Thursday, 31 December 2015

A Thoughtless Remark at the Office Party

Google image

My husband was very pleased that his ex-work invited him (and me) to their Christmas party, a full 12 months after he left last year.  Although, he has not missed the work itself, being very happy and occupied with all his projects at home, he has missed the people, some of whom have worked for him for twenty years or more.  HIs right-hand lady of about 12 years - sort of Secretary/Customer Liaison/PA, is a super capable, attractive person, aged now about 41, happily married with two young teenagers.  They all worked a 12-hour day, and in the trucking industry, these days were often fraught and difficult. I suggested that we sleep over at the venue so that he could enjoy a few drinks. My mistake. Although he never became 'ugly' drunk at all, he did become very relaxed, beaming and hugging everyone and generally being the centre of attraction.  I did cringe a few times when he did/said things which are uncharacteristic.  e.g. telling one young mechanic (while sitting next to the new boss - his II -i -C of many years): "The worst day of your life was when I retired" (implication?  - 'your new boss will not be as good as I was'). The bad thing though happened at the end of the evening:  I was sitting quite far away as everyone went up to him to bid him goodbye. When the PA lady's turn came, he put his arm round her shoulders and announced for all the world to hear: "M has been a big part of my life for a long time. If I ever had an affair, it would have been with M!" Then he slid his hand down her body and squeezed her behind.  I sat, frozen, embarassed and devastated. In one fell blow, I felt all my love and devotion over 39 years had  been an illusion. For the longest time he had been lusting after his secretary !!!!!!  Needless to say, I was totally miserable for the rest of the night.  It wasn't much use berating him as we went to bed, he wasn't listening properly and couldn't understand what the fuss was about.  I spent a sleepless night on the couch.  The next morning I tried to explain what had upset me, but guess what - he couldn't remember a thing, had no idea what I was talking about.  Do you know how frustrating that was?  Actually, he looked so puzzled and shocked, I wanted to laugh, as cross as I was. Very chagrined, he immediately took up my suggestion and telephone M (and several other people) to apologise because his wife said he had made an ass of himself, although he didn't know what he had said to offend.  Most of them were still half asleep as this was only 8 am.
Of course, no-one but myself had taken any offence.  I just hope that M had been suitably repulsed by the very suggestion that an old, overweight man like my husband should think of her in that way. I am very fond of her but I am now so sad to think that she has indeed been a bigger part of his life than I have for so many years. I guess that's the way it is in the world of work. Certainly, on a daily basis she spent a lot more hours with him than I did.  (I'm not counting sleep).

I just wanted some verbal reassurance, which he tried to give, but my husband is in any case a man of few words, they come very hard to him - unless he is one-over-the-eight.  Ironically, in the past, I enjoyed these occasions because then he would declare to the whole world how much he loved me.  How could his brain now be so disconnected from his mouth?  How could he not think that these remarks would hurt?  He has forgotten about the whole thing but It seethes in my mind and I struggle to be normal and nice to him at the moment. This woman is 25 years his junior and I am 65. I don't know how I can gloss over it. Blogging helps.  Another thing has helped this week:  hubby experienced a painful rectal tear one morning after a visit to the bathroom.  He had to hobble around as it was the Sunday after Christmas, saw the doc on Monday and is still hobbling. He can't believe what has happened to him.

Maybe it's the razor blades I fed him.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Nature has the Last Laugh...but not the Last Word


We are progressing quite well with setting up our vegetable beds along the back wall of our yard; these have been chosen for optimum conditions for the growing of seeds, facing the sun, irrigated, sheltered from the wind etc etc with the addition of large amounts of compost.  However, while we have been keeping anxious watch for the appearance of our spoilt babies, nature has been at work in the front garden amongst my prolific petunias.  We were chagrined to find one morning that some of our new seeds had indeed emerged during the night, only to be immediately bitten off by a marauding caterpillar. However, when I went around to the front, I suddenly espied, sheltered amongst my flowers, two pepper bushes about a foot high, and what are either pumpkin, melon or courgettes busily twining themselves all over the back of the bed. 
Two pepper bushes
Doubtless these seeds had been in our home-made compost and we had started this bed before the others at the back. I have learnt one thing though: tiny seedlings need to be sheltered from full sun and hidden from predators in their early days.
Flowers are not supposed to support hidden veg
I was going to call this post: "Nature Knows Best", but I have my quibbles with Nature in that department as in her view, once anything female is past it's sell-by-date (i.e. menopause), meaning no more fertile eggs, then there is no point in said females remaining sexually attractive for their mates. I shall continue to fight the good fight on this front.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Another style of House

It's tin roof and color remind me of our old mining towns, the small pool is surprisingly  cold (evaporation)

I have another sister-in-law, who is very talented, paints beautiful pictures, does stained glass, delicate patchwork, sequin-embroidered clothing etc. etc.  In her spare time, she goes hunting either with her rifle or her camera, and has a trophy for Best Lady Hunter of the year for their district.
My husband sits in the bright kitchen area - you can see the roof
Privately, I think this is an interest she has developed in order to share an activity with her husband for I don't believe that in her heart she really likes shooting the animals but she does love hunting on her own, crawling through the bush, encountering snakes, imitating buffalo snorts, gathering tics inside her clothes, taking photos of butterflies and so on. A complicated character: she has confessed she prefers animals to people; her house has two bedrooms. 
One of the coffee tables - no room for coffee
When they retired to this very northern, very hot, small town, the design of the house was hers.  Hence it has an unusual cathedral ceiling-type feel to it as you walk in the door and behold a vista which takes your eye straight up to the domed roof over the lounge, with only the small mezzanine (her work area) as a token upstairs. Houses in South Africa are almost all built of brick. The rest of the house is ground floor and bears testament to M's talents and preferences in every area.  She loves tiny things and every available surface with the exception of the kitchen area but  especially small tables and window ledges, is crowded with stuff she has collected and loves. With her permission, I took a few photographs of her home as they are so far away, we rarely get the chance to visit.
M's workroom - the mezzanine area
Almost all the pictures have been framed by her (equally talented) daughter.

