Thursday, December 30, 2010

“We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne.”

It’s that day of the year when you either celebrate and look forward to what the New Year has in store or you sit and recollect what happened in the year that you are leaving behind. Whether you are looking into a crystal ball or in the rear view mirror – it’s all about reflection. Just like Bridgette Jones it’s about taking stock, tallying up the numbers in your life, doing a few calculations and deciding whether you are winning or not.

That probably explains why some years you will find me sitting at home in my slippers watching The Royal Variety Show and other years I will be putting my left leg in, my left leg out, doing the Hokey Cokey with a bunch of jolly strangers.

Traditionally New Year was a time for first footing, dark haired strangers bearing coal and a lot of Scottish people on the TV swinging their kilts and their whisky bottles. My father, Harry, used to celebrate New Year in a big way down at his local while we children waited for him to come home intoxicated so that we could laugh at him. One year he did the Highland fling with a party can - a huge can of beer that held seven pints – then opened it! We welcomed 1962 in a shower of beer and the house still reeked of Ansell’s’ bitter in June!

Another year – 1976 I think - the family accompanied dad to his local, the Seven Stars, and at midnight we three sisters marched into the bar because that was the year that women were declared equal and couldn’t be refused entry anywhere based on their gender. We wanted the moon, equal pay and the opportunity to buy a pint in the snug! My sister took our newly legislated freedom a step further by marching into the Gents toilets while my father cried into his beer and declared that the world had gone mad.

Perhaps that’s why my father chose the 31st December to cast off his mortal coil and join the spirit in the sky. That year I lay in bed listening to neighbours singing Auld Lang Syne, distant fireworks and the world celebrating and I wandered how people could be so happy while I was so sad. I suppose that sums up New Years Eve – some have had a year to celebrate and others are sadly counting their losses.

Since being in South Africa we have the additional burden of celebrating twice – at midnight and at 2am as we wait for and send good luck messages to the UK. A few of years ago I opted to babysit for New Year and when friends asked had I seen the New Year in – I replied, “Yes! At 23h30, 00h15, 01h45, 02h30 and 04h10!” I had forgotten that is what New Year’s Eve is like with a 3 year old.

I am also remembering a New Year spent in Cape Town visiting a friends who were in isolation there. Our dear friend had been diagnosed with acute T-cell limblastic lymphoma so while the champagne corks were popping, he was in hospital popping pills and battling the horrors of chemo. Friends of friends opened their home to us and we saw the 2010 in with strangers in Monte Vista and drove back as the sun came over Table Mountain unsure of what the year held. He is a survivor and a hero and I know will celebrate many New Years!

Last year,Tony and I were singing,“We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne,"  with sister Julia and Tom in Manchester - dining in style and dancing the night away. Such a joyful evening and the expectation of a great year ahead - Four weeks later, I was numb with shock and arranging Tony's funeral - the bright New Year became dark and monochrome and the struggle to overcome loss began.

Tonight will see me quietly seeing 2014 in with a special friend in KZN - reflecting and remembering the past but definitely looking forward - celebrating the survivor within me and capacity of the human heart to heal and dare to dream. 

Not sure whether we will be doing the Hokey Cokey this year as sadly , Larry La Prise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at age 93 last week. The most traumatic part for the family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in..... and then the trouble started. Hee Hee!

Happy New Year to all my family and friends........and special thoughts of my dad Harry – I hope that you are enjoying a wee dram at the ‘eighth star.’

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Wayne in a Manger

Today we look forward to Craig's Christmas Concert and we shall be sitting in a church hall feeing nostalgic and I am sure suppressing a few giggles at the antics of the pre-schoolers! I wonder what theme it will take this year....
Christmas to me is all about creating magic for children or for the child that is in each of us. Either we are recreating the festive magic of our childhood or we are creating the Christmas experience that we wished we had had as a child. This time of years always puts me in a nostalgic mood and takes me back to when I was at school and Christmas would not have been Christmas without the nativity play. This was before the days of political correctness and really signified the true meaning of Christmas – sad that many children today don’t even know about the birth of Christ!

As a child I had theatrical ambitions and when the casting came around for the nativity play – I always wanted to play the female lead, Mary. My ambitions were thwarted though by my genes – I had blond curls and blue eyes - and the fact that the vicar’s daughter was in my year and that she had long straight brown hair and the brown-eyed, bovine appearance that was perfect for Mary – in fact Michelangelo could not have hoped for a more perfect match. So I never got to wear that beautiful blue outfit – I was destined to be a heavenly apparition and got to flutter onto the stage in an old sheet with a tinsel covered wire coat hanger that my father religiously fashioned into a halo each year. One frosty December, I was on my way home counting the paces between lamp posts and really not looking where I was going, when I crashed into one of them. That year I made a memorable appearance as the cherub who looked as if she had gone twelve rounds with Mohamed Ali and sported two black eyes and facial injuries to rival Quasimodo’s. At aged nine, any gasp from the audience was interpreted as appreciation and I truly felt that I had made my mark on the school production.
As my own children entered primary school I had high hopes that I may have given birth to a ‘Joseph’ but alas they were to be lowly shepherds and I became an expert at fashioning sacking into tunics and tea towels into headpieces. My youngest, Sean, made a spectacular debut in pre-primary as a shepherd and was a little miffed at having to stand to the side while someone else took the limelight. He mouthed every word of the play in an over enunciated fashion and when Joseph came onto stage leading Mary and the donkey, he happened to stop a couple of centimetres from the spot marked on the stage – Sean leaped into action to position him perfectly and then promptly informed the inn keeper that he could continue. It was no surprise the following year that he was chosen to play the donkey! That was the year that the doll used at rehearsal could not be found so a substitute was used. At the crucial moment the little girl playing Mary shouted, " STOP !! This is the wrong baby!"

In another of the boys nativities the following dialogue created much laughter ‘I am the King of the North,’ said one little boy, kneeling before the manger and laying down a brightly wrapped box. ‘I bring you gold.’ ‘I am the King of the South,’ said the second, kneeling before the manger and laying down a large coloured jar. ‘I bring you myrrh.’ ‘I am the King of the East,’ said the third and smallest child, kneeling before the manger and laying down a silver bowl (to symbolise Frankincense). ‘And Frank sent this.’
It’s quite sad that many schools no longer stage the nativity and that many parents object to recreating the Christmas story. I am all for respect for people’s beliefs and that there should always be choice, but perhaps it’s no wonder that lots of children believe that Christmas is all about shopping and spending. It seems that consumerism is the new religion and the true message of Christmas gets lost in the shopping malls.

At least I have my memories to make me smile - but I still hanker for the days when “A Wayne in a Manger,” was sung a little out of key in those dusty school halls!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Let it Snow

I have been on snow watch again! Usually at this time of year, I start hankering for my native land where Christmas is a season of snowmen, sparkling lights and yuletide fires. I don’t think that I will EVER get used to Christmas carols in the sun or wearing sunglasses to do the Christmas shopping. My family think it’s hilarious that I usually wear a swimsuit to put up my Christmas tree and each year I still slave away over a hot stove in temperatures in the late 20s because a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings and a flaming brandy pudding is what one eats on Christmas Day.
Looking at the beautiful icy photographs of the British countryside wearing a white coat, helps to cool me down and soothe my longing for ‘home.’ As beautiful as I find it I suppose it’s a lot more pleasant to view it from afar, I thought this morning as I watched the chaos at the airports. Apparently millions of Britons are trying to get away and as usual the weather is preventing this.

