Tuesday, 30 October 2012
"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
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
|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
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).
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
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
|Day 1 - scratched his face already|
|View from the maternity ward - Table Mountain|
|9 days old|
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|
Thursday, 18 October 2012
Baby strollers. They are so ingeniously put together these days that only their parents have sufficient practice in getting them up and down and into their RVs. I happened to look after my 3-year-old granddaughter all day yesterday, so that her jaded parents could practice with their new baby. The plan had been that M would go to nursery school as usual, but unfortunately, she had a bad cold and couldn't go. By 2.30 pm. we were both in the last stages of exhaustion, me, from trying to find enough ways to entertain her and she, fighting the fact that she ought to be having her afternoon sleep. We had already been out in my car to fetch new blinds, then on to the nursery where she had helped me to buy plants after which we spent half an hour in the children's playground there. Then on to the children's library for another half an hour. Then back to my house and the toy box there. Then lunch. Then a lie-down on granny's bed. (Well, it was actually only granny who lay down.) Eventually, I loaded her into the stroller and went for a 40-minute walk, tacking from side to side of the road into an almost gale-force wind. To my immense relief she finally fell asleep 5 minutes from the house. I tiptoed into my bedroom with the pram, planning to decant her onto my bed after which we would both have a well-earned, hopefully long, nap, only to discover I simply could not undo the safety harness which was firmly strapping her in. A whispered phone call to my son wasn't much help. "You just press the big button and it will fall apart", said he. I pressed the big button with various degrees of force and then gave up. However, I really didn't want her to wake up, so I just propped up the front wheels on two big pillows and leaned the handles back onto my bed and hoped for the best. Two hours later when my son arrived, we were both still sleeping. When he effortlessly popped open the buckle, he commented how easy it was but did also mention,"There's a button at the back which you have to press at the same time". (Grrr!) Looking at this pic, and seeing how big she is, I think I'll make her walk next time. Still, she has only just turned three.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Well, almost any machine that has attachments and cords. I shall merely add that I have been delighted to find a vacuum cleaner that pulls up its own cord. Bliss. Had to find my husband to sort this one. Of course, if I was alone, I guess I would just have had to persevere. As my mother would have said: "You don't keep a dog to bark yourself".
Monday, 15 October 2012
|Cathy and Heathcliffe|
This one's for you, Sextant. There are a very few authors I can relate to and whose writing I find, is exquisite in every way, Ian McKewan is one of them. Consider this extract from 'Saturday'....p. 39
“Henry lies still, waiting for sleep. By contemporary standards, it’s perverse that he’s never tired of making love to Rosalind, never been seriously tempted by the opportunities that have drifted his way through the generous logic of medical hierarchy. When he thinks of sex, he thinks of her. These eyes, these breasts, this tongue, this welcome. Who else could love him so knowingly, with such warmth and teasing humour, or accumulate so rich a past with him? In one lifetime it wouldn’t be possible to find another woman with whom he can learn to be so free, whom he can please with such abandon and expertise. By some accident of character, it’s familiarity that excites him more than sexual novelty. He suspects there’s something numbed or deficient or timid in himself. Plenty of male friends sidle into adventures with younger women; now and then a solid marriage explodes in a fire fight of recrimination. Perowne watches on with unease, fearing he lacks an element of the masculine life force, and a bold and healthy appetite for experience. Where’s his curiosity? What’s wrong with him? But there’s nothing he can do about himself. He meets the occasional questioning glance of an attractive woman with a bland and level smile. This fidelity might look like virtue or doggedness, but it’s neither of these because he exercises no real choice. This is what he has to have; possession, belonging, repetition. “
Other life-long favorites are: Sebastian Faulks, C.P Snow and Barbara Kingsolver. I wish I could write like them. I do hope Ian McKewan doesn't mind me quoting from one of his marvelous books. ....Just having a quiet afternoon, thinking about stuff.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
