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.

Monday, 19 September 2011


There was a nostalgic program on the radio today mourning the loss of the art of letter-writing.  E-mail and tweets and Facebook are all very well but how can you compare the pleasure of opening an old stamped and franked envelope and re-reading a handwritten letter from a dear friend or lover?  I have all the letters anyone precious has ever sent me since the 1960s.  Recently, I decided to re-read them all and discard the bulk once I had committed their contents to memory.  Guess what? Correct - I can't bear to throw any away, largely because I had forgotten so many critical details and I see no chance of remembering them in the future.... when I write my book.  Thus, I poured over the accounts of my New Zealand friend's first adventure into the world of work, when she left our parochial town and went off to share a flat in London with strangers in order to join the national airline - then BOAC, as a ground hostess.  I was then off to Scotland to Aberdeen University - also alone and in need of contact.  We have shared most of our subsequent lives, our loves, successes and failures as we separately travelled the world - on closely written airmail letters or on paper-thin airmail paper.  In latter years, of course, e-mail has taken over, and although I do print these out - it's not the same. I ponder the wisdom of keeping the personal letters forever though: my children might be a little shocked by the contents of some.  When a great aunt died, I recall with some shame how we, the female members of the family, read her wartime love letters with giggling and voyeuristic eyes.  In our defence, I might add that she had led a selfish life, never married because she swore she would never wash a man's socks and she was very wealthy, leaving all her money to cats, dogs and donkeys. We really weren't disappointed that there was no inheritance for us as she had always said this was her intention and we believed her.  The point is - should I destroy my letters now or 'later'?  Perhaps I'll copy them post haste to encrypted discs! Then all I need to do is forget the password.

Friday, 16 September 2011


Most of us will relate to the honeymoon period of owning a PC when we used to think ourselves clever by inventing a different password for all our applications.  In latter years, we have become cleverer, realising that we can use the same password for everything! This is great because we can actually commit it to memory without having to write it down and "keep it in a safe place", many of which have been so safe I've never found them again. The fundis though, frown at this practice as being very risky now that there are hackers and thieves who are so computer savvy. Certain sites have also become more pernickety lately: I messed up my login 3 times to my Internet Banking page and so I had to reconfigure it.  Hopefully, I keyed in my old password - not a chance. I tried again with something else:  too short - must be at least 8 digits.  OK.  Tried again - this time I was given almost the full requirement - at least one capital, lower case and upper case letters and also numbers must be included.  Thought I had it that time, but no - there must now be the inclusion of a character key e.g. @ or % or &.  With my fourth attempt I was convinced I was done - but not yet! - You are not allowed to have to consecutive letters the same!  My fifth attempt was a success but now there is a new problem!  I can't possibly remember this strange mixture of letters, numbers and funny keys! I'll have to write it down. Where to find a safe place? I have an awful sense of foreboding!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Having a Black Eye

It's an interesting fact of human nature that if you are sporting a black eye, people believe firmly that your husband/boyfriend has hit you.  I've got one at the moment - the first in my life actually - which resulted from an unprecedented impulse to be thorough with my housework and clean on my hands and knees up the corners, instead of my usual, hasty flick-through with a mop.  This unwise action caused me to bang my eyebrow painfully on the corner of the telephone table and made me resolve to resort back to my usual housekeeping habits in future. I applied ice straight away and close inspection didn't reveal anything other than a bump.  When I rushed out to the shops the next day however, I hadn't noticed the blue/black bruise that had developed and became aware of sympathetic looks from shoppers. Today I've put concealer on and lots of make-up, so it's alright. I also have a hand-sized bruise on my upper leg, where I fell off a rock last week and couldn't save myself as I had my camera in one hand and was protecting my new watch with my other. This only hurt a bit at the time and seemed to be just a scratch so I was amazed at the huge black bruise that resulted. I seem to bruise more easily as I age but I remember that when I had rare bumps in the past, my young daughter was always worried that her daddy had hit me. I only found out later that her best friend's father was assaulting her mother. So I surmise that when one sees a bruise on someone's face, one jumps to conclusions based on the age/sex/general appearance of the person and your own  experience.  (Can anyone tell me how to get my pics into the text? They won't go at the cursor position - all go to the top!)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Read the Manual!

