Saturday, 22 December 2012


Ah, the world didn't end. Just as well, as I've bought a lot of Christmas presents...maybe that's why my husband was galvanized into going to a movie? Nah, just kidding..
We were surprised to be amongst adults at the film, and less surprised to find most people were couples like us.  I was bored during the first five minutes of relentless stunts  before the title, and then restless during most of the movie. Even my husband said afterwards that we have perhaps become too old, too intolerant of fantasy and uneasy about the amount of spurious violence and death in films today and the incredible destruction of property portrayed. No wonder that some of those amongst the young, living in their remote world of video games, go off the rails. There were some good moments in the film. For instance, the title is only explained towards the end, which provides a little welcome suspense and there are some nostalgic moments when the old Bond movies are given the nod viz the dry martini, the adorable old Aston Martin and Bond's inimitable lines of introduction when asked his name. There are one or two funny lines. I laughed out loud when after a hectic chase through London, Bond ends up seeing the bad guy exit a tube station in rush hour. Bond is given his instruction to board the train only after it has picked up speed and has almost left the station. He sprints through the crowd and leaps onto the back end of the train: a bystander is heard to remark to his companion, "that bloke's in a hurry to get home", (may not be the exact quote).  Anyway, go see it. The final scenes are set in Scotland and we enjoyed the action in Shanghai: and what female is not a sucker for men in suits?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Time Freak

I am one of those people who has to know what the time is, several times a day, even though I am retired and don't have a lot of appointments. I must wear a watch: I glance at it often, even though I'm not catching a plane. I count my life in wasted minutes. I timetable my day: so many slots for work/play/jobs/knitting/reading... I love waking up early when the day stretches out - with lots of time to fill.  I always arrive on time: I know how to calculate and allow for traffic. I usually arrive a bit early. So when my watch stopped last week (it was an expensive Seiko, 18 months old), I didn't worry: thought it was just the battery.  Turns out it is solar-powered and needs a new circuit. Quite a lot of money, but no problem as long as I have the guarantee docs, a two-year warranty. I had taken my credit card slip and the shop invoice - not enough. Now where did I put the guarantee?  Of course, although I always keep these things, after a lengthy search, I can't find this one, but still have the ones for ancient machines we dumped 20 years ago.  Nostalgically, I now long for the perfection of my previous watch - a Citizen - had it for 30 years, never a problem until it died of old age last year. To top it all, I can't find my back-up watch either - the one my husband gave me for my birthday the year I asked him for a tennis racket. Grrrr... I suppose it will be like my husband's movie card, linked to our medical aid for really cheap movie tickets. Although mine gets used nearly every week, the last film my husband saw was "Blood Diamond", about 8 years ago, when he was forced to be off work for a week after a carpal tunnel op.  Just my luck, after carrying his card around in my wallet for the last 8 years, I tidied up a few months ago and put it away in a safe place. Needless to say, when my husband announced out of the blue  that he wanted to see the new James Bond, I couldn't find the card and had to pay top dollar for his ticket this morning.  I've just found his card in my desk drawer. Perhaps I'll have another look for the watch guarantee: after all, I might find other things I've lost in the process. I'm looking forward to the movie although of course, Daniel Craig is just Daniel Craig: the real James Bond is the inimitable Sean Connery of my youth.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Bargain Hunting and Barbie Beds

I give up on the search for bargains. As Christmas approaches we have been bombarded with ads in our newspapers/letterbox/mobiles as the stores vie for our custom.  The mountains of toys that have appeared are mind-boggling as is the uniform plasticity of most of them (made in China).  My 3-year old granddaughter has just become interested in Barbie, so I've been looking around at the accessories, exhorbitantly priced and - in my opinion- trashy-looking.  So I decided to make her a doll's bed out of a shoebox, as I had in my youth.  I rummaged through my cupboard of sewing bits and pieces, took about two weeks to plan it in my head and to stop procrastinating. I've finally put it together - took about two afternoons.  The only fly in the ointment was that my husband recommended contact adhesive to stick the ribbon on and its made visible marks, but never mind.  At 3.5 years old, I hope she just sees the big picture. We bought all our meat last week and now suddenly arrives a flood of ads whereby the same shops have now cut all their prices. Ah, well. You win some, you lose some. One must be philosophical. At least I've learned to delegate and should be able to sit back and watch my children doing the cooking on Christmas Day.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Circle of Life etc

I've been struck lately by a few odd things. My sister-in-law in the UK sends all of us marvelous and thoughtful Christmas cards every year - only last year they arrived at the end of January. Instead of opening them, I told her that I would keep them for the family for this year instead. We opened them last week.  The thing I hadn't bargained on was that she would have signed all the cards on my dad's behalf as well. He died in July this year. By the same token, the several cards are addressed to each of us individually - except that our new baby's name is absent. He arrived in October. Another funny thing:  I've been finding lately, that new words I've come across, whose meanings  I have had to look up, have suddenly popped up in another context a couple of days later. Mostly, I've dismissed this as heightened awareness on my part, maybe the words weren't that unusual, but then came this one:  "Blefaroplasty". I read it first on the after-care instructions given to me by my surgeon after my eyelid op.  Two days later, I came across it in the middle of a detective novel.  How weird is that? Do you think the universe is trying to tell me something?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

More Memories on the Walls


To complete a theme:  these pics adorn the walls of our holiday house.  We liked the humor of the local artists in Zanzibar, a few years back.  The paint is not great quality, and there was still beach sand in the canvasses when we unrolled them back home. My husband has always been fascinated by the Masai.  They discreetly patrolled the beach at our hotel: you could leave money, jewellery or anything else on your beach mat while you went for a dip in the sea and  no-one would touch it.  The 

boat is a little sad:  my brother-in-law (who committed suicide) flew down for my husband's 60th birthday two years ago - that was his gift.  It doesn't have non-reflecting glass - so that's why you can see me as well. Our bedroom boasts a watercolor that I bought when a friend of mine gave an informal exhibition for a friend of hers at her home thirty years ago. Memories.

