Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Dalai Lama's Cat - And the art of Purring

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This is a book we had at Book Club. Very cute - gentle lessons in Buddhist beliefs through the eyes of a (very spoilt) cat.  It's not necessary to read the book but it did remind me of few things viz.  Don't try to re-live happiness from the past - it will probably depress you.  Live in the present and enjoy every minute that you can.  The most happiness is to be found diverting your thoughts from too much introspection and seeing what you can do to make others happy.  I have never been much involved in charity work, but I can see the appeal and I do the things that I like for our Ladies' Club - viz knitting or crochet, but on the whole I think I should concentrate on being nice to my husband which will now be much easier now that I have access to some decent pain pills for the next few weeks. Hopefully by then I will have established a habit - they say you have to do something thirty times to cement a new behaviour.  NB  - Small son has given up smoking for 31 days now. Yeh! 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Breaking Bones should Hurt More

MIne is like the one on the left, but lower down

That might sound weird but I need a more arresting title than say, "Back Problem".  The physical problems that accompany ageing are really so boring, but what can I say? I thought I would share a few thoughts that might help someone else. I have had searing pain between my shoulder blades and could hardly walk for the last few weeks, so I went first to the chiro "Shock, horror, your sacro-iliac joint is jammed".  Some of his manipulation relieved the tight muscles down either side of my spine temporarily (and freed up the joint), but the problem persisted. Eventually, I went for X-rays last week and my GP seemed totally awed by the "severe lower lumbar spondylosis with scoliosis convex to the left" (which I was born with - and not worried about) but he did point out to me some fracturing of two of the lumbar vertebrae.  I think, on reflection, that I did this to myself (not confessing to the doctor of course), but when I was at wits end with my 'piri formis' muscle (sorry to bore),  I found advice on Youtube (naturally), which recommended rolling on a tennis ball (which I didn't have at the time), and if not, to use a rolling pin. I do recall this was quite painful (did I crack my own vertebrae?) but I was desperate to find something to assuage the muscle pain so I persevered. Having seen the X-ray, I shall desist from this practice and hope that with rest/passage of time the joints will heal themselves.  I can't afford to go for the Bone Density Scan until January but I don't think that will reveal a problem: last year I fell on my hip x3 times and broke nothing.  Luckily, my doctor was so amazed by my deformed spine that he gave me some strong painkillers which work very well indeed.  At least I am not snapping at my husband as I was before.  Let's hope that by January nature will have done its' work. My husband broke a toe once in the night on his way to the bathroom - fixed it himself and I met someone recently who had also broken her toe, but not realised. She has pain now - 5 years later).  I broke a finger once but it didn't hurt all that much so I didn't do anything about it.  Today, it is very skew and hurts a lot if someone squeezes my hand. Why didn't it hurt more at the time? (Sorry to bore).

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Don't Judge a Man by his Pants

Formal dress?

We went to a lovely wedding last month: small son's best friend - they grew up together - and a lovely American girl from Arizona.  The met four years ago, very romantically, on a game reserve in South Africa, where small son's friend was working as a game ranger. They had a tiny civil wedding when their travels and commitment took them back to her home in Arizona and then they had their dream wedding back here two years later.  It was a bit of a chilly day (and I was saving my high heels for the evening - it was wet on the grass!) and the guests were invited to play an impromptu game of croquet while we waited for the photographs.  The invitation had said 'Formal' so I was somewhat critical of this young gentleman in his shorts.  I heard later that he had been on a two-week cycle marathon and just made it to the wedding in time.  In his haste he had packed shorts instead of his long pants (same color) into his rucksack.  Needless to say, he is at the moment, not chaperoned by a girlfriend who might have checked.  Anyway, in the end - when I got to chat to him - what a nice chap. This is small son and his girlfriend  from whom I was sorry to hear he broke up with two weeks later (also me and hubby)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Hazards of Helping

At least it didn't hurt much

Whenever I help my husband in any kind of job around the house, we usually have a communication problem and I end up getting my fingers squeezed in a vice/hinge/having a plank of wood dropped on them etc.  The list goes on.  This time I had to help with emergency swimming pool motor maintenance.  The motor had been emitting an unpleasant noise and we discovered (just in time) that there was an airlock or blockage somewhere connected with some or other valve. There is quite a distance between the motor and the pool, because of noise (about ten yards, it is situated around the corner of the house) and the pipes are buried beneath the paving.  I was required to kneel next to the weir and keep a tightly rolled cloth pushed into the hole at the bottom - about 18 inches down.  In the end I found I had to kneel with my bottom in the air so that I could  keep it in position and apply pressure with a broomstick until my husband shouted the signal that he was starting the motor and I must pull out the cloth at the same time.  We had done this successfully twice before. (We have to wait for our 'pool guy' to return next week from a funeral upcountry).  The procedure must happen every day to keep the pool clean with the 'Kreepy Krauly" and also hot from the solar heating. This time we did not manage to co-ordinate and I could feel the cloth being sucked up the pipe. Which would be a disaster. So there I was, wedging my left arm against the side while desperately hanging on to the cloth with my right hand and yelling at the top of my voice for him to switch the motor off.  Must have shouted at least 10 times before he finally came back around the corner. I think the whole street must have heard me but no chance for someone with hearing aids standing next to a motor. I am looking for sympathy - so am publishing the picture of my arm two days later. This time I couldn't really blame him although I did try hard.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Sewing Machines - Grrrrr!!!

