Tuesday, December 31, 2013

,“We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne,"

It’s that day of the year when you either celebrate and look forward to what the New Year has in store or you sit and recollect what happened in the year that you are leaving behind. Whether you are looking into a crystal ball or in the rear view mirror – it’s all about reflection. Just like Bridgette Jones it’s about taking stock, tallying up the numbers in your life, doing a few calculations and deciding whether you are winning or not.

That probably explains why some years you will find me sitting at home in my slippers watching The Royal Variety Show and other years I will be putting my left leg in, my left leg out, doing the Hokey Cokey with a bunch of jolly strangers.

Traditionally New Year was a time for first footing, dark haired strangers bearing coal and a lot of Scottish people on the TV swinging their kilts and their whisky bottles. My father, Harry, used to celebrate New Year in a big way down at his local while we children waited for him to come home intoxicated so that we could laugh at him. One year he did the Highland fling with a party can - a huge can of beer that held seven pints – then opened it! We welcomed 1962 in a shower of beer and the house still reeked of Ansell’s’ bitter in June! 

Another year – 1976 I think - the family accompanied dad to his local, the Seven Stars, and at midnight we three sisters marched into the bar because that was the year that women were declared equal and couldn’t be refused entry anywhere based on their gender. We wanted the moon, equal pay and the opportunity to buy a pint in the snug! My sister took our newly legislated freedom a step further by marching into the Gents toilets while my father cried into his beer and declared that the world had gone mad.

Perhaps that’s why my father chose the 31st December to cast off his mortal coil and join the spirit in the sky. That year I lay in bed listening to neighbours singing Auld Lang Syne, distant fireworks and the world celebrating and I wandered how people could be so happy while I was so sad. I suppose that sums up New Years Eve – some have had a year to celebrate and others are sadly counting their losses.

Since being in South Africa we have the additional burden of celebrating twice – at midnight and at 2am as we wait for and send good luck messages to the UK. A few of years ago I opted to babysit for New Year and when friends asked had I seen the New Year in – I replied, “Yes! At 23h30, 00h15, 01h45, 02h30 and 04h10!” I had forgotten that is what New Year’s Eve is like with a 3 year old.

I am also remembering a New Year spent in Cape Town visiting a friends who were in isolation there. Our dear friend had been diagnosed with acute T-cell limblastic lymphoma so while the champagne corks were popping, he was in hospital popping pills and battling the horrors of chemo. Friends of friends opened their home to us and we saw the 2010 in with strangers in Monte Vista and drove back as the sun came over Table Mountain unsure of what the year held. He is a survivor and a hero and I know will celebrate many New Years!

Last year,Tony and I were singing,“We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne,"  with sister Julia and Tom in Manchester - dining in style and dancing the night away. Such a joyful evening and the expectation of a great year ahead - Four weeks later, I was numb with shock and arranging Tony's funeral - the bright New Year became dark and monochrome and the struggle to overcome loss began.

Tonight will see me quietly seeing 2014 in with a special friend in KZN - reflecting and remembering the past but definitely looking forward - celebrating the survivor within me and capacity of the human heart to heal and dare to dream. 

Not sure whether we will be doing the Hokey Cokey this year as sadly , Larry La Prise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at age 93 last week. The most traumatic part for the family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in..... and then the trouble started. Hee Hee!

Happy New Year to all my family and friends........and special thoughts of my dad Harry – I hope that you are enjoying a wee dram at the ‘eighth star.’

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rolling in the daisies

Day 2 of my flower journey and this is the day that we go into the Namaqualand desert to see this year's display and there is a lot of excitement and debate about what sort of display there will be this year over breakfast. Breakfast includes a choice of egg dishes and the number of rashers of bacon and is a perplexing affair - the waitress is pulling her moustache out already! The rest of the group shuffle in slowly and complain about how dark it was last night .......Hello! I think its called night time for this reason!
I cant wait to get onto the bus but before we leave the dining room we are waiting for our flower guide to join us. Her name is Lita....."Rita?" shouts the deaf Margo....."No Lita," says Alex patiently....."Oh Anita," says Keith......."No Lita - like a measurement of milk," says Alex.... "Pay attention everyone, all say Rita", Everyone sits up to attention and says "Rita" in unison. "Now replace the R with an L. Lita, La La La Lita," says Alex. Everyone says "Lita" .... I say, "2%". Alex gives me the dirtiest look yet and informs us that the bus will be leaving at 0930 sharp. I know that I am toast if I am not on that bus by 09.29.
We all assemble at the bus and Lita arrives - she really is half pint size and I like her immensely at first sight. I tell her that I have nicknamed her 2% and inform her that I am 'full cream' - she laughs and I do believe I have made a new friend.
Getting on the bus proves to be a little like the 'Okey Cokey'. I have to be on the right side so I can stretch my left leg out says Margo. Ruth swaps as she has to be on the left side for her leg. three people announce simultaneously that they HAVE to be in the front and Alex informs me that he has reserved the back of the bus for me. I can stretch out....well I am in the boot where the luggage was the previous day, with today's picnic equipment, cool box and food packed around me. I ask Alex to take a photo and he obliges. I tell him that I am going to put it on Facebook with the caption "Landscrap" tours. He narrows his eyes to slits, breathes deeply and asks me why I would want to do that! No reason Alex just that I have paid the same money as everyone else and I am travelling in the boot of a combi with a cool box between my knees and the strong smell of food.
We are OFF! Lita's nursery is a stones throw away and is charming. Everything that could possibly be recycled is here and planted with something beautiful. There are a number of cats and pieces of furniture have found their way in between the flowers to become planters or climbing frames or 'object d'art'. There are bright pelagoniums fluttering in the air and the earthy smell of rich soil holding tiny cacti with minute colourful flowers accompanied by the creaking of a windmill - Proof of heaven! I love it here and see there is a cottage on the property for rent.
Already I am making plans to return and stay here - its perfectly peaceful and surrounded by hills of golden yellow, orange and green.
We leave and make our way into the National Park and I ask Lita if I will be able to lie among the daisies (as a friend of mine has a gorgeous photo of her doing just that). Alex answers for her. "Absolutely not!" It will crush the flowers and there are signs that forbid it. I sulk!