The lioness? Oh, she was peacefully sitting with her impressive mate next to her on top of a rock next to our proposed campsite in the Kalahadi Transfrontier National Park (between SA and Botswana) in 2007. This camping trip was one of my husband's dreams: four 4 x 4 vehicles, each containing a family, dragging everything but the kitchen sink - including all our own drinking water and spades with which to dig discreet holes in the bush to bury our 'personal' waste.

One of the most pristine parks in the world, the Kalahadi did have much going for it - peace and absolute quiet (apart from lion roars) being the main attraction. One's campsites were merely marks on the map. Having seen no animals all day, we were the leading vehicle when we rounded the last bend before our nighttime stop, to be confronted by this lady and her mate, about two yards from us! In the ensuing chaos, climbing over each other to get cameras organised, the male finally lost interest and casually and very slowly walked away!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Defining Decor

Above our bed
Bought in a pub in Scotland - local artist, acrylic

Oil - by a dear friend

 Watercolor, $1 Bargain - real wood frame

Behind the toilet door, looking down
When I posted the photo of my husband packing to go to Germany, Sextant hazarded an incorrect guess as to what would be above my bed as a headboard. Most of the things which hang in my house are sentimental (oil paintings done for us be a dear, departed friend) or family stuff (mostly of our grandchildren, donated by our children). Above our bed are these two originals, painted by my daughter's best friend, while she was still at high school - part of an exercise of six differently colored versions of the same still life. It is now 15 years later, and this girl is currently an illustrator of children's books and still my daughter's best friend. The frames I found in my mother-in-law's house after she died, ancient and dusty. I spray-painted them gold and I like the effect. In our bathroom, behind the door, I have recently framed and hung, six little old people faces, all with spectacles, made of stuffed material. We got these peering out of a glass jar when we were in America in Wisconsin 30 years ago. Also, in our bedroom is a picture of a lone antelope standing in the Bushveld: it's a watercolor and very big - about a meter wide. I had to sing for this picture: we were strolling about admiring it in our local mall when we were newly married - the vendor said that if I sang a verse from his favorite song I could have it for R10 (about $1 in those days). It's certainly the biggest bargain I've ever got. What hangs on your walls?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Homemade Hammies

Observe disembodied foot!

 After a typical week-end of gardening and fixing around the house,
PVC downpipe cutters
My wine glass just out of sight to the left
hubby decided we must get to work and use some of our venison (of which our freezer had been full since June). Small son had requested some hamburgers to take to work so on Sunday we defrosted about 6 lbs of mince, made originally with a little mutton fat, hubby chopped up six large onions, mixed and spiced everything with ground coriander (a must for venison), dried herbs from my sister-in-law's farm garden, salt and pepper, oats, breadcrumbs and egg to bind. The results were impressive and the perfect size was obtained because of hubby's idea: he went to his garage and cut two templates from PVC downpipe (he had some left over from a plumbing job - don't ask) and we cooked 12 and still had some left-over to freeze.  We shared one and the other 11 should last small son for the rest of the week. What did we have for supper?  Well, our diet has been working for us - at night, we just have two 'Crackerbreads' each, with low-fat cream cheese and sardines or tinned tuna, with slices of tomato and cucumber. My friends are scandalised that we seem to be eating so frugally, but we are slowly losing weight. The hamburgers will be great on the braai (Bar-B-Q) over Christmas. We shall be at our holiday house for a week - full house as usual. After initially quailing at the thought of all the meals that have to be organised, I have knuckled down to the planning and am quite enjoying it. As usual.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hysteria - the movie

Google the movie yourselves - can't get pics

I wasn't going to bother to see this movie about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian times (yawn - I mean I used to sell the things), but my favorite movie critic waxed so enthusiastic about the film, calling it classy, sophisticated, funny, satirical with marvellous acting and a clever script, absolutely based on fact and likely to win Oscars, that I gathered my bunch of friends and we saw it this week. If you intend to see this film and have access to it - DON'T READ ON!  I am going to relate some of the best bits. Maggie Gyllenhall plays a feisty, do-gooding pre-Suffragettes character - the film is set in 1880 - whose father has a very successful Harley street practice where he specialises in relieving the state of 'hysteria'  (read: sexual frustration) from which all society ladies seem to suffer.  This he does by manually manipulating them until they climax (or have a 'paroxyism', as he calls it).  It is quite comic to see these ladies in their street clothes (still with elaborate hats on), lying back on a table with their feet up in stirrups and a red velvet curtain modestly concealing their 'delicate parts'.  Apparently, they all arrive without knickers, as we don't see these removed. Enter our young, idealistic but penniless doctor, as the new assistant.  He earnestly takes notes which watching a demonstration, preceded by the liberal oiling of the doctor's fingers and succeeded by a variety of reactions as the ladies noisily climax.  Both doctors sincerely believe that without penetration by a penis, no lady can experience sexual pleasure so the 'paroxyism' they experience is purely a nervous condition.  Understandably, most wives were thought to be frigid owing to their husbands' lamentable lack of knowledge.  The young doctor commences his work: it is not long before his right hand suffers painful cramps and he end up being fired because he can no longer 'perform' as his arm up to the elbow is in a brace. Disgraced, he explains his dilemma to a friend, whose hobby is electronics and voila!  - the invention of the vibrator and fame and fortune for our young hero. This part is hilarious and we nearly fell off our chairs laughing.  As the credits roll at the end of the film - stay in your seat!  The director has some fun:  liveried valets are seen carrying beautiful wooden boxes on velvet cushions into Queen Victoria's bedroom, there are photos of vibrators as they have developed until the 1980s and there is one delightful scene, where a dowager duchess in her nightcap is depicted sitting up in bed observing a lot of action under the blankets down near her feet.  "Are you alright, Henry?" she asks.  "Yes, dear. Don't worry. Rome wasn't built in a day", he replies - then the sound of a tiny motor starting up.  Ecstasy on the lady's face.  .....   Unbelievably, relates the film, the condition of 'hysteria' wasn't wiped off the medical dictionary until 1952.  Well, well, well!  I"m afraid that what with this film, Fifty Shades of Grey and its copies, life is getting very hard for the men these days.  About time too.