This is the Grrrr part

Things went OK at the back - haven't pressed it yet
It seems I have now pushed my luck with trying to get an embroidery stitch to work on my machine.  I am trying to cover up faded marks from where I have let down my new denim dress (you just can't reveal your knees at my age), I was going along swimmingly, got the spool threaded with matching thread to the top,  tested a l - o - n -g stretch on another piece of material.  I even cautiously stitched the back of the dress first, just to make sure everything, tension etc. was perfect.  Then I got to the front.  Unfortunately, at this stage, I had to refill the spool. Disaster, except that one carries on regardless (surely the spool is not sticking?  I will just go a bit further......) Bad mistake. Everything stuck.  This has happened three times. I have altered the tension, checked the threading. All seems fine.  Just saying.  Eventually, I got so exasperated, I left the whole thing (see pic) and went to the bathroom, tripped and stood in  the bucket of water next to the toilet (see posts re our drought). It just isn't my day.  I'll let you know when I solve this one.......

Monday, 23 October 2017

Small son - Update - still a worry

Google image

Gosh, small son is pushing 30 and has just broken up with his girlfriend after about 15 months together and a few weeks after she moved in.  We were surprised to say the least when we popped in one Saturday morning, to find her packing the boot of her car. I soon found myself comforting a quietly sobbing girl, patting her on the back and almost saying things like "there, there".  I did manage to say inane things like "It's always very hard and I know it hurts......are you moving back in with your mother?  Remember you are always welcome at our house." I gather it was my son who decided to make the break.  I gather she had too many 'issues' for him to cope with.  What worries me now is that he announced to us last week-end that he intends to 'challenge himself' and go alone for a month in Thailand over December.  Alarm bells for his mother: who goes alone to the Far East?  What about drugs, being clapped in jail, having your passport/money/cell phone stolen while you sleep?  Yes, we used to back-pack around Europe in the sixties (well, I hear people did - not me though),  but times have changed, surely small son will place himself in the face of untold dangers?  Perhaps my husband and I read too many contemporary thrillers?  Small son says he is busy doing lots of research and is planning to use youth hostels and hire a scooter.  He doesn't want to do an organised tour.  Can anyone reassure me? He won't know a single person over there.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Mistaken Identity

The two of us

I am talking about who/what was the guilty party?  We may look like the epitome of a happy, loving couple  - who doesn't on a boat cruise - but believe me (all you long-married guys will nod), we have our noisy disagreements and the odd swearing match. A year ago, we bought a new car: a Rav 4 (Sextant also has one).  We were delighted with it, but in several respects the car is paranoid regarding security features. e.g. it screams in panic if we reverse with our trailer attached "You are going to bump into something!!!"  It's taken my husband several hours of scrolling through all the digital screen menus to find the "Off" button for this.  It has one other annoying safety feature which we can't disable: when you exit the car and close the door, all four doors immediately lock, so if you wanted to retrieve something from the back seat, you have to unlock again and press the 'unlock' button on the dash before you can open the door. This is all very well but it results in a lot of frustration/cursing because neither of us has been able to reconcile with this feature. The last time this happened, I threw up my arms in exasperation, and my husband blew his top because he thought I was blaming him. I yelled that actually I was blaming the car.  When I thought about it later, when tempers had cooled, I realised that in fact, I was fed up with myself. How long is it going to take me to have patience with this feature?  (NB. He still doesn't believe me. Note to self:  You are old enough to learn self-control!)

Sunday, 8 October 2017

"Sleeve" or did she mean "Armhole"? (Rag dolls)

The bigger one seems to have suffered a leg-shortening
I was lucky to be given 3 kits to make small rag dolls a while ago and as I am not the world's best hand-sewer, nor do I really like working with tiny things, but all the little bits were in the kit, so when I was looking for a new project  - I had a go, reassured as the style of sewing was described as 'naive/primitive'. Definitely my kind of stitching. All went swimmingly, I actually found it kind of therapeutic until I got to sewing up the side seams. A stickler for following instructions to the letter (or so I thought), I ended up with a dress that wouldn't do up at the back by about 2 inches, and the sides were so wide, they looked like something out of the 17th century French court. All because the pattern spoke about sewing up as far as the "Sleeves" (written like that).  Therefore I tried to make sleeves.  To cut a long story short, I had to unpick my effort and start again, this time trying to make it look like the picture, and attach the gathered bits straight up to the yoke. Had the pattern said "Armholes" - light would have dawned.  Thought I would show you a pattern detail so you can see where I went wrong.  See "Cut to here" made me think it was for a sleeve seam.  It doesn't help that I used to be a pedantic teacher of English. Anyway, I got it right in the end. This will be a gift for my 8-year-old granddaughter (the smaller one doesn't play with dolls) - there will be two identical twins with the slightly bigger one in the middle.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Very Very Amateur Birdwatchers

