Monday, 30 January 2012

Say what you mean or mean what you say?

In most situations I try to measure my words because I wouldn't like to say anything for which I would have to apologise later. I also try my best not to hurt with words. In particular, one has to make allowances for people who seem to misunderstand and derive insult or hurt where none was intended. I have to be particularly careful with one friend for whom I have to spell things out or I know she will take my words up the wrong way. I have to try to anticipate the way she will react. Which is often difficult - but not impossible. The other day, I was asked by someone else to investigate the costs of a medical procedure for her as she does not have medical aid and has to come from out of town for it to be done. After several phone calls I had gathered the information and phoned her back.  After some minutes of hedging, I finally discovered that actually cost is not the main criterion here, rather it is that she wants the procedure to be done in theatre under full anaesthetic and not in the specialist's rooms with just painkillers and a light sedative.  She already had an appointment and a quote for the theatre option.
As the procedure is quite a simple one and the price either very costly or much less, I was somewhat perplexed. There was a hiatus in the conversation after which she suddenly said, "There's an Afrikaans or an English way of doing these things..", after which she thanked me and said she would call back if she wanted me to make the appointment. She hasn't. I was left wondering what she meant? It could be that the English doctors are thought to be cheapskate or not thorough enough or is it that the Afrikaans ones are topnotch and not shy to charge. Or is it that all her friends advise her to choose the first option? I suppose I could have asked, but I couldn't think how to phrase the question at the time. Luckily, for me, being English, I wouldn't take offence either way. Oops - now someone will take exception to that !

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sudden Death

Although my title reminds me vaguely of some game show, I'm talking about reality here. How do you 'bear' bad news? My husband phoned me from work yesterday and simply said that a good friend of ours had died from a stroke in the night. She was only 63 and as far as we all knew, in the best of health. Ironically, all our concerns had been with her husband who had his second quadruple by-pass a few months ago.  He is now in good health... It's the next day, and I am in denial. One thinks, "only two days ago, she was cooking the evening meal, doing her favourite crossword"  etc.etc. Is it better to go this way?  Maybe for her: if she had fleeting last seconds I know she would have thought to herself that at least her house and affairs were in apple-pie order.  Did she have that chance? What if it were me? My cupboards and paper-work are chaotic.  I feel obliged to tackle everything now to minimise problems for those left behind for when it's me. Yet I drag my feet: I want to put my head in the sand. We have of course made our will and the children know where it is but that's not enough. One of my husband's staff had to attend his dad's funeral last week (sudden death) and was amazed to find that he had siblings he didn't know about and a plethora of documents to find for the funeral directors and other authorities. My husband brought home a copy: there are 31 pieces of information and/or documents required. I'll look at it later.  A lingering death must be easier for those left behind, at least there's time to prepare and you are not in shock at the end; but is that kind of death (possibly painful) better for the sufferer?  I'm going to England next month to see my dad: he's 94 and been in hospital since New Year with various ailments. Now he has a bladder infection (hospital-induced) and was at first refusing medicine, saying that 94 is old enough especially as he is blind and deaf. My brother says, he initially enjoyed the attention and change of scene. Now he wants to come home. He's really tough though, so I think he will last until my visit. After all, he's been predicting his own imminent demise since he was 45. A true hypochondriac. They usually outlast the rest of us don't they. Still, with a lot of deaths around me lately and more to come, it may be time for me to 'get religion'.  That must be a kind of comfort.

Friday, 20 January 2012


By chance, I listened to a fascinating weekly programme about mathematics last week. It was about the statistics of chance and lottery draws.  Apparently, if numbers 1,2,3,4,5, & 6 were to come up - it would be no less a series of random numbers than any other between 1 and 49 (the parameters of our national lottery.)   If I picture the little balls rolling around in the transparent drum, I have to reluctantly admit I can almost understand this, but if it did happen, I would instantly react with shock and 3/4 of my brain would decide that the result had been fixed.  Similarly, we have friends who regularly win when they buy raffle tickets. Hell, they even won a car once!  We have been to functions with them, and even swapped our tickets with theirs: you've guessed it - they still won the bottles of wine or whatever else was on offer.  How does this happen?  Is there such a thing as just being 'lucky'? 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Life's Little Ironies

With our summer heatwave running at a relentless 100 degrees F. there was nothing for it but to retreat to the movies.  To get my own back on our new bus company which has now substituted expensive plastic bank cards for our initial paper tickets, I decided to do back-to-back two films as I was by myself - both of my movie buddies being unavailable this week. The first was the Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris" which sounded wonderful from the reviews but in fact reminded me why I am not a Woody Allen fan.  Owen Wilson was so irritating I wanted to hit him and in general, I don't like whimsical, fantasy romcoms. This one is marketed as "light as a souffle" and so it was: therefore not my type.  As a terrific antidote I then watched "Margin Call" - brilliant actors, huge suspense, great stuff. A couple of things of note: I look forward to morning shows as I usually sit in an empty movie house with my choice of seats: this time I chose a seat in the middle and got out my sandwich. I couldn't believe it when an elderly gent walked into my row and even right up to the seat next to me! "Is this seat number 7?" he asked. I pointed out that the movie house was empty and he could sit where he chose. Surely he was not going to invade my space? Mercifully, he decided to leave one seat between us (its armrest was broken), but I was still fuming wondering if the ticket guy had deliberately put us together? To my relief, another five people wandered in before the film began and sat at respectful distances away from each other. In the end, my whole plan backfired, as I lost my favourite pashmina, which I take to combat the icy air inside the movie house, somewhere between the mall and the bus stop, so I saved no money after all.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Collector