I can’t understand the surprise or the newsworthiness of snow in Europe because- er – isn’t that what it does there at this time of year! I find it kind of reassuring that the seasons are back to where they were because perhaps it means that global warming is under control. When I was growing up we had snow every year in winter. I have my birthday in January and my mother told me it was snowing when I was born. I have two December children who were also brought into a white frosted world and I remember pushing out my first born as snowflakes fell - in a pram I mean!! Remember we used to do that to – walk to places with the baby in a pram – not just around shopping malls but in the actual streets too!!

In my childhood we built treacherous slides on pavements, had snowball fights, built snowmen and then went indoors with tingling fingers to dry our wet, woolly gloves – I can still taste the ice – it was compulsory to eat some - and remember the smell of mittens drying on the hot pipes. We left the car at home and walked to places and Christmases were planned and spent at home because we knew it would be a mission to get anywhere. Nobody complained – in fact we loved it!

So this morning when I heard the broadcast from Heathrow on Sky News and the disgruntled travellers wanting compensation, food vouchers, free accommodation and apologies from the government, the airline company and tour operators – I thought it a little strange. No I think it’s very strange and very stupid of people to think that they can control the weather and mother-nature, who will always have her way and the last laugh!    Its winter in Europe, as the song says.
"let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peace, Hope Love and Joy?

Remind me again what Christmas is all about - Isn’t it supposed to be a celebration of love, a season of Peace, Hope Love and Joy? I need a reminder because for the last week or so it has been a struggle to find any of these as people scowl, push and shove and screech their way around the shops. It is more like a season of anger and despair as parking rage, trolley rage and queue quarrels are in evidence everywhere. The only jingle bells I am hearing is that of the tills beeping and pinging as the plastic meltdown is in full swing.
The shopping centres are forecasting a bumper season and so, I should imagine, are the panel beaters judging by the number of bashed bumpers I saw on Friday and Saturday. What is it about this time of year that brings out both driving skills regression and shopping aggression? It’s a mad rush to get anywhere and manners are left at home. Don’t get me wrong – it’s wonderful that the retail sector of the economy gets a cash injection and I love exchanging Christmas gifts, but surely we could handle the run up to Christmas with a little more love and a little less selfishness!

I had to pop into Walmer Park on Saturday to exchange a dress that I had bought for my granddaughter – she has definite tastes now and the pretty floral party dress that I had bought her for the photo shoot with Santa failed the test – “it makes me look as if I have boobs,” declared the 6 year old - in ten years time I thought it will be the perfect dress! Anyway they are leaving today to go back to Pretoria so we had to pop in and change it for something she liked, a mission in itself – to shop with her and her baby brother – but made into an all out war by the behaviour of other shoppers. The floor in the kiddies section in Woollies was strewn with new clothes that were being walked all over by half of PE. Dresses were snatched off hangers to be examined and then put back anywhere and anyhow as they were rejected by harassed parents. One little girl stood out in a beautiful party dress in the centre of the chaos, while her parents took photographs of her on a cell phone and waited to hear from someone on the other side like a weird telephone phone auction. A toddler lay in the shoe section surrounded by odd shoes and hangers - kicking and screaming while his yummy mummy finished her conversation with her friend. The scene resembled a battle ground and the shoppers walking wounded! Jessica found a dress she liked and had enough left for a pair of pretty sandals.

At the exchange counter a line of weary women tapped toes and sighed as EVERYONE was taking too long and as per usual half the tills were not open. I waited as patiently as you can with a 15kg Velcro baby swinging around your neck and an excited six year old doing ballet moves. When it was finally my turn I was told, “Lady – she has 2 left feet! “ Eying my very graceful granddaughter – I had to disagree. “No man – these shoes are odd – you will have to get me the other one,” snapped my friendly WW assistant. “No, please don’t make me go back in there,” I pleaded. She looked from me to the bouncing, jumping, swinging children, recognised the desperation and took pity on me. Off she took with one of the offending shoes while 15 pairs of angry eyes bored into the back of my neck – more sighing and tapping. Five minutes can seem like five hours when you are under scrutiny like that. There was a happy ending though – we were able to leave the shop and the chaos behind - for another day at any rate.

So please – PEACE, HOPE, LOVE, JOY keep repeating this as you drive both your car and your trolley and remember some christian charity for your fellow man -  after all Jesus is the reason for the season!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I always cry at weddings – especially my own" so said Humphrey Bogart.

December heralds not just the festive season but the wedding season in South Africa. I attended one yesterday and it was perfect. A beautiful, blushing bride, a handsome but nervous bridegroom, proud parents and family and friends gathered to witness their vows. It was a garden reception – Mom did the flowers and family and friends chipped in with various helping hands to make the occasion unforgettable and the music and dancing continued late into the night. Even the PE Weather played its part! I will be writing more later in the week about this unique wedding!
As always when the vows were exchanged, it took me back to my own wedding day many years ago, the vows have remained unchanged but my wedding was very different.
I met my husband when I was an art student and was supplementing my income by waitressing in a soccer club. He was an apprentice trying to support himself on lowly wages and had taken a waiters job in the evening to make ends meet. My parents did not approve of the relationship and despite – or perhaps – because of this we were determined to get married. With no parental support it was a shoe string budget – a very short shoe string!

My designer gown was designed and made by me and I must have been going through a pastoral period as I resembled a milkmaid. My straw boater hat was decorated with pale blue ribbon and carnations in the colours of our local rugby team – red and white! The bridesmaids wore floppy hats; similar lilac cotton sprigged milking outfits and platform shoes. The groom was equally colourful in his burgundy suit, mauve shirt and maroon tie and wore Saville Row boots that had been left in the dressing room of the soccer club and fitted perfectly but creaked when he walked – perhaps that’s why they had been abandoned. As my parents refused to give their consent or approval I was ferried to the registry office by the bridesmaid’s father and left after the service in my new husbands’ pale blue Ford Anglia which he had parked on the municipality car park – I slid down the embankment to it in my blue satin wedding slippers but the car park attendant let us off the parking fee - I think we must have made a touching site!
The reception was at our modest flat – a home-made buffet, trifle, a tiny wedding cake and a lot of alcohol. The best man and the chief bridesmaid developed a fatal attraction for one another and spent the whole time snogging. We later met up with a few friends at a local pub and I was abandoned there as my ever romantic groom went off to play snooker with his buddies. An hour later when I went into the bar in my wedding dress to retrieve him, the barmaid asked me whatever had I seen in my now very worse for wear groom and he promptly replied that I had married him because a part of his anatomy was spectacular!
The day ended with the bride locked in the ladies loo while the groom – suddenly sober – tried to coax me out. We weren’t speaking on the way home or the next day and we are still to be seen arguing in public places but the making up is always worth it!!
As for the family – it didn’t take them long to realise that we were meant for each other and my father and husband soon became the very best of friends and we had our wedding vows blessed in church for our silver anniversary. Sadly by then our parents had passed away.
Thirty eight years later, a new country, several moves, many arguments, four sons, two grandchildren, much laughter, some sadness - our marriage has survived all that life has thrown at us. So yesterday when young couple promised to “have and to hold from this day forth, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish: from this day forward until death do us part...” I was taken back to that day and thought how easy it was for me to make that promise and how hard it has been for me to keep it all these years.

