Monday, 31 May 2010

Made My Day




I was in my favourite coffee shop this morning, imbibing my habitual delicious first coffee of the day, when a gentleman my husband’s age, circa 60ish, approached my table and said that he had been in the shop with his wife the other day and had seen me sitting at the same table. Although he was not with her today, he had wanted to offer me a compliment (details omitted here – but it was innocently meant, I think). Well, I have to say I walked out of the shop a little straighter and taller than usual, grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps there is nothing quite like a compliment from a complete stranger to make one’s day, one’s month, nay – let’s be completely honest – one’s year! Of course, compliments from other women count for more: that’s why I sometimes go up to women in the street and say how nice they look. I am always rewarded with a huge smile. Why don’t husbands get this? Note to self: It pays to put your make-up on, and yes, the pic is Meryl Streep!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Spotlight on Teasing




Coming from a small nuclear family - all serious individuals - I have found it difficult to adapt to the phenomenon of teasing which occurs constantly in the large family into which I have married. At first, I thought it was a very cruel pursuit and winced as people’s weak points would be zeroed in on - albeit in good-natured bantering fashion. However, I did see that the underlying purpose was to toughen people up and get them not to take themselves too seriously. It has taken me a long time to learn the necessary ripostes and I still feel there are more worthwhile ways in which to communicate with others. In other words, I am still not very good at it. Still, my training has stood me in good stead with my son-in-law. The other day I made them a bread and butter pudding - before they moved out of our house and as he appeared to be enjoying a second helping (and is quite fastidious with regard to food), I thought I would have a bit of fun with him and tell him how the pudding originated. i.e. Poor people would make it when they had left-over stale bread and milk that was ‘going off’ - (which is one reason why I made it that day). I could almost see him turning green and he now goes around telling everyone that his mother-in-law feeds him stale bread and sour milk (but just to tease me). It’s a shame really, that he probably won’t want to eat it again at my house - because it really was delicious!

Friday, 28 May 2010

New Girl in the Family?



December 18th 2007

It is always tremendously interesting when a new girlfriend is introduced to the family at a family function. In the old days it was a question of a young, blushing, starry-eyed future bride being welcomed into the fold. Now though, it is usually after a traumatic divorce and all concerned are older and hopefully wiser. The new incumbent this time is mature, attractive, sophisticated, socially adept, charming and independent. We know she is not after his money because she has her own. She is bubbly, chatty and knows everyone’s names: we like her (we think). It is early days. We hope M won’t rush into anything too soon Actually, it’s not our business at all, but it does add a little zest to the usual exchange of gossip and those of us that are in-laws and have run this family gauntlet in the past watch with interest and not without sympathy as the story unfolds. NB. This pic is not actually her, but has some resemblance.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lost and Found





December 2007


We were in East London (East coast of South Africa) last week-end for a family birthday so small son schlepped with us, happy to be seeing a lot of his cousins and also a new baby - almost a given at every gathering in this huge family. Having haphazardly packed his suitcase my husband asked him to check that he hadn’t put anything valuable in the outside pouches as we don’t have locks for them. No, said he, only his toothbrush and toothpaste. On arrival, he declared these missing - which elicited much heated discussion about theft at airports by baggage staff and how they will steal ANYTHING these days. A more soft-hearted family member suggested that the employed person would be dishing this type of haul out to his poorer relatives if it was something he couldn’t sell, which opinion struck a chord with some of the ladies but not with the harder-hearted amongst us. On return home however, the missing items were discovered exactly where my son had packed them - just in the pouch at the opposite end of the bag.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Pros and Cons



