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.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I resume my blogging vice

Now then, folks, I’m sort of back, probably on a fairly frequent basis until I have my op and am transformed from a healthy (if overworked and stressed out) individual into a bedridden wreck for a few weeks.

This, however, is good, and I look forward to the rest and navel-contemplation that will surely ensue.

The last weeks have been as full as a porn star in a threesome thanks to trip to Cape Town with my frenetic boss to see some customers and get stuck in traffic. My boss is a lark in traffic.

‘Why are they hooting at me?’ she cries in a tone of injured virtue while a solid wall of moving metal threatens us with sudden death.

‘Er… I think it’s because you’re supposed to give way to oncoming traffic when turning right’ (Note: We drive on the left like the good old British. Sings the Marsellais. Oops that’s wrong. Never mind)

We had some fun with vehicle electrical problems too. Taking the owner of the business to meet important clients who get to see us push starting our pickup after each appointment tickles my funny bone for some reason.

We ended up stranded in Strand (an area of Cape Town) while our motor’s innards got ripped out and replaced with other innards that would take a day to arrive.

Anyway, it worked out well in the end (Read: ‘I now have a shitload of work to do on top of the stuff that I was already employed for ie growing plants’)

Oh. And I had the beast of a cold / flu. I wish one could plan flu in one’s diary ‘Flu? Must I? Oh well then let’s say we’ll do it on the third and fourth of March, shall we?’

However, all is not beastly. I have Found the Witnesses to my Mother’s Will (dramatic capitalization excusable): a constable and an inspector of the Stanford police force, none less. Am I a nasty person for not telling my brother in case he decides to spend money on contesting the will on the grounds that I wrote it? Perhaps.

Ooooh! I feel so wicked!

Now where was I?

Oh yes: cock a hoop, overjoyed and gloating like a villain. Now I have to go and blow my nose.

Eh? The pic? Part of table mountain, of course!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Said the Walrus to the Carpenter

..let's talk of other things.

My lawyers say my brother hasn't a leg to stand on, so all that remains is the heartache. Hell, I always thought that a poetic overstatement, but it's real enough - a pain in the chest - and there was I thinking my brother was just a pain in the arse! Goes to show how people can surprise one!

Any old how, life must go on and so will I. Had a glorious swim in the farm dam this weekend - in all my clothes - somehow putting on my cozzie would have taken the excitement out of the moment. Grazed my ankle a beautiful shot getting out again, and my dress needed stitches, but there's a price for everything, and it was worth it.

I may be a bit scarce for a while - I wait for better days and better thoughts - ones worth the sharing of. I bounce back easily as a rule, so I shouldn't be 'gone' for too long: watch this space.

Today's pic: The farm dam avec Egyptian geese - one of them is a mummy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The soap opera continues

My mother left a handwritten will. It was pretty good, according to my lawyer. It also declared me as sole heir. My mom said that she did this because my brother is not to be trusted with money. I've first hand experience of this.

Anyway, a will three months older than the handwritten one (but done by a lawyer) surfaces, and my brother sends me a letter alleging that I wrote the handwritten one myself. This is the same guy that walked into her house while she was in intensive care and pointed out which antiques he wanted straight after saying 'Hello'.

I let him have the household contents - all of it. I let him make off with the ten thousand the family gave him towards the funeral I paid for. I helped him to get the fifty thousand life insurance money. He's obviously spent it all now.

I got the dogs and cats and the liabilities involving her house. Later, I'm told, when her will comes through, I might be rich woman. I can't imagine that. I've always been on the scruffy side of middle class. I've no wish to be her sole heir, but it was her wish.

Unfortunately, allegations of fraud mean that I will fight this to the end. If one thing is worthwhile to me - worth more than money - it's my good name.

I no longer have a brother.

I'm hurting. It would be so nice if life would become boring - instead the soap operas have nothing on it. Mom dies, I've the pets to settle, I find that I'm ill too, I get my date for surgery, my brother accuses me of fraud. What next?

