Friday, 23 December 2011

Glazed look in the Eyes

Here comes Some-one I don't know

Here are examples of the perfect 'glazed look'
That was SO..... Good !
or 'how comforting a thumb can be in the presence of strangers'.   My granddaughter of 9 months absolutely won't touch a dummy.  Is there really any cause to be worried about deforming her teeth?  She has 8.  Maybe if she gives up the thumb-sucking young enough, all will be well. ??
Oh, oh,  someone else I don't know

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Christening !

"Ah, finally in something more comfortable"
Nothing much new to blog about - we all know about hectic preparations for Christmas. Our baby was christened last Sunday though - an eye-opener for me, as the ministers these days seem to store up all the littlies and do them on the same day.  There were 11 babies baptised in the understandably crowded church.  Afterwards, a roast lunch at my daughter's house, where my husband snapped this adorable pic (above). She is quintessentially herself in this one - much though she loves sucking her thumb (under). They are just born with their characters, aren't they.
"I don't like this starchy dress"

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mirror, mirror, on the Wall....

This mirror very nearly remained off the wall, as we had to agree on its new position.  We are redesigning our 'central area' downstairs in our retirement house.  Until now, it has served as a general dormitory for small son and his friends from about the age of 16, when we had to ferry them to and fro to their small-town night club, taking turns to set the alarm to 2.00 a.m. (going to bed fully clothed - the things we do for our kids!). Now that they are all aged circa 22, they do their own driving and have their own vehicles of variously aged vintages in most cases.  Small son drives my old, sturdy Honda Ballade whose birthday is 1996 and still going strong. I digress.  The mirror, which used to take pride of place in the centre of one wall, has lately become obscured by the increased number of bunk beds. It has to move to a position near to our front door. The point of this post is to demonstrate that although we nearly came to blows about the minute positioning of the mirror at the bottom of the staircase - mostly because it weighs about 40 lbs and required considerable effort for my husband to lift it up only to hear that it needed to go 2 cms more to the right/left/up/down - we were both thinking about the possibility of make-up sex (no, I'm kidding  - that was just in our imaginations), I was thinking that if our children were present they would think we were fighting. Not true.  However, my husband did turn stubborn and refused to give in to my preference.  At this point - he had a light bulb moment!  "How about if we turn it round?"  Problem solved.  We turned the oblong mirror around longways and it was a perfect fit.  Grinning companionably at each other, we went off to pour ourselves a whiskey. NB. He also made the banister, tiled the stairs and made the wooden steps. This is why we could afford to build a second home.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Waiting for Babe to Wake up,,,,,

My daughter asked me to fetch her baby this morning and take her to my house as the maid wants to leave early. Daughter had to go out somewhere. So here I am in this big modern house, waiting for babe to wake up - she's having a really long sleep this morning as she's had a cold, but now that her nose is clear she seems to be catching up on lost sleep.  I glance around but there is not a single book or magazine in this house - apart from in my grandson's bedroom (thanks to his two grannies!) to help me pass the time.  There is the TV but the maid is still here listening to her Xhoza radio programme (very loudly) so I can't do that. Their new leather L-shaped couch is so uncomfortable I can't sit on that for a nap either. There are no 'comfy' chairs..... I remembered that their old (comfy) couch has been relegated to the landing upstairs, so I've had a nap on that after attempting an to complete an old Sudoku which I found in my handbag. Now I've found my daughter's computer so I'm posting a blog. After this, I'm going to wake the baby.... the African language on the radio is driving me nuts.  How can there be a house with no books?  And her mother an English teacher!!


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Love Is....

Couldn't resist this one. Hubbie just returned from his 12-hour working day. I let him therefore have the pick of the early evening TV shows but sometimes this is the result. I should add that later that evening he sanded and painted small son's bedroom and also moved the built-in cupboards to the other side of the room, while I finished a cryptic crossword.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How Weird am I ?

Sextant - not so lucky today . I downloaded four pics and got the code mixed up - deleted half my text!  Stuck with one pic today.  Thanks to the person who put this on the Net .

As Christmas approaches and I am getting older, I have found it necessary to be surrounded by memories.  My Christmas tree is loaded with decorations, each loaded with memory, quite different from my daughter's rather minimal 'themed' one:  I actually asked her if she had only half-finished it. It looks like one in a shopping mall. Christmas cards, I lament to say, are in short supply.  Gone are the days of snail-mail thirty years ago, when the postman made three deliveries a day, and cards flooded through our front door and thumped onto the mat. Only the old people do cards now:  last year I think I got a total of six and only sent as many. That's largely because a lot of people on my old list have died and also because postal rates overseas have rocketed, for obvious reasons.  I don't like text messages on Christmas day, nor do I appreciate digital cards arriving in my e-mail - to print out at my own cost. However, incorrigible hoarder that I am, there are about fifty of the nicest cards that I've kept over the last twenty years that I put up again each December. They are mostly from dearly-beloved relatives who have passed on and I always re-read every message before putting up a display. In this way I feel surrounded by love and am comforted by memories. It's specially meaningful this year as I have one acquaintance facing terminal cancer and a dear friend battling with ill-health.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Moslem Wedding

(Thank you Sextant ! See the second pic is in the text !!  So simple when you know how!)

