Tuesday, 30 April 2013

You're So Vain...

When that popped into my head as a title for this post, for some reason I was convinced it was a Beatles' song. I googled to make sure: well, what do you know - it was Carly Simon. What would we do without the Internet?  Anyway, this is about me trying to thread the four needles on my ancient Toyota Overlocker machine.  It is about 15 years since I have used it as it was a rather basic model and I always struggled to get the tension right every time I changed the cotton.  I've just been using the zig-zag on my Husquvarna sewing machine instead.  Now with the big 'clear-out' I have determined to get this machine working again or to sell it.  They came to put the new carpet in my study yesterday, so while I kept a beady eye on them, I spent a happy hour threading up three of the needles of this machine according to the instruction book and an unhappy hour trying every which way to get the last (and simplest) one done. Not a chance.  Not to be defeated I tried a torch, a magnifying glass, licking and squeezing the cotton, repeatedly cutting the thread with a sharp scissors, squinting at the miniscule hole with alternate eyes shut, varying my focal length and finally cursing the inescapable fact that my eyes are not what they were. I waited for big son to emerge from his office on a tea-break and asked him to have a go.  No problem.  One attempt: job done. I have decided to sell the otherwise perfectly working machine on the grounds that I have heard that these days you can get a miracle machine with a self-threader.  The optician did warn me that multi-focal contact lenses would never be as good as glasses. What can I say? I'm too vain.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Blessing in Disguise. Catharthis

Study minus wet carpet

Cupboard awaiting censure

Remember these?

My lounge with matresses & bedding

TV room - kitchen cupboard stuff

Outside room - temporary kitchen

There is nothing like having your back to the wall for making procrastinators like myself get down to having a clear-out.  As the pics illustrate - I've just had to empty my cupboards and throw stuff out, with a view to retiring next year, August, galvanized into action because the insurance people wanted to replace almost all my cupboards because of our flood.  (Watch this space.).  It's odd that you can only throw certain things away when you are ready to do so.  I have hung onto my university notes circa 1971-73 for all these years, thinking that one of my children might need them. Not one of them has. I have finally ditched 7 years of Medical Aid receipts, hoarded since 2007, I've only kept the last 12 months in case the taxman asks for them. I've carted away 3 loads of recycling and been 5 times to hospice with 'stuff' that they assure me they can sell.  I feel so good! I feel as if I have embarked on a new stage of my life.  One other thing has resulted from this cleansing:  I have gathered all the photographs of my mother, my father, my childhood, the pics of my great-aunts, the notes I made when I quizzed my dad about his life after my mom died -  and I am busy making several scrap books.  The first one I am tackling is about my own life (I dont' feel emotional about that), then I'll do one each for my mom and my dad. I still chastise myself that I didn't get more details from them both. I console myself with the thought that one day, at least one of my children will be interested in family history after we are gone. Have any of you thought about this? It's fine when we are all alive and healthy. Who thinks ahead?  It has hit me like a ton of bricks how much I don't know about my parents' histories now that they are gone.  I hope to leave my own children with a different legacy - the story of my life. No holds barred.  Hopefully, it will have meaning, for at least one of them.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