To Saturday’s bride and groom – “wishing you health, wealth and most of all laughter and happiness.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Role Swapping

It happens quite gradually, one minute you are fully in control of your life and a role model to your children, and the next they are deciding what is good for you and giving advice in a voice a little louder and a tad slower. I married and had children fashionably young to minimize the generation gap and fully expected them to celebrate my youthfulness in their midlife. Sadly my plans have gone awry and I find myself the victim of life’s cruel joke. My children have become my parents and my husband is sliding into the space they have vacated.
Thinking back, the first real evidence of this happened whilst I was visiting my son, who was living and working in Argentina several years ago. I wanted to visit Uruguay and booked a ferry trip over the River de la Platte, planned some exploration and an overnight stay. My exciting news was met with a stony face and I was told that this was not a good idea. “You can’t go alone.” I was informed, “You can’t speak the language,” and “What if you get lost?” A little flattered that he cared, I reassured my son that I had managed the journey to visit him alone, was an adult, had a tongue in my head and knew how to use the telephone. As he continued to point out how dangerous the world was I had to remind him that at his age I had brought my family across the world and settled in another country. He was not at all convinced I was a seasoned traveler and threatened to ground me and furthermore he would “have to tell his father”. Oh how the tables have turned I thought. The irony of hearing my old retort, “I am going to tell your father”, leaving from my son’s lips was too cruel and my plea of “I am old enough to look after myself” sounded remarkably juvenile. Of course, I went, had a great time and returned triumphantly in one piece to be met by a stony silence and a thin lipped grimace as a reprimand.

However, I knew that my kids believed that I was in my dotage when we had a theft at home, with no visible signs of a break in, and they dashed around, made me a hot cup of sweet tea, bent close enough to my face to allow me to lip read and asked me, “Where have you put your jewelry mother?” So now I am the one advised to lock my doors, wrap up warm, drink plenty of fluids and not to talk to strangers.  
I get reproachful looks if I joke with the vicar, misbehave in public or laugh too loudly in restaurants or wear anything remotely different. The thought that one day my sons would give any advice on fashionable hair accessories was too ludicrous to contemplate but on our way to a family wedding last year my fashionable, feathered and bejeweled fascinator was discussed by my sons, not at all discreetly, in the front on the car while I sat in the back like a victim of ‘What not to Wear’ fashion sleuths. I was trapped, pounced upon and my individuality was scorned as they asked one another, “What has she got on her head?” and “Whatever was she thinking when she bought it?” Except in my realty fashion review, I am not at all penitent. Like a stubborn teenager, the more ridiculous it seems to them, the more I am determined to wear it!
A recent, spur of the moment visit to the local casino resulted in an online conference about ‘what we should do about mom’s gambling habit’ and no doubt the members of my book club have been scrutinized to find the culprit who influenced my delinquency. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there are already plans in place to find a secure retirement home that enforces curfews and is strong on discipline

In fact my children have become experts on most things since they left our home. Driving advice from those you taught to drive is never welcome. I endured far too many white knuckle rides as a passenger ferrying my matriculant learner drivers to school to have any patience when one of them turns to me 10 years later to remind me of the speed limit on the freeway.

The same goes for culinary skills. There isn’t much that I haven’t I haven’t sliced, diced, battered, braised, basted or baked and so far it all seems to have worked out fine and I and all whom I have cooked for are here to tell the tale. Well apart from Aunt Emily, but how was I to know she was allergic to nuts? Last Christmas, when we cracked open the champagne our youngest, having travelled overseas and now a man of the world, proceeded to give us a lecture on how to drink champagne. Apparently all these years we have been overfilling our glasses as champagne was meant to be drunk an inch at a time! I had no idea that such a breach of etiquette existed nor did it make sense to have to refill our glasses after each mouthful of delicious bubbles. On New Year’s Day he phoned early to wish us the best for the year – a tad too early really. Shocked that I was still in bed at lunchtime, having only got into it at 4am, he asked was I was ill. “Not at all” I replied, “I just happened to drink a foot of champagne last night.” The silence on the phone was deafening.

So here’s to growing old disgracefully! I am planning to have a large tattoo shortly and have no plans to tell them that it is fake and I also plan to go shopping in that fascinator and my wedding dress at least once before I die.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's the thought that counts!

I am busy writing out my Christmas shopping list and it gets more difficult each year to think of what to buy family and friends. The choice is greater too as the stores have a greater variety of lovely gifts to choose from. It was easier when only Woollies had prettily packaged, affordable smellies!
As I sat here thinking of ideas I recall some of the best gifts that I have received and a couple of the worst!
When I was around 6 I was overjoyed to receive a play shop with tiny scales, miniature boxes of cereal and washing powder,tiny tins of soup and petite plastic fruit. It came with toy money to complete the shopping experience and perhaps that's where my addiction to retail therapy has its origins! It was an even better gift because my sisters and I had been hunting for our Christmas gifts and Julia had found this one and was convinced it was hers - It wasn't! Sorry Julia - Santa left it for me!!!
It wasn't so many years later that I opened my Christmas stocking to find an encyclopedia, a full length long sleeved winceyette nightie more suited to an 80 year old and a pair of antique plaid bunnies (that's what we called our slippers in our family). I think this was my parents attempt to kill any passion that may have been coursing through my teenage veins!
Of course when my children where younger I received amazing gifts that were ludicrously kitsch. Shoulder length earrings, copper plaques and perfume that smelt of ....... and that was only from their father! All were excitedly received however bazaar and brought out on 'special' occasions.
One of the weirdest Christmas gifts I received was a piece of fish! Yes! A friend delivered it wrapped in tin foil with instructions to place it immediately into the freezer to be opened on Christmas Day. Thank goodness I followed her instructions as we may have had to evacuate the house before Christmas Day had I placed it under the tree and let it rot there for a week! I also once received a home made wooden box with a hole in the top that looked like an enormous egg cup or miniature commode but upon discreet enquiry I was told that it was a toilet brush holder.
Weird but wonderful was the Dalmatian money box given me to by my book club friends  - it's hard to describe so I took a photograph (above). They saw it at a trade show and admired it through fits of giggles wandering who on earth would want a Dalmatian in high heels and a Christmas hat sporting long curly eyelashes - the rest is history and she sits prettily in my family room and makes me smile every time I look at it!

The very best Christmas gifts was to be home with my new born son - born on 23 December. We arrived home on Christmas Eve to be met at the door by his three excited brothers - That takes some beating as far as gifts go!

There are only so many hand creams, soaps, chocolates and rose shaped scented candles that you can squeal with delight over.  So my question to you is this 'Is it really the thought that counts or is the gift the most important part of giving?

Ps. Feel free to buy me anything you feel inclined to - I love being spoiled!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Made in Great Britain.

I was very delighted this week when the Royal engagement was announced. I was genuinely happy for the Queen and the Royal family. Its illogical seeing that I have lived 'here' almost as long as I lived 'there' but there is some part of me that is forever British and proud of it. Perhaps I took my girl guiding a bit too seriously but I distinctly remember swearing very reverently in the Methodist Church Hall at the corner of Kiln Lane and Bleak Hill Road with three fingers raised, if I remember rightly, at shoulder level that.....

"I promise that I will do my best:
to love my God,
to serve the Queen and my country,
to help people and to keep the Guide Law.

I truly admire her - the Queen, that is, and love all the pomp and circumstance that she brings to England's pastures green. I write to HRH and the family - not too often - I do try to be considerate, and I will definitely be shopping for an engagement card for the young couple. I have sent a message already via Facebook and the London Telegraph's website.
One of my most treasured possessions are the letters I have received in reply from members of the Royal family. Of course I know that THEY didn't write them but I am sure that they are aware of them and will feel its a very sad day when the Royal Mail van only delivers the gas bill, a pack of free cards that are painted by disabled people and the mailers for stair lifts and double glazing. It must be very reassuring for Ma'am to have those sacks of mail from people like me dropped off that the palace gates.

