Sunday, May 30, 2010

Magic Moments!


There is a saying that your life isn't measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take you breath away. Moments of magic remain cemented in your memory in techni-coloured detail forever and that reaffirm the joy and beauty of life. I had one of these each time my newborn son was placed in my arms and still remember their four very individual expressions. Craig's one of astonishment; Mark was angry and eyed me suspiciously, Paul gazed at me quietly and intensely and Sean looked at me knowingly - 'an old soul' the midwife said. The miracle of life took my breath away! Here are some of my magic moments.

As a child I remember distinctly that I almost fell off my chair in the library when I discovered that Liverpool was in the same county as St Helens (my hometown in Lancashire). Aged 7 or 8 yrs, I had thought it was so far away and I realised for the first time how huge the UK was and that led to the jaw dropping moment when I understood the immense scale of the world. It took my breath away!

Many years later stood at the other end of the globe - at Van Staadens River Mouth,I gazed in awe at the huge waves and as the current pulled me along the sand, I realised the power of the mighty sea. I had never witnessed how wild nature could be and at that moment I knew for sure that our almighty creator was omnipotent and it took my breath away!

In Uraguay (where I ventured on my own on a trip to Argentian), I was walking through Colonia to the ferry that would return me to Buenos Aries when I heard guitar music and singing - I stopped and recognised the song as Por Uno Cabeza (the tango from the movie 'Scent of a Woman. Do you remember it?



A short, old man wearing a black fedora and dark glasses - looking like the godfather himself, was performing with four long haired South American youths and I stood rooted to the spot and enjoyed a moment of magic. When I arrived at the ferry, which thankfully was delayed by strong winds or I would have missed it for sure, I was breathless but it was not the brisk walk that had taken my breath away - it was that old man, that music and that moment of magic!

A fiery orange sunset on the Zambezi River where I watched the sun literally fall into the horizon and everything turned orange, red, purple and inky blue - WOW! A moment of magic.

My first trip to Graaf Reinet and the Valley of Desolation is also a moment etched in my memory. I could feel the wind in my face but the world was silent as I stood at the edge and looked in awe over desolate the Karoo landscape. In that moment my soul acknowledged that these rocks, this red earth and this panorama had stood here unchanged for millions of years and that put my life and my journey through it into perspective. Another moment of magic!

A few years ago I nursed my small granddaughter to sleep and watched her snuggled in her blanket, breathing softly, long, long eyelashes, a rosebud pout and the warm powdery smell of milk. I remember thinking that if I were to die at that moment then I would die happy knowing the part that I had played in the creation of this precious life! Magic, pure magic!

There is a saying that your life isn't measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take you breath away. If this is the true measure of life then I have lived long and well and I hope that I will continue to stop and recognise moments of magic - they are there waiting to be celebrated.

These are just a few of my moments of magic - I am sure that you are remembering yours right now!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Have you ever wanted the ground to open up and swallow you up? I have had many embarrassing moments in my life - events that were so traumatic that they remain etched in my memory and my face burns as I recall them.
My first memory of public humiliation was at a sports day at school. Along with the egg and spoon race, sack race and three-legged race was the obstacle race which had a large net that we had to scramble under. The race was over and the winners congratulated when an observant teacher noticed a wriggling lump still under the net - that was me - My hair grip had got caught in the mesh and I had been crawling for 10 minutes on the same spot.I had to be rescued and I remember that I got a bigger round of applause than the winner except mine was accompanied by laughter - my family seemed to be laughing the loudest. I realised early on that I was destined to be an embarrassment in the sports arena and this was confirmed when, aged 13 I climbed out of the pool triumphant after a neck and neck finish in the 400 metre swimming race to discover that my swimming costume was around my waist! My mother didn't have time to fix my costume straps properly and used safety pins which were no match for my lightening arm movements! Although I was at an all girls school my embarrassment was unforgettable and I never trusted my mother’s mending skills again!

Do you remember the time you passed your driving test and the freedom you felt on your first solo excursion? I remember mine for a different reason - I jumped out of the car and walked towards the shops across the busy car park, car keys in hand, trying to look like a sophisticated and experienced driver - when a stranger tapped my shoulder and drew my attention to the L Plates which were securely fixed to my bottom! I had ripped them off and thrown them in the car when told I had passed my driving test, and then had promptly sat on them. My face was as red as "L".