He Who Could Laugh Last, but didn't

The epitome of Neatness - sadly, not my shelves

We hit a wobbly with our new kitchen cupboards yesterday. With only the doors to put on (promised for this morning), our guys arrived very shamefaced to inform me of a 'slight problem' - the factory has let them down on the cupboard doors - they now discover they don't have enough orders for this finish and so are not prepared to cut the small amount needed for us (35 doors in all). Ours, it seems, is not a popular choice.  (So why offer it?) Dilemma.  The afternoon was full of angst, irritation and indecision and phoning up to my husband, who had flown up to Pretoria for two days on business. Eventually, I agreed to phone them back first thing in the morning with our decision on the options available, once he had returned. Meanwhile, two of the team quietly carried on putting up shelves on the other side of the kitchen.  I only noticed when my husband pointed it out that night that they had made a mirror image of the ones I had requested on the other side, so that although I now had beautifully matching sets, I had no shelf high enough to place a box of Cornflakes, or my bottles of cooking oils etc.  Vaguely, I had only a passing thought that as I would be getting a lot more cupboards than before - everything would somehow fit in. Chiding myself that I had not worked out all the measurements on paper with appropriate diagramsI told them the guys these shelves must come down and be altered.  As they build them daily in situ, I had not given much precise attention to detail as we made changes as we went along. This whole project has actually caught me on the back foot, because it has only happened because of our flood. To his credit, hubby has not rubbed in the fact that I had not thought about the heights of the cornflakes or the cooking oil.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mother Love. Not.

It has been a bit of a disastrous month for our family in general. Last Saturday, big son & family were going to join us at our holiday house: their car's engine burst into flames as they were leaving town to the extent that even the fire engine arrived. Our neighbor popped over to see how our kitchen cupboards were getting on and let slip that small son and friends had been observed, one Saturday night while we were on holiday,  trying to straighten up the driver's door on his (well, still mine until he pays for it) car. B had been alerted to this activity by a loud "tat...tat...tat..tat...tat" noise, which on looking out of his window, he deduced must have been one of small son's attempts to demolish our electric gate, this time by presumably reversing out too close to it with his door open (having to push start the car yet again, thus rattling the door down the row of uprights along the fence. When confronted with this information, small son claimed no damage to his car (we noticed a few slightly bent poles on the fence/gate); in fact, said he, he could now again close his window, which had been impossible for the last two years. Sometimes there is an upside. Meanwhile, big son has had to borrow transport from me, as he is working daily at my house until he gets a telephone line at his new residence.  He wanted my scooter and at first, I said an emphatic no, pointing out that if he were to be in an accident in the rush hour traffic, there might be extreme damage to my scooter. (Giggle).
Google image
  No, really, I have to admit that was my very first thought - followed only a millisecond later by concern that my son might lose a limb. I've had to relent as I felt bad and also because big son filled the scooter's tank for me (5 litres) and I felt sorry for him in that he much misses the one he had in London, which is where he drove to work for a year and is also where he passed the stringent UK test. So he'll be OK. As for small son. No comment other than to say that he is learning a lot of life's lessons lately, he's paying off medical bills and saving up for his 'reckless' driving fine.  Although the traffic department has already sent two notices, they said he must await the summons: they haven't sent out last October's ones yet.  So he has a chance to save up for the no doubt hefty fine. Too bad.
PS - Small son bought a new battery for his car last month: he just won't believe his father when told that the huge speaker system keeps draining it.

More on The Lazy One

Google pic

Back from the library this morning after my two-hour physical fitness stint of shelving books. The Lazy One was again absent this week - on sick leave. This time her foot is sore. I ventured a guess that by the end of the financial year, she would have used up every one of her sick days. The upside is that the staff hardly ever notice her absence, as she does so little when she is there. They have got used to gradually taking over most of her tasks.  There is no hope of even getting her a disciplinary hearing because she is a "BEE" appointment, (Black Economic Advancement).  A real source of irritation is that she is paid on the same grade as the Deputy Librarian. The ironies of life. Amazing - when I tried to find a Google pic to illustrate this story - they were 98% men!  But I liked the words of this one.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Hilarious Error of Judgement

Pics of men stuck in doorways were not very flattering

We worked on my side of the built-in cupboards in the 'dressing-room' this week-end. Things went swimmingly according to hubby's measurements - as far as the units were concerned.  When we carried in the last section, however, we found that hubby could no longer get through the doorway, short of turning sideways and shuffling crab-like through the abbreviated aperture.  He had not thought to measure himself. So back to the cutting room floor, where my side had to be shortened by about 20 cms. As I was a bit put out at my loss of hanging space, hubby generously offered to give me occupation of some of his drawers.  I bargained for the lower ones, so that I wouldn't have to fetch a ladder so often and all was amicably resolved.  I thought it was all hilarious but hubby didn't see the funny side, especially as he had earlier boasted of his accurate measuring and ordering of materials - even to the point that he had exactly the right number of screws and brackets.  Pride goes before a fall.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Closet Dream

