Wednesday, 25 June 2014

An Awesome Experience

Google image

I mean that in the old-fashioned sense of the word.  I went to a funeral of a 67-year-old man last week. Pancreatic cancer.  I did not know him and wondered why my husband (a work colleague) was so insistent on attending the service, considering it was on a Public Holiday, we had to forgo arrangements with our children and it was pouring with rain. And cold. The service was an hour and a half and consisted almost entirely of tributes from the gentleman's family and friends.  It was the kind of occasion where say, 150 brochures had been printed and 300 people turned up.  There was not an empty seat.  It upset me for days: the thing is you always feel this terrible sense of loss, just as if it was your own loved one who has departed.  Does it help to prepare us for our own experience one day? I think not, not matter how hard we try, we can't presume to share in another's grief. What it seems to achieve, at least for me, is a kind of cleansing and emptying and a sense that whatever kind of person I have been up to now - I am going to try harder in the future. It is a source of wonder that in this terrible, violent, unfair, cruel world that we inhabit, there are so many amazing individuals that make a difference.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Tale of Three Rings

Very like my mom's ring - google image

My daughter, daughter-in-law and myself are blessed to be the owners of beautiful antique rings, inherited from two grannies and a great aunt.  Last week, my daughter-in-law was distraught because her large stone was suddenly missing from its setting. She eventually found it nestled in the folds of her child's car seat, knocked out while she was hauling the unwieldy things out of my car and into hers.  Lo and behold, three days later, my own pretty sapphire jumped out of its moorings when I bumped it on our microwave. Luckily, it fell into my hand.  After relating these stories to my daughter, she confessed a potential horror story of her own: about two months ago, she was driving through a dodgy area of town, took off her ring and pushed it down the panel behind the driving seat, something she was in the habit of doing in these places. That day, she forgot to retrieve it and the next morning her husband took her car in 'to have new tyres'.  Imagine her shock when he returned that afternoon with a smart new car for her, having traded hers in. Instead of delighted tears of joy, he was presented with a tirade of accusations, "why didn't you TELL me???"  and heartfelt sobs of loss. I am relieved to say the story had a happy ending: the new owner was contacted and the ring happily retrieved. They say things happen in threes, so we should have a quiet time this week. Meanwhile, I am hesitant to hand mine in to get fixed: what's to say they won't substitute a worthless piece of glass?

Friday, 13 June 2014

Just Blame the Maid

Google image

Another snag about movimg to a ground floor apartment, is the tendency for a ground floor flat to experience leaks from the tenant above.  Such was the case last Sunday, when we returned to find water leaking over our kitchen area from 3 points on the ceiling. Having positioned three buckets in strategic positions we then got on the phone (apologetically) to the Supervisor, who was out of town, it being his day off, but he told us Security could get hold of the tenant on his cell phone.  This happened and the gentleman obligingly came back immediately, only to find that his own floor was completely dry!  Another two hours of investigation seemed to find the fault: the exit pipe from the dishwasher was blocked up with 'gunge' and so the water had flowed over the top and into the cavity between the two flats. Having cleaned it out, the leaking into our place eventually stopped.  I'll keep an eye open meanwhile and of course, in a week or two the ceiling will discolor and need painting. The maid was blamed for never cleaning out the filters etc. I can't believe that anyone can need a maid in an apartment which measures only 67 square metres, but there you are.  It's a conundrum common in 'third-world' countries that everyone employs a maid or a char because they are so cheap compared to elsewhere in the world.  When I grew up in England, only the rich or famous had 'home-help'.  I remember being deeply impressed by our neighbor, whose husband was a vet, because she had someone to 'do' for her on Mondays. At the moment, debate rages on as to how much these domestic workers should be paid. There is a school of thought that says we have such an unskilled, even still illiterate labor force, that many are glad to work for an average family for a correspondingly low wage.  We are not a welfare state, so the theory is that that situation is better than nothing. The unions maintain that if you can't afford a decent wage, you shouldn't have a maid. What to do?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Two of Life's Little Ironies