Please let it end.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cuban Doctors do not Smoke Cigars After All

Another day at the hospital: the queue to get files is always the most curious. It’s a seated queue, and every now and then, you shuffle along a few seats. It’s like a very slow game of musical chairs: it takes about two hours.

In a ‘line’ of fifty souls, there were just four books in evidence (counting mine). A woman with a ‘phuza’ face (booze face) pored over the popular tabloid, ‘Die Son’. An old lady crocheted something frilly in lilac and a young man messed about with his cell phone. The rest just waited.

The man next to me was wearing short pants, sandals, T-shirt and a woolly balaclava hat pulled down over his face so that only his eyes showed. There were burns on his arms, some quite nasty. A bad smell emanated from him. I don’t want to know what he was hiding under that hat.

On my other side was a neat, young makhoti (Xhosa married woman) who smelled of soap. I leaned towards her to breathe in the clean scent in an attempt to banish the odour of putrification.

Once I had my file, I recklessly blew R20 on a toasted sandwich and a cool drink (not beer, worst luck) at the hospital cafeteria with its stainless steel, operating-theatre-like tables and hospital-green plastic chairs. Thus fortified (it’s amazing what courage one can draw from a cheese and tom sannie) I proceeded to the outpatients’ consulting rooms.

There was another long wait, and then the nurse called me in for my test results. It was the Cuban doctor again. We have lots of them in our hospitals.

Our South African doctors love to emigrate, so we get Cubans to take their places. I don’t know whom the Cubans get to replace them in turn. He was brisk and professional, he didn’t smell of coconuts or have a cigar. I didn’t have to have any bits looked into, which was nice for a change.

Upshot is, they’re pretty sure they’ve got me in good time - just a routine hysterectomy in March and everything will be beer and skittles again. I’m very happy with this. I suppose I will be less happy with it on the day and for some days thereafter, and especially when I get my bill, but that’s okay too.

Todays pic: clear horizons and time for reflection (Phew, that was imaginative)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Job's comforter

So my dad phones this morning to wish me luck and encourage me prior to my next hospital date - it's tomorrow, but he thought it was today.

He gives me a graphic description of his partner's daughter who was operated on yesterday - intensive care and this and that.

'Don't worry, Dad' say I, 'I'm just getting some test results tomorrow. Then I'll know what comes next.'

'You watch, they might just whip you into hospital right away - they've been taking their time with your tests and cancer grows.'

Gee, thanks dad. I felt fine this morning when I woke up, but for some reason, I'm all shaky now.

He continues by suggesting I get medical insurance. It'll save my life he says.

'I can't afford it.'

'You must!'

Even better, so now something that is beyond my reach is required for my survival. Nice shot, Dad.

Sigh, I do love him, though the farm dog (in today's pic) is much more comforting.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

To fart is human

On the day of mum's funeral, I left very early in order to get to her town (about 500km away) on time , and by seven that morning, we were halfway there. I was dying for a cup of coffee, and looking forward to hitting the town of Riversdale where an old-fashioned road-house serves wonderful filter coffee at almost any hour of the day.

On this occasion, I had company, co-driver and moral support rolled into one in the form of Gus who I might or might not say more about another time.

'Riversdale!' I exclaimed 'I can smell the coffee!'

'I just farted' admitted Gus.

It's probably inappropriate to laugh so much on the way to one's mother's funeral, but I couldn't help it.

Bear with me, I'm not telling gratuitous fart jokes here, there's a point to all this, but I need to set the right tone in order for you to ponder my point properly: so... to anecdote the next.

I was living in the little bedsitter after having left property and posessions behind in the prelude to my divorce (I still have niether, but some things are more important than things, if you see what I mean).

Anyway, the walls of my room were so thin that I could hear my neighbor splashing in the bath of an evening, and since my loo backed onto that bathroom, I supposed that this worked both ways.