I have visited Buckingham Palace many times and went inside two years ago, she wasn't at home, she was at Windsor  - I've been there too! It was just so lovely walking on the carpet that the Queen has walked on and admiring her furniture and treasured ornaments. She has two of everything of that I am sure because everything looked balanced and orderly - not a crooked picture, used coffee mug or frayed antimacassar to be seen anywhere. I wonder how ma'am would cope with the kids leaving their shoes in the lounge or stuffing their sweet wrappers and crisp packets down the back of the settee. I wonder how she responds to chaos - if she has ever experienced it?
I went with my sister Julia to both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House in one day and in our excitement we had 'tiara moments' where we felt compelled to whisk out our silver crowns tastefully trimmed with pink funky fur and celebrate our patriotism as we wandered through the rooms. We posed outside in them - No photography inside of course and we wouldn't have been so common as to whisk our cameras out while in the state room - well I am sure its not the done thing!
I loved the splendour and 24carat gold of Buckingham Palace as much as I loved the chintz and china of Clarence House, which used to be the Queen Mother's residence. The staff at Clarence House still refer to the Queen Mother as Queen Elizabeth - I never asked what they call ma'am! Clarence House had family photos dotted around - not official photos - I imagined Queen Elizabeth whipping her Kodak Instamatic out of her handbag and snapping the grandchildren. It had an old fashioned English garden complete with an herbaceous border of lavender, burgundy geraniums and pink roses. Apparently her grandson Charles planted it for her!
I think that I was brought up on a diet of red, white and blue - perhaps it was part of the curriculum. I know all the words to Jerusalem; I remember the Queens birthday 21 April 1926 , her official birthday celebrated on the 1st Sunday in June; and the date and year she was married 19 November 1947. (Both Mark and Helen and my parents were married on 19 November - is that a coincidence?) Despite what Africa thinks or the rest of the world, I believe that Britian is still Great Britain and that we are a mighty nation and have a proud history and much to celebrate. Including the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
I am so looking forward to a Royal Wedding next year. Now where did I put that tiara?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eyes Down - Look In!

I know that you are all waiting with baited breath to find out about my weekend! Well on Friday night I found myself blasted back to the 70s as I arrived at a church hall to play a game of Bingo. It was all very retro! What fun!
I met my beloved in a football club and part of the evenings entertainment there was a game of Bingo. I used to roll my eyes as the reading glasses, lucky pens and rabbit foot charms emerged from bags and pockets and watched in amazement at the serious demeanour of the club patrons as the Bingo caller took the microphone. It was eyes down, look in for three quid a line and a tenner for a full house. This was serious stuff! I would cringe with embarrassment when the lucky punter would cry "Ere you are luv!" in a Coronation Street accent, and a gasp of disappointment went around the hall with lucky pens slammed down loudly on the table and tutting and head shaking preceded claims that,"I was sweating on one number." I was a waitress and nobody ordered drinks when Bingo was being called. Staff weren't allowed to play and silence was called for -  so this was my time for people watching.
On the one occasion I happened to be there on a night off and was cajoled into joining in  - I happened to be 'sweating for one number' and when it was called I shouted "Ere you are luv!" in the same voice and felt the sharp daggers of a hundred pairs of eyes in my back as I collected my tenner.

I was raised to believe that Bingo was a pastime for the working classes that my parents had worked hard to elevate themselves from. Like fish and chip shops, headscarves and chewing gum - It was frowned upon. When my youngest was 11 we went on his first visit to England. One of the treats was to spend a day at Blackpool Indoor Sun Centre - where we swam in man made waves, screeched down water chutes and when our skin was white and pinched and our lungs fully chlorinated, we made our way to the entertainment area. It included a bingo corner where you could perch on a stool and when enough people had perched the game would start. As we had a free ticket it was only natural that young Sean wanted to play. I said no and when he asked why I said that it was a game for the working classes. Being the focused young man that he was - he debated this and eventually worn down, my sister, Julia, agreed to perch on a stool and play with him while I stood behind them. The other stools were filling up and the Bingo caller invited me to play - I declined politely. A few minutes passed and there was only a couple of stools vacant - I was asked again by the Bingo caller to play,"Come on love treat yourself to a game of Bingo - you look like a winner." Again I said no thank- you and that was when Sean piped up, "My mum says only common people play bingo." I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me as again I felt the sharp daggers of 11 pairs of eyes bore into me and saw my sister's shoulders moving up and down as she convulsed silently in laughter. The game started and Sean didn't win but at the end the Bingo caller called him behind the counter and said,"There you go son, help yourself to any prize you want. That was the funniest thing that has ever happened to me in all my years of calling Bingo and yer muvver's face was a picture!"

This Friday night was different. It was for fun and a good cause - although I suspect that there were a few lucky charms hidden away and a few prayers offered for the safe delivery of the R75 jackpot.  Our Bingo callers were a couple of pensioners. Dot wearing a pink cardi and the most sensible pair of shoes I have ever seen - sort of orthopedic gladiator pumps. She took the mike and welcomed us in a geriatric warble. George sat smiling next to her in a handknitted jumper and a silly grin on his face - his cheeks flushed with excitement. It was eyes down look in and the numbers were drawn by George and read out by Dot - I think that they had been practicing as they had all the cute sayings that Bingo callers use  - Two little ducks number 22; top of the shop blind 90; on its own the lucky 7 and when Dot called sweet sixteen she puckered her lips and made a kissing sound into the mike - which conjured up awful images of geriatric snogging! There was some confusion when someone called Bingo after four numbers and it had to be explained that the line had to be horizontal - not vertical (really) and the game got under way again with much tittering from the Bingo die hards (including me).
As the evening wore on Dot's calling skills came into question as she fluffed the numbers a couple of times and we began to wander if the clear liquid in her glass next to her was actually water.  Then there was the dilemma of the evening, when George dropped one of his balls and it disappeared - a search party was called in and it was eventually found to much relief, in the folds of the stage curtain, and the game continued. There would have been a mutiny at the Town Ground Football Club had it happened there, but on Friday it just brought more titters as we clickety clicked and marked off number 66.
 Fish and chips were served and then more Bingo was played. We didn't win but Lady Luck danced at our table when our host walked off with a bottle of Whisky in the raffle and then called "ere you are chuck!" in a German accent (Vidink viavore line - yah!) for the line in the final game.
I think perhaps my parents were wrong - Bingo is a just a game, like any other. Great fun when it is played in the spirit of a game but like any game - when winning becomes more important than the fun - It becomes a pastime for common people!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Model Citizen

