Monday, October 31, 2011

Memories - we have made it to Day 31!

Well, here we are then - 31 days later, having wandered down Memory Lane. It has been astonishingly difficult to keep posting on one subject, I have to say, but once I get going, I tend to let the words run away with me, don't I.....

Memories come in all shapes and sizes, and all shades too. There are the sunny colours, interspersed with the dark ones, and that is what forms the picture of our lives. The blending of the shades. Gloomy pictures can be altered dramatically by touches of light - just look at some of the great masterpieces. I suppose it is all in the way you view things. I tend to focus on the little light.

Looking back, from the vantage point of being in the 3rd Age, I have been very lucky blessed. Life has taken some strange and unpredictable turns along the way, but the people I have met, loved, and with whom I have lived my life, have all added so many facets to the woman I am here and now. The family I was born into, and the one I shared in the creation of, have defined the core of who I am. This is what created the me whose words you are listening to right now. The rest is optional padding. We will ignore the other definition of the padding issue.

What fascinates me is the consequence of making particular choices. Of how, looking back, I can see just how one particular choice led to a multitude of unique experiences, and how that has been repeated over and over again in my life. The "what if" question - it is only natural to ponder that too.

Distance, of course, lends enchantment. Things have not always been rosy and shiny and bright. But, and this is a HUGE but, I am a survivor. I had a happy childhood. A wonderful family. A fantastic time at University. I married the man I loved. I had three amazing children. I moved from one side of the world to another. I have had friends alongside me. I am a grandmother.

Then, looking at those darker colours, there was my Dad's illness and death. Moving my parents here. My son's health issues. Geoff's death. More health issues - me, Mum, Diana, Marge, Ann...... Financial battles. Legal nightmares. Saying goodbye over and over again. You name, it, it is all there on the palette. Gloom.

But remember, without those darker colours, the bright ones would be dimmed.


I am painting my own masterpiece, but there will be more light in mine. Lots of it. I am going to make sure that I keep adding layers of light over the darker shades, so that they start to sparkle. Scraping away some of the shadows overlaying bright happy colours, so they can shine through. I want this masterpiece to be one which has the eyes darting all over the place, because you see, if there is one thing I am not, it is boring. Mercurial is a word often used to describe me. I suspect it is fairly accurate.

Do you remember those art books we used to buy? The ones with black crayon over a sheet of bright colour? You took a wooden stick and drew a picture on the black which removed it, and all those  rainbow colours popped through?? I used to want to just scrape great wads of it off to get to the colour. Well, that is what I want to do. Scrape away the darkness and reveal what is underneath. Deep inside me.

You see, in another childhood painting idea, I believe that, hidden from me, is a picture - like the white crayon revealed when you paint watercolour over it. And I will find out what it is one day. All those experiences, all those memories, all the things which have amalgamated to form ME are part of a picture which will only be revealed one day when I keel over and expire. Or, because my faith is central to my life, when I stand before God one day, THAT is when I will see the finished masterpiece. And how it all fits together. And the whole. The purpose.

It may even be like a patchwork collage of photos of every single memory and experience in my life. I am too close to it right now to see what it will be, but one day....... Hmmm. I like that idea. It is the creativity inside me. These arty ideas just keep barrelling through my mind.

But, enough, for now.

The picture is not finished. Yet. There are more memories to make. More gratitude journals to fill. More memory jars to top up. More cakes to bake. More places to visit. More seeds to plant. More love to experience. More fun to be had. More books to read, more quilts to make. More friends to meet.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Memories - food we used to cook.....

The clocks went back today. That means the dark will start at 5pm tonight, and get gradually worse. Why oh why can't we stay on summer time?? Apparently there is a move to see if we can do a trial - I think of a few years, from 2013. it can't come soon enough for me.

To me, winter starts when the clocks go back. It is a state of mind.

But, I have just been out in the garden and there are still roses all in bloom and more buds appearing for what has to be the 7th or 8th flowering, and the dahlias are still flowering too - no sign of them stopping yet. A weird anomaly. Me in winter gloom mode and the garden thinks it is spring. Or something. It is not going to sleep just yet.

There is a cinnamon cake baking in the oven at the moment, and as I was making it, I started thinking about how the way we eat and what we eat has changed. Not only for all of us, with the advent of season-less food availability, but also with hemispherical changes. Cultural changes. (I may just have invented a few words. They are perfectly understandable.)

Down south, we ate beef sausages, or boerewors, or lamb sausages or chicken sausages. Never pork. Sausages were coarser, more chewy and more like meat, not so finely minced. They were in fact 90% meat.  Here in the UK, 99.9% of sausages are pork. There is lots of variety within the pork spectrum, of course, including pork and apple, pork and caramelised red onion - two of our favourites. But they are not like the ones I grew up with at all. Sausages came in long pieces, wound round and round in circles. You cooked it all together, and then cut up pieces for everyone. This made braai-ing (BBQ) very easy. I never lost any rolling sausages to the fire that way!

Fruit salad is another very different thing here. I still tend to make mine the old South African way. Pawpaw (papaya) as a base, with oranges, and guavas. And the guavas always had their pips in. That is how you eat them. Lots of other fruit added if it is around, of course, but that was the basic fruit salad. The first time I served it here, I had all my guests trying surreptitiously to remove the guava pips. One can't very well sit there and tell them to eat them, now can you. I ignored it. But didn't serve it again.

photo of South African crayfish courtesy of Google images
Fish. Fish was readily available and so wonderful. Speaking of fishy things, these are what crayfish look like. BIG. Well, I think these are very big and ours may have been a little smaller, but not that much. I bought fresh fish or got it from friends who went fishing, and cooked it open on a BBQ on a sheet of foil, with a little lemon juice and brushed with butter. We had smoked snoek. That reminds me of snoek pate - delicious. Calamari....oh, my love of calamari is legendary, especially the ones you get at the Quay 4 restaurant at the Waterfront. And eating out, I always had fish. The Ocean Basket restaurant is still a huge favourite, and their plates of crayfish, prawns and calamari send me into raptures. I loved sole too. Yellowtail. Pickled fish.

I would not be eating this here, believe me. I am more likely to be eating a pizza here. We also often steamed stock fish or hake and flaked it into salads, but I don't remember ever frying fish at all. In fact, apart from eggs and bacon, frying was not really on the menu. Strange how differently people cook! I don't put stir frying into that category - I am talking about batter-y sort of frying.

We ate very little pork. More beef and lamb and lots of chicken and fish. The chicken and fish remain on the menu today. But I have never roasted beef in my life, which is just as bad as a woman from New Zealand saying she had never made a pavlova (I have) and tantamount to treason. I once attempted Yorkshire puddings, and set fire to the oven, so that was never repeated either.

But ask me to make Bobotie, and I am a star. Brandy tart?? Butternut soup? Oh yes. I have passed my recipes on to many and both are firm favourites here now. My brother-in-law got me to make a mega big Bobotie for the World Cup menu last year, and Switzerland decided that it liked it too. I have never made anything like that kind of quantity of Bobotie in my life.

