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.