Now what do you do in that situation when you want to / know you're going to fart? It wasn't that I thought I'd get evicted for my toilet habits or anything, but one should be considerate of one's neighbors.

I suffered an enormous moral dilemma about this one day when my neighbor was doing the splashy thing in his bath and I wanted to do another sort of splashy thing which I knew was going to be heralded by a sound not unlike the last trump but not as melodious.

I paced the room (quietly so that I wouldn't disturb my downstairs neighbor), I probably went a bit green around the gills, I debated the matter with myself at length and guess what course I took? Sigh. I let fly, of course. Best fart I ever had.

I related this to a friend of mine, and he said, with great pride: 'My girfriend NEVER farts.'

'Oh!' said I, 'are you sure she doesn't at least 'Whooosh' - you know - the silent sort.'

He was quite offended and stuck to his guns. His girlfriend of the last fourteen years NEVER farts. Now that gets me. In fact, I'm reasonably sure, based on the evidence before me (and behind her) that she's not human at all.

And that's my point: she can't be! What do you think?

Today's pic: some non-human splashy things

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to not pee in your hiking boots - a woman's guide to outdoor survival

That title is pure plagiarism - it was the title of a book that I decided not to buy. I still regret not having it. Oh, my aim's pretty good and my boots stay dry, but it's the sort of thing I like having on my bookshelf if only for the quirky title.

It also reminds me of a lady I once knew. She was one of those women who is very pleasant to look at. It took some work, mind: I personally watched her change her clothes three times before she was sufficiently satisfied with her appearance to venture out - on a picnic.

I should have known better than to drag her up a mountain, and so should her boyfriend. Oh, she made it to the top and looked absolutely gorgeous there, but as we were standing admiring the view (As one does) she upped and said she needed the toilet.

'Widdle?' I asked thinking that the situation needed some clarification: sometimes, it really IS necessary to go the actual WC. She nodded, blushing. As you know, beautiful women do not widdle. That is for ordinary people, so she was rather embarrassed.

I pointed out a convenient bush and suggested that I keep cavey for her, but no: top of the mountain or not, it was a toilet of the water-borne sort that she wanted.

Her slightly less smitten than before boyfriend accompanied her down the mountain and to the nearest filling station with a rest room. I imagine it must have taken close on an hour to get there and her bladder must've been so full that her eyeballs were bobbing.

Respect. For me, there are limits to how much I will suffer for being a lady, but this girl deserved the 'lady' award with brass knobs on plus a medal.

Takes all sorts to make a world, you know.

Today's pic: miles and miles and not a WC to be seen (and I'm not talking about 'Winston Churchill' either - just in case all this MLK-ing has confused folks)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Piebald people, promenades and pics

I spend a fair amount of time in the sun fully clothed, so I have a brown face and arms and white legs. When I go to town, I see a great many women with white faces and brown legs (arms optional colouring).

Either permutation seems to me to be unnatural, though I doubt I'll begin running around the farm without my trousers on as a result of this notion.

After seeing so many piebald people, it was something of a relief to visit an ice-cream beach and see people who were pretty much the same colour all over. It might be funny when they take their trunks off, but I won't be there (presumably).

** Pic below: What a lot of prohibitions. You mean I can't pull out my gun and take a few pot-shots at dolphins? How about a crossbow then? That seems to be okay - it's nowhere on the sign.

An ice-cream beach is one with lots of people, a promenade and ice-cream shops, as opposed to the wild beaches, which have none of these. I usually go to the wild beaches. The swimming isn't good unless you know where to swim and are cautious, but I like them best.

At this point, I could write a long description of how lovely the wild beaches are, but it's boring and it's a vice (something like paranthesis - another of my habits - and one which I'm cutting down on) so I'll spare you. Suffice to say, there's something about concentrations of coconut oil on the wind that pleaseth me not.

