Sunday, July 25, 2010

High Flyers

I really enjoy travelling and some of my happiest times have been spent travelling with my sister, Julia. There is something about being with someone you have known all of your life that allows you the freedom to be exactly who you are. When we were young and single we travelled overland to Yugoslavia together and in the last few years we have been all over South Africa on her visits here and also to Zambia, Egypt, London, Paris, Venice, Barcelona and Mauritius.

We have shopped on the Champs Elysee's in berets, safaried on the African Queen in evening wear, treasure hunted in the Valley of Kings with battery operated fans, sangria-d on La Ramblas, gondola-d the canals of Venice and had many great adventures. One of my favourite times is when I surprised Julia and her hubby Tom in Mauritius where they were on holiday to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They were married there, and because of work commitments I couldn't attend, so when I heard that they were revisiting the island, my first thoughts were -I have to be there! I mentioned it to Mr Gee - "Impossible," he said. Has he not learned after all these years of marriage that these are the very words that will make me determined to make things happen!

So within 24 hours I had enquired, planned, booked and paid for a weeks holiday at the same resort where Julia and Tom were staying. I said not a word to my sister. When we were chatting on line I wished her a lovely holiday and kept the delicious secret to myself.

We arrived whilst they were having dinner. Tom saw us in reception and commented, "There is someone who looks just like your Susan here." It was me! She couldn't believe her eyes when we joined them for dinner and our week of fun began. That night we drank cocktails and laughed till the early hours of the morning. Julia's neighbours at the resort moved to another villa the next morning! Sorry!

Leisurely breakfasts, aqua-aerobics in French and long beach walks, a marathon shopping spree to buy genuine fake handbags and the late night laughing make wonderful memories. The night Tony put two little frogs in his pocket, found on route, and then released them in the restaurant causing squeals and chaos as they jumped over everyones feet - had us in hysterics.

But the highlight of our trip was a tandem para glide over the Indian Ocean off Ilse aux Cerf. There we floated together – celebrating being in our fifties and commenting if only our mother could see us now (She died young and never got to celebrate her sixtieth) Then we realized that this was actually her anniversary and we reached our arms out to touch heaven in her memory. I will never forget that moment and the happy landing we had – my sister's softer than mine as she landed on top of me! How we laughed!

I am looking forward to our next trip - Perhaps Dubai in 2011. I wonder what we will get up to there?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Proudly Port Elizabethan

So the rest of the world now know what we Port Elizabethans have always known - Port Elizabeth is a fabulous place to be. It took the World Cup to get the rest of the planet to recognise this, but we are not a city to shout about our treasures too loudly.

Johannesburg, the city of gold, has the attitude of a capital city, confident, cocky and it possesses all the vulgarity and Kitsch of the nouveau riche. Johannesburg is a blur and best taken in at high speed - not stopping to take in the tawdry detail.
Cape Town has the arrogance and snobbery of old money combined with the flamboyance of super rich who love to rub shoulders and name drop with each other. A thriving and symbiotic relationship in a city dominated by one of the most famous mountains in the world. Visitors are given the impression that they are so fortunate that Cape Town is prepared to share this vast monument and allow them to witness the luxury lifestyle of the fortunate.

Port Elizabeth is like the poor cousin impressed but intimidated by their better off relatives, and yet quietly content that their lifestyle is somewhat simpler, ordinary and more authentic. We are happy with our lot, but because the people who live here have settled for less financially, doesn't mean to say that what we have isn't valuable. It is valuable beyond measure.

So what is so fabulous about living here? Apart from the people, we are only ten minutes away from great beaches, historical buildings, a harbour, an airport and great shopping malls and eateries. We are only an hour away from the elephants and lion parks and luxurious game reserves. We have a climate to die for and winter is just summer with a few short cold snaps. Our beaches are magnificent, unspoilt, uncrowded and our region is teeming with natural beauty.

Our people are content. We all seem to know one another and if we do encounter strangers, it is only minutes before we know someone who knows someone who knows them! I often joke that you have to go further than Jeffrey's Bay to be disgraceful! OK we are not the most go-getting, dynamic, fast tracking, purpose driven bunch, but we do have our shining stars here and we are proud of their success - not jealous of it.

Perhaps we should be blowing our own trumpet a little more, maybe we should capitalize on our friendliness but it's just not our nature. We love our lifestyle, we love people and we love Port Elizabeth and that is the secret of our success.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dance like no one's watching!

"Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching."