Friday, 18 December 2015

A Way of Life/Farming in the Karoo

My husband and brother-in-law in front of the lounge
Actually, I just thought you might like to see a couple of photos of my nephew's farm house.  Probably 200 years old with very thick walls. As these homes stand alone, it is very deceiving how big they are inside.  One can easily sleep a whole family with double beds and singles in all the 5 bedrooms.  This house belonged to the 'old people', my nephew's grandparents: I think they started the farm. My sister-in-law and her young husband (she was 19 and he 21), built a small more modern dwelling for themselves when they got married, about 1/2 mile away, the old people retired and moved into the village and their old house gradually went into a state of decay and was used for storage.
The previous front of the house

When this latest generation married, their father was still farming so the old house was renovated for them. Now after 50 years of marriage, my sister-in-law has been asked to swop homes with them because all the main farming buildings are more conveniently situated near to the 'new' house.
Relaxing under the wisteria on a hot day
Also, at 72, her husband is starting to take a back seat in the daily running of the farm although he is still very much involved on the admin side. She is rather sorry about this move - people come from all local Garden clubs to see the garden she has established, but she is philosophical about the change and tries to see it as a new challenge. One thing she is having done is revive what I always thought of as the back of the house.
Local builders work on Sunday and camp on the farm
To my amazement I have never realised in over 35 years of visits that we always went in at the 'back door' on the other side.  Everyone did. In fact there was no road in the 'front'.  As you can see, the steps are being retiled and a bar-B-Q area has been built on the corner.  It will be restored to its former glory once the ground road has again been graded and cleared of bush.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Galvanized into Action

George's yacht

There is nothing like expecting a possibly imminent visit from a new-found family member to make me clean and tidy my house. OK, my mother would probably say at most I gave it a 'lick and a promise' but hey, it's a big house and I did the downstairs last month and anyway they won't go into the bedrooms. It happened this way - and isn't it a small world?  We were doing our daily walk and this time wandered down to the yacht club where we are members, to have a coffee before facing the uphill walk home. Actually, they have changed the security over to a finger-print system and we had to go in and do the dirty. It wasn't as bad as the local Home Affairs office method, where last month I had to subject all my fingers on both hands to the old inky system, after which there was a large bucket of gooey blackish green stuff, shared by all, which is supposed to clean you up afterwards. No, no, the yacht club is quite classy, a nice clean one-digit digital stab on a little window attached to the computer. 
Anyway, the secretary remarked that my husband's name was similar to one of the founder members of the club (circa 1978), and were we perhaps related? We said we didn't know so she suggested we walk down to the marina where his yacht was parked and introduce ourselves. Even with the sails down I could see that this was a big 'boytjie'  (pronounced 'boykee' - i.e. big lad, er, meaning the boat, not the owner).  I began to have regrets: if these people are wealthy, we probably can't afford to be related. As it turned out, the four of us got on well, enjoyed a nice sundowner, compared notes about ancestors and discovered that we are indeed related - about two generations back, namely through a chap called 'George'.  Point to note: no-one asked what anyone did (or had done in our case)  for a living. My husband enjoyed a tour of the mechanical bits and I ate my way (ignobly) through delicious snacks that I couldn't resist.  I had taken the lady of the boat a small spray of roses from my garden though, and hubby took some of our home-made biltong.  Now it's our turn to reciprocate. They have sailed off somewhere this week (they are on holiday for two months), but coming back soon. 
In the absence of anything much in my garden to put in a vase, I have been inspired to use a bunch of parsley (which has grown like mad) and the other small spray of roses from my one bush. I quite like the effect.  Meanwhile, I am greatly enjoying my unusually clean house. In case you are interested, the books (apart from the obvious) are: Guide to South African Birds, Salt Water Fishing and The Diet Revolution (Banting).

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Blanket Opinion

Clearly a Scottish dog (Google)
It wasn't quite a blanket opinion at our Book Club meeting, although most members admired my effort with gratifying compliments.  However, on arrival, I had folded it up and placed it in the basket in which all the wool had been given to me, in order to return the basket.  To my surprise, my best friend, whom I consider to be a person of great intelligence made a mystifying comment:

"Oh, they will love it!"  (They?  The lady in question lives alone)
"Who are 'they'?" I enquired.
"Well, her dogs, of course".   

I was momentarily gobsmacked, not to say insulted.

"It's not for the dogs ", I said, quite crossly.  She, of course, apologised profusely when the full extent of my effort was spread out. 

In mitigation of her unwitting offence, I remembered the important place my friend's own dog occupies in her house. In her defence, it is actually her husband who is besotted with him: I counted at least 15 balls scattered around their yard the last time I visited. He is a labrador rescue dog, quite adorable but very spoilt.  The husband in question even writes a blog about the dog's life with the dog as the narrator.  I understand there is an enthusiastic following for this blog. So it wasn't very surprising after all, that my friend assumed my gift was for the lady's dogs.  QED. I therefore can forgive her.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Farm kids

There is a world of difference between farm and city kids - or maybe not so much.  The main thing is that farm kids can be told to play outside and not come back 'til meal times. City kids have security issues. When it comes to entertaining themselves in the garden though, we saw 7 little girls on our nephew's farm, (a mixture of farm and city children) building themselves this tent in the school holidays. Much giggling emerged at times, but it kept them quiet for most of the day. No boys or small children allowed, of course. Dogs sometimes gained admittance, although they must have been very squashed. The grass here is totally brown in winter but recovers to a lush green in the summer months.

Friday, 4 December 2015


Memory blanket

Insofar anything in life is really ever finished, I have spent the last four weeks frantically knitting/crocheting a 'memory' blanket for the nice lady who gave me that fantastic gift of a whole load of unfinished sweaters and odd balls of wool. I thought, as she is such a colorful character herself, that she might appreciate as a thank-you gift, a sort of very very long shawl with the dual purpose of reminding her of her unfinished projects as well as being a very decent warmer during our winter months when, as sure as eggs is eggs, we will experience more power cuts during which times we are begged to save electricity.  I have used every color she gave me and included at least one square of the pattern and yarn of each of the sweaters: I still have plenty of wool to finish all of them. It took two afternoons to sew in all the ends but I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.
So nice to be retired and able to finish in time for our Book Club Christmas party next Tuesday.  I'll try to remember to take a photo to post of the occasion. We are a great bunch of gals. Although we are all now over sixty, I have to mention that I am one of only 3 of 12 who is not still working in a full-time job. I am so grateful for this as there is still so much to do and I hope, new parts of myself to explore and develop. I am hoping to become a better person in the next few years, you know, less selfish, more tolerant, more patient, wiser, kinder, more worldly, less parochial, more practical, more philosophical, more thoughtful, able to think more laterally, able to contribute a bit, more.... the list goes on.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Just the Job