December 2007

It is with mixed feelings that I view the imminent departure of my daughter and son-in-law from our house now that theirs has raced in under the habitational wire with the plumbing being half done yesterday and contractors being forbidden to continue to work on their estate after tomorrow. They now have one temporary basin in the kitchen (no work surfaces), the toilets are operational and the instant lawn has been hastily squashed down. They can now move all their stuff out of the garage and into the house, together with themselves. My own house will benefit from all their other stuff being removed - for instance I have contemplated for almost three weeks now a washing basket with a packet of Weetbix in it residing on my sofa in the best lounge. On the other hand their departure heralds a return to ‘diet’ food for myself and my husband. I mean you can’t give visitors such food, can you? We’ve also had puddings and set the table! My husband will also regret not pouring a nice whiskey each night for himself and his son-in-law. Well, you have to be hospitable, don’t you? And well, it is the festive season. Perhaps we have better start our diets in the New Year - that will have to be after my elder son’s wedding - January 6th. Actually, it has been really nice having them. There must be a lot of advantages in extended families living together but I mustn’t get too romantic about this - we’ve only had to last three weeks.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Fiddler on the Roof






I have just had the good fortune to see a High School production of this wonderful musical – and I was blown away! It took place at one of the exclusive and extremely expensive private schools that have proliferated in South Africa since 1994 and we are lucky enough to have several of these in our suburb. Not that my children were fortunate enough to attend one of these: but it seems that my grandchildren may be amongst the privileged. No expense had been spared in terms of the theatre, the staging, the costumes, the throat mikes and the orchestra. All 150 pupils of the school were on stage at one time or another and the staging, direction and choreography were simply superb. At all times, the many extras had authentic business to keep them busy and items like the famous ‘Bottle Dance’ were brilliantly executed. The only tiny problem I could identify was that all the elderly Jewish men had copious beards which climbed half-way up their youthful cheeks and had clearly been applied with so much glue that their wearers could hardly move their facial muscles. No matter: they managed to compensate with their voices. During the interval, there was a mini-restaurant set-up under roof in the courtyard and braziers were on the go with various comestibles on offer. The school even has a Facebook webpage! Going to look now….. just one photo at the moment (show finished last night) - yeh! it has uploaded - the first pic (the little fiddler stole my heart!) . You can take a look at this lovely school at www.elkanah.co.za

Friday, 21 May 2010

Just Trying Something Out

 


My little granddaughter - just seeing how to upload pics directly from my PC. Amazing! I see I must practice a bit more to come up to the standards of you American ladies who post so many beautiful photos so effortlessly to your blogs!
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Serviette Thief




It’s always a pleasant surprise to find a coffee shop/restaurant that actually provides lovely linen table napkins but it shouldn’t be such a delight that one walks off with one! I enjoyed a leisurely lunch with a girlfriend last week and got home to find to my surprise that I had put the smart black napkin into my handbag - the explanation being that I do carry around a shopping bag that looks much the same. Much ashamed, I returned it the next day (much to the surprise of the waiter - judging by his dazed expression). To further make up for my perfidy, I sat down and had something to eat, noting with amusement how quickly he removed the other two table settings. He should check the grey hairs - just a menopause moment.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The LIttle Things




My children, sadly, have always lived across the other side of the world from their grandparents and now that they are grown up, they hardly remember my husband’s parents and they don’t really know mine. Thus when my daughter was in England for a ‘gap’ year, she tried to visit them as often as she could although it was a 3-hour journey from London. Once they went to a pub for lunch and my daughter noticed that grandma could not get around too well that day - her arthritis - so she went to fetch her lunch for her saying, “Don’t worry, Grandma, I’ll look after you.” Such a very small thing but my mother remembers those words to this day - a number of years later and every now and again she quotes them to me over the phone - just that small act seems to have made a tremendous impression on her. It seems hard to believe. (NB. This is a 'Google Image' pic - not my family - although the daughter looks much like mine!)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Attraction of Opposites




During the evening, M & I compared respective phobias and suggested names of psychologists to each other, while our respective spouses looked on and topped up their drinks. Finally, we tried to include them in the topic by asking each to admit to things they were afraid of: neither could think of anything! Even when my husband was on the sea on his boat and both motors failed at the same time, he wasn’t particularly worried and soon thought of a practical solution, and M’s wife eventually admitted that she was a little bit afraid of heights these days. Both these people are salt of the earth, wonderful, capable (if a tiny bit bossy) and I suddenly realised that I had never had cause to be jealous of M’s wife, who had lived cheek by jowl in a communal house with my husband (and others) long before M & I met either of them. My husband always enthuses about her and can’t wait to see her but insists he regards her as a sister. Now I know why: whereas M & I have loads in common and can really empathise with each other, if we were married we would be confined to barracks with our communal phobias! The other two would be in a constant competitive state, vying with each other as to who is the bravest, most practical, best cook etc. etc. Putting it negatively therefore, I can see why opposites attract.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Of Phobias and Old Friends