We arrive to a field of orange as far as the eye can see, it is breathtaking. My bottom is in the air and camera starts clicking - there is so much to take in - so many flowers that I cannot resist. I find the place that I want to have my photo taken - right in the middle of the orange field and no one can stop me, "This is the happiest that I have been since January!" I declare and Lita takes pity on me and runs into the orange veld with me and before Alex can stop me - I am rolling in the daisies and Lita is clicking away. We are a team!
Many, Many stops and photos later we park up for lunch - the best of picnics - eaten in the open under the widest sky and surrounded by flowers. Its delicious but it seems that I have been nominated to retrieve serviettes as I am the only one who can bounce out of my canvas chair quick enough to catch them. I am convinced that Alex is dropping his on purpose!
Ruth asks what wine we are going to have later - its 2pm and she is planning our wine! Margo asks me if I go to gym to keep fit and I tell her about my Zumba classes - she looks at me as if I have grown 2 heads - Brazilian moves - like a pole dancer? Ruth looks keen though! Perhaps I will give a demonstration at supper time. Late afternoon we call for tea at a quaint tea shop on the outskirts of the park. conversation over tea is about flasks and the merits of a metal flask over a plastic one. Alex is lamenting the availability of the metal flask and complaining about the size of the plastic ones made in China. I yawn - and as he gets impatient to clear away the tea things - I sip my tea as slowly as I can and then as soon as I am finished walk briskly to the combi looking at my watch I shout, "Hurry up Alex, we are 14 minutes late according to my itinerary!"
Alex self-combusts!!!!! I can sense its open warfare. Cant wait for dinner this evening - there is to be a quiz too!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Flower Follies : 2

So our journey continued! At Picketberg Margo became very assertive about her coffee being served last but I felt it was her own fault as she confused us all by putting her hand up for normal tea, rooibos tea coffee, and cappuccino! Ms Double-Barrel and her side kick have struck up a friendship with the two old guys which leaves me well and truly a spare part - unless Alex and I make peace and Hell may freeze over before that happens! He is so strict and punctual and actually informed the group that we were on a tight schedule and that I was 11 minutes late at the coffee stop. He then went on to tell the group in great detail - more than 11 minutes - about the fascinating Wheat Museum at Morresberg - Please tell me that we are not going there Alex!

Lunch at Vanrhynsdorp was a simple affair and the group caused chaos when faced with the choice of 4 dishes - I had to ask what chaos would have occurred had there were 5 choices on the menu and just to throw a spanner in the works I asked if there was there any possibility that they served sushi? Then horror of horror - I realised that I am with a bunch of strangers in Vanrhynsdorp and my phone battery has almost died - I politely ask Alex if he will unlock the combi while I retrieve my phone charger plug from my suitcase. I might have well have asked for the holy grail - and yes my case was at the bottom of the pile! More head shaking and thin lips!
  We head off again and after another interesting loo stop at Knervlakte, I am beginning to wonder if Alex has prostrate problems as we had only been on the road for 45 minutes.From here onwards the terrain is stone, quartz covered ground scattered with compact and leafy succulents - quietly still and beautiful - the air was clear and silent. The name of Knervlakte translates to 'gnashing of teeth'  from the days of travelling by wagon over this terrain but I was gnashing my teeth for a different reason. The afternoon debate among my fellow travelers was which brand of rooibos tea was the best for digestion and the work 'gas' was mentioned several times ....and I don't mean petrol!

We arrived at Kamieskroon with an hour to spare before dinner. Keys and room numbers were allocated Margo swaps keys with Alex because of her leg and Ms double barrel and her friend are stressed. they have to be next door to each other because they share......toothpaste!!!! I am finished and fist stuffed in mouth head off to my room - Number 6 - the Anne Frank suite!
Happy Ending to this day because at 18h30 my mobile rings to inform me that I am a 'nanna' again - I go to dinner knowing the world is a more beautiful place because Katherine Jane is in it!

The evening meal consists of 2 choices - Menu 1 or Menu 2 - the group cause chaos by asking for the starter from one and the main from the other. Hands fly up and down - I suggest a system to ordering and Alex tells me to 'Shut Up.' Ms Double-barrel and I go halvies on a bottle of wine which brings about a collective gasp - everyone else is sharing a glass! I announce my new granddaughter's arrival and there is a little flutter but the conversation reverts to orthopedics and what hasn't been sliced, diced, pinned and reconnected, stapled and fixed at that table is frightening! I try to eat my fish while Menu 2 people suck on their lamb chops then I retire to the veranda with my wine - Its 9pm and the hotel is deserted -  I am truly in the desert!
I can't wait for tomorrow and our first trip into the flower reserves - I run the bath and discover that body lotion is rationed to a teaspoon amount in a little sachet next to the bath. I am doomed to become a prune in Kamieskroon!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Flower Fun

I have always wanted to go to Nama-
qualand so as part of my current 'learning to live differently' regime, I was attracted to an advertisement in Country Life for a four day trip to Kamieskroon - I can't spell it and worse still I cant pronounce it but that is the place to be when you are on a flower tour. The original plan was that I twisted a friend's arm very far up her back and she agreed to come with me but then horror of horrors when I sent an email to book they were full - what to do?
I was still thinking about this dilemma two days later when I got a phone call, "We have had a cancellation - for one person." Are you still interested?" I heard myself say, "Yes - sure." and the rest is history!
I flew into Capetown -the tour company were really good and collected me at the airport to deliver me to Bantry Bay where I stayed before and after and bang on the dot on Tuesday morning, I was collected packed into the Combi's front passenger seat and we were off!
Of course we had to collect the others and I was curious to know who would be joining me. As a contingency plan, I had loaded some funky music on my phone and packed earphones for my iPhone. We stopped at the first collection point and I waited to meet my new best friends!
Two guys, they came shuffling out with their bags, greeted me politely and headed for the opposite end of the bus. Then to the next B&B to collect a rather bossy lady and her very depressed looking husband. I noticed he was wearing a hearing aid and wondered if it was by choice. More polite introductions and off to the next stop - Frail Care - Yes!I said Frail Care where we collected a very elegant lady with a very elegant walking stick and waited patiently for a 'very punctual man' - the lady with the stick pointed out that we were actually early and she knew that Peter was a punctual man and would be down when it was the correct time.
My final two travel companions were waiting for us back at the Landscape Tour Offices - a lady with a double barrelled surname and I think a slight drinking problem  and her old school chum/lady in waiting. That was all of us  -  we all climbed into the Combi and were off!
It was at this time that we met Alex (pronounced Alec) anyone who actually dared to say the 'x' sound at the end of his name was corrected with hard narrow icy eyes and very thin lips! I got to know that look very well!  Alex was a retired school master who has never got the hang of being around adults who could and would answer back. He treated everyone as one of his 'boys' and me as an imbecile! I sat in the front with him the first day and everyday after that I was flung in the back - a bit like being put in the naughty corner.
Even though the excitement was palpable - the conversation was polite as we all got to know one another. We all shared a love of travel and a love of flowers. Our first 'comfort' stop was at a Petrol station near Piketberg - We were instructed to hurry along to the loo!  I hurried along to the shop as I was dying for coffee! The coffee was not instant and I swear I was only 7 minutes BUT I was chastised on my return with a take out paper cup of coffee - as we were stopping for coffee next. I had broken the rules!
On route to the coffee stop - the conversation hotted up - "Can we have some aircon in the back?" Alex pulled and pushed and twiddled with the aircon. "It's too cold now!" they said! So Alex pulled and pushed and twiddled again. " OK now its too warm again!" came the reply. Alex sighed. I reached for my music headphones - I couldn't wait any longer for that F***ing Goldilocks moment!

