Saturday, June 30, 2018

It ‘ain’t half hot.

Today was 30C, which I should be used to, but 30C here is hotter than hot! The houses here are built to retain heat as the majority of the year varies from cool to bloody freezing, so when England heats up like this it’s really uncomfortable. I nearly self combusted this afternoon and there is no respite now at nearly midnight! It doesn’t help that I arrived at Julia’s - UP NORTH - expecting to find summer, cooler clothes in my case only to find jerseys and leggings and a lot of sleeves so I did what I had to - I went shopping! My niece has been a Godsend and organised my possessions last weekend using plastic resealable bags and sharp packing skills so I could actually see what was in the jumble of clothes which I now call my wardrobe. She also booked a hair appointment and a pedi in Tetbury which is Charles and Camilla territory. I foolishly mentioned Love Island to my young and gorgeous hairdresser who then lost the plot regarding my hair as she got excited over the previous nights episode and became scissor happy! I had to shout STOP and ask her to step away from the scissors to bring her back to the here and now resulting in one side of my hair being longer than the other!
I drove up here on Monday from the South coast where I have been spending a few days following the completion of my first placement. I was quite sad to leave my lady but after 62 days on duty, I needed a break and more importantly a glass of chilled white wine and some company more in my age bracket. I found both in Littlehampton by the banks of the River Arun where I enjoyed some R&R with a new acquaintance. I set off in a hire car on Tuesday and drove here - impressing myself as I went round roundabout after roundabout and journeyed up the M4, M40, M5 and M6 - I had a ball and arrived slightly dizzy.
Of course on the first evening there was the obligatory mad wine drinking, raucous laughter and singing and dancing to old favourites - all under a clear blue sky in Julia's back garden where it stayed light until 10pm. Day 2 was spent coping with the night before's after effects and then we did what we girls do best - shopping. I am about to embark on another adventure - I am going to Ireland and more concerning (as far as shopping goes) I am going to the races - National Hunt Racing in Tipperary - so I thought I had better get myself kitted out as I will be in the 'owners and trainers' box! Then I shall be doing a little touring of the emerald isle.
Yesterday Julia invited some friends around and we got out the best china and enjoyed some Lapsong souchong and Darjeeling with all the regalia that goes with an afternoon tea with some Prosecco and Lambrini thrown in. At 7pm the sun was still high in the sky - I cant remember a summer as hot and sunny as this - maybe 1977 when I was waddling around pregnant with number three. It is absolutely wonderful to have this kind of weather. I now realize that I am becoming British again because talking of the weather is the mainstay of conversation followed by giving directions with the names and numbers of motorways and what number junction you must exit at. This information seems to be hard wired into peoples brains here. Other British idiosyncrasies include terms like 'her next door' (as in 'her next door has gone to Spain for a week) 'salt'o'th'earth (they are down to earth - salt of the earth people - will give you anything) and "I am spitting feathers" meaning they are very thirsty.
This morning Julia and I reminisced about the neighbourhood that we grew up in and we could recall all the neighbour's names from our road and many from the surrounding avenues.This was a time when you really knew who you lived among and neighbours were friends who cared for one another, whose troubles you shared and whose successes you celebrated. Their children played together - I remember being fed at some time or another by most of them. Life was good, simple and pretty stress free - Those really were the days! We also wondered how our family of 8 fit into that house!
Today - another scorcher and some shopping with lunch out. I think I am now ready for my trip and looking forward to sharing some time with my new BFF - Yes it's a HE and yes we are getting along famously. I think I am about to have the time of my life!

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Peek at my Week!

