Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Aunty Gladys!

These photos were taken last year at my Aunty Gladys's 90th birthday. What a lady! She is my aunt by default as my mother had no sisters but she had a cousin who was about the same age (they were born a year apart) so they spent a lot of time together growing up and were more like sisters than cousins. In fact, I wouldn't be here without my Aunty Gladys's intervention as she was dating my father and when he flew off with the RAF,she asked my mom to write to him because she didn't have time. That was how my parents got together. After 6 years of marriage my parents were childless and my mother confided in Aunty G that she was struggling to fall pregnant. Aunty Gladys relayed the information to her mother (Aunty Alice) who accompanied my mother to the doctor to check it out. That's how infertility was handled in those days- matters 'down below' weren't discussed and although my mother was a grown woman she was too shy to discuss matters 'down below' with her doctor. A small operation was necessary, which was obviously successful as my mother went on top have 6 children!! Aunty Gladys likes to take the credit for this!

Aunty Gladys has had an interesting life. She worked until she was nearly 80 and in her lifetime has been a farmer's wife, owned a corner shop and news agents, a cafe and a dry cleaning business. She has outlived two husbands and has sadly lost both her daughters to cancer. At the age of 91, she is an inspiration to many in her community - Garstang. She lives alone and refuses to have any help in the house. She cooks and bakes daily for herself and others and she reads about 6 books a week. Each year she puts up her Christmas decorations never forgets a birthday or special occasion in the family. She has visited me a number of times in South Africa - the last time in 2005 when she bought with her her gold shoes 'in case we go dancing.' She takes an interest in everything and can hold a conversation with anyone - young or old - and for that reason she will never be lonely.
For her 90th birthday celebration last year,she threw a party in a local country hotel with 65 guests. I surprised her and flew over to join her and feel so privileged to have been able to spend the day with her - helping to man the phone, opening gifts and arranging the masses of flowers that she received. What a beloved and special lady and an role model of how to Live Life to the full. I only hope that I can live up to her example.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Divine Intervention

I was stuck at home yesterday - literally, because we live in the middle of the route taken by the Ironman athletes, so it was a day of, relaxation, recovery and reflection.

Relaxation, because it was Sunday and that sort of gives us permission to relax. we did try to do a bit of gardening but the Garden Centre was closed because of the event so out came the lounger and I reclined with my book - for about 20 minutes - and then I just napped for the rest of the morning. After lunch the knitting needles were put into action and clicked away until bedtime!

Recovery, because I have had a busy couple of weeks helping out with the grandchildren as their mum was in hospital. I have no idea how I coped with my four sons and managed to get them dressed and out of the house in time for school. Or how I got myself showered and dressed when they were babies. I remember it as hard work but I forgotten just how hard it is to dry hair and put on make up while trying to distract a one year old from pushing the open/close button on the DVD. On top of it all,the six year old had a birthday party on Saturday so there was baking, icing, and assorted party games to organise including the artwork for a unicorn to get my head around! The celebration was a big success so the relaxation was well earned.

I have been reflecting this morning on my decision to take time out and live more deliberately. Its tough decision to give up something that is well paid and that you love and do well but in retrospect, I wouldn't have been able to do any on the above had I had continued. I would have missed the early morning smiles and outstretched arms of my grandson at 6am and the warm powdery snuggle after his evening bath. I would have missed a sneak preview of my granddaughters ballet concert and her squeal of delight when I fetched her early from school.

I also wouldn't have been available to spend valuable time with two friends who were stranded here because of the volcanic airspace catastrophe, nor would I have been able to visit Cape Town and spend much needed time with a friend whose husband is battling with cancer and has had to spend many hours in the isolation unit supporting him.

My reflexologist - who I must tell you about soon - called this year's decision "A Divine Intervention." I am inclined to believe that she is so right!

Monday, April 19, 2010

No where to run, no where to hide!

I am hurting - its not like me to want to stay in bed in the morning or to avoid people, but my deepest and best kept secret has been discovered - I have been cheating at gym!

The gym that I go to has a new manager who has over developed powers of observation. No more hiding in the corners, no more swaying gently on those work stations, no more pushing when I should be pulling - she watches our every move. This morning the volume was turned up several notches and the pace more salsa than the usual country - we were encouraged to 'pump up the jam.' As arms waved and legs stomped we were whipped up into a frenzied warm up and everything had to be "higher, higher and wider ladies." There is only so high and so wide that I can go....apparently not high or wide enough!

Onto the machines, where it became clear that what I had been doing over the past decade was using them to prop myself up in the morning. As she made her way towards me I started to put more effort in but was urged in a very assertive way to go "faster, deeper, harder and feel the burn." More like sex-ercise! (something else I've been cheating at). "I cant go any faster, deeper or harder," I pleaded and as a last resort claimed pensioner rights but she wasn't having any of that as she warned me of the dangers of osteoporosis and just how good this weight bearing was doing for my old and brittle bones.

I was not alone - the rest of the group were just as traumatised and rolled their eyes when told to, "smile and dont forget to breathe." I tried valiantly to smile as my heavy breathing got louder, my face got redder and my hair wetter.

