Saturday, December 29, 2012

Crackers


We are back from the soggy south! Its official that Britain has had the wettest year EVER and we drove through some very damp countryside in Wiltshire - a pity as I was looking forward to striding through fields and forests with my camera. Instead Janice and Gary welcomed us on Boxing Day with home made mince pies, plenty of board games ( and some nifty Wii dancing) and all the TV that we missed on Christmas Day. Family Fun is always the best and its only at Christmas that cracker jokes are funny! How  does Good King Wencelas like his Pizza? Deep'an, Crisp and Even! What do you call a fish with no eyes? Fsh! What do you call a multi story pig pen? A Sty Scraper! Hilarious stuff LOL!
The following day we enjoyed lunch at the Somerford Arms - decked out in wobbly Christmas décor - hosted by a boxer dog lounging in front of the log fire and a parrot muttering in the corner. The food was really delicious - not that we needed feeding as all we have done for the last week is eat! More games and TV and food in the evening.
We had an early start yesterday as sadly Tony's sister in law passed away as we were in transit. Jenny was only fifty three and was a lovely lady who worked hard and together with Graham raised three wonderful boys. Her funeral service reflected perfectly who she was and what was important to her and a most moving tribute was written by her boys - Dear Mom....Some beautiful words were spoken and there was a sense of peace and a sureness that when you live in the hearts of those you love, then you never die.
I must say that I am SO impressed with the younger Gaskins! They have all turned out so well and it was really nice to see them together sharing a genuine willingness to get to know cousins, aunts and uncles and put together the family jigsaw. When there is a large family often it fragments and people lose touch and these days families live far away from one another -  but many of them were there and it was a pleasure to meet them. I hope they manage to keep in touch (Face Book is helping). There are strong family resemblances and mannerisms - you can spot a Gaskin a mile away!
M4, M5, M6 A580 - I managed to manoeuvre my way through the traffic - lots of it - and get home safely. Today we are going to a pantomime - 'Oh Yes we are!' Peter Pan starring David Hasslehoff as Captain Hook! I should imagine there will be more corny jokes, a lot of flying, a dame or two and lots of laughter - we are going to the matinee so I should imagine it will be very noisy too!

Ah the magic of Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Festive Road Trip

There is nothing like a coach trip to remind you how friendly the locals are and we were treated to a lovely outing to the Royal Albert Hall over the weekend. Hattons are based in St Helens and Julia booked it not really knowing much about them - they turned out to be fist class and Alan (our driver) and Billy (his assistant and side kick) were the very best in professional service and entertainment. They were so funny - ripping off the 'pie eaters' (people from Wigan) and each other....they looked after us really well and kept us well lubricated with wine and coffee too!
The journey south only took us 3 1/2 hours - we were dropped at our hotel near Heathrow and given an hour to get ready and then taken into London and dropped right outside Harrods - all lit up and looking a million dollars - you need a million dollars to buy anything there but its free to look! By the time we came out it was raining so we took shelter where we could in the shops and I really enjoyed the reflections on the streets of London - which are not paved with gold anymore - but with chewing gum!!!

We were then ferried to The Royal Albert Hall - which is everything that you see on TV - Rich, ruby red décor was decked out in Christmas Best and the Mozart Choir and Orchestra were dressed in period costume. It was the perfect setting for Carols by Candlelight with lots of audience participation. We were also treated to some great European Choral favourites - Like Zodak - The Priest and the Hallelujah Chorus sang so powerfully they sent shivers down the spine and I am sure mine were not the only eyes that filled up! It was just unforgettable .........lovely and Christmassy!#

After breakfast next morning we were taken into the heart of London and given four hours for shopping or sightseeing. We chose the latter and enjoyed walking around the city before the shops opened and the streets filled up with tourists and shoppers. The rain had cleared and we were treated to some wintry sun as we stood admiring Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. A walk up the mall and through St James' Park and we were back in nature watching squirrels and birds - the countryside is never far away in the UK.

They really go to town and dress the shop windows at Christmas. Each window in Harrods told a different fairy story but my favourite was Fortnum and Mason's (the Queens Grocer) whose windows depicted the story of Dick Whittington with the cat ready to pounce on some delicious treat in each scene.

Footsore and thirsty we headed for The National Gallery - no time to enjoy the famous artworks but the coffee and food was life saving and the view over Trafalgar Square a feast for the eyes. Before getting back on the coach we wandered through the Christmas Market at Hyde Park - an outdoor skating rink beckoned - but I learned THAT lesson last year in Pretoria - my skating days are definitely over! Heading back north - it was hard to believe that we had experienced so much in 36 hours. By now everyone was best friends on the coach - There was a Christmas card waiting for us from Uncle Billy and Alan and when it came to be dropped off...they took us right to the door to save us the taxi fare! That's what I call GREAT service!