Piet-my-vrou - common in our garden

Having retired close to the Westcoast National Park, we have become enthusiastic, if deplorably slap-dash birdwatchers.  Usually, we go for a gentle stroll down to the nearest bird hide which borders a protected area of our lagoon, armed with decent binoculars each, but usually forgetting our bird book.  The hide has a few helpful photographs on the walls depicting the most common birds and we argue in fierce whispers as to their identification with what is outside, (but not if there are serious birders present  - witness huge lenses on their cameras).  Then absolute, polite silence is observed. Sometimes it is easy, we know heron from a seagull, for example, but often the "little brown jobs" defeat us and no amount of comparing pages in the bird book when we get home seems to be conclusive, even if we have managed to take a photo.  It's awesome though to read that many of the birds are visitors from the far north, meaning Russia, and one constantly marvels at their determination to get here, to the Southern tip of Africa. What works a little better is to listen to an individual bird call and look it up on the App our son bought for my husband's birthday on his cell phone. This beats the book because each bird photo is accompanied by it's song.  We have often had naughty fun briefly teasing the birds by playing their song.  At least when we are dive-bombed by an indignant sunbird we know we have got the right one. My husband takes the biscuit for bird identification. "What do you think that was?" I ask.  "Oh, that was a normal bird," says he. We are saving up to go on a course.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

Google image

The great thing about Mitch's books are their deceptive simplicity and their brevity - you can read through either "Tuesdays with Morrie" or this one in a couple of hours and their message lingers and touches.
I guess most of us spend time in our later years wondering why we are here, have we achieved anything and is there anything hereafter?
In this novel,  Mitch explores the idea that we are inter-connected in sometimes unexpected ways: our contact with others, no matter how brief, has a domino effect. He suggests that we might bump into five people in Heaven - we may not even have known them all - but each can solve an unanswered question about something traumatic that happened in our lives. It's food for thought. A lovely book.  The writer is sensitive, thoughtful, creative and easy and compulsive to read. The central character, a seemingly grouchy old man is redeemed before our eyes. His questions are answered in fascinating ways. Recommended.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Into the Dark

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I have deliberately made this the not-quite-correct title of a new British television series which I thought I would like (in case I mistakenly describe the main characters) .  We watched ten minutes of the first episode and decided NO.  It is a detective thriller set in the North of the UK but the characters are so contrived to be politically correct - it is painful to watch.  There is the requisite obese lady police constable, the rather ugly two main characters  (sorry, but we are used to the beautiful when we watch American shows), the black boss detective in charge, the Indian forensics guy and - of course, the mixed marriage central couple - usually a white man with a black woman.  I feel as if we are being systematically brain-washed into believing this is the way of the world.  I still think that people are usually physically attracted to those who are the most like themselves.  I make no apology if you think I am being racist: I happen to think nature knows best.  I accept that in the end the world's population will all be a 'khaki colour" and maybe that is ultimately a good thing?  Would it stop all wars if we all belonged to the same gene pool?  Meanwhile, I am glad to have a wide choice of what to watch on TV.  At the moment, we have opted for a series called "Versailles" about Louis XIV and the building of Versailles. After 11 episodes, I am finally tiring of the exquisite costumes and sets and the court gossip and intrigues and am suitably horrified at the life style of the nobles and the poverty of the masses (the only tax payers). An American show I am fascinated by is "Animal Kingdom" starring a shockingly plastic-surgery-altered Ellen Barkin. The family dynamics and plot are so far pretty intriguing. How wicked can a mother be? Luckily, my husband and I both enjoy this show - despite the obligatory homosexual son.  What a world.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Daughter of the Short Memory

For my mother's sewing machine
Anyone recognise this?  Yes, it's the instruction book from a 1959, state of the art, sewing machine. My mother always had the latest appliances and she was always sewing and knitting  (Passap knitting machine). Thus when she finally got a new one, I got to bring (with some strengthening of my right arm) this extremely sturdy old thing back to South Africa. It did everything, had all the amazing attachments like the 'roll hemmer' and a vast array of embroidery stitches. When my daughter got married and needed a machine, I lent her this one, having preserved its instruction book, which fitted tidily inside the lid in a niche designed for it. A couple of years later, she gave the machine back, having preferred a cheap, light Chinese job, but minus the instruction book.  She claimed adamantly that she had never had it !!  At this point, I was not only very annoyed, as said book had been guarded  by me for 30 years, but I needed to lend the machine to an old lady, a prolific sewer, whose own one had packed up.  I had to give it to her without the book.  Amazingly, her ancient husband did a Google exercise, found the manual and printed it all out.  In the course of time they returned the machine, but the printed pages were rather blurry, nothing like as useful as the original. A year after that, having moved house, my daughter produced the precious book, airily declaring that she had 'found it among my things' and hotly denying that she had ever said she didn't have it (???)  I was open-mouthed and speechless.
On reflection, I remembered lending them various things which they claim not to have had:  viz a large gazebo-like tent, a high riser  (car child seat) amongst others. The silver lining is that the machine now resides with one of my sisters-in-law, whose lovely Bernina was stolen from the back of their pick-up truck. Soon she will be in possession of the original book: she's older than me, so I know she will appreciate it.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Husband Blameless as Usual