I was privileged to attend a Moslem wedding on Sunday as the bride's father is one of my husband's staff. What an amazing experience.  Firstly, the 500 guests - with spare tables in the back in case more pitched up.  The dad told us he sent out 200 formal invitations but family are simply told the date and expected to come.  The venue was stunning and the food excellent: apparently, many family members contribute quite large cash gifts to help with the wedding and the young couple are also helped with a house or flat. There were loads of gifts on display. I had worried about what to wear so settled for trousers, a long top and scarf. Other women, especially some of the younger ones, hadn't worried to dress conservatively, but they were few amongst the traditional scarves and saris, some of which were quite magnificent.  It was an absolute delight to have no alcohol - copious jugs of juice and water were constantly brought to our table, which was just as well as it was a hot day, and it took two hours for all the guests to arrive before the proceedings started. There were a lot of bridesmaids and groomsmen and the whole entourage sat on the platform, although without any parents. There were no speeches just what I presume was a blessing - sung in Arabic (ten minutes long) and then the MC called up a dignitary he called the "Chef" to the microphone and he intoned something for a similar length of time.
Then it was the 3-course meal, which had been preceded by fresh fruits at the table, then photographs on the stage and then the best part - three Hajis (older women who have done the Haj) - came to take the bride away to her new home where traditionally they would instruct her what to expect and how to behave on her wedding night. First, they placed a dark fur cape around her shoulders and then, the Hajis all dressed in immaculate white saris (the bride in a traditional European gown) they walked slowly through the centre of the guests, who kissed the bride who was accompanied by a beautiful song sung by all the women guests, haunting, soft and almost sad.  That was the end and people started to leave. The bridegroom would be waiting for her at the new house - and we were home by 8.00 p.m.  Such an eye-opener, a glimpse into another culture and traditions.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Small Son - Job Search

We have come to the end of small son's third year of study:  "International Import/Export"  Diploma. Sounds good, but small son seems blissfully unaware of the small field of jobs available for the 600,000 currently unemployed graduates in SA.  Partly the fault of students studying the wrong things: of course, we need scientists, engineers etc. but few wish to pursue those courses - they are just too darned hard and not glamorous. Small son also has always been more interested in his surfboard than his books. He also seem convinced that there is a way to earn easy money, or at least believes that he can find a job related to his field of study. NB. This is his first foray into the world of proper employment, his CV thus far consisting of a few modelling jobs in London and two years of delivering pizzas at night, plus a brief stint as a barman. He went for an interview last Friday, but although it went well, he is not impressed with the conditions of employment: a four-year contract, R10,000 per month in the first year, working in the store stacking shelves for five months, six days a week, working on all Public Holidays...  So he is not thrilled. He will refuse this offer and believes he will find something better. We'll see. I ought to reserve judgment: I think he forgets he has the wrong skin color to get any kind of job in SA. I might be wrong. He has one month before all parental support ceases - except that my husband won't let me eject him from our home. Then there's the other matter of him reversing into our electric gate last month, being too impatient to wait for it to open properly - the second time he's done this.  The first quote is R20,000 - much to small son's amazement.  We are still waiting for him to get another quote: luckily, I remembered not to transfer his monthly allowance (one month to go!) as this is the only way to galvanize him into action. More anon....

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Dog Whisperer and Girls of the Playboy Mansion

I am trying to analyse my fascination with these two shows (include "Dr 90210") since I do not watch 'soapies' (or perhaps these qualify?). I have two university degrees (thus hopefully a reasonable brain)  and the two shows don't appear at first glance to have anything in common - apart from being undemanding viewing.  Well, I guess that's one reason: I don't have to concentrate. The common factor seems to be my fascination with psychology, whether human or animal. And I absolutely love dogs, although we haven't had one for many years: they die too young and lately we need to be able to lock up and go. However, I have told my husband, that should he kick the bucket before me, I shall immediately purchase a dog to love, cuddle and have sleep in my bed. My husband was not impressed. Should I follow this course of action though, I foresee that I should rapidly be in need of the services of Cesar Millano as I should be a useless pack leader. I don't like having to be in a position of authority so really I should never own a dog.  Heigh-ho!  I'll probably get a budgie. Of course,I might die first....  That doesn't bear thinking about because, being a man, my husband would have to find another wife. Maybe not straight away because he does not need 'looking after', being a perfectly accomplished chef, handyman, housekeeper, car mechanic, gardener, etc. He is also a dab hand with my sewing machine: he can also knit.  As far as the other show goes, I am lost in admiration that these girls are clever enough to carve lucrative careers for themselves by exploiting men (I don't see it as the other way round), getting themselves boob jobs and adopting dumb blonde attitudes. Way to go!  I can't however understand how they can stomach going to bed with a man they haven't grown old with and I'll never understand how their lives are just one big party.  Boring!  I'm fascinated nonetheless! Obviously, I all the photos of Hef and his girls are copyright-protected.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Housewife's Horror of Aprons ... and a word on Sex