That was an hour ago and the beating in my chest has just about returned to normal. I limped home and after a hot shower and coffee I feel surprisingly good. My muscles feel stretched and my red face has paled to a youthful bloom. Perhaps I will give the Marquess de Sade another chance - if I can still walk in the morning!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Ball

Love it or hate it we - there isn't going to be any escaping it - we are in for a feast of Football! I have never really understood the point of 22 men chasing a ball around at pitch watched by anything up to sixty thousand chanting fans. As I understand it the two teams kick the ball from one end of the pitch to another in the hope of it landing in the back of a net strung between 2 posts - the goal. When this miracle happens the players throw their arms around one another do aeroplane impressions or get down on their knees,turn their eyes skywards and thank God. As does the crowd who go into raptures, chanting and cheering and blowing the newest addition to the game - the ungodly Vuvusela. This is all overseen by the 'ref' - a most unpopular nerd who is never going to win Mr Personality. He struts around with a whistle and a set of cards that he uses as a kind of semaphore. yellow cards as a warning and the red card is waved to send the player for an early bath. At this point the crowd get very stirred up, jeering and making accusations that the referee has no father. The gum-chewing suits on the bench jump up and down, pointing fingers and making accusations that the referee is partially sighted - then clutching their heads in their hands they return to the bench and chew harder.
All of this not only makes sense but is found entertaining by two billion soccer crazy fans world wide.

I happened to marry one of them. When I married him, I had no idea that he had inbuilt radar that could detect which channel was showing soccer nor did I know that there is a game being televised at any given time day or night. I thought he may grow out of it ,but no, his passion for soccer is as fervent as ever as is the following of his team, although he no longer sleeps in his teams colours,he still wears his scarf when watching the game at the weekend. His team have fallen from the top of the league but he has been faithful to them for more years than he has known and been faithful to me, and he wont be changing anytime soon. When they last got into the cup final he managed to locate possibly the only other fan in South Africa and they sat and watched it together on the settee, dressed in claret and blue and with tears in their eyes. It was a touching sight!

We once went on a romantic holiday to the Comores, not a common destination you will agree. As luck would have it the only other man on the island who could speak English supported the same team and they spent ten days reminiscing and were able to give a goal by goal account of every game that the team had ever played. I recognised the desperate look in his wife's eyes and we hit it off immediately. The romantic beach walks, dawn swimming in the clear azure waters and sultry nights sipping cocktails were enjoyed by both us - her and I that is - while our husbands talked soccer.

At the other end of the world, on a trip to the UK, I sat through two matches on one day - Boxing Day 1998 - I won't forget the date in a hurry as it was -1 degree as we sat on the terraces. The stadium was vast and the pitch resembled a table football game, the player Lilliputions running around kicking a tiny ball. The noise was deafening and the atmosphere electric. I had taken a tartan blanket for warmth to drape elegantly on my knees. It had moves up to my shoulders by half time and by the end of the game I was wearing it with only my eyes exposed - frozen to the spot. Husband of course kept very warm with all the jumping up and down - arms waving madly as he accused the referee of having no father - or a mother as I remember.

Back to the 2010 World Cup - there are many prophets of doom saying that we will fail as a nation and will be the laughing stock of the world but I don't think so. The stadiums are built, the teams already training in readiness. The fans will come determined to enjoy some good soccer and have a good time. The press will be there to do themselves and the game justice. My husband will be on the couch at home wearing his trusted scarf and I - well if you cant beat then, join them - I will be sat with him - perhaps knitting my own scarf!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The 'coming out' of a closet knitter.

I love knitting! There I have said it out loud in a public forum and without shame! Here in SA they haven't yet caught on that knitting is not only a creative and respectable hobby but also is experiencing a huge revival in Europe and other parts of the world. We knitters are not encouraged to discuss the intricacies of cable or the tactile qualities of the latest yarn in public and if one is to mention that we in the throws (excuse the pun) of knitting then, a pitying glance is cast (another one, sorry) our way.

I have been knitting since childhood but I wasn't very good at it. My mother was an expert and my older sisters talented with all things that involved needles and threads. It was only when I was expecting my first baby that I was driven to produce a knitted matinee set - very retro these days! I bought my pattern and wool but had no idea that there were different thickness or ply, or that it mattered. When I had finished the cardigan and bootees, they would have fitted my son on his first day at school! I had used double knitting wool for a 3ply pattern on large needles! However the result was beautiful and my proud mother showed all the neighbours that what her talented daughter had knit. She had long given up on the idea that I would accomplish anything that involved wool.

I did improve and once I understood the impact of ply, needlesize and tension I became quite an expert. Aran knitting is a favourite and when we arrived in SA the 5 men in my life were wearing matching Aran sweaters - people used to stop us in the street when they wore them to ask where they were purchased. I preened like a peacock - or would that be a mother hen!

Knitting is so therapeutic and I love the rythumn my needles create and as the stitch pattern develops I allow my mind to mull over the days concerns and relax. I come up with some creative solutions and ideas while I am knitting or sometimes I just watch TV and my busy hands make me feel that I am not wasting valuable time - in other words knitting keeps me relaxed and sane while at the same time I create some useful and beautiful things!

Above is my latest knit - Each year I knit a furry creation for my grandaughter and she loves them - I like to think that she is wearing a hug from her Nanee when she wears them! I have knit ponchos, jerseys, socks, hats and scarves in a variety of yarn and colours and the selection of patterns just gets better and better. I am so thrilled that it is back in fashion and am eager to take my knitting outside soon so please dont feel sorry for me. I love knitting!!