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It is not often my husband is careless with his phone, but in this instance he couldn't find it, even when I called it up, it went straight to Voicemail.  Failing to locate it in all the usual places, he retraced his steps as far as the bathroom  - and there it was, staring up at him at the bottom of the bucket of shower water that we have been keeping daily for flushing the toilet for the last few months because of our severe drought conditions and municipal water restrictions. It's always in the same place.  This did not stop my husband railing at me (and the bucket) for being in such a stupid place. The phone had presumably fallen out of his pocket on standing up and slipped soundlessly into the adjacent water. Hastily snatching it from it's half-an-hour submersion, he grabbed my hairdryer and gave it a 5-minute blow-dry.  Thereafter, his Apple worked perfectly.
Much to our surprise. It hadn't been sold to us as waterproof.  NB. the bucket remains in its original place. Our drought continues.....

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Small Son Asks - Is She The One?

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We have been quite relieved that lately small son has settled down into a career that he enjoys - building houses with his brother-in-law. It's risky business but a great learning curve. At the same time, he is going out with a girl he knew at high school and has met up with ten years later. It seems they had both had their eye on each other for some time.  It's almost a year now and suddenly small son has been asking our advice. What to say? I am most reluctant to offer advice in this area.  If I am honest, my own 40-year marriage started out on the rebound and my husband is actually the polar opposite in every way to the man I thought I was in love with before. Typically of love in one's mid-twenties, a break-up is devastating at the time and one is extremely surprised and delighted to discover that true love can still happen after that. In fact, I had absolutely no doubt and not a moment's hesitation about getting married: we both just knew. But is it always so easy? These days, if you are pushing thirty and the clock is ticking it's likely that the couple have lived together for some time and have become perhaps a little comfortable. Does that mean the magic has diminished? Practical considerations seem to be that one is getting too old to risk looking for something different.  Where do you find the perfect someone? I prefer to stay out of this one.  I heard my husband advising, rather lamely, on the phone,  "Don't worry, you will just know".  In today's world, divorce seems to be easily on the cards and maybe the attitude of the young is that it is probably the right thing to do. It's a different generation.  Meanwhile we wait and see,

Monday, 26 June 2017

Remember Elephants love Fruit

Through the windscreen of our car
One thing we did manage to do last month was spend a night at the Addo Elephant Park on our way to the coast from the Karoo.  I have been deservedly nervous of elephants in recent years owing to the bad behaviour of tourists who hassle the animals in the famous Kruger Park.  As it happens, the elephants at Addo are plentiful but still docile as the tourists there show some respect.  We were lucky enough to come across this group at a water hole late in the afternoon: there were quite a few babies of various ages. This little guy made a mock charge towards us, but proved to be trying to scare off a couple of small birds. We watched for a while along with a few other cars, well spaced apart, when I saw the matriarch lift her head, look towards our car and then she left the group and strolled over, looking inquisitive. She was about twice the height of our car.  I suddenly realised my husband had his window open and was chewing on a succulent piece of dried mango. I hissed at him to close his window, which he did, and thankfully she turned away,
Believe me - this mamma was bigger than she looks!
but not before the driver of the car nearest to us saw her in his mirror, got a fright and almost reversed into her (although she might not have noticed if he did).  I once read that if an elephant gets the idea that there is a tasty treat inside a car, it will shake the vehicle like a tree. Not so good for the car or its inhabitants. So take a tip: remember elephants have a very keen sense of smell. Happily, nothing bad happened to anyone this time.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Allergy to Latex in Plasters

Me - sorry but looking for sympathy

It's been a long, emotional month, also with a long bout of bronchitis/ashma which has been debilitating. I am feeling good-ish for the first time today - thanks to my husband's concoction of black coffee and brandy which is acting as a temporary pick-me-up.  I haven't loaded the photos yet of the last three weeks, but thought I would share this one of my recent trip to the Dermatologist.  The trouble with 'things' on your back and around your bra-line is that you can't see them and they are therefore worrying. Despite telling the doctor that I am very allergic to waterproof/stretchy plasters, he had to use something and tried the ordinary old-fashioned ones. This is the very itchy result after two days - the actual moles removed healed nicely.  I guess one's skin gets more sensitive as you get older, and I seem to have inherited my dad's problem. Apart from that I learnt another hard lesson - when I got the bill - when you want any kind of procedure from any doctor - GET QUOTES FIRST. Failing to do this resulted in a bill at least 5 times what I had expected and emptied our Medical savings for the year. I was deeply shocked. I don't know how things work in America, but for purposes of comparison, our monthly medical insurance (a very basic plan) costs about 23% of our budget.  How does your system compare?