We spent one night on holiday recently visiting a couple who are old friends: in fact, they took our appointment at the registry office when my prospective mother-in-law vetoed our own intention. We had all cottoned on to the news that if you got married before the end of February, you got a big tax rebate and as we were poor in those days…. So we all got married on 25th February and are currently married for 33 years. Both couples have three children of similar ages so the evening was a very pleasant catch-up of everybody’s news. In a similar vein, I’m sure we all thought the same thing on arrival, “Shame, haven’t they got old!” Still there was much hilarity all round (the men comparing amounts of hair left on their heads etc.) M was telling us about his phobias, namely, fear of flying (we knew about that one), but this has worsened into a fear of escalators, lifts and general claustrophobia which can hit him in a shopping centre or anywhere. The manifestations of his fears are rapid heart beat, suffocating sensation and sometimes his legs give way under him. He has tried to at least conquer the fear of entering a lift. He and his wife went to the casino for a few days and the lift to their second floor room was glass, so he says he managed this quite a few times. But then inexplicably, one day, he just couldn’t. Twenty minutes later, another person got into the lift at the point - except that there was no lift! The door opened and he stepped into space! This man was killed. It didn’t do much to help poor M’s lift phobia.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Big Bags

It is not easy to buy someone else a handbag. Take me for instance. It must have a shoulder strap, no flapover fastening, no inside pockets, fairly small, but can be any colour. So my daughter has recently given me two handbags - both huge! One is a Gucci copy bought on her holiday, a huge soft thing reminding me of the carpet bags of the old days - I could easily pack for a week-end in it, but I scramble desperately to find my cell phone, keys etc. The other is just as large, but at least not floppy, so I can struggle on with that. The thing is that I now have two ‘new’ handbags and I must use them so as not to offend. I have made one improvement though - I ignore the two main inside compartments in both bags, and just use the floating middle one that has a zip. My ID book and cell phone go into the tiny zip pocket on the side. Hope the fashions change next year since as my daughter is a fashion freak, I shall be expected to throw away this year’s bags and get the latest. I shall have a problem with that though - can’t bear waste, anything I own has to be worn out before I can bring myself to throw it away. I’ll do my best.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Sewing Woes




I have only ever trusted Vogue patterns - it seems - with good reason - they don’t ever have mistakes. I am making my dress for my son’s wedding with a McCalls’ pattern. It looked easy enough but when I look at the instructions the first think I notice is that the twisted neck which is supposed to be on the front - is on the back in the instructions! OK. I can deal with that. The next thing is confusion over the Lining/Underlining instructions - do they not mean Interfacing? The worst however is that the lovely shiny material which doesn’t crease and is cut on the cross has to be cut out singly and despite putting in a million pins, when I try to match up the pieces, the material has managed to stretch and there is a 5 cm difference between pieces which are supposed to be the same!! Woe is me. ....Well, as you can perhaps just see - all's well that ends well. My mother-in-law, who sewed for all seven of her children taught me that you can 'fiddle' the bits that seem not to work. Luckily, my daughter-in-law's dress was stunning so I could mostly stay in the background. This photo can't hide some things though viz: the trendy photographer insisting that all the men put their hands in their pockets, thus revealing my husband's too-short tie, somewhat rotund tummy area and my son's ill-fitting hired suit. Never mind. It was a lovely wedding.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Blog Hits