The Stepford Wives

My reluctance to wear an apron when cooking no doubt stems from not wishing to behave in any way like the robot wives in the film "The Stepford Wives" :  (if you know what an apron is you will remember the film). I like to think of myself as liberated and hence most of my clothes bear witness to this (tomato stains mostly). There was also an iconic TV cooking show at the time, mid-sixties, starring Fannie and Johnnie Cradock, who were frightfully aristocratic and cooked in evening clothes: a lackey would appear in the background, handing them the prepared ingredients. Also, even today, any advert referring to a fifties female, depicts her in an apron.  Nevertheless, I do think there is something to be said for Jerry Hall's mother's advice: " you must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom." NB Jerry  said she would hire the other two and take care of the bedroom bit. Well, that's an idea - if you can afford it. Most of us have to struggle on, trying to be Superwoman with a full-time job to boot.  Now that I am 'retired' and theoretically, have the time, there is the dire problem of receding hormones re "it-that-shall-not-be-named".  (Sorry, always been a Harry Potter fan). In the first twenty-eight years of my marriage I always showed willing in the bedroom unless "sick or (very) pregnant" (a quote from Jilly Cooper, now married for fifty years to Leo). This line of action I think has resulted in a very contented husband and has contributed in no small way to our long marriage. NB Please don't think I was ever frigid. I definitely enjoyed myself. On the few occasions when I have tried to explain more recently, my diminishing libido - I have been met with hurt looks and a conviction that I don't love him any more. He takes it very personally. Which is quite exasperating for me and means that I have to go back to faking it for his sake. Make no mistake: of course, I still love the physical closeness and am still nuts about my husband; it's just that my body lets me down: most of the time. There I've done it! Mentioned the unmentionable.  My latest worry is that my doctor wants me to give up my HRT after 10 years and I am dead against it. I look younger than my age and don't need lubricants.  I'd rather take my chances for a while longer. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Fight at the LIbrary

National Library of Finland

Things are likely to be 'sensitive' in South Africa for many years to come as a result of our government's "B.E.E." (Black Economic Empowerment) programme. One example of what happens is that our librarian confided to me one frustrated Monday morning that of the 'new' staff - one of the women does not pull her weight, is on the same salary scale as my colleague and yet the latter has to do most of her work as well as her own. Why? Because no-one dares criticise anyone with a black skin - least of all the Chief Librarian. Any comment, no matter how innocuous, well-meaning or helpful is interpreted as 'racist'. So in most firms, 'new' appointments are given a company car, a nice office and a title - while someone else does their work. This usually works out cheaper for companies than having to pay the fine for not having their BEE ratios correct. Things came to a head last week though: the other 'new' staff member is a conscientious worker and had obviously been observing the scene for a while. Suddenly, she lost her temper and gave the lazy one a right verbal bollocking during which the remaining staff made themselves scarce.  A week later, nothing is said, the two ladies concerned don't speak to each other but the lazy one seems to be making an effort.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

One of Life's Little Ironies

My big son is becoming notorious for his tendency to be reluctant to make any kind of decision (outside his work).  At the last minute, he decided to use up some leave and go and visit family in the Karoo for a brief 5 days - a 500-mile journey away from Cape Town. Even more last minute, he decided to send his car in for a service the day before they were due to leave with an early start.  Unsurprisingly, the car wasn't ready in time, but worse, he was told over the phone that the cost of the service would be a devastating R7800. Way over budget. So he cancelled his trip, his wife went back to work and he spent the week-end with us. Ironically, when he went to collect his car, he was informed that there had been a mistake and he had been quoted someone else's bill. His own charge was a mere R750.  But all's well that ends well: more sensibly, they will take a longer leave next year and go for two weeks so that they can visit everyone and not rush. However, I wonder the reaction of the owner who might have been told that his bill was R750 but it turned out to be R7800. Sometimes you must just count yourself lucky.

Catching the Cape Town Bus

We've never had a really decent public transport system in Cape Town (nay, the whole of South Africa) until the thought of hosting the World Cup Football last year galvanized the powers that be. Unfortunately, the first route only opened six months ago, luckily from my suburb into central Cape Town. This has been a boon as I can pop into town to see the "Cinema Nouveau" movies at the Waterfront  - read: "right next to the famous Table Mountain recently voted one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World" - without being stuck in horrendous traffic or having to face huge parking fees. Funny thing: although people of every color and creed use the bus, if you get onto an empty one at the terminal, the black people gravitate to the back and the whites to the front. (??) This is nastily reminiscent to me of the old apartheid days but is it really so in the SA of 2011?  Maybe the black people would rather converse with the stranger sitting next to them in their own language.  Maybe there is nothing sinister at all: no matter how the social engineers try to mix us up, it's just that "soort soek soort"  (like attracts like) as they say in Afrikaans. After all, I avoid children and youngsters with noisy I-Pods: also anyone with BO. I look for the person who gets out their book or Kindle as my ideal travelling companion.

Monday, 21 November 2011

How to Look Well-Groomed

When you live in a small town and attend church - you have to look well-groomed or people will whisper. Consequently, I have three very smart sisters-in-law who always look immaculate when they go out, even if its just to buy the paper.  On the other hand, I live pretty anonymously in a big city and I struggle to get it right. My hair just never looks perfect  - not helped by strong summer South-Easter, and I never seem to manage to keep my clothes clean. I thought I'd aced it last week but found a mark on the lapel of my cotton jacket as I was leaving home so I rushed back and addressed it with dishwashing liquid which then left a faint green residue as well as a wet mark. Too bad - it was getting late.  I thought my make-up was OK - it was - but as I got in my car my other lapel managed to brush against my fresh lipstick and when I arrived at my destination I found an old coffee stain on the pocket. Anyone any tips? I have a small suspicion that it's something to do with personality type?  (Actually, Diane usually looks good in her films - just doesn't cut it off duty).

