked it up and waited a good 15 minutes for me to come haring back to look for it. I also emptied my purse and gave him what I guessed to be the street value (he was waiting to be interviewed for a menial job at the café.) Another time I left my wallet under the seat at the movies. It was still there the next day complete with all my credit cards and cash. Clearly, the cleaners had been a bit lazy as there had been six showings of the film since my visit. Nonetheless, I have nightmares about losing things – usually my passport – and I wake up in a grateful sweat. But then there’s my grandmother’s precious wedding ring. I can’t find it. I’ve been looking for a year now but that’s because I’ve put it in a ‘safe’ place. I expect it will turn up eventually.