My last new car is not actually new, but near enough and the manuals are in the cubby hole.  Thinking all cars to be more or less the same I didn't bother to have a look, as starting the engine and putting petrol in seemed to be easy enough. And so it has proved to be until it our first rains of the season. Even then, I found the wiper switch without difficulty and cruised off to the shops. When I got back in the car and set off, it was no longer raining and I noticed the wiper on the back window was going at full speed.  I didn't have one of these on my last car and so I was favourably impressed except that I couldn't find the Off switch. This becomes embarrassing in the bright sunshine but I still couldn't locate the right lever/switch/button.  In the end, I had almost sunk to the shameful depths of dropping in at my local garage and asking them to do it, when I suddenly remembered the manuals.  Piece of cake in the end: in my defence the small lever was partially concealed behind the steering wheel  and the one I had been convinced must be it, bearing the mysterious legend "LIM" which I vaguely thought must have something to do with LED lights and having up and down arrows, proved to be the Speed Control (which my husband had previously once pointed out - as it wasn't in the manual at all).  There was a side effect to the manual consultation - I learned there is a fire extinguisher under the driver's seat, and a first aid kit in a compartment in the trunk, next to the jack.  My husband did once make me learn to operate a jack and change a wheel on my own, but that was years ago and my current jack is a different design and gets put in a different place, so what good is that? Usually, if I have a problem, I just take out my mobile phone.  There is only one emergency my husband has refused ever to help me with: I must not say I have run out of petrol. There is no excuse for that.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Visitors from New Zealand

Well, we had a wonderful week with our two visitors - my best and oldest school friend and her husband (whom I had not met before).  The weather was clement, the West Coast wild flowers, famous world-wide, were outstanding (the photo is taken next to our house) and I re-discovered Cape Town with them on the new Rapid Transport Bus. My husband took two days leave and we toured the winelands, imbibing some excellent wines on the way: we all got on famously. My friend renewed her acquaintance with my eldest son, now 32, whom she had last seen as a babe in arms and our two husbands clicked, sharing interests in sport, Popular Mechanics magazine and woodwork. My husband was deeply impressed to be beaten at darts and when we did the washing - we found they wear the same size and shape of underpants and ! The only small difference was that this couple are ardent bridge players and we have never learned: they also love board games - which my husband doesn't. Then fate played a hand - hubby had to be away one night on business, so I invited my best friend and her husband and my neighbour to make up a game of "30 Seconds" (a bit like trivial pursuit, but in teams with an egg-timer involved) with many hilarious results.  A great time was had by all. Sadly, their visit came to an end and we found ourselves putting them on the plane. It was a very emotional goodbye for my friend and I as we are not really sure that we will ever see each other again.  This was too much for me and I cried myself to sleep that night (much to the mystification of my husband).  Well, it's not everyone who pooled their pocket money when they were 16 to buy a black, padded half-cup bra which we shared for important dates. We even shared the same boyfriend:  she went out with him on Fridays and me on Saturdays.  We used to compare notes. You had to be there.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Toddler Humour

Yesterday I had to babysit my little granddaughter, aged two today actually,  and I managed to get some ironing done as she plays nicely by herself for a good hour when she first arrives (unlike the boys - you have to play with them).  Finally bored, she came to see what I was doing and I playfully sprayed her face with the water I use for the ironing. To my surprise, she thought this was hugely funny and wanted me to do it again...and again...and again.  I got tired of this and put the bottle down.  She picked it up, climbed on the bed, turned the business end towards herself and squirted herself in the face. Again - hugely funny. This continued for about twenty minutes.  Of course by the time I thought of my camera, she had stopped.  It reminds me of the summer of the flies, two years ago when my grandson was 18 months.  He thought the action of the fly swatter the funniest thing on earth.  But then he has always had a great sense of humour:  little M though, is very selective, you struggle to get her to laugh- she is a very self-contained child, serious and thoughtful. So the spray bottle was a great discovery - it might not work next week though.  This is M in the photo.  Grandson is the one throwing himself into the deep end of our pool (on my sidebar).