Monday, 26 November 2012


Armless surfer 

There have not been many times in my life, I am ashamed to say, that I have been determined to do anything.  I didn't try my hardest in my final school exams - in case my best wasn't good enough to go to university.  Once there, I half-heartedly did a course in languages, although my real love at school had been biology with some kind of end career involving animals vaguely envisioned.  The snag was, I had no aptitude for Maths or Science, so I couldn't pursue any such career. I reluctantly became a High School teacher as our Career Guidance was minimal if you had an Arts degree, and also because I loved snow ski-ing and that gave me a chance of one more year at Aberdeen University in Scotland, as the British government kindly funded one year of Post-Grad Teacher training which you didn't have to pay back.  I really disliked that year but I went with the flow... Then I followed a love interest to Israel for two years and on to South Africa, where I taught High School for the first time.  The only thing I enjoyed was producing school plays but at least, because I was not an SA citizen at the time and also a married woman, I could only get temporary posts and therefore taught every subject under the sun, according to which teachers the headmaster was short of at the time. I liked learning. It is only of late as the ageing process has hit hard, that I have determined to do certain things. Number 1 is to keep my husband happy in bed and to pretend that my libido has not hit the deck since menopause. That's easy because I love him.  Number 2, I was determined to get used to contact lenses. It took me six months, but I finally mastered the art. Number 3, I will continue to pursue finding ways to combat the osteo-arthritis that has started in my fingers and will continue to go to the gym classes which help this. Number 4, I badly wanted to ride my scooter, but it took time to get used to having a haircut suitable for a helmet and learning to avoid painfully catching my ear-rings every time I took it on or off; remembering the correct sequence of organising keys, clothes, gloves, handbag, shopping bags, in order to get in and out of my house, garage and driveway, especially when returning home from a trip. I did it, even after my eye op, I have ridden my scooter peering out under swollen lids, wearing two pairs of glasses on top on each other under my helmet, because I couldn't yet wear my contacts. You might tut-tut as this, but it was jolly good fun. I am also determined to keep reading inspirational stories about other people who have been determined to cope with vastly more difficult situations than I have.  Amen to them. They keep me humble.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Google image - would that I were this young

I felt a little less confident about hospitals during my second admission this week. I developed a sudden fierce allergy to the 'quick & easy' plaster, "Op-site"  (take careful note) and had to be admitted for an antibiotic drip and anti-allergy treatment just before the changeover to the night staff circa 5.30 p.m.  Not a good time. I was pleased to be in the same ward as before, although alone this time.  As the doctor had admitted me straight away, I had not eaten since lunchtime and was impressed when someone came almost immediately to take my order for dinner.  An admin person arrived, consulted her notes and asked me to confirm that I was in for a "Finger and a toe".  No, nothing wrong with my finger.  A bit puzzled, I was a little more rattled when another nurse arrived and asked if I had taken my blood pressure pill?  I don't have a blood pressure problem.  A while later a sister popped by and explained that they would be attending to my needs after they had finished with the meds in the wards. OK....  I should have asked for a time on that. Ditto the dinner...... 8.45pm - I had received no meds, no food and no drink.  I finally complained. A very nice auxillary nurse (different color uniform) tut-tutted about the laziness of the day-shift and got me a pot of tea and a jug of iced water.  She also went to the kitchen and I finally got an apology for a dinner, very dried out, at 9.00 p.m.  Unbelievably, my toe was dressed at 11.15 and my drip finally set up at midnight ! The only good thing was, I reasoned that I clearly wasn't on any kind or priority list and therefore probably wouldn't die before I was treated. I don't know how your costs compare but just the hospital bill for one night was about $1250 - (current exchange rate).  Home again today, my toe now dressed in old-fashioned cotton gauze and a safety pin, I decided to check out our First Aid kits: we have two in the house and one in each car. I checked on a few expiry dates.  Oops.  It seems likely that we set up our kits (so far unused) in 1997 - as that was the expiry date on most of the items.  I found a couple of the iniquitous 'Opsite' plasters - they went out straight away, as did almost everything else, because of the dates.  Some things I couldn't immediately identify as they didn't have their descriptions in English.  e.g.  What could "Plaque Biseautee/Ulcus Wondverband/Flexibler Wundverband" be?  No matter: expired Feb. 2001.  I think that anything suspected of containing a chemical must go.  The cotton gauze bandages are surely still OK? I reluctantly jettisoned a pack of Valoid (prevents nausea and vomiting) because it expired in May '97, because I have this, no doubt misguided, conviction, that 'pills' shouldn't expire when in blister packs.  Do they?  And there is one large bandage which I shall keep "Driekante Doek - Mitella, 90 x 90 x 127"  because my Afrikaans is good enough to work out that this is a triangular sling for a broken arm. It is an expensive exercise to keep a First Aid Kit up to date.  It only rivals the cost of my husband's bi-annual boat safety equipment that needs to be replaced, although unused.  I guess it's like any insurance - as long as you have it, you can almost guarantee you'll never need it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Good Stuff about South Africa

Don't stress about us in SA
28 Oct 2012 | Paul Harris

I apologise for not writing my own copy today, but this letter seeemed too good not to share. With a little extrapolation and changing of name, dates and times - it could apply to a lot of places in today's world, but it provides a great, balanced view of SA today compared to my own, tiny, sometimes jaundiced one.
After reading this, you might want to come and visit - my door is always open....