Sometimes the planets conspire to make you do things that you least expect or excel at. Yesterday I spent the morning as a mannequin and the after-noon  as a model cavorting around a church hall in haute couture. Me! Those of you who know me well will know that I am a shy and retiring person who hates being the centre of attention - REALLY!! I feel very uncomfortable being gawped at so how did I find myself dressed in evening wear and a pair of funky glasses in a shop window?
My YaYa Sister (Where did we get that name from for the three of us and what does it mean? I've been meaning to ask that for the past decade or so) offered our services in a response on Facebook to an enquiry as to where to find mannequin for a new store. The business is called Treasure or Trash and is the initiative of Jane Stevenson and Cheryl Reynolds - whom I think of collectively as Jeryl  (like Brad and Angelina are Branjolina) as they are best friends who look alike and work together. They encourage you to clear out your wardrobes and will buy your clobber - Donating what they don't want to charity and putting the rest on sale the public at bargain prices. Some of the clothes still have the store label attached which goes to show that most women share a common trait of buying stuff that is too small for them or just can't resist temptation.
So, the YaYs ended up in the window for the opening dressed in Treasure and trying very hard to stay still while laughing an awful lot! The reactions from the passers-by varied from curiosity to amusement with a couple of people jumping out of their skins when we moved suddenly or waved. The children particularly liked this. Some shoppers came back for a second look - one or two a third and one man stood outside the window trying to have a conversation with us while we reverted back to mannequin mode and ignored him. Poor soul must have been lonely! I realised that people love to laugh and enjoy a humorous diversion to the Saturday morning shopping chore.
By pure coincidence, on Friday morning I received another request to model in a fashion show at a charity fundraiser for Isithemiso Childrens Home. I had to go and choose my outfits at Spi clothing, sort out various accessories and strut my stuff in front of 120 people to 'Wave your Flag', 'Wakka Wakka' and 'I'm a Singlet'- to a very appreciative audience who cheered and clapped like we were celebrities instead of students and housewives. This bunch of 3rd year NMMU Business students put together the fundraiser as their final project for social development, they were supported and mentored in their efforts by two other fabulous friends Ansie Van der Westhuizen and Antoinette Harmaan - also joined at the hip and collectively known as Ansinette. The students raised over R6 000  and their enthusiasm was contagious. They have spent the last few months assisting in their spare time at the home and said that they have benefited as much as if not more than the children. It was very heartwarming to see these young adults preparing for their careers.
So - yes I was nervous, and yes - I felt uncomfortable, and yes - I spent Friday night plucking eyebrows, doing my nails and buffing my body - You did notice didn't you? However I am glad I said yes to both requests because it helped others and isn't that what friends are for. I also had a lot of fun, met some great people, ate a lovely lunch and both experiences made me feel young at heart.
Like I said the universe is conspiring to make me the centre of attention. Lets hope this conspiracy holds till Tuesday when they are drawing the winner in the Lady Gaga competition.
 That is one performance that I really don't mind starring in!! Poker Face .......

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ding Dong! Avon Calling

I happened to be given an Avon catalogue to look through today and, oh my, it brought about flashbacks to the 60s and 70s when every self respecting girl had a little pot of Avon Cream Perfume in her handbag. Do you remember Occur in a black pot with a real diamond on the lid? Then there was Topaz, Eternal, Bird of Paradise and my favourite - Somewhere - in a pink pot encrusted with  pretty pastel jewels!!! If my memory serves me right there was  also Wishing, Honeysuckle and a very exotic Hawaiian White Ginger in the range!  I felt really old when I read that these perfume jars and bottles were antiques now and quite sought after.
Next on the scene in perfume trends came Youth Dew in a small ribbed bottle with a blue bow around the neck - it was a  completely different fragrance  - a new oriental - and its over powering scent wafted in the air in every Ladies loo in dance clubs and movie houses in the 70s. It lasted for ages and ages! People who wore Youth Dew also used a very pale pink lipstick called Strawberry Meringue - nude lips were in and this was THE lipstick to wear. Eyeshadow was sky blue - eyeliner was black and mascara came in solid form with a little brush - we used to call it spit and scrub - gross!!! Twiggy was our role model and eyelashes were so important we wore false ones and drew lower lashes. We must have looked a sight!
Mini skirts, Pop Art clothes in black and white geometric stripes and patterns and white knee length PVC boots were in and I had them all and thought  I looked like the bees knees. I even had a black shiny PVC mac with white trimmings  - it rustled and crackled and you could hear me before you saw me and if I had my Youth Dew or Charlie perfume on this also contributed to my early warning system.

Back to the Avon catalogue - the Skin so Soft range is still in there. I loved that too but left a bottle of the bath oil  on the side of the bath once and one of the boys tipped the whole bottle into the bath with him. He was so slippery that I couldn't get him out -it was  like wrestling with a slippery eel.  Skin so Soft now has real diamonds in it - probably the same ones that were in the lid of the Occur bottle! Avon now have fragrances called  Treselle - which claims that it is sexier than naked! And Outspoken by Fergie so you can 'say it as you mean it' and the brochure even has a rub and sniff corner so you can 'say it as you mean it' before you buy the perfume. 'Perceive' lets your senses be your guide and promises to take you on a journey to you inner sanctuary so that you can be yourself and embrace sensuality - I suppose the R179 cost is much cheaper than a ticket to an ashram in India!
Oh I have so enjoyed flipping through the Avon catalogue again - Treselle sounds like a must have - but I am quite nostalgic for my little pot of somewhere.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween!
Yes-Time to get the pointy black hat out - I know you all have one -paint your face green and get cackling! Halloween has grown in popularity and is another of one of those consumer nightmares that face us these days. You have no intention of celebrating it and then you get to the shops to find all these ghoulish goodies on offer and feel compelled to indulge in a little witchcraft! Last year the  population of USA spent 2 billion dollars on Halloween decor - Crazy! Why??

Well the Irish started it back in the 5th century BC with the Celtic festival 'Samhain' in Celtic Ireland. The Celtic year officially ended on 31 October 31 and it was believed that on this night the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth in search of living bodies to possess for the following year.  I should imagine the Irish might have been full of spirits (the liquid kind)  when they dreamed that up!
The tradition of dressing in costume is taken from the Celtic villagers who would dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighbourhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.Ok - I can relate to this - this sounds like your average weekend night out in the north of England!
The name Halloween is derived from All Saints Day designated on 1 November by Pope Boniface IV in the seventh century - a day in honour of saints and martyrs. It is believed that it was the Pope's attempt to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows, All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. When the Catholic Church got involved there was probably a seventh century cake sale, a jumble sale, a raffle and a Bingo Evening organised.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called 'souling'. On November 2 (All Souls Day), Christians would walk from village to village begging for 'soul cakes', made out of square pieces of bread with currants in. I bet you could get these at the cake sale and that they tasted better than pumpkin  - I am sure!!!

My Halloween childhood memories stem around my sister Julia's birthday celebrations. She was born on Halloween, has jet black hair, long nails and looks good in black - you can draw your own conclusions! No shop bought designer creations for us - our hand made ghoulish gear was black cardboard cone hats and our coats turned inside out so that the dark lining was showing - with just the top buttoned fastened they looked like a cape. We used old sheets with eyeholes cut in them (sorry mum) and the biggest turnip we could find, hollowed out to hold a candle. We didn't have to wait for it to go dark - it was pitch black by 6pm, freezing cold and often misty - which all added to the terrifying atmosphere.  I don't remember getting any treats but we would make ghostly noises and knock on the neighbour's doors and then run like the clappers trying not to set our sheet costumes alight with the wobbling flame of the candle in the turnip. As a finale we usually went up to Christ Church and sat on the wall daring one another to run through the graveyard and scaring one another silly with ghost stories that we swore were true.  Great fun!
A couple of years ago - bookclub was at my house and it fell on 31 October. Shakespeare's Sisters gathered in full witch regalia, complete with huge rubber snakes worn as necklaces, bats, spiders, long talon false fingernails, brooms and pointed warty noses - not sure if these were false. I downloaded some scary cackling laugh sound clips  - not necessary really as the sisters can cackle really well - and we read ghostly quotes and poems by candle light. In the middle of this my house alarm went off - how scary is that? I checked the keypad and it was flashing eerily - Sean's den. Sean was in China! Twelve witches gathered their broomsticks and assorted weapons and scuttled outside to 'check it out'. There was no sign of an intruder - I was mightily relieved as anyone in there would have died of fright at the sight of us all!
Much cackling was in the air as we scuttled back inside just as the doorbell rang. We all trotted to the front door to answer it - expecting a cry of 'trick or treat' but when I opened the door, there stood an ADT security guard! His face was a picture as he scanned the sight in front of him. His mouth a perfect 'O' - terrified dark eyes surveying the ghoulish gathering - he reversed towards the gate, hand feeling for the gun under his jacket asking,
 "Is everything was alright Maam?"  "It's Halloween." I started to explain as the bookclub went into cackling mode behind me."This is my bookclub."....."We are normal people," that brought about even louder laughter and a few shrieks and snorts!
I am sure that the ADT news that week held a report of a suspected coven in Summerstrand hosting a group of armed and dangerous women with deranged laughing tendencies.  The force be with you !
Happy Halloween! Happy Birthday Julia xxx x

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Living in a Barbie World

I’m a barbie girl, in a barbie world.
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere.
Imagination, that is your creation.
Come on Barbie, let’s go party!

