Sunday, November 28, 2010

Role Swapping

It happens quite gradually, one minute you are fully in control of your life and a role model to your children, and the next they are deciding what is good for you and giving advice in a voice a little louder and a tad slower. I married and had children fashionably young to minimize the generation gap and fully expected them to celebrate my youthfulness in their midlife. Sadly my plans have gone awry and I find myself the victim of life’s cruel joke. My children have become my parents and my husband is sliding into the space they have vacated.
Thinking back, the first real evidence of this happened whilst I was visiting my son, who was living and working in Argentina several years ago. I wanted to visit Uruguay and booked a ferry trip over the River de la Platte, planned some exploration and an overnight stay. My exciting news was met with a stony face and I was told that this was not a good idea. “You can’t go alone.” I was informed, “You can’t speak the language,” and “What if you get lost?” A little flattered that he cared, I reassured my son that I had managed the journey to visit him alone, was an adult, had a tongue in my head and knew how to use the telephone. As he continued to point out how dangerous the world was I had to remind him that at his age I had brought my family across the world and settled in another country. He was not at all convinced I was a seasoned traveler and threatened to ground me and furthermore he would “have to tell his father”. Oh how the tables have turned I thought. The irony of hearing my old retort, “I am going to tell your father”, leaving from my son’s lips was too cruel and my plea of “I am old enough to look after myself” sounded remarkably juvenile. Of course, I went, had a great time and returned triumphantly in one piece to be met by a stony silence and a thin lipped grimace as a reprimand.

However, I knew that my kids believed that I was in my dotage when we had a theft at home, with no visible signs of a break in, and they dashed around, made me a hot cup of sweet tea, bent close enough to my face to allow me to lip read and asked me, “Where have you put your jewelry mother?” So now I am the one advised to lock my doors, wrap up warm, drink plenty of fluids and not to talk to strangers.  
I get reproachful looks if I joke with the vicar, misbehave in public or laugh too loudly in restaurants or wear anything remotely different. The thought that one day my sons would give any advice on fashionable hair accessories was too ludicrous to contemplate but on our way to a family wedding last year my fashionable, feathered and bejeweled fascinator was discussed by my sons, not at all discreetly, in the front on the car while I sat in the back like a victim of ‘What not to Wear’ fashion sleuths. I was trapped, pounced upon and my individuality was scorned as they asked one another, “What has she got on her head?” and “Whatever was she thinking when she bought it?” Except in my realty fashion review, I am not at all penitent. Like a stubborn teenager, the more ridiculous it seems to them, the more I am determined to wear it!
A recent, spur of the moment visit to the local casino resulted in an online conference about ‘what we should do about mom’s gambling habit’ and no doubt the members of my book club have been scrutinized to find the culprit who influenced my delinquency. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there are already plans in place to find a secure retirement home that enforces curfews and is strong on discipline

In fact my children have become experts on most things since they left our home. Driving advice from those you taught to drive is never welcome. I endured far too many white knuckle rides as a passenger ferrying my matriculant learner drivers to school to have any patience when one of them turns to me 10 years later to remind me of the speed limit on the freeway.

The same goes for culinary skills. There isn’t much that I haven’t I haven’t sliced, diced, battered, braised, basted or baked and so far it all seems to have worked out fine and I and all whom I have cooked for are here to tell the tale. Well apart from Aunt Emily, but how was I to know she was allergic to nuts? Last Christmas, when we cracked open the champagne our youngest, having travelled overseas and now a man of the world, proceeded to give us a lecture on how to drink champagne. Apparently all these years we have been overfilling our glasses as champagne was meant to be drunk an inch at a time! I had no idea that such a breach of etiquette existed nor did it make sense to have to refill our glasses after each mouthful of delicious bubbles. On New Year’s Day he phoned early to wish us the best for the year – a tad too early really. Shocked that I was still in bed at lunchtime, having only got into it at 4am, he asked was I was ill. “Not at all” I replied, “I just happened to drink a foot of champagne last night.” The silence on the phone was deafening.

So here’s to growing old disgracefully! I am planning to have a large tattoo shortly and have no plans to tell them that it is fake and I also plan to go shopping in that fascinator and my wedding dress at least once before I die.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's the thought that counts!

