Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The mutterer lives

At least, the mutterer is beginning to live in the fullest sense of the word once again.

I've had a beastly two years, but things are (dare I say it?) looking up. I'm afraid that after my mum, my ex husband his mother and my best friend didn't survive my attempts at nursing, but I promise I didn't operate on anyone with a steak knife.

Once everyone was safely out of the way and knocking on the pearly gates, I proceeded to have a minor breakdown, which is what I wanted to do before but didn't have time for. It wasn't picturesque or interesting or even particularly dramatic. I wish I could do something dramatic, but it seems to be beyond my capabilities.

I am now fully recovered (thanks to happy pills) and believe I'm on the road to better things thanks to quitting my job - too bad they wanted nine months' notice. I am currently entering the second trimester of my notice period. 'Tis a long time to spend in labor before anything is likely to happen.

Anyway, on a lighter note: all is well and the funny bone is starting to tingle again, so perhaps I'll start finding life to be the funny thing it really is really soon.

I miss blogging.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fact: people get middle aged more quickly in the US

One’s increasing age is something that becomes progressively less exciting as one grows up. From being delighted to find that one has survived yet another year without being murdered by one’s parents to the point where people don’t even ask how old you are because they know you’d rather not say lies a wealth of experience

This said, whoever coined the term ‘middle-aged’, ought to be shot. It’s so... middley. So middle-of-the-road, so neither one nor the other – and as for the stereotype that goes with it - it doesn’t bear thinking of.

I’ve been a bit worried about it, though. What if I start acting my age? It would be an awful shame. So I did a spot of easy reading:

According to the Collins Dictionary, this is "... usually considered to occur approximately between the ages of 40 and 60".

The Oxford English Dictionary "... the period between early adulthood and old age, usually considered as the years from about 45 to 65".

The US Census lists middle age as including both the age categories 35 to 44 and 45 to 50

This begs the question: do people get middle-aged ten years earlier in the US than in England?

I gloat. For me, the prognosis is good for a few years more – as long as I don’t change dictionaries. After that? Ah! Fogesysville like the rest of you poor 35+ saps in the US.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pudding for lunch

As you may know, I’m halfway through a six week stretch of supposed-to do nothing while I recover from my hysterectomy. One’d think that all this idle ease would provide me with the time to reach great heights.

I’ve always blamed lack of time for not doing so. It’s a useful excuse, and I’ve always half-believed it. ‘Master astrophysics?’ I might for instance say ‘Oh, I never had the time, really.’

Now, suddenly, the humdrum world is on hold and my mind is free to soar. It ought to soar if it was a soaring kind of mind, oughtn’t it? I should be dashing off delightful ditties and doggrel, writing reams and reams laden with gems of wit and wisdom and the occasional chicken bone (just for variety). I should be pondering and postulating – things like that.

It’s not happening, though, and that takes me back to one of my pet theories – the one about my head being completely empty. Well, it stands to reason. When I close my eyes and sort of roll them around to take a look, I see absolutely nothing. It’s pitch black in there, I tell you, and it’s a wonder my head doesn’t implode.

I think (though how I did that with an empty skull is a miracle of science) that my head just automatically fills itself up with whatever is about: a sort of circumstantial osmosis. At present, my main concerns are dominated by my bowel movements and what I’ll eat next, confirming my suspicion that I could be defined as a complicated tube with delusions of grandeur.

I think I’ll have the left over pudding for lunch.

Today's pic: a very small picture of nothing much.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mystical dream interpretation

I had the oddest dream. There were lots of odd things about it, not least the fact that it was serialized. It took me three nights, that dream did, but I finally finished it last night.

Now, if you think about this dream, you might think that it has some significance. There are lots of things about it that might be significant. Then again, they probably aren’t: not significantly significant anyway. Doesn’t matter, at the very least, it signifies that I sleep.

In my dream, there were copies of me (yes, I know: impossible, I am far too amazing to be duplicated, but there they were). They stood on a red cliff inside a cave: red ambient lighting, very moody, very Dante-esque.

At first, there was just one simulacrum, but every time I made a choice between one course of action and another, yet another copy of me would appear on the cliff. It was very annoying and symbolic.

