Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Great Christmas Guests

Google image

I was a little nervous when our niece phoned and asked if she and her family (husband and five teenagers) could visit us for a week after Christmas.  They had left it too late to get a booking for 7 anywhere and they wanted to show the children Cape Town. They live in Pretoria - about 1200 miles north.  Although we do have 4 bedrooms, two with queen-size beds and double bunks, I did wonder how we would all fit in - as all my children also announced they wanted to see their cousins and would thus be coming too. In the end, the Northerners have proved to be the easiest house guests I have ever had. The matriarch (my niece) organises her brood with casual (but firm) precision e.g. "We are all having muesli for breakfast tomorrow" - and no-one argues! She shopped for groceries - surely enough for a small army - and I haven't had to provide a single meal.  In fact, hubby and I have snacked on their food as well and they have taken us all out for dinner. Even with such large numbers, I have been amazed that e.g. today - they piled into their RV before 7.30 am (all having eaten muesli) and were off to see Cape Town, an hour's drive away. They are all pretty fit and half wanted to walk up Table Mountain (too much wind for the cable car today) and the other half headed for the mall. They are all polite and delightful young people and every single one offers to help with chores and they make their beds and clean up after themselves. Even the bathroom is spotless. Something to be said for large families. They can visit us anytime. NB Small son is coming back tomorrow with more friends to spend New Year with us all: I hear tents will be erected in the garden.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The 4-Hour Work Week

If only

This transferring of my phone line has left me without Internet for 10 days...
Anyway, back to the subject of Small Son.  He is thoroughly enjoying his unofficial apprenticeship as a Project Manager for his brother-in-law's proposed building concern.  In January, he is supposed to have learnt enough to go it alone. That would be after six months practical experience.  As I understand it, this means my son-in-law plans to put money into developing new homes and Small Son is to manage the projects.  This wouldn't worry me so much, if small son hadn't taken the above book out of the library recently.  The other featured text on the front cover says, "Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich."  Hmmm.  There is a picture of a guy in a hammock under palm trees also on the front cover. But I am tired of worrying about small son: it's worrying enough how we are to survive ourselves. Life is entirely hectic at the moment. We are still packing cases every week-end and rushing to and fro. At least the cupboards are finished. We are looking forward to a family function on 2nd January.  My sister-in-law will have been married for 50 years and there is to be a big celebration. She got married at 19, moved to a farm and has lived there ever since. My husband can't wait - he was quite a little boy at her wedding. - it will be his first trip ever without having to apply for leave and without having to rush back to work. He is going to find it very strange.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

An Old-Fashioned Proposal

Wilkie Collins

I have only just discovered the joys of finding free books on my i-pad, having clicked on the icon, 'i-books'.   I see on a cursory viewing that many of the classics are available at the click of a button and I chose to have a look  at Wilkie Collins's : "A House to Let" because we had his "The Woman in White" as a set book when I was in High School. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery story and I just love the sedate, gentle, humorous writing style of the times. Wilkie was born in 1824 and lived to 1829.  Consider this proposal of marriage: "Can there be any reason, my dear Mrs Smith, as to why we two should not put up our horses together?"  (Slightly misquoted). Not surprisingly the lady in question is a little mystified by this as it is her lodger speaking and he has heretofore given no inclination that he had anything else on his mind other than having his hot bath prepared and his tea correctly made in the morning. Other niceties of language follow delightfully on every page. Sometimes it is really nice to escape from the 21st century and slow the pace a bit.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Modern Allergies

Finally went for the keyhole surgery on my knee, mindful that next year we have to downsize our Medical Aid as the company will no longer be paying half.  I was determined not to have another allergic reaction either to the propellant in the antiseptic spray or the waterproof plaster or the latex in the plaster as per my last op., so I was guilty of repeating myself re said allergies to all and sundry all the way to the operating table (literally) as the anaesthetist saw fit not to give me a 'happy pill' before the big jab as I wouldn't be out for long.  Just as well, since once in the theatre my bed refused to be jacked up so I had to get off and climb onto the table under my own steam (aren't they narrow!). I awoke to immediately examine the state of my knee and found it correctly bandaged only in old-fashioned cotton wool and stretchy crepe. Unfortunately, this was almost from thigh to ankle and quite tight (thrombosis precaution), so I was forced to limit my activities for the prescribed three days as I couldn't bend my leg. Whilst waiting to be 'put under' the theatre sister told me she had once had an allergic reaction to hair dye - her scalp swelled.  The next time she used the same product (duh!), her face swelled up alarmingly as well.  My daughter confided to me last week (some time after the fact, of course),  that when she was trying on bras a couple of weeks ago, she noticed her one breast was visibly swelling, (she had a breast enlargement two years ago after having breast-fed two children for nine months each). Alarmed, she drove straight to her surgeon's office and he lanced the area.  A large amount of fluid had accumulated around the one implant - her body had suddenly decided it didn't like this foreign body. The surgeon duly drained the area, saying that this was only the third case he had seen in twenty years. She had to be on 4-hourly antibiotics for two weeks.  Apparently, it is unlikely to recur and she still has the implants. I can't help feeling we subject our poor bodies to too many chemicals in today's world.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Productive Week-end

Downstairs room - christened 'The Library"

Once again, a week-end of work.  However, we now have a 'finished' product. I have yet to pack the shelves properly and hubby's copies of "Popular Mechanics" and "Handyman" are to be added to the bottom shelves . I've also just noticed that small grandson got hold of the balsa wood models of truck and rhino  (now not in their right places), so there are empty spaces where there shouldn't be .... however, you get the picture.  What is not obvious, are the faults.  It's all very well to say that erecting your own shelving is a walk in the park. What is not stated are the following:  the frustrations when the sections wouldn't fit because the ceiling/wall were not straight, the hardware store had not (a) cut the sections correctly or (b) bits were missing or incorrectly measured. The fact that you have to have quite a lot of wood-working tools to make the job feasible. You also need quite a large dose of common sense, not to mention, philosophical acceptance of your own mistakes (mis-measuring) or the hardware store's (mis-measuring/careless gluing). Still, I am happy with the result: two week-ends work.  Most of the paperbacks I have carted round the world with me since I was a student, circa 1969 - 1975, and I know that I will never read them again. No matter they are yellowed with age. They represent a part of my life that I am comforted by referring to. Now they form 'decor'.  My husband's reading history is not well represented:  when he worked for South AFrican Airways in the 1960s, his books (Wilbur Smith) were regularly confiscated at the airport on his return home.We are so looking forward to moving here permanently. Unfortunately, 'red tape' will have prevented us getting a swimming pool put in before Christmas. These things are sent to try us.  I suspect that a bribe would have expedited the passing of our plans for the pool, but we absolutely refuse to go that route.