I am busy writing out my Christmas shopping list and it gets more difficult each year to think of what to buy family and friends. The choice is greater too as the stores have a greater variety of lovely gifts to choose from. It was easier when only Woollies had prettily packaged, affordable smellies!
As I sat here thinking of ideas I recall some of the best gifts that I have received and a couple of the worst!
When I was around 6 I was overjoyed to receive a play shop with tiny scales, miniature boxes of cereal and washing powder,tiny tins of soup and petite plastic fruit. It came with toy money to complete the shopping experience and perhaps that's where my addiction to retail therapy has its origins! It was an even better gift because my sisters and I had been hunting for our Christmas gifts and Julia had found this one and was convinced it was hers - It wasn't! Sorry Julia - Santa left it for me!!!
It wasn't so many years later that I opened my Christmas stocking to find an encyclopedia, a full length long sleeved winceyette nightie more suited to an 80 year old and a pair of antique plaid bunnies (that's what we called our slippers in our family). I think this was my parents attempt to kill any passion that may have been coursing through my teenage veins!
Of course when my children where younger I received amazing gifts that were ludicrously kitsch. Shoulder length earrings, copper plaques and perfume that smelt of ....... and that was only from their father! All were excitedly received however bazaar and brought out on 'special' occasions.
One of the weirdest Christmas gifts I received was a piece of fish! Yes! A friend delivered it wrapped in tin foil with instructions to place it immediately into the freezer to be opened on Christmas Day. Thank goodness I followed her instructions as we may have had to evacuate the house before Christmas Day had I placed it under the tree and let it rot there for a week! I also once received a home made wooden box with a hole in the top that looked like an enormous egg cup or miniature commode but upon discreet enquiry I was told that it was a toilet brush holder.
Weird but wonderful was the Dalmatian money box given me to by my book club friends  - it's hard to describe so I took a photograph (above). They saw it at a trade show and admired it through fits of giggles wandering who on earth would want a Dalmatian in high heels and a Christmas hat sporting long curly eyelashes - the rest is history and she sits prettily in my family room and makes me smile every time I look at it!

The very best Christmas gifts was to be home with my new born son - born on 23 December. We arrived home on Christmas Eve to be met at the door by his three excited brothers - That takes some beating as far as gifts go!

There are only so many hand creams, soaps, chocolates and rose shaped scented candles that you can squeal with delight over.  So my question to you is this 'Is it really the thought that counts or is the gift the most important part of giving?

Ps. Feel free to buy me anything you feel inclined to - I love being spoiled!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Made in Great Britain.

I was very delighted this week when the Royal engagement was announced. I was genuinely happy for the Queen and the Royal family. Its illogical seeing that I have lived 'here' almost as long as I lived 'there' but there is some part of me that is forever British and proud of it. Perhaps I took my girl guiding a bit too seriously but I distinctly remember swearing very reverently in the Methodist Church Hall at the corner of Kiln Lane and Bleak Hill Road with three fingers raised, if I remember rightly, at shoulder level that.....

"I promise that I will do my best:
to love my God,
to serve the Queen and my country,
to help people and to keep the Guide Law.

I truly admire her - the Queen, that is, and love all the pomp and circumstance that she brings to England's pastures green. I write to HRH and the family - not too often - I do try to be considerate, and I will definitely be shopping for an engagement card for the young couple. I have sent a message already via Facebook and the London Telegraph's website.
One of my most treasured possessions are the letters I have received in reply from members of the Royal family. Of course I know that THEY didn't write them but I am sure that they are aware of them and will feel its a very sad day when the Royal Mail van only delivers the gas bill, a pack of free cards that are painted by disabled people and the mailers for stair lifts and double glazing. It must be very reassuring for Ma'am to have those sacks of mail from people like me dropped off that the palace gates.

