Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dear John...

The man that I married has changed a little! He is still a colourful character as you can see. In case you are wondering - that's not his real hair. What's left of his hair is under there.
In fact I've changed too. For a start there is a little more of me to love than when we first met and everything seems to be sliding south no matter how hard I try to keep it off and firm it up! The amazing thing is we have remained the same age mentally. We still laugh at the same things and fight over the same things. We enjoy the same music too.

Mr Gee was dressed up like this as we were going to the Elton John concert in Port Elizabeth. As luck would have it - in the middle of a six month drought - the rain just heaved down for an hour before and during the concert, which was held in an open air venue! Port Elizabethans are by nature, real troopers, so we pitched up and got drenched while watching Elton perform.

Elton has changed too! He was a colourful character, in dress and in personality. Now aged 63 he is a pudgy pensioner who seems to have lost his passion for his art. You cannot fault his technical ability, he was pitch and piano perfect, but he forgot that he was performing to an audience who expected a little conversation and a little gratitude for having paid R400 a piece to stand in the rain and listen to him. He performed a few of his early numbers which were thoroughly enjoyed, but his newer stuff is positively depressing and well.... OLD!

Elton, your candle has blown out in the wind! Your yellow brick road has said goodbye and while we made a sacrifice to come and hear you - You only came to the show in body - your mind and spirit, I suspect, was tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and a slab of fruit and nut!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boring not Roaring!

Yesterday I went lion hunting!
One of the joys of living in Africa is seeing animals in their natural habitat. The ones I saw yesterday looked a bit unnatural though. I know that we cannot leave man eating carnivores to roam our fields freely and that even the definition of wild in South Africa involves some sort of electric fence, but I felt very sad yesterday when I saw the bored and depressed looking lions lolling around in their enclosures, the tiger (not even indigenous to our part of the world) prowling up and down while his mate tucked into what looked like a leg of lamb neatly butchered and recently defrosted. In a separate part of the lion park the cubs were enjoying a game of tag like overgrown playful kittens on a tyre swing and two tiger cubs were in a separate cage waiting for the public who had bought tickets, to interact with them.

Assorted buck and giraffe lined our drive into the park, not even a little curious, as we drove almost underneath them, they just carried on feeding. Great for photo opportunities but I don't feel any accomplishment at these photographs, just sad that we have taken beautiful wildlife and turned them into overfed and bored 'tamelife'.

NB. I have had wonderful game experiences at Shamwari, Pumba and Addo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I have trotted, cantered and galloped on a horse. I have ridden a camel, that swayed like a ship of the desert and now I have ridden an elephant.

This blog is becoming as fragmented as my mind! I thought it would help me to tie up all the loose threads that travel around my brain but instead it seems to be encouraging me to unravel.

I sat down to write this morning and this photograph came into my head. That's right I had an elephant up there - no wonder I can't remember anything!

It all started when we went to a charity auction and the opportunity to bid for an elephant safari was announced. Before I could help myself my hand shot up. The people we were sat with were mightily surprised, my husband took a long sip of his beer. The price crept up.... and so did my hand ... as did Mr Gee's eyebrows. Before I knew it I was the proud owner of a two night stay in a luxury tented camp for four people including an elephant back safari. We all have to do our bit for charity!

The drive there was an adventure in itself as the camp was situated on the other side of the Zuurberg mountains over a steep and rugged pass. Their website didn't mention that it was better to go in a 4 x 4 so we bounced there slowly in my son's new Audi trying not to think of the paintwork or look over the edge to the chasm below! We arrived shaken but not stirred. You could hardly call what we stayed in tents - they were really luxurious homes draped in canvas containing everything a person desires. There was even a small plunge pool on the wooden deck, from here we could enjoy nature and watch the elephants eat. They eat all day! So did we!

The elephant ride was wonderful - but I had not given any thought to how wide the elephants back is and I never imagined that I could get my legs to straddle one. We sort of hopped on from a deck constructed at the right height and once securely up there it was magic.