A fair cop

One downside of living this side of town is that it's much further for me to get to the library.  It also means I encounter peak traffic and the school run moms, as I start at 7.30 am.  Last week, I tried one route -  with a big hold-up at one critical point which made me late, so today I tried another way, approaching the same intersection from another side. Again a long queue of stationary cars.  Then I saw a couple of cars passing us on the left, admittedly on the wrong side of the yellow line, but all, I reasoned,  wishing to turn left as I did.  I knew that an extra lane opened for this just a bit further on. The rest of the traffic was queuing to go to work in Cape Town straight ahead. How wrong can you be? I had picked a day when two traffic wardens were ticketing this very offence, because it's a prime spot for people to sidle up on the left and then expect to push into the right lane as the lights change. I switched off my engine, resigned to my fate and watched as the two officers wrote copious details on charge sheets for the 8 cars in front of me. I haven't paid a traffic fine in 38 years. I tried a friendly smile and explained the reason for my crime. "How old are you, lady?" asked the man, politely.  "63", said I (after some hesitation - what does that have to do with the price of eggs?).  Sighing mightily, he put away his pen and gave me a severe lecture about NEVER doing this again and let me go.  Cheek! But I wasn't going to look gifthorse in the mouth, especially when he told me how much the fine should be, (about $100)  Much relieved, I arrived at the library ready for work, only to be told that someone had found some free time the day before and there were no books to shelve!  They might have phoned! I would have saved petrol and stress.  I wasn't too cross however, as I had escaped the fine. Besides, I reasoned, I could now go and buy the winter boots I had been coveting for some time.  I had just saved $100, so they would cost me nothing!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Murphy's Law hit me today

Google image - I was wearing more clothes!

We've had rainy, stormy weather since we moved last week-end, but today dawned sunny, so I decided to experiment with our new bus system, as there is a stop right outside our complex. I looked up the requisite times and buses on the website and duly got to the shops not much later than I would have in my car. I had an appointment back at the apartment with our previous tenant (she needed to return my hairdryer and fetch her paintings) and had allowed plenty of time to return.  I got a phone call to ask if she could come earlier and that was also fine with me: plenty of time. So there I was at the bus stop, a good ten minutes early: the bus didn't come - and it didn't come. Eventually, it was twenty minutes late and I was starting to worry, though I should still have made it with 5 minutes to spare. Imagine my surprise when it neared my stop and a road-surfacing team had suddenly appeared since I had left home and blocked off the left-hand side of the road (we drive on the left) for what looked like miles ahead - making it completely impossible for the bus to stop at my stop. The driver had no choice but to carry on down the single lane and drop me off as soon as she could - about 2 miles from my house! I had no choice but to cross the road and hold up my thumb.  I've actually never hitch-hiked in my life: my mother forbade it, but needs must. Happily, a kind lady was the first car in the queue and she helped me out.  Turns out she was from Germany and we had a quick chat about the state of the world before I hopped out.  Her opinion was interesting: she thinks that compared with Europe, South Africa has real heart and its citizens are filled for the most part with a zest and a faith to 'make it work'. She gave me food for thought. And guess what? I was only two minutes late for my appointment.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Happiness is ...

My new office in our apartment

AFter a hectic moving week-end, we are comfortably settled into our little flat - meaning that I have squashed a desk and all my office stuff into the lounge and got the phone man here to set up our Internet etc.  I am delighted to say that my Internet connection is much better here than in our previous house, which apparently suffers from ancient wires etc.  I am enjoying myself hugely so far, relishing the sudden relief from duties like maintaining the swimming pool, weeding, trying to persuade vegetables to grow, fighting snails etc. my kitchen is compact and very user-friendly, small fridge but adequate. Of course, I haven't yet wanted to swim (it's winter almost) and I haven't needed to set up my sewing machine. Honeymoon period. There was one snag. The day we moved in, and the tenant out, the pay-as-you-go electricity meter suddenly displayed an error message instead of showing us how many units were available. So I've had an anxious two days wondering if I dare iron a shirt or boil a kettle before we might be plunged in darkness. I therefore had no choice but to sit on the 080 helpline - half an hour this time - to get an electrician to come out.  Shoddy wiring again - apparently stopped 'signal' getting to the box. Fixed up now.  Next thing: get HDPVR wire put in for my husband, as we can't record any TV at the moment and we are missing our favorite shows. Must be able to fast forward past the ads. One thing at a time.  Thought for the day: however in our previous lives did we manage without all these gadgets? Another thought: I thank the powers that be as often as I can, that I wasn't born poor.  For the 1000th time I ask myself, how guilty should I feel about that?
NB - posting this from my ipad - can't seem to upload any pictures....will try later from my PC