Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dad, 90-Year-Old Atheist - Tuesday 22nd May, 2007

Dad was a real softie for animals

My dad is thin and wiry. His former six-foot frame is now bent over to 90 degrees and he walks it around with the help of a stick, looking down at the ground.
He has a number of debilitating ailments both inner and outer but his mind is as sharp as a blade.  Although he is now nearly blind owing to a series of small strokes and very deaf, he does not give in. His mind teems with schemes and ideas the latest of which has been to surf the Internet to find someone to sell him a prism, which he plans to grind into lenses in a determined effort to improve his vision. He has worked out all the necessary measurements. Once I saw him hammering away in the rain to build a “roof extension” for his grandchild’s guinea pig which lives in a run in the garden and because he couldn’t see to find the sack of wood shavings in the garage - he had removed the soiled bedding, was washing it in a bucket, and planned to dry it with my mother’s hairdryer.  The last time I was able to visit, I found him suffering with a very angry rash covering most of his arms and legs. This was frustratingly itchy and could only be temporarily relieved with hot baths, but it did give my father a new interest - testing out various theories and treatments of his own devising.  He would brook no-one’s help or advice - his GP merely diagnosing acne and creams - which my father promptly mislaid amongst a lifetime of possessions in his bedroom.  I printed out 48 small photographs of skin conditions which I found on the net and after a ten-minute scrutiny he pronounced:  “It’s none of them.” He is still occupied with searching for a cause and a cure.  His worst problem is that he has only small windows of time in which he can see long enough to read a couple of paragraphs in the newspaper or on the computer screen before he has to lie down in order to gather the cooperation of his nerve-endings for another brief period.  This makes him pretty bad-tempered.
It is sad to see a parent that you remember as young, vigorous and tall, become so old. But you can only admire him. He is determined not to die - he really doesn’t have the time! Neither does he have much faith in the hereafter.  He told me that when he was young, he attended all kinds of churches and considered all kinds of beliefs, coming to the conclusion that all religion was merely a delusion.  He is one that will not “go gently into that good night.”  He will “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.  PS - As he got nearer to death in 2012, his atheism wavered a bit: now he said he was not so sure...

Monday, 30 July 2012

Dad, Scare, August 29th 2007

Yesterday after taking his blood pressure a couple of times Dad announced that he didn’t feel well and was going to bed early. Mum went into an immediate panic which I found infectious. The last time Dad felt ill, my brother had to rush him to casualty when it was found that he was extremely pale and hardly registered a pulse.  I reasoned that in event of an emergency we could just dial 999 or phone the neighbors as I had no idea how to find a hospital. (I had come over to the UK to look after my folks while my brother and his wife and family took a break.)   I looked around and saw that my father had a pile of computer manuals on his desk and next to them detailed pages of notes in his tiny handwriting.  This because he had managed to shut down his computer and had not been able to start it again.  There had also been lots of banging noise in his bedroom that afternoon, as he struggled to mount the frame he had made for his blind. To reassure my mother I told her that I suspected that he was simply overtired and had strained his eyes. I went to check on him and found him sleeping peacefully.  Sure enough later that evening he came downstairs and pronounced himself better as his pulse rate had resumed its normal level of 49 beats per minute. He takes his own blood pressure regularly and keeps a graph of the results.  He has been especially cheerful today as he found an article in the local paper which featured a couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. This renews dad’s hopes of holding onto life as he and mum are only married 66 years. A new challenge to be embraced.  PS – 4 years later when dad was again in hospital, doctors didn’t want him to go home with such a low pulse and had to be persuaded that this was quite normal for him.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dad’s Diet Fads, August 27th 2007

