Saturday, 30 November 2013

Holding Hands

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It occurred to me that the hands must be one of the most sensitive and communicative of parts of the human body.  Obviously, their uses are multitudinous, too many to try to list here,  but what an amazing network of nerve-endings they must be. Just think about it a bit.  In everyday life, we depend on them for everything and in our relationships, how thrilling is it to hold hands for the first time with a boyfriend, to hold the tiny hand of a baby or to offer one finger for a trusting toddler to hold to stabilize its first tottering steps. How nice is it to still hold hands with your partner of forty years plus?  What about holding the hand of a comatose patient in a hospital, or just to give comfort for someone who is sick.  And holding the hand of someone who is dying.  I regret to this day, that I couldn't be there for my dad when he passed away in England, and that although my mother looked into my eyes when she died in her own bed and pretty bedroom, supported by my brother who was trying to give her a drink of water, I was not holding her hand, I was doing my knitting and asking her to help me with a mistake I thought I had made.  I did not have a tactile relationship with my mother and I am sorry.  I try hard to rectify that with my own daughter and grandchildren.  It's so important and actually hard for me, as I didn't know it myself.  Luckily, and seemingly by an Act of God,  I have stumbled across a husband who loves physical contact and is unselfconsciously affectionate. I am so grateful.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Food Routine or Routine Food and other related thoughts

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Just read Bossy Betty's post and resultant comments, in which she observes that most of us eat the same breakfast every day, but vary lunch or dinner. As she says, wouldn't we go insane eating the same dinner every night?  I guess that depends on which part of the world you live in and your economic status. If you are well off, it also depends on how interested you are in food. Our Medical Aid magazine advocates lots of healthy easy-to-make meals but they involve expensive ingredients like fillet steak or smoked salmon.  When my husband is away, I just buy cans of baked beans and indulge twice a day in beans on toast with a glass of milk.  Once when I was alone for two weeks, I ate this all the time, varied by a helping of ice cream.  I loathe routine.  Once I thought I just couldn't bear the idea of getting up every morning and having to face myself in the mirror to wash my face and clean my teeth. Of course, I had to get over that. As far as food is concerned, it just isn't of great interest to me - but that's because I only really get excited about fresh cream cakes or dessert - which I dare not eat.  My daughter is married to an ex-restauranteur, who expects imaginative and amazing dishes every night, and won't eat the same item in a 3-week time span.  My daughter is constantly striving to live up to these expectations. She is now married for 7 years.  I have been married for 35 and am heartily bored with cooking. However, my daughter has introduced me to a website, where 'The Doorstep Chef' delivers marvellous meals to your home, Monday to Friday (or any day you want) for such a reasonable price I can't see how they can make a profit. I got very excited about this, as my daughter says the meals are terrific, but my stick-in-the-mud husband says as I don't 'work' I have plenty of time to think of an evening meal and besides I have lots of free meat in our big deep freeze, from our farmer relatives who always bring us supplies when they come to stay. The trouble is I am not fond of meat. No, I could easily eat a bowl of rice or similar every day for my evening meal and not worry at all as long as my stomach was full. On another level, I've always envied anyone who gets a uniform to wear to work. That would suit me down to the ground. I live in my head, not in my outside or in my stomach.  Hmm, I see my theme is somewhat at variance with my claim not to like routine.  What I mean is, someone else imposing a routine on me, if I do it myself, that's different.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Leave Well Alone

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My mother's speech was scattered with favorite and aposite sayings for every occasion. This was one of her favorites whereas my brother goes by the maxim of "If it's not broken, don't fix it".  e.g. HIs wooden letterbox is falling to pieces and hanging onto his wall by one screw. Brother's attitude is, "It still works". Big son was in Brussels last week-end,  (he is at the moment working in the UK, which he does twice a year) with some mates.  In his hotel room, on the second day, he found his passport to be missing and frantically reported same to the police, who, very efficiently, cancelled it for him on the spot and put out alerts for stolen document etc. Later that day, big son found his passport - merely in a different pocket in his rucksack from where he usually puts it.  Belatedly, he remembered thinking earlier that this other pocket would be a safer option.(LOL). Moral of the story:  never ever think you have found a better hiding place for a thing you have successfully hidden in the same place for the last fifteen years. It won't work.  Now the interesting part is that big son is due to come home on Friday and is as we speak, desperately trying to 'uncancel' his passport. He says he won't know until he actually has to present it at the airport whether it will work or not. Watch this space.

Monday, 11 November 2013

What's In A Name?