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Importance of a Catchy Title

Not everyone's favourite view of our insides

The workings of the human digestive system have always been a somewhat embarrassing topic (until one gets older and we are all in the same boat).  So approaching the topic with humor is obviously the way to go.  I've just listened to the author Mary Roach, who writes books about popular science, being interviewed on the radio. Her latest offering is entitled : "Gulp" and its about, I gather, how to keep oneself 'regular' amongst other related things.  We should live in constant appreciation of our marvelous digestive systems, she says.  In fact "we should give a round of applause to the human rectum!" which functions perfectly well if we treat its needs with respect and 'go' immediately we feel the urge, preferably at the same time each day. The author mentions that she was born when her father was 65 (good for him), and that the mood of their household was 'somewhat bowel dependent'.  This was a hilarious interview  (BBC Woman's World, some time this week).  Apparently, titles of the author's previous books include:  "Stiff" (death) and "Bonk" (self-explanatory).  I am sure they are just as entertaining with much sage advice.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Library Patron from Hell or is it Cloud Cuckooland?

It is a frustrating truism of customer service that says, "The Customer is Always Right".  This is no less true in a Public Library. There has been a tendency in the last few years to hike costs related to overdue books, a necessity which has occurred owing to a steady decrease in government funding. Witness the following dialogue, verbatim as far as I can remember, overheard while I was packing the shelves in the early hours of Monday this week, before the library was open to the public.

LIbrarian (to her colleagues) :  Mrs B. tried her usual tricks to avoid paying her fines yesterday...

Mrs B:  I gave the  $3 to Susan last Friday.
Librarian:  Susan was on leave last Friday
Mrs B:  Oh, no, it was that man over there. I remember now
John:   No, it wasn't me.
Mrs B:  Oh, that's right, it was that Indian lady.
Kareesha: It wasn't me either.
Mrs B:  My mother didn't like the books, so why should I pay the fine?  Call Sandra, she'll cancel the fines for me.

(Names changed).

I am trying my hand at writing my novel having received an enquiry from one of our Book Club members. So grateful am I for her interest, that it has given me the push to start (1500 words so far..)  Interestingly, I am finding dialogue by far the hardest but very necessary part. Narrative is easy but dialogue essential.  I got a book on Creative writing and tips from the Net.  The purpose of dialogue is either to illustrate character or to advance the plot.  Boring day-to-day conversations are to be avoided. Most writers, it says, are great eavesdroppers and note-takers.  (Hence the above anecdote). I do have diaries from my youth, and my blog posts (especially re my eccentric dad), but nothing since except letters to my friends which are still in their hands. So I'm learning as I go. I have actually thought I should just write the whole damn thing (plot is done) and go back and replace scenes with dialogue afterwards.  Also, I've had to wait for one or two people on whom characters are 'loosely based' to die to avoid possible lawsuits. I have also decided not to slow down my typing by leaving out quote marks around speech. Some books are printed without them.

One thing struck me like a bolt of lightening. Why have you not yet started, asks the author?   Excuses proffered:  I am too busy at work, I have to plant those seedlings, I have to clean the house, I am too tired.   These can be rolled into one, says she, namely:

"I don't think I'm good enough'.   Wow.  Sextant, haul yours out and take another look. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Who Says we Can't Age Beautifully?

In the wine-growing area in the Western Cape, roses are just everywhere in spring and summer.  It seems that the farmers are in competition to provide the most spectacular roadside shows. This bush was just bursting with pride and showing off so much, I just had to take it picture for all to see. It's clearly a very old bush - just look at those gnarled and twisted limbs - but topped with the most glorious white blooms.  It made me think of a classy, elegant old lady.  Similarly, our cactus is looking very feminine at the moment: she hasn't at all minded moving to our new home.

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Tale of Two Dresses

Mine is nicer - try Googling

On unpacking yet another box - as more and more cupboards are appearing in our new home,  I found - still in its famous boutique carrier bag - a marvellous 1980s confection of a dress, complete with layers and layers of net that bouffant out in glorious, sparkly black and gold tiers, all ending at the knee.  It is strapless, tight in at the waist and I would have been the belle of the ball. Except that I have never worn it, not even once. My husband won a prestigious award that year, circa 1986, and we were invited to a grand event to receive it. Unlike my usual cautious shopping style, I ventured into one of those tiny, fancy boutiques in Johannesburg and paid a huge amount (albeit on sale) for my dress. I wanted my husband to be proud of me. Triumphantly, I returned home to the small town where we then lived, only to be told that my husband's boss had decided to send his best mechanic instead to receive the award. It seems his thinking was that this man would remain forever in his employ, whereas we would one day move on. We did, so maybe he had a point. But still. Devastated, I kept the dress and over the years I've hoped that either my daughter or my daughter-in-law would want to wear it. Not so far.  My daughter doesn't mince words: "Oh mom, it's awful".  The other girl more politely declined. What? Not even for a fancy dress party? So I am waiting for the inexorable wheel of fashion to turn again from the untidy, scrappy look of the last few years and for it to resurrect the fashions of the '80s. I'm hoping to hear, "Mom, can you lend me that gorgeous dress?"  One of my colleagues at the library still has her wedding dress. Never worn: she decided at the very last minute not to marry the man who had made her pregnant.  She takes the dress out once a year and sends it for dry-cleaning. She doesn't even have a daughter.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

That Perfunctory Hello/Goodbye Kiss and Holding Hands

I saw Kelsey Grammar on TV the other day, talking about his happiness with his 'new' wife and baby. Maybe this time it will last for him.  Not easy to be this kind of celebrity. One thing I remember from the interview that stuck in my mind was him saying that he had been missing a 'real' kiss for so long in his previous relationship. This got me thinking:  every morning when my husband goes to work, he kisses me goodbye.  He has always done it - for 37 years and ditto when he comes home (I've always arrived home first). I noticed that his father always did it too. My dad tried: my mom was usually cross with him for some reason and would try to avoid it. Sometimes I've been surprised that I've got my morning Goodbye: there are times when I've forgotten to put the geyser on and he had a cold shower, and there are the times when I forgot to buy toilet paper/eggs/bread etc. Regardless and no matter how frustrated he might be, he always kisses me goodbye. I understand now that it means that no matter the hassles of ordinary everyday life, he still loves me, no matter what.  It sets the tone for the rest of the day and allows for new beginnings.  Besides it sometimes lasts for up to two seconds.  That's not so perfunctory after all.  What will we do when he retires? We'll have to make another plan. To digress slightly: I draw your attention to  how many older couples hold hands in the street (and not just to steady each other).  Have you ever noticed how sensitive the insides of your palm are? Must be a lot of nerve endings. Delicious and intimate. Well, that's my thought for the day.

