Saturday, 31 December 2016

Sh......t Happens

You can't believe they are on safely

Visiting my daughter a few weeks back, she had a frantic phone call from a good friend: they had gone on their annual cycling holiday with their four children and arrived at their destination.  All the bicycles were strapped to the back of the car with an impressive, anti-theft, Thuli lock.  The only thing was the key to the padlock had remained 800 kilometres away, at home, with their house keys.  This was alleged to be the wife's fault. So my daughter's task was to pick up the precious key from another good friend, who runs a shop close by to said house, trailing myself and my husband with her through a very congested part of town (which was good as we could sit in the car, double parked with the engine running), while she ran in to retreive said key. Then we had to high-tail it to another part of town where a courier was known to be found and express the key up to the grateful family.  It all goes to show, I thought, it's good to have good friends and even better that it's not only the older generation that forget important things.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Seeing the Funny Side

Sorry - the nose hair images were gross! (Google)

When you are as big a fan of 'The Big Bang Theory' as we are, it becomes tempting to talk to each other as critically as they do, without ever taking offence.  I am reminded of an episode when Amy is offered her first-ever bikini wax by her friends in anticipation of her first sexual encounter with Sheldon, which he reluctantly agrees can be her birthday present from him, he will make a present of his 'genitals' as he puts it.  Our own conversation post-show went more-or-less thus:

Husband:  That reminds me, isn't it time you borrowed my nose-hair machine again?
Me: (annoyed) :  That's really romantic.  I suppose every time we make out you have been thinking my nose hairs are a metre long?  But since you mention it, can I also borrow your foot-sanding machine?
Husband:  I suppose you are implying that my heels are shredding the bed sheet again?
Me:  If the cap fits. Remember when your son-in-law suggested you must be careful not to trip over your toenails when you wear sandals?
Husband:   I'll get you the machines.  (A pause).  And a side-cutter for your nose hairs.

I wanted to be cross, but I packed up laughing.  

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Weird Thing About Plastic Surgery

An honest plastic surgeon!  (Google image)

I've just watched a TV show featuring Dolly Parton (as she is now).  I never quite realised what a tiny person she is, especially since she has had her famous assets reduced. She was asked how she maintains her look. She laughed her delicious, ageless laugh and put it all down to her good doctors.  As she has famously said,  "If I see it baggin' and saggin, I get it nipped, tucked or sucked right away." Apologies if this is not quite an exact quote. She calls herself a "Backward Barbie" like the song she wrote (and what a great songwriter she is). And how exactly like Barbie she looks, if a little drawn so tight is her face. It's a little weird to see her now, almost looking like she always has. Of course, it's different for celebrities who want to keep their fans happy or for anyone with money and a fear of visibly aging. Then I watched  British show a bit like "Grand Designs"; all the couples with amazing homes that were featured were clearly well-heeled pensioners, and all were still as nature intended, saggy chins, eyelids, wrinkles, the lot.  How weird they looked.  I thought found myself thinking, "they could at least have got their eyes done". How brain-washed am I? How I envy them, happy in their own skins.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Water Saving Fun

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Parts of South Africa have had bad drought for the past two years and our municipalities have finally woken up to the necessity for water restrictions.  We saw some of the writing on the wall two years ago, and have now three large water tanks, but last month the valve that goes to our garden irrigation got stuck in the 'On' position while we were in Cape Town for 3 nights and we got back to a very large water bill.  So we have started our own efforts to save water, beginning with catching our shower water in buckets which we use to flush the toilet or carry downstairs out to the garden.  One day I tried to collect the rinse water from my washing machines but nothing big would fit in the basin under the pipes except small bowls from my kitchen and I got quite flustered trying to tip these into available buckets and there was a lot of water I didn't manage to get. Meanwhile, I have got a bucket system with a rope and a hook, to lower buckets over the balcony down to the garden.  My husband has promised to apply his mind to organising the water with some kind of attachment to the pipes which can hang down to the garden and avoid the need for buckets. Meanwhile, we are getting quite a lot of arm exercise, as our kitchen and washing facilities are upstairs (built this way for the view over the lagoon). But we need to buy a few more buckets.  One suggestion has been to buy a very large basin to stand in under the shower.  That way we should be able to save all the shower water. One good thing: our plants are growing like mad, appreciating all the phosphates etc. that are in the washing machine's water.

Monday, 28 November 2016

She Got Me Over A Barrel or Oh, What a Tangled Web Web we Weave....

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"It is supposed that this alludes to the actual situation of being draped over a barrel, either to empty the lungs of someone who has been close to drowning, or to give a flogging." (Internet)

Today meaning the person over the barrel has no choice in the matter. Well, if you are someone like me, you will understand why I panicked and felt I had no choice. When we bought our first little flat to rent out when we retired, we were so excited, had it painted out, fitted tiles behind the kitchen counter, put new carpets in the bedrooms, scrubbed the other floors, put in a new shower etc.etc. When the agent said she had super tenants for us, two girls, both in the Hospitality industry, one a vintner, the other a housekeeper - we couldn't believe our luck. Perfect, I thought to myself, they will look after the apartment nicely.  The dealbreaker in our rental contract was "No Pets". My husband was adamant about this: also our apartment is on the second floor. The girls knew this  and all seemed fine the first month and then - a week before Christmas, one of them phoned me and pleaded with me (pretty forcefully) to allow her to buy her flatmate a Daschund puppy for Christmas. It would go to Puppy Daycare, she assured me, Monday to Friday.  Against my better judgement (and because I panicked) I gave in, but didn't dare tell my husband.  What happens? Some months later, my agent tells me the girls are breaking up, there is a 'bitch fight' going on and they want to leave, but not to worry, she has a super new tenant for us, a single girl who is very meticulous. The flat was immaculate when they left she told me - including the carpets.  Three months later, large stains have appeared on both bedroom carpets.  They look awful but they weren't there when the tenant moved in. I am pretty sure they are puppy wee.  I am hoping to get in there myself next month and try to remove them with 50%water/spirit vinegar. I've had success with this in the past. What's worse, my husband has seen them (and so far said nothing). I don't know if my luck will last. He will be very cross if he finds out.  Ironically, it's just about the only secret I've ever kept from him. I hope the remedy works. I've certainly mentally flagellated myself a lot over this. I must learn not to make assumptions about people. Or about dogs. Or to be unrealistic about puppies.