I don't want you to think I brag about my husband when I describe things that he does, but as I spend a portion of every day checking on him (to prevent injury) when he is in his garage, I necessarily notice what he is up to.  Also, everything he does, he thinks is so elementary that anyone with 'a bit of common sense' could do the same and he is not in the least big-headed about his skills. (Pig-headed, yes, on many occasions, but then so am I). Also, my life is not very exciting at the moment. The other day, he was working on something and to his exasperation the bridge of his spectacles broke, rendering his eyes totally useless for all but long-distance. He telephoned his optician who spent such a long time tracking down a replacement part, that he couldn't wait and so fixed them himself for the time being.  Copper wire and stainless steel.  He did gloat a bit when informing me that it had indeed been worthwhile saving the copper from those armatures (he has several thicknesses) all those years ago; he knew they would come in useful one day. The day finally came. Fortunately, he has lately cleaned up his garage a lot and re-organised a lot of small stuff: hence, he was able to lay hands on this wire quite quickly. He does so remind me of my father, although when his glasses broke in later years, he was so blind, they were usually fixed with sticky tape, much to my mother's embarrassment.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Just by Chance

Hubby rushed off at the crack of dawn this morning, delighted that small son had phoned to say he driving over from Cape Town, bringing friends to fish, but would have to return before lunchtime.  They duly went off with our boat and I decided to walk down to the local craft market, have a mooch round and then walk to the Yacht club to meet them. As usual I drifted to the second-hand book stall, as I had forgotten to bring my own book to read over coffee as I waited. I picked up a favourite author, Ian Rankin, whose detective Rebus novels are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the land in which I spent 5 years as a student and which I still revisit in my dreams. For once, I actually read the introduction, mostly because it was just a few pages.  He wrote this book in 1994. (Mortal Causes). His last comment caught my eye:  readers' reactions to the book often referred to his 'joke' at the end of the story.  What did the punchline mean, they frequently asked?  As Rankin says,  "...if you didn't watch the TV adverts for fairy liquid in the 1970s, you'll still be bamboozled by the punchline", a real joke related to the author by a friend:
 "For Hans that does dishes can feel soft as Gervase, with mild green hairy-lipped squid".

 I was still in England in the early 70s, and I remember this ad so well - it was surely one of the best ever for any product because of it's catchy tune, once heard, you never forgot it. I wonder if it can be found on Youtube?  Anyway, the words were:

"Now hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face, with mild, green Fairy Liquid."  - 
 I hum the tune as I type...

Friday, 27 November 2015

Murphy's Law or perhaps a Logical Explanation?

We went for a bracing walk this morning (nice now that hubby comes with me), and had decided to shower when we got home.  This we duly did: it was only because I washed my hair today that I realised as I rubbed an eye to get some shampoo out of it, that I hadn't removed my contact lenses. Well, make that one that survived: the left one, of course.  Naturally, since I had put a new lens in my right eye the day before, it would be that one that got pushed out in the shower.  In fact, when accidents happen, they are usually to my right eye. You get six lenses in a box (and expensive they are too). I now have 5 spare lenses for my left eye and now only 1 for the right (early yesterday morning, there were 3 in that box). Now I have 1 spare left until the Medical Aid kicks in in January. How come I have so many of the left eye remaining? I have a theory.  I am right-handed; therefore perhaps the most vigorous arm movements that come near my face come from the right side.  Witness the time I was brushing my hair, missed and knocked the lens from my right eye on that occasion, first brushing from the left down to the right. Similar things have happened in the past to account for this state of affairs. Of course, it doesn't work with teeth.  If anything were to happen to my teeth it would be to those on the left as I start brushing on that side. And it doesn't work with sore knees: my particular sore knee is the left one which surely takes the least strain going upstairs etc. I usually lead with the right leg which has no pain at all. So why is that? I don't know but I think my theory works as far as the eyes are concerned. Note:  both lenses are very resistant to the production of copious amounts of tears when I watch my favourite tear-jerker movies. As long as I keep my hand away from my eyes. Which I do because I get much mocked by my husband whenever I cry in a movie/listen to a choir of small children/Christmas carols etc.... It's something to do with menopause. Nah, that's a lie: I've always done it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

A Bit of Detective Work

Circular patch of pooh, next to Huberta (but not hers)
As you know, our front yard has been completely paved around our new pool, no more grass or weeds, no more mowing!  We did have to sink the level so that curious passers-by would not be able to (immediately) see over our 6' wall. This has meant an extra step - which our tortoise negotiates at his peril. Only this silly male still ventures into the front yard as there is no longer anything to eat.  Well, there are my new petunias, in a small bed by our front door but he hasn't discovered those yet. Still he comes and sometimes falls down the step.  The female has more sense.The other morning, I was puzzled to see a sort of circular arrangement of what at first glance looked like the mess you would find under a large flower pot that someone had decided to move.  But no, we had no pot in this spot. After some thought, and finding the tortoise stranded under one of our sunbeds, we deduced the following:  he had fallen off the step onto his back. Unfortunately, no-one had seen his plight and in his frantic bicycling of his legs he had lost control of his bowels (like last time) and somehow he had achieved the effect of spinning around on his shell until, miraculously, he had defied gravity and managed to get himself upright. He was found about 6 metres away from this spot. I put my 'pool Hippo, Huberta' next to this circular area of tortoise pooh to give you an idea of size.  I haven't put her back into our current pool, as it is smaller than the one at our last house but my husband says he can no longer accommodate her in his crowded garage. She is named after a famous hippo who walked through many towns on the East coast of South Africa once upon a time. You can Google.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Building an Owl House