Monday, 17 November 2014

An Excessive Customer Service

Better late than never

As we are technically still of No Fixed Abode until mid-December, we finally got ourselves a Post Office Box, actually a private company one (as our national Postal service has been on strike for the last four months).  We decided to get a small parcel mailed there, close to our little flat,  from a company we had previously used about eight months ago to purchase two Eco-shower heads which were not on sale in any retailers in SA.  I duly e-mailed our new box address details to the supplier who had dealt with our last postal order and the same lady promised that the items would arrive within 3 working days. When this did not happen and she had e-mailed to ask if I was happy with my purchase, I tracked the parcel and found it had been delivered to the office close to where we used to live - now far away from our current abode. She had over-ridden my instructions and decided to send it to the office closest to the street address on her records.  It has eventually taken 8 days to get hold of my parcel. It's the old story of never 'ASS-u-me'.  She assumed she knew better than me what my postal address should be.  I assumed she would mail it automatically to the address I had given. I didn't think it relevant to tell her I had changed my street address.  It was a frustrating exercise but I can't really complain. She thought she was going the extra mile.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Story Time should be Story Tme at the Library

Google image
Ours is designed for littlies from about the age of two. I take my smallest grandson, normally a voluble speaker and singer. He has just turned two, but at storytime, he is completely mute, eyes wide, taking everything in but giving me no opportunity to brag about his advanced vocabulary. He sits on my lap, eyeing all the children but not appearing to participate at all. On the way home in the car, I hear immaculate renderings from the backseat re "Insy winsy spider" and the whole gamut of nursery rhymes that were sung that morning. Sadly, today's mothers don't seem to have been indoctrinated with nursery rhymes but thank goodness for grandmothers - and for storytime.  Our librarians do their best to keep up the tradition, recognizing the importance of both rhyme and music in child development. I've done my best to pass on all I learnt at my mother's knee (it seems my own daughter by-passed some of my lessons, but, to my great chagrin she is tone-deaf and can't sing anyway). Still, I've noticed that all my grandchildren can hold a tune and I am most grateful for that. I have one area of concern: our marvelous librarian is retiring next month and her next in line regards 'storytime' as an opportunity to teach as opposed to simply letting the children exercise their imaginations which is to me the definition of 'storytime'.  We have a lot of wonderful books in our children's library but last week the one chosen was a dreary book about re-cycling. It was dead boring. I watched the little ones getting restless and I felt really sorry.  Surely it's time enough to teach the children how to save the planet when they start school, circa age 5-6. It's not necessary at 2 -4.  When I was at Primary School we had a terrific Welsh male teacher who used to read us a chapter from "Kind Solomon's Mines" last lesson, every day.  We sat enthralled. In the last month when I was teaching High School and before I went on pregnancy leave, I played a BBC radio version of "Lord of the Rings" to all my 13-year-olds.  They sat in silence. You could have heard a pin drop.  The voices and special effects were amazing. What do you think

Monday, 10 November 2014

Extract a Smile Week

shy, but pleased

We are having a "Be Kind" week at our library.  I couldn't quite relate to this so I shall simply up the ante on my ongoing  "Extract a Smile" campaign. We do not have much of a "Service with a Smile" ethic in our society at the moment: many in the so-called Service Industries seem to have such deep chips on their shoulders that they must be in constant pain so rare are their smiles.  So I try to extract a smile wherever I go: my main targets are the cashiers at our supermarkets. I've tried all sorts of gambits but I find compliments work best. There's nothing like one woman saying to another, "I must just tell you how nice/smart/beautiful you look today," or "you look fabulous in that outfit" (this to passers-by, and yes, I do waylay some surprised women to do this.) It always results in a dazzling smile. Most of us have given up expecting compliments from the men in our lives. For some reason, I only approach older men in a similar vein, sensing that they probably grew up the way I did - be polite and always greet strangers (perhaps life was more innocent then). I don't include the young in my policy - after all, they have everything going for them, namely all the advantages of youth. Besides, they would be suspicious and think me nuts. I suppose the main reason I do this kind of thing is that I don't have much contact with people during the day. I am not very social, I don't belong to any clubs: in fact, I only have one friend that I see regularly  (story of my life wherever I've lived), so sometimes I like to reach out as long as it is just a passing thing. I suppose I should also try to extract more smiles from my husband - he is finding his last weeks at work very stressful, but he's a harder nut to crack. Misery likes company so when he comes home I am all serious face and sympathy - which seems to cheer him up. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Carpets or Tiles?

Google image - cool, noisy?
Google image - cosy floor, quiet
Probably the main decider is climate.  In the UK, where I grew up, everyone had carpets (even in the bathroom) and everyone, (including once even a young policeman) is required to take off their shoes on entering one's abode. On arriving in a hot country, like South Africa, I soon found that carpets were confined to bedrooms as the outdoor life meant that, men, in particular, gave no thought at all to whatever dirt they tramped into the house, granted that it was more dust than mud. These days, fashion dictates various new types of flooring throughout like vinyl or bamboo or laminated floors. I can't get use to these because to me they look like rooms in UK houses which only looked like that when they were stripped, waiting for new carpets. So in my mind, they look unfinished. Wooden floors were built between floors in double-storey houses. And we all had an upstairs because on a small island with a big population, space has always been at a premium. Surprised was I, a new immigrant to South Africa in 1976, to find that most homes were what we British would call "Bungalows" i.e. single-story homes, nicely spread out. No stairs. Weird. In the UK, only old people lived in such. Times have changed: the young are slaves to fashion. In the two apartments we have now bought since selling our house, one has carpets in the bedrooms and the one we are in has tiles throughout. The downside to tiles in the bedroom is that dust bunnies gather in profusion every time one makes the bed. With carpets, they absorb the dust and store it until one feels like vacuuming. As our bedroom is tiny, I can't move the bed or get the vacuum or broom underneath. Solution: blast the bunnies out with a hairdryer, then sweep them up. I think I prefer carpets as I am not the world's most conscientious housewife.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Two Types of People

Garage at our old house


Motor bike stripped and being rebuilt

Other wood work stuff
I sometimes think that there are basically two types of people:  the practical types who never earn much money but do everything themselves, and the theoretical types, who gather degrees, earn large salaries and pay someone else to do their stuff.  The latter tend to be very sociable, like people and spend most of their leisure time out and about, eating in restaurants, going to shows etc.  Sometimes I envy them.  However, I confess that I belong to the former category as does my husband. We tend to find eating out expensive and a bit of a waste of time. After all, we could be doing 'jobs' at home.  Both of us come from parents who trained us this way. We tend to be content with each other's company and when one of us dies, well, the other will probably get a dog. We do however, often have breakfast 'out' as this means we can work uninterrupted the rest of the day. We like it this way. As we speak, hubby is busy laying tiles in our little flat.  When people ask what is he going to do with himself when he retires  (7 weeks time),  we both look puzzled.  Witness hubby's previous garage at our old house and try to imagine how long it took to move it to the new one.  I don't know how the pictures will upload on my webpage. I hope they look OK.