Monday, 21 November 2016

An Amazing Coincidence

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I have been trying to re-start my novel lately, as, being retired, you do. Then I thought, "Who on earth would want to read about a novel set in the sixties"?  Well, probably not the young generation. What was I thinking?  Then one day last week I switched on the radio to my favourite program - "Woman's World" broadcast from London - and I heard someone being interviewed about her new book.  This someone's name was (say, Elmarie Venter), and I thought, funny, I was at school with someone of that name.  Then the interviewer went on that the writer was born in 1950 (my age) and went to CHSforGirls, (my school!) Not only that, she was in my class. Oh my goodness, it must be her - and her book was about the sixties, the Mods & Rockers, and about our home town.  The interview lasted about 5 minutes. What are the chances? So I looked her up and sent an e-mail. What a great correspondence ensued, swapping memories of old times - she even remembered my nickname. She is a retired barrister and is on her third book. Sales are looking fantastic. She is so excited. So am I.  Of course, women our age read these things. I confess for the first time in my life to a tiny competitive instinct. I tried to find the words I wrote two years ago: I had forgotten what I called the file, but no matter, I found it eventually. I've started again: it was a bit depressing as my first 3500 words became 2999 after I had done some editing of the appalling bits. Still. Although it is progressing slowly, I find I need to churn bits of plot over in my mind before committing anything to paper. I admire the real writers who are disciplined enough to force themselves to sit down every day and do so many words. The thing that worries me most is that there are no murders or gory bits - the things that I like to read myself. About the coincidence though.

It's almost enough to stop me being an etheist. They say a coincidence occurs when God wants to appear anonymous. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

"Stand Up Straight!"

How many of us were admon
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ished by our mothers to do this as we grew up? Lately, I've been hearing it from all directions regarding anything to do with Lower Back Pain and My Husband.  For a long time, he has been complaining about his sore back, blaming it on everything from building little walls around our vegetables, lying on his side,  to possible failing kidneys (which - an expensive test later - proved to be fine). On his latest trip to his physician, his complaints were again aired, although he was only there to update his blood pressure pills. I could see the good man glancing at his watch, then taking a deep breath, and with a very firm instruction to lose weight, he also suggested that if one was overweight, one's posture was inclined to sag, leading naturally, to a sore lower back.  He recommended daily walks, concentrating on posture, which (he sounded quite dejected) most people forget about after the first five minutes. My husband was reluctant to believe these things, and so, while he has given in to some extent, is doing his exercises and we do walk almost every day, he now blames his back problems on our bed. We have four bedrooms in our house, three of which contain beds which we have in the past discarded because they were accused of causing sore backs.  Now, my husband has decided to swop over our current luxurious, well-padded bed with one of the others. He is waiting for small son to visit today to help him with this plan, because we have Queen-size beds and there is a flight of stairs to be negotiated. Hopefully, small son will not have a bad back after this exercise.  So we wait and see.  I don't sleep well on a firm bed (as at my daughter's house), but these days, I don't sleep well anyway, so it won't make much difference.  I fervently hope this fixes my husband's problem.  Maybe it's just psychological.  NB - I have noticed generally that it is mostly those who have been in the armed forces or done ballet training who walk up straight as a habit for the rest of their lives.  Or maybe it's just elderly people who are determined to fix their back problems. So what if everyone thinks we are just trying to be noticed.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Uncomfortable Thoughts


The great thing about the blog world is that it can be so anonymous, one can be completely honest and confess things to one's blog friends that one wouldn't to one's nearest and dearest.  So it is with my thoughts about a sad event in the family: my husband's youngest sister's funeral last week.  He is one of a family of 7, of which he is the youngest of the first five. 8 years after his birth, his mother had another child and then decided to have another, so as not to have an 'only' child.  Also, in those days - contraception was by no means as easy as it is today.  Hence the first five.  Not to mention the last two. She was in her early forties. I remember my mother-in-law as being fiercely proud, spending her days furiously sewing for her large family and determined that no-one in their small town should ever say that her children weren't well-fed and cared for.  Every time they 'went to town', she would line up her children in the bathroom and wash their fine, blonde hair. She was actually amazing. She put her youngest child, a son, through University, partly by baking 12 sponge cakes daily, which she would ice and take to the local home produce shop. Sadly, both he and his sister, the second litter, are now deceased.  The others are all still living. What does that prove?  The youngest was like a shooting star, he became very sucessful but encountered severe financial problems.  (You may remember he took his own life). His sister was 'different'. I remember asking my husband if she was a Mongol child when I first met him, so different was she from the rest of the family.  I have since learned that she wasn't, but she was definitely a 'few tiles short of a roof'.  My mother-in-law would never admit this, but S was a problem child and grew up to be a 'problem' adult in various ways, but in the end she did hold down various jobs, never asked the family for any help and lived her own life. 
Her funeral was last week.  We are all suffering from guilt.  She had a bad case of flu for five weeks, she was grossly overweight, she smoked, she drank somewhat, she was very sedentary.
Eventually, she was in a government hospital where for some reason they gave her a cortisone injection to which she proved allergic. She swelled up even more, felt awful, but didn't have Medical Aid and died at home one day of a heart attack.
Those that could went to the funeral.  I would say there were about 30 people present, half of which were S's friends - from the coloured or black community.  She was a kind person and had many friends, some of whom travelled far to attend her funeral. She never saw 'color' and thus put many of us, her family to shame. 
We all feel some guilt. We are all better off than she. Could we not have helped? We all say we didn't realise her health situation was so precarious.  Did we turn a blind eye? 
I for one, have worried for a few years that we would have to support S once she reached an age when she could no longer work. She had casual employent but it didn't come with a pension.  
Now, we are all helping with the funeral costs, but I confess that I am relieved that this will be a once-off payment. Relief is the main feeling I have regarding her decease. I feel bad, I feel almost grateful that fate decided things this way.  What is worse - I don't think I am the only one, but no-one else is saying.

