Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding - South African Style

I couldn't be the only female blogger in the world not to mention 'The Wedding' today so...
We are just as manic here in Cape Town as everywhere else - it's a work day so office parties have been arranged, TVs brought into pubs and libraries,  ladies of 'a certain age' are organising private parties at home, camped around the TV with cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, Victoria sponge cakes and, of course, lots of champagne.  One lot are doing fancy dress, have bought magnificent hats and are dressing up the hostess's mother as the Queen.  Where will I be?  When Di and Charles wed - which was also my brother's wedding day in the UK - I was on holiday with my family and friends in Mauritius. Unpopular with my own family, I remember trying to catch a glimpse of the other wedding on TV in the hotel's beachside pub.  (Was I the only person in the world to think the dress awfully ugly?) When Diana died, I spent the day of the funeral in bed with boxes of tissues, glued to the screen - my concerned husband bringing me pots of tea from time to time as he thought I must be ill. This time - woe is me! - I shall be trapped in my car on the way to the airport to attend my sister-in-law's 70th birthday at the exact time that Kate will enter the church!!!!!  How could this happen?  I can only blame myself: I booked the tickets months ago before we knew the date of the wedding.  Yes I know there will be loads of pictures and videos afterwards for months on end.  But it will not be the same.  Every woman will understand that I had to see 'that dress' at the exact same moment as the other two  billion people around the world watching their TVs. It's hard to get permission to publish any of Google's images these days so this is a pic of my daughter and daughter-in-law on the day of my daughter's wedding.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Small Son - Big Hangover

I should have smelt a rat last night when small son set off the house alarm by mistake and I heard him quietly answering the phone when the security company phoned to check – about 2.00 a.m.   I should have smelt more rats this morning, when hubbie left for work and exclaimed that the big, motorised security gates  for which we coughed up big money after our burglary last year, were standing wide open!  Note to self: not matter how good your security system is it can’t account for the teenage factor.  Then when I found small son’s bedding stripped and even his duvet lying in the kitchen by the washing machine (damp patches on all), I should have known.  An unpleasant smell of vomit pervaded my nice clean kitchen and small son was to be found sleeping peacefully in a sleeping bag in the spare room, having deserted his  ill-smelling own.  He wrote his last exam yesterday. I had a distinct sense of déjà vue, going back ten years when an almost identical situation presented itself in the shape of his older brother, (then himself 18).  The essential difference is that whereas small son at least tried to clean up after himself, eldest son slept through it – and in it!  It must be a question of degree.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Retrospective.... back to May 2008....
So, we have finally given in. After ten years of dieting in vain and doctors telling us we are walking time bombs, my husband and I have decided to take the pill.  Our latest counts are 7.9 for him and 7.7 for me and although I have been to each doctor in turn at our practice over the years, I can’t find one to support me in the theory that if you have managed to make it to your early sixties, your mother and all your aunties are in their nineties and your blood pressure is fine (me, at least), and you have never smoked – then you are a low risk.They just don’t buy it: or rather they have to cover their backs. We are in a Catch 22 really:  if we don’t take these pills for the rest of our lives, statistics tell us we have a good chance of dying a cholesterol-related death.  My worry is that we can’t afford to pay for these things once retired and on a diminished medical aid. Some reassurance on that front – our GP assured us that even if we are only on a Hospital Plan, they have to pay for Chronic meds.  Hmm. That may just be the status quo this year.  The other thing is these medications have a bad rep.  Friends tell us of awful side effects and the pills messing up other organ functions. Very rare, we are told: and we have to come back in three months for a new test and a routine liver function test as well.  I’ll let you know...  Meanwhile, I’m off to eat a nice pork chop!  PS....  April 2011 - after three years my cholesterol is down to 4.2.  Can I ever give up the pills though? Am doing more exercise.  NB There were so many scary pictures of 'inside-your-cholesterol-threatened-arteries' on Google, that I decided to post a more positive one instead