Last night my dreams were a multi-coloured mix of London sights and sounds and I woke to the morning of 'night before Christmas'. Lots to do - a last minute shopping rush around town is on the cards! Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Watery Reflections

Watery reflections, filigree trees and wintry hedgerows created a wonderful backdrop to our first few days in England. After a quick shop for warm socks and jerseys and a much needed sleep after our long haul flight, we headed off to Newby Bridge where Julia and Tom moor their boat, the Niaad. The Lake District really is the prettiest part of the country and each season has its own beauty. We arrived late afternoon as the sun was low in the sky and birds made their way to nest overnight. After a quick visit to the boat to enjoy a glass of champers and the view, we headed indoors to our overnight nest - The Lyndhurst. Chris and Les welcomed us here with a welcome cuppa and home made mince pies. Tom and Tony - self appointed mince pie connoisseurs, rated them a well deserved eight and we wolfed them down while planning our three days of country capers!

These included - a lovely morning at Windermere mooching around the High Street and enjoying the views, Afternoon Tea at Lakeside (which won Best Hotel or 2012) and the afternoon tea was an award winning experience too. It had everything an afternoon tea should have - crisp linen, a variety of teas, fresh sandwiches, scones with homemade jam and thick cream and a delicious array of cakes (seven each to be precise) and all served in a beautiful setting with a view over Lake Windermere. The hotel itself was wearing its festive best and after tea we sank into soft chairs in the lounge and could have nodded off but the grandfather clock chimed six and reminded us to make our way back to Lyndhurst. There was no need of dinner that night - we just snacked on the remains of our tea - enjoyed with a glass of wine!


Next morning the sun was shining and we celebrated by enjoying a walk along the banks of the River Leven enjoying the bird life and country scenes - Just beautiful and serene - my camera went into overdrive! After waiting for a steam train that didn't arrive, we set off for Grassmere where gingerbread is a speciality! A quiet walk around the quaint village was interrupted by children singing so we investigated the nearest church where local children were practicing for that evening's performance of 'A Christmas Carol.' What a touching treat to hear them sing carols and recite the story all dressed in Victorian costumes. We dragged ourselves away in search of the Ginger Bread Shop just left past the home of William Wordsworth - the recipe is over a century old and the gingerbread magic - It disappeared in no time LOL!
On the scenic drive back we caught the sun going down at Waters Head, Ambleside and I jumped out to take these photos - Just a lovely finish to the day out!


Before going home we enjoyed a quick visit to Cartmel - the site of an ancient priory and the quaintest little village which just happens to be the 'home of sticky pudding'. We enjoyed hot soup as we walked the cobbled streets enjoying the Christmas wreaths and decorations.

That night we enjoyed a meal at the Newby Bridge with Christmas crackers, sherry and a cracking fire. The Lake District is a little piece of heaven on earth and the Lyndhurst is the perfect place to explore it from. Sadly we had to pack and make our way back to the north west to make ready for the Festive season. We will be packing our cases again in a day or two to visit London and Carols by Candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall.




Watery reflections, filagree trees, and wintery hedgerows were the perfect backdrop to start our holiday - you can't beat the crisp country air to get the circulation going again after a long haul flight. After a quick shop for warm socks and other necessaties and a much needed overnight in Julia's comfy bedroom, we set off for the Lake District. Each season in the UK has its own beauty and Winter is a favourite time to be in the lakes. We stayed in a lovely B&B in Newby Bridge as Thee Niaad (Julia and Tom's boat) had been made ready for winter and it was felt

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Get the champers out - Its time to create new memories!


OK - So I should be packing but I am sitting in chaos with a cup of coffee and I need this 5 minutes! Its moving day tomorrow and I now realise that I have an obscene amount of 'stuff' some of it baggage and some of it so part of my history that I just cant throw it away.
Things that I cant let go of include:-
My wedding dress. No its not a designer made vintage lace creation or a family heirloom but it would look at home in a museum. Its a home made, hand sewn dress that resembles a milking maid's outfit made in white crepe with blue satin ribbon trim - but it does remind me of how far my fashion sense has come!
The christening outfit that my boys were christened in - a yellowing nylon romper suit that once held all that is precious to me.
Obviously photographs - but a whole trunk/kist of them is a bit scary!
The jeans that I travelled to South Africa in  - Sigh! they look as if they would fit a skinny teenager! I had four children and they are a size 10!
I have culled cards and mementos from the boys' school years long ago but I have to keep Sean's first day at school book - all beautifully coloured with his name in back to front writing; a story Mark wrote aged 8 where he tells the world, " My mum is a big blond lady - she is very pretty." HaHa!  I bet his teacher couldn't wait for parents evening! The card that Craig made for me which resembles my epitaph and says, "To my wonderful mum, I will always remember her." (now I am crying) and the carefully trimmed Easter card from Paul with 3D tissue paper daffodils addressed to the "bestest" mum in the world.
I realised a long time ago that I have a linen fetish! I am looking 7 black bags full of towels and bedding and I have given away about the same amount. I just love percale sheets and Egyptian cotton linen and I cant live without thick fluffy towels.
The black and white dress that I wore on the eve of the millenium. My sister, Julia (looking respelendent in a silver grey creation) and husband were here and we went to a masked ball with the boys and partners, and danced the night away then watched fireworks from the Skyroof at the Marine Hotel. At dawn on the beach, we welcomed the sunrise and a new era with the early dolphins......   When I look at that dress - I am there!
So its hard to travel lightly when your things carry so many beautiful  memories. In many ways, I am looking forward to our new home - We have been here for the thirteen years - since that millenium but have gone through a lot in the last decade and I am glad to leave that baggage behind! Here to the future and all the memories we can create! Get the champers out and unpack the glasses quickly!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Life in Boxes