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Different Strokes for Different Folks

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Two funerals, two families - in one week.  We are still a little bamboozled by this. My brother-in-law, aged 74,  passed away last night - his funeral will be in a small town, big church (courtesy of 1820 Dutch settlers to the Cape), maybe 200 people.  My auntie in England, aged 96, will have exactly 12 people at her funeral. She died a week before him, but has to wait in the refrigerator until 6th June, because she lived in England, where there is a large population of which a large number is apparently awaiting burial, no matter which part of the country you live in. I can't help keep remembering how she hated to be cold.
The return of my British passport has been delayed by a computer glitch at British Airways last week-end, so we will have departed for the Karoo funeral before my passport can be delivered.  Luckily, this is Africa.  I went to the friendly DHL agent in our town this afternoon:  he assures me that I can have delivery delayed until we return from our 'holiday'.  He will put it in his office safe.  Six months ago, we planned a 4-night stay in a friend's time-share: our annual holiday. My husband has all along said I could go to England for my Aunt's funeral and reiterates that offer, even now.  But I am too scared to travel to the Uk since the Manchester bombing last week. England is now raised to 'critical' from 'severe' level of possible imminent chance of another terrorist attack.  What is it with this Isis? Our youth are so vulnerable. What a world. What does the future hold?

Monday, 29 May 2017

Check Your Posture

One of our beach cleaners taking a break

Most of us are guilty of bad posture, some or the time - or, let's be honest - most of the time. Just look in a shop window as you browse.  My physio gave me a severe lecture concerning this topic and I now try very hard to follow her advice - I check my posture whenever I remember. It has certainly paid dividends with regard to backache. 
I found this advice in a magazine the other day -  stand with you feet slightly apart, back to a wall;  place your head against the wall, chin parallel to the ground; push your shoulder blades back until they touch the wall (chest out), now touch the wall with your bottom. Your spine should now be correctly aligned.  I did wonder though if this can work across cultures: our Bushmen and African peoples tend to have very large behinds  (could they touch the wall?) Maybe it's like IQ tests - you can't ask a primitive tribesman to operate a can opener, he will have quite different skills. Just thinking.

Friday, 26 May 2017

A Week of Decisions

Google image - but my auntie was a smiler!

Last month I suddenly realised my British passport was due to expire at the end of June 2017. I didn't plan a trip any time soon, but it is less complicated to renew one's passport before it expires than afterwards, if you are living in another country. Needless to say, things are much more complicated than they were ten years ago when I simply went into Cape Town, spoke to a person, picked up a yellow form, returned it to the Cape Town office who sent it up to the Embassy in Pretoria and I would collect it in person in Cape Town again. Now applications can only be made "ONLINE", and couriered up to the north of England to a town called Durham. 
Full or nerves, I anxiously viewed the website and was made more anxious because you can't print out your blank form and study it. No. You have to complete it, a page at a time, PAY, and only then can you print the document. Two weeks later, I had managed to track down two acquaintances who had successfully performed this feat, so I sat down (with my husband next to me) and braved the cyberspace.  Wasn't so bad: in fact, it was quite user-friendly, once you had scrolled through all the instructions for if e.g. you were adopted/transgender/result of a surrogate pregnancy etc. etc. The worst was having to courier my documents, which had to include colour photocopies of EVERY PAGE INCLUDING BLANKS of my South African passport.  Ironically, I had just obtained a new one - 31 blank pages, just one stamp for Walvis Bay, just up the coast from CApe Town, when we were on shore for two hours in January of this year. Another big expense. Anyway, another irony  - at the moment in time that I handed my passport over to the Courier Company,  my very dear Aunt, the last of her generation, pivotal in my childhood years, died in the UK, at the venerable age of 96.  The funeral is to be on 6th June. I am without passport.  I do have my SA one, but I would have to buy and obtain an Emergency  Visa for the UK - another big expense. Luckily, my cousin phoned me this week - it doesn't sound as if she expected me to go at all.  In fact, she said that for the last three years, her mother, although basically healthy, was wheelchair bound, saying she couldn't see the point of still being around, as she couldn't do anything.  (No Altzheimer's).  My cousin sounded OK. So I am not going.  We are off to the Karoo instead on 1st June.  My brother-in-law is now bed-bound and asking for us.  In fact, I left England in 1975 and am married 40 years next year.  Nevertheless, loving relatives from one's formative years are hugely important in the big picture.  I also quailed at the prospect at travelling alone:  (reference the bomb explosion in Manchester on Monday). But I know my Aunt would understand.  Just out of interest - I wonder when my new passport will arrive? Hope it is before we go away.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Personality Types

Inside flyleaf of our library books. 

This is just an observation about readers at our local library. I noticed that there was a sort of sticker on squared paper glued to the inside front cover of the library books.  There were signatures on the different squares. On enquiry, I discovered that people can't remember all the titles of the books they have read, especially if their favorite authors are prolific, so this is an aide mémoire for reference the next time they take out a book so they don't read something they have read before.  A great idea I thought, so I joined in. The funny thing is that everyone seems to want to sign on the very outside column whether vertical or horizontal and they prefer to sign right next to someone else - a bit like people in a parking lot or restaurant.  Does this display timidity, I wonder? Or is it that people are like sheep?  Or is it lack of originality or is it modesty - not wishing to stand out in a crowd.  I decided that my husband and I will sign right in the middle - in splendid isolation, just to be different, or are we exhibitionists? ......or is it for some other reason?  After all, the signatures are quite anonymous.  Just a thought.  NB He hasn't read this one yet - that's me in the middle.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Same Time Next Year - why?