On my page, the pics have text around them - except the last one (below).

I shall be posting pics of progress at our retirement house next re re-location of garage stuff.

Monday, 3 November 2014

I Just Knew I shouldn't Have....

.... fiddled with every button on the TV remote.  Well, I had two hours of ironing and was watching an undemanding film on the box and thought, "While I am involved in an undemanding chore like ironing, now is the time for me to properly learn how to master the TV remote."  I have always been bothered that there are so many buttons on it that I have been warned not to touch. I wanted to change the picture shape as the people were looking too tall and thin. Which icon?  Several options presented themselves but I couldn't decide which so I pressed the "Analogue/Digital" button as the least ambiguous choice.  Big mistake.  Immediately a black screen, with a 'No Signal' message, 3 fizzy-looking screens if I scrolled up or down accompanied by so much noise, I had to hastily press the mute button. Choosing "Back' had no effect.  In vain, did I then naturally press every single button - nothing. Eventually, I managed to get a "Twin picture" screen - which meant I could still watch my movie in miniature but still no sound.  I could have called my husband away from his cupboards, but I felt I deserved to be punished.  One hour later, having hazarded a somewhat unsatisfactory guess at 'who had dunnit',  hubby came upstairs, pressed one button (in secret) and behold! Everything back to normal.  Meanly, he refused to tell me how he did it, just grinned and went back to his woodwork.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A 50/50 Chance? I don't think so.

Google image

In this department I am convinced the dice have always been loaded against me, although this is not scientifically proven, it's just a subjective feeling I have and a tenuous theory. Examples: we had two adjacent identical light switches in the main passage in our old house - one for the bathroom and the other for the passage light.  In 22 years, I could never remember which was which and I am pretty sure I pressed the wrong one about 80% of the time.  Ditto with my oven:  two choices as to which dial to turn to operate the front burner,  despite the little picture, I choose the wrong one about 80% of the time. Every time I have to turn the faucets off for my washing machine - I turn them the wrong way. However, after many years it has finally occurred to me to devise a mneunomic for this -  'CLosed, CLockwise',  'Open, Anticlockwise'  (two vowel sounds). Note: South Africans open and close faucets whereas in England we turn them on and off. It's taken me a long time to get used to that.  (37 years). I think it is all about whether you are left or right brain-dominant.  Or something like that. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

If Looks could Kill....

Some of the wires in a 747 cockpit
We've had quite a stressful month fixing up the repairs necessary on the new apartment we bought after we sold our house recently.  One of the jobs my husband thought essential was to replace two of the worn-looking solid plates on the old-fashioned stove-top.  The stove is a Defy 600 and so my husband bought the parts and did the job himself. Each plate seemed to me to have about four wires. Having put the hob back together, I ventured to ask if my husband had put all the wires back in the correct places. (This after we had tested all the plates and the oven and they were all working). Did I mention that in another life my husband was an aircraft technician, having worked for 19 years at South African Airways and having served a rigorous apprenticeship of 5 years.  This pic I found on Google is of a cockpit with all the wires in their correct places. You should see one where they are all hanging loose!  I couldn't find the photo we had of such a chaotic scene - I think he took it one day at work in the days before Internet and digital stuff. Suffice it to say that a scornful look was all I received in response to my ill-advised question. He has just finished re-jigging the springs on the roll-up garage door re the same flat (the repairmen hadn't done it correctly). We are finally at home and I can't wait for Thursday when our two lady tenants move in.  At the moment the current worry is that the flat above us, where we live now, is leaking water into our kitchen and bathroom ceilings. Does it ever end?  I shall be so thankful when we have finally retired in December and moved to our well-built house at the lagoon. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sports Day - Lacking the Competitive Gene

She does have a sense of humor
Big son phoned to say I should fetch my grandson a little later this morning as they were all at my granddaughter's Sports Day.  She has just turned 5, so you can imagine the scene.  Big son was quick to tell me he won the Father's Race  (he told me twice in ten minutes) but it was a different story for his daughter.  She came last in all her races especially one -the Pyjama Race,  in which she came extremely last - not having in fact started. She was the first to get the pyjamas on but then spent so long straightening the seams, replacing her aliceband and trying to her hair back into shape that the race was over before she even started. Not in the least bothered, she quite enjoyed the laughter of the spectators.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Small Son Update

Small son with niece

Small son is actually now 25 and still living with us - me doing his washing and ironing, him not paying any board and lodge.  How times have changed.  When I was 18, we couldn't wait to get away from home, guys joined the army, fought and died for their country and generally grew up sooner.  How is it that so many are still living at home?  I gather it is a world-wide phenomenom.  It seems to be related to the lack of jobs in an increasingly mechanised/computerised world.  A bit step forward for us in the area of "growing up" is that small son is about to say goodbye to his 1996 Honda Ballade (which is technically speaking still mine) and hello to the real world of Higher Purchase. Luckily for him, he has had access to a real bargain via my husband's work in the form of a Mitsubishi Colt HIghline diesel-powered PIck-up truck. The car of mine he had is basically now wrecked - he has had to pay to get the gearbox and clutch fixed but the driver's window won't wind down, the glove compartment falls open every time you go over a bump, the air conditioning no longer works etc. etc.  I know all this because I have had to take it to the shop to get the windscreen replaced:  this is not a simple matter because apparently there is a large amount of rust in the bottom corner which first has to be fixed. Still, he has an eager and willing buyer in the form of a Zimbabwean with whom he works. Apparently, his only requirement is that the engine be reliable which it is. I shall be glad to be free of this on-going headache.  Cars are very expensive here and small son will be paying a large amount of his salary to pay for this.  Perhaps for this reason: he will look after it better.  Also to factor into the equation is that as of 15th December small son has to find other lodgings as we will be decamping finally to our retirement house.  He can't afford the rent for either of our apartments so he will have to make another plan. We wait and see. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Talking of Coincidences....