So I tried killing them with an axe (at this point the dream went into graphic novel mode and got quite arty) but the more of them I killed, the more sprang up. Eventually, I worked out that I had to kill the fake me’s in the correct order, starting with the first one to appear and ending with the last.

The problem with that was that they all looked the same (like me), so I had no way of knowing which one was which. In the end, it turned out that the copies of me had serial numbers chalked onto them, and I derived great satisfaction from dispatching the lot of them over the cliff with the help of the axe (which I’ve mentioned before).

Funny dream: very satisfying bumping off all those me’s, too, believe it or not.

I interpret this dream as signifying that I should probably not get an axe.

Today's pic: circa 2007, but I am still capable of this, and therefore anything.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happiness is

Well, I’ve had some of my insides removed, and as you can imagine, it’s jolly sore. What’s more, it’s ever such a bore lying in bed the whole time and so I’m very happy to find that I can sit fairly comfortably for a bit today. It probably won’t be for all that long though. Sitting hurts.

I’ve stopped smoking too. I’ve never managed to stop for as much as a day in the last twenty-five years, but then I was stuck in hospital for a few days, and I decided not to smoke again thereafter. Sigh. I miss it, you know. It almost feels like I’ve lost part of my self.

There are four and a bit weeks before I’m allowed to do anything ‘strenuous’. The doctor defines that as what I usually call ‘moving about and doing stuff’, so I have to be careful not to move about or do stuff.

All in all, though, I’ve been lucky. I have a neat little cut that hasn’t gone all oozy, and I’m told my op was an absolute doddle to do, which I’m assuming means it went well. People have been kind, too, and helpful beyond any expectation. I’m having it easy.

It is, however, the sorest sore I’ve ever had in my entire life and I haven’t even had the bill yet: sufficient unto the day the evil thereof. For now, my outlook remains sunny-ish and the future seems, if not bright, then at least mildly effulgent.

I’m assuming (perhaps rather optimistically) that after having lived through my mother’s illness, her death, my diagnosis, my brother’s accusations of fraud and my surgery, all in the last six months, I’m due for a little bit of peace and quiet.

I’m hoping that this will reflect in my blog, which will regress from being a rant against outrageous fortune, to being the random mutterings and occasional brain-farts it was in better days.

One important thing I’ve learned: Happiness is the ability to lie on one’s side when one wants to.

Today's pic: something happy. Note: it is lying on its side. Proof positive!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Apart from the leeches, which I was too busy removing to remember to photograph, there are other things on the farm that are many.

For starters there were the bees. I was sorry when they were removed them from the wall of my house. They weren’t bad neighbours really. I got stung about three times in six months, always through my own carelessness – brushing at something walking on my arm without looking first, stepping on a dead one with bare feet. I used to walk through the buzzing swarm with impunity.

One day, I saw them doing this:

Eventually a friend worked it out: in damp weather the workers pack themselves tightly around the hive entrance (in this case, the wall of my house) to keep out the wet.

Then there were the spiders that hatched out of a cocoon on my potted fig tree – a whole cloud of them, smaller than pinheads. I let them disperse, I’ve lived with spiders all my life and only once got a nasty bite. Besides, look at them! Oooo’s an itty bitty little spider then?

I’ve a respect for spider webs, the art of them, the engineering, and I love the way my porch is strung with crystal threads of dew-wet web every morning.

More likely to appeal to everyone’s taste: the many birds. This afternoon, there were two wild geese, three goslings, a grebe, a cormorant, a kingfisher and a flock of dipping, diving swallows at the dam.

I must say, it’s better than my last lodgings where the only thing that one saw in numbers were flies. I cannot like flies. I doubt anyone does – but I did like shooting them with rubber bands – much more fun than insecticide. Afterwards, I’d sweep the corpses into a little pile and see what my score was. Many. Perhaps it’ll catch on as a bloodsport someday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pirates and Cursing

The last weeks having been sultry, I have been swimming a lot in the farm dam, bobbing about with the grebes and wild geese in the sun-warmed water.

I was inspired to suggest an ‘Anything that Floats’ afternoon with a pirate theme. Only think of the opportunities it offers for silliness and raucous behaviour! The usual culprits and I had it planned for next weekend – but the fickle finger of fate has intervened.

