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?