A letter from FirstRand Bank founder and former executive Paul Harris to a concerned friend has gone viral. Here is an edited version:

Hi Jeff

HOPE all is well with you guys. I will drop you a line later with the family news but I would first like to respond to the e-mail you sent me attaching an article by Clem Sunter, which seemed to concern you about us here in South Africa.
You also sent me an article last year by Moeletsi Mbeki warning about the danger of an "Arab Spring" in South Africa. I often get e-mails like this from "concerned friends" worried about us, which is sweet of you guys. Of course we are concerned. Some worrying things have happened but we have been through and survived much worse in much more volatile environments. Including the Boer War, two World Wars, apartheid, the financial crisis without a bank bailout, the Rindapest, Ge Korsten and Die Antwoord!
However, for as long as I can remember there have always been people who think SA has five years left before we go over the cliff. No change from when I was at school in the sixties. The five years went down to a few months at times in the eighties!
But it seems the people who are the most worried live far from the cliff in places like Toronto, Auckland, London and other wet and cold places. Also from St Ives and Rose Bay in Sydney, Dallas and Europe and other "safe places" that are in the grip of the global financial crisis, which by the way is quite scary. Many of them have survived decades of rolling "five years left" since they left South Africa. So maybe they will be right one day!
My message is, please don't stress about us in South Africa. We are fine. We are cool. We know we live in the most beautiful country in the world with warm and vibrant people. There are more people here with smiles on their faces than in any country I have ever been to.
Young people are returning in droves with skills and a positive attitude. Collectively we bumble along and stuff many things up while letting off a hell of a lot of steam (have you heard of a chap called Julius Malema?).Yet in between South Africans do some amazing things like win a few gold medals, big golf tournaments and cricket and rugby matches.

2 | P a g e

The South Africans I know get off their butts and do things to build our country rather than whinge from a position of comfort. We actively participate in projects that improve the lot of underprivileged communities. I would not trade for anything last Saturday in a hall full of 1500 African teachers singing at the top of their voices and demonstrating their commitment to improving education in their communities.

We have our challenges and surprises. The standard deviation of our emotions are set at MAX. You are never just a "little bit happy" or a "little bit sad". At one moment you can be "off the scale" pissed off or frustrated or sad or worried or fearful or depressed. The next moment you are "off the scale" exhilarated, or enchanted, or inspired, or humbled by a kind deed, or surprised by something beautiful. It makes life interesting and worth living.
We also have passionate debates about the future of SA. Helped of course by red wine which you must taste again because it is getting better every year! Clem makes a great contribution to the debate as others like Moletsi Mbeki do. Russell Loubser the ex-head of the JSE made a feisty speech the other day that has whipped up emotions. Up to MAX on the emotions meter of the ANC Youth League whose campaign for nationalisation of the mines was attributed to people who have IQs equal to room temperature.
South African politics has always been volatile, we have opinions that could not be further apart and it evokes emotion on a massive scale. Interesting and stimulating for those that want to take it seriously but noise in the system to me. Fortunately we are rid of apartheid that would have definitely pushed us over the cliff. These are the birth pangs of a new and unpredictable democracy. So buckle up and enjoy the ride and contribute! That is the message I convey to South Africans.
Sad as it is, it is true that the South African diaspora has a largely negative influence on confidence in South Africa. It would not be a problem if their fretting about how long we will last before we go over the cliff was merely a reflection of their concern for us, their friends and family.
The problem is that it does impact foreign investment, which is important for economic growth. A person who is thinking of coming to visit or investing is often put off by listening wide-eyed to the stories of people who have gapped it.
As you know I host many foreign visitors and I have never, EVER, met anyone who has visited for the first time without being blown away by the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. It is not for nothing that South Africa has the highest ratio of repeat visitors of all long-haul destinations.
So, Jeff, how can I help you stop stressing out about us? Maybe best is that you get exposed to some articles and websites that give a more balanced and uplifting perspective of South Africa. So please don't worry and if you get a chance, put in a good word for us.

All the best

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Put a Smile in your Voice

I picked up a tip once that if you smile while you are talking on the phone, it will put a smile into your voice.  Try it - it works, and if you are lucky, the smile will stay on your face for quite a while and influence your day.  I have often thought that a smiley voice is so very important in so many phone-call situations.  You could be put at ease when making an appointment for a job interview, you could have your anger defused when calling your bank or an accounts department that has messed up, you could have your nerves turned into confidence when calling your doctor or dentist, you could have your irritation lessened when listening to unsolicited salestalk. There are two radio Talk Show hosts who make my day in this respect.  When they speak, you can hear that they are in the best place on the planet and they want you to join them.  One journo delivers our 'surf report' every morning and I promise you, he makes the sound, size and height of the waves around our coast sound so seductive and delicious, you just want to drop all your other plans and go out there and join him. He has a permanent laugh in his voice. He makes my day. By the same token, there are certain voices I cannot bear to listen to on the radio, although I am interested in the content of their shows. I just have to switch them off. Luckily, we are not all tarred with the same brush  (as my mother would say!). One voice I have loved above all others: sadly, he is no longer with us - that of Richard Burton.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for a Welsh accent. I'm also partial to the soft sing-song of the Australians on the program "Border Security".  "Are you quite sure this powder inside the teddy bear isn't cocaine, sir?" (rising intonation).  And there are certain American accents that are to my ear, irresistible - those of Kentucky and Texas.  Perhaps 'Distance lends enchantment to the ear'  (to slightly misquote the old saying).