I think that many of us have seen this quote or one like it and resolved to live our lives spontaneously - in the now! I have no problem with the first two lines of this quote but its very difficult to dance like no one is watching unless ..... no one is watching!
Dancing is such a personal expression of how we are feeling and all us wear masks when we are in the public arena which is where more dance floors are. I have always admired those who walk amongst us who have the courage to be different - to express their truly authentic self and if I consider my friends there are many who fall into this category. I was out on Thursday night with two of them and my lovely daughter-in-law.
One very special friend is the Queen of Bling and always a delight to be with. Everything about her shines from her red hair to her her golden heart to her diamante shoes. Her hubby was away watching soccer and she needed a night out.
Another special friend was with us. She has just been away for six months supporting her husband in his battle against the dreaded 'C'. He has been in isolation and so has she - separated from her family, her home, her friends. She needed to reconnect with the lighter side of life and put fear on one side for a while. My daughter in law is always game for some company and laughter as her husbands job means that he is often out in the evenings. So we met for drinks and a little girl time.
We sat in a quiet corner enjoying the pleasure of being in each others company and the talk of nothing other than fashion, lipstick, hairdressers and super foods,then we decided to bravely venture into where the dance floor was.

On entering a room full of swinging twenty-somethings I became very aware of the numbers in my life - age, dress size and blood pressure. Being connected to the owner of the establishment we were given access to the VIP lounge which was empty. It's a luxury room designed for the Posh and Becks of the world and is furnished with leather couches, flat screened TVs, Champagne on ice, a Jacuzzi and in the centre is one long, sleek, silver pole.

It beckoned me like a chrome totem and I cavorted towards it, swung on it, threw my head back and shimmied around it to Lady GaGa. My friends were enjoying the moment and there was much hilarity. We danced, laughed and generally let loose! This was much needed fun, private fun as we could see out into the dance floor but they couldn't see in through the one way glass...or so we thought.
"Someone has just waved at us." said Queen of Bling. "Impossible" I said and daughter-in-law reassured her that this was in fact one way glass. As we danced some more we became aware that there were people who seemed to be curious spectators. A brave scout went out to look and discovered that our private dance floor was in fact very visible to the public dance floor. Oh My word - we laughed, we laughed, we laughed!

Then the horror hit home - we had been dancing like no one was watching!

NB. Apparently the one way glass had cracked a few days before and this ordinary tinted glass was put in as a temporary filler until the new one way glass was delivered.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Gift of Giving

I was in bed one morning a couple of months ago, having my cuppa and reflecting on what the day required of me when a news item attracted my attention mainly because they couldn't get the microphone right in the Cape Town studio - typical I thought - but it grabbed my attention. The story was about a woman who was struggling with Multiple Sclerosis and how a healer's unusual prescription of mindful altruism - to 'give away 29 gifts in 29 days' - ignited her energy, her happiness, and invited more abundance into her life.

At age 35, Cami Walker was burdened by a newly intense struggle with Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease that was leaving her unable to walk, work, relate to others, or enjoy her life. Depressed after being hospitalized several times in just a few months, she received an uncommon 'prescription' from an African healer. The remedy? Give away 29 things to others in 29 days. The gifts could be anything, but one should be something she felt was scarce in her life or she couldn't live without. 'By giving', Mbali told her, 'you are focusing on what you have to offer others...inviting more abundance into your life. Giving of any kind begins the process of change and will shift your energy for life'. Indeed, Cami Walker was amazed by the wonderful physical, emotional, and spiritual changes that manifested during her 29-day giving journey

29 Gifts is a global giving movement with more than eleven thousand members in 42 countries.

So I decided there and then that I would attempt this - believing it to be a worthy challenge. On 4 June I started looking for opportunities to give - and I was amazed that once I opened myself mentally and spiritually to do this, how opportunities presented themselves.
That very first day I came out of Pick and Pay and was packing my groceries into my boot. A young man approached me and my instinct was to ignore him but he assured me that he was genuinely stranded, had missed his bus to Cape Town and wasn't asking me for money but for food. I had bought my husband a pre-made sandwich for his lunch the following day (something I never do) so I gave it to him. A simple action and so rewarding for both of us.

During the next few days similar opportunities arose. I was able to give tickets to a Jazz Show to someone I knew would love the show, a colleague was struggling to meet an urgent deadline and I stepped in, a friend needed a listening ear and time to talk and I gave a bunch of roses for no reason to another friend. Travelling back from a weekend away, a car on the Langkloof Road was driving with hazard lights on and had a "HELP" sign in the rear window - they were short of petrol and had no idea where the next petrol station was - we drove on and returned with a can of petrol for them. It was a joy to do that - even more so when we saw they had a baby in the car.I gave hand-knitted scarves to my two YaYa sisters and gave a lift to someone on their way to the Fan Fest. I gave money to everyone who asked for it - and sometimes I had in the past refused ie. Car-guards, trolley jocks and a stranger who rang my doorbell. The list is long - 29 days long.