I thought for once I would post a family pic. It's our granddaughter's "Grandparents Day" at her school.  We were treated to cookies and coffee and a sweet concert consisting of the four classes of pre-primary children singing for us.  Then we were given packets of sunflower seeds to plant with the children with the message, "Have faith, the good seed will grow up in their hearts".  What makes things special I think is that our grandchildren - well, big son's children - have two sets of grandparents who have all been married for 37 years to their one and only and what's more - we got married on the same day! That must be quite a record in today's world. And quite a coincidence.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Big Surprise at Book Club

Google image

Most of our Book Club ladies are over 60 so it shouldn't be a surprise that some have had remarkable lives.  Probably all. We are quite a cultural mix, Jewish, Afrikaans, ex-pats from Zimbabwe and England, Dutch: but we are all South African. While waiting for the evening to begin I noticed our new member, an elderly Dutch lady sitting next to me, was paging through a hand-written journal whose pages were so yellowed I asked her about it. She told me she had started to makes notes when at age 55 and 60 respectively, she and her husband set off from Cape Town in their 12m yacht and went on a 16-year trip around the world.  She is a Master Yachtsman (woman?) and her husband is a Master Mariner. They spent 3 years building their boat and then they were off, working for four months out of each year to fund the experience.  She shared one amazing story: they hit very bad weather out of Cape Town for three solid days when they set off and when they woke up on the fourth day, they didn't know where they were having been blown badly off course; luckily, there was a large navy boat in sight. M radioed the boat and identified herself, her husband and their yacht. To her amazement, her son was on board, part of the crew and he was summoned to greet his parents. Later that afternoon, when he was eating with his crewmates he remarked that he had just said hello to his parents.  When asked whether he had Skyped or phoned, he replied, "No, I just waved from the top deck."  Returned to dry land, her husband being 76, M decided they must sell the boat. "What was its name?" I asked.  "BBS" she said.  "Beg, borrow or steal".

Monday, 13 October 2014

A Nonsense of Numberplates

Google image

As we are changing our address in December, it seems that we will be required to change our cars' number plates as the nearby coastal towns are not covered by the Cape Town municipality. There are certain number plates you just don't want to have and the one designated to our small town is :  CR (plus some numbers) .   The town's drivers are mostly retired people who have all the time in the world and proceed at the kind of leisurely pace in the middle of the road that is anathema to my husband and he will not be tarred with the same brush if he can help it. He has already convinced himself that CR stands for " DeCRepit person behind wheel."  Other number plates that have earned themselves unfavorable acronyms are:  CAW... belonging to a Cold And Wet place called George (further up the coast); there is the iniquitous CY - actually a part of Cape Town, whose drivers seem to drive so badly that everyone says, "See Why" whenever an offence is observed. Then there is CEM, which is, without any logic, the designation for a town called Hermanus, also coastal and similarly inhabited by retired people.  Yes, you've got it: it's dubbed the 'CEMetery' town. There are two other options: we could get a personalised number plate, horrifically expensive but you can have what you like if it fits on the plate and is not rude.  Ironically, the fewer letters/numbers you want, the more it costs. Or we could drive without any number plate (many arrogant drivers do): in this way the speed cameras are foiled and the offenders reason that the occasional fine for not displaying a number plate is well worth it as they can drive as fast as they like avoiding numerous speeding fines. We have until January to decide.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Knees - Keyhole surgery?

Ah, so you don't have to be old

Since hearing about Sextant's bad knees,  I might as well confess that I am undecided about having my bad knee seen to.  After nine months of varying degrees of pain/discomfort after a searing sudden pain in January, I finally ended up at an orthopaedic surgeon who, correctly, I think, after rotating said knee round in circles and producing many clicks, diagnosed a tear in the 'lateral miniscus' cartilage. I was too busy to consider the half-an-hour operation at the time (visitors) so I postponed the idea, but the term 'cartilage' ignited a light-bulb moment and I dug out my box of 'Osteoeeze Gold' pills, which I used to take for arthritis in my fingers.  I had given them up for a while, because although my fingers display ugly lumps, they are not actually painful unless squeezed (I have to be careful of handshakes). Osteoeeze's main ingredients are Chondritin and Glocosamine. I went back to taking them religiously three times a day and abracadabra, after three months,  the pain in my knee disappeared!  The surgeon had said surgery was the only option as cartilage will not repair itself, it has minimal blood supply.  Hmmm. The chief component of Chondritin is cartilage extracted from shellfish, I understand, so why should it not reconstitute cartilage? It certainly feels like it.  Of course, you can't take these pills if you are allergic to cartilage. Lately, I do have a few twinges in the said knee at night, because in the day I have done quite a bit of walking uphill to our new apartment (as small son has commandeered my car for a week now...) so maybe I am wrong? Need the op after all?  But some people say once they have messed with your knees, they are never the same again.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Electrical Faults - Sextant, I would value your opinion

This - after the electrical inspection

We have amazing laws in this country: the snag is getting anyone to put them into practice.  One new requirement if you purchase a property is that new  Electrical/Plumbing/Gas Certificates must be issued by a qualified person before the transfer of ownership can take place. This has resulted in a rash of new small businesses opening up, seeing a good chance to get their hands into the cookie jar and to charge exorbitant amounts for finding/pretending to find/overlooking but charging -  as many faults as they can. There are some horror stories out there and owners just have to pay.  I have just received the electrical report from the conveyancing lawyers on the apartment we have just bought and will ask my husband to look at it on the week-end to see if he agrees with checklist of 'yes' ticks which certify that our place is electrically safe.  We have had it painted out with new carpets and all things fixed before tenants move in on 1st November. My painter is very good and pulled down all the downlighters (not LED) before he painted the ceilings.  He pointed out the condition of these two in particular and I was horrified, imagining that our flat is in immediate danger of burning down.  There are 30 of these lights in the 5 rooms and I notice that the whole building has them in all the corridors and they are permanently on.  None are LED, so they all generate quite a lot of heat. Am I right to worry?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Subconscious Racist?

There is huge sensitivity in our country at the moment regarding anything to do with skin color.  Recently, university students blacked themselves up and came as the tennis sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, to a fancy-dress party.  All sorts of protest ensued: black people hurt and offended. But it was just a bit of fun -  no offence intended (or was it?) Surely, no-one could think these mega-wealthy and successful sisters would take the slightest bit of notice of a minor party in a South African University? The students are curreyntly under threat of being expelled. When I was a teenager we had a musical show on BBC called "The Black and White Minstrels" - a choir of white men 'blacked up'.  We enjoyed the music and certainly, as a white teenager, who had never seen a black person in our provincial town, I thought nothing of it. The other day, my husband and I were eating at a Wimpy and the colored waitress messed up the order a little.  I was full of excuses for her viz: shame  - she is a local, perhaps new on the job, maybe English is not her first language. To my surprise, my husband said I had a racist attitude. In his view, she is in a job and must do it properly:  in my secret heart I must have been making allowances for her disadvantaged background, her probably poor schooling and (in an even more secret place) was I not thinking that she was probably not as intelligent, energetic or possessed of the same work ethic as 'us'?   Shame on me. The attached 'joke' about Eskom (our national electricity supplier) highlights the state of our nation at the moment.