I have had a pink week! Not only breast cancer awareness but I have been early Christmas shopping for my grandies and Jessica is in Barbie mode. Just like the song Barbie lives in a pink plastic world.
I was amazed at just what I can buy for Barbie - clothes for every occasion, minute shoes, bags, even hair accessories, furniture, a house, a car, a swimming pool, a horse, a completely equipped veterinary practice - Barbie has a busy life. Not only is Barbie known as a fashion icon, she is also a pet lover. She has over forty pets which include horses, a panda, cats and dogs, a zebra, a lion club, among others. She also has collections of vehicles, a pilot license, which allows her to maneuver commercial airlines. Barbie is awesome!
Barbie is a popular girl - she has friends and she even has a mate - Ken  - supplied for her pleasure. Poor Ken comes in the clothes he stands up in and very little else. As far as I know he doesn't even have a car - he has to borrow Barbie's, and Ken's wardrobe choice is very sad - a dinner suit and a few Hawaiian shirts. Although thinking about it, the male and female wardrobe and shoe collection in my world has some similarities!
Believe me Barbie World exists and  you can hang out with her there - I did today! They use their own currency there called B- bucks. I was given 100 B bucks for registering, Barbie tells me its about Fun, Fashion and Friendship - today I made friends with Messyjessy, Heartangel and Justina 998 - whoever they are? Everyone in Barbie world is getting ready for Halloween and for a few hundred rands - your Barbie can have all the gear too from witches outfit to miniature pumpkin for trick and treating and a minute black cat - Scary Stuff! I had a complete makeover in Barbie World which included an eye lift so that I resembled this perfect pink princess. Come to think of it how much cosmetic surgery is prompted by the image as Barbie as the perfect woman. Here is the low down on Barbie.....
Poor Barbie, she may someday marry Ken, but chances are, they will never have children. Based on research done by Rader Programs, the percent of Barbie's body fat would be too low.

If Barbie were a real person, she would be 6' 0", weigh 100 lbs., and wear a size 4. Her measurements would be 39"/19"/33". She would probably have had to have back surgery from being so top heavy.
The average woman is 5' 4", weighs 145 lbs., and wears between a size 11-14. Her measurements are approximately 36"/30"/41". There is a fifty-fifty chance that she is on a diet right now.

Barbie's real full name Barbara Millicent Roberts. Barbie's parents were George and Margaret Roberts from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin. It has been said that the girl named Barbie attended her secondary school at Willow High School and Manhattan International High School in New York City, based on the real-life Stuyvesant High School. Barbie's real love interest was named Ken Carson who first appeared in 1961 two years after she was released in the market. A press release from Mattel Company announced the sad news that Barbie and Ken split in February 2004, however, the couple decided to reunite in February 2006.
How Sad!!!! that poor man - I bet he went wild in those 2 years of freedom! I think he went back because of the car or perhaps he missed the forty pets!
I enjoyed my trip to Barbie World where Barbie drinks a toast to perfection each day with the elixir of youth.  In the real world we grow old. If Barbie lived in our world - these are the dolls that would be on the shelf today.
Realistic Barbie. Bifocals Barbie. Comes with her own set of blended-lens fashion frames in six wild colors (half-frames too), neck chain, and large-print editions of Vogue and Martha Stewart Living.
Hot Flush Barbie. Press Barbie's bellybutton and watch her face turn beetroot red while tiny drops of perspiration appear on her forehead. Comes with handheld fan and tiny tissues.
Facial Hair Barbie. As Barbie's hormone levels shift, see her whiskers grow. Available with teensy tweezers and magnifying mirror.
Flabby Arms Barbie. Hide Barbie's droopy triceps with these new,roomier-sleeved gowns. Good news on the tummy front, two-MuMus with tummy-support panels are included.
Bunion Barbie. Years of disco dancing in stiletto heels have definitely taken their toll on Barbie's dainty arched feet. Soothe her sores with the pumice stone and plasters, then slip on soft terry mules.
No-More-Wrinkles Barbie. Erase those pesky crow's-feet and lip lines with a tube of Skin Sparkle-Spackle, from Barbie's own line of exclusive age-blasting cosmetics.
Mid-life Crisis Barbie. It's time to ditch Ken. Barbie needs a change, and Alonzo (her personal trainer) is just what the doctor ordered, along with Prozac. They're hopping in her new red Miata and heading for the Napa Valley to open a B&B. Includes a real tape of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do."
Divorced Barbie. Normal Barbie sells got R199.99 - this one sells for R 1 199.99 but she comes with Ken's house, Ken's car, and Ken's boat and Ken's only suit and the four Hawaiian Shirts off his back.
Recovery Barbie. Too many parties have finally caught up with the ultimate party girl. Now she does Twelve Steps instead of dance steps. Clean and sober, she's going to meetings religiously. Comes with a little copy of The Big Book and a six-pack of Diet Coke.
Come on Barbie, let’s go party!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The happiest people are not go getters, but go givers!

Don't my grandies look happy! Jessica asked me to come and watch her on her bike, "I am amazing"! she told me. Little Craig had a whale of a time playing with soil and water. Their joy in these simple activities was a lesson for me!
These words of Wisdom were sent to me by one of my daughter-in-laws this week. I don't know of their origin but I have been pondering them all week. Especially the first paragraph. Living in South Africa during the World Cup was like living in a different country because there was so much positivity and enthusiasm every where you went. Positivity and optimism create energy whereas worry and negativity deplete us. To be a happier and have more energy, read on...

Banish Worry
Worry is otherwise known as 'fantasised catastrophy' where we create an image of the future and use it to frighten ourselves! Be aware that you are doing it, then stop doing it, otherwise the image will become a self fulfilling prophesy. Imagine only the brightest future, and so it will be. Besides there is nothing to worry about... unless you are under the illusion that your well-being and security are dependent on material things. If they are, then you will have many ways in which you can create worry. Possible loss, damage, separation, uncertainty are but a few. Look, you're killing yourself with worry, all because of the misuse of your imagination. Don't do it.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow

Be Simple
Live simply so that others may simply live. It's a nice idea, but our lives are more complicated and complex than ever. What can you simplify today - your desk, perhaps your thoughts, a meeting? Simple means easy. Simple means asking, "Is this really necessary?" Simple means keeping it short but sweet. Simple means keeping the focus of your attention on what you need to do now. Today's mantra is, "lets keep it simple."

Open Mind
The mind is like a parachute - it works best when it is open. How quickly we make assumptions, jump to conclusions and close our mind. How easily we form and hold fast to our opinions and then close our mind. How fast do we make a judgement, slap on a label and then close our mind. A closed mind never knows the delight of playing with possibilities, being enlightened by others point of view or enjoying the diversity of human life. An open and understanding mind never assumes, doesn't jump to conclusions and won't hold fast to any opinion. Perhaps it is no wonder a closed mind is not a very relaxed mind.