Thursday, 3 November 2016


Even better than the empty pots

Patience is not one of my strong suits, though I am still practising. Perhaps one area in which there are lessons to be learned is in one's garden.  The first test is the never-ending war against pests such as snails, ants and in our particular garden - a tortoise who will do anything to get hold of pink or yellow blossoms.  Then two years ago we spent ages trying to hack out the roots of large, spiky aloes which had broken through their fibreglass pots.  After three days we gave up, leaving the pots still half full of (a hopefully dead) mass of roots. For two years the empty pots stood dormant, decorative (and dead) so last season we had another go and put in drought-resistant succulents which we got as small plants from the local nursery.  They grew large and green, but after 11 months had produced no flowers. My husband was all for digging them out, but a garden-wise sister-in-law was visiting and she said, "Just give them a chance".  VoilĂ !  Spring has just sprung in our part of the world and this is the result.  They give us great pleasure every time we look out of our upstairs window or come back from the shops.  They will probably look like this for six months. Definitely worth the wait.  This arum lily, known locally as a 'pig's ear' was determined to thrive among the last few wild flowers of September.  You can only admire it's persistence. They are popular in bridal bouquets here but they bruise easily. Working with them takes a lot of patience.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Being Related in a Small Town

'n draadkar - Afrikaans part of the country

I had the pleasure of meeting up with two of my three children and their families on our recent trip to the Karoo and a farm. We were off again to see husband's sister-in-law (Parkinson's) and brother-in-law (4th stage liver cancer, spots in lungs). Arrived to find them both joyful and feeling good - their kitchen now looks like a fresh produce stall as he has decided to ditch chemo this time and go the 'health food and cannabis' route. She is so busy looking after him that she has forgotten about her own problems (but does her exercises every day). It was school holidays so to take a break my son took his family for lunch in a small gift/coffee shop in one of the small towns en route. There he found the ideal present for his son's 4th birthday - a wire car.
Commandeered by my granddaughter but D didn't mind
He asked us to buy it for him on the way back to Cape Town so as to be a surprise so we had to confess we had ordered one at another venue, having had the same bright idea.  Traditionally, you buy these things, locally made originally for township children, on the side of the road, but they are not galvanized and so would rust within a week where we live. The 'shop' one has better wheels and is plasticized. We were leaving very early however, and would arrive before opening time. Not a problem: the shop is run by my sister-in-law's cousin's daughter and she arranged to have the toy delivered to the local garage and we could pay her later. This worked well: we picked up our little car shortly after sunrise and got home safely later in the day.  Come to think, we must have honest faces as once before on a wine farm in the Cape, the farmer's wife was selling patio furniture out of a converted barn. We bought a swing chair for our balcony (a lot more expensive than the car) and she suggested paying for it when we returned home as she didn't have a credit card machine.  Amazing. Good people out there.

Monday, 26 September 2016

I am Fed Up With Myself, concerning Sex and a Fire

Well, I couldn't show you the sex

I hope this title is not a euphemism for being slightly depressed. When I started my blog ten years back, I set out to entertain: I wrote often about my eccentric father and brother from my elevated, smug, status of being younger and fitter. Now my parents have long since passed away and I am turning into them. Only I am not yet reconciled to this. Maybe I am refusing to face the reality of most of my in-laws becoming beset with serious health issues. Maybe I should be grateful that my husband is the youngest of five siblings so we cling to the illusion of being the last to 'go'. We've just had a visit from one of my sisters-in-law: her husband had to be taken to kidney dialysis twice during their brief stay of one week. The net result seems to be that I am indulging myself in an ugly display of bad temper, being very irritable and snapping at my husband for no particular reason. I have to take myself in hand. Of course, one way is to cross-examine myself in a blog post. How boring is that for any reader? One thing I might amuse you about is my stubborn refusal to face reality about my diminishing sex life. My husband has bad a 'bad back' for the past few months: of course, he won't admit it is caused by excessive carrying around of 50 kgm pockets of cement and lying on his side, pointing between the bricks of the little walls he is building around our vegetable beds. He has no cartilage left between two of his lumbar vertebrae. He is turning into my dad. Anyway, no decent sex for the last how long... So this morning, while he was in the shower, I decided to have a go with my trusty 'Dolphin' vibrator. I know that I have six minutes of privacy.  I have to confess that he, (the vibrator), is now about 20 years old, but carries on as long as one puts in decent batteries. However, it seems that his (the vibrator's) 'variable speed control' has ceased to function. It's either Full Speed Ahead or nothing.  This is not ideal. After a hectic minute and a half, a climax was achieved (or was it more of a stomach cramp?) and I was left gasping and perhaps wishing I hadn't started this whole exercise. This feeling was aggravated by the sudden appearance of my husband, before his shower, but after his shave (unprecedented), in the bedroom, enquiring as to whether he should do the back exercises I had recommended, before or after his shower? I can't explain how much subterfuge this took on my part to conceal my heavy breathing (the vibrator is quite noisy), but I think I got away with it.   Meantime, there are other excitements back at the ranch.... this afternoon, I smelt a suspiciously gassy smell downstairs.  When I went to look for my husband in his garage, he looked a little sheepish and confessed that he had just had to put out a fire:  he was welding the handle back onto our milk-frother, but a spark had fallen into some left-over paint in a bucket near his feet and caused a fire. Never a dull moment. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

High Blood Pressure Blues

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I've moped about a bit this week and not done much, not that I have high blood pressure, mine is terrific - 118/73 at last count. It's my husband.  We have a home monitor as he has had pills for years and someone said we should get one.  It has languished unused in the cupboard until recently when M said he was waking up every morning with a headache behind his eyes and didn't feel well.  We didn't think much of it, I thought it might be a residual sinus infection but we did take a test, using me as a control (hence the aforementioned-reading.)  Between 204 and 214 over something. We were scared. He had changed his pills a month before because he had to take a cocktail of 4 different ones, one of which had to be cut in half but it always crumbled so became annoying. These were replaced by only two but clearly, they weren't working. So we high-tailed it off to the local pharmacy where the resident nurse took his pressure on her two machines; the manual one that you pump up yourself:  130/90 (on both arms). Lovely, but short-lived relief - the digital fancy one (like ours) also read a consistent 204 over something. What to believe? For safety's sake we went to our doctor. Also a very high reading - and a lecture. However, she did prescribe new pills, supposedly really really good ones and we went home. My first thoughts were: what if he has a heart attack or a stroke? We live in a small town with the nearest hospital half an hour away. Trying to be pro-active, I googled the first aid, got equipped with Aspirin, and discovered the phone number of a local paramedic service. Apparently, if someone has a stroke, there is a good chance of recovery if they are attended to within two hours. My husband phoned his older brother and made a back-up note of the medicines he takes. A week later, so far so good, M ventured to take his first readings this morning,  175 and five minutes later 159 (over something - I still have to research the diastole/systole thing) 