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

That Pesky Christmas Gift List

My dad enjoying Christmas - aged 70

About this time of year, our family members start nagging each other for their Christmas gift list.  Ideally, these are drawn up in price categories and with very detailed specs if necessary.  e.g. my dad's used to say things like 'drill bit, 16mm' with the name of his preferred manufacturer etc. Most items would be under $50 - so these days that would make things difficult for those with expensive tastes. Let them buy their own stuff. I must take after my dad as I am not interested in perfume (don't wear it), I prefer not to eat chocolates and my list always says things like inks for my printer - HP Deskjet No.88, or voucher for Builder's Warehouse. My daughter is always disgusted at such requests and insists that I should list something personal, that I wouldn't buy for myself.  (Well, I just did, didn't I?) So I have tried - I need a new cream handbag for summer, I told her. Since then I realise I should have specified - soft material (so that it will squash under the seat of my scooter), must be machine-washable, must have zipper on top and no flaps or buckles, also no inside compartments. On second thoughts, I really need to get that myself. I could specify some book titles, perhaps? But then I only read fiction, and once you know who-dunnit, you never read that book again.  Besides, I now have my Kindle and can occasionally indulge in a digital book by massaging my home accounting system and putting the item in the 'Food' column. It's no good saying it's the thought that counts. How many insincere smiles and expressions of false thanks have been associated with gift-giving on Christmas Day?  Don't say, we can forgo the gifts and give the money to charity. That's a different issue and we do that separately.  The thing is we all like to see a huge pile of presents under the tree and the excitement and anticipation of the build-up. And I mean all of us, not just the children. The answer for me may well be a voucher tastefully wrapped in a shoe-box.  Often we have lots of laughs.  I found this photo of my dad, aged 70, at my brother's house.  (Note how he dressed up for Christmas). It appears someone gave him a symbolic pair of gumboots but no-one can remember why it struck him as so funny. Sadly, this was another Christmas I missed out on, living the other side of the world. My dad wasn't known for his sense of humor, so this pic is something to treasure. Maybe we must hold on to our personal Christmas traditions while we can - there is a move afoot in the UK to abolish those two Public Holidays. What a sad day that would be.

Bizarre Behaviour?

There has appeared in our poor black townships, a group of young people who meet for, "Izikhotane" (whatever that means).  They gather to party at local parks, dressed in designer outfits, equipped with lots of booze.   They party hard, drink and dance even harder and then, incredibly, they strip off their expensive clothes and set fire to them along with any money they have in their pockets. One of our journalists witnessed such an event outside Soweto, the black township near Johannesburg last week-end and her article appeared in our Sunday newspaper. Oddly, these young people do not come from rich homes, many of their parents are unemployed and they all understand poverty.  What is their aim?  Is this their ultimate, if garbled and confused, rejection of materialism? What do they yearn for? The writer was watching from her car on the sidelines and did not venture to interview any of the participants. In South Africa today, we have an elite group of rich, middle-class 'previously disadvantaged' people running the country, pocketing most of our hard-earned taxes, while ignoring their own poor. Young, educated blacks are starting to become disillusioned with the ANC, but it is so hard for them to know what to do.  As one girl said, "I was fed ANC along with my babyfood." Change will be long and hard here.  Votes are tied to skin-color.  As another black person commented, somewhat ruefully, "We love the ANC, more than we love ourselves". How will it all end?  Perhaps it is enough for now that in the young there are stirrings of discontent.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wire-less World?

Fitting new PVR
My beloved Mac

Grrrrr..........those wires!

We have recently acquired a nice, neat, flat screen TV which hubby mounted on the wall for me and it looks very nice - except for the wires, which despite his best efforts, are unattractively visible from the front.  We have just had this cupboard made out of a beautiful hardwood and M made me two matching floating shelves, also nice and neat - but for those wires.  When my son installed my Mac (which I love and adore), he said it would have both wireless mouse and keyboard.  Stupidly, I imagined the lovely clean lines but there is still a rat's nest of wires at the back, by the time you add the telephone cables, those of the printer and fax machine, the shredding machine, modem and my sewing machine,  the number pad and the skype camera  (I did have one inside the Mac, but it mysteriously stopped working). Ah well, perhaps one day.....

Monday, 12 November 2012

Grass Widow for 4 Days

Google image

Having chosen this title for this post, I suddenly wondered what it meant?  I mean where does 'grass' come into it?  OK - the definition does include "wife whose husband is temporarily absent", so I guess that's what I mean.  The other choice "While the Cat's Away" would be slightly misleading as I don't 'get up' to anything when my husband is on a business trip, apart form misleading my daughter, who is very compassionate and sends me messages all the time, worrying about me being on my own. In response to one of her enquiries I just texted back of those little Smiley faces - the green one  (meaning, I am envious of anyone who hasn't had an op on their foot and can't drive for six weeks). This caused some consternation as she thought I was ill.  Apparently, this is the face the young message to each other when they are suffering from a hangover. Anyway, the net result is that she will fetch me tomorrow morning for a trip to the mall and a large Capuccino. This will definitely cheer me up.  I have, however,  got over my envy of my husband's trip to Germany, as looking at his itinerary, it is definitely a 'man' thing, organised by his work.  The guys will be visiting the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart and subjected to some hours of 'presentations' about the new products. Tomorrow  - the best part - they will be allowed to test some of the new trucks by driving them full-speed around the race track.  (Have checked up on hubby's insurance policies).  My husband is blase (sorry, can't find the necessary accent) about this, as he has always been more interested in the internal workings of a vehicle than in how fast it will go, but I have to giggle that my daughter's father-in-law is the opposite and is almost crying with envy. I was at first envious of the hotel accommodation, (includes indoor swimming pool), but when I read the programme for the trip in more detail, it specifies every day "leave at 8.30 by bus",  "last bus returns 10.30 pm." so my husband won't have much chance to enjoy the facilities.  Also, he'll be back on Thursday. Meanwhile, I've discovered I can quite easily drink a bottle of white wine on my own during an evening of watching my preferred TV shows. Don't worry - I won't make a habit of it. I also find that a temporary separation definitely underlines the old saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder".