I have visited Buckingham Palace many times and went inside two years ago, she wasn't at home, she was at Windsor  - I've been there too! It was just so lovely walking on the carpet that the Queen has walked on and admiring her furniture and treasured ornaments. She has two of everything of that I am sure because everything looked balanced and orderly - not a crooked picture, used coffee mug or frayed antimacassar to be seen anywhere. I wonder how ma'am would cope with the kids leaving their shoes in the lounge or stuffing their sweet wrappers and crisp packets down the back of the settee. I wonder how she responds to chaos - if she has ever experienced it?
I went with my sister Julia to both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House in one day and in our excitement we had 'tiara moments' where we felt compelled to whisk out our silver crowns tastefully trimmed with pink funky fur and celebrate our patriotism as we wandered through the rooms. We posed outside in them - No photography inside of course and we wouldn't have been so common as to whisk our cameras out while in the state room - well I am sure its not the done thing!
I loved the splendour and 24carat gold of Buckingham Palace as much as I loved the chintz and china of Clarence House, which used to be the Queen Mother's residence. The staff at Clarence House still refer to the Queen Mother as Queen Elizabeth - I never asked what they call ma'am! Clarence House had family photos dotted around - not official photos - I imagined Queen Elizabeth whipping her Kodak Instamatic out of her handbag and snapping the grandchildren. It had an old fashioned English garden complete with an herbaceous border of lavender, burgundy geraniums and pink roses. Apparently her grandson Charles planted it for her!
I think that I was brought up on a diet of red, white and blue - perhaps it was part of the curriculum. I know all the words to Jerusalem; I remember the Queens birthday 21 April 1926 , her official birthday celebrated on the 1st Sunday in June; and the date and year she was married 19 November 1947. (Both Mark and Helen and my parents were married on 19 November - is that a coincidence?) Despite what Africa thinks or the rest of the world, I believe that Britian is still Great Britain and that we are a mighty nation and have a proud history and much to celebrate. Including the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
I am so looking forward to a Royal Wedding next year. Now where did I put that tiara?








Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eyes Down - Look In!

I know that you are all waiting with baited breath to find out about my weekend! Well on Friday night I found myself blasted back to the 70s as I arrived at a church hall to play a game of Bingo. It was all very retro! What fun!
I met my beloved in a football club and part of the evenings entertainment there was a game of Bingo. I used to roll my eyes as the reading glasses, lucky pens and rabbit foot charms emerged from bags and pockets and watched in amazement at the serious demeanour of the club patrons as the Bingo caller took the microphone. It was eyes down, look in for three quid a line and a tenner for a full house. This was serious stuff! I would cringe with embarrassment when the lucky punter would cry "Ere you are luv!" in a Coronation Street accent, and a gasp of disappointment went around the hall with lucky pens slammed down loudly on the table and tutting and head shaking preceded claims that,"I was sweating on one number." I was a waitress and nobody ordered drinks when Bingo was being called. Staff weren't allowed to play and silence was called for -  so this was my time for people watching.
On the one occasion I happened to be there on a night off and was cajoled into joining in  - I happened to be 'sweating for one number' and when it was called I shouted "Ere you are luv!" in the same voice and felt the sharp daggers of a hundred pairs of eyes in my back as I collected my tenner.

I was raised to believe that Bingo was a pastime for the working classes that my parents had worked hard to elevate themselves from. Like fish and chip shops, headscarves and chewing gum - It was frowned upon. When my youngest was 11 we went on his first visit to England. One of the treats was to spend a day at Blackpool Indoor Sun Centre - where we swam in man made waves, screeched down water chutes and when our skin was white and pinched and our lungs fully chlorinated, we made our way to the entertainment area. It included a bingo corner where you could perch on a stool and when enough people had perched the game would start. As we had a free ticket it was only natural that young Sean wanted to play. I said no and when he asked why I said that it was a game for the working classes. Being the focused young man that he was - he debated this and eventually worn down, my sister, Julia, agreed to perch on a stool and play with him while I stood behind them. The other stools were filling up and the Bingo caller invited me to play - I declined politely. A few minutes passed and there was only a couple of stools vacant - I was asked again by the Bingo caller to play,"Come on love treat yourself to a game of Bingo - you look like a winner." Again I said no thank- you and that was when Sean piped up, "My mum says only common people play bingo." I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me as again I felt the sharp daggers of 11 pairs of eyes bore into me and saw my sister's shoulders moving up and down as she convulsed silently in laughter. The game started and Sean didn't win but at the end the Bingo caller called him behind the counter and said,"There you go son, help yourself to any prize you want. That was the funniest thing that has ever happened to me in all my years of calling Bingo and yer muvver's face was a picture!"