I used to order beef fillets from the Karoo, and would go and meet the train with all the meat packed in chilled containers. I ordered hind quarters of beef. That was then, and this is now. Toss a whole fillet onto the braai with a slit down the side, stuffed with cheese. Wonderful.

When I was growing up, there were no convenience foods. Well, a few tins of things. I particularly remember Silver Leaf tins of peas. But no "ready meals". Mum cooked from scratch and that largely is what I did too. Stews in winter - a piece of shin and loads of vegetables. The crockpot had not been invented then either. Mince, the way my Granny taught me, padded out with a handful of oats, which also makes the consistency creamy. Cottage pies. Meatloaf. Sosaties - skewers of meat and veg grilled.

Do you know, I had never come face to face with a brussel sprout until I married Geoff? A fresh one. My mother-in-law showed me how to cut crosses in the base. Well, I never do that any more, but it was a learning process.

But, in the 21 years we have lived here, there has been a huge change in the way people eat, what they eat, and the availability of foods all year round. And just the simple cup of coffee has been revolutionised. 21 years ago, no-one knew what a latte or cappuccino was never mind macchiato. Now? Every old Granny orders lattes with aplomb. And, of course, cooking is making a comeback, after decades of ready made meals, and the rise of awareness re additives, GM food, and organic alternatives. Not to mention the rise in cultivation of homegrown vegetables and fruit.

And we can thank the Internet for providing information to us all at the click of a button. Progress - absolutely. The memories are great, though, especially for people of my generation who still have the recipes our grandparents used long ago. And we still remember how to cook the way we used to once upon a time.....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memories - Arabella and a mishap......

I love Saturdays.

And today is just a perfect example. I had to pop into town to the bank this morning, and managed to get there and back without venturing into the shops, and before the hordes (see yesterday) arrived. The weather is blustery and autumnal, but no rain so far. The trees along the road are beautiful colours now - red, orange, yellow. Then I did a little more cutting and ironing and pinning. Good too.
The holly tree hanging over my fence
I knew there was an art exhibition by two friends in the village today, which also offered tea and cakes, so off I went. Well. The entire village was out and about and most were at the exhibition, so there was much chattering and catching up to do while looking at the beautiful paintings, which were SO reasonable. I wanted dozens. Unfortunately nearly the entire lot were sold. You had to be there early, it seems. So I consoled myself with coffee and a delicious chocolate cupcake, and more chatting. And to top it all, there is also a Quilt Show on at the other church hall today as well. The library was heaving , and so were the local shops. Parking was a bit of a challenge, because this village is sorely in need of much more parking in the centre, but I loitered until I found a space. It has been a smiley day. You know what I mean?

And home, via Jean's place to hunt for beans for the bean bags, and now more assembling this afternoon. it has already been decided that tonight we will be having fish and chips from the fish and chip shop in the village. So no cooking to do. Perfect.

I love Saturdays.

 Here are a couple of photos from last night. It was dusk when we arrived at the country park, but got dark very rapidly.
 I loved the reflection of the trees in the water - it was so still.

 It is very hard to capture tiny lights without a fancy camera with settings you can adjust. We tried with a few settings on my new little camera, but nothing captured the lights well. You will have to take my word for it - it was beautiful!
 This is as good as it gets. David and Jean down at the waterside, and some faint lights on the water.


We are nearly at the end of the 31 Days of Memories here at RCR. I mentioned my little car - Arabella before. My little pale blue mini with the white roof. Arabella and I went all over the place. I taught a few of my friends to drive in her too. My friend, Peter (Glynis's husband) who lives here in this village will remember her well. He was called upon many a time at university to push Arabella to the end of the residence road when it rained. Arabella's spark plugs did not like rain. The end of the road was the start of the long road down the mountain, you see, so once we were rolling downhill, I could start her.

Arabella also had a rather alarming mishap one weekend. A crowd of us used to go diving up the west coast as often as we could in crayfish season. Crayfish are like lobsters. Big things. There were very strict rules about crayfishing - they had to be a certain size, not in roe, etc etc etc. And there were many police checks and fines as well. We could catch 5 per wet head. So if there were 12 of us, that made 60. It didn't matter if only 5 people dived and caught any, as long as all 12 had wet heads. Everyone always had a wet head. And we used to keep them in a pool of sea water on the beach until we were ready to go home, and then sort them all out.

Edited to add: South African crayfish are rock lobsters or spiny lobsters, not like northern hemisphere crayfish, and the ones we caught were huge. They had to be bigger than a large dinner plate by law, and ours were enormous. I found a photo on the internet and will post it tomorrow!

That is, after we had a crayfish feast on the beach. We would take some huge pots with us and cook them in seawater on the beach over a fire, and all we took as extras was bread and cheese, and the makings of a seafood dip to dip them into. A glass of cold white wine and it was bliss, sitting there in the sun. We used to speculate about the crayfish community plotting revenge in the sea. And there were other delicacies to take home too - perlemoen (you had to beat the heck out of them) and the bounty from the spearfishing  experts. was wonderful.

The west coast is beautiful - very remote and sparsely populated. The roads - well, most toward the beaches were dust roads. And on one trip, there were about 5 cars travelling in convoy, including Arabella. We were careful to slow down round the corners of the dirt roads we knew well, but this time, the front right wheel got caught in the pile of dust in the middle of the road and Arabella started skidding across the road toward the right. So I let the steering wheel right itself (as I was taught to do) and all was well. I steered back to the right side of the road, and so help me, the left wheel got caught and we started skidding toward the edge of the road. There was nowhere to go this time, and we rolled. A few times. Arabella was black and blue. So were we. The wheels had not even stopped spinning (we ended up upside down on Arabella's head) when a crew from the nearby farm arrived to help. Oh, they said - cars are always rolling here, so we are always ready. Gee, thanks. A sign or two warning us may have helped.

We were mildly hysterical, because the old tape player which had run out of battery life suddenly burst into life again, and the milk bottle had somersaulted through the car and landed the right way up without spilling a drop. Not to mention the fact that the spear gun between us had not shot anyone. So, once Arabella was on her 4 legs again, we carried on to Donkergat (Dark Hole) and went crayfishing.

We were stupid.

We headed home later in the day, and the next day discovered that my friend Tessa had broken her collar bone - she went diving too. Crazy crazy stuff. We were lucky to be alive. Telling my parents that I had rolled a Mini was another thing. Nobody rolls Minis. It is impossible.

That night, it was my sister's school carol service, and I knew Mum and Dad were going to that, so I drove to the school and hid Arabella in the bushes, and waited for Dad to drop Mum and Marge at the front door, then followed him and confessed all. He looked at me and said "You did WHAT???" Then buried his head in his hands and said - "We got you a Mini because it is the one car on earth you cannot roll - and WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???" I grovelled. In actual fact, he then started laughing, because he was my Dad and just so thankful we were alive. He may also have been bordering on hysteria, of course.

But Arabella....poor thing. Every single part of her needled panel beating. Nothing major because I was seriously not going fast at all. Just dented all over. She lived on for another 5-6 years, and I loved her to bits. But she never did want to go in a straight line again. She tended to veer off to the left. But we got along just fine.