This said, I went to see Herold's Bay: a village with ice-cream beach cradled between magnificent cliffs about 25km from here on Sunday. I know most of the coast around here, but not that spot.

After taking a walk on the wild side of the tame beach, I had ice-cream on the promenade: a proper twirly, melty cone with a choc flake jammed into it. Yum. Sticky.

Couple more pics - for some reason I failed to photograph the bay with it's triple-story hotels in fake-Tuscan style. I wonder why not?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I’ve been working my ever so delightful arse off for the last week or so: but I’m not going to complain (much), it’s just my reason for not blogging. Actually, I have been blogging: let me explain.

Some time ago, I was put in charge of the business e-communications and marketing. This is a typical horticultural phenomenon. You think I grow plants? Oh dearie me no. I’m a good grower of plants, mind, but someone has to do marketing, HR, etc, so I’ve got supervisors who grow the plants and chase the labour around while I focus on what I know least about.

Occasionally we get in a consultant, and then I end up writing policy, Key Performance Area based job descriptions (Hate, hate, hate) and suchlike until the cows come home, and sometimes for some time after the cows have gone to sleep.

I’m the ace writer at work. Even my boss gets confused between ‘Kudus’ (large antelopes) and ‘Kudos’ (credit) – so I get all the writing jobs: magazine articles, letters to clients and e-marketing and my boss occasionally gives me large antelope (But no extra money - my overtime is 'voluntary') in return.

We market wholesale country wide, and some months ago our ‘sample van’ which is supposed to travel the country showing people our plants, got pinched. That was when I started up the blog. All we have to do is mail out the link and then the sales people follow up with calls.

My boss found out that getting pics taken, editing them, posting them and so on can take as much as six hours and forbade me to spend much time on it. Then the web stats came back, and the blog gets more hits than the website. Need I say more?

Last week was a humdinger: I had three articles to write, the blog to work on, the strategic plan (hate) and a whole bunch of KPA Job Descriptions (hate, hate, hate) that I’ve been putting off for yonks as well as all the things I was initially hired to do.

I’m sure my underlings like it. I’m far too busy to dream up jobs for them to do, and I’m so thankful to them for keeping their ends up (in horticulture, this is a literal statement – there’s a lot of bending work) that there’s going to be a Coke fest (the drink, not the powder) on Monday at my expense. Oh the extravagance of it!

Anyway, on Friday while I was working late yet again, the boss came to tell me that my colleague, who never puts in a minute more than she has to, deserves an increase for ‘all her effort’.

Oh well, I might get some antelope in the future - that has to be worth something!

Today's pic: work stuff.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Itchy feet, Huge nuts, Land and Empire

Someone asked how I came to be a South African – well, it’s not really my fault. It all started because my ancestors had itchy feet or toothache or lice or something else that prevented them from sitting still.

Actually, I know that for the French Hugenots it was religion that gave them ants in their pants, but they were the second wave of immigrants. The first lot were the Dutch, and my first ancestor in SA arrived in 1680-something. I suppose the promise of land promoted the pedal itchiness – we all know that Holland lacks land – why else all the land reclamation?

The Dutch, on finding themselves with a continent spread out before them, immediately got agoraphobia or something and set about reclaiming some land from the sea. That’s Hollanders for you: land on a continent, build a dyke and reclaim some land.

The next lot started arriving in the 1820’s: they were British and were doing it for the sake of empire and land which are probably the same things. Then there was the Boer war, which was about empire and land with the added incentives of gold and diamonds. Nothing like a bit of gold and diamonds to get a few people into the country and a war started.

There were probably a few Indonesian slaves and maybe a few Khoi (the only indigenous inhabitants of this country, sadly dying out in the face of competition from black and white settlers) in the family-tree, but you’ll have to shake it hard to make them emerge.

Back in Apartheid days, families went to great lengths to conceal any ‘touch of the tar brush’ in order to prevent race reclassification, forced removals, loss of civil liberties and all the things that went with being of mixed race.

