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.