So started our journey to the flowers. I cannot wait to share the rest of it but have been sooooo busy! While I am away now on another adventure I will continue telling you about my Flower Fun!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dream On!

A conversation in a car on route to a weekend away led to a discussion about dreaming. Apparently we all do it but not all of us remember what we have dreamed about in the morning.
In my youth – particularly my torrid, turbulent and tormented teens – I dreamed all the time and mostly disturbing dreams about death, mutilation, damp, dank earth strewn coffins and now when I remember these dreams, I can even recall the odour of all this horror that permeated my dream. Needless to say, I often awoke terrified and as haunted as if these things had been real.
My mum and nan believed that their dreams were omens – Tony always says that my mother would have been strapped to a ducking stool in times gone by – she was a little ‘fey’ shall we say. Dreams were opposites - funerals meant weddings, births meant death and snakes were a warning to be wary of enemies. Of course if mum ever dreamed about winning the football pools – it meant that she was going to win the football pools and many each way bet on a horse came from a dream she had had – some came in first and also the opposite many limped in last! My teenage nightmares she put down to ‘all that drawing I was doing’ and eating cheese too close to bedtime but she did look a little worried when reassuring me.
I became fascinated by my dreams in my Psychology studies when Carl Jung came into my life. According to Jung, dreams are a way of communicating and acquainting yourself with the unconscious. Dreams are not attempts to conceal your true feelings from the waking mind, but rather they are a window to your unconscious. They serve to guide the waking self to achieve wholeness and offer a solution to a problem you are facing in your waking life. This made sense to me – perhaps my teens were the awakening of my own sense of mortality and the desire to explore my spiritual self. Sigmund Freud on the other believed in the existence of the unconscious in terms of animalistic, instinctual, or sexual.
These days my dreams are much tamer – sometimes entertaining and often bazaar. The other night I was in the Post Office buying stamps and the Queen was behind the counter wearing a royal blue dress and pearls. Another night recently George Clooney was in my kitchen seeing what was in my fridge and I was embarrassed because there was nothing exciting in there! Is there a message in these two dreams for me. What would Jung say ? I did receive a wedding invite in the post this week with a beautiful big postage stamp with maam’s face on it and she does look like she is winking at me. George Clooney however has not turned up anywhere in my life and the contents of my fridge are looking a little sad just now.
If you are looking for some dream interpretations try here - Off to bed now - perchance to dream!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mid Week Rant - The Great Orchid Rip-Off

Have you got one of these? Every one seems to have one or two and most of them look like mine does! All of mine have been gifts that my lovely friends and visitors have spent over R100 on and with out fail they have all died. I feel awful when the flowers all come off and very guilty about my non-green fingers - Sad I know, but I don't think of myself as a plant murderer just a victim of Woolworths or the other retailers that sell them.They must sell hundreds of these a week so are making a fortune.
I have a friend who is an expert on all things green and she has an orchid hospital at her home. She tells me that the orchids that are imported are doomed to a short life span by the way they are packaged and rooted in cotton wool.
Orchids are exotic plants that live on the bark of trees in warm humid climates - not cotton wool trees! She takes my ailing orchids and replants them with love and care and a considerate amount of skill and tries to revive them. Not always successfully. I love flowers and plants but I think these are being abused!
So - if you think that these are good value - think again. They look pretty for a couple of weeks and then are gone and you would be better advised to buy flowers or an indigenous plant that can go in the garden later....or better still something more useful - Perhaps a silk orchid!

Monday, July 22, 2013

I am as rich as Bill Gates......

....when it comes to our most valuable resource - Time! Like air it is free but it is really what we do with it that adds value to it. It's like having 86 400rands placed in bank account each day (R1=1 second) and it disappearing on the stroke of midnight that evening. If that were the case we really would make sure that we invested that money well and we would protect it from others so it couldn't be stolen. As it is with time  - waste it and it is gone forever.
I invested my Sunday catching up with my work backlog to give me a less stressed week and I must say I went to bed tired but strangely energised by the thought of being able to do things that I enjoy in the evenings this week - such as my writing and some reading and relaxation. Strangely one of the chores that I had to complete was marking assignments and one of the topics was Time Management and the delegates need to complete and report on a time analysis. I could weep when I see the way our jobs have become fragmented and the volume of work that the average worker is expected to get through. It severely impacts on their stress levels and then on their personal lives. I try to give them feedback and advice around the aspects that they can control - some of which is how to say no and how to stop people stealing their precious time!
We are generally successful in the areas that we focus our attention and therefore our time and that is why I needed to catch up so I can focus on my other passions and there are many!! I once was privileged to hear Prof. Weihahn speak (he was the lawyer who led the Weihahn Commission which changed the face of labour law in South Africa) read here. You would think that he was a privileged white lawyer but he told a story of a childhood spent in poverty, having to leave school to support his family and no money for education, and yet through grit and sheer determination he succeeded. He accounted his success to what he called the 3rd shift. We have to work 8 hours and then 8 hours to sleep, eat and keep ourselves groomed. He believed its how we used our 3rd shift - the other 8 hours that made the difference to our success and our self fulfilment. If we spend it watching TV or waste it on meaningless activities then its gone forever and it has not contributed to anything. I have never forgotten that talk and as he died not long afterwards, I am so glad he left me that legacy to take with me on my journey!
 So if you could make a wish for more time or more money what would you wish for - I will leave you to ponder that .... I know what my wish is for!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

.......in Waiting!

I am excited by the prospect of a Royal birth and really happy for the young Prince and Princess but Puhlease.....to have the press camped outside the hospital for over 2 weeks now with lenses trained on windows and doors waiting....waiting....waiting... for WHAT? We all know what is going to happen and we don't need photographs of Kate in her hospital gown red faced and panting. Nor do we want to see William rubbing her feet while Kate pulls angry faces at him! BBC, SKY, CNN - you really need to leave them alone and wait like the rest of us for a dignified announcement to be posted outside Buckingham Palace. The international press need to show some respect and an urgent refresher course on professional ethics and morals.
If this is a taste of things to come for the little one then heaven help heir (excuse the pun)!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Challenge Yourself!