An anti natal visit - often embarrassing at the best of times - is another unforgettable moment. The weather was getting cooler and I treated myself to a mohair jersey which I couldn't wait to wear under a floral tiered dress. Sat in the doctors waiting room I realised that it wasn't mohair jersey weather yet and I was getting warmer and stickier by the moment. I was called in for my exam and hopped on the bed to find that when the doctor exposed my rather large bump- it was covered with fine black hair!! Mohair had become 'my-hair' as the jersey had shed its fibres which had stuck to my very warm body. The doctor's expression of astonishment is one I will never forget!

My children have contributed very generously to my library of embarrassment like the time we arrived in church fashionably late, with Paul dressed as St George complete with sword, helmet and chain mail vest and sporting a large St Georges flag - only to find that this was not the required dress code and he had somehow got confused between looking like a crusader and wearing his cub uniform for St George's Day.

Mark confided in me as we set off to school one parents evening,that his teacher had a glass eye and I spent the whole evening looking deeply into both of them trying to determine which one it was. When we arrived home I commented what a lovely teacher he had and that you would never have guessed his disability - only to be told that he had made it up and his teacher had perfect vision. What that man must have thought of my intense gaze, I shudder to think!

When I should have been glowing with pride at Sean's university graduation, my face reddened by embarrassment as he wore a pair of false hillbilly teeth! What was worse is that I forked out R200 (payable in advance) for photographs of him in his cap and gown, on stage wearing them (as illustrated).

Thank goodness for a sense of humour - the ability to laugh at awkward situations and at oneself is a blessing! I could write much more on this topic but some of my embarrassments are best left buried deep in my subconscious - to surface when I least want or expect them to - causing even more embarrassment and laughter!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friends!



My last blog got me thinking about friendship and a casual remark that I made to a friend that I seem to have some pretty original ones - people who are quite special - people who have the courage to be who they want to be. My friend replied that I am like that and that is why I seek them out as friends. I am not so sure - I think that I keep myself reined in - I haven't developed the courage yet to say, do and dress as I think. I think I am attracted to them because they are who I would like to be - not who I am.

I have a friend who dresses in amazing outfits, wears animal prints, bold gold jewelry and always looks fabulous. She has an obsession with the colour orange and she stands out in a crowd like a bright orange beacon - warm, glowing and inviting - even if she is wearing black! She is style with a capital 'S and B-B-Bling with everything and she can carry it off. I wish I had the courage to paint myself like a canvas and wear bright colours and outrageous hats without feeling silly.

Another friend is an environmentalist. A green warrior who has had the courage to take on the government and big companies and tell them where to stick their pollution and bad smells! She is passionate about nature and the world in which she lives and lives an organic life - Healthy, Clean and Natural. I believe in all she does but - I am too lazy to recycle and the gym police are always on my case! I wish I had the energy, passion and conviction to be green and the courage to tell WasteTech where to dump themselves!

Then there is my friend who seems to have been born without the part of the brain which filters speech. She just says it like it is and has no pretensions. If she tastes something that she doesn't like - she pulls a face that would stop a clock and says Yuk! Hence she doesn't do sushi or other trendy food that most people swallow just to be in fashion. If she likes it, she buys it - her house is an eclectic and gaudy gathering - no safe beiges or classic cream elements. It's kitsch and uncoordinated, warm and welcoming. Her earrings don't match her outfits and instead of asking her hairdresser what would suit her, she tells her to shut up and put the red flashes in that she is craving. I admire her honesty and openness and I wish I was less with concerned doing and saying the right thing.

What would I do without my friend who cares deeply about just about everyone not just family, friends - of whom she has many - but strangers too. She struggles to sleep and I am sure it's because she cares so much about others. When anyone I know is in trouble, she is there helping, healing and holding them up. Supportive and sensitive she has the special knack of being present without intruding and the quality and depth of her listening is immense. I wish I had her ability to express the care and concern for others that I feel.

I am blessed with many wonderful friends with different personalities and qualities that I admire. Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that I am surrounded by these people. I think they are in my life to teach me and remind me to have the courage to be the ME I am meant to BE!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stranger in a Strange land.