We are well into another week and I have been away nearly two months now - so that's nearly a quarter of the way through my adventure - I think I need to step things up a notch. I am comfortable here but I don't think my year is about being comfortable although it is tempting to stay in this gorgeous little place. Whatever happens I am going to take a few days off at the end of June to chase some excitement or just sunsets!
Where I have been? Erm......the duck pond! Actually I have strayed a bit further as I had a few hours off on Sunday and a friend came and took me for coffee and then for a pub lunch. We whizzed through country lanes on a stunning day and stopped at the Three Crowns - a typical English pub dripping in hanging baskets and full of nooks and crannies with reproduction milk churns and horse brasses in them. Everyone was sitting outside in the beer garden but when the UK gets gets HOT and I opted for a cool seat inside. Lunch was the traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pud - the latter looking like a small spaceship hovering above the plate! I have also had another trip into Horsham and managed to buy some summer clothes as my wardrobe is scattered around the British Isles and a little bit of it in the US too. My social life is hotting up!
Who I have met? Well that would be telling! Three men gathered at the recycling shed who commented on my bravery as I approached them. I asked if I was in danger and all three said yes - they are eighty in the shade ....there again they were armed with walking sticks! We were invited to a lunch time birthday party for a neighbour turning 95. We watched the party being prepared and noted various neighbours popping in with plates of things and Margaret next door taking chairs in - taking chairs out - and taking chairs in again as the weather threatened to change. Then dashing around with a tower of profiteroles. We arrived on time and the tiniest, feistiest birthday girl opened the door and greeted us with,"Hello - How lovely - Come in!" the proceeded to whisper very loudly,"Margaret, you know, has taken over, she is such a nuisance - you would think it was her birthday!" At this point and we were only two steps through the door, Margaret thrust a plate in our hands and went to fetch the sandwiches - hilarious! I just love these old ducks - no filter whatsoever! What they think comes straight of their mouth :-0 Various family and neighbours arrived and many of them had been to South Africa so in between discussions on hip replacements, knee replacements, gall stones and water tablets, conversation was interesting. Everyone had made an effort with their dress with tartan Dickie bows and chiffon blouses being very popular. I complimented Joyce on her lovely dress a navy floral with very on-trend ruffle sleeves,"I got it at After Eight,"she said."Don't be silly - that's the name of a dinner mint." chirped the birthday girl. "Oh it must be Before Eight then," said Joyce. I just stuffed another col-au-vent in my mouth to stop me saying Phase Eight (which is the actual name of the shop). I have also made friends with the lady looking after the birthday girl and today we went out for coffee and a breather and we have another coffee date next week.
Yesterday the door bell went very early and stood on the doorstep was the very helpful Margaret, decked out in aqua lace with a cream jacket and fascinator. "Wow Margaret you look lovely!" I said, thinking does she know its 8am. "I am off to the Palace for a garden party." came the reply. And she was!

What have I learned? I am learning something every day about aging, about courage, about myself too.

  • Good health is everything when you get older - without it quality of life is so limited.
  • Being old and infirm turns all of the simple activities that we take for granted, into mountains.
  • Climbing several mountains every day takes courage and determination.
  • Its good to know and accept your limitations without becoming despondent.
  • Being around older people is really entertaining.
  • I have the capacity for deep compassion - sometimes I am moved to tears by the effort of living.
  • Flowers and a good cup of tea can be all it takes to make someones day.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

50 Shades of Grey

Time is ticking along - I can hear it most of the time as its that quiet here! Its a bit disquieting as I think that's my life trickling away second by second! However I am putting my time to good use - doing plenty of writing and getting lovely photo opportunities.
Discovering a wood filled with wild garlic last weekend was just one such opportunity and I still can't believe that it was tucked away there quietly in the corner of a field. I had to unfasten a gate under the watchful eyes of a herd of cows but there was a sign that said Public Footpath so in I stepped and took the path less traveled by. I have a habit of rolling in flowers when I get excited - daisies in Namaqualand, Cosmos in the Freestate, Lavender in Tuscany (well not strictly Tuscany - it was a Garden Centre somewhere), even a field of dandelions can send me into raptures but I gave the Wild Garlic a miss in case I let the secret out. I want to keep this lovely place all to myself.
Not only am I watching the grass grow but my hair too! I have found someone to cut my hair - a mobile hairdresser who comes to coif the old dears here but she "doesn't colour", I suppose there is no need for it in the Village of Grey. However she gave me advice which I have been trying to follow. I now have a whole wardrobe of home hair colouring products in my bathroom so I am fifty shades of blond! I also found a darling girl to come and do a home pedicure for me - there was a flurry of excitement when Anna's mobile spa parked near the duckpond and I am sure she will be kept busy now she has been discovered.

Other excitement includes THE ROYAL WEDDING. We decided to make an occasion of it - well I did really - so we invited neighbours for high tea to be served at noon while watching the proceedings. We challenged everyone to guess what colour the Queen would be wearing and Aqua and Coral came out strongly but no one guessed Lime Green so that was discussed in detail. I thought all was going well until Joyce revealed that she had obtained the Order of Service with hymns from The Times and started warbling Guide me O' Thou Great Redeemer in the corner. At this point I got the giggles and had to pretend it was Camilla's hat that had set me off - they seemed to believe that this was the case! Then the minister came on and there were two camps in the room - those who thought he was great and the rest who thought that this wasn't on in a British Church - the Gospel Choir meant the debate was replayed quarter an hour later. So a good time was had by all!
My social life is hotting up because we were invited to tea at a 16C cottage on Tuesday afternoon with a garden to die for. We enjoyed our tea party to the accompaniment of bleating sheep on a lovely sunny afternoon and then were driven home with Mr Bean dancing on the dashboard. We have been promised a trip out to the Garden Centre soon - which apparently sells divine shoes - the mind boggles!
As I type I am looking at an invite sitting on the mantle piece it is to a 95th Birthday Party - tomorrow at lunchtime - I can hardly wait......