Well done to Lorraine Primary School for setting their pupils a challenge of tasks and activities to complete during the school holidays. Jessica was issued with her list and took it quite seriously. I thought it was a great idea designed to keep the children occupied and that some thought had gone into the challenges. None of them involved TV or computer games!
Some of them were fun eg. Sleep under the dining room table; find out two naughty things that your parents did when they were children. Lots of material there LOL!
Some required skill eg. Decorate a cake and do some crafts with an adult. Some challenges were about being outside eg. Go on a long nature walk and plant some seeds.
My favourite was to write a letter to a friend and post it. How many children can say that they have or will ever do that! Its all about BBM, email and Whatsap! Do a good deed for someone was on the list
Jessica invited me to be involved with 3 of her challenges and I baked a cake for her to ice - which she did with an icing nozzle for the first time. We scrap-booked her Justin Beiber concert page and she wrote her letter to her cousin while staying with me. Jessica is not a stranger to letter writing as she wrote to the Queen and received a reply - I hope her cousin writes back!
Her favourite challenge was the long nature walk and the cake icing, her least favourite was 'tidy your clothes cupboard and her most unusual was the challenge to visit an art gallery. She completed 17 out of the 18 challenges which I think is well done!
I just thought it was a great idea and it would be good for other schools and youth groups to do the same as a way to get children motivated and involved in their spare time. Setting and reaching challenges is a life skill too!
I like to set myself challenges in all areas of my life including professional development and personal development and physical challenges - they drive me to stretch myself and try new things. This year I have challenged myself to improve my photography - I have been on more workshops and getting out there - the result being my sunrise photo last week! I also want to learn to crochet and I am about to sign up for an online course in early childhood development and I want to do a Project Management qualification - something that I know I will find challenging. Zumba! say no more :-)
The message is that if you stop stretching yourself when you finish school then you are going to stagnate. Your brain, like a muscle, needs to be exercised. You need to enjoy them so set yourself challenges in areas that you enjoy and don't make them too easy or you wont s-t-r-e-t-c-h.
My biggest challenge at the moment is learning to live independently and I am treating it as something that I need to learn on my life journey. It's a stretch but I am improving and a challenge that I am determined to cross off my list.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mid Week Rant - the Mandela's

I am ashamed right now to be associated with South Africa! The shenanigans of what is supposed to be one of South Africa's leading families are nothing less than bizarre and the world must be rolling its eyes in amazement. The events surrounding Nelson Mandela's demise are a public embarrassment and anything could happen next!

We have a close relative digging up other relatives and moving them to suit their future financial needs. We have other family members selling the rights to their father's funeral to international TV networks when he is still alive. We have an old man on life support - at the age of ninety five - I ask you! We have a wife telling the world that her husband is responsive and conscious. We have a previous wife using police cavalcades to accompany her on hospital visits to say good-bye time and again, wasting our security resources. We have the international media camping out anywhere they can to get front row seats to the biggest circus event ever!
There is no dignity. There is no compassion. There is no respect. It is obvious that no one in the family has inherited the wisdom of this proud man. I am embarrassed and sad for him.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Keeping in touch!

There was a time that we all lived in a village - three generations of a family would often live in the same street and sometimes in the same house! Technology and globalisation have changed not only the way we work and live but also family life. I am so grateful for the fact that I can have regular physical contact with my family here but also that I communicate regularly with my family in the UK.  When we first came to South Africa we had to rely on the post to keep in touch - international phone calls were very expensive and only for emergencies or desperate homesickness - which counted as an emergency! If there was a faulty public telephone within an hour's drive,  word went around the immigrant community and there would be a long queue of people trying hard not to look suspicious or that they were engaged in criminal activity lest Telkom be alerted to the fact that we were phoning 'home' for the price of a local call!
Skype has changed all that and in recent years I can be in touch with family every day for free and Skype has enabled me to travel around my sisters home on her laptop to see her latest d├ęcor projects and to give (and receive)wardrobe advice. Skype also kept me in touch (and sane) when my grandies went to live in Pretoria for a while. There are many, many Skype parents and grandparents in society who so look forward to virtual conversations - communicating in this way is changing peoples lives. Through writing this blog, I discovered the term 'Skype Granny' not only refers to a techno granny but also to a whole team of retired people who are reading to and assisting with education in 3rd world countries - you can read about it here.

It must be more than a bit bewildering for a young child to be placed in front of the computer and be expected to have a l-o-n-g conversation with an adult. I can remember the strain of keeping a conversation going with Jessica and Craig - who was only a baby at the time and the only way to get any of his attention was to Skype at feeding time.   Kids at the best of times struggle to sit still for 5 minutes and this artificial situation does put a strain on all concerned and it doesn't come anywhere close to a snuggle with a fairy story. A friend of mine had a particularly disappointing Skype experience this week.
After having a Skype conversation with her adult daughter, the grandparents were  handed over to her 5 year old grandson who chatted for a wee while (Aye they are in Scotland) and then announced that he was handing them over to the dogs. "No"! they shouted, "Please don't!" - to no avail. They were carried on the ipad protesting to where the dogs were, which happened to be under the table. Finding themselves under the table with the dogs was more than a little disappointing when they wanted to find out how their grandson was getting on a school! To add insult to injury, the dogs clearly didn't want to Skype either and promptly got up and left their under-the-table sanctuary, leaving two unhappy grandparents with a view of the underside of a table top and no one listening to their shouts for help.
Sometimes you have no alternative but to hang up!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cape Town Vibes

I am having a real love affair with Cape Town at the moment. I have always loved coming here and right now Cape Town seems to be the place to BE! this is what I am loving about BEing here this week:-
  • There is an optimism here that is missing from PE - Cape Town has a pulse while PE seems to be on life support.
  • Business is brisk - the shops are busy and service is generally good - (but not a Boardman's Canal Walk yesterday)
  • There are places to eat other than the dreaded Franchises!
  • There is a Woollies food store on every corner.
  • The streets are clean - in fact everything seems cleaner.
  • That mountain is just BEautiful.
  • Kirstenbosch was just like botanical heaven today - it was lovely to see families picnicking and spending time in nature and taking their rubbish home with them.
  • It's great to stretch my legs along the Atlantic seaboard - fresh air, seagulls and the walkway is close to the ocean.
  • Sunsets...need I say more!!
  • I haven't seen any  rusting old jalopies held together with tape on the roads.
  • I saw a really good movie that didn't have aliens, superheroes or animals that talk in it! Shadow Dancer - Well scripted, great acting and with a twist in the tale!
  • There is so much to DO - This is my 3rd visit this year and I still have a list of stuff that I haven't done or seen and that I want to do!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Everyone knows I ♥ my toes!