Elephants trundle - you feel that you are going so slowly but because of their size you cover a lot of ground whilst gently rocking from side to side. We rode bareback so I could feel his mighty backbone sway beneath me. They stopped regularly to snack on branches and it was altogether a different view of the the world perched up there, as this photograph shows. Afterwards we got to walk with the elephants, interact with them and feed them. An unforgettable experience! I am so glad that I put my hand up for this one!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pavlova Lessons

There are those amongst us who set themselves on a pedestal and let the world believe that they are incredibly special and skillful and talented - they protect their power by creating an highly decorative illusion.

Each January as the world welcomes the new year and we bravely decide what we are going to stop doing - smoking, eating, drinking and what we are going to start doing - eat salad, change jobs, study quantum physics! I set myself a number of challenges including a culinary one. I have in the past challenged myself to make fragrant Thai food, spicy Indian curries, complicated pasties and to be braver with vegetables.

A couple of years ago, the challenge was to make a Pavlova - a larger than life, flamboyant and decadent dessert that always makes an impressive entrance when served. I googled, researched and studied as I usually do when I set out to do something that requires skill and discovered that the Pavlova is an impostor. Its just a simple combination of sugar and egg white with a dash of cornflour and vinegar - its a sweet reminder that to be impressive you don't have to be complicated. Some things are not as they seem and when you scratch the surface they crumble and disintegrate till you are left with nothing ...but egg on your face!

Here's the pavlova recipe that I use to make an entrance - it often recieves spontaneous round of applause but sadly there is never enough for an encore!

6 egg whites, 350g of Castor sugar, 2tsp of vinegar, 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence, 2tsp of cornfour.

Preheat the oven to 150C. Prepare a silicone baking mat or line a baking tray with silicone baking paper.

Separate the egg whites and beat them with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar - a little at a time - into the egg whites. Add the veinegar, vanilla and cornflour and whisk in. Spread in a circle onto the baking sheet building the sides up slightly higher and place in the centre of the oven. Reduce the heat to 140C and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Leave to cool in the oven.

Decorate with whipped cream, fruit and drizzle with melted chocolate! Enjoy the compliments!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

I have had enough of reality! Perhaps that's why I so loved watching Alice in Wonderland yesterday. A trip down the rabbit hole was just what I needed.

TV seems to be obsessed with recording the dreary everyday dramas that people are faced with and the viewing public seem to find them entertaining. Not I! I cant think of anything more awful than watching domestic squabbles, screaming and ill disciplined children, people who are too lazy to clean getting their houses spruced up and endless medical procedures. On the other hand - my better half seems to be addicted to them. He is a confirmed stress junkie and reality TV just feeds his addiction.

I was appalled one evening to hear the most awful screaming coming from the corner of the TV room - some poor woman had dislocated her shoulder and as she waited to be attended to every whelp of agony sent a wave of nausea through me - it must of been pretty awful for her too. A while later I slipped on some wet tiles at home and as I lay with my shoulder securely wedged under my nose - I got to experience exactly how she felt but the knowledge of what was to come would have been better left to my imagination.

The previous generation would have been amused that for entertainment these days,we watch people cut, skin, chop and slice onions. I come from a family of domestic goddesses but culinary chores were something done out of necessity not for entertainment. Entertainment was getting away from the everyday drudgery of life, escaping into a world of glamour, fun and make believe. Life is tough enough without watching it in our leisure time.

I don't really want to watch people have dentistry or fight like cat and dog to get a job with a captain of industry. Neither do I want to witness the desperate amongst us eat worms or wrestles snakes to win a million. Who are the real winners here? Perhaps the TV companies who no longer have to pay scriptwriters, actors, artists and camera crew to create masterpieces that feed our souls and stretch our imagination. Who are the losers - why us of course. Our world is much poorer lived in a black and white documentary.

I came away from the film keen to read the book again - considered one of the most characteristic of the literary nonsense genre. A little bit of nonsence is necessary for a healthy imagination. Well done Tim Burton for this adaptation!

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Celebration of Women.