A typical 'Rondavel' for two in South Africa

We stayed a night at the Karoo National Park last month on our way home to break the long journey, now that my husband's back gives him trouble when driving.  I think we have now been to an almost identical chalet there about 8 times over the years. We could go elsewhere but somehow we always book at the same place. I get it now. The familiarity of the place, the unchanging decor, the arrangement of the furniture, the friendly staff - it all contributes to make you feel younger. Each time the years roll back and we remember all the great times we have spent at this place. I've never understood before why people revisit a resort year after year, but that's the secret. Turning back the clock.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

My Mother and Me

I may have been a silent rebel (Google image)

I could never put my finger on why exactly I didn't ever get on well with my mother. I tried my best - for about 30 years, then I gave up.  Growing up, I was wary of her temper and never argued, just looked away and shut up. I never felt good enough for her and was always hurt when she fantasized about the child she had during the war, who died at about 6 weeks from pneumonia (damp, rented flat). "She would have been just like me", she always confided to me. In a letter many years later, she called me 'her wayward daughter'.  Maybe I was, by her standards, I was after all a child of the sixties. I got up to a few things. 
The other day, I bought an old copy of a Women's magazine (circa 2007) from our library.  It was a May issue and approaching Mother's Day.  Hence the following words: I hope the author won't mind the quote, because I am not going to print a credit here, but she is almost exactly my age. Her mother was a career woman, mine was a housewife.
" On the negative side, she could be moody and scorchingly critical. That devastating inner voice, sounding like my mother, has stayed with me. I can hear her saying, 'Couldn't you have done better?' whenever I don't excel. It took me into adulthood to realise that to an extent she was disappointed with her own life, and that her marriage to my father was a difficult mismatch."
"A difficult mismatch".  Yes, those are the very words I would have chosen: and typical of the times, they stayed together, (my father adored her). In fact they celebrated their 70th Anniversary. At least he did: she said nothing but just had a resigned look on her face, while he made a long speech. No smile.  Ah well.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Micro-Managed a Fault

Google image

Before we rushed off to the Karoo, I was consumed with anxiety about organising my first commitment to our 'Lagoon Ladies' club which was to provide a speaker and decent morning tea for about 30 people.  I was really chagrined that I would have to miss this meeting, so as Team Leader, I contacted everyone before my departure and checked who was coming and what they would bring; I got someone to deputize for me to introduce my speaker, whom I had confirmed would arrive at our venue as planned and I managed to bake the Poppy cake I had promised. I prayed that the Power Point thing would go off alright (you never know when someone brings their laptop whether the plugs will fit your overhead projector).  There was a snag though - my husband decided that we would have to leave an hour earlier than he had previously thought with the result that my cake wasn't cooked and I had to microwave it for a few minutes (guesswork).  Then, on our way out of town, I had to drop off the (still hot) cake to one of my team who promised to put the icing on when it had cooled down, thence to freeze it and take to the meeting on the appointed day.  I had passed on my cupboard key to my deputy so she could organise the cutlery, crockery and laying of the table. So what did I forget? I committed the elementary crime of 'assuming' that everyone would stay behind afterwards to clean up.  When we gathered for our monthly Team Leader's meeting today, I learnt from our Treasurer (she is also on my Team) that when she looked up, having finished counting the monies after the meeting, she found that everyone had gone and none of the clearing up had been done! Luckily, she is one of those capable people who doesn't make a fuss: she just did everything herself.  We have two new members, who perhaps didn't know they have to help clean up afterwards (my fault).  I had assumed my deputy would see to everything, as she is a seasoned club member, however, someone said she appeared very distracted on the day - apparently, her daughter's divorce case was in court that morning. So there you are. She just wasn't herself. I won't assume anything again. The talk and tea were apparently a success.  The only remaining fly in the ointment is that most people don't know how to speak without a microphone and a lot of our ladies are a trifle 'hard of hearing.' I never understand why people don't know they must speak up for an audience: I guess 14 years of High School teaching and a rather deaf husband have prepared me for this.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Moments of Joy

Making friends with a tame springbok

We are back home. My brother-in-law is (incredibly) holding on, his pride intact, not yet bed-ridden, but terribly thin. Every day that we were there, many people came to visit and every day some-one phoned and said they would be coming the next day. So we made cakes and served endless tea and coffee and he willed himself to get out of bed, shower and dress - for his guests. Those in the know say it is unbelievable how long cancer sufferers can last when to the observer things look terminal. In between, farming must go on: at one stage we were asked to feed a hand-reared baby 'duiker' (a small buck) while our nephew was away for a night.  At first, she was very reluctant to accept the bottle, although she did lick my neck when I sat on the floor.  Eventually, I stood up, accidentally holding the bottle between my legs - and voilà! Success.
Getting the right position by chance
Then she was OK.
Then she was OK.  My sister-in-law's garden looks amazing (lots of underground water and a full-time gardener). It's very therapeutic and I know it will sustain her when she is alone. Another time, I said hello to a previously hand-reared springbok, now fully grown and in with the herd.  She will still separate herself from them and come to the fence to renew her ties with humans. But increasingly less, as it should be.  And so: a carer having been installed (but not yet being allowed to help) we have come home to catch up on our lives. We have had out first shower of rain so we are hoping the drought this end of South Africa will have a chance of being broken this season. Not so our economic 'Junk' status.  But this is Africa - land of the corrupt presidential regimes.  Little did Nelson Mandela envisage such a scenario when he and his advisers devised our 'wonderful Constitution' which unfortunately, allows a President basically to have Absolute Power - and we all know where that leads.  George Orwell had it right.
Part of my sister-in-law's stunning garden

