Sunday, August 16, 2015

A peek at my week

Busy doing nothing may describe my week or the past couple of weeks quite well - I seem to be occupied most of the time - occasionally stressed and rushed - but what I am actually accomplishing eludes me!

Where I have been? After a July packed with travel I needed to stay at home, so I have been just out and about around PE really. I caught up with the ladies at the Embroiderers Guild - a treat for me to see so many old friends in one place. Also a treat to see the wonderful work they do. We have a very strong embroiderers guild in PE, founded by Lorna Bateman, a very successful embroidery teacher living in the UK for a number of years now. You can see the calibre of her work here and the members have certainly kept up the standard.  I have also been indulging in another hobby, Scrapbooking, and joined Philippa and the ladies from the Scrapbook Nook for a Woman's Day Class where we were spoiled not only with beautiful papers and materials but also with gifts, eats and treats as only the giving spirit of PE peeps can do. Also managed to touch sides with most of the important people in my life, see a movie and thanks to the wonders of technology - I have skyped my way into homes in Singapore, St Helen's, Scotland and of course Pietermaritzburg.

Who I have met? 
I was asked to do a presentation for a group of CA students at NMMU. These sort of opportunities are really food for my soul as I get to interact with the bright and beautiful people who really are the future of this country, This particular group are all 3rd year students on a really hectic timetable and my topic was Professional Conduct and Business Etiquette. They were a delight - young, attentive, curious and I just loved interacting with them. I have also spent some time wrapped up in a book - a luxury these days to commit to 600 pages of fabulous reading. Life After Life, by one of my favourite writers Kate Atkinson, and always when you turn the last page of a great story, you feel like you have met a whole host of friends contained within those pages and a sadness descends as you bid them farewell.

What I have learned?
Well I have done a little writing myself, as an entry for the Woman and Home short story competition and have learned what hard work it is for me to sit still for any space of time and also how disciplined writers have to be getting words onto paper....or into the PC. I have a hundred stories in my head lol and I need the space so its time I wrote them down! 
I have learned that I am to be a granny again - excitement tinged with a touch of sadness as I wonder how well I will get to know this little one so far away. But as I always say - where there is a will we will make a way! I have been reminded that the world is a small place thanks to technology but that distance is still a painful space between those you love. 

I have also been reminded that peace is fragile as our area was plunged into chaos by protesters. I really do understand their frustrations but I cant understand how burning tyres and causing damage to roads and property will bring about change - now money will be needed to fix up what was damaged through their protests and further delays the funds available to build houses. Many businesses closed as they were afraid for their staff and customers and this isn't going to create jobs for those who were protesting about unemployment. We live in Topsy Turvy Land where our currency is like Toy Town Money and our leader thinks this is all a fairy story except there will be no 'happy ever after!'

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Celebrating Woman's Day

Its Woman's Day -  Not that we need a specific day to and celebrate and appreciate the women in our lives – we should be doing it every day. I am blessed to have been surrounded by some amazing women in my life – intelligent, inventive, organized, brave and beautiful. Financial wizards they were skilled with budgets, forecasting and investments. They streamlined processes and were epitomes of organizational efficiency. Masters of recycling, they were lean and green. Style icons they knew exactly what not to wear and instinctively what made them look good. Multi skilled and multi talented, my role models are neither corporate gurus nor academic experts. They are the ordinary women in my family and my community who went ahead of me teaching me with their wisdom and preparing me for my journey.