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A Story in Pictures

We make our own 'dried sausage' - very tasty. NB. Bells whiskey plus anti - stress meds (pink & yellow bottles - to take with him)

Home made venison jerky cutter

The wine glass is mine - shoes must be shiny. Black object is odd sock found in drawer

Everything must be polished

Just for fun I thought I would post a few pictures and see if you can spot the details of how my husband packs for a trip with minimum stress.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Getting Around

My daughter has been driving me around since my op and I have borrowed crutches from a friend of which I use one sometimes.  Still, limping about is quite tiring and I think it will be a long month.  I've got a holiday this week though: hubby is off to Germany for five days (of which two are for traveling). It's quite tiring watching him sort out his clothes: he's got his itinerary on the bed and outfits are being matched to events, socks must exactly match the color of his pants and the dress code 'smart casual' must be decoded and adhered to. He can't quite get his head around 'jeans and a blazer' - as worn by the younger men as 'smart', but I told him not to worry  - all the older guys will admire him simply because he still has a full head of hair. I looked up his hotel in Stuttgart on the Internet and tried not to be envious, as his itinerary suggests he will only have time to sleep and have breakfast there.  It even has an indoor swimming pool - which hubby won't use because he thinks he's too fat, and also because he is prone to ear infections. (If he can't dive in, he doesn't swim). Which brings me back to the subject of 'getting around'.  I suspect the reason most of us don't go for necessary ops, is because the docs insist we can't drive for six weeks!  Who can find the time not to do that? My op was on my right foot and I have a shift gear (almost unknown in the US I know). So I can't drive. I can, however, see no good reason why I can't get on my scooter. There are some things for which you just have to weigh up the pros and cons and last week, I forgot to get my husband's lotto ticket - and he had asked me a week before I went for my op. It's about 400 yards around to our local small shopping centre and its very quiet midday. I went on my scooter about 5 days after my op. No problems - I just won't tell the doc, and then it's not his responsibility.  I can't believe I did it though, having assured him I would expressly follow his instructions and poured scorn on those ignoramuses who think they know better. My husband had four ops on his foot once, when he was a young apprentice. He got broken glass in it, while re-fitting upholstery in a plane and several X-rays did not reveal the remaining shard until six months later. As he couldn't drive his car, he rode his motor bike to work and one day leaned over a bit far round the corner and tore the stitches. I am not one of those people who take such risks but I can understand his frustration.  I reason that I am in far more danger of my husband stepping backwards with his 200 lb weight onto my toe when we are both working in the kitchen than I am by peacefully riding my scooter.

Monday, 5 November 2012

More re Hospital Visit...

I made my arrow big and straight

I forgot to mention two things re my hospital visit. Firstly, there are the lengthy forms to fill in. We all know that these must be signed on every page to protect the hospital from being sued and to protect the doctor from any kind of failure, should his best efforts prove to have less than perfect results.The longest bits of the form are to make sure everyone gets paid. No money, no go. There is a new twist though since my last visit - I was handed a pen and asked to write a paragraph describing in as much detail as I could what I understood was about to be done to me, with the emphasis on whether the RIGHT or LEFT foot was to be worked on. Even this was not considered sufficient: on arriving outside the operating theatre I was given an indelible, black pen and had to draw an arrow, pointing directly to the toe that was to receive attention. Actually, I was quite impressed with this (yes, I've heard the horror stories of the past). 
Google image - "What did the doctor say?"
The second thing I am almost too embarrassed to mention, but heh, we're out here to share, not so?  Last week, my husband looked at me one day and suggested politely that I might like to borrow his nose-hair clipper. Feelings of deep humiliation overcame me as I began to wonder who else amongst my acquaintance might have noticed the offending growths which I have to say, I had overlooked myself just because it wasn't within my frame of reference.  I thought only men had gross stuff like nose hair? However, when I thought about my impending op and the anaesthetist looking up my nose, I was sufficiently motivated to deal with the problem - my husband having assured me that the little machine doesn't hurt. It didn't.  I'm really glad I did it now as the anaesthetist proved to be a lady.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Brief Encounters - in hospital

Not me - but I did enjoy my stay (Google image)

It's been a long time since I've had an operation so I've been struck by the many changes that have occurred in the interim. Now, various digital machines are pointed at parts of one's body and the results then 'shot' into a bar code on the front page of one's file. I was slightly disturbed the first time such a 'gun' was pointed at my forehead to take my temperature, but I soon got used to it as these procedures were carried out every couple of hours during my 24-hour stay in our local private hospital. There is still the ubiquitous drip that always makes me nervous as it seems to empty itself when no-one is around and I worry about air bubbles giving me an embolism, but at least some-one arrives fairly quickly in response to the red call button. The hospital's brochure blurb says that it has overcome its nursing shortage by becoming a 'training facility'.  (Hmm... not sure about that...)  There are now TVs above every bed too, which would be nice - if the remote control worked. Apparently, many patients are heavy-handed when putting the complicated-looking plug into the wall so many if them are broken. The hospital is busy changing over to USB-type fittings. They managed to swop mine for a working one. I always choose a general ward (4-bed), not only because of cost, but I like interacting with the other patients during a brief stay. Typically, we were four women in the surgical ward and within the 24-hours, we had swopped life stories and ailment details, discussed the merits/demerits of the various doctors and the hospital food and made insincere promises to contact each other on Facebook.  One lady managed to hand out about 15 business cards to the various patients and staff - which I thought demonstrated remarkable presence of mind, considering she had been in quite some pain when she came in. We kept each other company during the long night (we were all over 50) and some-one shared a large chocolate bar to pass the time. One very efficient nurse was a young black guy, who had to give an injection at one point to a woman who was also black. "Ah, black on black violence," she joked, as she bared her behind.  There was good-natured banter concerning language as to who could speak what, the young black nurse complaining that he could speak English and Xhosa, but he struggled with Afrikaans. The black patient said that English was her first language and she was fluent in German but couldn't get the hang of Xhosa at all. We are a rainbow nation. Back home, I am hobbling about no problem with my hammer-toe now hopefully fixed.  Stitches out next Friday.  Then it's on to the eyelids on 16th.  By the time we retire, I should be in fairly good nick.  Unfortunately, most of my teeth are a ticking time-bomb that I try to push to the back of my mind, as they cost far more than anything else to fix.  I shall have to gird up my loins and face that problem next year. Get Christmas over first.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