Oh - I came home with the full allowance of crayfish of course. My mother loathed cooking them. She would heat up the water in the huge pot, and then toss them in, slam on the lid, slam the kitchen door, the lounge door and as many doors as she could between the pot and herself, because she said the crayfish screamed.

I just loved eating them. (SO did Mum - once they were cooked and seriously dead, of course!)

Arabella looked something like this, but was pale blue with the white roof. I loved her - and all her quirks! Photo courtesy of Google Images.
And there we have another memory - this one seriously made me grin. Oh - Tessa? The one I nearly finished off? She lives 20 minutes from me - amazing coincidence! And we are still friends.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Memories - prattle and country parks.....

It is just as well I rarely check my stats or worry re comments, because yesterday, 164 people popped in and yet there were zero comments. I know this because I had to see if anyone was out there, or if there was something wrong, so I checked. You are still out there, and that is just fine with me. I am the world's worst commenter at the moment, so I can't complain! I am all too aware of how busy we all are, and that at times, commenting is just not possible. Or that we have nothing to say.

Or, in a more worrying thought, maybe we are bored. You are bored. Hmmm. 4 more days of memories and I will be done, people. Bear with me.

So this morning, Jean, Mother and I ventured out to the supermarket to do some shopping for food. The fridge was bare. And we completely forgot that a) it is the end of the school holidays b) the end of the month c)Friday. We were lunatics to think it would be an effortless and serene experience.

By the time we left the 2nd supermarket, I was doing my dragon impersonation. Flames bursting from the mouth, steam hissing out of the ears, and all I can say is that I was not a happy bunny at all. I do not do hordes of people. In my defence, I have to say that I get really edgy about random trolleys bashing into me. And there were more than hordes of trolleys. And people. And small people who ran about all over the place bashing.....

Enough. I am precipitating a flashback and that would not be pretty.

This afternoon has been spent sewing. Soothing stuff.  And this evening, we all went up to the local country park at dusk to see the Flow. The pathway of all the ancient rivers beneath the reservoir were lit and when the sun set, the lake was filled with lights, showing us where once the rivers flowed, before the reservoir was built and the land flooded. It was the most beautiful sight. And perishingly cold. I am still in my coat 2 and a half hours later. But it was good.

I started telling the others about how, a couple of years after we came to live here, Geoff and I took Diana and David up to the country park one Sunday and we walked around it - it takes about an hour. And how that was the first time I felt as if it was home. It was January, and we had just got back from Cape Town. We were all bundled up because it was freezing, and David was having the time of his life, in welly boots stomping through the mud, with rosy cheeks and wooly hat, and Diana was chasing after him, laughing. They looked English. At home. As if they belonged. David was about 3, and yet he remembered - he said - Dad was there too. Yes, he was.

Then Mum started talking about her memories of walking around the reservoir too - with Dad, before he developed Lewey Body Disease, and we lost him. And then Jean started remembering how she would walk round it with her boys as they were growing up, David told us all about the night hikes he did round it too, with Crusaders - his youth club when he was young. And the fun they had.  And the memories flowed, just like the ancient river, and it was lovely. Diana has walked round it many times with Kate and the dogs. We have been to see all the bluebells in the shade of the trees there, had picnics. Wandered round slowly with friends, or at speed chasing little ones.

We have watched the birds, sat in the shade of the trees talking, and just revelled in the peace. And when we flew to New Zealand all those years ago, we flew over it, and I knew home was close. One day, I will take Missy there too, and she can play in the play area, and run like the wind too - just like her uncle did when he was the same age.

England may be a small country full of over 60 million people, but there is so much green land too. Countryside. Places to go. Nearby. I need to remember to get out there and enjoy them more.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Memories - Big Walks

Tonight, the house is filled with the scent of roasting vegetables - potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and baking fish. It smells fabulous. Warm and full of interesting aromas. Does anyone else use the oven to heat the house? I leave the door open after I finish the cooking, and the oven cools while releasing the heat into the kitchen. Perfect. My house multi-tasks too.

It has been a wet and grey day, and had Jean and I not made plans to be at the gym at zero dark o clock this morning, I may well have stayed in bed a lot longer. I love lingering under the duvet when it is grey and revolting outside. Slothful, I know, but lovely. Clocks go back this weekend, so the evenings will be so dark. I absolutely hate the clocks going back. The countdown to the 21December begins immediately.

I have been back in the sewing room again this afternoon. Not sewing today, but cutting, ironing, pinning. So tomorrow, I can get things done. Putting things into thread colour piles. So many colours. Finding the matching threads. Finding bobbins - I need more bobbins. Note to self - go and get some next time you are in town. Why didn't I get them on Tuesday????? Sigh.

One day very soon, I will have to empty the boxes and find out what I have for Christmas and what I still need to think about. I pop things away and then forget them. At least this year I remember where the things are which I lost last year. Cupboards on the deck if I forget and start wailing, people. Never mind that between me and those cupboards is a mountain. I am brave. I can conquer mountains.

Did I mention mountains??

When Andrew was at junior school, there was a Big Walk every year in the forest at the foot of the mountains to raise funds for his school. They were always raising funds. I forget what for. The course took the boys up into the mountain, along contour paths high up and then down again. Challenging. Fun. If you were between 5 and 12. This was a wonderful family event. Parents all arrived, most happily waved their offspring off as they ran the 10kms like the wind (walk? You think young kids will WALK???) and settled down to start the braai (BBQ), pop open a bottle of wine and relax in the forest, while chatting to friends, and the little ones played together in streams. Perfect. Wonderful. Civilised. A great family event. Some valiant adult souls did the walk too. For fun. Some were marshals, of course. And every year for 5 of the 7 he took part in the Big Walk, I swore I would do it one day. Then came the 6th year. I had recently lost a huge amount of weight. I was a stick insect, in fact. Way too thin. My dietitian had lost her mind. Anyway. I decided to do the walk as well. In fact, I decided to RUN up the mountain. Not having trained for a second.

Well. Andrew and Diana were well ahead, and I was running with a couple of friends, and by the time we got above the tree line and had an excuse to stop and admire the beautiful view, I was positively light headed. Crazy would have been another accurate description. Thankfully, the rubbery legs got as far as a water station, and after being yelled at by the more sensible adults manning it, and having litres of water poured into the system, we set off again. At a slow plod. It was that or the indignity of a tractor, and we were not prepared to be humiliated. Oh no, we were not.

You know, maybe my love of the mountains and walking through their forests was born that day. The day I had to slow down and breathe and had the time to look around and take in the beauty. The pride may have been slightly dented, but I saw the trees. The shadows. The soaring peaks. The sunlight dappling the leaves. And my son was impressed that I had actually managed to finish the course. So was I. I was ever so speedy heading for my chair next to the BBQ.