Realising that I know woefully little about blogging, I got a book out of the library which is very informative and interesting. E.g. I didn’t know blogs have been around since 1999 or that they can be extremely sophisticated! I also didn’t know that you can ‘divert’ traffic to your blog in various spurious ways which can give a very false idea of who actually reads your stuff and who has been falsely ‘directed’ to your site. This can of course greatly feed one’s ego, but in the end there’s no bigger fool than he who fools himself. Be that as it may, I am going to have a go - just to see if there is any difference in my Blogstats in the next few days. The book is called: “Rough Guide To Blogging” by Jonathan Yang and he recommends the following two ways of getting your blog address ‘out there’. Either go to www.google.com/addurl.html or www.submit.search.yahoo.com . I have done both today (no charge). On page 91, he says “ hits are a very inaccurate gauge of a site’s popularity because they count every file that needs to load when a reader visits your site….you receive one hit for the page itself, and additional hits for each piece of non-text content - images, sounds etc. - that are uploaded. The more stuff jammed onto your page, the more hits you receive”. He mentions a recommended URL www.sitemeter.com but I think a lot of what he talks about is for computer-savvy people who design their own blogs. It’s interesting though. I still can’t work out why I had the most hits ever the day I wrote about “Little Pink Fairies” - I thought it was a below-average post actually. As a rule of thumb, my ‘hits’ directly correspond to how many times a day I can post. Three was easy in the beginning – three years ago on week-days and week-ends usually none at all (family time). My greatest high is when some-one comments on an Archive post from months ago. That’s a real compliment! Having blogged very regularly at www.fiftyoverlife.iblog.co.za and achieved ‘most popular blog’ on one memorable day, I now find I can’t produce good stuff every day. I don’t do a blog diary as such because I just cannot think that my daily life would be interesting enough, yet some of the most popular blogs are exactly this. The bottom line though is that we all blog for different reasons. I want to print out 3 books eventually of a selection of my blogs, to leave to my children in my will, so that that they can have a little insight one day into how their mom’s mind really worked.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Oh Dear!



Just heard on our radio this morning that 85% of our parliamentarians are computer-illiterate and that most of their computers are still in their boxes! Still, don’t let that put you off visiting us in South Africa. We seem to be muddling along without these people’s computer skills. Perhaps even more to the point, is that many of them are illiterate as well.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Need to Read




In this information age, where so much is thrown at us daily by the differing media and everything is presented in as high-tech and jazzy a way as possible, often in a multitude of tiny bytes it is easy to be overwhelmed. It is easier to be young of course, since what you grow up with is more easily assimilated and in any case, the normal way. I personally know that I must avoid catching a Coca-Cola ad on the TV lest I become rapidly dizzy; similarly I can’t make head or tail of music videos, because I try to make sense out of them instead of just letting them wash over me. The last one I really loved was that one with Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman, both dressed in white serenading each other on a beach somewhere. What was the song again? Harley Kahns (not sure how to spell this) in conversation with one of our talk show hosts on Cape Talk, made some telling points about the way we read. We have become consumers of words, he says, - a few at a time - instead of reading to engage our imaginations. Perhaps the wheel will turn, I for one, have faith in the deeper needs of the mind - both of my elder children only began to read when they left school, my eldest reads massive science fiction tomes - so there is hope for my youngest. . At the moment, he thinks that activity is just for ‘old’ people. And I’ve found a great read for my reluctant reader, two-year old grandson – a pop-up book in which a baby rabbit asks all his animal friends what is in their nappy? Behind the nappy (diaper) pop-ups are pictures of all kinds of shapes and sizes of animal pooh. Finally, they demand to see inside his nappy – clean! He boasts that he uses a ‘piepie-poopsie’ pot and there follows an illustration of all the animals perching hopefully on their assorted pots. Of course, you could only show this story to a potty-training toddler – or you might find yourself in jail!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Almost a Sexy Night




I have decided to share another Dolphin story. You are all familiar, I trust, with the vibrator shaped like a dolphin which has the magical side attachment and dual motor? I hesitated to blog about this on the grounds that it is one thing to talk about things that are harmlessly long in the past but when it is a question of last week…. In the end, I felt that I owe this true story to our post-menopausal cyber sisterhood out there as there is much to be learnt from it. After all, I can always delete it from my home PC as there is no doubt that my children would not want to read it - no child likes to know that its parents have a sex life - unless they are under 5 years old in which case they are very interested. But I digress.. As I am now 59, hormones are not what they used to be in spite of HRT and ‘things’ can be a bit of an effort sometimes to the point that I was feeling guilty about deflecting my husband’s attentions a couple of times recently in various tactless ways, like falling asleep. So one night when I woke up, the usual insomnia of menopause striking at about midnight, I decided to make amends and pretending an ardour I was not feeling, I thought I would make some advances. A while later I could see I wasn’t having much success at which point he mumbled sleepily, “Can’t you rather fetch the dolphin - its got new batteries”.