"Hope Springs"

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast". (Alexander Pope).  I didn't remember that until our newspaper movie critic jogged my memory (did him at school - meaning, I studied Pope's poetry). My friends and I went to the morning show at our local movie house today - all of 16 people, which is some kind of a record - usually, the three of us are on our own and can put our feet up so to speak. As this film is about being in your sixties and seeing a therapist to help put the 'intimacy' back into the marriage, I was surprised to see some couples in the audience.  I mean what self-respecting male would willingly attend such a film? I do suspect that those few brave specimens present had required some persuasion to get them there.  Unfortunately, they might have been fooled as it was billed as a comedy, but it was rather a serious film with some comic moments. Actually, we all felt as it we had got our own $4000 worth (the price of the couples' week's counselling in the movie) by the time it finished as it tackled with absolute honesty those romantic aspects of a marriage which slowly disappear over time which women long for and men don't even notice have gone. Streep, perfect as always in any role,  as the rather timid and inhibited housewife, matched with Tommy Lee Jones - by far the best acting performance of his life.  Or maybe he wasn't even acting? We women loved it - my husband would have been bored stiff - after all, there are a number of soulful moments when no-one says a word and nothing is ostensibly happening. It's all in the mind.  My husband would, however, have enjoyed the trailer.  Someone has at last seen fit to make a cowboy movie with lots of noisy shooting and action. I did register that Leonardo di Caprio is in it, but I didn't take much notice of anything else (except to push my ear plugs further into my ears.) Go see the Streep movie, ladies.  I heartily recommend it! Steve Carrell is unexpectedly superb as the counsellor.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Ironies of Modern Life

Along with belt-tightening of various kinds, come efforts to defeat the 'system' or at least to bring down one's monthly bills.  South Africa until four years ago, had some of the cheapest electricity in the world. Then someone woke up to the fact that no maintenance had been done for many years (hence a flurry of irritating power cuts), and no forward-planning had been done either. New nuclear power stations are now planned at huge cost, and we have had annual increases of 25% on our accounts for the last three years.  This year they are asking for 16%. The populace is already reeling under massive increases in the cost of gas for our cars and thus many of us have had solar systems installed, if only to heat our water.  This is after all a land of much sunshine throughout the year. The net result for my family home is that we now have lots of free hot water around lunchtime and early afternoon. As we don't use much at this time of day, I have started to wash all the dishes/utensils (that my husband won't allow in the dishwasher), once a day around lunchtime.  Further, I find I am washing more and more dishes by hand that ought to go in the dishwasher.  This is because we are also experiencing soaring costs related to water consumption, as our rivers and dams become increasingly polluted by industry and housing development under a government that closes its eyes to any expenditure that does not line the pockets of the politicians. I had welcomed the arrival of our dishwasher (ten years ago - we have been a bit backward in SA compared to the US), as a labor-saving device.  Now it uses too much expensive water. Oh well...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Week-end of mixed feelings

Typical landscape in the winelands of the Western Cape

We were privileged to attend the celebration dinner of the operation of a 100-year old wine farm this week-end.  It was a very grand occasion, no expense spared, magnificently catered, decor - out of this world, even the cutlery was worth stealing. There were lengthy speeches about the development of the the family farm and others in the area since 1700, so it will not surprise you to hear that the dessert was only served after 12.30 pm. It was an awe-inspiring evening. Nevertheless, behind all the party-spirit and bonhomie, lay a tragedy which was not mentioned, I imagine because it was both a painful subject and the family did not wish to spoil the atmosphere of the evening. Five years ago, that latest young marrieds of this family suffered a tragedy:  the husband, aged 42, was out on the river on his jet-ski, with his young son riding behind him. He did not see a hidden cable in the river and he was decapitated by it, his son surviving. Four years later, his widow decided to remarry: her son, now aged 18, was killed in a car accident: he was buried on the very day his mother was to have remarried.  Today, she, a striking, tall woman, CEO of the company, wears a brave face and I could not but admire the way she conducted herself throughout the evening.  She has remarried and I hope she has found personal happiness: she has two other sons from her first marriage.  I thought to myself that one should ever envy those who appear to  have everything.  There is often a story to be told.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Speed Reading