I have romantic toes! Yes - it was confirmed today that I have toes that snog while I am otherwise occupied. I had to book an appointment with my foot doctor (podiatrist) as since I came back from Australia last year I have had a sore little toe - a tiny toe that I was hardly aware of. Granted I did schlep a lot around Melbourne...and Sydney and duty free, and while I was doing this my little toe fell in love with the toe next to it. As their relationship developed - they became inseparable and I developed a kissing corn. Isn't that a cute term? In reality it is a painful experience...but love does hurt sometimes. I had to put a stop to things today and my podiatrist has prescribed a protective cover - a gel condom - for the worst offender and so until my baby toe can behave herself she will have to get used to the separation. I am having no trouble getting used to walking on Cloud 9. I think I will paint the town red and my toes ♥

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Respect is a Verb

In response to a request, I am putting together a presentation on etiquette in the business world. I usually dread such sessions as I find it amazing that grown up people who have had an education and have been successful in getting employment, don't know how to behave. I feel a bit silly being paid to address the topic and wonder if it is a genuine need or the desire of someone else (a manager) to impose their rules of behaviour. Etiquette is a term that refers to behaviour in polite society and it seems that people have forgotten how to be polite. Perhaps because I am reflecting on and exploring this topic, I have been more aware of manners or rather the lack of them in the last couple of weeks. "Manners maketh man" seems to belong to an era long ago when the motto was chosen by William of Wykeham for the school he founded – Winchester. Thank Heavens that we are not governed any more by the strict code of conduct enforced by the Victorians but this phrase is as true today as it ever was. You can tell a lot about a man or a woman by the way they behave and communicate and even more by observing them when they are angry or upset. Here are some of the things that I have witnessed lately that have convinced me that it is necessary to have this discussion with working 'adults' :-

  • People arriving after late at the movies today who just trampled past me while making their way along the row to their seats - no "excuse me" or "thank you" and talking as they went despite the movie having started.
  • Knives and forks just abandoned on plates or sometimes next to them - instead of being placed neatly together at the end of a meal.
  • Courtesy in shops is declining at an alarming rate - no greetings and a lack of please and thank you.
  • It was so nice to have the door held open this week while entering a company. While etiquette is almost dead, chivalry is on life support!
  • The Telegraphs writes about it here.
  • Mobile phones are really not to be answered when enjoying a meal with  guests and the side plate is not meant to hold yours! 
  • In fact if you are in a restricted place with another person, like a lift or car you really should ask their permission to answer your phone.
  • When do you stop reminding people to switch off their phones? It should be common sense to switch them off in class, church or the theatre!
  • A "high five" may be acceptable when with your bro' but it doesn't belong in the boardroom or the office.
  • I was taught at school to keep strong opinions about what I dislike - particularly about food to myself - Its just not polite to say you 'hate' something or that it is "gross". One mans meat is another mans poison was the term used at school.
  • Lets not go into snorting, grunting, coughing all over people and not covering your mouth when yawning - I am shaking my head!
These are just a few of the things that I have noticed in the past week that have convinced me that it is necessary to remind people about courtesy. I don't come from a wealthy family, nor did I go to a Public School but I was raised to be kind, considerate and respectful. Etiquette is a combination of all these ....and respect is a verb!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

People who I have met this week.

My line of work brings me into contact with people from all walks of life. All of them have one thing in common - they all want to develop their knowledge/skill to improve themselves and their lives. Meet some of the people who have come into my life this week.....

An Afrikaans woman who is working in a factory. Her life has recently been turned upside down because her husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. He also worked for the same company as her. Overnight their income has been halved as he is unable to work so she is now the breadwinner. They have  teenage children at High School - one on the verge of going to university whose dreams are about to be dashed as there is now no money to pay his fees. From what she tells me - with tears welling in her eyes - her husband is deeply depressed and has withdrawn completely from life. His shaking is really bad when he is awake so he just wants to sleep...forever! He doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything and if people visit he hides away. She has been waiting for 6 weeks for an appointment with a therapist assigned to him. Through all this she comes to work day, afternoon and night shift AND attends classes. I am in awe of her strength.
A police officer who confided that his job has cost him his marriage, his health and at times his sanity. He has devoted his life to a uniform and a badge and has encountered shocking crime scenes and been shot at more times than he can remember. He rejected the concept of being debriefed or seeking counselling after incidents, as being 'soft'. Instead he used alcohol as anesthetic and although he has now overcome that dependency he regrets that he has only realised too late that he put his career before what was really important to him and is unable to undo the hurt he caused his wife and children - he is currently trying to mend the relationship with his son and daughter and I really hope that all turns out well for him - a really lovely man.
A young divorced mother who is afraid that she is going to lose the 'temporary' job she has if she asks for the overtime pay that is owed to her. She was depending on that money to buy her son his winter school uniform because the school is giving him a hard time that he is not wearing it and there is no extra money from the little she earns. She worked the extra hours demanded of her and was promised and entitled to overtime rate - when she 'dared' to ask for it, she was told she was lucky to have a job and is frightened to ask again. When she is on night shift she has to leave her son alone overnight - he is 11. She worries the whole night and prays that he will be alright. I am outraged by the unfairness of this situation and my heart aches for her.
An African man about to give up on a qualification that his company insisted he attend, because he has fallen so far behind with his work - Why? He has been working 12 hour and sometimes 18 hour days because his company have retrenched half the workforce and expect the same output. He would give up his studies which are clearly difficult to continue with,but if he does he will have to repay the money that the company have paid for his course fees. A catch-22 situation - either way he loses. We sat and planned a way to continue.

A reminder that we all have problems - some more than others - but what makes these people different is that they have determination and a will to do whatever it takes to improve their chances of a better future. Whenever I feel like giving up - these are the people - and all the others like them that I encounter - that keep me going. Inspiring indeed!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Ups and Downs of Motherhood

