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!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful

Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley add nanny goats.

Ian Drury and the Blockheads sang this thirty years ago and this week these lyrics have been buzzing around my head.
These are my reasons to be cheerful this week....

Watching the sunrise cast its golden glow over the beach at dawn and feeling the pull of the sea as the tide turns.

Catching up with special people over a delicious buttery croissant.

Being moved to tears by a really good book.

The scent and colours of my garden - purple sweet smelling lavender, pink and white roses, petunias in mauve, hot pink and white, Sky blue lobelia and my favourite pansies turning their 'faces' to the sun.

Seeing my elephant photo in the Weekend Post.

Watching the film "Seraphine" about a French naive artist and the fact that we get quality movies here in PE again - Thank you Uptown Theatre.

The healing hands of my reflexologist - my miracle worker!

Attending a concert at Gateways Pre-Primary and witnessing the enthusiasm of these little ones as they sang and performed. Their rendition of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika made my heart swell.
Spending time in the company of some bright young people who work for our municipality and are committed to see our metropole win the cleanest city for the third time.

A warm bath, a comfortable bed and a good nights sleep. Sunday lunch. The love of my family and friends.

Only 16 sleeps to a cuddle with Jessica and Craig.

Reasons to be cheerful abound!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's on your Bucket List?

Do you have a Bucket List ..? In other words do you have a list of stuff that you want to do kick the bucket? I have a whole lot of adventures in mind except there aren't enough years in this lifetime to complete what's on it ....nor do I have the Morgan Freeman's salary to pay for it. Here's what I would do if I had all the time and money required.

I have always wanted to travel - particularly to Peru to see Machu Picchu "Old Mountain", an Inca site 2,430 metres above sea level. Archaeologists believe that it's The Lost City of the Incas. I am not sure how I would manage to climb two thousand metres above sea level but I would like to stand on that ancient ground albeit clutching my walking frame! While in South America, I would love to return to Argentina - I only had two weeks there but I loved it and never got the opportunity to tango in a street cafe.

I have never been to Italy - I would love to spend time in Rome to see all the art that I have read about. I would take my own paint brushes and stand in a field of lavender in Tuscany with an easel and try to capture the moment. While there I would eat all the Italian food that I love and perhaps get my plump bottom pinched by an Italian stallion.

I spent a weekend in France with my sister a couple of years ago and our itinerary allowed us one hour in Le Louvre. We chose two works of art that we wanted to see the most and literally ran through the Louvre to see The Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. All those fabulous Michaelanchelo's and Monet's were just a blur as I sped past them. I would love to spend a whole week in there studying those brilliant paintings and a whole month in Paris studying life.

Cirque Du Soleil is an artform that I have always admired and its coming to South Africa in 2011 - I will make sure that I am in Cape Town when its on. I saw Cirque du Shanghai a couple of years ago - a collaboration between China and Cirque Du Soleil and it was brilliant and it left me wanting to see the original even more. That evening was memorable in other ways. There was a international summit on in Shanghai that day and they had deployed 60,000 additional police to the city! All the roads where the heads of state would be travelling were blocked off and the underground was packed with commuters. When the train came in I just stared at it in disbelief as it was packed like a can of sardines, but when the doors opened I was pushed into it from behind by my son and spent the next 15 minutes eyeball to eyelid with a Chinese stranger. We enjoyed the show and during the interval bought ice creams - mine was fish flavoured! I am looking forward to enjoying the performance in Capetown with a chocolate covered Magnum!

I would love to swim with dolphins in the warm Indian Ocean, travel in a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara when the migration is in full swing. I would like to meet Professor Robert Winston, Sir Richard Branson, Shirley Bassey and Meryl Streep. I would like to smoke a joint - just one! I would like to go shopping in New York, join the parade at Disney World and fly over the Grand Canyon.

I can dream and I can make a start - every journey starts with the first step.
What's on your Bucket List?

Friday, September 10, 2010

My journey continues...

Isn't it ironic that in the Autumn of my life I am in a place where I need to reinvent myself! Just when I thought I could sit back and rest a little - life has other plans for me. I have worked for most of my adult life minus the ten years that I spent at home to have children and give them a good foundation in life - an investment that I have never regretted. The rest of the time I have worked full time, part time, flexitime and overtime to accommodate their needs and those of the family. I thought that I was done with work but recent events have made me reconsider and it has become a necessity that I get back to the grindstone. I am not 100% sure where my energy is going to be focused but the decision has made me reflect on what I am qualified and experienced to do. I am multi skilled and multi talented and have had many jobs in my lifetime!

My introduction to the world of work happened while I was aged 15 and still at school - I worked in a cake shop on a Saturday and was possibly the only assistant who ate more cakes than she sold. It was a very busy bakery - at Christmas there was a man employed to control the queue for fresh bread and mince pies! My working overall was pale yellow and I had to wear plastic gloves. I learned three important things from that job - cakes are very fattening and yellow does not suit me and plastic gloves make your hands sweat - I have never worn either since!