The Dream

Hubby's side - drawers below not in yet
The wood for two  cupboards
As we near the end of our building project for our retirement, we have turned our attention to the cupboards. We've built some in the kitchen and are now tackling our dressing room which leads off our bedroom. I couldn't believe how much wood arrived for such a small room. Or how heavy it was. I carried most of it up the stairs while hubby painted out the space.  Then he came to help me and immediately there was blood. He cut about three fingers on the sharp edge of one of the panels.  I was wearing gloves. The fun part for me was sorting out all the pre-cut pieces from the measurements on the invoice and matching them up with my husband's drawings. A bit like a jigsaw - so right up my street. I was then required to help with the screwing together and carrying the finished sections into the room where we heaved them (and sometimes squeezed them) into place for the final fit. We've only almost done hubby's side so far. The opposite side of the room will house my things and has a different design - lots of tall hanging space. We haven't yet done the drawers for the bottom part either.  Hubby has already put some old working clothes and bits and pieces into his side, so that it's pristine appearance is somewhat spoilt.  I guess I had fondly imagined beautiful racks of Saville Row suits and a row of white shirts - as witnessed in some movies I've seen. (Sigh). When he retires I plan to move all the shabby stuff into the drawers and leave on permanent display his office suits, shirts and ties.  Maybe I shouldn't.  It probably won't do to hark back to his working days - in more ways than one.  We must live for the now, having done as much as we can to prepare for the future.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Hard or Soft?

It seems that the debate rages on re the benefits of a hard or soft mattress. For years when we were younger, my husband and I conformed and slept on a 'firm' posturepeadic, even inserting a hard board beneath it at one stage, congratulating ourselves that we were doing the best thing for our backs. In latter years however, we both started to get awful backache, which sometimes woke us up at night when we turned over, (I felt as if the mattress was rubbing a hole in my hip), and when we got up in the morning, both of us had stiff and sore backs.  We changed to the softest mattress we could find (not easy to find) and haven't looked back. Mention this to others however and there is heated debate, even people older than us asserting that they can only sleep on a firm mattress and the medical profession, according to them, still agrees. Logically as I see it, if you look at the curvature of the human spine, especially in the lumbar region, the softer the mattress, the better it will fit to your natural shape: I remember having blissful sleeps on a mattress made exclusively of feathers when I was young. You just sank into it, it took on your shape and you didn't stir for the rest of the night: mind you, I suppose the point is that I was young.  Or is it that everyone's spine is different? Different strokes for different folks. I thought all spines were similar until one day I had an X-ray for a hip problem.  Looking at it, my GP exclaimed, "Well, there's nothing wrong with your hip but look at your back! Your lumbar vertebrae are deformed (the transverse processes) - but don't worry, looks like you were born this way".