Gosh almost a month has passed since I blogged but I do have a good excuse - we are moving and I now live in Boxville! I am amazed at how much we have accumulated in our time in this house - 12 years - I am sure we had a big clear out before we moved here. However I think that the five dinner services came with me! Also the twenty assorted cottagey teapots that were once my pride and joy.
My mood this move is RUTHLESS and it is with a vengeance that items are being marked 'junk', 'donate' or 'sell'. Last time we changed abodes, as soon as the kids got wind of us moving, they were down here like a shot marking what they wanted with felt tip pens. They have obviously moved on into architect designed, ultra mod homes and it is us who are asking them if they perhaps have anything that will fit into our new modern townhouse!
D Day or shall we say M Day is still 3 weeks away and the house is almost stripped bare of all our lovely bits and pieces - It makes you realise that it is the photos, paintings and artwork and personal stuff that makes a house a home. The garden is still lush and green but without replanting the pots and filling the borders with summer colour - it's just not 'ours' anymore! I am happy that a large family have bought it and that the swing that we are leaving will be put to good use.

Anyway - Here is to new beginnings and all that is waiting for us here.
Praying for a sunny and dry day for our move and lots of visitors in our new home - not enough that we will need five dinner services for as we now only have two - we do however still have plenty of wine glasses!

Sunday, October 14, 2012



Well the 2012 Olympics are over, the paralympics also gone and all the controversy over Oscar's blades fading into insignificance. However in our household the Gera-lympics continues. These are the sports that plague your everyday life once you have reached a certain age and revolve around everyday housework. Growing older is hard graft so start training now - build that muscle, work that body, exercise your mind and practice patience - You will need it!
Events include:
Duvet Wrestling: Getting that Queen/King duvet inside the duvet cover with all four corners fitting snugly and without strangling or suffocating yourself or any of the household pets. At the same time the duvet strongly resists this and feathers do fly!
The Slipped Discus: The contestant is asked to perform a task which involves lifting - the chair or settee for example - The winner of this event is the person who spends the most time sitting on the settee or chair afterwards complaining about their back!
Tossing the blankets: There are two players and the winner of this event is the person who can either keep the blankets off themselves (the menopausal female) or keep the blankets on themselves (the husband of the menopausal female).
Decaf-Lon: This is a tricky one. the object of this sport is to get 8 hours uninterrupted sleep and at the same time indulge the growing need for caffeine to keep you awake during the day.
Hide and Seek: This contestants place everyday objects around the house two to three days prior to the event and the winner is the person who spends the least time looking for them. Points are deducted if the iron is found in the refrigerator or sour milk found in the laudry cupboard. Contestants are disqualified if they are caught looking for their spectacles while they are on thier head. This event replaces the original Hide and Seek which involved actual people - They are still looking for the 2004 contestants.
Men's Vacuuming: A demonstration event that has never really caught on! There was an attempt to get it off the ground at the height of Freddie Mercury's popularity but there were was only one entrant - Freddy Mercury!
Scrubbing the Kitchen Floor. Played on all fours the winner is the person who can walk upright without their knees creaking or clicking within 24 hours of the floor drying.
Iron Man/Woman: A tri-athlon which includes loading the washing machine with whites while the mens team try to smuggle a red sock/undies into the drum. Wet pink washing is an instant disqualification. This is followed by pegging the washing out in a good old PE South Westerly and keeping up with the rotary dryer while keeping the pegs between your teeth. The third event is putting up the ironing board on the first attempt without injury and ironing to the very bottom of the basket without discovering - odd sock, shorts or pyjama cord, unrecognisable belt or random piece or ribbon. There is a time limit for this which involves ironing being completed within 2 weeks!
The list is endless 4x4 Table polishing, Fencing, Garden Sack Race (with garden compost) and water events include Getting in and out of the Bath and the Shower version of the Slipped Discus!
So, Which event are you looking forward to the most?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In pursuit of radiance!


As most of you know I am a Clinique fan and this week I found out that I am a finalist in their Clinique Insider promotion. If successful then I get to try out, review and promote their products which is like a dream come true for me, as I have been using their skincare range for years. Currently I am using their turnaround range but I also love their  Clinique Clarifying Lotion
If you click on the link - you will see my first review which is on YouTube.
Please comment - I would love your feedback as a novice 'youtuber'.
Thanks so much - I am keeping everything crossed (except my eyes).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Baggage.


Several years ago I was reading a magazine (Femina - do you remember it?) and saw an article about what women carry in their handbags. The article attempted to do an analysis of  a woman's personality based on the handbag's content. I wrote to Femina and confessed that I must be a phychological mess as the content of my handbag was as deranged as I am.  They published that letter under the title of 'Bag Lady' and as I had signed it in my own name - I was shamed into tidying my act up little.

