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).