This Friday night was different. It was for fun and a good cause - although I suspect that there were a few lucky charms hidden away and a few prayers offered for the safe delivery of the R75 jackpot.  Our Bingo callers were a couple of pensioners. Dot wearing a pink cardi and the most sensible pair of shoes I have ever seen - sort of orthopedic gladiator pumps. She took the mike and welcomed us in a geriatric warble. George sat smiling next to her in a handknitted jumper and a silly grin on his face - his cheeks flushed with excitement. It was eyes down look in and the numbers were drawn by George and read out by Dot - I think that they had been practicing as they had all the cute sayings that Bingo callers use  - Two little ducks number 22; top of the shop blind 90; on its own the lucky 7 and when Dot called sweet sixteen she puckered her lips and made a kissing sound into the mike - which conjured up awful images of geriatric snogging! There was some confusion when someone called Bingo after four numbers and it had to be explained that the line had to be horizontal - not vertical (really) and the game got under way again with much tittering from the Bingo die hards (including me).
As the evening wore on Dot's calling skills came into question as she fluffed the numbers a couple of times and we began to wander if the clear liquid in her glass next to her was actually water.  Then there was the dilemma of the evening, when George dropped one of his balls and it disappeared - a search party was called in and it was eventually found to much relief, in the folds of the stage curtain, and the game continued. There would have been a mutiny at the Town Ground Football Club had it happened there, but on Friday it just brought more titters as we clickety clicked and marked off number 66.
 Fish and chips were served and then more Bingo was played. We didn't win but Lady Luck danced at our table when our host walked off with a bottle of Whisky in the raffle and then called "ere you are chuck!" in a German accent (Vidink viavore line - yah!) for the line in the final game.
I think perhaps my parents were wrong - Bingo is a just a game, like any other. Great fun when it is played in the spirit of a game but like any game - when winning becomes more important than the fun - It becomes a pastime for common people!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Model Citizen

Sometimes the planets conspire to make you do things that you least expect or excel at. Yesterday I spent the morning as a mannequin and the after-noon  as a model cavorting around a church hall in haute couture. Me! Those of you who know me well will know that I am a shy and retiring person who hates being the centre of attention - REALLY!! I feel very uncomfortable being gawped at so how did I find myself dressed in evening wear and a pair of funky glasses in a shop window?
My YaYa Sister (Where did we get that name from for the three of us and what does it mean? I've been meaning to ask that for the past decade or so) offered our services in a response on Facebook to an enquiry as to where to find mannequin for a new store. The business is called Treasure or Trash and is the initiative of Jane Stevenson and Cheryl Reynolds - whom I think of collectively as Jeryl  (like Brad and Angelina are Branjolina) as they are best friends who look alike and work together. They encourage you to clear out your wardrobes and will buy your clobber - Donating what they don't want to charity and putting the rest on sale the public at bargain prices. Some of the clothes still have the store label attached which goes to show that most women share a common trait of buying stuff that is too small for them or just can't resist temptation.
So, the YaYs ended up in the window for the opening dressed in Treasure and trying very hard to stay still while laughing an awful lot! The reactions from the passers-by varied from curiosity to amusement with a couple of people jumping out of their skins when we moved suddenly or waved. The children particularly liked this. Some shoppers came back for a second look - one or two a third and one man stood outside the window trying to have a conversation with us while we reverted back to mannequin mode and ignored him. Poor soul must have been lonely! I realised that people love to laugh and enjoy a humorous diversion to the Saturday morning shopping chore.
By pure coincidence, on Friday morning I received another request to model in a fashion show at a charity fundraiser for Isithemiso Childrens Home. I had to go and choose my outfits at Spi clothing, sort out various accessories and strut my stuff in front of 120 people to 'Wave your Flag', 'Wakka Wakka' and 'I'm a Singlet'- to a very appreciative audience who cheered and clapped like we were celebrities instead of students and housewives. This bunch of 3rd year NMMU Business students put together the fundraiser as their final project for social development, they were supported and mentored in their efforts by two other fabulous friends Ansie Van der Westhuizen and Antoinette Harmaan - also joined at the hip and collectively known as Ansinette. The students raised over R6 000  and their enthusiasm was contagious. They have spent the last few months assisting in their spare time at the home and said that they have benefited as much as if not more than the children. It was very heartwarming to see these young adults preparing for their careers.
So - yes I was nervous, and yes - I felt uncomfortable, and yes - I spent Friday night plucking eyebrows, doing my nails and buffing my body - You did notice didn't you? However I am glad I said yes to both requests because it helped others and isn't that what friends are for. I also had a lot of fun, met some great people, ate a lovely lunch and both experiences made me feel young at heart.
Like I said the universe is conspiring to make me the centre of attention. Lets hope this conspiracy holds till Tuesday when they are drawing the winner in the Lady Gaga competition.
 That is one performance that I really don't mind starring in!! Poker Face .......