Yesterday I was chatting to  my sister, Julia, who confessed to discovering part of a flag pole in her handbag - yes a flagpole! "Eccentricity must be in the genes," I commented and yes she had a pair of those in her bag too! They had spent a weekend away at there river boat in the Lake District and they were part of the 'holiday handbag' she had returned with. We ALL know what a 'holiday handbag' is don't we?

When I was young and carefree, my handbag was as slender as I was and held only my needs for that particular outing - lipstick, purse, key and perhaps chewing gum. When I married my bag became heavier and not only held my 'stuff' but household things and often my hubby's keys too. As the children came along my bag got bigger and bigger - baby essentials, precious stones that were picked up along the way, leaflets, crayons, small monsters and dinky cars were added to my make-up, purse, keys and the slim packet of chewing gum replaced with smarties or a whole array of treats that could be offered as a bribe to chase away any impending tantrum! On family outings the car keys, sunscreen, half eaten sandwiches and other essentials would be handed over to me too and at times I wished that my handbag had wheels.

More than once when we have been out and about and my now teenage boys were bored, they say,"Let's have a look at what mom has got in her handbag," and then fall about laughing as they pulled out batteries, old tickets, assorted notebooks, part of a fridge (that I was sourcing a replacement), a set of 'L' plates and the unlikely discovery of the power cable to my sewing machine complete with the operator foot! I felt very bad about this until I was at a function last year and we had handbag confessions and one lady had her childs first baby tooth in her bag - this child was now twenty one. I felt a bit better about having part of my sewing machine with me after hearing that!!

I dreamt that when the family were off my hands, once more my 'baggage' would become lighter to reflect my dream of carefree existence!  Today my handbag is still a nightmare. At this moment it holds my keys, phone, hand cream, piece of red beaded glitzy trimming to add to a dress, two notebooks, 5 pens, 3 lipsticks and one lipstick top, powder compact, ID, a passport (why am I carrying my passport?), purse (which is possibly the size of my first handbag and holds 5 English pounds and several photos of the grandies), two packs of tissue (a lot of people cry in my life), a camera (no comment), a spare pair of knickers (no comment), a CD that was free with a magazine, theatre tickets, a collapsible shopping bag, 2 spectacle cases (no specs in), 2 flash drives, eye drops, powder compact, perfume, folding hairbrush, plasters, cheap brooch off Chinese shop dress (this has been to Australia and back - through airport security) and Vigroids - for clarity of voice! Perhaps I should s-c-r-eam!
I have only myself to blame for this - my hetic lifestyle and a tendancy to clutter has resulted in a handbag that weighs 4.5k and if I dont control this tendancy soon I will die with a hump on my back and my casket will probably sport a roof rack and pull a trailer!!!   HELP! I need bag therapy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dance Like No One is 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.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bare Faced Lie!



These are the Lyrics to The Story sung by Brandi Carlile and the have been running through my head since I heard them sang - beautifully I might add - at 50 Shades of Even on Friday evening. They have given me a new appreciation for my wrinkles. They say that you get the face that you deserve and I am not too displeased with mine - Ageing is a natural process and the alternative is not to age - which means not to live! While I will always strive to look my best whatever age I may be, I think there is a lot to be said for having a face that is full of life and a true reflection of where you have been and where you are. There are over 3000 facial expressions and WE know every single one of them. Yes! We have been studying them since the moment we were born, when we sought out our mother's face and we have honed these skills throughout our life. One of the scariest things about botox and nips and tucks is that people lose their expression lines and we no longer can read what their faces are saying. There is a lot to be said for making the most of what you were given and letting your authentic self shine through. I have earned my lines - they tell the story of my life! I hope they tell you that I have laughed, cried, travelled, learned, grieved, been curious, had many surprises, a few shocks, had my heart broken, been loved, endured, triumphed and enjoyed every moment of my journey! My life was made for me and I was made for you!

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do
I was made for you
You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you...
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do
I was made for you
You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you...
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you

 

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bitter Sweet

 August is always a difficult month for us as it's the anniversary of the day a cruel accident took our lovely son, Craig, from us.
This year fate intervened as last week we had to attend to an appointment in Newton Park and it just happened that we had our grandchildren with us. As we were driving and chattering away, Jessica suddenly announced in forlorn little voice, "Golly, (her name for her grandad) I am sad and happy at the same time!" Confused we asked her to explain.
She went on to tell us that she was sad that her daddy's brother had died but at the same time she couldn't help but be happy because Paul was her daddy and she loves him so much (she knows the story of the relationship between her mom and Craig at the time of his accident). Amazingly we were around the corner from the church where Craig's funeral  service was held and where his name appears in the garden of remembrance, so we took a detour and found a sunny corner to reassure her that it was OK to feel the way she does. Unknowingly she was describing how we sometimes feel too.
Our son, Paul, lost his girlfriend in the same accident and a year or so later started to date Shelley. They were married five years later and our grandchildren are their children - so you see it is a sad and happy situation. We may have had different grandchildren but we wouldn't have these two little treasures.


As we explained Jessica looked for her Uncle Craig's name on the Wall of Remembrance while her brother and Craig's namesake ran around on the lawn oblivious of the origins of his name - too young to understand at age three what tragedy is. Our grandchildren have brought us special joy and have helped to heal our hearts but the feeling will always be 'Bitter Sweet".
 