I was out last night with a whole bunch of people - some old friends and some people that I had never met before - when someone asked me about what I thought when we arrived here 27 years ago.
It was a whole 36 hour journey in those days and we took off and landed no less than 7 times so by the time we got to PE we were exhausted. We stayed at the Edward Hotel and at dinner the first night we were complimented - well the comments were delivered to my hubby, not me - several times on our four boys and how well they behaved,the same thing happened the following morning at breakfast. I thought that we had come to a country where the children were really badly behaved or this was a custom that we had to get used to and reciprocate. Also, that very morning a man was found dead - hung from a tree on the Donkin Reserve outside the hotel and his shoes had been stolen while he hung there. That sticks in my mind too - What sort of country had we come to where shoes were stolen from the dead?

I felt like a stranger - very different, very white and very alone. We had never been here before and I had no idea that bilingual meant that you had to have a working knowledge of two languages. When we came I was quite prepared for the racial differences that we would face, although apartheid was changing and the group areas act had been repealed, everything was still very separate. What I wasn't prepared for was the Afrikaans / English thing. I was completely ignorant of South Africa's history and oblivious of how the descendants of the Dutch settlers really didn't like us nasty English colonials. I was just Sue who had never had an enemy in her life and now I had thousands of them because I couldn't speak Afrikaans - this was very ironic as I am also descended from Dutch stock and my maiden name was Van Schaick!

Language was a problem as anyone who worked with people needed to be bilingual and my version of bilingual was English and French with a Lancashire accent. I love people and wanted to work in an industry with lots of people contact. I was interviewed at our local university by two young Afrikaans chaps who gave me something to read aloud in Afrikaans and the collapsed in laughter as I stumbled through it! I cried - humiliated. Some companies just put the phone down when they heard my accent. Woolworth's came to my rescue as they were an affiliate of Marks and Spencer then and quite liked all things English - including me!

While working there I met some lovely people and one of them invited us to a celebration at their home in Walmer. We were given directions and we took our precious map setting off in our little car - I still dont know how we fitted the four boys in the back! We then spent over an hour looking for the road that she lived in - this in a 10 minute city! We drove up and down what we thought was Hoof Weg looking for Main Road - only to discover that Hoof Weg is Afrikaans for Main Road! The street signs were in English on one side and Afrikaans on the other.

The search for a dentist for the children was successful when I found one at our local shopping mall. I went inside and made appointments with Dr Tandart as that was the name of the plaque(excuse the pun)outside to discover that 'tandart' is Afrikaans for dentist! I still call our dentist Mr Tandart and he rolls with laughter at the memory and to his credit has never caused us pain! I remember also telling some friends that I had sampled some delicious Roomys ice cream - you guessed that is the word for ice cream and not the brand. My best lessons in Afrikaans came when I moved out of the upmarket retail environment and into Human Resources in a factory - I had a queue of guys who were very willing to teach me to flook or swear. They really did think that I was going to give the MD the important message to "Voetsek!" or to call their boss a "doos"!

Last night's trip down memory lane started because a young woman recognised me from the Woolworth's days, when she was there as a student casual, and we were catching up on 25 years of life. She had also been a 'stranger in a strange land' and had recently returned to South Africa from Australia. So 27 years later I looked around the patio where I was enjoying a glass of the very best wine - South African - and looked at my lovely South African friends, both English and Afrikaans and was grateful for my perseverance and my sense of humour. I was just Sue again - not a stranger anymore - and not an enemy in sight!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Its a Mad Mad World!


We live in a strange world - No really - and it's getting stranger every day!Take the weekends' local paper. I usually like to glance through the papers in the morning - scan the headlines to see if we are at war or if there is a sale at my favourite WW store or anything important. Then check the hatches, matches and dispatches in case anyone I know has had a baby (highly unlikely at my age); to check if I know anyone who has died (more likely at my age); or if I have perhaps popped my clogs and no one has informed me (very likely knowing my family). In the evening when I have finished all that the day requires of me I like to sit down and relax with the paper and a nice glass of something chilled.

Last night was no different and I was struck by the absurdity of the news. One single page contained a bazaar selection of articles that make you ask "What is our World coming to?" Included is the article about the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife, Carla Bruni, keeping heads of state waiting while they have sex. Apparently a new book reveals that they are often fashionably late for appointments and arrive flushed and breathless at state banquets, meetings with politicians and have even kept The Queen waiting while they indulge in a little "Oh La La" or shall we rather say, "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh Mon Dieu! Oui!! Ahh Lah Lah!" things must be looking up for Carla Bruni as Monsieur Sarkozy's second wife, Cecelia, was reported to have accused him of bringing numerous young women back to the Elysee Palace for "late night karaoke sessions". I sipped my wine and chuckled.