The chaser to this story - if you have read this far... a couple of weeks ago, my husband woke up one morning, feeling a little better and  fancying to 'play around a little': mission was accomplished, leaving him feeling good for the day.  To my surprise, I was woken up later that night, half an hour after going to sleep with a similar request with a similar outcome.  Having recently listened to a radio phone-in show which concentrated on male 'recovery' times, the expert had said that the average 90-year-old could count himself lucky if he managed one erection a month. Work it back: my husband is 67.  The next morning, he apologised.  He said he had thought it was the next morning (is it all in the mind?) Anyway, on reflection, I am wondering if it was the high blood pressure needing an outlet? Whatever, it would be a good way to go, they say.  Happily, my husband is still alive. We play it day by day. He was hoping to ditch the blood pressure pills altogether by drinking a particularly nasty-smelling health tea which goes by the name of Cancer Bush. He has been taking it for 3 months and it smells like something burnt over in the oven. Huh! Faint hope.  At least, he can stop drinking the foul stuff now and stop polluting my kitchen. Whatever the other lessons in this exercise, it has made me once again, realize how much my partner means to me and how bereft I would be without him.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Pamper Party for 7-year olds?

My grand-daughters, aged 5 and 7

Although I sympathise that mother's rack their brains each year to think of a theme for their child's party, I do wonder whether a 'pamper' party  (this was not a known term when my own children were small) is suitable for so young an age.  We already worry that our little/big girls worry too much about their looks so is it healthy to emphasize hair/nails/skin/appearance at this young age?  What happened to party games: I remember fondly Musical Chairs/Statues, Pass the Parcel and Hide and Seek etc. at this age - all organised by my mother.  Is it just that times have changed and we are faced with The Evil Media and Keeping Up With the Joneses? What does anyone think?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Elusive Tricks of Memory

This was good - wasn't it?

I don't know if the following is short or long-term memory-related since I can't remember the timescale of the individual examples (LOL), but both my husband and I have noticed the following: whether we are watching a repeat of a murder mystery on TV, or re-reading a thriller because our small-town library has nothing new to offer,  or re-listening to an audio story in the car because we can't remember if we have heard it before - it is remarkable that neither of us can remember 'whodunnit' until the very end of the very last frame or chapter.  As the story goes along, things or people or events seem vaguely familiar or indeed, extremely familiar but the plot eludes us. Is this some selective function of our brains to prevent possible information overload? Would we have endless insomnia if we were to remember all these horrible stories in detail?  If so, I am quite lost in admiration at the intelligence of the human brain.  A pity it chooses to remember all the incidents in one's life when someone has hurt or insulted us. I believe in the maxim of 'forgive and forget', the forgive part is not so hard but the forget thing doesn't happen. Weird.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Forced to Fib

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The Wild Flower Season is very much upon us at the moment which plays a large part in why we have so many guests in our home. The last two lots had even paid plane tickets to come and visit so we didn't have the heart to put them off, although both my husband and I had/have colds - his has been a real old 'man cold' but lasting on and off for four weeks, whereas mine has sneaked in a week ago, so I am almost over it. It is at the stage where I feel OK but have temporarily lost my senses of smell and taste.  So it was with reluctance that I acceded to our visitors' enthusiastic wish to have a look at a famous Olive Farm nearby.  They walked in a little before us and I did voice my decision not to do any tasting but they had already bought tickets for us all.  It proved to be a very informative and interesting 45 minutes in which numerous tasty olive oils/tapenades/jellies and different types of olives were passed around together with a glass of both red and white wine.  My guests beamingly asked my opinion of the various goodies and I think I did a good job of lauding the their praises and expressing my preferences - all of which were lies. I couldn't taste or smell a thing except for one olive/herb spice of which I could taste the salt and one chile-enhanced product which made most of us cough. There was one good result though:  I did buy quite a few of the things I thought I might like. I'll enjoy them at a future date when I am better.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A Confusion of Beds

This is actually in the little holiday flat we rent out

In another life about 20 years ago, big son was 17, my daughter was 14 and small son was 7 (and not in this particular picture). We had strict boyfriend/girlfriend rules along the lines of those of the 1960s when we were young:  ie. you do not have sex (awful phrase but there you are, that's what it would have been) in our house - although we know you are probably 'doing it' (another awful phrase) elsewhere.  At those ages we were terrified of unwanted pregnancies. In fact, I was relieved when my daughter at 16 asked to go on the pill "for her skin" - at the time virtually unblemished. Twenty years on, we are somewhat more relaxed as far as small son, now 27, is concerned.  We have all successfully navigated one or two serious relationships of his without incident to the extent that now when he brings the new girlfriend (there has only been one before) to stay for the week-end I offer them a shared bedroom with a changed conscience, reasoning that at this age small son deserves a sex life and a girl in her twenties will have the sense not to get pregnant. So last week-end (we have 3 spare bedrooms), small son was coming with the new love and I planned to give them the best bedroom because normally (shame) when all my kids come - the others with their children - I have to give the families the bigger, sunnier rooms, and small son gets the 'back bedroom'.  This time I could make amends. Then my daughter phoned to say they were coming - OK still one decent room available, but then big son phoned to say they 'might' come too.  Consternation on my part. Now small son will be relegated to the back room again - with its all too recent memories of his last love affair.  What to do?  I was actually quite cross. Needlessly.  In the end, big son didn't come and when small son & partner arrived first, he automatically aimed for the back bedroom and said 'This will be ours'.  So much for my worries. Although I did steer them towards the second bedroom and felt good about it.  I mean what if someone told the new girlfriend about the old one? I would have felt awful wondering how many others had been in the same bed. I made the mistake of asking my husband 'How many other girlfriends had slept in your bed before you met me?'  While he stared at me I recovered my senses.  "Please don't answer that", I said.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Learning to Draw Faces