Saturday, 8 April 2017


Stem not dependant on Viagra (giggle)

I haven't managed a post for a month so I thought I would need a catchy title to get some attention .......No, seriously I will mention Viagra in passing...
It's been a difficult month.  We've been down to the Karoo for ten days to help out: my brother-in-law is in the last stages of liver cancer and felt too unwell to attend the wedding of his oldest grand-son down here near Cape Town.  As all the family would be attending, we offered to keep them company on the farm so they would not be alone (read:isolated) for 5 days.  In the end, we stayed for ten and a humbling experience it was.  Almost every day, people came from near and far to say their last goodbyes - one life-long friend even flew down from Johannesburg.  We are back in Cape Town for the time being, and he is still not giving in, but we are on standby...
Do you like this flower?  We went for a walk last week and saw several of these in the our drought-devastated countryside. At first I thought they were made of plastic, which some kind person had planted here and there to provide a spot of colour for walkers. Not so.  I found the name in our wild-flower book, the "March Flower". We've never seen it before, in all the years we have walked here.
Regarding Viagra,  I was reading an (I hope exaggerated) crime novel about the professional golf circuit in America.  Think: huge prize money, groupies, match-fixing, drugs etc.  It was actually distasteful and sleazy; I was quite shocked at the repeated mention that a large number of the golfers regularly took doses of viagra as a matter of course - and they weren't even old!
Can it have a basis in truth? 
Just asking.  

Monday, 6 March 2017

Storm in a Birdcage

Google image

I am beginning to think that the hassles of owning and renting out an apartment - and having to be a Trustee for the building because there was a lack of volunteers, is more trouble than it is worth. We've had this apartment for two years now and there has been a constant stream of headaches, whether it was for unforeseen repairs or tenant complaints. The latest is a complaint from a third floor tenant that her neighbor's pet bird is too noisy. Apparently, this is the third complaint from this person - the Trustees having been asked to sanction the acquisition of said bird (which my husband did with the proviso that there would be no ensuing complaints from neighbors). However, the tenants on the other side, also above and below have submitted no such complaints. The one above the problem bird says she barely hears it (she is a Trustee), and comments that the wild pigeons, sparrows etc. outside make far more noise.  It appears that there were originally two birds in the apartment, one was a parroquete (sorry, how do you spell this?). The accused had obligingly got rid of this one bird. Unfortunately, both parties involved work from home. I've just read quite a depressing book, because it is rooted in reality: " The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old ", about an old age home in Holland.  One of their rules is that any  bird or fish may not be of a length of more than 10 centimetres. Really? Although this book plunged me in gloom (as I am headed that way myself), it has been translated into 25 languages. Clearly, it strikes a chord. Another one I enjoyed much more was "The 100-Year-Old Man who Jumped out of the Window and Disappeared".  This rollicking adventure is quite daft yet both my husband and I giggled our way through it: I mean what nicer thought that you can be fit and healthy at that age, parked under a palm tree and enjoying a great sex life?  I leave you with that thought. Meanwhile, the bird stays.  Note: Derek has rolled up his web and moved higher up out of my way.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

I Never Thought I would Do This


See the above sorry-looking object?  Yes, this was once a perfectly good pair of tights. It has been languishing in my cupboard, unworn, together with about 10 others of its kind for about the last 8 years - not a single ladder or snag in it.  I don't wear this kind of thin denier (remember 15/20 denier from the sixties?)  any more or any other kind for that matter. It's socks all the way. I do fondly remember how my best friend and I used to sit in class at HIgh School and try to make ladders ascend in our tights as wide as we could between knee and crutch (at one stage we even had suspender belts still).  Any fault from the knee down would be pounced upon by eagle-eyed teachers or prefects.  So why did I cut off the legs? I badly needed to tie up some of my climbing plants in the back yard so I did the unthinkable - steeled myself and cut the legs off into strips. Perfect. I couldn't quite bring myself to throw away the top bit: maybe we'll have a cold winter and I will need to keep my stomach warm. Passion killer or not.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Two Spiders Named Derek

Has Derek repaired his web with a white cotton zig-zag stitch?