Spirit levels can be over-rated

One of my husband's pet projects came to fruition this week. He has always wanted to build an owl house and put it up in the garden in the hope that, as we live near a National Park and very near to an area of veld behind our house, owls would move in.  There is a side benefit to this project - a few more pieces of wood have been utilised from his garage and therefore a little bit more space has been created inside. On the down side, his nail-gun of forty years vintage has finally called it quits and money has to be found to buy a new one. Screws had to be used instead. However, I have sympathy for him as he told me 3/4 of the time spent on the project was trying to fix the nail gun. The completed house was erected yesterday and to my great consternation, the pole underneath is 3 metres high!!  I had imagined something the height of a bird bath, so that I could observe comings and goings from my kitchen window and when the opportunity presented itself, I could sneak a peek at the adorable babies. Seems that I know nothing about owls. My husband informs me that his Internet search dictates the height of the house and its design and my own research indicates that there must be access for a 'direct flight path' and the construction must be placed in a quiet area, sheltered from wind and sun.  That is a tall order in our small back yard, where grass must be mowed underneath and where the South-Easter howls for most of the summer. It has been placed in an optimum position for these conditions. My sister-in-law (from the farm) reminded me of the year we climbed up into the barn to look at the baby owls there: she said it was quite a busy place and the owls did not mind too much.  I live in hope. Two days now - still looking for tenants.  I hope we don't get pigeons.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Aah sweet .......spotted in the veld behind our house

Sometimes you wake up in the morning, look out of your window and get lucky.  This little buck, called a "Steenbokkie" (in Afrikaans, I don't know the English) was snapped enjoying the morning sun.  Like our tortoise (who thinks he is an ostrich when he hides behind a brick), the buck thinks no-one can see him.  Actually, all the colors were a little paler but I pressed 'enhance' on the Edit function and can't seem to cancel it.  Maybe it looks alright on the blog. Try as I might, I couldn't zoom in any closer on the Edit function, perhaps because the camera was already on full zoom to take the shot. I see the photo still looks funny at the top. Don't know what I did. I think it was a 'screen shot'.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Love is Blind

'Bye 'bye, little guy

When my husband fell in love with this little Pajero, (ladies, this is a kind of car), I was inclined to be indulgent - after all, I like him to be happy. However, I do leave it up to him to be sensible when he embarks on this kind of affair.  After all the initial problems and his many hours working on the car's innards, until everything was working perfectly, it was time to take the car into the garage to have the tow bar fitted.  I would remind you that the purpose of buying this elderly and cheap little car was to save our big car from salt water damage as this little 4 x 4 would be ideal for launching his semi-rigid (ladies, this is a boat in case your naughty minds were thinking of something else). After a week, we duly drove into town in our big car to fetch it only to be told that it is not possible to fit a tow-bar to this model.  It had escaped my husband's notice that all the photos he had hastily looked up on the Internet when he wanted to buy the car, were actually of the bigger 4-door version - all of which sported tow bars. A calamity indeed. The car is now of no use at all. We have no alternative but to sell it; apparently, there is a market as it is a great little off-road vehicle from 'up North' and so is without rust and not everyone needs a tow-bar.  Of course, there has to be something of a mourning period, not to mention buyer's remorse of which there is a great deal in the air around our house at the moment. I am keeping a low profile and also my mouth shut.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

New Post - Battle of the Bulge and Rolled Oats

Please note this post appears BELOW  'Two Nutty Knitters'.  I created just the title last week and now can't make the post come up first.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Two Nutty Knitters

Knitting heaven

We had a terrific Book club meeting, as usual, this week, but the high moment for me was when I was presented with a basketful of unfinished knitting projects by one of our ladies. She had e-mailed us the day before to say that she was 'chucking out' and would anyone like to take over some unfinished jumpers etc.? Completely forgetting my resolution to empty my cupboard of odd bits of wool and de-clutter a bit (mission finally accomplished last week) - I joyfully replied, "Me, me, me!".  In my defence, I have to add that we still do quite a bit of long distance driving and I must knit or go crazy on a six-hour trip. I don't share the driving. My concern was: how could someone half-knit so many jerseys and then give up and start another project? Some still have the needles in, there are two pairs of scissors, a sewing kit and four brand-new little kits for rag dolls. I am in knitter's heaven.  Can't wait to get started. Actually, have already knitted a square in front of the TV last night.  I have decided that apart from finishing the jerseys (and maybe giving them back), I would make her a 'memory' blanket with at least one square in every color. Meanwhile, what do the psychologists make of this kind of personality? Maybe, she just got bored or couldn't resist another purchase in a wool shop?  One thing for sure:  she must have a limited supply of jumpers that she can actually wear. I am going to start on the pretty lavender one: only one sleeve to go!

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Battle of the Bulge and Rolled Oats

That's me on the left - (in my dreams)

I added the bit about the Rolled Oats in the post title so as not to mislead World War Two enthusiasts. Of course, I refer to that horrific Spare Tire that appears all of a sudden around one's waist after the age of sixty (if you are lucky enough to defeat nature this long) and seems common to both men and women. As long as I had some stress in my life, I have been able to keep mine mostly at bay,  but over this last year, this first of my husband's retirement, during which we have sat in our car for days on end going up and down country to visit our relatives, for what seems like months at a time, eating/driving/visiting, eating/driving/visiting - my ST has insidiously crept up on me with the clear intent of preventing me from fitting into the summer dresses I have worn and loved for the last ten years. To add insult to injury, during our brief sojourns at home, I had finally got out my sewing machine and finished two dresses that I had cut out about nine years ago and then horrors!  Couldn't fit into them around the waist, although they both drop from under the bustline. Now they hang accusingly in my wardrobe, along with their sisters. Whenever we can, my husband and I try very hard to lose weight, him because his blood pressure pills don't work very well  (170 over...) and he does not tolerate cholesterol pills very well either. We've tried all sorts of diets which used to work when we were younger. Why don't they now?  At the moment, we are cutting portion size, upping our exercise, and at night we have a bowl of muesli (no sugar) and fruit with yoghurt and a decent sprinkling of Rolled Oats. This last ingredient works like magic and has the result of making one's stomach work like clockwork (nay, sometimes even like lightening), the next morning. My current theory is that the food passes through one's system so fast the body has no time to create fat. The other point is that my spare tire took almost a year to expand, so it will probably take just as long to deflate. I soldier on.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Serendipitous Sauce

"Discovered by a happy accident"