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Never a dull moment!

Life is hotting up in our little corner both literally and figuratively. Its been a most beautiful week weather wise - positively balmy over the Bank Holiday weekend. I was treated to an outing to Southwater Lake and it was great seeing the Brits out making the most of the weather - lots of families pic-nicking, nautical types canoeing (a scary flashback for me to my last Titanic moment on Keurbooms) and brisk dog walkers striding around. I met my host's daughter in law who has done a lot of charity work in SA and has met some of the people I know in conservation in PE - Amazing! I also met a very friendly Schnauzer pup called Abigail who was quite smitten with me and me her - I love those dogs and if I am ever lucky enough to be able to own a dog again - that's the one!
Then on Tuesday I was treated to a walk up to the school to watch the famous daily march. The pupils of Christs Hospital march into the school dining hall every day and I mean march - all 850 of them in formation and each house led by a pennant bearer. The discipline was amazing to see - so were the uniforms - straight out of the Victorian era as in the photo - Jessica Gaskin never complain about your VP uniform again! Afterward we made our way into the chapel for a concert  - a bit like Christs Hospital has talent! First performers needing an audience to build confidence, and like the TV show, some were great and.... well some were not. The last performer played Gabriel's Oboe on the clarinet and that was wonderful so when we arrived home we were inspired to have lunch to the music from the movie, The Mission.
I try to take a break every day - when I am able to - this house is a hive of activity as the 'team' as I call them, work to rehabilitate the lady of the house (not me). During any week we have the District Nurse who normally arrives with a big bag of dressings - we have enough to stage "The Mummy' at a moments notice! Then we have the physio who has us both doing exercises -ironically marching is one of them -  I am invited to do them too and I am looking forward to firmer thighs and improved balance. Then the Occupational Therapist comes weekly to give tips on simple tasks that you and I take for granted - showering - getting in and out of bed - making a cup of tea. All of these simple tasks have to be relearned - I am to observe and encourage. Progress has been made and the simple joy of just cleaning teeth and sleeping in normal underwear is celebrated.
We had an additional visitor this week - the fire department! No I did not set fire to anything - it was a routine call to test the alarms and do a risk assessment. Fireman Sam came in - it was quite worrying that he thought that I was the patient - and informed us that this smoke detector gave a signal to here and that one to there as he stated this he set them off,"Not to worry," Sam said, "It goes through to the local fire station and I will cancel the call." As he said this a voice came out of a socket on the wall - yes really! "Hello," Sam said,"Is that Julie?" (his colleague he explained). "No" the socket replied - this is the Doncaster Fire Department - do we need to dispatch a vehicle! Doncaster is 221 miles north on the A1 and by the time they got here it the whole of the village would be raised to the ground! Stunned Sam cancelled the call and spent 15 minutes talking to Doncaster trying to work out what had happened. Sam then declared that what had just happened was impossible. I reminded him that it had indeed happened. As we were discussing this - a lady called Julie arrived at the door along with a concerned male neighbour and the whole story was related and there was a lot of head shaking and tutting. So there is now the lady of the house, me, Sam the Fireman, Julie and the concerned neighbour in the lounge when the doorbell rings - in comes a cheery nurse who introduces herself as "the wound and tissue nurse" who has come to check a sore heel. It was now standing room only and Sam the Fireman is still in denial and telling Julie that what happened with the signal was impossible while Julie is scratching her head and concerned neighbour is bobbing up and down and offering his ten cents!