Modern Marketing

About 1/10th of the length of the aisle

This photo represents one of my worst nightmares: my husband can spend half an hour in this aisle alone before he finds the screws/nuts/bolts/nails he needs that are the required specs.  One of the reasons is that each item is duplicated many times in many different sections of the aisle as all products now are lumped together according to their brand name. The same happens in clothing stores.  I tried to buy a cotton blouse the other day: the store was vast and I had to walk figurative miles around the whole store to locate all the cotton blouses on sale in my size under the various brand names.  Do they really think we will buy more?  I just got tired and gave up. God forbid they start to do the same in the food stores. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Fast Lane - a Matter of Semantics

An emotional debate rages on our radio waves concerning the use of the 'Fast' lane on our highways. Our speed limit is theoretically about 90 m.p.h. and there are many of our drivers who therefore feel justified in remaining in the 'fast' lane and turn a deaf ear to anyone wishing to pass. They are sticking to the letter of the law. They won't move over. Two or the results of this attitude are road-rage incidents, crashes and deaths. I feel a large part of the problem is that although we are a very large country, many of our highways have only two lanes each way. In England for example, there are I think 3 or sometimes 4 lanes and so the outside one is for 'Overtaking' only.  There is room for everyone and no-one blocks the outside lane. Ditto in Germany.  In Australia, with its famous Gestapo policing system, no-one dares disobey any road law. I don't know anything about America except for the car chases I see in the movies. So in South Africa we are stuck with 'Slow' and 'Fast' because we don't have the luxury of choice.  Unless they make all the roads wider and that's not gonna happen anytime soon. We could however, do something about the television advert re buying our annual TV licence:  this is quite cheap - only about $35 and less for pensioners.  However the voice-over on the ad is pleading and hesitant.  "Pay your TV licence - it's right thing to do"  - as if there is a choice not to pay! Granted our local programs are pretty dreadful but they can only get worse if we don't pay. Meanwhile we have only about 10% local content:  favorites for me are on our Satellite channels  (about $70 per month).  Satellite dishes are ubiquitous here - even perched shakily on the shacks in our slums. They should leave the advertising to me:  "Pay your licence or face a jail sentence!" That would bother no-one: murderers walk here.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Where did they hide the Battery?

Found it!

When the battery in my amazing car died this morning, I really couldn't believe it, which is why I phoned my husband at work because (for a brief two months more), he is able to order one of his minions to come and help me with jump leads.  I had been waiting for the painter to arrive as we finally have access to our new flat and need to fix it up to rent out. He was late and I had been listening to the radio, ignition on and,  unbeknownst to me, my headlights full on (there was a sea mist earlier) for about twenty minutes.  Normally, my car yells at me to switch the lights off when I open the door. Of course, if you don't open the door.... The point of the story is that the technician took ages to find the battery. My car began to look as if it was about to be thoroughly valeted as it eventually stood with the bonnet (hood?), trunk and all the doors open and the back seats' innards exposed. To no avail. As the mechanic stood metaphorically scratching his head and loath to ask advice back at the garage, I thought I could help, remembering that I had two car manuals in the glove compartment. Huh - much use they were.  One was a 46-page tome on how to work the radio, and the other - 36 pages on how to work all the dials on the dashboard. Nowhere was there any mention of anything practical like where the battery was located.  Eventually, it was found in the very last place he looked - under the mat at the driver's feet, next to an impressively large and colorful array of fuses. I also spied a useful drawer under my seat which proved to be duplicated under the passenger seat, presumably a hideaway for valuables.  I've only had the car for 5 years. I suppose the moral of the story is that you should thoroughly get to know anything you buy.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

30% Chance of Rain?

I listen faithfully to the weather forecast for our area every morning, but I'm blowed if they are ever right about the rainfall.  The temperature is normally accurate - within a degree or two and they are pretty good about wind speed but 30% chance of rain?  Maybe I don't know how to interpret the language.  Does it mean that 70% of the day will be dry and that for 30% of the time it will rain  - or does it mean there is only a 30% chance that there will be any rain at all - or for those of you optimists that believe the glass is half full - that most of the day will be sunny?  What do the statisticians say?

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Funny Effects of Physics

Duvet cover lying on the ground

Still on a noise theme... lately we get woken up at our holiday home in the early morning by the sound of elephants thundering around on our (tin/flat) roof.  Last week-end I dashed outside and peered up, just in time to see two fat pigeons departing, presumably having consummated their spring revels. Speaking of thunder, we had a garden shed/Wendy house erected two weeks ago in the back garden.  Last week-end our famous South-Easter was blowing full force and every now and again I was startled to hear a sound just like in the old movies when the sound effects guy would wave a sheet of metal up and down to simulate the effect of thunder.  I was about to criticise our new shed's roof as being loose when hubby mentioned that he had also heard the noise and had traced it to a loose sheet of metal he had left on the ground which had propped itself up at one end on a stray brick. He fixed it. Finally, I gave some thought as to how to hang up my washing in this strong wind. The duvet cover, being large, I decided would be safest if I hung it up exactly in the middle, both sides hanging equally,  so that the wind would be unlikely to cartwheel it over the line and onto the other washing. How wrong can you be. In the morning, when the wind had abated, the only item trailing on the ground was the duvet cover.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Big Switch On.

We had a scheduled power cut last Sunday at our holiday/retirement house.  Naturally, we had visitors - my son and his family - so we needed some electricity, albeit we have with laudable forethought, installed a gas hob and have a solar-heated geyser.  I however, couldn't get the gas going, not understanding that the automatic lighter is electric. Big son luckily had a match (and a lecture) but not before I had filled the kitchen with quite a lot of gas.  All was well after we opened a few windows.  Then hubby and big son got the generator going and I (and all the dog walkers/joggers in the street) almost jumped out of my/our skin(s) at the huge noise. Said machine was residing in the garage whose open door leads into the house. This small-looking machine is clearly a monster in disguise: pleasingly it powered most of the things in our house without cutting out and hubby was quite impressed with its  5.5 (horsepower/gig/mig/....ah yes, kilowatt) engine. I however, especially as this was Sunday morning, was mightily embarrassed by the noise and the irritated expressions on the faces of the people in the street, who were standing rooted to the spot, trying to track the origin of the shattering disturbance. Luckily, it's quite hard to do this out in the open especially as I hypocritically faked similar body language, standing out on our balcony. The men hastily pushed the machine to the back of the house whose garden leads onto some empty plots and things improved a bit. Hubby promises me he will build it into a sound-proof room and fill its exhaust with baffles. Of course, if everyone was as clever as us and had a generator, we would all be in the same boat and subterfuge wouldn't be necessary. Only ear-plugs. As an interesting adjuct to all this, I've just heard that most of Johannesburg has had no water for days.  Glad we live in Cape Town.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Noise Nuisance