So it's hello to all you good cooks out there - or alternatively, all of you who have had to cook because of your wifely conscience.  I normally don't make puddings unless we have visitors (a nod to exponentially expanding waistlines as I love puddings) but my son-in-law is an ex-restauranteur and likes something different. He also has a sweet tooth. So when they came for the week-end, I made a Chocolate Tart a la our Sunday Times cooking supplement. Unfortunately, it looked as if it wouldn't set in time for the dinner (maybe I should have bought the fiendishly expensive 70% pure cocoa?), so I put it in the freezer for a while.  Better, but not perfect: still it got eaten, but I did wonder why it looked a lot shallower than when I had put it in the freezer. Two weeks later while rummaging deeply for some frozen peas, I found the answer: some nameless person must have been in there and bumped my precious dessert a bit so that a great deal of the chocolate filling had tipped out. There it was, frozen up against the back of the drawer and over some of my tupperware containers. Must have been at least one third of the filling. I had a lightbulb moment. I needed to make a chocolate sauce that day just to have with ice-cream (big son visiting this time), so I furtively scraped as much as I could off everything and melted it in the microwave. Not quite enough: but I had another idea.  I had come across a small container with chocolate icing - left-overs from when grandchildren were here circa 18 months ago, and we made cup cakes. In it went: still needed a little something. Aha! A friend visited recently and gave us a roll of fancy dark chocolate 'discs'. None of us is partial to dark chocolate so I opened all of them and obtained finally, a rich, dark, lovely viscous concoction which went down a treat with all my visitors. I bet no-one in this country, or yours, or nay, even in this universe has ever made chocolate sauce this way. It's probably a good thing too that I am the only person in the world with these fingerprints and with such a pressing need to confess my sins. I waited a day or two but no-one reported any ill effects. The proof is in the pudding.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Hubby's latest....

Only my husband...

At last, a shirt I can throw away!  Hubby came upstairs rather sheepishly from the garage yesterday, mumbling that his shirt had 'caught fire'.  Although it was a favorite he has agreed to a parting of the ways (only I suspect, because this glaring hole would be embarrassing should anyone see it). It would also give our children yet another cause to worry about us.  Still, I can extend it's life a little: being pure cotton, it will cut up into lots of nice polishing rags. Waste not want not.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Funny Thing about Crime Fiction

Another great favorite

One thing my husband and I do share is a love of crime/thrillers - as long as they do not take place in our own back yard.  We have a very good local writer, Deon Meyer, who sets his stories in Cape Town - but it makes for uncomfortable reading (does all that terrible stuff really go on right under our noses?)  I love Donna Leon's books - she writes about Detective Brunetti who lives in Venice (which we have been to as tourists and therefore enjoy the references to street names, food  etc.) - I also love the way a cell phone is known as a 'telefonino' - thankfully, we live far away from that corrupt state!  I lived in Aberdeen, Scotland for five years as a student:  good job it is forty years later before I discovered that excellent writer Stuart MacBride and his detective Logan Macrae, who is always in trouble with his superiors for his maverick ways and who crusades against drugs and sex crimes, particularly against children. A great favourite of course, is Lee Child and his tall, hunky and very sexy Jack Reacher (how could they cast Tom Cruise in that role??); happily, all that bad stuff happens in America (how can a Brit write so well about the US scene?). There is one exception to my rule: I took a book out of our library at random - just because it was written by Ranulph Fiennes, brother of Ralph of whom I am a great fan. It is called 'The Sett',  about a very ordinary citizen, an accountant by trade, who witnesses bad goings-on at a badger's sett in his neighborhood: his wife and daughter are in fact killed by these bad guys and the accountant enters a decades-long course of vengeance to seek them out.  I was enthralled and horrified as the tale went on, hurtling around the world, involving Arabs, Jews, Jamaicans, you name it - and then amazed to discover in the middle of the book, pages of black and white photographs featuring some of the main 'characters' when they were captured by the police. Clearly, a work of 'faction' then.  Happily, it is more than forty years since I have lived in the UK.

I am so glad I live far away from all that crime. Huh, who am I trying to kid?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Case of the Rumbling Burps

Not an elderly trumpet - stomach lining

This is meant to sound a bit Sherlock Holmes-ish as my husband has had a puzzling complaint for the last two months, which at times can be quite embarrassing (not to say off-putting in the kissing department).  One Saturday evening, we were sitting watching TV and suddenly there was an eruption of noisy and quite startling burps from my husband's side of the couch, which continued - I kid you not - on and off for the next two hours, briefly interrupted by sleep, but which continued on the next day. Monday morning saw us at the local doctor (husband by now deeply worried that he was dying or having a heart attack) as his stomach area was by now quite swollen and sore. He was also out of breath a lot of the time. The doc suggested he have a pretty urgent gastroscopy and gave him some 'calming medicine' for his stomach to take before eating. The result of this was a diagnosis of 'gastritis' of some form and anti-biotics were prescribed for two weeks. At the end of this period, he felt a lot better but the symptoms returned almost immediately. (NB the burps hadn't ceased during this time). Last week, after monitoring the symptoms for about four weeks, hubby declared this was nonsense as he didn't even seem to be improving; so back to the doctor and he was booked in for a colonoscopy which depressed him quite a lot as we have a family member recently diagnosed with colon cancer. At the same time he had an X-ray and a sonar. Everything came back clear, nothing sinister. So a great relief but still the pain. His surgeon recommended he see his Physician friend before we went home as there was also the question of the continuing breathlessness which was uncharacteristic and bothered my husband a lot as he is pretty active. I have to say I was deeply impressed with the passionate dedication of this specialist - a lovely young chap ( he was in his 40s), who looked physically more as if he spent hours daily studying the Talmud rather than doctoring. He spent nearly an hour ( 5 - 6 pm after his normal consulting hours) cross-questioning and examining the patient.  The conclusion so far is that the Beta blocker medicine newly prescribed (dosage upped) two months ago was causing R's heart rate to be too low, so that when extra oxygen was required - e.g. going upstairs - it could not be supplied. Remedy: different medication.
Secondly, after palpating my husband's stomach, he thought perhaps he had actually torn a muscle which was a real light-bulb moment for us as my DIY partner has been doing much building of walls/humping around of packets of cement/tiles lately. 
Two days into the new meds - R feels like a new man and is back to his smiling and positive self. The burps continue however somewhat less: apparently, it can take three months for the stomach lining to heal itself after an infection. I mention all this just in case anything rings any bells? I couldn't find much on Dr Google about the burps. I would appreciate any advice or shared experiences. 