Who says village life is quiet - there is never a dull moment here and despite my fears of boredom I struggle to keep up with all this activity some days!
Today was another outing courtesy of a kind neighbour we went we were ferried into the nearest town - Horsham. Its literally 10 minutes away in the car and as we arrived I commented that I could walk there in my break -"No" three people shouted at once,"Its too dangerous - there are no pavements on that road." They are obviously not aware of the lack of pavements in PE so I just nodded. So in Horsham today I learned that my elderly lady is a shopaholic and five hours later we climbed into a taxi home with many bags of shopping, a large potted geranium and a wheelchair.
What an eventful week - a quiet spot of meditation is on the cards tomorrow by the duckpond - unless that fire engine arrives from Doncaster that is!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Country Life

I am in a teeny, tiny place - not even a village as there is no shop and no pub but there is a huge school. I am in West Sussex Christ's Hospital which is built around the school of the same name and the nearest town is Horsham. I have the whole top floor of a home to myself and my bedroom looks over a trellis of wisteria which is about to bust into abundance. It trails over a long trough of tulips in yellow,orange, purple, pink and peach bordering a lush green lawn. It is beautiful here. The surrounding countryside is emerald green with narrow windy lanes and odd flashes of that bright yellow crop they make margarine with. Fresh air, school fields, farmland, birdsong and now the rain has stopped - warm sunshine. I am so so lucky to be here. A peek at my week......
What am I doing ? I am looking after an elderly lady who is recovering from a stroke. Each day we do exercises and activities and she is writing a memoir that I assist her with.
Who have I met? I have met various medical professionals working as a team to assist her getting back on her feet. Its amazing that they all work seamlessly together all knowing what the others do - the District Nurse on Monday,  Physiotherapist on Tuesday, Occupational Therapist on Thursday, the Wound and Tissue nurse came today as  a pressure sore became a nuisance whilst in hospital and needs special attention. The hairdresser - two of them alternate one for cutting and one for blowing, the chiropodist, the cleaner, the gardener and various delivery people as our provisions are transported to the door. The business of aging is a full on industry here! The entrance hall looks like a vehicle showroom with wheels on everything and anything that you can possibly think of to address problems with mobility and becoming independent is in there.
Where have I been? Not far lol. To the duckpond that has a pair of ducks with their twelve hatchlings which have become 8 within five days- there is a serial killer out there!!! I have walked the country lanes climbed up and down stairs twenty times a day. There is promise of a country drive over the weekend and I plan a train trip into Horsham next week. Christ's Hospital School hold music concerts every Tuesday and I am attending next week. You can find out about the school by clicking here. It is known for its uniform of navy blue breeches and frock coats and yellow stockings - which are still worn! The school dates is one of the oldest boarding schools in England - it opened in 1552 and King Edward IV became patron. The buildings are magnificent and I am invited to explore there next week and witness the daily march into lunch complete with brass band.
What have I learned?

  • I have been reminded of how lovely the countryside is here.
  • I have learned to slow down from my frenetic pace in SA - people work much harder there.
  • I have learned that there are many satisfying ways to make a living.
  • Birdsong is a brilliant sound to wake up to.
  • Sunshine changes everything and puts a smile on peoples faces without trying.
  • I took this leap of faith and asked the universe to be kind to me ........and it has been. Trust...Trust!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Village Life

I am a lady in waiting so Patience is my middle name! I am still in Wiltshire and trying to be a useful addition to my niece's home. The biggest change from my arrival is the sun has come out and we have had glorious weather for five days and that just changes everything - people go a little giddy with happiness. There are so many interesting places around here and last Wednesday we went to Avebury Henge which has existed since 2850 - 2200 BC and is the largest stone circle in Britain -it encloses two smaller circles. Its very ancient and impressive and we visited on a glorious day. You  can get  more information about the history of Avebury Henge by clicking here. I can tell you that the scones in the teashop there are also made of stone!
On Thursday, I attended a WI meeting in Sherston - Sherston is pretty ancient too and in 1016 Cnut the Great (an unfortunate name) and his army fought a two day battle on the hills surrounding Sherston - there is some more info about Sherston here!
I really enjoyed the meeting as the guest speaker was a really entertaining lady from Chavenage House, near Tetbury, which is the house that features in Poldark. Caroline Lowsley Williams is the daughter of the family and such a character - she gave the impression of a typical eccentric village dweller who had just parked her horse outside. Caroline regaled us with anecdotes about the family and the challenges of keeping the whole place standing - hence the film work. They also provide full service wedding venue although there is not an en suite bedroom in the place, dodgy plumbing, an organ with bullet holes in it and keeping everything heated is a battle. Her parent have solved the problem of keeping warm, she told us, by disappearing on long cruises to faraway place such as the Amazon and Asia. She has solved the problem of keeping warm by boasting of having Jamie Dornan (aka Christian Grey) from Fifty Shades of Grey in her bedroom - she wasn't in it at the time but no one is to know that, and the thought makes her hot! A very entertaining evening in a lovely stone village hall.
My other excitement of the week was a visit to Malmsbury. My niece is the chair of the embroidery guild there and had business to do prior to the meeting so I wandered around - bought a lovely top with giraffes on it (I wonder why) and then headed to Malmsbury Abbey and parked myself on a bench in the sun to people watch. I was joined on the bench by a lady - and I mean a really well dressed, attractive lady whose outfit I was admiring as she walked towards the abbey  - and we struck up a conversation. While chatting she was sipping from her her drinking bottle and then confessed that it was full of wine! She even offered to share! Its amazing who we attract into our lives and she started to tell me her story - she is a widow, her well connected husband had left debts, they had no children and she was having to leave their home of 22 years and was looking around the area for something to rent. A sad tale and I couldn't help noticing how she chastised herself throughout the telling of it. I listened and told her to be kinder to herself and really felt for her as I walked away. Before we chatted she caught my eye and perhaps I felt a little envious of someone I thought lived in the area and had it all - it goes to show that we don't know what damage people are carrying with them.
When my niece dropped me off, she told me that I was at the back of the town hall - well I couldn't find my way to the front of it and tried a couple of what I thought likely doors - only to find they were private homes lol. I then wandered into the Visitor Centre and asked how to get into the Town Hall only to be told I was in it! I was becoming a village character/idiot myself!
How lucky can you get - Michelle Carragher does embroidery and illustration for Film and TV and is the lead embroiderer for Game of Thrones. Her work is awesome and I got to see some of the samples and designs for her work and learn how she works with the costume designers on big productions from concept to finish. It was brilliant - I also got to meet some lovely ladies and to chat to Michelle too. So I feel quite inspired to get out my threads and while away some time stitching.
Later this week I am away to West Sussex - to a tiny place which will have its own stories to tell I am sure.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Shires.......