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

Monday, August 27, 2012

You never know what's around the corner!

I found this out this weekend in Knysa on a visit to Noetzie conservatory. Its something I have wanted to do for a long time and we set off enthusiastically to explore. Like all good things - the view doesn't come easy but it is extraordinary to come across a set of castles on a remote beach you can read all about them here.
We followed the sign post and drove past the shacks and along the dusty gravel road - never easy - leading down to the car park. On our way down the pathway we heard someone counting one hundred and twenty two, one hundred and twenty three, then some heavy breathing and then two heaving chests appeared followed by weary legs navigating the steep climb up. "Is it worth the effort?" we enquired. They were too breathless to reply - I became a little less enthusiastic! Going down isn't too bad but you can't help but think - I have got to get up here coming back! This was what we went to see.....
The beach is lovely - a wide stretch of pristine white sand with roaring, crashing waves to add some drama! One of the castles offers 5*accommodation and I wondered how thick the walls would have to be to drown out the noise and the tide was out!
We headed up the beach to explore and came across a seal which was lying beached. We watched for a while - not sure what to do. Remembering David Attinborough's advice - we just left it to nature and hoped that he was just resting and would go out with the tide.
Not knowing that I would almost go out with the tide! We set out down the beach and I glimpsed the walls of a more interesting castle just round the corner - how to get there around those rocks?  I set off, camera in hand waiting for the surf to recede, I made a dash for it.....I misjudged and before I knew it I was scrambling up the rocks desperately trying to keep my camera dry. The ocean came even closer and before I knew it I was knee deep in water and halfway up the rocks! "Breathe" I told myself and looked for a way out while keeping one eye on the creeping waves crashing around me. I did what photographer do - I took a photograph! Going back down onto the beach was suddenly not an option. Mr G seeing my dilemma made his way up and around and reached out to take my camera above me so that I could use both hands to climb.

Doing my best rock spider impression, I scrabbled to safety - PHEW! I was relieved to be back on the sand and the castle around the corner would have to keep its secrets - a mystery - cut off from the paparazzi for the time being!
While we enjoyed the sunshine and I tried to dry off my wet jeans and shoes, we watched the gulls and studied these tiny footprints - wandering who had made them.

Tony was crowned 'King of the Castle'............


                       ......... then we headed for the steps........ and started counting!
Halfway up at the top of the steps resting on a stone throne. Safe and sound and only slightly out of breath!!!! Only a steep path to climb now in my still wet jeans.....
                                                       ......and then I will be home .....and dry!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Decisions, Decisions!

I am heading towards a BIG birthday and BIG birthdays usually go hand in hand with BIG decisions. The decision looming on my horizon involves a complete change of lifestyle. Retirement? Do I embrace this change or do I carry on until I am told that the world of work no longer needs me??
Retirement for men can be quite exciting. They get to 'tinker' in sheds, explore the intricacies of model airplanes or remote control cars or they can ride around the Yorkshire countryside in prams chasing Nora Batty (fans of Last of the Summer Wine will relate) I suppose the SA version of this is cruising down to the Golf Club or the Bowling Club in search of Nora Batty!
Female retirement involves ending our working career..and the money that goes with it, which means an end to Clinique, Woolworths and Milady's. (the idea of having to sell my body to get my Clinique is an option for serious consideration).  Our 'other' job of washing, cooking, cleaning, ironing and shopping continues and if there is any spare time we will visit other women's homes and drink tea.
When I moved into my current house, I was invited to one such event. Well summoned really! We sat around one can only described as an austere formal lounge. Years ago every home had a room like this - the 'front' room or the 'parlour'. It is a room where every precious thing has its place - no running is allowed, no bouncing on the settee and laughter is frowned upon. Here I was introduced to ladies who were at home during the day - they played bridge, golf, bowls, baked and drank tea. Our hostess had baked up a storm and we drank tea from tiny, floral china cups, which were raised in unison while our hostess talked... and talked.... and talked! As she drew breath we rose in unison to leave and she stood by the door and thanked us for coming - rather like the vicar does as you leave the Sunday service, "So very good of you to come." "Please come again soon." Not bloody likely I thought as I nodded and bolted home and thanked the Lord for the world of work!
Its not as though I don't know how to fill my time, I have many hobbies - travel, photography, scrapbooking, needlework, writing, reading  - too many really - but how will I finance them?
Then there is the question of the retired man of the house. Can we survive twenty four hours together, seven days a week. Previous experience of this was not a success. We are better when there are spaces in our togetherness and there is only so much tinkering a man can do.
There are a couple of things that I do plan for my old age. I have promised more than once to go shopping in my wedding dress and I am looking forward to this. Living in Summerstrand and having been kept on my drive in the morning as the stream of student traffic pass by selfishly not giving way, I have a plan to mount my mobility scooter at 07h30 and motor down the road at 10kph with my iPod on full so I cant hear the abuse!! Can I wait?  Decisions! Decisions! Any advice?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Water Water Everywhere!