Like most people, I have a horror of being in close proximity to a spider, but when it has set up shop in my flower bed, there are issues.  Recently, I watched one of my favourite shows, "Shed and Buried", starring the Brit, Henry Cole and his buddy Sam Lovegrove.  This is also one of my husband's favorite TV shows: essentially it involves these two funny British motor-bike fanatics digging around in people's sheds to discover, buy and sell basically anything old that has a motor. I love the laid-back repartee between the two guys although the objects they rave over I understand nothing about except that they are old and may turn a profit. One day, they bought something that had a resident spider. Although I live in South Africa, I find that the common British house/garden  spiders are very scary - big, black, scurrying and threatening. (Ours are much smaller but more lethal.)  Of such a one was Henry also scared. Hilariously, he donned a motor bike helmet and gloves and armed with a garden-vac, he cautiously blasted it out of its home to land safely on his lawn. He had christened it "Derek", a fairly nerdish name, which, I feel, gave him the courage to plan his attack. Similarly, I named my spider, "Derek" and immediately found him to be less threatening.  I don't object to him per se, understanding that the average spider consumes about 2000 bugs a year,  however, I can't get around his web to pull out the weeds behind my petunias.  Thus, we have achieved an uneasy truce: my weeds continue to thrive and Derek sticks to his guns and won't move. I gave up trying to identify him until I finally realised my husband had given me a book on "Insects", (duh!).  After correct research, I think I have discovered him to be a harmless "Rain spider",  which sounds kinda peaceful, don't you think?      


Sunday, 29 January 2017

You Can't Win 'em All

My half-size plants

Grenadillas doing well - we have perhaps 100
I did have plants in all 3 beds - others dug up already
I am talking about spousal arguments.  My husband and I have had an on-going 'discussion' about what to plant in his/our 'flower' beds in our back garden.  He has been determined to have only vegetables while I have campaigned for some flowers as well, as my brother and his wife had promised to visit In February and I wanted something to look pretty in the back garden. I offered a compromise in the form of a row of short flowers at the front which would allow the grenadillas, fruit trees etc. to grow, supported by wires, up the wall. This started well, but unfortunately, owing to the now extremely rich, composted soil (designed for the fruit and vegetables), the Cosmos, requiring only poor soil, duly grew to about 6', and for a long time remained stubbornly green with no flowers. My husband has grumbled constantly about this, while I waited three months for the flowers and during which time, he claimed, the grenadillas were dying. This proved to be untrue (see pic) but he stuck to his guns, so I stuck to mine. This morning, feelings were running high again, so I decided to do the right thing and snuck outside to cut my beautiful flowers down to about 2' while my husband was in the shower. This, I felt, would show magnanimity on my part - I would prove to be the better person and would also give him a nice surprise.  I forgot that when I went into the shed to get the shears, the burglar alarm would go off, which it duly did. I dashed back to the house and up the stairs to grab his cell phone from next to our bed in order to answer when the Armed Response people phoned. When they did phone I was back outside and able to answer. I was throwing the cuttings over the wall,  (our house backs on to an open field area), when I heard an irate voice shouting from our dressing-room  (forgot he would be getting dressed by the window), asking why I was chucking my flowers over the wall when they would make perfectly good compost?  Surprise ruined, I was very annoyed with this ungrateful reaction. Needless to say, his next question was to ask why I was carrying his phone and I had to pretend I was helping by fielding possible calls while he was in the shower and I was in the garden.  Now I am faced with the difficulty of getting hold of his phone again to erase the call from the Alarm people in order to cover my tracks. Oh what a tangled web we weave.  The cherry on the cake is that my brother is not going to visit after all. Some big project has come up at work and he has to postpone his trip. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Reluctant Chairlady (or She Who Hesitates is Lost)

I've always been a follower myself  (google pic)

I had only been a member of our local Ladies' Club for a few months when the outgoing Chairlady approached me and asked me to take over her post. She was returning to Scotland for her twilight years... Slightly staggered as I was so new, I dithered, offering the excuse that I was very often not able to attend meetings. Why did she ask me?  I then recalled that I had chatted to one of the ladies at our last meeting, (we had both been teachers) but I didn't know that she had also done a stint as Chairlady for two years). As it happened both the secretary and the treasurer had resigned at the same time. They already had volunteers for those positions. After a hectic family Christmas, we went on a local cruise with MSC up our West Coast for 5 days.  Let me say only that they had cut the ship in half and built in more cabins without extending any other facilities, so that there was dreadful queueing for food, theatre seats etc.  (Royal Caribbean forever!)  MSC is building another 12 cruise ships over the next few years (can it be greed?  They already operate 480 cargo ships).  Anyway, when we got back there was an e-mail waiting for me - would I again consider being Chairlady? After a couple of days, I thought I had a few ideas about how it could work if I was absent for any meeting, thinking to myself, well, they must now be desperate - how can I really refuse if no-one else will do it?  However, when I phoned back, I was told that a long-time member had agreed to do the job, but would I please be a Team Leader for the snacks, tasked also with remembering everyone's birthdays on my team (I don't do birthdays) and with finding a speaker twice a year.  (I know no-one in this town and I am not interested in food).  So more fool me.  I should have agreed in the first place.  I thought I would introduce the meetings with a few choice quotes from Shakespeare and other of my favourite authors.  Too late now.  Still, I am going to work on gathering suitable quotes for two years time - when I shall volunteer for the position of Chairlady.