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.