While I was an art student - aged 19, I worked at the post office delivering the mail one Christmas. I loved that job! Out in the fresh air tramping the frosty ground - I was given the postal route around where I lived - which was in the country. I got to meet so many lovely people and some of them used to wait for me on the doorstep with the offer of a hot cuppa and sometimes a piece of buttered toast. I will never forget one old lady to whom I delivered a small package - a Christmas gift. She was so surprised when I rang her doorbell and told her there was a package for her, "What could it be?" she asked incredulously. "Looks like a Christmas present." I replied and after a moments hesitation she asked politely if I would come in and open it with her. From this job I learned that opening a gift is no fun unless you have someone to share the experience and that for some people the postman was the only human being that they saw or spoke to all day.

I also worked as a waitress in a football club whilst studying and this taught me how alcohol changes people and never to argue with a person under the influence as their reasoning is impaired and you are wasting your time. I had some lovely customers though and my regulars used to sit on my 'patch' just so I could serve them. I occasionally spilt beer over them too but the were very forgiving. My wardrobe was influenced by my finances - the shorter the skirt, the more money I made in tips. My hemline was my economic barometer!

My first permanent job was in a bank and I may not have been the quickest money counter - we did it by hand not machine - but I had the longest queue not because I was slow but because people wanted a friendly chat and I have always had a cheerful smile and a willing ear. On Fridays I went in a black taxi cab with a locked metal box full of money to the local glass company and opened the on-site bank we had there. No armoured vehicles in those days and I was blissfully unaware that I could have been in any danger! My experiences at the bank taught me that I was a peoples' person and not an admin person and what's more - Customers liked that!

I worked in a travel agency for a while and loved sending people away on exciting holidays - I loved looking at the brochures. From this job I learned that the world was a big place and I wanted to see it all.I was also fired for wearing hotpants to work! I refused to go home and change on the rationale that the said hot pants were actually quite tepid and my mini skirt was shorter. I took the agency to an Industrial tribunal and won my argument and compensation. Hmm - perhaps I should have persued a career in law. NO - all that paperwork!!

My first job in SA was in the offices at Woolworths and yes - I had to learn to work the till as part of my training - things weren't scanned and you had to code purchases. I once put a pair of underpants through on the meat code - don't ask me why, but when the supervisor came to sort it out - she just said the word 'boerwors' to me to have us both is fits of laughter. My face was bright red as the poor gentleman stood there with his Y Fronts in his hands! At Woollies I learned many lessons, as I was getting to grips with a whole new culture but a couple that stand out for me are how difficult some customers could be, that there was a difference between service and servant and that the SA general public hadn't yet realised it. I also learned that the biggest losses in retail - shrinkage - occurred through theft by their own staff. I learned that those who protested the loudest when told this were sadly usually the offenders!

It was only when I got into Human Resources and especially the development of people that I really connected with my purpose. I love watching people's minds open to possibilities - those 'Aha' moments when things click into place and being part of that process is very rewarding. I have spent 15 years in this field and I have learned that we are all here to learn our own unique lessons, there are no mistakes only lessons, lessons are repeated until they are learned and that learning never stops. I suppose what the universe is trying to teach me is that I have work still to be done and perhaps if I sit still for long enough and reflect quietly then my 'Aha' moment will come.

So my journey continues.......

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A weekend in the country

Just what I needed to relax and recharge my energy. I was fortunate to be rewarded with a weekend at Herold Wines on the Montegu Pass by South Magazine for writing a little something for them. What a wonderful place to relax and soak up some country sunshine and to taste some fabulous wine.
Herold Wine Farm was purchased from South African Breweries' Hop Farms in 1997 and yielded its first harvest in 2003.We had the pleasure of sharing lunch and wine tasting with winemaker Vivien Harpur and her husband, Bruce. Although there is no formal background in viticulture or wine making in the family, Vivien and her team of 6 full-time workers, have managed to produce the most wonderful wines with hard work, resourcefulness and perseverance.
There is nothing quite like tasting wine while your feet are firmly planted on the ground on which they grapes grew - knowing that what you are drinking was lovingly harvested there and skillfully transformed into the most delicious liquid. We were walked through the vineyards and talked through the process of winemaking. Vivien is a vegetarian and eats organically so she makes her wine with great care to keep it as natural and as free from additives as she possibly can. You can taste the love invested in each glass and I think that is why I enjoyed her Sauvignon Blanc so much. Fresh, clean, pure and young! I felt that I had just made a new friend.

We stayed in a cottage on the farm, nestled beneath Cradock Peak in the Outeniqua Mountain Range and walked the farm during the day and in the evening studied the stars while enjoying our simple meal and wine. The Karoo sky at night is just breath taking and there are just too many stars to count - all competing for our attention.
It was wonderful - I have returned relaxed,rejuvenated and ready for Spring!