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Naming a child has been an important event in family life throughout history, involving many and various traditions both cultural and personal to the particular family and often subject to the vagaries of fashion.  When I was young, the children in my class were largely called, Nigel, Paul, Philip, John, Susan, Jane, Janet and Margaret. I thought the names of my father's generation were awful: his siblings went by the names of Blanche, Edna, Rowsell and Gladys, his own name being even more dreadful - Harold.  My grandmother's name was Ethel, or was it Mabel?  No matter. Ugh. I chose traditional names for my own children: Catherine, Nicholas and Andrew, and when they started having theirs, I begged that they remember just one thing:  please choose something everyone can both pronounce and spell without asking "Could you repeat that, please?"  They have managed quite well unlike a cousin, who named their first child, Jared - at least that's how I thought it was spelt - turns out it is in fact, "Jarrod" and a cousin in Australia has a girl called Georgia, well, that's what I put on my birthday calendar. Wrong again. They spell it "Jorga",  which to me contravenes all the spelling rules I learned at school.  However, English is nothing if not a language of exceptions to the rule, so I may not judge. We have a lot of bi-lingual primary schools in this country, English/Afrikaans, and in the smaller towns the classes are not even separate.  My library colleague was telling me that a friend of theirs, a grown man whose name is 'Riaan'  (Afrikaans), is mysteriously referred to as 'Amriaan', by contemporaries who were in his first grade at school, when they were all 6-years old. She asked him one day why this was. He told her that on the first day, the teacher had each child stand up and introduce himself and when it was his turn, he thought he would show off his knowledge of English and said, "I am Riaan". No-one was expecting to hear words of another language and so all, including the teacher chorused, "Hello, Amriaan!"  And so it stuck.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Fear of the Dentist's Bill - Catch 22

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My husband has known for the last 12 months that he needed major dental work on his back molars but went visibly pale at the size of the quote and so put it on the back burner.  His teeth started hurting in that area about six months ago, but, having simultaneously other health problems, more financially pressing at the time, he again ignored the signs.  Currently,  after some weeks of severe pain, he finally went to see our dentist, who prescribed an antibiotic in case of an abcess, measured him up for the necessary treatment and sent the updated quote.  To date, neither of us has summoned the courage to open the e-mail attachment (what horrors await?).  The antibiotic was finished a week ago, but the pain has now progressed along the side of his jaw.  Another week to go before the first available appointment.  Now it's painkillers and anti-inflammatories. And bad tempers all round.  Were the old days better when I lived in the UK and every 'old' person I knew had identical sets of false teeth which cost nothing?  I only know that my aunt's have never fitted properly, her cheeks have caved in, and she struggles to chew anything and my grandfather's used to clack up and down loosely and noisily while he ate. Just thought I would share those thoughts.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Wacky World of the Manic Depressive

I've become interested in this condition since learning that we have two in-law family members who suffer from this condition and one neighbor across the street.  One could have suspected that the amazing Stephen Fry would have the illness and I have just watched a DVD he made, which is an investigation into the disease which was only diagnosed in himself when he was 37, after a history of being expelled from school for various manic misdemeanors and a stolen credit card spree when he was 17 (followed by time in a juvenile correction facility).  Luckily for him, his intellectual genius and acting career have made him lots of money as during manic phases, he gets the urge to spend, spend, spend.  He admits to having to date 14 i-pods, 12 computers and many other gadgets/clothes etc. He says that at one point during the 1980s he had 11 cars. Wow.  To date, he has been resistant to drug treatment, preferring to enjoy the highs and suffer through the lows of the disease. He interviewed fascinating people in this program, including the actors, Richard Dreyfuss and the Star Wars princess, Carrie Fisher, fellow sufferers.  The really interesting thing was that of everyone that he asked, "Would you prefer not to have had this illness?",  all said that the highs were so amazingly creative and fantastic that they would rather suffer through the lows than never to have had the manic experience at all, when they are living in a super-charged world,  somewhere above the rest of us, possessed of an energy most of us can only dream about.  While that may be great for them, it can be very hard for their nearest and dearest, and of course, a percentage do commit suicide during the lows, when they feel absolutely worthless.  Maybe the rest of us should be grateful to be normal? Do we have a tiny regret about missing something?  I've never even had a drug-induced high. Never wanted or needed it though.  I've always wanted to be in complete control of my mental state.  I count myself very lucky.  Even here in Cape Town, there are drug vendors on every corner.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Blinded by Science

NB- We have 3-pin plugs in SA. Another bone of contention

I might have mentioned that I have been very much in awe of our smart, new SMEG dishwasher?  Well, this week I switched it on before we went to bed and emptied it in the morning, thinking that the teaspoons felt a bit 'gungy',  and then noticed that none of the lights was flashing.  Normally, it signals the end of its cycle by intermitttently flashing all the lights.  Then I noticed water pooled in the bottom. Eventually, I worked out it had stopped half-way through its cycle and nothing I could do would persuade it to continue. Got the book out. No help.  Checked the plug, noticed that the washing machine which shares the same double plug was working so what was the problem?  I then found a tea-bag in the cutlery container and saw that the water was a murky brown color. Came to the obvious conclusion - this machine is so clever is does not like to rinse with murky water and has thus switched itself off.  Waited for hubby.  He gave me an odd look, when he heard my theory, pulled the machine away from the wall and checked the extension (four sockets in a row) to which the new machine was attached as its cord was too short to plug straight into the wall where the old one was situated.  It was faulty. Hubby fixed it.  All back to normal.  Book showed us how to 'annul' the programme, so that the machine could empty out its water and we could start it again. (Grumble: so many appliances today come with very measly lengths of cord, witness my new hairdryer - have to get the extension out. Same complaint.) So there you are. Please remember my skills are linguistic and that I gave up the mysteries of science/physics/electricity subjects at school when I was 13. As my husband observed, what would I do without him? My answer to this is that we compliment each other.