Monday, 18 April 2011


There is only one way to get through menopause and all the insecurities that it initially brings and that is to chat with other women. I was shelving books at the library yesterday, before opening time, and one of the staff confided to me that she thinks she is bordering on the menopause, aged 46.  I’ve know her for some years and she has always been a positive, bubbly personality. Now however, she says she has become anxious, worrying about things that have never bothered her before, can’t sleep at night, her brain in turmoil, not sleeping until she hears her kids’  keys in the lock, worrying about anything and everything.  She is struggling with body image.  I’ve been through all this and come out the other side, an older, wiser person, but this familiar anxiety has stayed with me and has to be kept firmly under control or it becomes paralysing.  We agreed that the worst part is trying to steer one’s way through the minefield of medical choices about what to do, what to take, should one try the ‘natural’ way or take hormones?  The trouble is that everything to do with one’s health has become a personal choice: one has to take decisions and balance this against that, basically on one’s own. And medical science is constantly changing its mind: “We used to think,....we now think”.  And so we go forward this way or that way. But go on, we must. In that there is no choice. ..... And if you haven't seen, "Menopause, The Musical", you absolutely must!  If every 'stuff' was shared in the most hilarious way, this is it!  I saw it in South Africa.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Gym Class

I have just returned from the most purgatorial gym class you can attend if you are an unfit overfifty.  I drifted in for my usual relaxing stretch class and took off my socks and trainers,  looking forward to it after a couple of hours of exercise, shelving books at the library. I thought it odd that we were told to pick up some weights, as well as our mats, as we don’t use them at stretch.  Then I heard, “Welcome to body conditioning!” Too late I remembered the times had been changed and the music started.  The first 15 minutes were not too bad, the warm up, but as the pace quickened, and the exercises followed fast and furious. I soon began to perspire (not something I do when I go to the gym, so I don’t take a towel) and soon after that, sporting a streaming face the colour of beetroot, I had to surreptitiously use my socks to wipe my face. Not to worry – aerobic exercise has always turned my face purple and at least I am fit enough not to wheeze. In the muscle department though, I am clearly deficient: when it came to the relentless abs and obliques crunches, I just couldn’t do half the number of reps that the rest of the class was doing so I sneaked a good few rests, while the teacher was looking the other way, joining in again as her attention turned back to my side of the class. Thus did I survive the hour – the longest of my life. If it weren’t for the fact that our teacher is not a day under 65 and the lady next to me looked about 70, I think I would have crept away and be damned what anyone thought.  So clearly, one can condition one’s body by regular attendance at this class.
There must be another way.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Fire Escape

We live in a very dry part of South Africa: the Cape of Good Hope, by the end of summer, is like a tinder box and the landscape looks boring and brown.  My husband finally decided to tackle raking up some of the buider's rubble in our back yard at our 'retirement' house (see blog header) and had organised quite a pile of dry weeds as well which he intended to burn.  He brushed aside my concerns about starting a possible 'veld fire' in our back yard, dismissing my fears by airily declaring that the blaze would simply resemble a small Bar-B-Q fire (or "braai" over here.)  At least, I insisted, get the hosepipe ready.  But no, there was quite a blaze building up when I went into the garage in search of the hose, husband having declared that the bucket of water in which I was soaking my mop would be way sufficient to douse any undesired flames.  I duly unwound the hosepipe which I found on a reel on the wall by the boat, only to find that both ends seemed to be plugged into something which looked unusable in case of a fire.  Back outside I found a good blaze to be on the go and a bit of a breeze had built up.  Hubby impatiently told me that we had two hosepipes in the garage and the one I should have chosen was on the other wall and was both portable and had a nozzle attached.  By the time he returned with this one I was busy with my bucket trying to somewhat ineffectively limit the blaze, which was by now perking up in the wind.  Not to worry, said he, but when he turned to attach the hosepipe to the tap on the wall, he found that the tap and fitting had been painted closed by the painers and he had to sprint off to his work room to find tools to unblock it. By this time, the blaze was of the scary variety with flames licking around for pastures new: by the skin of our teeth my husband got the tap freed up and the hosepipe connected, finally spewing welcome, life-giving, crisis-avoiding - water.  The fire died down and finally surrendered.  The moral of the story: listen to your wife! What chance of that?  The photo depicts South African men doing what they are good at:  lighting a braai fire while the wives look on.  No chance of rogue fires starting here.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Noon Day Gun - at Night