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Unfortunate Economy

I've often thought marketing and advertising must be interesting fields in which to work because of the need to understand buyers' psychology.  Now when it comes to soap, shower gel and bubble bath - I'm afraid I will buy any which match exactly the colours in my bathroom - this is my most important criterion, as the products stand on show as opposed to being hidden in a cupboard.  I admit I did foolishly stray from my rule last month when I was tempted by a large, bargain buy in the form of a good shower gel. The container was opaque and did not reveal the colour of the liquid which was transparent. I was puzzled that this big tub - which should have lasted three months - was finished in less than one and remarked on it to my husband. "Oh, that was probably me,"  he said. "Without my glasses, I can't see how much I'm getting out." (Back to blue).

Friday, 18 November 2011

Halloween or Ku-Klux Clan?

My husband is starting to stress a great deal about his looming retirement in less than three years.  His main worry is that he won't be able to fit all his power tools into the garage space in our retirement home.  To this end, we have extended the house so that it now looks huge on the outside: there is a workroom behind the garage and a great 'hobbies' room above the double garage which we plan to share for our indoor hobbies, sewing, jigsaw, computer, model boat building etc..) and there is the bonus of a secluded open area on the top floor behind the hobbies room at the back of the house - actually a suntrap, where I can hang washing, skinny sunbathe etc. G is slowly moving the contents of his garage at home to his new workroom to avoid a major effort when we finally move. The latest addition to his collection of what I regard as 'toys' is this scary-looking machine with big pointed sack which gathers all the sawdust as he works at his lathe. I am assured that this (expensive) piece of equipment is essential in terms of his health and it will ensure that the area remains immaculate. I buy this on both counts as I have experienced many a day when our garage here looks as if a dust storm has hit, with my husband emerging with only his eyes visible and my own car cloaked in what looks like a downy blanket. Of more concern, was the strange dizziness that afflicted my husband for some months and which puzzled doctors. Light dawned one day when he read in Handyman Magazine that certain woods give off vapours which can definitely cause this side effect. Meantime, I don't venture into the garage without putting the light on - this new machine just takes me right back to the sixties and the Ku Klux Clan - and it's been Halloween recently.  Sometimes it's not nice to have an active imagination. Silly, aren't I?  After all I'm not 3. Got out a scary dinosaur pop-up book from the library which I've been reading with great sound effects "Boom, Boom !!" for my grandson - "Again, again, granny!"  However, my daughter brought it back three days later - although he loves it in daylight, it's been giving him nightmares.(Sorry - bottom pic was correct when I selected it - can't seem to turn it. Pics do not load properly on my Mac)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Moral Quandary

Like all parents, I've done my best to instil good values and discipline into my children. I understand that the pace of modern life is hectic especially when you have a very active toddler and a seven-month old to get to the shops. However, I have asked my daughter to give me at least a day's notice if she needs help as I do sometimes have my own commitments.  I know she thinks I don't have a life these days since I stopped working but I feel she shouldn't assume I am at her beck and call at the drop of a hat, unless the children are suddenly sick. So I got a message this morning: she needs my help if at all possible today to take them into town for their passport photos and documents.  As it happens, I arranged yesterday afternoon to go to movies this morning with two friends. We had been trying to find a date to suit everyone for a few days before that. It would not be a house on fire, if I pulled out, which of course, I would do in an emergency, but I still feel bad saying no to my daughter and I now worry that it will be my fault if my mischievous grandson runs away into the traffic and gets lost or run over while she is organising the baby into her pram. In my own mind I have no choice though: I always stick to a prior commitment.  My daughter says she forgot to phone me yesterday. Maybe the inconvenience of this expedition will jog her memory next time. (This is them)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Must-Have !!

There are few times in one's life I think, that one sees something for sale that one simply falls in love with.  I can remember a few - the pair of china frogs in my bathroom, the paintings of Venice that my husband and I fell in love with - well, really, I just felt sorry for the pavement artist in St Mark's square and wanted to help him - for rather a large amount. And then I saw these - in the car park of our loca supermarket.  As Christmas is coming - I've put them on my wish list. My husband thinks I have taken leave of my senses, but how can I help myself? I just fell in love - of course, it rather depends how you attach them to your car: this one has a sort of faintly "dumb blonde" look - don't you think?  I want mine to look "coy". Can't wait for Santa!

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Language of Love

We had a great week-end at our holiday house: visitors were my son, his wife and my granddaughter and my daughter's mother-in-law.  She and I get on like a house on fire as we were both teachers in a former life.  We had a good old chinwag down at the coffee shop at the beach over a couple of very decent cappucinos while my husband got on with jobs at the house and my son and his family were out shopping.  Having covered a broad spectrum of subjects I was astonished to hear my friend suddenly say that she notices my husband is always 'getting at' me.  I honestly had no idea what she was talking about and said so: she equally surprised that I did not notice the so-called 'critical remarks'. We glossed over this and talked of other things but I've been thinking about what on earth can she mean?  I can only surmise that after 34 years of happy marriage, there is a coded language that exists between loving couples to which outsiders are oblivious. I know that my husband is a very private man and does not wear his heart on his sleeve: when we are alone he is absolutely the most verbally loving and considerate mate anyone could want. He demonstrates this in a thousand ways: he loves to bring me a tray of tea in bed every morning, although he is up very early to get himself off to work, he kisses me tenderly before he leaves and again when he comes home. These are not empty gestures. They mean "Even though we have many daily frustrations in life  - eg. you still haven't ironed my favourite shirt even though it's been in the wash for a week , I love you always and absolutely". If he says in company, "Oh, A's dropped the iron again and I have to fix it" - I know he means "But she's the best ironer in the world and I love her to bits". I finally remembered that M was only married for 10 years before getting divorced. So it's just that she hasn't learned the private language of love.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Hope for the Future