Thankfully, I happened to be pregnant the next and final year. Very very pregnant. Perfect excuse. I reclined in the chair and did nothing. I did take photos. That is what Mums are supposed to do. They are not supposed to run up mountains. And we will ignore the fact that my 10 year old finished hours before me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Memories - student jobs back then.....

Aquarobics is cancelled for tomorrow. The pool has a leak. It was hilarious this afternoon, because the bottom of the water was relatively warm, but the top, ice cold, because they had to keep topping it up. But we moved rapidly so it stopped bothering us pretty soon. Oh, the trials we face in the pursuit of those core muscles.....

I unearthed the Autumn quilt which I made last year. I started hand quilting it last October and so help me, it has been sitting in the "Please Finish Me" pile ever since. So out it came and my evenings are now sorted for the next week or two. Hopefully I will finish it before it is time to pack away the oranges and haul out the reds in December. Colour changes are important around here!

When I was a student, I did a lot of babysitting to earn extra money. For things like Petrol for Arabella, my little pale blue Mini with a white roof and triangular windows. I used to sit for about 5 or 6 families regularly, and so I built up a relationship with them all, and it was great. I also got a great deal of experience looking after small kids along the way.

At the end of first year at uni, I worked for the Reader's Digest in the city centre, with Cheryl, my great friend who now lives in Scotland. The permanent staff hated us, because we zoomed through 100 times more work in a day than they did, and they felt it made them look bad. I cannot tell you how boring it was, opening sweepstakes letters. But it paid well at the time, and we all needed the money.

And then I took a part time job for a florist - doing all their deliveries. That was fun. All of this was mainly in the long summer holidays - the babysitting went on all year round.

Our student union had a book of jobs available, and every now and then I went to look through it, and one day, I  found one from a pharmacist in a suburb not far from where we lived. He needed someone to look after his 3 children throughout school holidays and take them to parties and basically to do all the things their mother would have done with them, had she not died from cancer. The pay was great too. The children were young. Jennifer was about 4, Mike 6 and Lauren about 8 when I started working with them.

My parents had a lot of misgivings re the amount of responsibility I was taking on, as I was only 18 or 19 at the time, but I loved being with them. We had so much fun. We went to the beach, ice skating, all over the place in Arabella. They even offered to clean Arabella because she was part of the fun. And we had a summer of laughter, learning, celebrating and discovery.

So, for the next 3 years, every school holiday, and some times in between too, the kids and I grew up together. We played, did sport, had amazing birthday parties, and just loved it all. I often wonder where they are now and what they are doing, you know. Lauren would be about 46 or so I suppose. They would all be in their 40s at least. That seems so odd, because they are frozen in my mind as small children. Thankfully, their Dad met a lovely lady and married her just before Geoff and I met and got married, so they had someone to look after them.

I worked for Rag - the university charity fundraising organisation which also provided a great number of fun events at the start of every academic year. That involved a great deal of work, concerts, cocktail parties, rag processions, anything that floats races at the beach, tobogganing down the steps at uni, Eskimo Nell, our Rag nightclub........ so many things to do apart from all the lectures, deadlines, babysitting, playing in the badminton team....Maybe I will talk about Uni more tomorrow. I need coffee.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Memories - Camping days

Before we left South Africa, we decided that the odds on us being able to afford holidays were rather remote, given that we were starting from scratch and had to buy a house and exchange control regulations in SA meant we couldn't take our money with us. So, in a moment of madness, we thought camping would be a great idea. So we bought a large tent.


I can say in retrospect that never ONCE did Geoff come camping with us. He was always away for holidays. Clever man. Anyway, nothing daunted, we went camping in Bains Kloof  just outside Cape Town to try out the tent. We went with a large group of friends, which was just as well because I did not have the foggiest idea how to set up that wretched tent which was enormous. This was in the days before the newfangled tents which pop themselves up.

Bains Kloof is beautiful - a ravine in the mountains, with a river running through it for swimming and paddling and general cooling off, because it was HOT. Thankfully, I had lots of assistance getting that brown thing up in the air, and we were all set for a lovely weekend. Walking miles to toilet facilities at all hours because kids do that, don't they.

The first night was fine. The tent stayed up. The second night......oh my Lord. There was a strong wind. Think hurricane speed wind. And that tent started losing its pegs. The 10 inch pegs. Long strong pegs. And I spent the entire night, while my children slept blissfully on, crawling round and round and round that tent on hands and knees with the mallet hammering pegs in. As soon as they were in, they popped out and the tent started lifting.

Again, and again and again. I had visions of watching my kids fly off over the mountain in that tent, so I kept going round and round. I was heroic., I saved my children from flight. By dawn, when the winds dropped I was a wreck and put off camping for life. All the smaller tents had no problems, but that huge monstrosity (what possessed me to get such a huge one I will never know) was a disaster. Then there was the packing up. That took forever, because it had to fit into a bag which needed 2 strong men to lift in the first place, and the poles weighed even more.

So, when we arrived here, camping was not anywhere near the top of my "to do" list. We could stay home for holidays, kids. How exciting.

Until we had a church camp at a nearby camp site, and my friends promised to put it up if I would have 6 girls sleeping in it. As well as David and me. It was a big tent, remember. So off we went, and I did nothing except hammer in those ultra long pegs, because heaven knew I had loads of experience in wielding the sledgehammer thing.

Then I sat down in my chair and relaxed with a fortifying drink or two. No wind this time, but sleepwalking girls who thought that the door to the tent was at the back, where there was NO door, and spent all night trying to climb through the canvas while I manhandled  gently lead them to the entrance so they could be escorted to those toilet facilities miles away. By me. Rinse and repeat. All night. Does anyone get to sleep at all when they go camping????????? I have yet to experience sleeping (as a parent) when camping.

My camping duties were over, people. I do not do walking through the dark looking for a bathroom. I do classy hotels and room service. In my dreams. And in my genes. Sigh.

That would be why I don't go away on many holidays.

It was different when I was a teenager and a student. We camped with our church camps, but I did not have to organise things. When I was a student, I went camping with friends (including my boyfriend at the time) and that was fine. The guys sorted the tents and the girls sorted the cooking and the positioning of the loo roll on the tent pole. And the males could investigate any strange noises too. That was different. And fun.

It was all Geoff's fault, wasn't it?? I am sitting here wondering if my camping life may have taken different turns had he been around to do the warding off of any wild animals (especially in Africa where there are snakes and I do not do snakes either) and the tent peg duty. Maybe I would have slept on blissfully unaware of any impending disaster, and he could have done it all. Hah. That is why I loathe camping. Or maybe I need to have one of those motor homes. Preferably the ones with armchairs and bathrooms, and every home comfort including doors which lock.

A winnebago. That would be more my style. Maybe I will sell the house and buy a motor home and become a gypsy. Hmmmmmmmm................................

Monday, October 24, 2011

Memories - well a lot of chatter and a couple of maritime memories today

24 days so far and I have to say that I am finding it hard going. Posting on one theme for 31 days is HARD. Not that I am running out of things to say, of course. I have 57 years to draw inspiration from and by no stretch of the imagination have they been boring.