Its Mothers Day and as well as remembering my own mum and being grateful for all she did for me and the lessons she taught me, I am reflecting on being a mother myself. When I was young my ambition was not to be a doctor, teacher or explorer - my ambition was to be a mother. I 'mothered' my dolls and adored babies and children - my little nieces, my friend's younger brothers or sisters and the neighbour's little ones. I looked forward to having children of my own and I was young when my first was born. In anticipation I read all the books and attended ante-natal classes and spoke to older, wiser mothers - I decorated the nursery, filled drawers with hand knitted baby clothes and was prepared. What nobody could prepare me for was the rush of overwhelming love that comes with your baby or the incredible burden of responsibility that they bring with them. A double edged sword! The journey of motherhood is never a smooth one, never boring, sometimes thrilling and at other times painful - Like a roller coaster it is full of highs and lows.
My highlights include:-
  • I remember each one of their beautiful faces when they came into the world. I never tired of watching them when they slept or the feel of their soft skin and their powdery smell after a bath. Some nights I crashed into bed exhausted but pleased that I had accomplished so much just taking care of them.
  • I have lots of great memories of my boys in school plays and concerts: Craig aged 8, playing Prince Nutcracker in the Merton Bank school concert and playing to a packed Theatre Royal - I had no idea that he had the main part and that he had mastered all his lines so well. Mark dancing on stage at Newton Tech miming to Ziggy Stardust and dressed like a punk! Paul smart and shiny in his school uniform singing in Westering's very talented school choir and Sean whose roles varied from the donkey in a Pre-Primary nativity play to Mowgli in Jungle Book and young prince in the King and I - Paul acted in that as well at the Opera House in PE. I was the proudest mum in the audience and glad that the lights were low to hide the tears!
  • I was over the moon when Paul phoned to tell us he had passed his matric - not because my boys were not clever but because Craig left school in Standard 8 to take up an apprenticeship - Mark failed matric Afrikaans so graduated with a technical matric so when Paul (who would joyfully bring his school report to me and exclaim - "I got average for everything) passed matric I was thrilled that his hard work and diligence had paid off.
  • St Francis Bay was a place where we enjoyed spending time together and seeing Sean get in the little dinghy and set off along the canals in the early morning sun was always special for me - that he had the skill and more importantly the confidence to do that was very satisfying.
  • Weddings were proud days for me too - Tony and I had always told the boys that they must marry in a way that was significant to them and not to feel pressurised to have weddings that were meaningful to others for all the wrong reasons. Mark and Helen got married in Zimbabwe and then had a wonderful African honeymoon, Paul and Shelley chose a very small wedding - literally a handful of only close family followed by a week in Sun city. Sean and Nadine chose the more traditional start to married life - a church service and a wedding reception in PE and despite telling everyone the were away on honeymoon - they hid away in their own home enjoying the peace and quiet - time together.
  • Family Christmases and simple braais -as the boys get older and enjoy their own lives each time we all sit together to eat or enjoy one another's company is a highlight.
  • When Sean walked across the stage to receive his MBA I was really proud of his achievement and have the photos to prove it - at his first graduation when he received his BTech, Mark arrived with minutes to spare and gave Sean a set of hillbilly teeth! When I paid in advance for the very expensive photographs of our son being capped and gowned - I had no idea he would be wearing them.
  • Of course motherhood leads to granny-hood and each moment I spend with my grandies is a highlight!
My Lowlights:
  • The terrible price we pay for love is grief and when Craig died I really understood the term - broken heart. He is missed everyday and time has not diminished our love for our firstborn.
  • Having a child who is really ill and not being able to find out what the cause is nearly drove me insane. Mark was hospitalised in his matric year, lost weight rapidly and was really sick. Despite all the tests, the doctors could only tell us what was not wrong with him. In the absence of knowledge the imagination runs wild. When he sat up in his hospital bed and asked us if he was going to die it was just an awful moment...because at that stage we didn't know. The not knowing what was wrong lasted over 10 years and each attack resulted in white blood cell production going into overdrive so there were always tests for cancer! Through all this Mark continued to work and was simply brilliant. When he was eventually diagnosed with AOSD - a nasty and rare - but not life threatening - immune disorder, it was such a relief. When Mark was sick and had a bad day - the whole family had a bad day - when he had a good day so did we all! The treatment was simple and he recovered quickly and now knows how to manage it.
  • There are a couple of times when I have felt disappointed by their conduct or choices but I have never lost faith that it would be resolved. I have always believed as the parent in the relationship that I would do whatever I had to do to allow issues to be discussed and solutions to be found - life is too short to waste on matters of ego.
  • I still get defensive when I encounter people who ask if I am related to the boys and then proceed to tell me how they were naughty at school. I ask the question "How?" How were they naughty? Did they hurt anyone? Were they disrespectful? Did they steal, bully or damage things? The answer to all these is No! They asked questions, pushed boundaries and explored alternative opinions. They got up to mischief and occasionally got into trouble - they were high spirited! I think that having spirit is a great thing  - we are all born with it but many people mistake 'spirit' for naughtiness. I believe a parent's job is to nurture that spirit - not to break it and schools are very good at that! Without spirit you cannot make your mark on the world and I know for sure that my boys have done that!
Happy Mothers Day!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mid Week Rant - Movies!

I have been having a little tantrum all week about movies. Half of me is mad because we don't get decent films here in PE anymore - that is the ones on the 'art' circuit and when they do come they stay for a week. The other half of me despairs of the PE public who don't go and see them when the cinemas bring them here!
Last week Quartet came and I was please that the theatre at the Bridge that was showing it was at least half full last Thursday. It was a well written, well acted portrait of a group of retired performers and their struggle to raise funds by putting on a gala concert. The snipes between these retired 'prima donnas' were entertaining, the comedy of Billy Connelly's character had us in stitches and the soundtrack was just wonderful. Here today - gone tomorrow! It was on for one week so if you didn't get to see it hard cheese!
This week's art offering is Little One - Darrell Roodt's moving tale of a six-year-old girl found left for dead outside a township in Johannesburg. It was selected for consideration as South Africa's official entry for best foreign film at the Oscars in 2013. Unapologetically South African with a minimalist narrative, it tells the story that we read about too often in our newspapers rape, poverty, lack of police resources but it is handled sensitively and there is not one poor performance. There was 3 of us in the cinema last night - I shake my head!
At Cinema Nouveau in Cape Town and Johannesburg they show 5 or 6 art movies per week and they are well attended - does the PE public really lack taste and culture and if so why?? We struggle to fill theatres, large concerts don't even come here anymore and our art galleries flounder! Yet the casino is full and the other cinemas showing digitally enhanced super heroes and violent American thrillers are thriving. Vampires ....need I say more!
Please PE come to the party - explore the arts - support your cultural community or it will be lost forever.
Thank You Ster Kinekor at the Bridge for not giving up on us - YET!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Numbers Game