Create Vision
Never believe anyone who says we cannot change. Vision is one of the secrets of personal transformation. We are all artists, our mind is the arena of creation and vision is what we are constantly creating. What is your vision of yourself today - patient, relaxed, positive or tense, tight and negative? What do you prefer? So be creative - what does patience look like, feel like, what are you doing that is different when you are patient and you are expressing your power to ...wait? Always start with vision not action. See it and you will be it. Be it and you will do it. This is how we create our own life

Go Giver
It's been said that you cannot give away what you do not have. One of the most spiritual important insights or secrets in life is that you already have, and always have had, what you need to give away! If you impart the message that 'I am not worthy' the universe will send it straight back in many shapes, forms and circumstances. When we say 'give me' we are imparting this message. We are saying we think we need to get something to complete ourselves or prove our worth. Most of us are taught to live a life of gimmie gimmie gimmie - always striving, desiring, wanting, struggling. We do so only because we think that when we get what we want we will be fulfilled and esteemed by others. But it's an illusion. We are all already complete and worthy but we cannot know it and experience it, until we give it away! Only giving allows us to know what we are and what we have within. Ask the question - how can I serve? The intention to serve will point you towards what you need to give. If the intention is real it also generates the will.

Say Goodbye

The most powerful anchor on our potential to soar high in life is the past. The past contains the dead weight of experience, learned beliefs and all our mistakes. Life cannot truly begin until we are able to say goodbye to the legacies of yesterday at will. Like a filing cabinet, the past is a resource of information for learning, but it is not a place to live. When you go to work do you spend your day in the filing cabinet? How often will you/did you live in the past today? Say goodbye and make it final. Saying farewell to yesterday, last month and last year is the sign of a person who wants to live for today and is truly alive to all the possibilities of 'the moment', while fully aware that all they think, say and do right now, creates tomorrow.

The most successful people in life are not go getters, but go givers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Praise of Slow!

I read a really sensible book recently about the increasing pace of life, why it isn't good for us and how to live life more in line with the pace we were designed to live at. It makes sense! the human race has become exactly that - a race! People wear their badge of busy-ness like an medal of honour and feel sorry for those who stop to smell the flowers  - how SAD!
Here is some of what author Carl HonorĂ© has to  say about it - In Praise of Slow. 

We live in the age of speed. The world around us moves faster than ever before. We strain to be more efficient, to cram more into each minute, each hour, each day. Since the Industrial Revolution shifted the world into high gear, the cult of speed has pushed us to breaking point. Consider these facts: Americans spend 40 percent less time with their children than they did in the 1960s; the average American spends seventy-two minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car; a typical business executive now loses sixty-eight hours a year to being put on hold; and American adults currently devote on average a meager half hour per week to making love.
Living on the edge of exhaustion, we are constantly reminded by our bodies and minds that the pace of life is spinning out of control. In Praise of Slowness traces the history of our increasingly breathless relationship with time, and tackles the consequences and conundrum of living in this accelerated culture of our own creation. Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time-sickness? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Realizing the price we pay for unrelenting speed, people all over the world are reclaiming their time and slowing down the pace -- and living happier, more productive, and healthier lives as a result. A Slow revolution is taking place.

But here you will find no Luddite calls to overthrow technology and seek a pre -
industrial utopia. This is a modern revolution, championed by e-mailing, cell phone-using lovers of sanity. The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word -- balance. People are discovering energy and efficiency where we may have least expected -- in slowing down.
In this engaging and entertaining exploration, award-winning journalist and rehabilitated speedaholic Carl Honoré details our perennial love affair with efficiency and speed in a perfect blend of anecdotal reportage, history, and intellectual inquiry. In Praise of Slowness is the first comprehensive look at the worldwide Slow movements making their way into the mainstream -- in offices, factories, neighborhoods, kitchens, hospitals, concert halls, bedrooms, gyms, and schools.
It is really worth a read and will make you think about what the rush is all about. Its not about being lazy or inefficient - its all about honouring ourself and our life. If you are foolish enough to be caught up in the competition to see who lives the most hectic life - beware - the prize is an early heart attack, stroke, premature death or worse still, an old age full of regrets awaits. Quite a sobering thought - if you give yourself time to think - that is!

Today - Slow down! Breathe - enjoy your universe, smell the flowers, Live! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Face to Face!

I went to Sandy Coffey's exhibition Face to Face at the Ron Belling art gallery today - photographs of Port Elizabethans which were very well taken but pretty run of the mill as far as portraits go. What I found the most fascinating though, was the list of questions posed to the individuals and their answers. Deeply personal and thoughtful questions and the honesty with which they were answered. It occurred to me how different we all are and yet how similar - How can that be? Its seems there is a common thread running through humanity - a golden thread of kindness, care and love. It gave me hope and I left the exhibition feeling reassured and positive.
I wrote down some of the questions and have been pondering them during the afternoon. Here are some of my responses.
Who is God? God is the creator of our universe and when we hurt others or our universe we hurt God. When we love others and live in harmony with our universe,we show our respect and love for our creator. God lives in all of us.
What happens when you die? I believe that there are only two things that matter at your death. How well you are loved and how well you are loved by others. Your age, gender, religion, wealth etc. don't count for anything at the point of death - its how you have lived and loved.
Describe your life in one word? Meaningful.
Describe yourself in four words? Compassionate,Creative, Optimistic and Curious.
If you could get rid of one thing in the world what would it be? Violence
What does money mean to you? Freedom and Security
What are you afraid of? Losing those precious to me.
One surprising fact about you? I write to the Royal family and have a collection of letters from them.
What moves you emotionally?  Tragedy makes me cry, Injustice makes me angry, Kindness warms my heart and my friends make me laugh!
What still would  you love but don't have?  Peace of mind.
What do you think of South Africa today? We live in country of great natural beauty but it saddens me that 15 years into democracy that there are still people struggling and living in poverty. I think the government has let its people down badly.
What do your think of the world today? As our standard of living has improved materially, the quality of life has declined.That there is a quiet revolution happening and the pendulum is swinging backwards as people want to regain control over their lives and live a more meaningful existence.

These were just a few of the questions that were asked - I warned you that they were deep and searching and I challenge you to answer them. The answers you come up with may surprise you as much as my answers were a wake-up call for me! I enjoy situations and experiences that make me think and  this exhibition was exactly that - thought provoking!

This exhibition is dedicated to Craig Schonegeval who died of a terminal disease. Sandy coffey is writing a book about this young mans courage - which promises to be moving and inspiring.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Food for thought?

I think I have worked out why I am hungry most of the time! It occurred to me in the shower this morning as I scrubbed away with my grapefruit body scrub and washed with rooibos soap, shampooed my hair with honey moisturising shampoo and then smothered myself with mandarin and bergamot body lotion. I may have felt and smelled yummy but I was starving! Just about everything in my bathroom and bedroom has the scent of food added. I was once given a caramel and vanilla fudge bath bomb that smelled so delicious that I was tempted to drink my bathwater. Are my thighs getting larger because I am rubbing in body 'butter' and is that face souffle responsible for my widening grin? A cake of soap has new meaning these days!

Cucumber face masks, Peppermint foot products, Olive hand wash and Mango and Papaya soaps - everything shouts EAT ME. Could the fact that I have food on my mind most of the time have anything to do with the fact that I physically immersed in food from the moment I step out of bed?

This thought followed me to the kitchen where I was welcomed by the fragrance of vanilla, chocolate and coffee  that was wafting from my fragranced candles - candle-icious!. There's even a strawberries and cream air freshener waiting to spray kilojoules into the air!  I checked online and you can get apple strudel, butter cookie, caramel apple and cinnamon bun home fragrance products. Surrounded by baking smells I am guaranteed to be in the cookie jar all day long! 