Could look a bit like this?
Having thought I was becoming more tolerant and wise in my old age, I find that this does not apply to my tolerance threshold for irritating noise.  My only criticism of our holiday hotel is that there was a large refrigerator in the spacious and  open breakfast area which produced a loud vibration (sounded like metal on metal) which echoed around the area and made dining there an unpleasant experience. At least for me. I finally did a survey of nearby diners and discovered that everyone was suffering to some degree (the ladies more than the men), but no-one had thought to complain. It even bothered me that the laboring motor in question would eventually vibrate itself to a standstill and would need replacing. Maintenance is not generally considered to be a priority in the 'new' South Africa.  Still, I sidled up to the reception desk (in the same general area) and ingratiatingly (in order not to antagonise anyone), explained the problem and suggested that the maintenance man should be sent for, before all the diners decamped to other venues in town to eat their meals in peace. I also suggested that the machine could be switched off as it was in any case, empty.  Both suggestions were met with expressions of total amazement but finally half-hearted commitment to improve matters was made. We stayed there for four days: the machine was initially switched off at mealtimes, but no moves were made towards fixing it. I had a lightbulb moment: we once moved to a town where our rented house was next to a railway line. For the first week, trains passing during the night woke me up.  After that I ceased to hear them. I got it.  The staff were oblivious to the noise. They needed to remember though that guests turn over about once a week. Our 'new' government here (its been 20 years now) sets the trend regarding lack of maintenance:  take our nuclear power stations as a case in point.  About 7 years ago, our whole country suffered so many power cuts that our supermarkets bought in a load of small generators and many people, like us, bought one in the general rush. We had cause to switch it on for the first time last week. But that's another story....

Monday, 22 September 2014

Low Season Holiday

Gosh, I haven't blogged for a month. Several reasons:  been away, been in bed (bronchitis), been busy, couldn't think of anything good enough to blog about.  Anyway, two weeks ago, we took a 5-night break and drove up the East coast of SA. It's 'low' season here, so it was very peaceful  (all the children were at school) and for once we treated ourselves to 4-star accommodation because a friend offered us his time-share week - we just paid his levy. Lovely to have someone make my bed every day and even nicer to not make a single meal for a whole week. Great to at least have a kettle and a fridge in the room, so we could have endless coffee/tea/whiskey, made the way we like them.  Also, we were treated like royalty everywhere we went e.g. we had individual guided tours around the Raptor Conservation Park and the Snake Park -
such a privilege to get close to these amazing creatures. We were even the sole customers one night when we ate at the most exclusive restaurant in the hotel (but even its prices were very reasonable).  Still, eating out all the time does clock up quite a total so it was also good to come home.  Just some pics while I think about what to blog about next...

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Things you Can't tell your Best Friend

Google image - just for fun, not my friend

Knowing that my best friend is a lover of pop music, I suggested we go to the movie version of "The Four Seasons & Frankie Valli" before the school holidays kick in next week and there will be nothing for us to watch. I forgot that she likes to sing along with whatever music is playing around her, at home or in public. I forgot that she is tone deaf.  I wonder if that means that people with this affliction are completely unaware that they are aurally challenged? Although this resulted in me wincing my way through most of the music, I suffered in silence, just made a note to self to learn how to screen out extraneous sounds and how to concentrate on those one wishes to hear. Children and teenagers have this skill re their parents' voices, so it can't be too difficult. Having said that, I have an equally annoying trait - I often fall asleep in the dark, seductive atmosphere of the cinema no matter how exciting the film, and I snore quite a bit.  Friends used to tease me about this, but now that we are all past menopause and some, like me,  battle to sleep at night, they are more understanding.  It's a bit like marriage, a lot of give and take between friends. A discreet elbow in my ribs is usually enough to solve the problem and as long as I've had 'forty winks', I will last the rest of the movie. It was really good, by the way. A real trip down memory lane. The only small point to mention is that I thought I was going to see a film about The Beach Boys. I somehow thought they had the same sound.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

My Car is in Lymph Node

My cautious little car

If that sounds a bit Monty-Pythonish to you, it's because I am not much tuned in to tecchie stuff about cars and have never opened the manual which came with mine.  Also, I must admit to slight deafness in my advancing years. It's enough to know I have a brilliant car which purrs along and never gives trouble. Until yesterday. All of a sudden the digital display said, "Run-flat indicator unavailable. Visit service station" - and my car lost power and proceeded along at a stately 25 mph. despite all appeals to the accelerator pedal. Mystified, I pulled over and phoned my husband  (thank heavens for cell phones, how did we manage in the past?).  "Oh dear," said he, "it's gone into Limp Mode".  Well, that made sense, once I had ditched my medical interpretation of the phrase.  LIghts on. How cute, actually -  and although I am not one who anthropomorphizes vehicles,  I did find I felt more sympathetic to my car's woes, if it found itself only able to 'limp', no doubt because of various in-built protection measures designed to safeguard its computer(s). I was not so empathetic however, when I crawled embarrassingly along the highway, hazard lights on, to get to the Mercedes garage where my husband works. All's well that ends well however, and we are back to normal, with only a small amount of money expended for a new part. Just thought you might be intrigued by the odd title to this post.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Best thing about an i-pad....

We acknowledge its amazing cuteness and tininess and the easy access to e-mailing photos and looking up stuff.  However, I think the very best is that you can lie in bed and be reading a book  e.g. Dan Brown's 'Inferno",  and every time he describes an amazing work of art or sculpture - you can quickly find a pic of same on Youtube or Google Images.  I am so into Stephen Fry and Robin Williams' lives at the moment.  I've just finished "The Fry Chronicles" and realised that all the marvellous British comedy that I missed on TV in the 1980s - I haven't actually missed!  Every time Fry mentions some programme or theatre show that he was in, especially with Hugh Laurie, I've indulged in an orgy of Youtube clips, sometimes complete shows and what a joy that is.  I've watched several television interviews that Robin Williams did over the years and realised that his quicksilver wit was even more brilliant live than even in his films. Three cheers for the i-pad, and a nod to all the wonderful comedians who make us laugh and brighten our days (if not always their own).

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Just a form....