People are More Important than Things

This was one of the maxims my mother-in-law was fond of quoting and my husband has certainly taken it to heart especially re cars: he always says anyone we trust can borrow our cars as they are comprehensively insured. So what if they have an accident? It's just a piece of machinery, as long as no-one gets hurt. He has become more reluctant to lend his tools though as they have a habit of being returned damaged or sometimes not at all. In a vaguely parallel case, I heard myself telling my sister-in-law who has had to scale down because of moving from a farm to a retirement village, that I would love to have one of the tapestries she made many years ago, although I don't really have a square inch of suitable wall space. I felt sorry for her that not one of her own children would take one: they are rather large and I fear, old-fashioned as far as 'minimalist' youth is concerned, however, I have always admired the workmanship, especially in the face and neck area which is executed in very tiny stitches. I thought I could squeeze the picture in between the two seascapes which I like very much as they were painted especially for my husband by a good friend who hadn't long to live. Now I have a lasting reminder of my sister-in-law too. I did much prefer the 'lighter' look of the wall with only the other two pictures, but ach, people are more important than things. ...And she is certain to visit us soon.

Monday, 26 October 2015

They were here first....

On the way to the veggie patch
Whenever I get cross with our tortoises for doing their best to penetrate the defences around my vegetable seedlings, I remind myself that long before we bought our plot of land and built our house - they were here first.  Indeed, they or their kind have been here since the dinosaurs, haven't they? So I should treat them with deference and preserve a small area of my garden full of their favorite plants (except for my marigolds). This makes for a patch that looks really untidy and neglected but at least it is up a corner and not occupying the entire back yard, unlike my friend's, whose husband is a 'green conservationist'.  Their back yard is simply 'preserved as is': even their pool, which should have been lovely as it is a two-tier affair with a waterfall,  looks unappetisingly green, nay, brown in parts, with a 'raft' of lillies and things in the middle for the frogs. I wouldn't swim there but I don't think they swim.
We found a large, brown mole dead in our pool the other day.  I don't feel so kindly towards him, as he is responsible for the death of a number of our plants. Still, he is quite pretty (when dead) - I can see why moleskin is popular for making wallets and things. We threw him over the wall into the veld, but that wasn't a good idea as we were soon beset by flies. My husband had to go back and bury him. On balance though, I sympathise greatly with the natural world: before 'we' came along, nature was finely balanced, perhaps in quite a harsh way, survival of the fittest and all that, but at least there was enough space and food for everyone. I sometimes wonder about the length of the road we have traveled concerning 'human rights'. It often seems that the criminals have more rights than the law-abiding. One thing for sure: we have done a good job of over-populating the planet.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Avoiding Confrontation

I've always been good at this, whether it's been not telling my parents something awful, not opening potentially unpleasant bills, not arguing with my best friend - you know the sort of thing.  My husband is the opposite, he likes to tackle a problem face to face (if it's a person) and doesn't let grass grow under his feet.  Recently, we made the classic error of buying an elderly second-hand car: it was something my husband has been hoping to find for months - a little 4x4 Pajero to launch his boat.  He found his heart's desire, but it was far away while we were visiting his brother up north, and he didn't get the chance to examine it minutely himself. He decided to buy it after much humming and hawing when we got home. Part of the bargain was that it would come with a Roadworthy Certificate. However, once it arrived, many problems were uncovered which should never have passed the roadworthy test people.  One of these was that two engine mounts were completely broken and also broken were both 'tie-rod ends'. The electric window washers didn't work either. There were other things too.  After a couple of weeks of trying to speak to the slippery dealer, he finally agreed to compensate us with a money amount. It never arrived. Eventually, my husband, exasperated, threatened to report him to the Motor Industry Federation and we found out the name of the local press.  While my husband made this course of action clear on the phone early one morning (minus his hearing aids which caused him to shout), I retreated two rooms away and put on the radio and the TV as loud as I could. Still hearing every word, in desperation I grabbed some paper towel and stuffed it into my ears. This worked.  When I heard him slam down the phone and make his way back to the kitchen, I hurriedly returned the TV and radio volumes to normal and carried on making the breakfast. Guess what he said when he came in...
    "Why is there paper towel in your ears?"  I got a lecture concerning timidity but all was forgotten as next day the money was in the bank. I had hoped that the dealer would now be scrutinised by the MIF, but my husband was chagrined to find that copy of his letter plus photos did not reach the Federation people: 'email undeliverable' for some reason.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Cleaning Windows - and the Effect on A Reluctant Housewife

As we now live in a double storey, free-standing house and I can't clean the upstairs windows outside, at least not without contorting myself from the inside and finding that I should have planned the opening sections for a right hand to curve round instead of a left - I have indulged in the luxury of a 3-monthly paid clean of all the outside windows.  There is only one window cleaner in our small town and he is very busy:  I haven't been able to get him to commit to a regular date, I have to haphazardly text him when I guess he may not be as busy as usual. This means that he arrives all of a sudden and I have to hare around closing the curtains before his 6-man crew swarm about with their ladders and catch us either in the shower, getting dressed or having breakfast. (He usually comes early). Also, being of a suspicious nature, I can hardly believe that they can finish in 10 minutes flat (which they do) and so I am obliged to go around checking their work after they have gone. This is only viable if I have cleaned all the inside windows myself just before they come or at least the day before, otherwise I can't know if the marks I am seeing are on 'my' side or 'theirs'. As you may know, I am possibly the world's worst housewife: I wouldn't normally notice any dirty windows until I actually can't see out, so it it takes a seismic event to make me tackle the whole lot in one day.  Why doesn't my husband do it, I hear you ask?  I guess it has always been my job while he was working (then we lived in a bungalow) and now that he doesn't, I have to confess he does more than his fair share of the jobs around the house. The dishwasher does the rest. I have perfected my method though: it involves a squidgee, dishwashing liquid, a very wide rubber scraper, a razor blade and a large pile of hand towels.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Sell-By Dates