First attempt on the left

So this is my new hobby, mindful of the fact that to ward off Altzheimer's one needs to learn new things.  I am trying to teach myself to draw.  These are my first two attempts plus the photograph out of a book I am trying to reproduce, of a Greek fisherman.
I should point out I was useless at art at school, but I have heard anyone can be taught to draw. Well I can't afford lessons but have taken the bull by the horns and have decided to have six attempts at drawing this man's face. I am puzzled that I can't seem to capture his slightly sinister look at all. My first effort looks more like the man's father or perhaps his brother?  My second attempt completely failed around the eye area (looked like a five-year old's effort) - to such an extent that I have been obliged to close his eyes and pretend he is sleeping. I spent about half an hour on the first try and maybe twenty minutes on the second, although I realised I could spend another hour trying to get the eyes right - that's when I gave up.  I wonder what the secret is?  I understand that I could learn various technical things about drawing faces in general e.g. they eyes should be half-way down the entire skull area (shouldn't they?) Surely I should be able to just observe the original carefully enough to translate the eye to the hand?  Also, the second attempt is on textured paper in a sketch book, whereas the first was on smooth paper from my printer. I guess the answer is just to keep trying. It is certainly an absorbing and frustrating challenge. I assume I will improve with practice? Funny that my first effort looks to me better than my second. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Our Need for a Wire Less Intercom at Home

Communication between husband and wife

This topic may not strike any chords with American readers - I understand you have a much better telephone/mobile phone system than we do - meaning, you get a lot of free stuff? I have also heard that our mobile service is about the most expensive in the world, the service providers conniving with each other to keep our rates high.  We do actually have quite an amount of free telephone time over week-ends and evenings which we rarely use, unless to call relatives on birthdays, but we do need communication inside our house. The problem is we only had only one main line installed and use those little portable phones which have a main station and two satellites: we have these in the bedroom, kitchen and our 'hobbies' room.  These rooms are all upstairs and the phones work OK (we built for the view) but naturally, the garage and M's workroom are downstairs and the signal doesn't carry through our concrete ceiling.  I may add that most homes here are built of cement brick and ceilings between floors are a very solid "rib and block" design. So whenever M wants my attention, he has to open the garage door, walk down to the front gate and ring the doorbell.  I thought this works well but apparently he finds it irritating.  I can't see a problem as the only time I ever need to speak to him is to yell, "Dinner's ready!" down the stairs. But he convinced me that we must get a "Wire less Intercom" from and because he said it was a bargain, I agreed, mostly because it is exciting to get a parcel delivered to your door when you order on-line. A back-up argument was to remind me that he might, at any given moment, need emergency medical help (cf.previous posts/power tools). A couple of days after we had placed and confirmed the order, he received an SMS saying did the buyer realise he must have a pair of these for the system to work. I don't know what happened to my husband's brain that day, but we had no choice but to order another one, much to my disgust: very much no longer a bargain.  

Anyway, it duly arrived and is set up. Small disadvantage - not the perfect answer, as I move around upstairs and really should carry it around with me and plug it in wherever I am. Not doing it.  So it stays in the 'hobbies/computer' room where I spend a lot of my time and if I go somewhere else, I just call him up and say things like, "I'm outside hanging the washing for 10 minutes". What I am trying to avoid is him saying things like "How about a cup of coffee?".  Solution: do this with a good grace, reminding myself that I should be grateful that I am stil able-bodied' enough to run up and down stairs and that it is good exercise.  The funny thing is: M feels the need to shout into the machine - so that I hear him well wherever I am, wire less intercom or not.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Thoughts on Clothes - Colours

Dressing for a dreary day

It was my birthday recently and I was given by a close family member, a nice scarf, which unfortunately is 'not my colors'.  One would think that a person you see often would notice what one wears and buy accordingly, although I have never been able to buy any item of clothing for my own daughter, who appears to dislike (on principle) anything that I choose. It would be arbitrarily defined as 'old-fashioned'.  So I don't go there. Actually, I dare not give her anything other than a general mall Gift Voucher, which she declares is the best present ever.  Still.  It's nice to wrap something up. My point is that the person in question favors (in my view) very dowdy and dingy colors viz. either black or grey. She also rarely wears make-up and thus, (also in my biassed view), does not make the most of herself and indeed, appears to be trying to efface herself from the landscape. This, to me, is silly, as she is actually a very attractive young person. Personally, I have a wardrobe fully of vibrant colors - there is nothing like putting on a bright, red item of clothing to cheer up a winter's day or indeed, to cheer oneself up whenever one is feeling a little down.  I like to vary the image: sometimes I feel extrovert and want to be noticed, others I like to look 'soft and feminine - ergo, some pastel pinks or blues - these are more often my summer colors.  When I was once in central London in winter however, I observed that there seemed to be a uniform of unrelieved black - scarf, gloves, overcoat, Cossack hats - as if the whole of London was going to a giant funeral. I get this to an extent: black is a 'power' color. You have to fit the image if you are a working girl/or guy. Remember the time when we all got 'color-coded'?  It was a big deal, here in South Africa - you had swatches of fabric placed next to your face at someone's home and were declared suited either to "summer/winter/fall or spring" colors.  Interestingly, some women already had it right - others had not a clue. Doesn't everyone know what suits them? I'm only talking colors here.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Do Sweat the Small Stuff

Google image

The thing is, it is usually the small stuff that is inclined to make us bad-tempered on a daily basis - so why not fix it if you can?  I find that I am quickly put into a "less than polite" mood if I have to fetch a stepladder from a distance of say, 30 yards, when I want to reach up to the top cupboards in my clothes closet.  My husband doesn't have this problem, but I am 5'5", I need a stepladder for many areas in my house. We have a ladder in the kitchen, in my laundry room (so I can reach to set up my retractable clothes line), in the downstairs room so I reach to the top shelves of our bookcase and now I have demanded one for our walk-in clothes closet, as I have been trying, unsuccessfully mostly, to throw things up to the top shelf only to have them fall down on my head. Of course, this all revolves around the debate of what is an 'average' height?  The work surfaces are just a bit too high for me in our kitchen but the builders demanded that they be fixed to a 'standard' height.  This is quite difficult to argue with in our house as my husband does as much cooking as I do. The other thing is that we have designed all our cupboards to reach up to the ceilings as I don't want a gap where things both untidily accumulate and also gather dust. I suppose you can't have it all ways. Maybe I should just have been born a bit taller.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Facing Your Fears

