Thursday, 30 October 2014

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

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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

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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

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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.