Dad was late getting up today and came downstairs in his pyjamas, much to my mother’s annoyance. He had only got to sleep at 5.00 a.m. he announced, looking pleased with himself - but this was because he had eaten 3 slices of white bread for his tea the previous evening - and he had known this would disagree with him. Dad’s digestion has been a source of constant concern for him over the past 50 years at least and has been only rivalled by his migraine headaches in the amount of time and effort he has put into researching the cause and effects and hopeful cures for his ailments. These have been a severe trial for my mother who has had to put up with his various beliefs e.g. potatoes are to blame, or cheese, or turkey or food additives or yeast or food which is past its ‘best by’ date.  Accompanied by this fastidious obsession is my dad’s large appetite which scarcely gels with his permanently skinny frame. The battle of wits continues as my father now believes that milk goes off the minute it is opened and this has resulted in large quantities of perfectly good milk being poured down the sink, which is awful as my mother can only get to the shops once a week. If she has put things in the freezer, when they are taken out she has to try to scratch out the original date by scribbling over it before she puts the wrapper in the bin.  Still, dad takes everything out of the bin and tries to re-scrutinize the dates. He has an excuse for this as it is his job to sort the re-cycling every week for the different rubbish collections. Luckily, his eyesight is so bad that  usually mum can get away with this deception.  Perversely, dad hates waste and is just as inclined to eat jam and cheese which has gone mouldy, virtuously scraping off the offending mould with a cloudy eye.  I had to throw away a baked bean tin this week, which had about 4 inches of mould on it. Goodness only knows how many spores were flying around inside the fridge.  For all that, they do eat a good lunch every day.  My mother came downstairs equally ‘out of it’ yesterday as she had taken a sleeping pill late the night before.  Nevertheless we had roast beef and perfect Yorkshire puddings as it was Bank Holiday Monday.  I think she does it on auto-pilot.  She still scoffs at the idea of my cooking for them, partly because of pride and partly because she doesn’t really believe I can cook - even though I am nearly sixty! Needless to say, dad threw caution to the wind and enjoyed every particle of his dinner.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dad, Carpenter, August 22nd 2007

My dad’s current project is to build himself a frame upon which to mount a blind which will work on the sloping window in his bedroom so that he can see his computer screen a bit better.  This really is a relative term as his field of vision is scarcely bigger than a pinhead and at 90 years old he is completely bent over - the result of a lifetime of misusing his back.  He also can’t hear.  These problems do not defeat him however and pride dictates that he will only ask for help as a last resort. The trick is to listen to his sighs of frustration and not say anything.  An offer of help usually results in a point blank denial of need.  So yesterday in extremis, I was finally asked to assist.  My instructions were to take up a tiny yellow paintbrush, gleaned from a long-forgotten children’s paintbox in the depths of his cupboard and to push it through the holes in the two brackets he had made so as to mark on the wall the places for the rawl bolts.  My father meanwhile, balanced precariously on the steps holding up his wooden frame against the aperture.  A day later it seems that the holes are in the wrong places because the frame is actually warped. Undeterred, (really happy to find an additional challenge!), dad has now taken the frame to pieces again, dipped it in water, plannning to bend it straight again after a few days. Luckily, time is not an issue. Most of his tools resemble the ones in this picture. Dad likes old things and things that make a job difficult, such as trying to do the things he could do with ease before he was deaf and 98% blind.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Dad passed away, aged 95, Thursday 26th July, 2012

Dad, aged 90, in 2007

As a bit of a memorial to my dad, who died yesterday, peacefully, in his nursing home in the UK, I would like to re-publish a few of the posts I did about him when I visited my parents in 2007.  Dad is showing some strain in this pic, taken at my mother's 90th Birthday party: she died six weeks later. As you can see, dad's blindness was complete at this stage, so life was very frustrating for him, as he was extremely deaf as well.  Unluckily perhaps for him, being such a practical man all his life, his brain was still sharp.  At the time of these posts, he was still trying very hard to do stuff. If anyone has quirky memories of their own deceased dads, I would love to hear about them..... Meanwhile, I am off to the UK on Tuesday for two weeks. Not looking forward to this trip: too much like the irrevocable end of an era.
Dad’s Pedometer, August 21st 2007
"Great minds think alike".This is only a saying as I don’t think I have a great mind like my dad but we do have things in common, such as Pedometers.  I showed him my blog about ‘Mental Pedometer’ after which he disappeared off to his room, rummaged about in his cupboards for a long time and presented me with an envelope bearing the legend, Pedometer -  Free Gift from Kellogs corn flakes. It transpired that since my dad has become too blind and deaf and generally frail to be allowed out, he tries to walk a certain distance a day - from the kitchen to the front door and back, doing a number of circuits which he tries to measure.  I know to keep out of the way when I hear his walking stick tapping up and down. One day when he had finished  he announced, “I’ve just been to the egg shop!”.  Further enquiry elicited the information that one of his former walks used to be to an egg farm about 200 metres up the road,  He can’t actually use the pedometer himself both because it is very small and his hands are too arthritic to manoeuvre it and also if he did manage to get it onto his waistband, he has to walk bent over so that it would face vertically instead of horizontal and would not make the necessary connection with his hip.  It’s no fun getting old