 Sisters - my mom (left) died 8 months later, aged 90

Of course, there are many different types of fears and facing any one of them is easier said than done.  Lately, I have put off contacting my favourite Aunt at her retirement home in England. She would have been 96 last week (but is she still alive and of sound mind?)  I badly wanted to telephone her for her birthday but was afraid of the result. My cousin, her daughter, does not 'do' computers and hasn't answered my snail-mail letters and neither does her husband, e-mails obtain no result.  I see that my last letter to my aunt, last November, was unacknowledged.  Did it get there at all? Our postal system is a disaster.  Finally, last week, my cousin's husband did reply to an Urgent e-mail: yes, she was fine - he was just off to buy her weekly supply of frozen dinners for her carers to prepare. I knew she was in a wheelchair and now had been suffering from Parkinson's.  I plucked up my courage and phoned.  How delighted and relieved I was to hear her voice, sounding almost the same as always, she knew immediately who I was, remembered all about my family, even my grandchildren's names, she joked about her advancing age, not mentioning her ailments or difficulties and we had a marvelous chat until I could hear she was beginning to get tired.  My mother died 8 years ago, and my father 4: I still can't believe they have gone. This aunt, my mother's younger sister, was a huge part of my childhood and I loved her dearly: she was always going out of her way to help others. She is my last tenuous grip on the past. She is the last one left. She has been a widow for about forty years. She told me that for her birthday this year she had lots of beautiful cards and four bouquets of flowers. She received my card, she told me, after only 4 days in the post. She still reads books . I think I will write her more often. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

How to Watch Team Sport with your Husband

Google image

I am not a sports fan, except for Wimbledon tennis which I used to watch with my mother as a teenager, when I deeply admired Chrissie Evert's pretty dresses, nice legs and frilly knickers. I am not so keen any more as the girls are not very feminine and look as if they are beefed up with steroids. These days, I have to pretend to enjoy rugby with my husband as there is usually no-one else for him to watch the games with. Annoyingly, they take place on a Saturday afternoon which used to annoy me more than it does now that we are retired and are hard put to it to keep track of days of the week. Watching a game, to keep my sanity and to feign interest,  goes like this:

Person A:  Hey ref,  you missed that foul.
Person B:  Gosh, look at that man's legs - they are huge.
Person A:  Oh you idiot - that was forward.
Person B:  How come that guy is wearing one pink boot and one yellow one?
Person A:  Come on you guys, pass to the line!
Person B:  I am sure that guy dyes his hair.
Person A:  They should get that guy off the team
Person B:  I can't believe that one's hair is so long - it must get in his way
Person A:  This ref is definitely biassed
Person B:  They should show more of the cheerleaders
Person A:  Oh no, they collapsed the scrum again
Person B:  Which team are we supporting?

And so forth.....
Could you guess which one is me?   If all else fails, I keep my eyes on the timer but 90 minutes is a long time. I do admire the fearlessness and persistence with which the guys crash into each other (they only have gum guards). Some of them are even good-looking apart from their cauliflower ears. Not many are actual eye-candy. That is for swimmers or divers. Now those I can watch.

Monday, 11 July 2016

How To Give up Your Nightly Tipple

Google image

I have absolutely no good advice to give on this topic as we have so far dismally failed in all our attempts to do this.  It just seems that at the end of either a rewarding or equally difficult day - our thoughts turn to a nice glass of wine (me), or a very solid whisky (him). There is nothing quite like sitting down at your computer to write a blog post  - with a nice glass of something at your side.  We have tried various things to restrict ourselves, perhaps just at week-ends, we say,  - but there are always so many good reasons to carry on viz: "I've really worked hard today and achieved a lot - I deserve a drink".  Or: "I can't believe our team lost at rugby today - I need a drink to console myself", or conversely, " Our team won! We must celebrate with a couple of drinks!" Or: "We will start on Monday .....( read also starting any kind or diet). Another reason to continue this habit is that we can still afford to buy the liquor.  However, we are fairly recently retired so things are still good - however, in future the cost factor may be a compelling reason to limit our drinks to week-ends or when we have visitors. My theory is that if we don't have the drink in the house, temptation will be so much less.  If the bottles are standing on the shelf......!   Our biggest enemy in this regard is the discount stores.  Woe betide our resolution if the whisky is advertised at an unbeatable price, my husband just can't resist, reasoning at the time that we must have something in the house to offer visitors. I have even heard myself asking the manager at our favourite store to raise the price to help us to stop buying. No joy.  Why bother you might well ask?  It is not as if we are alcoholics. (At least, I don't think so). We went without any alcohol two years ago for a whole week on a cruise ship from Cape Town to Madagascar, because the Italian company has the audacity to charge for everything on board in dollars (which is extremely expensive for us). We actually didn't miss it, just drank juice and coffee.  Didn't do us any harm at all. Still, at this stage in our lives - maybe we should have a care for our livers. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Weird World of the Subconscious

'Emotion area' overdeveloped in me

You may remember my unfortunate reaction to my husband's 'speech' at the Christmas party last year? Yes, we sorted it out and I am supposed to be over it  (not 100% but most of the time I am).  The male species all just think I was over-reacting and I get that, but I am female after all.  So I decided to ask my brother-in-law's opinion of the story because he has known my husband all his life, at least since he was in short pants. So while we were down on the farm last month,  I got him aside and told him.  As I thought, he dismissed the episode as me having 'nothing to worry about'. However, I was not able to totally prevent a few 'ugly' tears (as Oprah would say.)  Imagine my surprise when we returned home a couple of weeks later and I had a vivid dream (not graphic though) in which I was led off to bed by my brother-in-law. I puzzled a lot over this because I have known him for nearly 40 years and although I am very fond of him, he is very far from the physical type that I would be attracted to so why would I dream this?  I wasn't even much impressed by his advice. My husband then happened to confide that he had a terrible dream in which our dear son-in-law had a mistress (he spends half the week away from home). As far as we know this has no foundation in fact, so I told my husband not to worry and told him (wickedly, hoping to make him jealous), about my own dream. Annoyingly, he had no visible reaction, so I don't know if this barb met it's mark or not. Still, it did remind to keep my own counsel about my own insecurities.  I am currently trying to develop an 'air of mystery and slight reticence' which is quite hard since my husband knows me far too well. As they say - marriage is a work in progress.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Warthog in the House