Stefano Boeri's Bosco Verticale in Milan

A Patrick Leblanc in France

Our newspaper featured an article this week on all the 'greening' of skyscrapers that is going on around the world in the form of 'vertical gardens', particularly in some very ungreen city centres.  I am so uplifted to think of all that carbon monoxide being removed from the atmosphere and all the oxygen being put back into these concrete jungles that it has put quite a spring in my step today. Thanks goodness there are such clever and ingenious human beings on the planet. It gives one hope for the future after all. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Reformed Party Pooper

So how went the dreaded party last Saturday?  A lot better than I had expected.  First of all, we eventually quite enjoyed dressing up in Gatsby stuff - luckily that involved no expense - husband borrowed small son's newly-purchased suspenders, black with white stars on. By dint of expanding them to their fullest we just got them to fit. He then donned cream chinos and white shirt and I found him a type of Panama hat the bank had supplied once for a golf day, white straw with a navy-blue band. However he refused to wear this until he had obliterated the bank's logo with an indelible pen. My cupboard yielded long beads which I had worn for a similar theme 15 years ago and I found a feathery thing with little pearls that I'd made for my head for my daughter's wedding instead of a hat. There was also a black sweat band I used for gym to which I could attach it.  I wore a knee-length back linen shift and silver shoes and bag.  At the venue, everyone had played the game and the room looked like a Godfathers' convention - LOL . Chatting was great, food was great, speeches were good - then came the bit I dread - the music and 'dancing'.  I should have remembered though that these were mostly Afrikaans-speaking people and the music was 'sakkie-sakkie'  (I'm sorry but this defies description in English - perhaps you can google?) - supplied by an impressive-looking modern juke-box. This essentially means that you can do waltz and quick-step or your-own-thing and also everyone knows the words.  Unfortunately, my husband and I can't dance together - I insist that he has two flat feet and no rhythm: I feel justified in this judgment as I still have a Silver Medal for Ballroom Dance in my jewelry box from when I was 16. He claims to be equally proficient, having been taught by the English master at Boarding School. Our pride prevents us from disgracing ourselves together on the floor, so we just sit at the table and watch. I no longer mind: I pick out the best dancers (usually a couple over 65) and imagine myself in their shoes.  These days I have a new diversion - I listened to the drums and tried to imitate the beats on the table top and on my knees; at least until my husband informed me that I was attracting attention.  There is one last option - tried and tested. You can imagine the men stripped of all but their socks.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Facing Life Alone

It's tough getting older and facing life alone. This month, I've been in contact with people I know in this position and learned how they've coped. Twenty-three years ago, a friend and colleague lost her young husband to a heart attack and was left with a baby boy of four months and a daughter of five. The surviving child died of an asthma attack three years later. My friend found some comfort in her religion and threw herself into work.  We lost touch after I moved to Cape Town and then  - wham!  Yesterday, I got an e-mail - she'd been thinking of me. I wrote back and found that her son is grown up and married and she started up her own interior decorating business some years ago and now travels all over Africa in the course of her work.  Some affairs along the way, but no-one lasting. She is philosophical. Another dear friend (last in contact 37 years ago), found me on Facebook!  Her husband died 15 years ago.  She had to work very hard to bring up her two children alone and there was no-one in her life for a long time.  Now she loves a man twenty years older than herself - they've been together for seven years and he treats her well  - except that he likes to have other girlfriends as well. She puts up with it, glad to have him some of the time. Then at the party last Saturday night, the MC made a lovely speech about the 21-year-old girl and gave her some good advice - I remember he stressed that above all she should learn the art of forgiveness. He mentioned his 'late' son. We afterwards found out that his 19-year-old son had been stabbed and was killed when he tried to prevent a fight in his first year at 'varsity. His mother committed suicide a few months later. The father soldiers on and finds solace in helping others. My bank manager retired at the end of June - I was feeling sorry for him as he is 'bookish and owlish' and somewhat eccentric. He has a retarded son and has been divorced for 8 years.  As I shook his hand on his last day, his face lit up - "I am getting married next year', he beamed!  He never thought he would have another chance. I am so happy for him.


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hard-of-Hearing Husband

My husband has worn hearing aids and glasses for the last ten years and our life together is pretty harmonious except for sometimes daily tiffs about his hearing.  I try hard to be patient but many times I have to repeat myself to the point that I am told "There's no need to shout", in aggrieved tones. But yes there is! If I don't first get his attention there is no way he hears me first time: of course, it's the high tones he has problems with i.e. women or more specifically - me. The thing is the aids themselves are so damned expensive I can't believe they do not make for super-hearing: I get it (intellectually) that surrounding background noise of any description is amplified as well whereas the brains of undeaf people know how to screen these out.... but still!  The thing is I find it impossible to raise my voice without it sounding cross!  If I endeavour to make it sweet and sympathetic then he still can't hear me. Catch 22.  Any suggestions? I might have another 30 years of this - if we are lucky. Of course, by then I'll be deaf as well so there won't be a problem - we'll probably write notes to each other - if we can still see.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Anti-Social Me