But I want to talk about every day things like I usually do here at RCR and I cannot begin to spend as much time as it would take to post twice a day. Good grief, life would grind to a halt. Not that it is moving at supersonic speed at the best of times.

You know - the stuff I do. Or think. Or things which amuse me. Or dreams. Or stuff. Just stuff. Gee, Linds, your vocabulary could do with a little extension here. Like the fact that New Zealand is in party mode right now after winning the Rugby World Cup. And my daughter has survived 2 weeks of travelling around the country gentling guiding and overseeing Soul Survivor festivals in 3 locations, and is now back in Wellington trying to catch up with the college work she missed while zapping all over the place. She is unbelievable. So much on her plate and she still manages to grin. And the fact that it is impossible to find work here in the UK if you are a recent graduate. Just ask my son and his friends. Hello, world leaders, your stats are way off base and things are far worse than you can possibly imagine.

I want to talk about aqua and the new aqua-zumba classes which will be starting soon. How swimming is strengthening me but the down side is the increased pain. But I can live with that. I have plenty of experience. I am still in search of those illusive core muscles, though. And what about the ever lengthening "to do" list? Am I the only one who can manage to cross of one or two things in a day and yet add 45 more?

Now - has anyone tried the new smaller Kindle yet? If so, what is it like? Good? Or is the older one better?

I have just been to a homeless centre in the nearest town to drop off all the food we have collected over the past month. Oh what a huge need there is. They don't only cater for the homeless, but for people with mental health problems, recovering addicts, the elderly - you name it. They feed them, and they keep them warm while they try to help them get ahead - and that means into housing and shelters, hopefully into work, and teach them basic skills. Lots going on. So the bags I took seemed so small. So inadequate.

Yes, I know that every bit helps, of course. But that little voice in my head saying "feed my people" is developing into a roar. I asked about local supermarkets. Just ONE has responded to their request for help. ONE. They send bread. I asked what the supermarkets do with all the fruit and vegetables? Well, it seems that they send it all to the pig farmers. They get paid for that. Maybe I need to go and visit a few supermarket managers.

Today I go to chat to my GP. Every few months, I make an appointment, at her request, so we can see where I am and what is happening to The Leg and associated bits. Walking into the handle of the wheelbarrow (The Leg did it) was not a stellar move, and she will see the results, even though that was over a week ago. But we plod on.

I remember the days (as in every single day of my life until June 2008) where my visits to the doctor were so random and infrequent that I almost needed ID when I did show up. Hah. Now I need a brass plate on my chair in the waiting room. Ridiculous. How my friends and I used to talk about "older people" and their conversation consisting of medical details and appointments, and how that was NEVER going to be us. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

But at least I have retained my sense of humour. If you are young (as in under 50) and reading this, beware. This could be you too one day. The mind may think it is still in the mid 30s (I liked the mid 30s) but the body has plans of its own. Stupid thing.

Yes, Vee - I think , or rather, I know that there was a huge amount of hurt caught up in that rage yesterday. And what I do not understand is how people cannot think ahead. The inevitable will come, and one of each couple will pre-decease the other, and then what? Will it just be those distanced single friends who will pick up the pieces? Friends. Or acquaintances?

I remember the days when I was young, when the fragility of life was not something I dwelt on at all. Or the changes it would bring with it. However, there were times when Geoff was away at sea in places which were not the most salubrious on earth when I would wonder how he would stay safe. Piracy is still a huge problem,

He was off West Africa once, when pirates boarded the ship. The officers and crew managed to toss most of them into the sea, and sail to safety. However, it could have been so much worse. And the ultimate irony is that a couple of the pirates could not swim, and they drowned. So the west African country decided that the officers and crew were guilty of murder. What? Thankfully, the shipping company decided that none of them or that ship would be returning to that part of the world. Ever. But it could have been very different.

As he criss-crossed the oceans, so many areas became more and more notorious. Dangerous. And then there was South America and drug lords to contend with too. Ships battened down. Armed guards. When I married him, I knew he was a career sailor, and there I was, thinking that it was just storms and tidal waves and sharks and things like that to worry about. What did I know.

Just as well I was so busy raising my 3 children back home. Being married, but a single parent most of the time is definitely not for wimps.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Memories - (a rant) and a little more about Granny

If you do not want to read a rant, skip merrily down to the bit in bold below."So forget friends for now."  That will take you to a Granny memory, omitting the rant. 

I remember when friendship was something I took for granted. When the one thing apart from family which you could depend on for sharing, thoughtfulness etc was friendship. Inclusive. When it was a two way street. 

That was in the days when I was a part of a couple. Let me tell you now that things change radically when you are not. And worse still, as friends start retiring, it gets way, way worse. There is no room for singles in a world populated by couples. Singles do other things. Apparently. 

If you had asked me about this 5 years ago, I would never for a second have believed it. I have a friend who lost her husband long before Geoff died, and she told me way back then, that friends changed when you were single. And I, innocent that I was back then, could not for a second imagine that happening to me. 

And do you know what? 

I was wrong. 

Right now, I am in a rage, and I know I should be bigger than this and laugh and put it aside, but I AM IN A RAGE. Just in case you didn't hear the first time. 

If I see a bargain, I tell my friends. If I hear of an event, I share the details with those I think would enjoy it. If I have the opportunity to do something which my friends may enjoy too, I tell them about it. If I make plans, I share the details. If I am going shopping, I let my friends know so they can come along if they choose to. I always have done. And yet, I am noticing that while I am still doing so, not everyone does the same any more.  And being in a rage is far more satisfying than dissolving into tears. 

I need to get a grip. 

But I remember how things used to be, you see, and that saddens me immeasurably. The way I feel right now is enough to make me want to sell the house and move to somewhere far away. Tomorrow. And not look back. 

You may have gathered that right now, memories of how friendships once worked, compared to today this second, are not absolutely euphoric. 

So forget friends for now.

When Granny, Mum and I were in London  on that epic trip in 1976, we went to Trooping the Colour. We made suggestions to Granny that, at 85, with a long walk to Buckingham Palace and the Mall and back, she may rather want to stay in the hotel and watch it all on TV. 

Well, Granny was having none of that. In cream coat and hat and in heels and clutching that bag, she insisted on coming too. Mum and I strategically positioned ourselves next to a First Aid post, in case Granny had an attack of the vapours or collapsed in the heat. The coat was warm and the day was hot. And she did not flinch, people. She walked all the way there and all the way back at speed, after standing for hours to see the procession and the Queen who was still riding sidesaddle on her horse back then. Granny's staying power was formidable. 

Did I tell you that she was still skip of her bowls club at 89? She died when she was 93, and by then, she had senile dementia. In those days, we didn't label people with illnesses. Granny just got old all of a sudden, and confused, and so the family hired nurse aides who were there 24 hours a day to help care for her at home. That was the way things were done. And that was where she died peacefully. 

