Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Very Big House

We had cause to visit the brand new house of a nephew who is doing rather well in the world, if your standards are financial. These days he brokers deals with governments and he is only 42. We had already heard much about this magnificent house and it certainly took our breath away, reminding me forcibly of something out of "Gone with the Wind". 'Nuff said? The interesting thing for me was that I felt absolutely no envy and certainly no jealousy of this young couple's good fortune/hard-earned rewards. They both come from ordinary backgrounds and we've known the young man since birth - what a nice guy. I guess the point is I don't know anyone from my own generation who has done so well, although we do now have a couple of high flyers amongst the younger family members. It must be a sign of the times. I was quite happy to return to my own average family abode - after all, its comfortable and accommodating - we have effectively 5 bedrooms which are often filled with visitors - said nephew's house has only 4 despite its 1400 sq.metres compared to our 300. It certainly has lots of space and is elegant, relaxing and beautiful. I wish them well and their children are delightful and well-mannered. It was nice to see and great to find out these good things about myself! I couldn't resist sneaking a picture though, of their entrance hall.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Being Really Old

People of my age (60), are becoming known as the 'sandwich' generation: we have our own grandchildren but also, very elderly parents. There are now many articles in all the magazines with suggestions as to how to cope for all concerned. My dad, 93, is soldiering on, still living next door to my brother and his wife. Last week he was fitted with a permanent catheter, after a year of increasing difficulty in passing uring, but not telling anyone. For most people, this is easy to manage but not when you are bent over at 90 degrees, extremely thin and weak, almost deaf and classified blind. It is hard motivating dad to continue. Someone has to deal with the catheter as he can't see to change the bags himself. We have to try to teach him to at least flick the valve to empty the bag into something at lunchtimes, as he is alone most of the time, as my brother and sister-in-law work. At least he is in the home in which he knows his way around and of which he has a mental picture stemming from before he was almost blind. He can see light and dark. Isn't he lucky. NB. The gentleman in this picture is only 79.

Fat Quarters

I have been introduced to a whole new world out there - quilting! When my cousin said she had to buy some 'fat quarters', I thought we were going to the butchers and there we were in Bath, in southern England, in a tiny shop in a cobbled back street (you expect to see Disckensian characters emerging at any moment) - staring up at rows and rows of beautiful quilting fabrics. In case you didn't know, 'fat quarters' are a quarter of a yard of material folded up into pocket handkerchief sized portions so that you may easily compare and contrast before purchasing. Is it only the British that use this name or does it originate in the home of patchwork quilts, the USA?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Being Late

One of my good friends has been so notoriously late for appointments that in exasperation I once risked our friendship and presented her with an article fortuitously printed in a magazine in which such people are summed up as 'selfish' and 'inconsiderate', clearly indicating that they think no-one's time is valuable except their own. To add insult to injury these people are invariably 'last-minuters' who arrive with a long list of feeble excuses as to what happened at the last minute to prevent their departure. My sister-in-law takes the cake though. Having confided to me that she 'hates' to be late, my brother did recall two memorable occasions which proved the exception to the rule. Both involved sewing. Once she was still sewing a dress for an outfit to go to a fancy function with the result that they arrived when all the food was finished and the dancing had started. They don't dance, so they went home. On a more important occasion, the morning of her wedding, she was still feverishly sewing away on her wedding dress to the point that her father, his nerves wrecked, took himself off to the pub. My late friend did sober up and make a huge effort to reform so that these days she is mostly on time. However, she has absolutely no tolerance should someone else be a minute or two late. How does that work?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Being the Soul of Tact

I came across this marvellous quote in a novel of David Guterson, (of Snow Amongst Cedars fame). This novel is called "The Other". The main character feels that he is socially much more of a success if he keeps his occasionally tactless mouth shut and he remembers a (presumably fictional) novel that he has read entitled, "Mouth Open, Already a Mistake" by a Zen master. This really struck a chord with me, particularly as friends and I were discussing over coffee one day that as our extended families become even more so with the addition of in-laws and grandchildren, if we are to maintain our specious popularity with the whole lot, it is better to simply button one's lip in potentially sensitive situations, e.g. our old-fashioned opinions about child-rearing, when to introduce solids etc usually fall upon stony ground. Of course, there is a fine line to be recognised between interfering and merely proferring well-intentioned advice or being interpreted as simply not interested. No matter. The best course is just to keep quiet. I've learned this the hard way. Nice to know one is not alone though.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Ian McKewan's Genius

This man is a really great writer in my book, because similar to those of the ilk of Barbara Kingsolver, each story is unique: there is no immediately detectable recurring pattern of construction. Each one is a satisfying read. Take “On Chesil Beach”. Amazingly, this is more like a novella, you can read it in a couple of hours. It’s about a modern young couple, very much in love, intellectuals, but both experience huge problems on their wedding night. The novelist hints at this in the first few pages which makes us hugely curious, and then you have to wait until we have learned about these characters from their pasts to the present before we find out what happens and the far-reaching effects on both of their lives. I also greatly enjoyed “Atonement”, his famous one and “Saturday” – a day in the life of a London surgeon and his family (with a horrendous twist!) - Brilliant, and another shortie. Try them.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Between Us Girls....

There are many things about being a girl that guys just don’t get. A friend of mine had saved up R2000 for curtaining (about $250) material and she went off to quite an expensive shop but found the assitant to be monosyllabic and unhelpful to the point that when said assistant shoved all the hanging samples onto my friends trapped fingers while she was browsing, she and her husband left the shop and the curtains and she went and spent the money on clothes for herself. Quite understandable. Another thing: at the pharmacy, she found that the young assistant had typed the instructions on her hormone patches as “apply to affected areas” (??). This reminds me of the day I had cause to purchase some or other vaginal cream and the young, male assistant wrote my son’s name on the label.