After a life-long battle with 'fear of wax', I have been fired with enthusiasm by a recent visitor (who lives on a remote farm), who has assured me that 'Water Soluble Wax' is the answer for underarm and leg hair. I've had my legs waxed twice in my life, bikini once, then regressed back to shaving as the marginally less painful but much cheaper and more convenient option. Naturally, I now have an assortment of razor scars down both legs (does Bio-Oil work at all?) but heh, one has to assess degrees of fear in life and choose the lesser of the evils. The problem is, that having bought the stuff, I've been staring at it now for two weeks trying to pluck up the courage to have a go. The logistics are also worrying: do I wait until I am alone and tackle it starkers, standing by the microwave in the kitchen, waiting for the wax to heat up or do I rush the pot back to the bathroom and start there, ready to jump in the shower? What is the right temperature? What if I am transfixed with pain after yanking off the first strip and can't bring myself to do the rest? I could have taken the darn stuff back for a refund last week, when I discovered that the unused tub had leaked at the bottom: except that I had thrown away the till slip. Instead, and because I thought it was actually quite expensive, I have bought an attractive china bowl in which to heat up the tub, in case of further leaks. It is now standing accusingly in my kitchen next to the microwave, waiting. I've had a brain-wave: maybe I should ask my husband to stand by on the week-end to rip the strips off for me! After all, I have just read the first part of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. There is a statistical chance that he may well be turned on by this. Not sure about me though: the sight of those strips full of hair has always made me feel slightly sick. When push comes to shove, perhaps I should stick to my razor.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
For fear this post might be boring, I'll speed it up.. I start at the library at 7.30 am Mons and Tues - patrons are admitted only at 10.00 so that we can shelve the previous day's books. As I was leaving I couldn't find my remote to open our electric gates. I rode my scooter yesterday - probably I've left it in the bike which is inside the garage. Curse. Husband is away on business - has his remote with him. Small son has left early for work and is already far away with his. Phoned daughter to rescue me with hers. She would come after dropping her son at school. Half an hour to wait. Phone the library to explain I'll be late. A bad thought: even if daughter opens the gate to the property, her remote is not set up to open my garage, so I am still stuck at home. I phone her cell to tell her not to bother - she doesn't answer. Phone big son: does his remote open my garage perhaps? He thinks not. Pause. "Mom, is your garage open or closed?" "It's closed". "Then how could your remote be inside it?" Very long pause: ancient brain cells tick over. I finally remember that yesterday I had worn my cream, leather jacket to ride my bike because of the wind. Possibly, breaking my habit of putting all keys in my handbag, I had put the remote in the jacket's pocket, while struggling out of my helmet when I came home. Locate jacket in secret cupboard (I've a phobia about burglars and hide my favorite things). Remote found in pocket! Sheepish thank-you e-mail to big son and quick call to daughter who had not yet left home. Rush to get into car inside garage - set off alarm - usually hubby disables alarm when he leaves for work, but he was away last night. Wait for phone call from alarm people - about 10 mins. Nothing. Leave for library. Arrive at library 3/4 hour late. This is OK because am volunteer. Day passes. 5.00pm. - Receive call from alarm people to say they couldn't get me this morning (hah!)- Is everything OK, they ask?
Monday, 8 October 2012
|Tool for holding long planks up high|
|Damage from leaking roof !|
|Camera-shy hubby replacing rusted light switch fitting|
|Limit of planks fitted because of short ladder. Old damp on wall.|
|Compresssor to power nail gun - 8 kilo|
|Nail gun - makes life much easier|
Sorry for erratic placing of photos - did my best but they seem to jump around regardless of my intentions.
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
|Now has twenty flowers and lots of leaves|
I was flabbergasted recently while waiting for an overdue refund on my credit card - I had lent my daughter about $900 while she waited for a cheque to clear for a hospital admission. We were assured at the reception desk that the accounts department would "pick it up" and I would receive my refund within a week. After ten working days, I looked into the matter and spoke to the lady responsible for the account. She told me the money had been refunded to my son-in-law's account that day, and I should ask him to transfer it over to myself. Indignantly, I asked how she could overlook the fact the the credit card was in a completely different name? I got no acceptable answer and only a reluctant apology, she just "assumed" she said, when I started to make a fuss. As usual, I blamed myself. I should not have trusted that the verbal exchange at reception would be passed on; I should have detailed the request in writing and faxed it to Accounts. I made the classic mistake of 'assuming' !! You know the old adage? If you 'assume' anything, your make an ass out of you and me. (Ass-u-me). I made the same mistake a week later. I saw an ad at a nursery some distance away for an identical pot that I had received as a gift for my resurrected cyclamen. It was advertised at a quarter of its price but I (prudently, I thought), first telephoned to check that they had stock. "Just a moment", the assistant said and he obligingly went to look; he came back to confirm that they had just one left in the color I wanted. Thrilled I rushed off and eventually found the pot, badly shop-soiled and chipped, with a display of artificial flowers in it. Why hadn't I been warned? No-one would have bought it for any price in that condition. Should I complain? One is inclined to let things go, accepting that in today's world, standards and work ethics are not what they were. On the other hand, I am not working, I have time to do these things: I should represent the interests of all those busy people who encounter the same sort of problems but don't have time to phone. I expect my conscience will make me do it eventually.