How ironic is it that after several years of drought and water restrictions that in the second wettest winter on record - we have no water coming out of our taps!  A broken pipe, apparently caused by poor maintenance left most of PE without water over a weekend and for us in Summerstrand yesterday and today. Read about it here. Like all good Port Elizabethans we just got on with it - buying bottled water or collecting rain water we could. It's amazing how quickly a thirst develops when you know that water is in short supply! Every time I turned on the tap or flushed the toilet - out of habit - it made me think about people in Africa and other parts of the world who don't have the luxury of having water piped into their homes. I felt quite sorry for myself for having to boil a kettle to wash dishes and carry a jug of water into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Getting ready for work on Monday was a mission, cooking supper had to take into account how much water was needed to cook vegetables and I had to get very creative with face wipes to eek out the rest of the water so there was enough to wash in the morning and get ready for work again. How I longed for a hot bath!
What a relief when I arrived home and the taps stuttered to life and life's precious liquid spilled forth! Dishes were washed, plants revived and the kettle filled for the best cup of tea ever. At last I could have a nice hot blissful bath - the towels warmed in anticipation at bedtime. I lit scented candles - this was a celebration. I turned the taps on full and tipped heavenly milk and honey bubble bath into the waiting tub and I lowered myself into....EEK! half a bath of luke warm water. I scrambled to turn the taps off before more cold water ruined my experience. As I sat there barely covered and shivering while trying to splash the water so it felt like a real bath. I thought that 24hours earlier I would have been grateful for this much water. Sigh - Bath time bliss would have to wait - At least the towels were warm. I thought of those who have no water piped into their homes and was grateful!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's complicated!

Many of you who read this blog know I have a sister - not many of you know that I have two of them. I am one of three girls and three boys. The girls came first - I am the youngest, Julia is four years older than I and my eldest sister Sandra is to years older than her. I have seen Sandra once since I left the UK in 1983 - Twenty years ago we met on the car park of Woburn Abbey and spent the afternoon together. Three sisters having tea and cake in the cafe there chatting away - looking like all was well with the world. How deceiving appearances can be! I last spoke to her to her fifteen years ago - on the telephone and I was looking forward to meeting up with her and the family in the UK a couple of weeks later - but it was not to be.
Are you wondering why? Did we have some terrible argument? Was a terrible secret unearthed? The truth is actually harder to believe than fiction.
My sister Sandra married for the second time a few days before we left South Africa. She had been living 'down south' for several years with her first husband and two girls but then he met someone else and they divorced. Julia and I heard that she was getting married and surprised her at the registry office and brought the girls back north with where they joined us a couple of days later for our 'last supper' - a family meal together before life for us in SA. He seemed a nice enough guy and all seemed well but after a few months of marriage it seemed all was not!
Her second husband was a control freak and created a wall between her and her family. Even her own daughter was placed on the other side of that wall - while the second daughter who has the same nature as her mother timid, compliant and vulnerable, was favoured and allowed to stay with her mother. Sandra's life was turned upside down. I was here in South Africa, our parents no longer there to advise or protest and my other sister Julia did everything she could to keep in touch and called in secret when 'he' was out. Even I was given an address to write to where the person could be trusted to pass on letters and cards from us. Occasionally Sandra and her eldest daughter were able to manage a secret tryst. It all sounds unbelievable that a grown woman would allow someone to come between her and her own child and actually conform to his rules, however after living in Africa, I have learned that is exactly how predatory animals operate. Separate the vulnerable from their loved ones who will defend and protect them...and then move in for the kill. Her new husband was not physically violent but from what I have heard he was verbally and emotionally abusive and a workaholic - he also expected Sandra and her daughter to work every hour God sent. Fifteen years ago, she arrived on my sisters doorstep in a taxi with a box of cash on her lap, the clothes she stood up, smelling of dogs (they had several as they lived on a farm) and looking a decade older than she was. She could stand no more and had left him. My wonderful sister Julia, nurtured and nursed her, arranged legal and medical advice for her, took her shopping, sheltered her and gathered the family together. We were all thrilled and wanted to do all we could to support her in her decision. Sandra spent some time with her exiled daughter - difficult time - its hard to turn back the clock and make right what has been done wrong - for whatever reason. We had scheduled a visit to the UK to celebrate our silver wedding and it was agreed that she would return with us and have a holiday here. Tickets were bought, plans were made, exciting times ahead. It was not to be. A week before we arrived she announced that 'he' had come for her. Inexplicably she went back to him. We were devastated, angry, confused and bewildered. I wrote her a very cross letter. I had lost a child - how could she chose to lose one of hers and her entire family? We heard that she was living by the coast in Suffolk - that she was caring for 'his' mother. We left it there having tried our best.
Last month we heard that her husband had died. Its hard not to celebrate - like these middle eastern countries do when their evil leader is toppled! Its really hard not to think of all the lost years that this has cost her. Already she and her estranged daughter have had an afternoon together although Sandra has yet to meet her two beautiful grandchildren. Julia has again been in contact and she there a plans, when the dust has settled, for a visit and a holiday together. I am not sure what my role is -  there are no norms or etiquette for situations like this. I didn't offer my condolences or send flowers when I heard and I haven't picked the phone up...yet. Its complicated!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