On the news this morning I learned that its International Womans Day - Why I thought does South Africa only celebrate this in August? Not that we need a specific day to and celebrate and appreciate the women in our lives – we should be doing it every day. I am blessed to have been surrounded by some amazing women in my life – intelligent, inventive, organized, brave and beautiful. Financial wizards they were skilled with budgets, forecasting and investments. They streamlined processes and were epitomes of organizational efficiency. Masters of recycling, they were lean and green. Style icons they knew exactly what not to wear and instinctively what made them look good. Multi skilled and multi talented, my role models are neither corporate gurus nor academic experts. They are the ordinary women in my family and my community who went ahead of me teaching me with their wisdom and preparing me for my journey.

My grandmother taught me that a little can go a very long way and that chocolate cures everything! She was the only women in her family, the youngest of five children and the only girl, when her mother died she became the mistress of the house, aged thirteen. This meant that she shopped, prepared and cooked the meals, washed, ironed, mended and was responsible for keeping the house clean and warm for her father and four brothers. She did all this without the benefit of modern appliances and in her spare time she attended school - every weekday, and on weekends Sunday school and church! She was married, became a mother and was widowed all before the age of 28. You would think that she may have felt sorry for herself, that she was scarred by her childhood experiences and by today’s standards entitled to a nervous breakdown and an apology from the government. Far from being bitter or sad, she was one of the healthiest and happiest people I have met. She loved chocolate! She ate it furtively and fervently. I think she had learned in her austere early life to keep a little something for herself and to keep this small pleasure a secret. I often heard the rustling of paper after she had retired for the night and the occasional silver paper in the bed sheets gave her secret passion for fruit and nut away.

From my mother I learned to be flexible and to count my blessings. My mother had six of them – three girls and three boys! She used to say that none of us were planned but all of us were wanted and loved and this is how she lived her life, avoiding stress by just surrendering to the day and what it held. We didn’t have a lot of money but everyone was made welcome at our home, she loved company, loved to chat and everything was made to go further at mealtimes as visitors were always pressed to stay. Life was for living and for enjoying and as we moved from a terraced house in town to a new suburb in the countryside - life was a garden. We grew our own everything but not a lot made it into the house as assorted children and pets snacked profusely from our vegetable patch. Mom believed that nature provided everything that we needed to cure our ills, and often used herbs and plants to treat our childhood ailments, not always getting it right but she was very proud of the fact that she hadn’t poisoned anyone - “Yet,” my father used to add!
She taught me to sew and I was making my own clothes at the age of thirteen, using any material I could get my hands on – even if that material happened to be the bedroom curtains! I cringe now when I think of what I walked around in but if she was embarrassed when I wore my creations publicly, I never knew about it. She always told me I looked amazing – I probably did!! My mother encouraged me to be original, to be myself and to enjoy each and every day. She died when she was still in her fifties so I am glad that she lived her life in the present and that I inherited her love of life and her sewing machine.

From my older sister I learned all I needed to know about glamour! Big hair, eyeliner and makeup, winkle pickers and fashion – she was a child of the fifties breaking the rules and easing my passage into turbulent teenage years of the sixties. I also learned to run pretty quickly as I was always in trouble with her for muscling in on her friends and for spoiling her sophisticated image by following her to meeting places and popping up. I made the athletics squad every year at school probably because of all the additional training that I got being chased by her!

Of course we all have a teacher who played a pivotal role in our lives and mine was my maths teacher who was a walking, talking, calculating female who taught me that I CAN do maths. I had believed that equations, fractions and formulae did not go hand in hand with my artistic talents and were quite beyond my capabilities. She proved me wrong and I became quite a maths whizz under her guidance. This also taught me about self-limiting beliefs and the damage that they can do to your development.

I have an elderly aunt, now in her nineties, who still reads voraciously, puts her Christmas decorations up each year and last time she visited me, she packed her gold sandals “just in case we go dancing”. She has lost both of her daughters to cancer and yet hasn’t given up on life – she’s making each day count.

I also have many girlfriends who I have leant on over the years and who have laughed with me, loved me and I suspect have kept me sane but I don’t need to hero worship celebrities, the women in my family are all the inspiration I need. It is indeed an honour to celebrate them on Womans Day!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In my Granddaughter's Eyes

"In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes"

Looking at this photograph I am reminded of the lyrics of Martina McBride's song "In My Daughter's Eyes".