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Housework and Knitting

Colours are bottle green/black/brown/beighe
 How unliberated do I sound?  Heard a BBC Women's program this week. First, an update on how much to men help with the house/children when both partners work full-time: a recent survey in the UK shows that women still do about 90% of everything.  No surprise there. Second, there was a follow-up show in which women who worked as chars for agencies were interviewed.  One had previously been a lawyer,  had helped a friend clean up her house one week-end before a dinner party, and realising how 'relaxing and therapeutic' housework was, gave up her lawyer job and now chars full-time.
I'll try these colors next - hard to find though

She, and others, said that it was also very well-paid work - up to £20 an hour in the major cities!  NB. That's about x10 what chars are paid in South Africa (shame on us).  No wonder so many 'madams' here complain about their maids. Pay peanuts - you get monkeys, as the saying goes. But then we are a third-world country, dragging ourselves up by our bootstraps... Interestingly, one of the women said she enjoyed the work because she was a perfectionist and enjoyed restoring order from chaos and I suspect that if you are lucky and you are a 'status-symbol-char', the homes you look after are pretty immaculate in the first place and easy to clean with state of the art equipment.  One lady, highly amused, said that her employer had left her vacuum cleaner to her in her will. Personally, I can't see myself taking up such a career, although my aunt did - then in her sixties - she used to clean the oven and on top of all the doors as well as the usual stuff all in one day. I only do the immediately visible stuff and follow up any bad smells emanating from my son's bedroom as these might well point to decaying socks or food. Otherwise, to de-stress, I love to knit.  My husband pointed out that I seemed to be in the doldrums recently and I realised that it was because I had no knitting or sewing project on the go.  To remedy this, I found an old pattern which looked interested from the stache I have from my mother's supply and I have set to work, not quite registering at first that I would have a spider's web of about 6-7 different balls of wool to sort out on every row, so that there would be no holes. This pic is a bit dark - I am doing bottle green/brown/beige & black for my grandson, allowing about 2 years to finish as the last complicated item had to bypass the intended child who had grown faster than my speed of knitting.  Ah well, I'm happy again:  then there is still my puzzle...... now proceeding at a snail's pace because of all 'blue bits'.  NB The cute baby is the picture on the pattern.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Deprived South Africa - we've only had TV since 1976

Barbara Barnard
 These magazine covers date from those late years of the 1970s when we South Africans were very green concerning TV. (The Days of Apartheid when our government was both secretive and paternalistic). I found them in the Book shop in Richmond, adorning a wall. Not surprisingly, we only had 3 or 4 channels and only one serial per week - "Dallas" of course. In fact on a Tuesday night, most restaurants closed because everyone was glued to their sets and we waited with bated breath for the following installment. (So different from today when we wait for nothing). Perhaps
life was slower in those days; can it really be nearly forty years ago? These stars don't look quite the same today. I wonder what happened to the cast of WKRP in Cincinatti? We used to love that half an hour and our enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that our infant service boasted very few adverts. 
Do you remember Chris Barnard's beautiful second wife, Barbara?  In this issue, she complains that her eyes are too close together.  So many amazing advances have been made in heart surgery since those pioneer days.  Have you heard about the
 Berlin heart ?  It's an artificial pump designed for children which remains outside the body, busily working away for a number of months if necessary until a donor heart can be found. Until such time, the patients have to remain in the hospital.  I like to watch such programs (if they have a happy ending), as they always remind me how fortunate I am. Another favorite is "The Secret Millionaire": it's always so moving at the end, when after 10 days of volunteering undercover to work for different charities in poor areas, these wealthy people write out enormous checks (often in tears themselves) and quite apart from helping others, they find that their own lives are changed forever. 
I like that.
These days we have satellite TV, about 400 channelsand loads of annoying advertising, so now we mostly record everything and watch our favorites in our own time - fast forwarding over the adverts and all the repetitive stuff.  I grew up with TV in the UK - my mother always had the latest and best sets, though I do remember in the early fifties, our TV was very small and black and white and you had to adjust the 'Horizontal and Vertical Holds' constantly to try and get a decent picture.  Programmes ended for the day just before midnight to the majestic sounds of "God Save the Queen" and the 'Test Pattern'. And you had to get up to switch the TV on and off.
How times have changed.  NB. I've just discovered if I load all my pictures together and position them first, then place the cursor next to each picture separately to write the text - it comes out like this!  Light bulb moment in my blogging life.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Richmond, Book Town - Karoo, central South Africa

The first two cottages, typical country-style, thick walls, built for the hot sun.