Google image

Small son has two study days off from his new job and writes his exam tomorrow. Amazingly, (or perhaps not so) he has been up at dawn to revise his whole year's work.  He has certainly had to change his life-style over the last month, working sometimes 12-14 hour days. Definitely, a wake-up call.  He's not a bad lad, really and one thing he is really good at is being an uncle, great baby-sitter, can even change the most awful of  diapers. However, it's time he earned a living.  I am wondering, somewhat belatedly, if we shouldn't have sent him on a speed-reading course when he was at High School, as he's always been such a reluctant student.  At Book Club last week, the subject came up as some of us struggle to get through one book a month, and other ladies can manage up to ten. It wasn't just a question of available time to read. Some people are happy to skim their way through novels, just wanting the bones of the story, some of us can't bear a book that ends too quickly and want to savor every (well-written) word. Life seems to be too short to get through all the marvelous books out there, but maybe one should just give up on the mediocre ones after fifty pages or so. One lady, a teacher herself, said she had sent both her daughters on quite expensive Speed Reading courses when they were 13, at the time when they were the 'latest thing'.  She reports that it was the best thing she could ever have done for them, as they reaped the benefits both at school and college, managing to devour and remember large quantities of demanding textbooks.  Perhaps I should try one myself?  Surely it's never too late.  Not because I really want to speed read anything other than a newspaper these days although I've taught myself enough to do that ...."Corruption...corruption....corruption" on every page.  No, it's because it would be a new skill to acquire, which I have read can help to ward off Altzheimer's.  The author, PD James, was interviewed on BBC radio yesterday.  She is now 92, and still writes her detective novels with undiminished skill.  She admitted that she has worked hard all her life and has had careers in Hospital Administration, has worked as a Magistrate, is a life peer (Baroness) in the House of Lords, looked after her mentally-ill husband for many years - and did much of that when she was already a successful crime writer.  Some people are great role models. I can't skim through her books though. They are too good.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


1969 - hair was actually blonde

Do you remember the sixties, ladies, when we all used to put our hair up in curls for a special occasion?  I brought this photo back to Cape Town from my dad's house and have decided not to wallow in nostalgia for those care-free days of youth, when photographers would set up their studio lights to get the most flattering picture. These days, they all want to use 'natural' light and the photos my children give me of themselves and their offspring, cavorting about in strange postures are not always to my liking. I had cause to reproduce this hairstyle however, when big son got married five years ago. I have been to the same hairdresser (about my own age) for the last twenty years, but I had my doubts whether she could still manage this for me as my hair was now much shorter but I had made myself a dress which seemed to warrant it. 

She merely said that in the sixties she had made her living out of this style, which incredibly, was popular amongst working girls, who would have it done once a week, and would empty cans of hair spray on it to make it last. I remember our hair used to feel like cement. So here's the new version of the old - the work of two hours and 100 hairpins - the other stylists in the salon were most impressed. There are curls on the sides but I don't have a sideways pic. NB.  a photographer once told me if you face the camera, no-one can see you have a stomach. I try to remember this......  Who's got similar photos? (Perhaps not you, Sextant).

The Ups and Downs

I've always vowed that I shall make the most of the close proximity of all my grandchildren while I have the chance, mindful that I deprived my own parents of that privilege by living across the other side of the world. So it was that I was somewhat delayed in helping to paint the outside room last week-end by the arrival of my daughter at the last minute with both of hers and the urgent request that 'we'  (in reality, me) look after them for an hour or so while she went for a check-up.  On the plus side, M - the 4-year old, is happy with his new DVD but the 19-mth is only keen on doing whatever I am doing. Hence, the dishes.  Unfortunately, although I don't mind the amount of water which lands on the floor (I needed to clean it anyway), but I have to watch her all the time, since she can fall off the makeshift ladder and has decided that although she can climb up, she can't get down.  Granddad, wearing a fake martyred expression, got the paint cans out on his own and I was indeed able to help later on. I suddenly appreciate the little ones all more now since hearing the news that my daughter and her husband are moving to the other side of town (for schools) next year. That will be a two-hour trip both ways when we retire, so we probably won't see them more than once a month.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

She's Nice Person But.....

It's great volunteering at the library for a couple of hours twice a week, because I get to hear all the gossip and grumbles but nothing affects me because I can walk away. Lately, there has been an increase in (carefully concealed) ill-feeling towards one of the permanent library staff who does not pull her weight, particularly with regard to doing her share of shelving books which she manages astutely to avoid most of the time and when she does do it, the shelves are in such a mess (non-fiction) that the patrons complain that nothing is in the right place and they can't find specific titles. This person is also frequently absent for odd days, so that at the end of a year, every one of her legal sick days has been used up. As one staff member put it: "She is such a nice person, but she has no work ethic".  How does that square up?  I find that I avoid this person myself, because I find I have no respect for her and in my book, that means I can't like her? Or should I like her for her social 'niceness'?  I am not sure.  When I was young and we singles shared a communal house, there was a guy there who was very 'popular' but you knew you couldn't rely on him for anything. I avoided him as much as I could - particularly after my boyfriend (now husband) arranged for us all to go on a holiday and when we got to the destination, this guy just never pitched up. One conscientious library staff member put it this way: "She's nice to talk to but she's not keen on work" ??  Isn't that an oxymoron?  Even more strange: this person believes that she works really hard.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Don't Judge a Book by....

Day 1 - scratched his face already
View from the maternity ward - Table Mountain

9 days old
I've not really been a baby-person, even when I had my own.  I couldn't wait to get back to work and was particularly terrified by the long-term responsibilities of having produced a new human being. I was particularly dismayed by the unattractive appearance of new borns, including my own. If my first hadn't had a label round his ankle and distinctly shorter hair than the others in the nursery, I think I could have gone home with any baby they said was mine and not been any the wiser. No instant bonding. 

Luckily, this did happen later - and his looks did improve by the day as did my attachment to him, and then it wasn't long before I thought mine was by far the best-looking baby in the whole world. 

Granny, father & son
So I am not phased by the podgy, round face of our latest grandson - I am just delighted that he is such a strong, healthy 4.3 kilo and thus far, a text-book child and contented. On reflection he looks just like his father did at that age - and    baby, look at him now.