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


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!!!