If there is one thing I really don't like in life it's a party.  I am just not a fun person. There are some we have to attend - weddings for example - those I enjoy to a point i.e. when the food has been consumed and the speeches done.  I love the speeches. But when the awful ear-splitting music begins I long to sign out.  What is the purpose of the rest of the evening when you can no longer hold a conversation? There is no 'real' dancing any more, just bopping about. I have often made excuses and escaped to the garden of the venue where I study the plants by moonlight and keep looking at my watch.  My husband retreats to the bar where he seems to enjoy himself. This week-end we have to attend a 21st. No getting out of it, although we will know hardly anyone, least of all the girl herself. Well, we knew her as a little girl....  but her parents have attended our children's birthdays and weddings so we have to go. NB - even these personal occasions were boring for me after an hour or two.  Now we have to dress up: Gatsby.  We both dislike this but we must make an effort - perhaps a few minimal accessories will do.  And maybe we can come home early. I shall plead ill-health.  Are we boring? I don't think so - I thoroughly enjoyed an evening of 'Trivial Pursuit' recently, and once we stayed at a dinner party until 2.00 a.m. - the company was so interesting, I didn't even realise it was so late! Next month it's my Book Club's annual Christmas dinner: I don't want to go but I it's my duty.  We are a central core of regulars and all the other ladies seem to enjoy the night out.  We don't even mention books and you can only talk to the people on either side of your seat.  The noise level can be loud as a party. Sigh! .... Oh dear, what a whinger I am! Still I feel better for seeking cyber sympathy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

My Dad - 94

Having cut his own hair - yes he still has some. Not a bad job considering he is blind!
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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

End of an Era

It is totally wrong of me to regret the passing of my piano, as I have not touched it except to dust it in ten years and nor has anyone else. My grandchildren seem only to be interested in things which 'plug in'. Nevertheless, I did shed a tear when someone unexpectedly answered my advert - which had been occasioned by my husband's logic "a piece of furniture for which we shall soon no longer have room" - and so I was caught off guard and heard myself agreeing to the sale. Call me a sucker, but I fell for the lady's circumstances - six musical children and herself having saved up for ages for a reasonably cheap piano.  Amazingly, she did not even come and see it herself but sent a piano tuner/enthusiast recommended by a friend. She even put the money into my account five days before the piano was collected. When the chap did fetch it this morning, he confided that he would have sold it himself for about double what I had asked, but then money's not always everything. I am happy that it went to a good, musical home and will get played every day.  I shall still have my memories of my young husband fixing people's cars in our garage on week-ends in order to gather the deposit.  I still have the original invoice - I had forgotten that we had to pay off the rest over 12 months. And now I have these photos.... and enough to buy myself an electronic drum kit which won't disturb the household - you hear it over headphones.  My husband thinks I'm having a mid-life crisis. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

A Typical Monday

Typically, on Monday mornings, I hang out the washing, don my gym clothes, go to help shelve books at the library until 9.30 a.m., then on to my gym class. I have asked my daughter not to ask me to babysit at the last minute. She tries to respect this but this morning my phone rang while I was finishing up at the library. Could I please babysit - now  - as she has a dentist appointment but the agency has phoned to say her maid can't pitch up today as her house burnt down last week.  This news does not even raise an eyebrow in Cape Town as our home helps live for the most part in shanty towns where their two-room dwellings are constructed from corrugated iron and cardboard. They cook for the most part on parafin stoves and when our south-easter blows  (October - March), there are frequent fires in these poor areas and often several hundred shacks burn down, sometimes with unsupervised children inside. Usually, the community rallies round and we turn out our cupboards for blankets, kitchen utensils, clothes etc. to help where we can.  This year, my cupboards seem to be finally bare. Meanwhile, the 7 billionth baby has been born on the planet!  Apparently, there have been 'celebrations' around the world. Huh? A professor interviewed on our radio today said that trying to limit families to two babies only would not be the answer as it is the developed nations who drain the planet's resources not the poor. It is us who use the electricity, the water, the fuel and who create the carbon emissions- not them.  There's food for thought.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Carrot and Stick - " Warrior"

It worked again! I  cleaned all the windows this morning, and mopped 'urgent' floors, also checked on the swimming pool as I had invited visitors from the UK to bring their small sons over to swim.  However, we had a cloudy and rainy day, only 18 degrees (we should be having 26 by now!) so they didn't come.  I rewarded myself by going to see the only grown-up movie on at our cinemas - "Warrior".  I wasn't keen on a 'boxing' movie but Nick Nolte will always get my vote, so although I closed my eyes in most of the fight bits, I thought it was a great movie in every respect.  Nick Nolte has a marvellous face  - a great argument against plastic surgery.  If only I could paint I would do his face. The two actors who played his sons were absolutely marvellous too. Great eye candy - both of them.  Actually, a sensitively directed father/sons relationship theme.

Monday, 24 October 2011


There are days when one feels less motivated and less energetic than on others. Today was such a day until I noticed this tiny flower bursting out between the paving stones in my back garden.  I was so impressed by its grit and determination to preserve itself even in an environment with scarcely a grain of soil and no water - that I squared my shoulders and faced up to my day with renewed resolution. Here's to a wonderful day!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

To Give or Not to Give?