Ah well. Some memories are happy. Some amusing. Some sad, and some make me think. That is not always a helpful thing. Thinking. Far better to be an ostrich.  Hopefully my mood will be back to normal by morning. My family is rather hoping it will be better right now. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Memories - dancing

I am on a roll, people. Cutting, ironing, pinning, sewing. It may not last because one day like this and I need a week to recover, so I am trying to get stuff done. Ticking the boxes. I can't tell you what I am making because most of the people who will be receiving what I am making as Christmas gifts, read this.

Oh well.

It involves Christmas material. My quest to use only what is in the cupboard is going well. And I have plans for the scraps too. Unfortunately, the cupboards are just as full as when I began, it seems. I really need to empty the cupboards and sort things into colours. Oh good grief - this house has not got enough space for that, and I may have a nervous breakdown once the piles were all over the floor and give up. So I will continue working on little piles.

I am watching Strictly Come Dancing as I am writing - and I am remembering my first year at university. I stayed in a university residence up on the campus and we had ballroom dancing classes arranged for us. In those days the men and women had separate halls of residence, but hallelujah, we were allowed to mingle at ballroom classes, so everyone was there. Of course we were.

The common room - a huge rectangular hall, had beautiful parquet flooring, ideal for dancing. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we had. We actually learned to dance too, but the cha cha was our corporate nemesis. One two cha cha cha, I can see it now. And we did fine as we moved down the hall, but when we got to the corner, we had a pile up. Total. People falling onto the floor, in heaps of laughter. We did not have the slightest idea of how to turn the corner. The teacher had forgotten to tell us how to rotate. And you know, every single one of us still remembers the night of the chacha, and when I see it on these TV dance competitions, I sit here and grin.

Learning how to dance is such a wonderful thing. Before my son's Matric Dance, he had ballroom lessons, and now the school provides them for all the boys. How special it is for a woman to dance with someone who knows what to do. Along with half the female population of the world, I was one who dreamed of dancing just once with someone like Patrick Swayze, after watching Dirty Dancing. I loved that movie. The dancing was so amazing.


One day maybe. I am still waiting.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Memories - simple things

Some days, simple is good. In fact, I wish I could make more of my days simple. Or more simple than they currently are. Today I have been fiddling in the sewing room, among the boxes. I have cut out some projects and sewn up more, and re-jigged patterns, and experimented, and it has been lovely.

Add to that a lunch out with Jean and Mum at a gorgeous little tearoom in a neighbouring village which I did not know existed, and the day has been good. There was also a wonderful little gift shop next door to the tearoom, and oh, I could have spent hours and a fortune in there. MY kind of gift shop!

I did not buy a thing. But I did mention to the lovely lady who owns it, that her shop gave me a perfect picture of who she was and what interested her. I love seeing part of the owner in the shop - it makes it so much more personal, doesn't it. I will be going back, for sure. (And there is the entire cake selection at the tearoom I have yet to sample. A perfect combination.)

So, keeping it simple, here is a list of memories for today, which may or may not be expanded over the remaining days of the month!

  • My earliest memory is of me, standing in a hospital cot, hanging over the edge looking down a dark corridor. That would be after I decided to eat a bottle of Disprin (Like Asprin) at the age of 2, a few weeks before my sister was born.
  • Did I mention the mouse in the Humpty Dumpty birthday cake? 
  • Or riding round and round the kitchen table on a tricycle until my mother fell over, grabbed the top of the fridge, which she then pulled down on top of her? 
  • Home made ginger beer, made by Moregranny and corks exploding out of the bottles?
  • Watching Moregranny making barley sugar twists? 
  • Going to the beach with grandparents?
  • Being a lucky bean and a milkmaid in ballet displays?
  • Having my portrait painted aged 8? Marge was 6. 
  • Nearly ripping my toe off aged 10?
  • Being a dreamer as a little child, a teenager, a student, a young adult, and a dreamer still through middle age to right now - the present? 
So many things to think about. Books to read. Places to visit in my mind. Life is full of colour, you know. You just have to know where to look. 

And now I am going to make ANOTHER attempt to finish that quilt. I fell asleep after 20 mins last night, needle in hand and woke at 1.15am, needle still in hand. I will finish it. I will. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Memories - more about Granny....

That unforgettable flight my grandmother made with my mother, was Granny's first international flight. I seem to remember her flying to Johannesburg with my great aunt before then. But my grandparents loved travelling. They made the sea trip to the UK and Europe every two years until Grandpa died in 1967. Grandpa bought his cars here and shipped them back home. Those were the days of the mail boats - the weekly arrival and departure of the old liners from Table Bay is something I remember so well from my childhood. Holding on to the end of paper streamers until they either snapped as the ship moved from the quayside, or until we let them go.

In 1966, when my parents brought us to Europe for the Grand Tour, we were the ones standing at the railing, holding on to those streamers, and the very last trip I made on one of those ships - the RMS Windsor Castle, was when Geoff and I went back to SA to live when I was expecting Andrew. Just as well it was a great huge liner. I had luggage.

My grandmother's family came from Norfolk - her father was a miller and I have seen the homes she lived in - the Mill House too. Granny had the opportunity to buy her family home a couple of years before I met Geoff, but could think of no reason why she should. When I tell you that the asking price at the time for ACRES of land, the Mill House with all its multitude of rooms, outbuildings, the mill and all was £48,000 you will know why this family still feels a little ill at the thought that it could still have been in the family.

But obviously there were other plans afoot in the heavenly realms.

So when my grandmother was in the UK, she had family to visit. Cousins. They were the ones we were off to visit when we ended up going in the opposite direction and wound up at Windsor. We did get there eventually, and all cousins were delighted to see us. . You have to understand that my Grandmother was used to getting her own way. She was the light of Grandpa's life, and he adored her. When she was 89, she was still Skip of her Bowls Club. She had always played competitive bowls. She also had weekly bridge parties with her friends. It always completely fascinated me that she and my Dad's mother addressed each other as Mrs G*** and Mrs W***. Never ever by christian name. Even though they shared grandchildren.

Things were different back then.

Granny loved shops. Mum and I preferred sightseeing. For example, Granny absolutely would not go up on to Dartmoor with us. The moors were not her sort of place. There were sheep and ponies and lots of greenery on the moors. Granny was a city gal.  I gave her strict instructions re keeping her bag close at her side, and did she listen??? Of course not. Off she went swinging it gaily. The bag containing her passport, traveller's cheques and all vital papers.  And her string shopping bag too. I had visions of muggers. Mind you, she would probably have felled them in a single stroke. Outspoken. Hmmm. She is sounding suspiciously like her granddaughter all of a sudden.

Mum and I had planned on staying at bed and breakfast places - touring on a budget. Granny was born to grace large hotels. Actually, so were we, only the budget was a little restrictive. So, I told suggested that Granny pay the difference. And while Mum and I were planning takeaways, Granny needed restaurants. Groan. So, under the guise of  "sharing" costs, we took turns filling the car with petrol. Mum and I "filled" it up every day (when it was 3/4 full) and Granny filled it up in turn - when it was SO empty I was running the risk of having to push it into the petrol station. It sounds evil, but at least we managed to survive! And to keep moving. I did not want to bankrupt my new husband weeks after the wedding!