At least there are places to stay

Four cottages knocked into one - books everywh
Part of our Karoo holiday this year was an  unexpected visit to the little town of Richmond, reached by ground road some 30 miles from a family farm. We spent the morning browsing the old books and memorabilia inside four cottages which now form one continuous shop.
Books are not the only decoration
These little country towns struggle to survive nowadays but at least this one is a haven for bibliophiles and quite a number of tourists therefore visit it each year. I discovered that there are book towns world-wide as seen on this poster: 
34  Book towns world-wide - Archer City, Texas, Brownville, Nebraska & Stillwater, Minnesota - bottom of the list
I could not live in a small town myself: although the peace and quiet on the farms is wonderful,  I like access to shops, hospitals and movies.  Still it's nice to visit once at year and get to play with the ubiquitous litters of kittens and puppies and sometimes there are lambs to feed. I made a surprising find of old magazine covers while browsing the book shop.  More in my next post..  NB. Tried to move the pics into the text, by copying and pasting code - but not totally successful.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Laws of LIfe

I really never do this - either by e-mail or on my blog, but honestly, I guarantee that anyone of a mechanical bent will enjoy and wholeheartedly agree with the following (which I have to confess did arrive on my e-mail by an anonymous author):

 1. Law of Mechanical Repair - After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to pee.
 2. Law of Gravity  - Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

 3.Law of Probability  - The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of y our act. 

4. Law of Random Numbers - If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers. 

6. Variation Law-   If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time). 7.Law of the  Bath - When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

 8. Law of Close Encounters - The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

 9. Law of the Result - When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

 10.Law of Biomechanics - The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

 11..Law of the Theater & Hockey Arena - At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle, always arrive last They are the ones who will leave their seats several times to go for food, beer, or the toilet and who leave early before the end of the perfo rmance or the game is over.  The folks in the aisle seats come early, never move once, have long gangly legs or big bellies and stay to the bitter end of the performance.  The aisle people also are very surly folk.

 12.The Coffee Law - As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

 13.  Murphy's Law of Lockers - If there are only 2 people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

 14.Law of Physical Surfaces - The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor, are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet or rug.

 15. Law of Logical Argument  - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.

 16. Brown's Law of Physical Appearance  - If the clothes fit, they're ugly.

 17. Oliver's Law of Public Speaking  - A closed mouth gathers no feet.

 18.   Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy  - As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it. 19. Doctors' Law - If you don't feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better..  But don't make an appointment, and you'll stay sick.
Hmmm... re Law No. 11 - I always try to sit in the middle of any row, anywhere, in order to avoid all the implications of this law.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey?

Anyone read this yet? I believe it is a trilogy. I thought vaguely it was about liberated sex for the over- fifties so out of curiosity and because our Book Club ladies were interested, I got a sample 50 pages or so on my Kindle.  So far it reads like a teenage love-lit (or Barbara Cartland) written by a teenager, full of cliches and a flimsy improbable story. I am not motivated to read any more.... but what is it about?  I suppose somewhere in the three volumes there is lots of steamy stuff because as we know, sex sells. But what is making it such a sell-out and talking point in several different countries.  Anyone got an opinion?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Almost a Most Embarrassing Moment

Our little Mia - a few months before this event

In the car last week together with my son, my husband and my granddaughter: we were off to the shops when my usually very quiet grandchild suddenly announced very sweetly and looking at me - "Little Bugger" . On seeing my reaction (shock/horror followed swiftly by ill-concealed amusement), she capitalized on the moment and proceeded to chant the ill-chosen words at an ever-increasing volume, clearly enjoying the poetry of the sound, but causing us to have to remain in the car, now parked at the mall, windows firmly shut, until we had managed to distract her. Where did she learn this, I wondered, although I was pretty sure it would have been from my son: I do recall having had to chastise him on numerous occasions when he was small with this epithet I had in turn learnt at my mother's knee. Turns out that she had run into my son's study, (he works from home and was busy on a conference call), jumped onto his knee and joyfully shouting "Pipe Organ" (this I gather is from an educational App for toddlers her dad had downloaded onto his iPad for her) and thumped up and down on his keyboard, effectively destroying a large part of his spread sheet.  It was with some apprehension that we entered the lift but luckily, our little girl's  customary shyness asserted itself and we travelled up three floors with our fellow passengers in respectful silence. Whew!  Oddly enough, I am not one to normally worry what other people think - except in this sort of situation.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Life's Like That

Auntie Mu in the hat - mom on the left. Sisters.