Jessica really was sent to rescue us and with one look from those eyes turned tragedy to joy. She is the daughter of our middle son Paul who is married to Shelley. Shelley was dating our eldest son Craig for six years when he was tragically killed in an accident on his way to fetch Paul from work. That was fifteen years ago - Paul was only seventeen at the time and his girlfriend was also killed in the accident. Our happy family struggled to make sense of all this and we thought that we would never experience joy again. Then two years after the accident Paul and Shelley started dating and have now been married for ten years - Jessica has a ten month old brother now - another precious gift in our lives. They named him Craig. I often feel that life is like a jigsaw puzzle, we don't have the complete picture and we are given the pieces one at a time - some are more difficult to handle than others and take longer to work out, but they all hold a unique lesson and contribute to making your life authentic and complete.

The rest of the song goes like this....

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wild Goose

I wouldn't describe myself as an early bird or a night owl - I suppose I am more of a wild goose or I was this morning as I chased the sunrise in pursuit of a decent photograph. I have many photographs of sunsets (I will share some of them soon). I checked my trusted weather guru and was informed that 0609 was the time and I knew exactly the place that I wanted to photograph this dazzling start to the day. I was there but the sun wasn't. I didn't bank on it being overcast - I suppose that makes me an optimist. I am not the least disappointed though as this is what I did capture with my trusty Canon. Its beautiful! The beach is within walking distance from my home - and believe it or not its the first time in the 27 years of living in South Africa that I have taken the time to get up at the crack of dawn and head to the bottom of the road. I was informed by a gentleman perched on the rocks with his camera,that I should have been there yesterday as the sunrise was magnificent. I was just glad that I was there this morning and that I have many more magnificent tomorrows to look forward to.
Later we are meeting the family for breakfast and plan to spend an hour on the beach with our grandchildren. By then the sun will be high in the sky and the beach awash with people enjoying the sun, sand and sea. This morning I was reminded to stop chasing rainbows, to open my eyes to the beauty that is on my doorstep and to enjoy whatever the day brings.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Letting Go!

It wasn't the fact that I was suspended 30 metres about the ground or that I was ripping through the air at an alarming rate, the most challenging aspect of my canopy tour was simply letting go of the platform. That moment of abandoning firm ground and launching yourself through the air was enough to turn me into a fervent tree hugger but once I had the courage to let go then the combination of weightlessness, speed and natural beauty was exhilarating.
We entered the pristine Tsitsikamma forest with our guides after being kitted up with harnesses and having a complete safety briefing. the canopy tour is a sophisticated series of 'fufi' slides with platforms build around giant Outeniqua yellowwoods. You are connected to the steel cable with three safety clamps and a pulley. The platforms are attached to the trees in a way that causes no damage and the pungent earthy fragrance of the forest, the rush of the nearby water and the calls of abundant bird life make this the a really breathtaking form of eco-tourism.
Like Peter Pan I was looking forward to the sensation of flying and the birds eye view of the forest that this would provide - the lesson in trust was an unexpected bonus! Sometimes you really do have to feel the fear and just let go - trusting that your lifelines will support you. I am keen to go to the woods again soon and see what else there is to learn - there is a waterfall canopy tour in the same area and I fancy branching out - this time over some rushing water.
this experience also offers the opportunity to reconnect with nature, take some unique photographs and the climb out of the forest is pretty good exercise - altogether great eco-fun!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whats this all about?

If you have come here looking for thrills, ecstasy,marital advice or a geography lesson on the female anatomy - you are going to be disappointed! A while ago whilst visiting an elderly relative on a cold day and putting my hat and scarf on to leave, I remarked that I had a little place on the back of my neck that was my thermostat. If that spot was warm then so was I - she said that she was exactly the same . We called it "The G spot" because my marital surname begins with G and her first name is Gladys - she is 90 years old and I do believe that she truly believes that's what its all about. I suppose at that age it is!

I decided at the beginning of this year to live my life more deliberately - much to the concern of my family, my friends and loved ones- who seem to see this as a sign of pending insanity. If it is - then bring it on! I have decided to invest my time wisely, having wasted far too much of it. Working with people and projects that inspire me and feed my soul. In the process i have rediscovered my enthusiasm for life and am looking forward to marrying my love of words to my love of photography on this site.