And Granny was still sitting in the back of the 2 door car (plenty of room for you, Granny!) and couldn't see the petrol gauge. She had not driven ever since her car ran away down the hill when she got out to shut the gate when my mother was little, and after she went head over heels in the road while chasing it. She refused to drive after that one. And I don't think she would have known a petrol gauge if she came face to face with one. The stock market - that was different. She definitely knew the stock market. And a great deal more. She was a teacher before she married.

We used to go to her house for Sunday lunch, and there was always a leg of mutton roasted. I loved helping her put some of the left over meat through the old mincer attached to the side of her kitchen table - and then pushing the bread through to clean it out. Do you remember that? Mum says Granny's menu planning was set in stone. Roast mutton on Sunday, cold on Monday, cottage pie on Tuesday, meat rissoles on Wednesday, and then, hallelujah, the 5lb roast was finished, so on Thursday it was probably liver and onions, Friday was fish, and Saturday was chicken. There was the occasional pot roast or meat loaf, depending on how many people had the Sunday lunch, which dictated the amount of left overs.

And my uncle LOVED cold cherry jelly with hot custard. I remember that so well. Delicious.

So how did I start on the food thing again? Not what I intended. But now I need to go and cook. I will be back tomorrow.....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Memories - Windsor Castle and Granny......

Just after we were married, I was supposed to join Geoff on a trip to the States which included a naval exercise, but wives were allowed to go, so that was great. I said "supposed". The captain then decided that he was not having any wives along, thankyouverymuch, so I was stuck, because my mother-in-law was expecting Geoff's sister and family to arrive and there was no room at the inn. So I did what any self-respecting 21 year old newly married woman does. I called my mother 6000+ miles away and wailed. And she decided then and there that a trip to the UK for 3 weeks was in order. Brilliant.

Only, my uncle then decided that Granny would fancy a trip to the UK for three weeks too, and announced that he had booked her on the same flight. Right. A girly trip then. Granny travelled in a cream coat. And hat. neither of which she removed at any time on the 12 hour flight. Her bag never left her lap either, which meant that flapping down trays and trying to wield the knife and fork were all but impossible given the the bag was causing serious loss of breath and turning Granny blue. But Granny was used to First Class sea travel, not steerage on a huge Jumbo jet sitting beside People She Did Not Know.

My mother was ready for a padded cell by the time I met them at Heathrow.

So we packed Granny in the back seat of Geoff's bright red Ford Capri (Granny was used to the more stately Mercedes) and set off. I asked my mother to navigate and get me to London. Well, we managed that bit but discovered that the hotel did not have our room reservation. So back we piled into the bright red car and I suggested that we head for Cambridge. We had family up that way. And I asked my mother to direct me onto the North Circular - the inner ring road round London in the days before the M25. We got onto the North Circular, going in the WRONG direction, and I couldn't find a place to turn, because there were no right turns allowed, and so help me, within an hour, we were back at Heathrow.

This was not going exactly to plan.

So, I had another great idea. Let's go to Windsor!! Yes!! I saw a sign!! And we found it!! Success!! And I found a suitable hotel with rooms vacant as well, so that was all good. Relief. Mother could rest after a totally exhausting 24 hour ordeal travelling with Granny, and I could rest after driving round the country in circles. Granny was full of energy and ready to go. She was 85 at the time.

Bright and breezy the next morning, we decided to go to Windsor Castle. I had been as a child, but really wanted to see it as an adult, and Mum was happy too. So was Granny. I think. Anyway, off we went, paid the entrance fee and started walking through the royal rooms at the castle.

There was a guide/guard/assistant in every room, of course, and as we walked along the roped off path, we took our time looking, reading the guide book, etc. As one does. That would be me. And Mum. Granny??? Hmmm. Cream coat on, hat on, heels and bag over the arm, she motored through every room at 200 miles an hour not looking left or right. I had to go and grab her many times, bumping into people, "so so sorry - lost Granny, please excuse me..." and then, in a one way system, had to try to go backeards to find mother, who really wanted to take her time, not to mention that I actually wanted to view all too. In detail.

It was not easy.

One of those guides/guards/assistants, reached out and put his hand on Granny's arm, and she nearly shrivelled him to cinder on the spot with her glare, and he said "Why don't you slow down a little, my dear, and take your time - there is so much to see." (I was running for cover at this point.) Granny drew herself up to her full height and informed the man that "I HAVE VISITED THIS CASTLE MANY TIMES BEFORE AND HAVE SEEN EVERYTHING. I DO NOT CARE TO SLOW DOWN". Dear heaven. Mother was lurking in the background making surreptitious plans to ship Granny home asap - Heathrow was close by. And me - well, I gathered Granny up, apologising profusely to all and sundry and swept through the remaining rooms muttering evil, EVIL threats under my breath.

So we get to the head of this enormous STONE staircase, huge WIDE staircase which sweeps down to the ground level. And wait for Mum. Mum arrives, and we start down the stairs. The STONE stairs. And Granny...... well. Granny decided that she would save the Queen a little money because "All those lights must be VERY expensive" and yes, she did. She really did. She switched OFF the lights over the staircase, and plunged the whole thing with hundreds of people on it - most not holding on to railings because it was WIDE and STONE and ....... into total darkness.

I have to tell you that at that point, mother and I abandoned Granny,. We were down those stairs and across the courtyard and in the gift shop so fast, you have no idea. I would have denied all knowledge of Granny in a heartbeat. Never clapped eyes on her in my life before. It is truly fortunate that no-one took a header down those stairs and did serious damage to their body, believe me.

Oh, she managed those stairs in darkness just fine, and found us hiding in the shop. And we headed off tor tea and scones, because I was bordering on a nervous breakdown. This was Day One of the epic tour.

Granny was not awful, believe me. She was just used to having things her way, and was most definitely the matriarch in the family. We loved her, and we did actually have a great deal of fun in the next 3 weeks, but she could be very determined, not to mention the fact that if she didn't want to go somewhere, she flat out refused. So we used to drop her at BHS and head off by ourselves to explore. She was totally happy with bargains. Granny LOVED bargains.

 There are plenty of stories I could tell you - maybe tomorrow.......

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Memories - a day beside a stream dreaming (if you zap past the loft issues!)

For some light relief this morning, I looked at my Christmas List. And I cannot make head or tail of what I have scrawled there, so I closed the book with a thud. My sewing room is full of boxes. Other People's Boxes. And a multitude of boxes of Christmas stuff, including gifts made or acquired through the year which should be in the loft, but my mission is to empty the loft because I HAVE to empty it in order to adequately insulate it.

However, once the insulation is finally down, there will be no way I can replace all the contents of the loft, and people, my house is way too small for all those boxes. Groan. My idea that the "stuff" would act as insulation appears to be wrong. I have NO idea why.

The fact that some of those boxes have not been opened in 21 years is beside the point. Just the thought of them piled up in the living room prior to be booted out the front door is enough to send me into a tizz of epic proportions. And then there is the question re what I will be doing with the things I need and do not want to boot out the front door? The pile which will go to auction, to charity shops, to the kids? The toys they loved playing with back then.....  The memories which will swirl out of each box as I open them - the time I will take touching tangible evidence of times gone by.....