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
It's just as well that I help at the library twice a week - that's when I catch up on a bit of female interaction, otherwise, apart from family, I am in danger of becoming a bit of a recluse. I mentioned this morning, while shelving books, that I had taken my No.2 granddaughter - 18 months - for her first swimming lesson. You have to get into the water with these tots, and most of the lesson takes place with the small person either perched on your knee, or in your arms. As it was her first time, she got rather tired after 20 mins and began her latest thing of pinching me, or the teacher or anyone else in the vicinity. I reflected that these touches from tiny fingers are actually quite painful and (if my daughter is not looking), I pinch fairly firmly back so that she at least knows that it hurts. My daughter is inclined merely to administer a gentle tap on the nappy which has no effect whatsoever. I further noted that in contrast to her gentle 3-year-old cousin, who as yet has no other sibling, this feisty little one has quickly learned ways to stand up to her older brother, who takes no nonsense from her when she wants to grab his current favorite toy. This reminded my library colleague of an anecdote of when her own daughter was three and being terrorised at her day-care by a little boy who went around biting all the children when the teacher wasn't looking. Most didn't retaliate. When her father heard of this, he took her aside one bedtime and explained how she should react and told his wife that the problem would now be sorted. The next day, when she arrived at school, this little girl when straight up to the boy in question and, unprovoked, gave him a hefty punch in the stomach. Of course, the teacher happened to see this and the parents were contacted. My colleague was very cross with her husband, who defended himself indignantly saying, "But I told her only to do it if he bit her again!" Needless to say, there was no more biting in the class and one can't really blame the little girl. She was only 3 - and certainly remembered the important part.
Monday, 1 October 2012
I thought the ambiguity of this title might by eye-catching. Depending on your life experience, did you immediately think of (a) being drunk or (b) plastering a wall? I bet you didn't think it would be about applying a plaster to an injury? Aha! Now that my aging D-I-Y husband has been galvanized into action re fixing up our house before his retirement in 18 months time, my thoughts have turned to checking out our First Aid Kit and making sure I have it handy when he makes tracks for his garage. Last week-end, my vigilance (ear cocked for bad noises in the garage) lapsed for a few minutes while I went to hang out washing and sure as eggs is eggs, my husband's face appeared sheepishly around the back door, looking for me. "I fell a bit hard," he reluctantly admitted and limped over to show me a variety of wounds, mostly scrapes and grazes, a nasty wedge of skin around his shin bones (bleeding), but every part of his arms and legs seemed to have sustained some sort of attack. He was a bit shaky, so I hurriedly sat him down and applied First Aid. Need I say that I grabbed the nearest things - a bottle of Dettol, bowl of water and my best (cleanest) kitchen cloths - and not the First Aid Kit at all. When I inspected it later, the darn thing contains a whole lot of itsy-bitsy plasters and things, all hygienically individually wrapped so firmly that it is the Devil's job to get hold of anything if you are in a hurry. My own preference re Band Aid, is the kind that comes in a long strip in a box, from which you can easily cut off the desired length without difficulty. I had some of this, which is just as well as I needed a really long bit (about six inches) to successfully deal with my husband's leg. We treated it with antiseptic cream and a new bandage every day. Five days later, he woke up to find the bottom of this leg swollen and a strange, dark discoloration on the inside of his ankle. Despite his objections, I took him straight to the doctor. "Cellulitis" and a double dose of the strongest anti-biotics. Knowing my husband well, the doc commented, "if you'd waited another couple of days, we would have had to amputate the leg". (Wink at me). I had remembered the same symptoms had appeared on his mother's leg when she had grazed her shin on the buckle of an old-fashioned suitcase. Same story. How did he fall? Well, he has a Black and Decker Workmate, which he has used as a step-ladder for the last twenty-two years. Clearly, it wasn't designed to take a 200lb + weight any longer and it finally collapsed. I don't blame it. We have now bought a decent stepladder.