A little further down under a photograph of a very smug looking Sarkozy (now we know why), is a horrendous photograph that takes you back to those awful images of the holocaust. A report of Zimbabwean prisons compares them to Nazi concentration camps and it makes my blood boil that the world turn a blind eye to the genocide in Zimbabwe where many thousands of Zimbabweans are dying in prison while awaiting trial so even before being convicted of an offence they are being executed! Why the super powers stand idly by while Mad Bob getter more senile I do not understand? I downed the rest of my glass in one and refilled it

Below this is a report of Disco Gran 'Mamy Rock' who bordering her three score years and ten, is in much demand as a rock DJ. Like a modern day Jekyll and Hyde she is a parish councillor in the UK by day but when the sun goes down she launches herself into the clubbing stratosphere wearing leopard skin tops, gold chains - "Strewth!" - and dark glasses (well you would wouldn't you will all those flashing lights playing havoc with your bifocals - not to mention all those crows feet to hide!). I truly admire people who defy the age barrier but it seems a little extreme and I wondered, as I sipped my Chardonnay, if she enjoys a glass of fortified wine, uses her bus pass to travel to travel to gigs and how she keeps her spiky grey locks from puncturing her hair net!

The pièce de résistance though has to be the news that now you can send your beloved Teddy Bear on holiday! Yes, while a third of the world's population are starving those over stuffed, over wealthy and under intelligent now can send their life long friends to Finland and indulge them with a tour of a reindeer farm and a once in a lifetime experience of the nightlife in Rovaniem. There is a summer and a winter programme to choose from and its a snip at R1 597. I am sure that Mr Bean has already booked his best friend, Teddy, for both excursions and will be waiting anxiously for a post card.

Reality is stranger than fiction!In the words of Tears for Fears it is indeed "A Mad Mad World" we live in with skewed values, unbalanced wealth and worse still is the knowledge that we made it so!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are you invisible?


Why is it when you have nothing to eat in the house its almost guaranteed that a friend will pop in unexpectedly? This is what I thought yesterday when I offered her Ryvitas and cheese for lunch! I am still in Mothers Day mode and feeling incredibly lazy however my embarrassment spurred me to go out and buy some food and restock the cupboards!

We had some interesting conversations, my friend and I. The usual laments about the weather, children, husbands and health issues and the benefits of visiting a sangoma (African witch doctor) to assist with all of these. Then she raised the topic of being invisible.

At first I thought it she was hallucinating due to the lack of food then I thought perhaps it was the Sangoma thing, but then she explained that as a woman of a certain age,she was feeling ignored and overlooked whilst out shopping, expecting service in the coffee shop or when in contact with banks,garages and government departments. She explained that she sat and watched prettier, younger or male customers get served before her and she wondered if I got overlooked these days or was it just her. Was this an 'age' thing?

I confessed that while being served at WW last week,the two assistants serving me (don't ask me why it takes two people to serve one) had hardly acknowledged me and had carried on their conversation as if I wasn't there. When they were finished I thanked them for their undivided attention and commented that I had never been served with such apathy. They promptly thanked me - as if I had complimented them, either they didn't know the meaning of 'apathy' or didn't recognise my sarcasm. I just put this down to lack of customer service training and poor management. I hadn't thought that I was invisible .... now I am beginning to wonder how long I may have been invisible and the possible advantages this holds!

It seems that we spend our childhood wanting to attract attention, wanting to be noticed. Our adolescence desperately trying to blend in by looking the same, dressing the same, our mid life searching for success and its trappings that guarantee us to be noticed and envied. So perhaps in our fifties, the pendulum swings back and we do become invisible again, but not by choice this time.

I quite like the idea of being invisible - it allows you to observe, analyse and eavesdrop. Like the character of 'The Invisible Man' it means that you can mingle among society and hear what it really has to say. Invisibility allows you to ignore people that you know and don't particularly want to speak to and in turn it allows them to ignore you. You would think that it would allow you to go out without makeup wearing your gardening clothes, slippers, odd shoes or odd earrings - which I have on occasions. On these occasions I am guaranteed to bump into and be seen by everyone I know.

So, No! I don't think its an age issue, I think its a bad manners issue and I think businesses that want to utilise the vast spending power of the grey brigade and retain their many, many 'Baby Boomer' customers had better start paying attention or we may start dropping our crockery onto the floor in coffee shops to get attention - even worse we may stop coming into your business and start ignoring you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers Day


If you ask any mother of a family of boys how she managed to cope with them all when they were small, I guarantee you that a certain far-away look will appear on her face, followed by a chuckle and a funny story that begins with, ”I remember when…” and ending with “I could write a book!”. That look is a combination of nostalgia and a remembrance of when they crossed the line into temporary insanity!