I am in 'the Shires' this weekend - surrounded by emerald green fields, hedgerows, stone walls and homes made of Jurassic limestone. It is beautiful! The drive here from Alcester was a series of barns, bridges and bendy roads as one village blended into another. I really like this part of the world - its like stepping back in time and its no surprise that many of the historical series that we are familiar with on South African TV are filmed around here (click on here) . Lacock, up the road, was the location where Cranford was filmed, the street scenes for Poldark are filmed in Corsham, not far away,  and Thomas Hardy's fictional Casterbridge is another setting in the 'shires'. Anyone coming here would expect to see shepherd smocks and bonneted women at every turn and.........I have encountered a shop totally dedicated to the sale of ribbon and I am sure a flutter of excitement goes around the town when new supplies arrive - magic!
My week of training went well and I am awaiting further instructions - with a hankie soaked in Olbas held against my nose - Yes! I have succumbed to my first British cold in many years and I hope it disappears as suddenly as it arrived.

Highlights of my Week!

  • I have met some lovely people at the training in Alcester - S'Africans, Europeans and Brits of all ages and all very friendly and that means another Whatsapp group to control as we strive to keep in touch. 
  • The train journey was amazingly easy and connections made like clockwork (although I fear that is where I picked up the cold)
  • I am just love love loving the weekend papers that come with magazines filled with really well written and topical articles that invite many hours of reading. I particularly enjoyed the 'agony aunt' column of Mrs Mills (above) which is very tongue in cheek!
  • The countryside, the spring flowers, budding trees, scarecrows and little post offices.
  • Ancient Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches - the Brits are really good at these. We spent an hour in Cirencester Parish Church today - an historic 'wool' church dating to the 12th century and remarkably restored and maintained throughout the years.The scale, age and masonry is awesome and there are many many more ancient buildings to admire just about everywhere.
  • Listening to 'Family Favourites' on a vintage radio in my nieces kitchen which features an Aga - a temperamental one - and our Sunday roast beef dinner today has to be shelved due to it going into lock out mode!
  • A night in front of the TV with something for everyone and last night we indulged in a fab documentary about the Getty family's immense wealth and art collection. Its not coincidence - art appreciation runs in the family - I have the gene and have passed it on to my boys and my niece is an artist!
The Lows......
  • Not many low lights but I have missed the family - I Face-timed with my SA grandies today and last week skyped with my littlies who are sounding more American by the day and I have had nice long phone calls from the boys. Thank Goodness for technology!
  • My cold is a pain but I have acquired a mini pharmacy and I know it will soon be sorted.
  • Living out of a suitcase can be challenging in changeable weather.
  • Uncertainty is still a shadow that I will have to learn to accept as I don't know yet what I will be doing or where I will be in the coming weeks - We shall see .......All will be well!