Introducing Bessie

This year while down on the farm we made the aquaintance of Bessie, a six-month-old warthog.  She was rescued in the veldt as a week-old orphan that just fitted into one's hand. Fed at first on soya milk, she soon thrived and developed a liking for anything that the family ate, especially sweets. The only things she does not like are bananas. As you can see, she has become the family favorite, even ousting the dogs from their favourite seat on the couch.  In the wild, she would be used to curling up with her family in a burrow but as it gets very cold in the Karoo at the moment, she gets spoiled with her own blanket in the lounge. She has not developed tusks yet, but is very loving and adores my nephew; she sleeps in his room and showers with him. Everyone ignores veiled hints at how nice she would taste on the Bar-B-Q at Christmas and indeed (despite appearances), she is actually quite appealing with long eye-lashes and tiny high heels, like a Barbie doll. 
As with most farm pets, the dogs, cats and now - warthog, all play nicely together. Wonder what they will have next year?

Friday, 1 July 2016

Back after a Break...

Sunset viewed from our balcony

Hi Everyone, I see I am not the only one who has been on a Blog Break recently.  Well, we are home now after three weeks away. The cupboards on the farm are finished and our car has finally been returned to us after 10 weeks in the shop. The ultimate insult was that although they returned the vehicle to us with a full tank of gas, the driver got lost on the way from Cape Town (I think he went visit all his relatives in the back woods) and he took 3 hours to do a 1 hour trip. We immediately took steps to trade in our (beloved Mercedes) for a new Rav 4 (as pensioners, we can no longer afford the enormous bills that can result from owning a Merc. when the service plan has run out) and are still awaiting confirmation of the bank transfer before we can collect it. Otherwise, I want you to look at this pic of an amazing sunset viewed from our balcony.  Sometimes your own problems diminish a lot in the awe of a natural phenomenon like a sunset. More anon...

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Waiting Game

Meanwhile, Big son makes space in his garage it will be 9 weeks before we perhaps get our top-of-the-line Mercedes ML back from the sleek, sophisticated garage whence it has been languishing since the day we took it in for it's regular service - nothing apparently wrong with it. After the mechanics had finished doing a 'campaign' on it (don't ask me - I think it's about being a guinea pig because we have a maintenance contract so don't pay for anything except for diesel and tyres). After that - the engine refused to work properly. Since then, a new exhaust has been fitted, the catalytic converter has been fiddled with, the 'loom' changed. Still no progress. We have just waited three weeks for the 'correct' part to arrive from Germany. It arrived on Friday - but not the right part (bits missing, I gather!!!) Another two weeks....Meantime, we leave for the Karoo on Wednesday, with yet another vehicle, this time a hire car from Avis (supplied by Mercedes), because we have to have a tow bar.  When my husband first offered to bring all the wood etc. to refurbish my sister-in-law's farm kitchen, little did he know we would have all these car problems. Having loaded about half the wood yesterday, with our little trailer almost collapsing under the weight, we realised my brother-in-law would just have to come in his pick-up truck to fetch the other half from Big son's garage in Cape Town. He leaves the farm at 3.00 am tomorrow to do the 6-hour drive, then plans to return to the farm on the same day because they start shearing on Wednesday and he has to be there. I hope he makes it there and back in one piece, and also the cupboards' innards which have been cut to size and edged by our local hardware store.  Our trailer is still full with only the doors.  Similarly, I have had to wait nearly 10 weeks to get an appointment (21st June) to have an implant replaced in my mouth.  Our dentist tut-tutted when I showed him the offending tooth on 5th May - the screw-thing sheared off.  He is fed up with his German supplier and I have had to wait nearly two months for a new 'peg' to arrive from Germany.
Who was it that said, "All things come to those who wait" (Google answer: Violet Fane, 1892).  I hope this is true in our case. And what's happened to German efficiency?

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Outwitting a 5-year old

Anything my brother can do..... paintball

This is not easy to do. Remember that cutie when she celebrated her 2nd birthday naked? Well, it was a very hot day and I probably shouldn't have posted that picture, although it wasn't all-revealing. Anyway, she is now 5 and we have just come back from a bout of baby-sitting during which it fell to me (hubby claims he had all the stress of driving the school run), to entertain her for the two afternoons. Grandson is not a problem, like all boys, he is married to his i-pad. So after both had been fetched from school and fed, she announced she would like to play chess with me.  I know she doesn't really know how to move the pieces, regardless of her exaggerated claims, but her brother plays chess at school so..... She began to set up the board with the white pieces in front of her. Having positioned the black ones, I noticed that my queen was missing. Strange, I thought, as my grandson is quite meticulous about packing away his things. On pointing this out, all I got was a shrug of her shoulders and a raising of the eyebrows. I decided it didn't really matter as it wouldn't be a serious game. However, afterwards I said we must go and search for the missing piece in the playroom.  When we went in and she watched me looking here and there unsuccessfully for a while, she could take it no longer,
 "It's under the couch,"  she said.  
"How do you know that?  You haven't looked anywhere yet."  
For once, no inventive answer. Ill-concealed guilty look. Gotcha. Considering how many times in two days she had me over a barrel with the convincing, "my mommy lets me" - and I fell for it, I regard this as a minor victory.  I have yet to discover where she keeps finding my daughter's hidden cache of marshmallows, but I'll leave that 'til next time. I find my preaching about "it doesn't matter if you lose, it's all about playing the game" has so far fallen upon stony ground.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

A Macabre Coincidence

Google image

I have spent a couple of days looking for my make-up bag, the loss of which is traumatic for me as I don't step out of my house without my warpaint. As it is the same dark color as our car's carpets, I usually look there as a last resort as I often 'put my face on' in the car while my husband is driving. There is rarely anyone in the back seat and certainly not lately, however, I finally looked on the floor behind my seat. There it was, having slid from the front to the back when my husband braked a bit sharpish. It made me think of something I heard on our radio news that day: in America, 'another young woman' had been shot dead by her own toddler, not strapped in, who picked up her handgun which must have slid under the driver's seat to the back while her mother was driving. How tragic is that? Apparently, 250 grown-ups were accidentally shot by their own children last year.  Meanwhile, two notes to self:  1) I am very glad we don't own any handguns and 2) I must think about getting a brightly colored make-up bag.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Has Anyone heard from Sextant lately?