My own paternal grandmother was 'dark' and had to show her ID in order to ride on the bus. Ironically, she was a massive racist – perhaps on a ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much’ basis.

Anyway, that’s how I came to be a South African: itchy feet, huge nuts (Hugenots), land and empire. I’m ‘white’ only by default, but then, race classification was more than a bit arbitrary and I’m not complaining even though it’s not the advantage it used to be.

Today's pic: lost in Africa - semi-desert area

Friday, January 7, 2011

Clothes and the Xhosa

When German missionaries came to the Eastern Cape, they decided that the ladies needed to be taught a thing or two about modesty, so they brought along plenty of cloth of the sort that is still called 'German print' and encouraged their converts to make use of it.

The missionaries didn't like the amount of skin that was to be seen, and they promoted neck to ankles coverage as well as the headscarf. Oddly enough, this purdah caught on, at least for married ladies. It was probably more comfortable than the goatskin aprons they wore at the time. To this day, an interesting transformation takes place when a Xhosa woman marries.

She gets given a new first name by her mother in law and her entire wardrobe of sexy gear gets passed on to younger sisters. From then on, she is 'makoti', a married woman, and this implies that she dresses something like these two ladies in traditional clothes:

Traditional wear is often saved for best, but everyday wear follows the same principles: long skirts and head coverings are much approved of. I think that most Xhosa women quite enjoy this tradition - there's a certain status and seniority to being married, and the clothes are worn proudly. You'll very rarely see a married Xhosa woman in slacks, for instance. Here's some everyday wear:

Headcloths and the colours of the fabric also indicate age and status, I'm not quite sure of the details there - but it does make sense that if you've got status, you flaunt it - at least it isn't as expensive as Western status dressing. Here's a very high status headscarf:

A few years ago I went to Denmark with a group of Xhosa ladies in the capacity of interpreter - they took along their best clothes - so there was plenty of traditional wear to be seen. You may be sure that the ladies presented quite an exotic appearance in Copenhagen! To be honest, I was proud to be seen with them, it mightn't be sexy, but it sure as anything looks regal.

For young ladies, anything goes. I've been trying to hunt down a Xhosa bunny pic for Grant, because sometimes the young ladies dress so sexily that the chaps on the farm get whiplash from turning their heads to look, but my files are in a mess, so it'll have to wait. Next time, Grant.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On authorship

I gazed out of the window, biting my lip for inspiration. It didn't help. An article on insect repelling plants, of all things... and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t settle for the truth either. I brushed away a fly and wrote: ‘Although flies are ubiquitous, they are said to be repelled by mint.’

‘Said to’ was the right phrase, I decided, sourly eying the fly, which had settled on a leaf of the potted mint plant on my desk and was busily and mock-obsequiously washing its hands. ‘Bastard’ I thought, without much malice and then turned back to my computer screen to re-read what I had written so far.

Deciding that it was good enough despite containing a number of careful statements comparable to the fly fallacy, and that all it needed now was a bit of padding and a closing paragraph, I sighed and decided to leave it as it was for the moment. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but all I do is to churn out mendacious thousand-worders on gardening, heavy on the adjectives and without a vestige of art or humor.

I’d like to write something that contained both. Something artful, but funny, something amusing that was nevertheless full of flowing and expressive language, something meaningful that, at the same time, didn’t take itself too seriously. I’d like to write something that I actually finished. It’d be even better if I actually liked what I’d written. It’d be best of all if I had the faintest idea what to write about.

If only I had a muse: an idle thought. Besides being mythical and metaphorical, I have a notion that muses are personified by willowy girls who would have a natural preference for men, and if willowy girls started to take an interest in me, I'd run a mile - if muses existed, which they don’t.

The truth is: I’m mediocre. Never tell anyone I said so, for I’ll deny it forcefully. There are no absolutes about me. I’m clever, but far from brilliant, a little eccentric, but not properly mad (perhaps I should be glad of that one), creative, but not particularly talented, attractive, but not gorgeous… the list could go on and on.