Have you ever thought how many numerical sequences that are bouncing around in your head on any given day! Previous generations had it easy - my gran's generation only needed to know their house number, my parents had space for their home and telephone numbers and my mother was considered gifted as she knew her Co-op Divi number (short for dividend) off by heart.
We are expected to know telephone number, cell phone number, bank card pin numbers, alarm code numbers, Internet banking numbers and passwords for this that and everything - thanks to master scammers, phishers and Nigerians these get more and more complex and difficult to navigate. Don't you just hate the ones where they must contain a CAPITAL letter a sym&@# and a number as well! We are warned about writing these down or storing them in our phone and if we choose to encrypt them in any way the added challenge when needing them is to remember what was going on in your head at that particular time. No wonder I cant remember a thing - my head is full of numbers!
I have a new landline and new cell number, added to this I am enduring a technological revolution brought on by our house move necessitating a new washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, microwave and coffee machine to master and a solar geyser that needs a BSc in physics in order to manipulate the temperature of my bathwater.
My brains are scrabbled and my eggs would be if I could get to grips with the new gas hob that sputters to a halt when I try to simmer. I have only managed to get one half of my double oven to cooperate while the other half winks at me from the kitchen mockingly!
When I get it all worked out, my new media player awaits - Hmm... perhaps my four year old grandson can teach me how that works!
Don't get me wrong - I pride myself on my mental arithmatic (Yes! I went to school BC - before calculators - and this was an actual subject) I am pretty irritating in shops and other public places where the Gen Y sales assistant can't add 2+2  or divide by 10 without a calculator.
Oh! and one thing I am exceptionally good at is counting my blessings! I will end on that high note!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Good Grief

It's now 8 weeks that I have been without Tony (I never thought I would have to type that sentence). Eight weeks of my journey into grief and the lessons that life is teaching me. Some days are Ok and some aren't but grief is like a wave that washes over you and leaves again. The pain it brings is necessary for healing, so it's not good to ignore it too much.
Isn't it amazing that I am still getting messages, calls,  cards, visitors and in the last three days four lovely bouquets of flowers.
Kind words about the significance of Tony's life are also comforting and I have heard many of them.
Work is a great distraction and I am being kept really busy - I am trusting that this is how it should be right now but I know that I wont be able to keep this pace up long term!
I am also thinking of how this journey is made easier by friends and family and the incredible support I have been shown by people - I know that I am being held in thought and prayer by many and believe me I am grateful for your company along this path.
I am making plans, moving forward and have navigated my way through the sea of paperwork - I just have to file it all now!
I am coping ....I am going to be OK. Thank You!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mothers Love

Its Mother's Day today in the UK - a day set aside to honour the special bond between a mother and child, although we all know that we don't need that day as that bond is celebrated everyday in the hearts of mothers all over the world. The retail world is the real beneficiary of today as flowers, cards, perfume and other gifts are hurriedly purchased. the hospitality industry also benefits as mothers will be taken out for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Mothers Day creates expectations and sadly some mothers will start questioning their worth based on those expectations not being met.
There is no replacement for a mothers love and those unfortunate enough to be deprived of it carry the scars for the rest of their lives. It's now been scientifically proven that children who are neglected and unloved by their mothers and whose mothers are not responsive to them during the first two years of their lives are affected forever! You can read an article about it here.     Read it - its amazing!
Motherhood is a great responsibility - a job for life with no salary and sometimes no benefits. Its a greater responsibility than fatherhood as instinctively we know that a mother's love is absolutely unconditional and pure. Your mother will love you no matter what. A child will always be THE most beautiful, talented and special to their mum. Fathers are important and we all crave the approval and acceptance of a father figure but to be held, nurtured, cared for, supported, loved and adored by the person who carried and brought you into the world is essential to your physical and emotional well being. Sadly there are people who carry the scars of not experiencing that love - they carry them for their whole life. Emotional scars never heal - I know we all rub bio-oil on physical scars and they can vanish with time but there is no cure for the scars of mother damage.
I am one of the luckiest people in the world because I know without doubt that I was loved by my mother. One of six children my mother often said that none of us were planned but ALL of us were wanted. I felt that love in my mother's baking, the dresses made for us, the hanky that wiped tears away, the grasp of her hand on my first day of school and the love showered on my children - her grandchildren.
My wish today is that all mothers never forget the privilage it is to bring life into the world and the sacred place they hold in thier children's hearts. Let your children know that you love and approve of them and that you will do forever. Mothers Day is agreat opportunity for that!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Live a Life that Matters

I am not having a great day today. More paperwork!How many times do I have to get these cerficates of birth, marriage and death certified and how many more times do I have to tell the story of Tony's death!
I had to go into the cupboard in the study to look for more information today and found this piece of writing neatly taped there on the inside of the cupboard door - I hadn't noticed it before ..I dont know why but today it jumped out at me. It's telling me to "live a life that matters." It must have struck a chord with Tony for him to place it in his working space and quite recently too as we had only spent weeks in this house. this is what it says.

Live a life that matters
Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant
Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.
So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance, but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

Powerful words to live by.....He certainly did matter as so many people at the funeral and since have told how Tony was such a positive influence on them and was a real friend and mentor. He was successful and significant and right now missed SO much.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Next Chapter

 I suppose I have to write this before I can continue with my blog - I have to close a chapter before I start a new one. Right now I am getting used to an quiet house, an empty settee, a spare place at every table that I sit at and waking up alone. Its hard but not impossible to endure these and the most overwhelming grief lies in the smallest details of absence. A lonely toothbrush, a bookmark in an unfinished book and his beloved trilby...... In some ways the loss of our son, Craig, prepared me for what I am experiencing now - the path that I am travelling on is familiar but not the same.
One thing that I do find impossible to tolerate is that I have become an object of pity! I just hate those pained expressions and the meaningless phrases that usually accompany them and I am tired of explaining what happened (at this stage we really don't know as we are waiting for reports and results). So when you do encounter me rather give me some good news or make me smile.
A week before Tony died I read an article in Fair Lady magazine in a book called, "Proof of Heaven" by Dr Eben Alexander. It appealed to my keen interest of our human mind. I immediately downloaded the book on Kindle not knowing what was waiting for me or how it would impact my being - and it was sitting there waiting for me three days later when I switched it on. Is that a coincidence or is it proof that what happened was truly wired into the universe and the blueprint that it holds for each one of us?
This is what Amazon says about the book  "Dr. Eben Alexander III has been an academic neurosurgeon for the last 25 years, including 15 years at the Brigham & Women's and the Children's Hospitals and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Over his academic career he authored or co-authored over 150 chapters and papers in peer reviewed journals, and made over 200 presentations at conferences and medical centers around the world. He thought he had a very good idea of how the brain generates consciousness, mind and spirit.

In the predawn hours of November 10, 2008, he was driven into coma by a rare and mysterious bacterial meningitis-encephalitis of unknown cause. He spent a week in coma on a ventilator, his prospects for survival diminishing rapidly. On the seventh day, to the surprise of everyone, he started to awaken. Memories of his life had been completely deleted inside of coma, yet he awoke with memories of a fantastic odyssey deep into another realm - more real than this earthly one! His older son advised him to write down everything he could remember about his journey, before he read anything about near-death experiences, physics or cosmology. Six weeks later, he completed his initial recording of his remarkable journey, totaling over 20,000 words in length. Then he started reading, and was astonished by the insights his journey brought to the world's literature on near-death experiences, and to all phenomena of extended consciousness. His experience clearly revealed that we are conscious in spite of our brain - that, in fact, consciousness is at the root of all existence.
His story offers a crucial key to the understanding of reality and human consciousness. It will have a major effect on how we view spirituality, soul and the non-material realm. In analyzing his experience, including the scientific possibilities and grand implications, he envisions a more complete reconciliation of modern science and spirituality as a natural product.
He has been blessed with a complete recovery, and has written a book about this most powerful, life-changing story."

