Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Google image

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 ....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.