Just started - four boxes to go

Primary school - we used to Maypole dance at local fetes
Is there a difference between a hoarder and a collector? I am not sure but I certainly have a lot of letters. I've started 'sorting them out', I hesitate to say 'catalogueing' as I am not yet that organised but it seems as I go through the boxes, that I've never thrown away even one letter from a family member or personal friend or boyfriend. Why am I doing this? Chatting to one recent acquaintance last night, she thinks I am mad; she has saved no letters ever but there again she can't bear to part with a piece of old furniture.
I've only glanced at the contents of some of the letters and am ashamed to say I can't even recall the faces or names of a few of the writers with whom it seems I had quite a lengthy correspondence.
(Re pics - my mother used to send me all my old school stuff when she was clearing out in order to move house. She wrote to me every week for 30 years ).
Endeavour Prize and winning a cruise in a national essay competition.
This seems to me reason enough to have kept the documents. Memories fade. At least they can be revived this way. I also find that I have over time misinterpreted some people's characters and motives and built pictures in my mind of events or feelings that on confronting the written word, have proved to be totally erroneous.  My second reason for doing this exercise right now, is having to downsize with a view to my husband's retiring in two years time. We have suddenly realised that our home at the coast has almost no cupboards and hubby is having to accept that as time races on ...especially as 2012 has dawned (what happened to 2011?), he just doesn't have time to do everything.
Me pinning a leek on the Mayor on St. David's Day.
We have to get a move on. My third reason is that I am going to re-read everything with a view to collating facts and information  relating to the five decades from the sixties to the present day, with the further view of writing a book.
I've now thrown away the envelopes !
I am hoping to distil the essentials of everyone's characters and lives so that they can be thinly disguised in a work of 'faction'.  Well, we all need a long term project for retirement and as it has been said "different strokes for different folks".  My new friend still thinks I am mad.  One further satisfaction  - I plan to e-mail everyone I can still find and tell them how many letters of theirs I have kept. Hope they will be impressed. E-mail's just not the same. No-one keeps those.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Requiem for a Trailer

One thing guaranteed when my brother-in-law visits: the talk will be exclusively of vehicles. This might have saved our bacon however in the form of preventing us being left at the side of the road witnessing the death of our beloved trailer. Launching into one of his stories, M told us of a friend who owned a trailer of the same vintage as ours - about 30 years old - and he happened to look underneath it one day. To his horror he saw that rust had advanced to the point that the chassis was about to part company from both axles.  Alarm bells ringing, my husband inspected his own trailer's nether regions. We must have been one trip away from disaster.  Our trailer is in almost constant use; in its long life it has carted loads for us over bumpy ground roads in the Karoo, it's been on holiday with us to the Kruger Park and on camping trips in Botswana.  Perhaps its most arduous tasks have been helping us move house on several occasions.  Finally, living at the coast has taken its toll. After spending some hours steeped in gloom (our house also urgently needs painting and the well-point needs repair), husband rallied briefly and decided that he could make a temporary fix which should last about 4 months during which time we can save up for a new one.  He has cut out the offending rusted parts and screwed in long pieces of square steel tubing down both sides of the chassis to which he has reattached the axles.  Now the trailer is back on its feet and we can breathe again. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Space Saver - Costume Jewellery

Like most paranoid people, I keep my valuable jewellery in the safe, but what to do with the increasing number of cute necklaces that I can't resist?  Either they get all tangled up in a box or on a stand or...  Now I keep them on the same hangers in my wardrobe, as the outfits they match - with some latitude for mix 'n match according to the mood or projected image for the day.  A further tip - when I hang up my clothes after laundering, I always choose the same end of the wardrobe - so that if I bump in to anyone who knows me (I don't care really, but it's fun) - I won't be wearing the same thing 3 days in a row.  I am one of those people who would have loved to wear a uniform to work so that I didn't have to make a time-consuming choice every day.  This one's for you, Sextant - if you have managed to read thus far - I place my husband's clean underpants at the bottom of the pile in his cupboard to ensure that they all get rotated and wear at the same rate.  There! I bet you can't think of something intelligent to say about this post?  These are not topics that occupy the minds of men.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Where did my Husband go Shopping?

I did a bit of a double take when reconciling our credit card slips/invoices this month: one day my husband went shopping by himself and these are some of the items on his invoice...
Catch and Toggle, small
Butt Hinge
Nylon nipple
Insert nylon Male Adaptor  ????
Yes, you guessed it:  a visit to the Hardware store partly to purchase bits and pieces to try to fix our garden's irrigation system and the hinge and toggle was for my puzzle box.  Why - what were you thinking?  (Giggle).

Monday, 2 January 2012

In a State of Demented Joy

Although my husband knows full-well that my addiction to Jigsaw Puzzles will mean months of desertion of housewifely duties, he is still willing to service my annual addiction - and I have once again received my heart's desire for Christmas - this time a whopper of 5,000 pieces, picture all carefully covered up to make it that bit more challenging.  He hadn't quite anticipated how big it would be however, so has had to spend all day yesterday in his garage, making boards and a huge child-proof box for me to blissfully waste away a few hours every day, yet able to whisk everything away the minute the doorbell rings and I hear the patter of tiny feet. 
The logistics  (1.65 m.  x 1.2 m )  means that the finished product will be exactly as wide as I am tall, but there will be an empty wall preserved for it in our retirement home.  After this, though and after framing last year's two  (both 2,500 pieces) I shall unfortunately have to take up another hobby. No more space. NB. This is me during the preliminary sorting progress - the big board and box are in our outside playroom.  Below is hubby on Boxing Day - welding and fixing parts of our new gates, inexpertly put in by the contractor, who left sharp edges for our guests to wreck their tyres on.