Google images

So there I was, at my computer, half-dressed, waiting for the dye to take on my remaining pubic hair.  Yes, this is one of those candid posts 'For Your Eyes Only', dear reader. This activity - along with dying my hair (on head), shaving legs and putting rollers in my hair (on head) has been conducted in the privacy of my own home all the years of my marriage: easy enough while my husband was at work, very difficult now that he is underfoot all day.  This morning though, he was up early and rushed down to his garage from whence it is safe to say he will only emerge at lunchtime, unless he needs emergency surgery, depending on which power tools he is using. Having waited a decent half an hour, gingerly sitting on my chair amidst a great deal of paper towel, I finally went off to shower and eagerly view the results. Nothing! Nada, no colour change, no concealment of grey, it just hadn't worked. On consulting the label, I did notice that the product (mostly henna and hibiscus but with an alarming list of complicated chemicals) was dated 4th October - but which year?  I think I must have bought the sachet about three years ago, but it was open as I only use a bit at a time.  When was the last time?  Could be 12 months ago?  (Time flies). Chagrined, I got dressed and went to see what hubby was up to.  He was gazing disconsolately at healthy-looking weeds in our driveway which he had sprayed three weeks ago. They are supposed to shrivelled up after 14 days. You've guessed it - last year's opened bottle. Useless. Lost it's 'oomph'.  Sometimes it's nice to have something in common to share with your man, although I didn't tell him why I was sympathetic.

Monday, 12 October 2015

I Reveal my Bad Side

Google image

On our return home after the 70th birthday, we were accompanied by couple of family members for whom the 600 mile trip for the party was effectively half-way to us, so why not continue on and visit? It made sense as any kind of 1200 mile trip is by car, long, arduous and expensive.  So they came to us for 3 days. This is a desirable length for a visit (they had to get back to their farm anyway) and also because tourist attractions where we live can use up about two days maximum and is two days is also about the limit of my tolerance for the male half of this couple. I hasten to add he is not a bad person, just not my type: I am not interested in cars, guns, hunting or exclusively South African history, or in being constantly lectured on any or all of these topics. There are other reasons but I won't go into them. Let me just say that he let his two mischievous boys swim in our vinyl swimming pool with their newly acquired diving knives: after their departure the pool water sank down a metre, revealing some large slashes in the vinyl. Responsibility was denied. However, this was thirty something years ago so let bygones be bygones.  Since then, this character has become famous largely for his clumsiness (wine glasses always knocked over onto table cloths) and impatience. When time came for them to depart, my husband activated our electric gates so that he could reverse out of our driveway. Inevitably, he didn't notice that the gates hadn't finished opening and reversed out, bumping the gate off its slider, hard enough to dent in his own fender.  Having dashed out to his car and gesticulated wildly to get him to stop (he is now somewhat deaf), I went back into the house and vented my spleen with some choice swear words that I rarely use. Back outside, my husband had managed to get the gate working again and told me there was no real damage.  This is my nasty bit: damaging his fender (never mind our gate) plunged our visitor into lasting gloom and completely spoilt his day, not to mention his enjoyment of his holiday. Good. In mitigation of my evil thoughts, I will say that I felt remorse later on: he is becoming an old man now (72) and his reactions can't be what they used to be.  He does have a reversing camera in his vehicle though.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

A Very Gentle Alsation

Just like Fred - google image

We are down on the farm again. This time the story is about, Fred, the gentle Alsation who has a fascination for small, baby creatures.  He gets very worried if he finds a stray lamb out of its hock: these are usually young and weak orphans who are being hand-reared. Fred picks them up tenderly (in his view) and returns them to the place of safety. Unfortunately, this does not always end well as he carries them by the head in his large jaws and sometimes their necks don't make it (cf. "Of Mice and Men"}.  Recently, he was found transfixed,  staring at a tiny duckling which lay on its back, webbed feet frantically bicycling in the air, their wings helplessly held down by Fred's large paws.  At one point, Fred was seen to yawn widely, let go of the little creature which flipped over and hopped straight into his mouth - just before it closed. Luckily, children were watching and Fred was persuaded shortly to open his mouth again.  The duckling hopped out and scurried off, completely unharmed. Fred wondered what all the fuss was about. My niece says he has been specially bred to be a mild-mannered family dog. Unfortunately, he welcomes all-comers with great affection. During the night, the garage door into the house having been left open because of a swallows' nest,  Fred took advantage, opened a further three doors and found his way into my bedroom whereupon I was woken at 3.00 a.m. with large, wet dog-kisses up my arm.  We will be home soon....

Saturday, 26 September 2015

When HIs IQ is Off the Charts

google image

We've just said good bye to visitors from Australia, a friend of my hubby's from way back and his 34-year old son.  They are on a mission to South Africa to follow up the wife's family tree - and already have an impressive record of her Dutch ancestors going back to 1200 AD.  It's been a challenging two days for me, when I discovered how weird it is to try to have a conversation with a young man who is a super brain, not only in science and Math, (the son heads up a Eurasian IT team - just back from a business trip to Vietnam), he also seems to have total recall and polished off the last four clues of my cryptic crossword in a matter of minutes. (I've been working on them for days). He has also built himself a telescope in his spare time, grinding the lens himself and has a camera with which to photograph the night sky. In between, he is an amateur radio enthusiast and lugged his equipment all the way here to take it to the top of Table Mountain to try to contact someone elsewhere on the planet. Apart from that, he seems to be knowledgable in every field imaginable and therefore has to try hard not to dominate conversations. On the plus side, he is a quiet, polite and I think modest person, who does not talk down to one.  He reminds me of that super charismatic and charming Professor Bryan Cox who makes these marvellous TV programmes for the BBC. On the down side, I can't think of any time in the last two days that he asked either myself or my husband a single question regarding our lives, our country or our family.  He admitted that he is wrapped up in his own world and struggles to switch off his brain: he has found one method though - he hums the tune from The Great Escape to get himself to sleep. I asked him if going to a Co-Ed High School had helped him to get on with girls and received an emphatic "No". I am not surprised  - I remember him as very skinny and nerdy at that age, although I don't think it bothered him.  Now, he has the legs of a hiker and has filled out a bit. In fact, a nice-looking thirty-something now, married with two girls. I am just sorry that I couldn't have introduced him to my brother and his boys.  They would have had so much in common.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Very False Economy

