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 ....to 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

Viagra?

 
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


 
Shame!

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.