The book has left me with a strong message - that when we die we truly do go to another realm and in that space you know that:-
  • You are loved and cherished
  • There is no fear
  • There are no mistakes.
 That is all the comfort that I need right now. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

RIP my dearest Tony Gaskin

My dearest husband, our devoted Dad and Golly - Our friend died at his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversities that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and his strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he had lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!

For one thing - he has won our admiration - because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindness and thoughtfulness, through his love for his family and friends... for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember not his last day of defeat, but we shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years that he had. Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know, and understands.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ten Years Younger

I have just had a BIG birthday - Everyone says that age is just a number - Quite scary when that number is huge! I had a great celebration weekend as I figured that by the next BIG birthday there is a possibility that I shall just be wobbling around but more about that in my next blog. I decided that I will focus on things that make me feel 10 years younger and make sure that I experience these on a regular basis.

1. Get plenty of sleep.
There is nothing worse than being sleep deprived and I have in the past, tossed and turned a few dark hours away. A couple of years ago I went to see a hypnotherapist who taught me how to get myself into a drowsy relaxed state  - it involves creating a scene and walking down steps (and a whole lot of other stuff). It works wonders - even if I wake up in the night, I can get myself back down those steps into my unconsciousness and back into dreamland. Another great tip was given to me by my reflexologist - Texa is a anti histamine and just 1/2 of one gives me the best quality sleep so I indulge myself with a Texa over the weekend and enjoy slumbering bliss.
2. Say "C", senorita!
Vitamin C is the miracle worker - essential for a healthy immune system and keeps skin elastic and firm. I can't think of anything worse that feeling younger than my face so I shall be eating more strawberries (which are loaded with Vit C) so are Kiwi fruit and citrus -YUM!
3. Spend time with young people.
My auntie Gladys who is youthful at 94,  gets along with people of all ages and knows who Justin Bieber is! this is because she is genuinely interested in young people and has spent as much time as possible around them. I get to hear a lot of what youth say in my work and I hope I never lose the ability to listen to them and learn from them.
4. Let your inner child come out to play!
You are never too old to finger paint, skinny-dip, play with sand or watch cartoons. One of the reasons I love playing with my grandchildren is that they remind me to enjoy simple pleasures and I get to see the world, people and situations through their eyes. I'll make sure that I jump on a bicycle and play twister too this year!
5. Stay Positive. Nobody wants to be around a complainer. Having a smile on your dial means that you will never be lonely as smiling people are like a magnet to others. Remember the saying, "Laugh and the world laughs with you - Cry and you cry alone!" Find things to be grateful for and look for the silver lining in the clouds - you may discover a rainbow in there! Walk tall and you immediately look and feel 10 years younger so step out in style.
6. Private Medicine! Don't discuss your aches, pains, joints, bladder problems or bowel habits EVER with anyone other than your GP or medical professionals. Nothing ages a person more than long conversations about blood pressure or biopsies and to hear them in the supermarket aisles is the kiss of death to youth.
7.If at first you don't succeed - Just try again! Trying new things is a great way to exercise the brain. I have always been a reader but I don't let myself stagnate by reading the same types of books or the same old author. I read what I like and also what is hip and happening. Getting to grips with technology and social networking is also a great way to stay young. Diiscussing the latest apps with the techno-generation sheds years off your age. This year I am going to get tweeting with twitter and get wise to pinterest.
8. Beauty really is skin deep. So I will continue to pay attention to problem areas and never, ever sleep in my make-up. Being selected as a Clinique Insider has been a boost and I have learned a lot already about the science of skincare  - you can read about Simple skincare here. Hands are important too as, unless you wear gloves all the time, they are on show all the time. Age spots are a real giveaway so I will be lashing mine with hand cream with an SPF - I like the Nivea one! I am currently sporting a Neon French manicure with every nail tip a different lumo colour - a little extreme but just looking at my hands this week made me feel young.
9.Release Control. Anxiety and worry make you feel older and lower your energy so stop trying to fix situations, circumstances and people and tell yourself that there are things in life that you just can't control. Surrender to the universe and know that 'this too will pass."
10.Dress Stylishly. As you get older, quality and cut are important, follow fashion but interpret it in a way that is age appropriate. My motto is that if I wore it the first time around - I ain't going to wear it again! That goes for platforms, ponchos, skinny jeans, hot pants, mini skirts, high stilettos and Adele style eyeliner! I have made myself a promise to wear more colour - I love colour and yet often find my wardrobe is full of boring black and sludgy greys. I will expect you all to remind me of this when you see me wearing dowdy hues.
PS. When looking for ideas for this blog I came across this article on a different sort of grooming. I am all for trying new things but I think that I will pass on this.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Back to the Future

One of the strange things that happen when I am enjoying a break in my home country is that I get flashbacks - A little like the TV series 'Life on Mars' or the film 'Back to the Future'. We drove past our old home today and I remember vividly how the back garden looked, the view from the front bedroom window down the road and the walk to and from school with the boys - no wonder I was slim and fit in those days! I seem to know my way better around St Helens town centre than I do around Port Elizabeth and yet I have lived there half of my life now.
But it was a trip around Hesketh Hall to look at antiques and then on the Bygone Times brought back the most memories as we found ourselves surrounded by furniture and bric-a-brac from our childhood. It amazes me that no self respecting mantelpiece would be found without horse brasses, a hearth with a pottery shire horse pulling a wooden wagon was essential to the seventies home and EVERONE including me, had a figurine of a wizened old man sat on a bench and an equally ancient but rosy cheeked old lady holding a bunch of balloons - WHY? I never questioned why these were fashionable - I just followed suit! I didn't succumb to the temptation of owning a china shepherdess, nor did I own a lot of crystal - could be something to do with me having four boisterous boys who enjoyed indoor war games and ball sports!

I cant imagine what will fill these stalls in twenty or thirty years time as today's young marrieds don't do ornaments - perhaps they will be filled with retro laptops or ipods and patriotic cushions and Le Creuset cookware - who knows! I do know that it will create the same feeling of 'deja vu' and a sense of nostalgia to those perusing the antique stalls ...and that is not a bad thing!!!