My grandmother taught me that a little can go a very long way and that chocolate cures everything! She was the only women in her family, the youngest of five children and the only girl, when her mother died she became the mistress of the house, aged thirteen. This meant that she shopped, prepared and cooked the meals, washed, ironed, mended and was responsible for keeping the house clean and warm for her father and four brothers. She did all this without the benefit of modern appliances and in her spare time she attended school - every weekday, and on weekends Sunday school and church! She was married, became a mother and was widowed all before the age of 28. You would think that she may have felt sorry for herself, that she was scarred by her childhood experiences and by today’s standards entitled to a nervous breakdown and an apology from the government. Far from being bitter or sad, she was one of the healthiest and happiest people I have met. She loved chocolate! She ate it furtively and fervently. I think she had learned in her austere early life to keep a little something for herself and to keep this small pleasure a secret. I often heard the rustling of paper after she had retired for the night and the occasional silver paper in the bed sheets gave her secret passion for fruit and nut away.
From my mother I learned to be flexible and to count my blessings. My mother had six of them – three girls and three boys! She used to say that none of us were planned but all of us were wanted and loved and this is how she lived her life, avoiding stress by just surrendering to the day and what it held. We didn’t have a lot of money but everyone was made welcome at our home, she loved company, loved to chat and everything was made to go further at mealtimes as visitors were always pressed to stay. Life was for living and for enjoying and as we moved from a terraced house in town to a new suburb in the countryside - life was a garden. We grew our own everything but not a lot made it into the house as assorted children and pets snacked profusely from our vegetable patch. Mom believed that nature provided everything that we needed to cure our ills, and often used herbs and plants to treat our childhood ailments, not always getting it right but she was very proud of the fact that she hadn’t poisoned anyone - “Yet,” my father used to add!
She taught me to sew and I was making my own clothes at the age of thirteen, using any material I could get my hands on – even if that material happened to be the bedroom curtains! I cringe now when I think of what I walked around in but if she was embarrassed when I wore my creations publicly, I never knew about it. She always told me I looked amazing – I probably did!! My mother encouraged me to be original, to be myself and to enjoy each and every day. She died when she was still in her fifties so I am glad that she lived her life in the present and that I inherited her love of life and her sewing machine.

From my older sister I learned all I needed to know about glamour! Big hair, eyeliner and makeup, winkle pickers and fashion – she was a child of the fifties breaking the rules and easing my passage into turbulent teenage years of the sixties. I also learned to run pretty quickly as I was always in trouble with her for muscling in on her friends and for spoiling her sophisticated image by following her to meeting places and popping up. I made the athletics squad every year at school probably because of all the additional training that I got being chased by her!

Of course we all have a teacher who played a pivotal role in our lives and mine was my maths teacher who was a walking, talking, calculating female who taught me that I CAN do maths. I had believed that equations, fractions and formulae did not go hand in hand with my artistic talents and were quite beyond my capabilities. She proved me wrong and I became quite a maths whizz under her guidance. This also taught me about self-limiting beliefs and the damage that they can do to your potential.
I have an elderly aunt, now in her nineties, who still reads voraciously, puts her Christmas decorations up each year and last time she visited me, she packed her gold sandals “just in case we go dancing”. She has lost both of her daughters to cancer and yet hasn’t given up on life – she’s making each day count.

And then there are my JaJas - who have laughed with me, cried with me, loved me and I suspect kept me sane. I know that I can count on them no matter what .......and them on me! I also belong to a sisterhood and count myself lucky to have  many girlfriends who have walked this journey with me - lending me an ear, their shoulder, their shoes, jewelry, recipes, advice and their skills willingly. I really don't need to hero worship celebrities, the women in my family and my friends are all the inspiration I need. It is indeed an honour to celebrate this sisterhood on Woman's Day!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A nice cup of something - I think???

So we arrived back latish and as per usual in true northern the first thing I do is put the kettle on. There was no fresh milk so I thought to make Hot Chocolate - always nice after a long journey and something we keep sachets of. I added the water and it foamed up quite a bit as I poured in from the kettle. That's a bit odd I thought - perhaps the maid has been cleaning the kettle so I reboiled it and this time it was better and we enjoyed our night cap. A cup of tea is essential before I even venture anywhere so early morning tea was made by my beloved and enjoyed in bed. A coffee crisis loomed mid morning so I rushed to our room to put the kettle on - as I poured the water the lid fell off and SPLAT out splashed a creature! It was dead - deceased - no longer with us - had passed through the pearly gates (as they would say on Monty Python). My shriek caught Vs attention and he examined it - He pronounced it to be a gecko - rather a large one - about the size of a king prawn and not dissimilar in colour to an uncooked one - Eeuwe!!! The foamy water made sense now and the realisation that we had enjoyed 2 or 3 cups of gecko tea was not a happy moment
Since then I have been checking my hands and feet for signs of webbing and watching V carefully lest he starts climbing the walls.
Its hard to put something that gross behind you so yesterday I sought advice from my pharmacist - It there a cure for drinking gekko I asked? He laughed when I told him the story and informed me that almost everyone has eating spiders, flies, other insects and perhaps the odd gekko in their sleep and I should be 100% Ok and not to lose any more sleep worrying about it.
Now I am losing sleep over all the other things he claims have crawled into my mouth at night - EEEEK!!!!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Brand New!