I've just phoned my Aunt Muriel to wish her a happy 92nd birthday. She lives in a very nice old age home and has her own two-bedroomed flat which she keeps spotless. Only very recently has she had to get in a decorator to paint as she has had to admit reluctantly that she can't keep her balance to paint the ceilings any more and has trouble lifting her arms above shoulder height. She entertained me with a story today: her local dry cleaner was having a 'two-for-one' special so she asked her neighbor, who at ten years younger, still works a couple of days a week at a charity shop, to take my aunt's two best pairs of trousers in to the dry cleaners on her way to work. Two weeks later, my aunt ventured to enquire about their non-return - only to discover that her friend had quite forgotten about the dry cleaning request and had handed in the items to her shop to be sold! Naturally, they went immediately (someone couldn't believe their luck!) and my aunt could do nothing but be philosophical about it and have a good laugh. Luckily, her daughter took her discretely to the shops and treated her to two new pairs and my aunt has remained friends with her neighbor. Incidentally, I've never heard my auntie say a bad word about anyone all her life and she is one of the most compassionate people I know. This is why everyone loves her.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Truly Inspirational Sporting Moment

Did you watch the Wimbledon Men's final on Sunday?  I am not a great sports enthusiast and haven't watched Wimbledon since Chrissie Evert wore those divine frilly knickers and women and tennis clothes were cute. I have to show an interest in rugby because of my husband, but I usually manage to watch just the last 15 minutes of any match: ditto other International sporting events although I do have a weakness for Gymnastics. However my interest was piqued on Sunday as there hadn't been a Brit in the Men's Final since 1938 so we by chance we tuned in half way through the fourth set when Federer looked as if he could go another three and Murray was fading. I take my hat off to the great British Public - what amazing camera shots of the thousands of supporters watching the big TV outside of the tennis grounds. Apparently, a more than usually dour Scot, who had previously wished to dissociate himself from the English, Murray must have been humbled by the overwhelming applause he was shown when he finally lost to the amazing Federer, who waited smiling and patient on the sidelines to be interviewed while Andy struggled to compose himself but gave way to tears at the roar of the crowd. He won them over and was forgiven both for losing and for his previous comments. It must have been a complicated moment for him. And finally it was Federer's turn: what a nice man is he: gentlemen both. Lovely to watch and learn.....  And this pic of my cyclamen?  Well, this represents another inspirational moment for me.  I was on the verge of throwing this plant away, as it appeared to expire during a heatwave and lost all its leaves. Something made me give it a second chance and I moved it to a cooler spot:  six months later - a leaf appeared, and then another.  And look at it today!  Nature really does teach lessons about perseverance and starting over and all sorts of other things as well. Don't you agree?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Job's Comforters

A Google image ! She looks nice really

This is such an old saying that one can assume that there have been such people since at least Biblical times. The dictionary definition is: "a person who, while purporting to give sympathy, succeeds only in adding to distress".  What I would like to know is how genuine was the desire to offer sympathy in the first place?  Was there not some tiny element of underlying malice or are people just plain thoughtless? I recall crying myself to sleep on the night before my wedding because a (well-meaning?) sister-in-law felt it necessary to tell me of the extreme beauty and numerous virtues of my fiance's previous girlfriend.  On another occasion, I was about a week from giving birth when someone confided to me all the details of the death of her own baby at just two days old. My daughter's gynaecologist thought fit to inform her that she had Hepatitis B and her newborn would have the same condition (all kinds of horrendous implications).  My daughter and her husband were distraught - only to later be told that she simply had a high degree of anti-bodies in her blood from a vaccination during her schooldays. A friend once told my husband not to worry - my relationship with a school colleague during the production of a school play was merely professional.... so that my previously trusting husband became suddenly full of suspicions.  The latest 'comfort' has been proffered to a friend's husband: she has just been diagnosed with MS and her husband is in shock.  This 'kind' person was quick to inform him of all the worst-case scenarios that could befall his wife.  People should learn to think before they speak.