If only we'd known

I don't know if car number plates feature very highly on your priority list, but they do for my husband.  We have two trailers, two motor bikes and two cars which have to be licenced every year.  That represents a lot of number plates and a lot of expense if you change address as the cars obviously have to display one front and back. Our current Cape Town number begins with "CA..." followed by 5 numbers and my husband was adamant that he wants no vehicle of his to sport one that begins with "CR..." where we now live - as this points to a place where elderly, slow and bad drivers live. Clearly, not ever applicable to us. Also, changing the plates is a big cost factor. So we rented ourselves a Post Office Box in Cape Town which we told the LIcensing Department is to be used as our address.  Thus we keep everything CA. Only our car license renewals go to this address. So for almost a year we have paid rental and have just renewed for next year. Meanwhile, we bought a little Pajero and had to licence it with "CR.."because it came from another Province. What a joy to visit the Traffic Department here in this small town, compared with the nightmare of a big city.  Only two people in the queue at 11.00 a.m. (cf 60 odd queuing since before sunrise in the city).  What a helpful lady behind the counter (smiles/information/speedy) compared to sullen robot-type employees in the city. What's more she told us that we have no need to change all our other number plates as we are still registered in the same Province! NB. This is not the information we were told in Cape Town. The proof is in the pudding:  after a 10-minute visit I came home, still with a CA licence for my scooter but with our address now changed on the computer for all our other vehicles! Had we been told the correct information before we could have saved the year and a half rental we paid for the Post Box which has actually worked out to cost more than buying new number plates all round.

Friday, 18 September 2015

What, me Sulk? Surely not.

Our espaliered grenadilla on it's new wires

If you have ever tried to move any branches of a grenadilla once they are in position, you will know how brittle they are. They break for anything but the most delicate touch. So you may imagine my misgivings when my husband announced that he was going to run wires across the length of our garden's back wall which would mean cutting out the existing if temporary steel frame that was holding up our six-month old grenadilla. At the same time I was drawn to the whole project - we are going to espalier fruit trees all the way across the back wall (my husband was in the past very impressed with my dad's talents in this direction back home in England).  'Be careful!' I said when he appeared with his angle iron (he would have to cut through a number of half-inch thick rods) to extricate the frame from the plant's many tendrils. I should have saved my breath. As he finished cutting through the last rod, he must have relaxed his concentration a bit because as he stepped back, one of the best branches fell to the ground, (the one you can see hanging droopily to the left of the photo).  Dumbstruck, I had picked it up and hoping against hope, stuck it into the ground, while glaring at my husband. Foolishly, I then berated his carelessness out loud. I should have known better.  My ensuing silence was even worse, as I was told I was just like another member of my family, known to sulk for days, not speaking to his wife. This was too much: actually, I was suppressing a tear; ergo I was not sulking, merely in mourning for the lost perfection of my grenadilla. This lasted for about twenty minutes after which my grown-up self reasoned that it was time to forgive, forget and move on.  No, this was definitely not a sulk, it was legitimate grief. 
PS - Such are the Small Matters of which my life now consists in the world of retirement. But perhaps said branch will sprout a new root.

Monday, 14 September 2015

We Created a Whatsapp 'Group' - Big mistake.

Shame, this one made from left-overs
We thought we would be clever when we go on our next trip to the Karoo. Our normal cell phone provider has no reception there so we will buy a SIM card for another company and then notify all our family members of our new number in one quick message so that we can be in contact while we are away.  It will by my sister-in-law's 70th and as all the siblings are scattered around the country, we thought it would be a good idea to have a get-together while most of us can still see to drive. My husband duly created the list. A few days previously I had used his i-phone to take this picture of a little waistcoat I had crocheted with some wool given to me by a niece. I couldn't find her on 'Whatsapp' so I sent the picture instead to my sister-in-law to forward on to said niece.  Unbeknown to me, G, my sister-in-law, was in possession of a new phone and in the process of trying to find her way around it. When she received my photo (and being a Whatsapp Virgin), she thought she would test her skills and forwarded it to what she thought was my phone. Instead it went to our newly created 'Family Group'. To my great embarrassment, my husband began to receive comments on his Chat e.g. "Very pretty", "Thank you for sharing", etc. The worst things were: my daughter-in-law added a photo of her daughter, dressed in the one I had made for her (this of course, also went to everyone) - the point being that the photo I sent was of one I had secretly made for my other granddaughter for her birthday next year!  The other thing that worried me greatly is that one female in our family is an extremely accomplished craftswoman and a great perfectionist - my humble effort with its several design flaws has now been exposed to her discerning eye! (Oh, the humiliation). Still, none of this is as bad as what happened to one friend of mine ~ (and of my age). She had sent an amorous SMS to the new love in her life, but pressed the wrong button and the message went to her daughter, who no doubt rolled her eyes and said "Eeuww, mom!"

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Diaper Cake

Must have been a grateful mom

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking you are admiring a very pretty wedding cake.  Look again (sorry pic is a bit blurry courtesy of my rather cheap mobile phone's camera).  It is in fact, a 'disposable diaper tower',  put together by my daughter as a gift for a mom who has recently had a baby from the other moms at the nursery school.  That looks like a fortune in disposables. I am still uncomfortable after all these years about the wisdom of using disposable diapers regarding pollution of the planet.  When my own children were babies we only had terry-towelling squares which in any case had to be soaked and washed every day. Maybe it is six of one and half a dozen of the other?  At least the artificial diapers have the benefit of being as light as a feather. On the other hand, the towelling ones eventually found their way to my husband's garage. Forty years later he still has a few left.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Mathematical Conumdrum

Hope no mathematician reads this.

My daughter was 33 last Saturday.  My husband remarked that she was now exactly half his age   Obviously, he is 66.  So last year when she was 32 and he was 65 - she was less than half his age. He then pointed out that the older she gets, the closer she will creep up to his age.  e.g. When she is 53,  he will be 86 (God willing) - in other words she will be 61% of his age.  How can that work???? It seems to me therefore that one day she will be the same age as both of us?? He says that will never happen (???) 
There is a reason that I scraped Math with the lowest possible pass mark. Can anyone get their head around this? Can it be represented by an algebraic equation as simple as E = MC squared? (LOL).  I am beginning to think Math is some kind of a con trick.