Even our detergents are bursting with citrus and have freshfruit in them - Vitamin C for Cleaning!

To add to temptation, cup cakes are very much in vogue as decor objects too - on fabrics, crockery and even bed linen - I am considering knitting half a dozen - I have the pattern! Definitely less fattening than the real thing but not quite as tasty - depending on who's baking them!

I think that when I go shopping I should be more mindful of what I put in my trolley and settle for some less fattening smellies. I wonder if I can work up a lather with Lettuce shampoo or Celery and Cottage Cheese shower gel perhaps. Clicks have a range called "Say Yes to Carrots" that I have been saying no to.

Yes! Definitely food for thought.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Should we be buying products made in China?

Reading the Weekend Post on Saturday a report about a two legged pig in China caught my eye. Apparently a Mr Wang Xihai has a pig that was born without its rear legs and he has taught it to walk on its front two legs and is now a local celebrity. The mind boggles - of all the things to report about China, the Weekend Post chooses this useless snippet and dedicates 170 words to a two legged pig.

If I had the luxury of writing 170 words to tell the world something of importance about China - This is what I would write:
China condones the murder of baby girls:
On the garbage dumps that surround Beijing, scavengers from time to time will find a newborn baby girl amid the stinking refuse. Sometimes she is still alive. In China, couples are permitted one, at most two, children. Too frequently a girl is a disappointment. Thrown away.   Every year, say researchers, perhaps a million girl foetuses are aborted and tens of thousands of girl babies are abandoned. Left to die from exposure or disposed of like rubbish. BBC news

Or I might choose to write on the damage that China is doing to the environment.
China condones the murder of our planet.
Chinese cities are wrapped in a toxic gray shroud and only 1% of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death and ambient air pollution alone is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. In most industrial cities, people rarely see the sun. Children are being killed or sickened by lead poisoning and other types of local pollution. China has a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.China is choking on its own success and China’s problem has become the world’s problem. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides spewed by China’s coal-fired power plants fall as acid rain. New York Times

Perhaps I would choose to write about China's abuse of Human Rights.
China imprisons and executes people without a fair trial.
Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations in China. An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances. Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise, and censorship of the Internet and other media has grown. Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians, and of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches continues. While the recent reinstatement of Supreme People's Court review of death penalty cases may result in lower numbers of executions, China remains the leading executioner in the world. Amnesty International

One thing for sure - if I had the luxury of reporting something newsworthy about China, something that would make people think - it would not be about a two legged pig. Our newspapers have become more of a form of entertainment than a source of information. They should be a voice to tell the world what is happening and a catalyst for positive change. The media has the power to inform and influence our buying decisions.

But then I wonder if consumers have a conscience?? Do you? Are you condoning what is happening in China by supporting its economy?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bird on Wire

Networking is more of a necessity than a novelty with family and friends scattered around the global village in which we now reside. Each day, as I send my prayers towards cyberspace, I am so thankful that there was someone clever enough to create the technology that allows us all to be connected and even more thankful that I am still of sound mind to be able to use it.
Skype allows me to see my grandies and the wonders of modern technology mean that I can have a three-way conversation with friends who are in different parts of the world about the trifles of life and a close relative once showed me his bottom on line! This keeps us all a little closer – the latter too close for comfort.

However, it is Face Book that has revolutionized our relationships. Not only can I connect with my friends and family but friends of friends and their families and family’s family and their friends can get connected. It can get very complicated. Recently one of my facebook friends was reunited with another friend who now lives in Australia. Their children were born on the same day and news posted of them turning twenty one, brought about a realisation that they had shared a hospital room and episiotomies together but had subsequently limped their separate ways. Photographs followed and they are now able to catch up and keep track of each other and their families – I like a happy ending and was pleased to be the puzzle piece that brought them together.

For all of its advantages though, I am pretty sure that when Mark Zuckerberg created this marvel of communication he didn’t envisage that some people may use it to inform the world that they were “getting the Sunday lunch ready.” followed 5 minutes later by “the leg of lamb is in the oven”, followed 15 minutes later by “the vegetables are cooking”, followed two hours later by “the lamb was delicious” followed by dessert 30minutes later which was “Yummy pavlova”. Who on earth is interested in a blow by blow account of someone’s food diary and who would think that the contents of their fridge are newsworthy or entertaining?

Actual blow by blow accounts of domestic disagreements, unlike online eating habits, are extremely entertaining provided you are not caught up in them, in which case they become painfully embarrassing. I have distant family members, literally, that every so often have these spats – being distant I appreciate their entertainment value but what I struggle with is how they believe that public statements about “my family mean the world to me and i am going to make sure that lying bitch doesn’t come between us” will bring about anything but further trouble and strife. Perhaps it’s the ostrich head in the sand mentality that makes them believe they aren’t really airing their dirty linen in public or maybe the lines between reality TV and real life have blurred for some of us and we are taking our cue from B-grade celebrities believing all publicity is good! As the comments start rolling in I feel that I am watching an online soapie in which I know all the characters.

Then there are those whose sanity you start to question. Perfectly sane people you know, who hold down responsible and well paying jobs, who turn into gibbering idiots and dribbling drama queens when faced with their status update. “I am on cloud nine – Life’s Gr8” posted early in the morning is followed by “Ok day got worse! Nice One!” posted at tea time and then “To all those who hate me – I hope you have a good life!” followed by a mid-afternoon post reading. “There comes a point where you hit rock bottom and you think there is no place to go but up, and then you realize that there is a trapdoor.” Is this string of random thoughts evidence of a severe hormonal problem or has your Facebook buddy really lost her mind? And will she find it in her online aquarium or on the jolly farm where she seems to spend the rest of her day planting crops, looking for the owners of stray sheep that have wondered into her cyberspace or trading her oversupply of uncommon brown eggs?

Sadly these are the friends that don’t seem to have time anymore for real life conversation over coffee, brunch, lunch and on the rare occasion when you happen to be in spitting distance they are feverishly texting their status or commenting on someone’s – perhaps yours!
Facebook has created a number of virtual dilemmas that we haven’t been equipped to deal with and has taken gifting to a new dimension. I have been sent angels, hearts, fairies, flowers and a variety of animals as tokens of affection. I was even sent a tattoo recently by a friend and quite honestly wasn’t sure what the correct etiquette was, having never been sent a tattoo before. Then there are the virtual soothsayers offering you horoscopes and personality tests that use anything from Disney characters to your blood group to give authentic insight into who you are.

However, Facebook does have some wonderful advantages and I was delighted and a little surprised when my children invited me to be their friend, as it means that I get to see their photos, know who their friends are and be a fly on their wall – literally! It’s like legalized stalking - I suppose they get to stalk me too but I think I have the better end of that deal. It’s not only friends and family who are checking you out - employers have realized that if you really want to get the low down on prospective or existing employees then Facebook gives them a big brother opportunity to meet you online when you are off guard.

Mr Zuckerberg is not the only one making money out of Facebook; psychologists have identified a new illness, FAD-Facebook Addiction Disorder – for those who are using social networking sites obsessively to smooth their path into a total retreat from reality.

Call me old fashioned but I still prefer to plant real plants in my real garden – granted they take a little longer to grow but at least you get to feel the sun on your shoulders and get your hands dirty. I also like to look into the eyes of the person who is sending me a smile, feel reassuring arms around me when I am being hugged, smell the fragrance of real flowers and will continue to find my inspiration by looking around me and witnessing this earthly journey called life. Facebook has its place but it’s not at my dinner table or in my bedroom. I prefer my conversations to have a sound track and I want to live life up close and personal. In other words I am human being and value being human! So log out and live life – I dare you!