The result was a month of joy. I reflected each evening on what I had given that day and felt such peace and at one with my world. I also realized how easy it is to give to others and that the most important gifts are not monetary or material but gifts of time, presence, care and concern.

It doesn't surprise me that the concept originated in Africa – is this not Ubuntu.

So my '29 days of giving' are over but a future of giving awaits. Giving yourself permission to give, to trust and to love is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Festival Fare

The Grahamstown Festival creeps up on us every year and every year I venture through to Grahamstown for a day out and vow that next year I will stay a whole week and overdose on the arts.
This year was no different. I have an excuse this year - I was distracted by the soccer and the visitors it has brought to my home - but I spotted a gap on Monday and scrounged a lift through to the festival with my daughter-in-law, Helen, as I was without wheels for the day. What fun we had!

No trip from PE in that direction would be complete without a pie from Nananga farm stall. So pies for breakfast it was, with takeaway coffee, eaten in style in the car park! We resisted the fatkoek - How I don't know!

We wrapped up well - having been told that it was freezing the day before, but we arrived at the monument to glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze - about gale force - but it's always windy upon that hill. The usual scene greeted us posters, posters and more posters. How to choose what to see from such an assortment of festival fare was impossible so we used a process of elimination. We wanted to be at least halfway back before night fall, a visit to the Village Green was necessary as we had got there late last year and missed out, and it was Monday - we needed to laugh! So we booked for the 2pm David Newton Show - then headed off to the Village Green.

It's a curious phenomena that when at an arts festival,common sense,reason and left brain logic evaporate and my right brain mode - that I am forced to keep in check for most of the year, takes over. I think many festinos relate to this. If you look around sane, normal and ordinary people sport attire that can only be described as wacky! Head gear is everywhere and ranges from Fare isle tasselled pixie hats to bright felt jester hats to velvet cloches in jewel shades. I sported my black trilby - bought last year as the festival coincided with Michael Jackson's death and my right brain ordered me to walk around Grahamstown in the black hat and one white glove! RIP Michael - wackiness is in full swing in Grahamstown. I have lost the white gloves but had a pair of socks in my handbag in case my hands went numb with cold. Thankfully the weather came to the party and we were glad that we had gone for the layered look and that we were able to shed a few layers as the mercury hit 25C.

My purchases this year included a stunning African papermache Santa with a trunk for a nose(or is it a phallic representation)- It was love at first sight for me when I saw this metre high camp figurine. It was a difficult choice between that and the divine giraffe with eyelashes! In the clothing line I was looking for a traditional outfit for those occasions where the invite say formal or traditional. I saw lovely ones but they were very expensive and not made for my traditional build! In the end I spotted a skirt in orange and black - made in China XXL, and a steal at R80. Although I did get the details of a lady in Queenstown who promised she would make me some designer African gear in one day if I was able to get there early. I also bought some very comfortable looking Palazo pants in bright pink and black floral fabric that I can't wait to wear to ..... er .... The festival next year. Beading was everywhere and I did my bit for cultural social responsibility and bought plenty to put with the beaded parrot that I bought last year and have no idea what to do with.

Helen hugged her sheepskin slippers to her chest and stroked her two coordinating tasselled pixie hats excited at the prospect of wearing them on an upcoming camping trip with Mark. I want a photograph please! Coffee promised to be a rushed affair - we scraped around our bags for our last R20 taking turns to hold the huge, camp, African, papermache Santa. In the coffee tent we met an old friend not seen for many years so we couldn't rush and when Elvis appeared and presented a photo opportunity - I had to oblige.

We left the building with Elvis and rushed off to our show, arriving just in time and then we laughed for an hour and a half with David Newton. The people behind me laughed so loud and long that I thought they were coloured folk (those who have seen his show will relate to this - apparently us whities do sign laughing as we are too inhibited to laugh out loud). David Newton was funny, clever, slick, sexy and frankly gorgeous! Another photo opportunity awaited as we exited St Andrews Hall. Don't miss this show if it comes to PE.

Helen and I then decided that a pie for breakfast and coffee didn't make a healthy diet so we went in search of festival fare meandering amongst the Nigerian stalls all selling sunglasses, bags and fur berets; We passed bonnet-wearing donkeys, street children aka mime artists and guitar playing, dread locked opportunists looking earning their next smoke. We promised two African street traders we would come back for the crocheted beanies in reggae colours and headed for the nearest coffee.

Food was welcome, hot coffee even more and as the sun got lower,the layers went back on and we tramped back to the car - our feet throbbing! Helen resisted driving home in her new slippers and we drove off into a spectacular sunset. Festival over for another year. Next year I am definitely going to rent accommodation and spend a week watching 3shows per day in my black and bright pink floral pants and festival hat! Anyone care to join me?