News Flash

We went travelling last weekend and the time spent in airports and general relaxation is always a welcome opportunity for me to read and part of that is catching up with the newspapers and news channels. I barely have time to do little more than scan the headlines and watch the news round ups and I enjoyed the opportunity to read the Cape newspapers. Here are some of the stories that informed and entertained me.
The day before we left was when that terrible massacre took place in Colorado at the cinema where Batman was being premiered. Twelve Americans died and this heinous act dominated the news 24/7.  So I was very surprised and shocked to read that on the same day a ferry had capsized off the coast of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and over 140 passengers had lost their lives. No TV report, no international coverage! Do I then draw the conclusion that American lives are more valuable than African lives – I was sad and a more than a little outraged.
A lazy Sunday gave the opportunity to relax and read the Sunday Times in the lounge of the Commodore Hotel near the Waterfront. A cosy fire, comfortable chairs and a bottomless pot of Twinings English Breakfast tea provided perfect reading conditions and the Commodore is the type of establishment were the newspapers are ironed to provide a smooth passage!  News of Selebi, who was convicted of corruption in 2010,  being released from Pretoria Prison on medical parole last week, after serving only 229 days of a 15-year sentence caused more outrage. He is obviously as skilled at faking his 'terminal' illness as he is at stealing, lying and bribing others. I suspect he could dig up the dirt on a few in high places and this is their way of keeping him quiet!
A photograph of the Australian Prime minister enjoying a joke with Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe caught my eye. Apparently he has stated in his current visit there that they are optimistically confident about being able to rebuild Zimbabwe with the financial assistance of the international community! For God's sake - we are funding incompetence. Rhodesia was a thriving economy destroyed by Mugabe and his party and now they want the international community aka 'us' to fund the rebuilding of it. Reading the news is not good for my blood pressure so perhaps its not such a good idea to do it every day!
Food for thought was a small article about a Brazilian company who are manufacturing briefs said to ‘eat’ fat. Made from miracle fabric designed to increase blood circulation and thereby reduce cellulite, these are available after clinical trials showed a significant reduction in a group of ladies. Called 'My Shape', they will retail for about R 500 a pair or 50 'knickers' as my cockney countrymen may say. I say that I remember a time when I could buy 50 pairs of knickers for this vast some of money. I also wonder why men aren’t forking out a fortune to burn their backside fat! So back to work to day and the realisation that work and life are a great distraction from what is going on in the world!



Monday, July 16, 2012

When opportunity meets preparation!

There is nothing like an overseas visitor to make you aware of what a special part of the world we live in! Tony Gaskin - yes my hubby's namesake - is here on the HMS Dauntless on route to the Falkland Islands, so as usual when a visitor is in town, we wanted to show off our area. He is only a young twenty something so most of our trips involved either alcohol or adrenalin. On Saturday we took a coast drive out to Barnacles - Yes I know - he is a sailor but our coastline is so beautiful! We drove through Beachview, Seaview and then on to Blue Horizon Bay which is one of PE's best kept secrets - a beautiful wild and windswept beach and of course my camera came with us. I just love the loneliness of this place - no footprints in this sand!



He had the true PE experience and was BLOWN away!
That evening we made for our favourite eatery at the Boardwalk - Leonardos. The food was great and the Boardwalk twinkled and looked so pretty - another hit with our visitor.
On Sunday we made for the Lion Park at Seaview - the lions were on top form and Thor really performed for me while our visitor enjoyed an interactive session with the tiger cubs.
No visit to PE is complete without a trip to Addo so off we went on Monday in search of lions again! I am always amazed at how foreigners crave sightings of the predatory cats and want to see a kill! We scoured the park and saw most of what Addo has to offer but not the lions. After lunch we decided to drive back to PE but through the park towards Colchester and were rewarded with the sight of two males resting after a kill. They were literally an arms with away -so we kept our arms in the car!! I took some lovely photos of them but I just loved this one of the elephant striding down the road in front of us as we drove away. The light was now fading to a lovely golden glow and picked up the colours of the bush. He was on his way home and so were we!
Tuesday and this time we went in search of adrenalin! Tony wanted to bungee so over a few smaller bridges Van Staadens and Storms River  and off to Bloukrans. I had no idea of the scale of this tourist attraction - not only the dimensions of the bridge but also the number of jumps that they do a day. It was running at an average of 8 an hour or 60 per day when we were there but in the height of season they do up to 100 per day. Mostly young, male and female queue to jump the 216 meters into the gorge and return shaken and stirred! that the view they get before the launch themselves into space. I planted my feet firmly on the ground and stayed there with my camera!
After the jump we made for Storms River Mouth where I hadn't been for a while. As a National park, it is so well maintained and there were plenty of new braai places and 2 new suspension bridges over the river mouth that offer breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The walk was a bit challenging but really well worth it.
The waves were spectacular which added to the drama of the day - a day of bridges! As we arrived back at the camp to head home, we stopped to catch our breath and watching these children chasing waves, I reminded myself to do this more often. Our region has a wealth of beauty and opportunity to enjoy nature and to record it as I love to do. In photography when preparation meets opportunity the result is a great picture!
Lets hope that is still around for these children and thier children to enjoy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eurika!