This weekend, there was swimming on Saturday, no problem, then again on Sunday, drifting lazily around and alarming the goslings. We emerged absolutely covered in little leeches. Lovely. There were hundreds of them: little bits of super-adherent snot. Country living: you’ve got to be mildly disgusted by it from time to time.

In other news, a fond friend has forwarded a short story I wrote years ago and which I’d thought I’d lost. I’m going to post it here so I don’t lose it again – not even if I fall on top of my computer like I did last time.

It is 1799 words long. It rambles. I’ve decided I like it even though it takes itself seriously, but you are under absolutely no obligation to give yourself eye-strain by reading it.

Today’s pic: the farm dam looking ominous.

Cursing the sky

Imagine a red dirt road in the African sun. Imagine the redness of the clay, the pale champagne coloured grass showing pale green at the roots. The road, meandering between red-gold sandstone ridges under an untroubled sky, becoming a deeply rutted track littered with rocks, cresting rises and slithering down stony slopes. Now! To the left - between these bushes - almost invisible unless you know its there.

The long grass brushes at the underside of the car as it picks its way into the gully. Now right at the thorn tree, do you see the skeleton of a tractor, rusting in the long grass like an old work horse put out to pasture? Right again here, and through the tawny scrub, the grass on the track is just shorter than the surrounding veldt Into the open, sailing on a sea of long grass, cresting another rise, and there it is, nestled between two mountains, a house with a red roof.

And there am I, the last soul in the last place you’ll reach on the last of the road, a speck under the sky, a child of the earth, a student of life, a pilgrim like you - cursing the sky.

And here you are, an accidental visitor. You didn’t mean to come here, I know, but you are here now. Would you like some tea before you turn back and cross the grassy sea in search of somewhere else? Oh, I’m the farm manger here – or was, I’ll be leaving soon and a good thing too. Yes, it is beautiful here, It feels almost like the end of a life to leave, but it is just a moving on. I have learned too much and nothing here.

If you want to know what I mean by that, you must be ready for a long tale. You’re not in hurry? Very well then, it’ll be a relief really. It’s about learning and losing.

What have I learned? I have lived through quite a lot of my projected span and find myself wondering, pondering, this question, turning it over and over in my mind: what have I learned?

By the time one reaches my age, one has faced love and anger, defeat, victory and impotence, joy and sorrow, dreams and nightmares: and what does one learn? I wonder sometimes if it is all a waste of effort, like chasing the wind. Then again, is that such a sad thought after all? Imagine running with great, flying steps across a field or a hillside, leaping and laughing in the wind, breathing in great gulps of air until you fall down, gasping and defeated but joyfully, vibrantly alive.

Perhaps life is just for living, and learning is merely a whimsy by the wayside. It could be that the idea of becoming better, wiser people as we live out our lives is just an idea. I certainly know more things, but am I the wiser or the better for it? I don’t know, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the opposite may be true.

My books taught me no wisdom. I borrowed thoughts, knowledge and dreams, ambitions and ideals because I lack any of my own. I should not miss them, but conditioning brings dependence and I do. You should have seen my books. I loved them: row upon row of faded volumes smelling of dust, well-thumbed, adored. My books, and the farm: they were my life for a time.

Sometimes, when the jackals are yapping hungrily around my house in the darkness, I close my eyes and try and see the pages before me as if they were the faces of mentors or friends from the past. I can see the shape of them, but the words are blotted out. When it rains, I cannot sleep.

A farmer should love the rain, but very few of us do, its always too little or too much with never any middle ground. It’s a friend to us, but a fickle, irritating one. It’s the climate here; drought follows flood in an irregular cycle. Like ancient pagans at midwinter afraid that the summer will never return, we often fear that the rains will never fall again.

The local church calls a gathering, and we trudge dutifully through the red dust and the blazing sun to pray for rain, crying out to our grim God to pour forth the water from heaven. None of us brings an umbrella, yet all of us are believers. I learned something there. Something of my own, I suppose it must be in some book somewhere. I wish I had the words for it.