Just concerned.  Haven't seen him comment on anyone's blog in the last few weeks.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

If Only......

Damage was something like this  (Google image)

I suppose it falls to all of us to dwell sometimes (uselessly) on the turns of fate when they affect us adversely.  Still, it is also therapeutic to retrace those fateful steps.  IF ONLY, my sister-in-law had not been with us so that we were too stingy to pay the extra $3 for her entry into our local game reserve, (we have an annual card and it makes a shorter route by 10 miles for us every time we drive through to Cape Town). IF ONLY, we had been driving our own (well-insured) car and not a loan vehicle from the garage where our car was in for a regular service.  IF ONLY, there had not been road works holding up the morning traffic in our small town, (which we would have avoided if we had gone through the park),  IF ONLY, the woman behind us while we waited at a Stop sign, had not got her shoe stuck between the brake and the accelerator and gone into the back of us, IF ONLY, we had not been driving a brand-new car, IF ONLY, the garage had not been self-insured, IF ONLY my husband had not assumed when he signed the agreement, that we would not be liable for the $1000 excess "in the event of an accident" with this loan car if we were the innocent party.  We have just received the bill for this excess amount. I can still stomach this, as we would have had to pay a lot anyway to add this loan car to our own insurance. To add to all this - the garage has discovered a mysterious fault in our Mercedes (which it didn't have before it went in), to the extent that they have now been working on it for 3 weeks, have replaced all kinds of parts, are waiting for a final part to arrive from Germany and the icing on the cake is that they are trying to say that we put the wrong kind of diesel into the tank which has caused the damage.  This - put to a man who has spent the last 23 years of his life in charge of a truck workshop and who has looked after his vehicle to the nth degree, especially seeing that the correct grade of diesel was put into the tank.

No-one ever said life would be fair.  You have only to listen to Bill Gates' famous speech.

The final insult is that they are trying to make us the guilty party and pay the repair bill of something approaching $10,000.  But they are still not sure what is wrong. And all we did was send our perfect car in for it's regular service under the Maintenance contract which states that all repairs and maintenance except for tires will be covered without charge for 8 years/or equivalent miles.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Tragi-Comedy at the Crem.

Google image
I promise this is a true story. Another of my sister-in-laws has retired happily to a small town in the middle of our country.  Last week she heard the following astonishing tale concerning the death of an old man of her acquaintance. Living alone on a remote farm, rarely in contact with his family, it was four months before it was discovered that he had died. Understandably, the authorities were in a hurry to bury his remains and so it was that there was a hasty service in the local crematorium, attended by his nearest relatives and a few others.  A short time after the coffin had been committed to the flames, there erupted a volley of what sounded like four gunshots coming directly from inside. Everyone was mystified until one of his sons remembered his father always carried a handgun inside his jacket and apparently his body was put into the coffin in the clothes in which he had been found. After his rather quiet life, that was quite a spectacular departure, don't you think? It caused quite an upset amongst the powers-that-be to the extent that there is an investigation after which it is to be hoped that after all the buck-passing, some-one will be hauled over the coals.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Liar, liar, Pants on Fire!

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I have perhaps all my life been honest to a fault (apart from those tiny white lies so as not to hurt people re hair/clothes etc.), so it went against the grain to be told by a friend, who is an agent for air freight, that I should not declare my sister-in-law's mobile phone as the contents of a parcel I am trying to get back to the farm for her. "No-one will touch it", were his words: it would never reach its destination. She had also left a small hairbrush behind and my husband therefore did a good job of parcelling up these items with lots of padding so it would not be obvious what was inside.  So there we were at the courier's office, telling them about the 'cosmetics' that had been left behind by a visitor. No problem, they said, they could certainly arrange for the parcel to be delivered via a complicated route, inexplicably first to the nearest airport, then by road, to a shop in their village for them to collect. Oh good, we said, relieved and handed over the parcel.  Now we were told that the parcel had to be opened to check it for drugs!  Caught in a lie, I am sure my cheeks, if not my pants, turned a perceptible shade of pink.  I looked helplessly at my husband. He made a decision and then confessed as to the real contents. The sympathetic lady behind the counter did not turn a hair and assured us that they post forgotten mobile phones back to their owners all the time and anyway, the parcels are scanned at the airport where it would be obvious that a phone was inside. We mustn't worry, she said, their parcels very rarely went missing.

So much for our friend's expert knowledge.  Parcel is due to arrive on Monday.....

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Like Father, Like Son

Obvious genetic connection
I couldn't resist these pics.  My son and his family visited us recently and had something hanging down under his car which was observed just before they were heading back home to Cape Town. Typically unable to resist offering advice, my husband lost no time in joining him under the vehicle.  As you can see, hubby has successfully lost weight in the last three months - that's him on the right.  Maybe an unfair comparison as big son is 36, very fit, and an ardent cyclist in his (minimal) spare time. Happily, the offending item was cobbled together and they left a few minutes later.
Big son on the left of pic

Monday, 11 April 2016

Anyone know a blog for Parkinson's support?

My sister-in-law

It's been a tough couple of weeks, escorting my sister-in-law around various doctors, trying once and for all to diagnose the worrying symptoms she's had for the last couple of years.  People have been making their own silent conclusions but no-one has voiced anything aloud to her and in fact, we have all been side-tracked because she did have a bad fall and broke her knee-cap two years ago, and she also fell and broke her wrist - hence she did not recover full movement etc.etc.  The most obvious thing to most of us has been that she does not look like herself and moves slowly.  She has also developed a bladder problem for which the doctor recommended an enormously expensive battery pace-maker. Anyway, after a final referral to a neuro-surgeon from the hand doctor, we now have the unpalatable diagnosis and so we have all been in something of a state of shock. However, perhaps the diagnosis has been a relief after all the agonising uncertainty. She had all the classic symptoms. We try to be positive: at least it is not Altzheimer's and her brain functions as usual. Also, lucky for her, compared to most people, she has three house-maids on the farm and also a gardener.  But she doesn't 'do' Internet but I thought I could print and post here encouraging words from similar sufferers who compare notes on a blog. Any ideas?