Beggars are a fact of life world-wide but more so in developing countries like South Africa. Of course, not much has changed here since 1994,  we have just swopped one bunch of fat-cats for another and the gap between rich and poor has got wider.  As a result, we barricade ourselves into our homes to escape the poor who roam our streets often looking for a chance to rob us or at least hoping to find something life-sustaining in our dustbins. One can't blame them: often their desperation is related to drug addiction - the narcotics are so cheap and freely available on our streets. Charity organisations abound and they tell us not to give cash to individuals but to make our donations directly to them. Sometimes though one's conscience pricks when there is yet another ring at the bell and we listen to another heart-breaking sob story.  I find that I give according to my mood, whether I am in a hurry and whether I have any cash on me.  Sometimes, I have believed the request for food and made a sandwich for the suppliant.  Sometimes, I have seen this thrown into the nearest bush. What to do?  The thing is if we could contain the problem one might feel more optimistic, but as things are we have refugees from the rest of Africa pouring over our borders every day. So we just save for electric gates around our retirement home.

Friday, 21 October 2011

"The Help" in South Africa

Our book club has the read the book and we all loved it - so brilliantly written, but apparently, the film has not been a box office success in South Africa in its first week. I've seen it twice and could easily go again. The story could just as well have been set in the South Africa of the sixties, where every average household had a pool and a live-in maid. Those whose maid didn't live in, closed their eyes and pretended ignorance about what went on in the townships, they ignored the shocking laws of Apartheid, the Pass Laws, and the law that said that blacks had to be back in their townships by sundown. Yet, women have been reluctant to attend the movie which our favourite critic says will sweep the acting awards at the next Oscars. I can understand it.  Any female here over 60 who grew up in South Africa, had a black nanny and a maid in those days, does not wish to have her conscience pricked over the way she treated her own Help. Our young generation of housewives however, pay their maids generously, provide them with smart accommodation and the young professionals even buy houses for their Help and pay for their children to attend expensive private schools.  They are expiating the conscience of their mothers and the film would not resonate with them.  My friends and I grew up maidless in the UK - so we don't have a conscience and these days, we all do our own housework (as maids are expensive!)  Thus we thoroughly enjoyed the film - and the revelation about the "Terrible Awful" brought the house (8 customers that morning) down.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Writer's Cramp

Although it has always been my life's ambition to write a book, the more I read, the less I feel that I could produce anything of value or of literary merit.  There have been trillions of good writers out there who by now have said everything that could possibly be said or that could make a difference.  The only thing that still resonates is that every single person in the world has a unique life story. Isn't that amazing?  Of course, whether it is of interest to anyone else is another question.  I have noticed however, that blogs with the most followers tend to be those which have more of a diary approach - particularly amongst the young. I've dipped into such blogs just to see; maybe it's because when you are young there is such a desperate need to relate to a peer group whose lives may be just as fearfully 'average' as one's own.  With age, this need recedes somewhat and we gain a little self-confidence but we still want to relate to those in our own age group or with the same interests. Does anyone read any blogs outside of these categories? Meanwhile, I have dug up a short story I started 35 years ago. Amazingly, the guy who broke my heart then found me on Facebook recently and we have been through a healing dialogue of e-mails which would now enable me to finish the tale.  The thing is, like studying for an exam - open the book/computer file  and just start!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Sacrificial Anode Rod

A bunch of hot water geyser anode rods

Sometimes I find that the most mundane of objects have the most critical purpose as well as a very evocative name; one such is the emotionally titled  - Sacrificial Anode Rod.  To the uninitiated, this object performs a vital function for your hot water geyser, amongst other things - 

A sacrificial anode is one of those little things that mean a lot. They keep steel boats, marine engines, water heaters, bridge pilings and many other wet metal objects from rusting into dust prematurely. Because, by using an anode made of a metal like zinc, the anode will decompose before the steel will rust, so the steel is protected.    (Website:  Howstuffworks )

In other words, this noble piece of metal gives up its life for the benefit of its host and if you want your geyser to live long - you must find its Sacrifical Anode and change it every two years.  I have taken note as we have had no less that FOUR new geysers in the last 20 years in the same house.  Doubtless our Sacrificial Anode had never been changed, judging by the blank look on my husband's face. 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Soaps - the TV kind

What is the fascination of soapies?  In the Uk, there is one which has been running since my teenage years at least - "Coronation Street"  - the lives and loves of those living in one street in a northern England poorish area. In South Africa we have some local ones such as the very popular "7th Avenue"  (Siewende Laan) which is in Afrikaans with English sub-titles (also a street name) and we have the inevitable "Days of our LIves" and others from America.  My mother always despised this kind of show - until she got old and didn't get out much. I was astonished to see her and my dad, both glued to the screen with their headphones on (they were both very deaf by their late 80s), enjoying the thrice-weekly show together.  I was really grateful as this was the only thing they seemed to have in common by that time. I am always put off by the obvious low-budget aspects of these offerings e.g. fake sets, lack of extras, over-acting, unbelievably incestuous plots etc.  I'd rather watch Oprah any day.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Whew! A month of visitors which resulted in min blogging activites. Sorry about that. Now it's school holidays - half term - so I have to rush off to fetch my grandson soon. Luckily, I need to go to the plant nursery where there is a large play area for the little ones and hopefully there will be other desperate mommies and grannies there too. My last visitor and her husband were with me for a week for her convalescence after her 'stent' procedure. I am glad to report she is doing very well, although I sense her depression at the thought of going back to their rather isolated home in the country.  It's not at all that she fears the 500 mile drive home: she has had to do all the driving since her husband had a bad stroke 10 years ago. No, it's the thought of a myriad other private problems that face her back there. Apart from these, her husband is no longer the companion he once was and she has to look after him. He had extensive right parietal lobe damage at the time of the stroke and the after effects are profound. (You can google them).  Although he has made a remarkable recovery over the years thanks to his wife's energy and determination, he can now read again and his speech and memory are not affected, there are many things he cannot manage.  I had some experience of these during their visit, and I wonder very much how I would cope if I were her. After a week, my patience with him was almost exhausted.  So I admire her very much:  the problem is that she still strives to change the permanent damage that remains and I see that it frequently drives her to an unhealthy pitch of frustration.  What if it were me?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Carrot or Stick?