Not so long ago, we were literally though faithlessly brought to our knees, and now the pastures below my mountain home are rich. The cattle glow with health and ripple with fat, and the baboons have stopped raiding the homesteads, having enough of nature’s bounty to satisfy them. And me? I suppose I am happy. I suppose I am heartbroken. Why should the skies care? Why should I? My books are gone, their paper thoughts have returned to the earth as I will one day,. For now its time to move on.

You don’t understand? But then, you weren’t here. It seems so clear to me, but I was here. I have been here. I think it can only have been three years actually, but it seems as if I have rooted into the earth and have always been poised above the valley in my rocky gully under the wide sky amidst the golden grass.

See how the two kopjies rise into crests from here: the pinkish gold boulders are remnants of a primal sea; some of the oldest rocks in the world. They’re are made of millions of tiny crystals. If you hear me out today, you might see them light up with the fire of the setting sun. From a distance these barely look like mountains at all, a ridge of yellowish boulders in the yellowish grass is what you see. Up close, you see the grandeur - uncaring grandeur under the uncaring sky.

I told you it was dry? It was bitterly dry. This is dry land to start with, and when the streams run dry and the bore- holes begin to run dry, there’s nothing left but hope and that’s not strong. The red clay is hard and cracked with sere tussocks of grass here and there. Even the people look as if the sun has dried them into husks. The cattle and the sheep diminish in number, slaughtered to spare the grass, to feed it with their blood.

There was a wild fire on the mountain and that was bad too. We fought it in this very gorge: the one event that makes the farmers here all work together. We fought it all the night with streaming eyes and screaming lungs and there was nowhere to go that wasn’t a hell of smoke and sparks. See how the beams of my house scorched here under the eaves? You should have seen the flames, felt the heat, heard the roaring, you’d never forget the power of it.

We got rain at last, not long ago. I can’t be sorry, but I can. Selfishly, small-mindedly, I find that can. Look at my mountains. Do see the lie of the land? See how the sandstone ridges slope towards this spot, so beautiful, so graceful - shaped as if to channel blessings from the sky.

Imagine that you were a raindrop falling on either slope. You land, gleefully bouncing off the rocks, joining your brothers until you are part of a stream, a merry cascade, a torrent. There is only one way to go and that’s with the flow. You flow. At a point your streamlet joins its twin from the opposite slope, and now you are a torrent and have strength. You leap exuberantly over the rocks.

Down and down, seeking the lower ground, channeled by the mountain, finding and flowing right through the little house. Flowing through my life, my possessions, and my dreams. I wanted to cry, but instead I laughed. What else can one do? Then there are my books, were my books. I tried to dry some precious volumes under the fickle sun, but it was no use. Pages gummed together, rippling with water damage, blooming with mildew; it was a great loss, a terrible loss - heartbreaking. I laughed with the pain of it.

The next time, it was only a week later, the torrent found itself channeled into ditches, but it soon overflowed its bounds and took the path that nature intended. One shouldn’t try and fight nature. She’s a big girl. The second time, I didn’t laugh, but I still had the courage to do what I could to repair the damage, to save some things from the lingering wet, to dry out and patch up. I dug the ditches to dangerous depths, don’t fall into them, they’re in the long grass over there.

That night it rained, and as I slept the water and the mountain peaks did their trick again. Shallower this time, but still a full-scale invasion of water and mud. Things began to rot. There were mushrooms. I did what I could. I got some help and dug the ditches still deeper, I packed my things high and hoped.

It rained every night. Every night I woke and went to the window, watched the water rise, watched the water fall. Then, one night I saw it rising and rising, lapping at the step. I battled it, I guided and coaxed the water away from my door with pick and spade and curses in the stinging deluge. I won. The waters began to recede. Tired, cold, wet and weary I went in search of my bed.

I found it underwater, the flood had risen through the floor while I battled the waters outdoors. You have to laugh, really you do, it's the best way, but sometimes things get beyond funny.

It is too much, I am defeated by the repeated insults of nature. Of course, it’s the situation of the house, really, and it has been a wet season after all.

See the rocks: the rose quartz crystals flashing fire in the setting sun, blazing, burning. One could love this place. I did once, and still would but for the rain.

Where to now? Oh, the Kalahari desert, there’s a game farm that needs hands. Not much rain there. Sometimes they have years on end with nary a drop, flattish too. It’ll take the damp from my bones and I’ll sleep at night.