Well this is the photograph I have been waiting to take. Years ago when I started my blog - it was with a photograph taken at this same spot and it was of my first sunrise over the sea. Its hard to believe that I had lived here for over 20 years and I had never bothered to witness this beauty, which happens every morning a five minute walk from our home. That morning I chatted to a real photographer who was stood on top of the rock. He told me that there is a certain time of year when the sun rises between the gap in the rock and I thought what an awesome photograph that would make.
On Sunday I was whisked away to the Raddison Hotel as part of our Ruby Wedding anniversary celebrations and from the 18th floor I watched the sunrise while enjoying my first cuppa. As the sun peeped over the horizon I thought could it be that time of year? I checked my watch 7.22am and on Tuesday morning I was on the beach at 7.15am waiting with my camera. Eureka! This was my reward!
I was overjoyed to see the sun appear over the sea framed by the rock as it has been doing since the beginning of time. Kneeling on the sand I was almost knocked over by 2 dogs who thought it was play time - their owner came to apologise and when I showed her what I was looking at - she was also astounded by its beauty. "WOW!"
I can understand how in ancient times Pagans and Druids were mesmerised by the spectacle of the sun appearing in a specific place - it appeared to be an amazing illusion that only an almighty spirit could conjure up. Unlike them I was not driven to make a sacrifice - I had after all sacrificed my late lie-in bed on a day off! Everything comes to she who waits. By 7.30 the sun was high in the sky and I was one happy lady. What a great start to the day!!!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Festival Fun

There is nothing quite like the Grahamstown Arts Festival - I just love its wackiness and the eccentricity that it brings out in people who descend on Grahamstown in droves for 10 days of the  year. We all are a little weird but the polite rules of society dictate that we keep our weirdness under control in public places - some do this better than others - the rest I can detect with a glance!  I have a kind of radar that picks up the oddies amongst us as they wave their 'freak flags' and I am drawn to the silly and bizarre.
The festival is the perfect place to let your weirdness out and the most sensible of people can be seen wearing festival head wear, grungy shoes and layers of hippy garments - tie-dyed shirts, Indian cloths, clinking beads topped by velvet capes or a crochet poncho! They were all there yesterday....and that was just the guys!
Our annual pilgrimage began with pies and coffee at the Nnaga which we enjoyed in the sunny car park - where a young man was very taken with us. Us four married ladies were very flattered until we realised it was the car that was attracting his attention Mark's Land Rover Evoke is pretty special!!
On arrival we descended on the Village Green but not before we were waved into a parking space by our very enthusiastic parking attendant who introduced himself as Johnny-Be-Good and told us to mind the ditch...and the bull that was grazing a little way to the right!
After a quick shop and a few random, unnecessary purchases - we headed to our fist show. "Best of Fest" with David Newton. This highly talented local comedian had us in stitches and invited us to interact with him while he was on stage using Twitter - This we did and he honoured Helen's request to do the James Bond meets Abba movie. Hilarious!  Our next show was only 30 mins later - This is what the Fest is as well - jogging from one venue to another as we try to fit in as much as possible in one day....and muttering that we are DEFINITELY coming for three days next year. We have been saying that for the last decade!!! We made it to the Hangar but had to risk our lives and wobble our way up to the top of the temporary scaffolding seating. It was full to capacity! Hope is the Saddest is a black comedy about three people whose lives intersect in a chance meeting. It is an Australian production and both begins and ends with a violent traffic accident that draws the same three people into each other’s eccentric worlds. It is a play about death, delusion and Dolly (Parton). It was Festino Fayre at its best - Funny, Weird, Clever and well acted by three young performers. Hope, was superbly endearing. The childlike, eternally optimistic young woman who took all her life lessons from Dolly Parton’s lyrics was not afraid to go to extreme measures when fate made true love land/collapse at her feet.

Theo, the object of her desire, threw up a few hurdles for Hope, but there was no way that she was going to let Theo’s boyfriend deter her, or let the fact that he was “a bit gay” stand in the way of her path to true love. Their blossoming friendship was innocently affectionate and helped along with the effects of a little weed; Theo soon began to wonder if he was better off with a woman. The third angle in this isosceles triangle was the neurotic, Marion. In a surreal twist of supposed, real and imagined events, Marion’s journey saw her kill a cyclist, bury her car in the backyard, ignite a romance between strangers, seduce Jesus and finally bear the second coming of Christ. As far fetched as it sounds, it translated on stage as very entertaining!
Back to the car for some refreshments we were just in time to see another performance - the car guard being chased by the bull into the ditch! We gulped our champagne down and headed back to the Green to see what else we could find and some food.  Our purchases included one beaded Strelitzia, and a posy of beaded proteas, a push along 'coon' on a bicycle, a handsome skein of beads, a pendant gift for a special little girl, handmade soap, biltong, peanut brittle, Spring Rolls and a pretty scarf.

Traipsing back to the car we saw a giant - running down Somerset Street - a little late for his/her performance perhaps! 

We joined the crush of traffic leaving the City of Angels and hit the freeway to be greeted by a beautiful new moon in a lilac sky. another festival over and next year we are DEFINITELY staying for three days!!!