Friday, 7 May 2010

New Gas Cooker?




August 2000

Kitchens are notoriously an expensive part of a house to set up from scratch, so we have basically been camping out in our holiday house one (see photo on blog!) for the last 3 years, nevertheless managing to cope often with 12 people staying at a time (and 35 the day after my daughter’s wedding!). Mostly, we have braaied or made potjies (pronounced ‘poykees’ – a stew in a cast-iron witch’s cauldron), or otherwise have managed with a cheap two-plate electric portable goody which is really slow if you put a big pot or frying pan on it. So when my husband excitedly told me he would bring me a ‘gas cooker’ I had fond visions of a state-of-the-art thing. This is what I was presented with, a relic from some-one’s camping past (not even our own). I have always been afraid of gas since on one camping trip I spied flames creeping out from underneath my sister-in-law’s gas bottle and since my husband insists on using another camping aide during power cuts - a light on a long stick on a gas bottle which makes an alarming roaring and hissing noise which drowns out the TV. However, after one week-end, I have succumbed to the charms of gas cooking - so quiet and obedient: this apparatus quite belies its looks. Just as well, as I might not get my kitchen for a while yet.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Jobs Around the House



The week-end as usual, passed pleasantly enough doing jobs at our second home. This time my husband got around to fitting a new back door and moving the previous one to the gap under the outside staircase to make a storeroom. I was prevailed upon to hold up the door while he screwed in the 8 screws of the top hinge. Now anyone who has tried this sort of thing knows it is quite a job and true to type my husband, like most men, launches himself into a task without first assembling the necessary equipment. Then people like me, have to fetch and carry all the time. At the end of the day, this means it looks as if I have achieved nothing. This time he kept lowering his arms to rest, with a suitably martyred expression but turned a deaf ear to my suggestion to fetch something to stand on. Be a martyr then. I did manage to get down to oiling the doors though, which we now only do with something called “Rubbol” although it is a horrendous R249 per litre! This was unfortunate because I was getting on quite well when suddenly a huge gust of wind blew the door onto me scattering much of my precious oil over me, the wall and the floor and leaving me paralysed with the rest of the tin in one hand and the brush in the other trying to hang onto the door with my elbow. Energetic cries for help eventually produced a result and hubbie came to the rescue, with the sympathetic but slightly smug comment, “Shit happens.” Amazingly, the oil washed out of my navy denim jeans (well, you can’t see it anyway), but my t-shirt and socks didn’t make it. Note to self: remember to wear old clothes.

Plastic Bag of Water



Plastic Bag of Water…


Just to finish off that story re “Son in the Shower” (earlier today). He told me it started out as an ice cube last week - used in a desperate attempt to minimise the size, colour and pain of the afore-mentioned volcano-like zit. Phew! I’m glad that was all. I wasn’t sure what to think!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Small Son in the Bathroom




We’ve been using the other bathroom this last week while the shower tiles in our one await their second appointment with the angle grinder. The first thing I discover that my son, far from being over-supplied with shampoo and conditioner - four bottles jostle for place on the stand - can’t have washed his hair for weeks. The bottles are all empty. Why doesn’t he ask? Upon enquiry, he is not bothered with the situation, he just uses soap, he says. Another thing is the sinister presence of a compass - I have finally worked out its’ purpose….. but of all ironies, after having a zit-free skin almost all the time, when he went for his interview with the modelling agency, a huge one, the size of a boil had materialised on his forehead. Sod’s Law. The newest mystery is a small plastic bag containing about 50 mls of water, tied up with a rubber band (no, it IS water!) - this has been lying around the sink for the last week. I’ll find out about that today….