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!