A new month and a new mindset too - Nothing beats spending time in nature enjoying what the universe has provided for our appreciation. I am starting this month refreshed and energised and knowing that spring is on the horizon has put a spring in my step!

We have just enjoyed a few days in the Kruger Park and this time of year is the best for game viewing as the trees have shed their leaves and the animals are easier to see. The colours of nature are beautiful too at this time of year and I love the soft greens and russet colours of the vegetation. The Kruger is extremely dry though - I have never seen it so dry - and the rivers and waterhole levels dangerously low so lets hope that spring brings much needed rain to quench the earth and ensure the animals have enough water. I was very sad not to see rhino but consoled myself that the park management must have ensured their safety in another part of the park - far away and inaccessible to poachers. What also saddens me is the behaviour of visitors to the park who lust after sightings of the predators and if lion is spotted ignore all rules of both polite and safe behaviour to make sure they get there and then hog the spectacle, We were gridlocked several times both on this visit and the previous one by bad mannered drivers who just don't care who they block in where as long as they get photo. Lions, although majestic and beautiful creatures are not particularly interesting as they are either eating, sleeping or mating. I think the human craving is more for danger that anything else and I admit that hearing that unmistakable roar through the night when you are in the camp is thrilling.
Elephants are my favourite - far more character and I love watching their antics. I came away from the Kruger feeling refreshed and content.

We then drove on to Lydenburg - reached by driving over Long Tom Pass. I had heard of neither a month ago but I was impressed by both, stunning views, long windy roads, good weather and a destination to die for. Stone Cutters Cottage - a cluster of wooden and stone cabins set in indigenous forest with a river and three dams stocked with trout. A little bit of luxury does no harm after a stay in a national park and underfloor heating, hot chocolate. a ginormous bed ticked all the boxes. A roaring fire in the dining room, great food followed by a very glamorous breakfast served al fresco in the crisp morning sun. Oupa, Our Gilly collected us and it was a morning of fly fishing.
Observe an experienced fly fisherman for five minutes and you may think."Ok, I got this!" But casting, the most crucial aspect of fly fishing, is a deceptively complex move to master. Your goal is to lift the line from the water and have it arc out completely behind you - this is what is called the back cast - then send it forward where it spreads out in a neat line before you in the water - if you are lucky a fish will be enticed to nibble your fly. My lines were wiggly and squiggly and not attractive for fish to nibble at all!
This movement, performed hundreds of times by a fly fisher on a days outing, required just the right set of subtle arm and wrist movement and timing. Oupa told me to imagine a clock - hold your rod at nine 'o clock, lift it to one 'o clock on your back cast and the back to nine 'o clock and so I went nine 'o clock, one 'o clock, nine 'o clock one 'o clock and so the time ticked away! The concentration both meditative and relaxing in turn made time stand still and I did catch a lot - the branches above me, the reeds in front of me and the dried grass all around me When Oupa cast, his line made the most wonderful whispery whistle through the air - that combined with the burble of the nearby river and the harmony of birdsong may have been my favourite part of the experience. My cast sounded a like the snap of a belt - a perfect indicator that my moves were that of a novice - a good fly cast is a world away form a whip crack!

It was over too soon and we had to leave Stone Cutters and make our way to Dullstroom - just 20ks away and 20 degrees cooler! Jeepers it was cold but the little hamlet is delightful. We were met on the high street by the local cows who walked us into town a little like a piper would pipe you into a function, We found our accommodation, Buttercup Barn in Peace Corner - how quaint - then set off to explore the shops -The Tipsy Trout, The Dusty Owl and the Village Angler. The latter was home to resident fishing character John - a pure bred Scott and trout fishing champ. By now I was fluent in the language of trout but sadly not it the language of Scotland so much of what he said went unheard - I bought some colouful flies to add to my wardrobe of bright, feathered, pretty fishing supplies and we bid him good day. "AyeBrrrGweerry Hooondsham Whackersomsilkard" came the reply!

Dinner for three was served at the delightful Mrs Simpson's  - the best restaurant in town! Our guest was Wallis the restaurant cat who decided that we were the best company in the joint. This decision may have been made based on the attractive prawns on my plate,

Its always sad when a good time comes to an end but I can say that this break was just what I needed and proves the point that time spent in nature is restorative and great therapy for the soul. July was a memorable month - Vic Falls, Chobe, Kruger, Lydenberg and Dullstroom, Pretoria, Natal Midlands and now PE - I feel brand new! Where next I wonder??