Friday, 12 April 2013

Taken for a Ride

A while ago I inherited a little jewellery which included two fine gold chains and two rings. I got the rings re-sized and decided to have one of them re-set. To this end I took the ring to a nearby manufacturing jeweller and showed him what I wanted done. I then put the two gold chains on the counter and asked if they could be used in the re-setting, if needed. The young apprentice was about to weigh the two chains but his boss intervened and said it was not necessary, thanked me, took the chains and told me the work would take about a week. I duly fetched the ring and was charged R1200 (about $155)  as per the quote. Nothing was mentioned about the chains and I thought nothing of it at the time.  A while later I happened to need a gold chain for another purpose and was amazed at how expensive they are. I began to wonder.  I wondered even more when the tiny ring which connects to the clasp on my pearl necklace broke and I went back to the same place to have it fixed. This took about 5 minutes and I half expected the same man to say, "No charge, madam".  To my surprise he said the new tiny ring was 9 ct gold and I owed him R60 (about $8).  Without a word, I paid up and left the shop.  This tiny piece of gold is a circle about 1.5 mm. in diameter. It seemed a huge price to me. I was sorry I hadn't asked him for a quote in the first place and further suggested that a piece of stainless steel wire would have served the purpose. He must have seen me coming. Of course I won't ever go back there and in future: I shall do my homework or go for two quotes. We live and learn: no use crying over spilt milk.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Before going on holiday, we had to organise continued Internet access in remote areas as my husband had suddenly to do the end-of-month work figures himself as his 2-i-C was rushed to hospital for a triple bi-pass just before we left and would be booked off for some weeks. The figures would involve several Excel spread-sheets and lots of e-mail correspondence. With some trepidation we dusted off our trusty Toshiba laptop, which although bulky and with an almost useless battery, (big son said we should use it as a doorstop) was fully equipped with Microsoft Office and was known to be reliable if plugged into a power source. In addition and with the partial assistance of some useful e-bucks, we purchased the latest, 4th generation i-pad, at our children's insistence - and then couldn't get the Internet to work, having loaded 'data' and purchased and registered the necessary SIM card.  Frustration levels climbing, we called in at every mobile phone shop in all the picturesque little villages we passed through, to be met with polite but incomprehending smiles, "we only sell them, sir,  we don't know how they work".  Eventually, we did establish that nothing was wrong with the SIM card and therefore surmised that we were missing something regarding the i-pad. Eventually, big son did some research and messaged us that we should go to the 'Cellular Data' menu, 'General' and see if there were User Name and Password fields. If they were blank (they were), we should insert MTN in both spaces.  Hey presto!  How come no-one told us that in the first place?  The next problem was finding sufficient signal 'in the bush' to get all the e-mails sent. Drama, drama, patience, driving around and finally - success. Then, we could relax and enjoy our holiday.  I came home to find my best friend, distractedly poking at the buttons on her new phone. "It's so painful, getting a new phone", she sighed. Amen to that. I am not yet a great fan of our i-pad - the keyboard is too small for touch-typing. So glad to get home and back to blogging on my big PC.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Home after Hols

The last three weeks have been a mixture of great relaxation and underlying concern. The morning after our first night away, rejoicing in the start of  our annual holiday,  Small son woke up to a house full of water back home and phoned in a panic. We had to talk him through turning off the municipal water supply on the pavement and tracing the gushing to the flexi-pipe under the sink in the kitchen, (new less than a year ago). Big son arrived to work from my study and found himself instead wielding a bucket, to help clear ankle-deep water while small son swept out the house.  Then ensued much telephoning to our insurance company, visits from the assessor, liaising with big son as best they could until we returned two weeks later to further sort out the mess by which time the house had acquired a pretty musty smell from the damp wood in the kitchen and the carpets in the two affected bedrooms. Meanwhile, we determined to enjoy our holiday, reflecting that we have a tendency to experience disasters while we are away: there have been three deaths in the family and one of a close friend and now this. The flood jinx stayed with us -   On the third day away, we woke up to find our chalet surrounded by water, the path submerged and children joyfully splashing their bicycles through it. Guess what? They had a  burst  pipe. No shower or coffee that morning. Luckily, we were on our way to our next port of call.  By coincidence, we also had a lot of rain on this holiday - very unusual over Easter. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell us something? One good thing - as we are now  obliged to replace half our kitchen cupboards, we have decided to do the rest as well. Been meaning to do that for the last five years. Although this has turned out to be a rather watery holiday we did have a good time, driving slowly up the East coast of South Africa, staying in several of our National Parks and staying with family over the Eater week-end.