At 12.00 noon every day on Signal Hill, a cannon is fired which can be heard all over central Cape Town.  Similarly, at regular periods throughout the night a cannon is fired under the duvet in my bed which jerks me rudely from my slumber. As if there were not enough other causes of insomnia after menopause.  My husband, gentleman though he is in the daytime, valiantly trying to muffle the unwelcome sounds of his own (ageing) digestive system, is blissfully unaware of the noisy eruptions which escape him during the night - except when they are loud enough to wake him up too - which is not often as he is lucky enough to be pretty deaf, having removed his hearing aids for the night. In all fairness, I have to admit that my own (similarly ageing) system is not innocent, but as I am usually awake I feel justified in asserting that my cannon ball blasts issue forth with as strong a silencer as I am able to muster. What to do?  Nothing really. Separate bedrooms? Not a chance. The old man’s such a good stick otherwise and anyway he wouldn’t hear of it. In fact he’s recently taken the step of inserting ear plugs before he goes to sleep so now he’s deaf to the world. Which helps him but not me. I can't wear ear plugs myself - I find the noises inside my head then too deafening to manage to get to sleep. It’s not that bad. I can always get up, watch TV in the other room and catch up with my afternoon nap.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Eat By, Dried Foods

In the same programme, (see previous post), they tested an instant Chinese meal – circa 2001, which had lain, overlooked, in the kitchen cupboard and compared it with a new packet. Once cooked, both dishes looked that same in colour and texture. Once tasted, the verdict was that they both tasted surprisingly good – perhaps the new one had a slightly better flavour. No ill effects were experienced in the next few days.  The scientist said that he would hazard a guess that there should be no reason why dried food in sealed vacuum-packaging should not last for a hundred years, because bacteria simply cannot multiply without oxygen and moisture.  Hmmm, don’t think I could psychologically handle that: on the other hand, there are lots of packets that are going to stay in my kitchen and medicine cupboards after all. We know that tins last, especially ones that they dig out of ice at the poles, but should I trust my 8-year-old can of coconut milk? I expect I’ll do the usual taste and smell test. I won’t eat it though: can’t : on a permanent diet: too many calories: that’s why it’s still in the cupboard.

Sell By, Eat By?

I’ve never been one to really worry about these things. I go first by the look of the goods, and then by the smell. This has a lot to do with the fact that my contact lenses can’t always read the small print, that is if I have managed at all to FIND the information. (How many times have you turned over a litre bag of milk?) On Woolworth’s food products, I have enough trouble even finding the selling price. Like most people, I also have a cupboard full of old medicines which I am loathe to throw out reasoning that most of the pills are surely OK, still in their blister packs, and the bottles look alright if I shake them. There is also my conscience which tells me I shouldn’t pour things down the drain, nor should I throw such things in the dustbin. I am also reluctant to load everything up to take to the chemist unless I know there is a sign up which says: “Bring your old medicines in this week”, in case its not that week. 
So it was with interest that when we switched on to our new favourite programme “I Didn’t Know That” they were testing what would happen to fresh food items if they were left on a kitchen counter for a month and not put in the fridge at all.  The items were things like a fresh chicken, coleslaw, jam, cheese, oranges, a packet of designer mixed lettuce leaves and eggs.  The friendly, pack-packer type scientist/presenter, checked all the items every few days. The results were spectacular.  The first to suffer in a couple of days were the coleslaw (fizzy and smelly) and the wrapped chicken – grey-looking and swelling up.  He checked then every week. I’ll spare you all the details: skip to WEEK 4!  The chicken was full of maggots, the coleslaw was absolutely disgusting, the jam had an acceptable layer of mould (which can be safely scraped off), the eggs looked fine but were rotten, the oranges were of course, fine, but the very worst – was the LETTUCE! He held up the packet – a soggy, black messy bog in the bottom corner. The research chemist said that the interesting thing was a surprisingly large number of E-COLI bacteria in the lettuce!  I went straight to my fridge and threw out two suspect packets of same that had been there more than a week! Don’t know if I’ll ever buy them again, especially as those leaves are washed with chlorine, which if eaten, is actually a carcinogen. On the upside, I am still alive and no-one that lives in my house ever has an upset stomach.