I’d like to be a writer, but I’m probably not ‘absolute’ enough to get it right. I couldn’t write absolute trash, it would annoy me, but I also can’t write anything particularly good. I've a suspicion I’d never have the tenacity to write a whole book. I’ve tried before, but I hate the thing before I’ve hit chapter three and then its recycle bin time.

Sigh. Perhaps someday…

Today's pic: Dierama pulcherrima - nuff said

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave

I know loads of people have fun with Facebook, but I have a strong urge to vent, and vent I certainly will! Stand back! Fasten your safety-belts! Put on your asbestos suits! MM is breathing fire, I tell you!

Facebook is as plastic as bubblegum, and why? Because it’s a public persona, and most people don’t really want other people to know what they’re up to and who they really are. Well, I don’t! Especially not the ones who think they know me.

If one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, one sure as anything shouldn’t judge a person by their facebook. There’s very little of them in there when all’s said.

Facebook personalities are about as bland as a bowl of oats porridge without sprinkles – you don’t even get the occasional nut. Everything is hunky-dory, and life is so wonderful, and I have so many friends!

And that brings me to ‘friends’ of the facebook sort. Someone you barely know but have met, or think you might have met, asks to be a friend. What do you do? You don’t want to offend, so you accept and end up with eleventymillion ‘friends’ who you don’t really give a stuff about and who don’t really give a stuff about you. (Pardonnez vous ma francais, and all that)

Then there are the ones that you do care about, at least sort-of, and whom you joined Facebook to find. A lot of water has been passed under the bridge (being as bridges are good places to pass water under if the need arises) since you last saw them, and even if you do still have something in common, you probably won’t find out because of the nature of Facebook communication: The Public Announcement.

At first, I just lost interest and abandoned the thing, but then my mum found it together with the public profile that said: ‘Religion: Eeeek!’ and I had to tell all sorts of lies in order to get her to trust me enough to look after her during her illness without her having to worry about my supposed-to-be immortal soul whilst departing from this vale of tears.

The next step was to suspend the profile, so I did that. The thing after that was a re-activation notification. ‘I’ve been hacked!’ thought I, but no, apart from a re-activation I hadn’t requested, all was in order with my account.

So I had a go at changing the password and deleting the Facebook thingy. This led to a message that said it’d be suspended for a time in case I changed my mind about consigning it to the oblivion it deserves.

Well, there wasn’t much I could do about that, but before the two weeks were over, I got another re-activation notification. So I went through the whole process again. I am the opposite of pleased.

Facebook: You can check out any time you like, but you can NEVER leave!

Today’s pic. A face: mine. Does it tell you anything worth knowing? Thought not.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The holiday's over...

Back at work, and of course the weather is absolutely fabulous all of a sudden! At least the camping trip didn't get rained out! Some of you said that you like pictures, so you're going to get 'em - serves you right too. Take a dekko at this lot:

Back in the lake district, which is not more than 15km from where I live now. I actually own a property there (and a mortgage and an ex-husband and an ex- mother in law). Luckily, they are at Island Lake and not this one.

The lake was bit choppy, so I didn't float about on it all night this time. I slept under a bush instead. The party was ... a bit crowded and the conversation was inane without being amusing. I am reminded that I don't thrive in large groups. I fell asleep before midnight and woke before anyone else. The world was silver-grey and I had the place to myself.

As soon as it was polite to do so, I headed home to the pests, I mean 'pets' and was greeted with the view above (which should have been below, but for some reason blogger hides the text when I publish)

So why should I want to go away in the first place?

Next time, I shall give you more words and less pictures. I feel signs of verbal revival coming on: watch out world! Ready your reading glasses and get some ear plugs (to stop your brain trickling out of your ears like mine did when I did all that that holiday reading).