I distinctly remember the moment when it happened to me. There is less than a year between my first two sons and one day I was in the throes of mopping and cleaning the kitchen and up to my armpits in suds, when the youngest came running in to me crying and in a loud sob informed me that his brother had stolen his nose! I responded quite illogically and screamed at the top of my voice to the eldest boy, “Give him his nose back, NOW!” I realized at that point that I had crossed that line and forevermore life would never be the same. The wheels had fallen off!

I had four boys and, as all boys do, they loved knobs, keys, clocks, wheels and anything remotely mechanical. I got up one morning and as usual went to switch on my radio, except I couldn’t – the knobs were all missing. As it was still early in the day, I managed to ask them politely where they had put the knobs and was rewarded with a blank look, as I pressed them gently for more information, it became apparent that they either really didn’t know where they were or had forgotten. This was confirmed when the eldest, aged about five, said very earnestly, “I swear on the Bible, Mommy, I don’t know where the knobs are.” The four year old nodded his head fervently while the youngest, aged eighteen months, toddled off and settled behind the settee – where he had safely stashed them the day before! We got used to switching on the TV to hear the volume on full blast and a snowy screen hissing to let us know that ‘someone’ had been twiddling. Fond of playing Lego, the wheels were often found under the settee, behind the wall unit, in their pillow cases, and once in the toilet brush holder – safely hidden away for the next day and then forgotten. Lego without wheels is no fun for boys!

Animals were also a favourite and we had them all cats, dogs, fish, rabbits and hamsters and as they got a little older, mice that had thirteen babies the day after they came home from the pet shop, a tame rat that was often placed on my head while I was on the telephone, a pet snake that caused my husband to run out of the shower naked into the garden to get the braai tongues, and I once came home from work to two geese gaggling in the hallway. Of course these had to be returned the following morning after much begging and pleading and a noisy, sleepless night.

We once had the police caution us about a dog that wasn’t ours but had followed our son home from school and made its home in our front garden, and one of our cats – well it wasn’t actually ours but the boys had been feeding it, promptly had five kittens on my new lounge carpet. Of course the tiny kittens were a huge attraction for the neighbourhood kids and I had a long queue of admirers at the kitchen door - mostly female - who had come to “ooh” and “aah” over them. Sadly one of the kittens died and a garden funeral was arranged. The little mite was reverently lowered into the ground in a tissue box, prayers were said and mounds of flowers were filched from surrounding gardens to be placed lovingly on the grave. However, the rest and peace was not to last and hysteria broke out amongst the girls. My five year old had dug up the kitten a couple of hours later - he was just seeing, “If it has come alive again – like at Sunday School when they say we are born again.”

As the boys got older we became a medical aid nightmare and we saw more of our doctor than we did of most of our friends. My eldest was particularly accident prone and as he whizzed past the house on something with wheels, I instinctively reached for the medicine bag or my car keys depending on the volume of the shriek that accompanied him. One summer he broke his left arm on the first day of the school holidays while doing acrobatics on a skateboard. I thought it was lucky that the six week plaster cast would be off in time for the new school year and it was - only to be replaced on his right arm which he broke in the last week of the school holidays on the same skateboard. Needless to say the wheels came off!

One Christmas, the youngest fell off his new bike and managed to get a stone in his knee. Dad, by now very skilled in first aid, tried everything to remove it but by Boxing Day we realized that we had to call our doctor, who met us at the hospital. We were very apologetic about calling him out over the festive season, but the doctor reassured us and told us not to worry and was quite jovial about it. He then went on to tell us that the locum had drawn up a list of the 5 most likely families to call them out over Christmas, He was delighted to see us, as he had placed his money on us and had just won R200.