I am again expecting visitors for a few days, hard on the heels of the last lot, so although I have changed all the sheets, I have not cleaned the house since the New Zealand guys were here. Still there's nothing like a bit of pressure to galvanize me into action (and it takes a lot of pressure to get me to do housework!) There are always much nicer and more rewarding things to do. However, this particular sister-in-law has an immaculate house and I would hate it to travel around the grapevine that I am a lazy slut.  So that's a bit of a stick.  The carrot side is that I have promised myself that if I race around like a mad thing I can get it all done in an hour (at least to pass cursory inspection) and if I achieve that I have time to go to a morning movie! I have found throughout my life that this is the best way to discipline myself, having seen that it worked with my kids.  When I was teaching, I used to sit at night with a pile of essays to mark and a packet of cigarettes next to my coffee.  I was allowed one cigarette for every 10 essays  (there would be about 40 - essays I mean.) How awful is that? Well, it was the seventies and everyone smoked.  The staffroom was thick with it by second break and most of us felt it was the only way to survive the overcrowded classrooms and the disruptive pupils - there always had to be some in each class.  No-one I know would be seen dead with a cigarette now. Thus have we moved on.  Housework remains but it can be managed by a blend of carrot and stick. Funny that most of the Google Images I searched showed images of housewives from the fifties!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Facebook - A Blessing for Oldies

Whatever the dangers of the Internet for the very young, I shall be forever grateful to Facebook for enabling really old friends to look each other up and connect again.  I'm talking 36 years here.  I lived in Israel for two years, 1973 - 1975  (incidentally, through the Yom Kippur war), and some Israeli girls became very dear to me.  I corresponded for a while with one or two but inevitably lost touch over the years. Yesterday, I was reunited with the dearest of those and we spoke over Skype (thank you Skype!).  Her beloved voice is just the same but we didn't have our cameras on. Today we are about to have a long and satisfying chinwag, having given ourselves time to get dressed and put our make-up on!  I hope she recognises me and that I don't look too old! Our Facebook photos don't really do us justice, do they?  We have so much in common and so many memories....  I just hope it doesn't plunge us into unwise nostalgia for our lost youth.  I think sometimes, that is exactly why we want to look up old friends.  Fate plays a hand - she still works full-time, but today is a holiday in Israel, Rosh Hashana, so maybe this connection was meant to be for a reason.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Punished for Reading - A Cape Town Tale

 I was working at our library this week when the librarian confided the following story to me.....A young coloured boy, aged 12, who loves reading, failed his recent Afrikaans exam and his mother had forbidden him to take out any books from the library:  he must 'study' instead. The librarians had been informed to this effect, so when he arrived one afternoon and tried to bribe one of them with chocolate, he was sympathetically refused. One of his domestic chores is to babysit his sister's child so that she can study (she is 17), and he was seen on several occasions outside the library, carrying the child and looking longingly in. On another occasion, he managed to smuggle books out of the library but they were discovered at his home and he was punished with a sandwich, while the rest of the family went out to Macdonalds.  Finally, he was inspired to catch the local bus in the afternoon after school to another library within our circuit, where he could legally take out books and where the librarians don't know him.  He was found out eventually.  How sad is this? A youngster who loves books and his parents forbid him to read !!  Surely the mother could compromise and let him take out one English book and one Afrikaans. I'll follow up and let you know the outcome...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Health - Choose your parents well!

There's some tension in my husband's family this week, as one sister (72) has just had stents put into two almost-closed cardiac arteries (I saw the photo!). She has had angina for some time. This galvanized the other siblings into action - another sister (70) flew into Cape Town yesterday and is having an angiogram today, after tests at her country GP showed her blood pressure to be 220/120.  She has also had pains in her back. We await her results today. My husband went off for a check this morning but didn't fast, so he'll have to have blood tests for his (forgotten) annual check-up tomorrow.  He did have an ECG though on the bicycle - that was fine  (he is 62), but his knees collapsed when he got off!  All this after his older brother had a quadruple by-pass in January - his wife went therefore for a check-up and also went in for stents the same day!  Gosh! Would they all have been dead and gone from heart attacks 30 years ago? I like to think I am safe as I have no history of heart problems in any of my close relatives. Nevertheless, the doc made me do the bicycle thing before he consented to renew my chronic meds last month.  Thankfully, my heart appears to be fine - although I did have to ask the nurse to help me get the pedals going - they were so stiff and my thighs appear to be somewhat weak!  The thing is - should we go for all these check-ups? One is inclined to put one's head in the sand and hope for the best, but does this add up to peace of mind or merely increase subconscious worries? I guess we have to ask ourselves, "Do I want to live in good health as long as possible or not?" One thing about a stent - it is a clever but simple procedure, done under local anaesthetic, through an artery in the groin.