We have a crazy system in this country: when you sell your house, even though your municipal payments are up to date re water/sewage/rates on your property, you are obliged to pay up six months  in advance of your sale date which you can claim back later, once transfer of your property to the new owners has been recorded. Thereafter, they can expect to receive a large bill after their first six months occupancy. To this end, our lawyers handed us the appropriate form and explained the procedure. It is now time to get our money back. First, the fax number I was given was incorrect: delay of three weeks. To avoid subsequent problems I went in person to the municipal offices and presented my forms.  Sorry, these forms are 'old'.  You have to submit the new ones. Apparently, Cape Town underwent a change of 'logo' 3 months ago and we may not submit the old forms - even though the information to be data-captured is identical!  I remember the storm of controversy at the time: why take away the previous logo - an outline of our beloved Table Mountain and substitute it with a generic kind of sunshine thing? As usual, public opinion did not prevail and obviously someone has made money out of the change to the new logo. I decided not to let this spoil my day, and so indulged in some retail therapy, reasoning that I may not have much longer in which to do this after my husband retires. Unfortunately, nothing fit: at least, the pretty summer dress did fit, but revealed my knees, which according to the image in the mirror, was a no-no. Therefore still fuming, I went to visit my best friend who happened to be home.  There is not much that a nice cup of tea, a good rant and a letting off of steam can't fix. So after all, it was a good day.  Got hubby to sign the new form tonight: faxed it off: wait 7 days to see result in our bank account. I'll let you know.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Book by John Green

As we have to read this book for Book Club this month, I went to see the movie, just opened at our local cinema.  I was half-way through the book at the time and the movie was just right - every character was just as I had imagined them, whether that is a compliment to the author or to the director I don't know. What a heart-breaking, thoughtful, intelligent film.  The book is meant for teenagers but the two cancer-sufferers, aged 16 and 17, who fall in love are so bright and mature in their clear-eyed recognition of their lot in life and their no-nonsense, sometimes even brutally honest, analysis of their lives and love,  mean that the text merits complete adult attention. I will give nothing away, save to tell you that the philosophy of Hazel Grace so totally echoes my own tentative attitude to my own existence and place on the planet, that I felt uplifted, vindicated, relieved and encouraged by the end of both the book and the movie. I also thank my lucky stars that I have been privileged to live my life into my sixties with no serious health problems so far. It is necessary to be reminded that the stars can be randomly cruel and we should cherish every good moment.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Family Dilemma

Google image

Something's been bugging me lately.  I feel I ought to invite my brother and his family to visit.  It's never been easy to plan - they live in the UK, we live in Cape Town, the seasons and the school holidays don't mesh very well. The only time in 37 years that they did come, the weather in Cape Town was absolutely miserable for the duration of their visit. We had to go and shop for warm clothes for the children. The thing is: none of us has anything in common so it's difficult to know how to spend any time together. When I was young, my brother (six years younger) was pretty quiet and spent all his time in a shed down the garden, constructing electrical circuits, radios and suchlike.  My father would be developing photographs in his dark room, or gardening. My mother would be ensconced in her private eyrie/sewing room, listening to Afternoon theatre (not to be disturbed) and I would be in my bedroom: reading.  We barely communicated. My mother and I did share some interests, but we didn't really 'talk', not like they do today. I respected my parents but my brother was in a separate world. Nothing changed after I left home. As I student, I used to phone home and my mother would say, "Here's M - have a chat with him" and pass over the phone. Mostly silence ensued, once I had run out of small talk and he would pass the phone back to my mom.  Now that his children are grown and out of the house, I feel I should invite them again. Now that both my parents have died, I have not been back. I used to go and help out once a year, sometimes twice but now that our currency is so badly devalued, I can't manage a trip without a really good reason. I also have little in common with my sister-in-law except that we both used to teach French. Most years, they went to France for their holidays.  Well, it's much cheaper than coming here. The thing is we don't 'miss' each other. It's enough to know that everyone is well and financially OK. Should I invite them again?  I feel I must for my mother's sake. My brother doesn't even like holidays. My sister-in-law loves hiking, but I don't think he does. Oh dear, what would you do?

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Do you Wear Jeggings?

Do I dare?

I always took note when my mother disapproved of ladies of a certain age wearing clothes that in her opinion were "mutton dressed as lamb". Nowadays, it seems that anything goes, but does it really?  I've never been particularly interested in fashion myself, reasoning that it is an ephemeral industry which exists solely to give women complexes about their appearances - and to make money. I have believed in dressing in order to flatter the better aspects of my shape and to draw attention away from the worse ones.  This winter, everyone from six to eighty has been wearing 'jeggings', a cross between jeans and leggings, my daughter informs me. They are usually worn with calf-length boots and longer tops, although the younger, the wearer, the shorter the tops - not always to the wearer's advantage in my opinion.  But then the young must be with the 'in' crowd or face the consequences, no matter their shape. Up to now, I have steadfastly refused to follow the trend, even though I am starting to stand out as the lone shopper with the straight-leg jeans. I am even starting to feel uncomfortable in my comfortable clothes. Even the oldest ladies are looking good to me. Is everyone looking at me? Should I give in? Happily, spring is imminent. I think I can hold out until then.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Beauty Treatment - Pleasure or Pain?

Imagine this - 11 floors up

I received a voucher for a 'Moisture Boost' for my birthday at a fancy salon whose main attraction for me is that it is on the 11th floor of a tall building with a breath-taking view of Table Mountain on one side and a terrific view of our stormy sea and Robben Island on the other. However, I am not the type that goes often to such places of female indulgence: in fact I usually go once or twice a year, on Mother's Day or my birthday. Don't get me wrong, I don't look a gift-horse in the mouth and I am very grateful for both my daughter and daughter-in-law for my annual spoiling which compels me to go. The thing is, now that I am advanced in years, I don't like exposing my more intimate areas to these pretty, young things who administer the treatments. I can't bear to imagine what they may think. Also, I grew up in a family in which no female was ever known to frequent such places. Perhaps it was an age of austerity: my mother did go perhaps once a month to have her hair 'set' on rollers, but that was all I knew. She never went for a manicure neither did any of my aunts or cousins. I had to prepare myself as best I could. I read that the treatment also included an Indian Head massage (?). So be it: I therefore washed my hair, shaved my legs and underarms, painted my toenails and had a shower before I left the house. There was a slight incident before I arrived which made me worry that I might have sweated. I couldn't find my way into the building: it seems the entrance was actually below street level. (Why weren't there directions on the gift voucher?)  Next I felt obliged to tick off a group of young musicians for their bad manners re entering the elevator.  They barged in when the door opened thus creating a problem for a cleaning crew who were trying to get out with their trolley.The young men looked at me as if I were mentally deficient. I should have saved my breath.  Finally, I arrived, filled in a form, more comprehensive than if I was being admitted for a major operation, and was then escorted to the treatment room/torture chamber. 
Google image
I have to admit the decor was tasteful, the lighting dim, the music non-intrusive and the 'operating table' warmed by an electric blanket beneath the tinfoil. The removal of my clothes was tactful, as were the towels, strategically placed to minimise any embarrassment. As my limbs were vigorously rubbed with what I can only imagine was grinding paste, towels were moved so as to preserve my modesty and I had no complaints. I would not totally say that I 'enjoyed' the experience, but I was able to relax into it. I must say, the cream applied was very effective:  I couldn't  get it off in the shower the next day.