Teasing, practical jokes and the resulting squabbles were an everyday occurrence and there were days that I felt that I deserved the Nobel peace prize.
On one particular day we had been invited out – getting four boys all clean at the same time was quite a mission, not to mention getting the fifth male, my husband, spruced up! While I was seeing to the older three, I left the youngest in the bath to splash himself clean. I was busy dressing the middle one when I heard a blood curdling scream from the bathroom and rushed in to find my little 4 year old traumatized and saying that the bathplug was going to eat him. I comforted him as best as I could, assuring him that‘Mr Plug’ would not eat him. When we got to our friends it was still obvious that he had been crying so they asked what had happened. While I was telling them the older two began to laugh hysterically and as I reprimanded them they confessed that it was they who had gone outside and whispered into the overflow pipe, “I am the plug and I am going to eat you.” It was hard to keep our faces straight as they obviously thought this was the best joke in the world and it created a whole new form of communication for the family. They often waited for other family members and visitors to use the bathroom and then send them a message up the downspout! What our neighbours must have thought about the family that spoke to one another through the bathroom pipes doesn’t bear thinking about.

So please excuse the faraway look in my eyes when you ask how I coped with our four young sons. At times I teetered on the edge of insanity but their funny antics and a good sense of humour kept me just about sane. Now that they are older they love to talk about those crazy days – there is much that, thankfully, we were blissfully unaware of. I really could write a book !

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Identity Crisis



I am not really a political animal but I cant help but be drawn into the pending elections in the UK.It seems that there is no clear majority and that may lead to a hung parliament. In times gone by there were such strong differences amongst the population in Great Britain, mostly created by the class system,that everyone knew where they fitted in and voted accordingly. Upper,middle and lower classes voted Conservative, Liberal or Labour with the odd few (excuse the pun) voting for The Monster Raving Loony Party headed by Screaming Lord Sutch or The Teddy Bear Alliance.

Even the politicians were instantly recognisable as to which party they represented. You identified with Harold Wilson if you were a labour voter because he was all things working class from the tip of his pipe to his thick soled shoes. Labour politicians had gravelly voices, faces carved by hard work and the balls to speak plain English!

Mrs Thatcher on the other hand epitomised the Conservative voter with her carefully coiffed hair, carefully planned wardrobe, carefully controlled emotions and perfect diction. I never paid much attention to the Liberal party - my father thought they were a bunch of 'homos' so they were definitely off bounds.They were the party to vote for if you were a little different.

While watching the televised political election debates - a so 'not British' idea imported from the USA - its hard to distinguish who is actually who and which party they represent. They are all seem to be saying the same thing in a very similar way. They look like a bunch of squabbling neighbours who live next door but love having a dig at each others' opinions in an attempt to elevate their status.

It seems to me that the British are having an identity crisis, have lost their history and are confused. There doesn't seem to be a working class anymore. Tony Blair re branded the Labour Party - 'New Labour' to keep the votes of the previous labour voters who no longer identified with the working class label. David Cameron is desperately concealing his 'poshness' by riding a bicycle and wearing pullovers so as not to appear Conservative and he and Nick Clegg are so similar that they could be related.

So tomorrow should be an interesting day not only as a political landmark but also from a sociological aspect. Voters are not only deciding who will lead the country but also making a statement on the changing face of 'Britishness'.
The process has been very entertaining and the result should be very interesting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Seasons Greetings!


I have never quite got used to living at the opposite end of the world. It's May and, as Europe bursts into Spring, my English brain is programmed to expect my garden to deliver new foliage, daffodils, crocus and birdsong. I imagine baby lambs in the fields and bluebells on shady banks. The sun should be waking me earlier and there should be Spring cleaning on my to-do list. Here in the southern hemisphere we are sliding into Autumn and my garden, deprived of water after the hot summer, is shutting down for the winter ahead. The roses are valiantly trying to bloom on spindly stems and already the trees are taking on an autumnal look. Birds are winging their way northwards for the summer and, for me,everything is happening in reverse.

It's odd to live out of step with the seasons and even odder that we don't even get a proper winter in Port Elizabeth - the daytime temperatures are often the same or higher than those in the UK - so we gear up for a winter that is more like a summer interrupted by series of cold snaps. If that sounds confusing - its exactly how it feels.

The weirdest for me though, is to hear Christmas carols sung in December when the sun is high in the brightest of blue skies - I don't think that I will ever get used to that or the fact that I usually decorate my Christmas tree wearing shorts or a swimming costume as its just too hot to be so energetic in December. Old habits die hard though and we still serve a traditional piping hot turkey Christmas dinner with all the trimmings in the midsummer sizzle.

So,I wonder if our brains are climatically programmed early in life and if these early experiences create seasonal expectations that stay with us for the rest of our days. It certainly seems like it to me and I feel destined to live out of sync with the seasons in the southern hemisphere.