Life happened. Life happens. Memories are brushed together like a pile of leaves, and all you need is a slight breeze, never mind a howling gale, and those leaves are tossed all over the place. Little bits from the darkest reaches of my mind.

(The howling gale would be a metaphor for the mountain of boxes vacating the loft and disrupting my life. A hurricane may be more apt. My son would be the box-heaver-out-of-the-loft-er, by the way. If I got up there by some miracle, I would be destined to forever stay there, writing my missives from the loft. Hmmm. There are  others....we will not go there, will we.)

Yesterday, when I was writing about seasons, and drifted onto the moors, it was a surprise. An unexpected memory. I had forgotten the getting lost fun. And when I lay in bed last night, I remembered one very special picnic we had beside a stream on the moors, under a few trees. It was hot, and autumn too - the 1976 heatwave was slow to depart - and I had my feet in the water as we sat and talked of dreams. I had a real suspicion that I was pregnant with our first child, and only we knew. We had not had the doctor's confirmation yet, but we were pretty sure. Those were days before the little stick thingy went blue. The test took a while to come back.

So we sat there, and wondered about who our child would be. What we wanted for him or her. What kind of parents we would be...... just the two of us, and it was a wonderful quiet day of dreams. Hugging that secret to ourselves. Somewhere, I have a photo, I know. That child is now a father himself.

30 minutes later.......

Well. I hauled out the box of photos from the depths of my cupboard. They are all over the floor. 50 odd years of them. ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!! There are some polaroid ones which are fading badly - I need to scan them into the computer asap to save them, because they are memory triggers too. Good grief, if ever you need something to make you grin, unearth old photos. I did find one of Windsor Castle when Mum, Granny and I did a tour of the have NO idea what we got up to, but now I know what I will be writing about tomorrow. Believe me, you will howl with laughter.......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Memories - seasons, different hemispheres, droughts and Devon.....

Autumn is definitely here, people - blustery winds and a little rain, and me chasing things round the garden, like watering cans which took flight. On TV, the energy coasts are high on the news agenda. The government's solution? Shop around. NO! Why don't companies reward loyal customers (the ones who look at shopping around with horror) (like me) with the lowest rates in town? Groan.

Autumn. Oh how I love living in a country where there are 4 real seasons. In South Africa, it seemed as if there were just two - winter and summer. Long summers and equally long winters. That is, if you remember that there is no central heating in SA. And no double glazing. Just fireplaces and heaters. No gas either, so all heating is electric. Or at least it was when I lived there. Thankfully, there were days in winter when the temps were reaching the 20s C so that would qualify as the height of summer by UK standards.

I think I was tougher then. I was used to the cold homes, and we wore layers, even when the temps were around 0 C. Pipes didn't freeze. There was no real snow either - unless you count the tops of the mountain ranges. That was SO exciting - the news that there was snow anywhere close by. My blood must have thinned living here in the UK, and having heating in the house. I feel the cold much more now. And do not remind me that age may have anything to do with it!

When I got married, at the end of March in 1976, it was so hot. The temperature reached high 30s C and yet, technically, it was autumn. And I remember going back on a visit in the late 1990s, and I actually went into the sea for a swim in June. Mid winter. I was not the only one in the water that time - there were many swimmers. Probably all English tourists who thought it was summer after all.

The weather there is different. it is Africa, after all. The clocks stay put there. There is no changing time zones, even though the country spanned 3 I think, and no summer and winter times either. Sensible place. Summer means it still gets dark early, so children don't go to bed when the sun is still shining, which makes bed-times so much easier!
Photo courtesy of Google images
In 1976, here in the UK, though, we had a drought. I could not believe how hot it was, and then came the water restrictions. Stand pipes in the road. I thought I was back in Darkest Africa.
Queue for water at a stand pipe in Devon - photo courtesy of Google Images. No, I am NOT in this photo, and no I do not know any of these women! But picture me there at the end of the queue. With bucket. Every day. 3 or 4 times a day.

After we got married, we stayed with my mother-in-law in Plymouth Devon while we were not at sea - or when I was not touring the countryside with my mother and grandmother while Geoff was away on naval exercises. And the drought was so bad that all water supplies were switched off, and we had to walk to a stand pipe at the end of the road with a bucket, and get water for the day. You have no idea. Baths were out of the question. Washing machines could not work. Toilets...... well. Recycling water became an art form.

For light relief, every Sunday we would drive up onto the moors to check the level of Burrator - the huge reservoir, along with the rest of the city. And every week it kept dropping. It was a really appalling drought. And I have never learned to appreciate running water faster.

I loved the moors. Dartmoor. Geoff and I used to spend a lot of time "getting lost" deliberately on the moors, and discovered so many wonderful places. Little streams , beautiful quiet villages, wonderful rolling hills, great pubs which served delicious lunches. We would take turns - "Take the 3rd road on the right then the 2nd on the left then the 6th on the right" and so on. Oh how we used to laugh when we ended up in a field, but then we would hop out and go for a walk and explore. These are memories which really make me grin, you know. Magical times.

My mother-in-law was very old fashioned. So when I arrived from Africa, complete with maxi dresses which were high fashion, she was horrified, and told me that I could not possibly go out of the front door wearing one. People would talk. I tried to point out that maxi dresses were the best thing to wear - cool and perfect for the blazing heat. Like the Arabs wear in very hot climates. Hah. She did not buy that one. So I didn't wear them. It was bad enough that I loved twisting scarves round my head back then. I was very different.

But she loved my baking. I was asked to bake whenever she had friends to tea. That I could do. How on earth have we moved from seasons to drought to cakes? Hmmm. That is what memories do - they keep taking detours.........

Sunday, October 16, 2011

World Food Day.........

Today is World Food Day. There are so many millions of people around the world who are hungry right now - famine, wars, drought, crop failure, and closer to home, the cost. Oh, the spiralling  cost. It scares me rigid at times, and I am sensible. I plan ahead - I have food. I grow my own, I keep a supply of basics. We will not starve. But then what if you suddenly lose your job? Or, as winter approaches, what if you have to choose between heating and food, given the sky-rocketing energy costs and the government's slashing of the heating allowance for the elderly? Or if you are homeless?

Thousands of people are dying of hunger while I write this. The stats are there to see. Stop the Hunger has appalling data. Just go and have a look. But what worries me is that there may be people we know in need. People sitting next to us in church. Neighbours. Friends. People who have a little too much pride, and pretend all is well, while they hide desperate need. The stiff upper lip is a well known trait of the British in particular. I am an expert at this. I speak from long experience.

So I stood up in church today and talked about how there is no place for pride within the church's four walls. How we need to learn to be real and open and admit need, ask for help, without fear of judgement. We have started a food collection for the homeless centre in the nearby town, but I wanted people within the church to know that there was no disgrace in admitting a personal need. To know that there were bags in the overflowing boxes of donations (it has been amazing to see how wonderfully people have responded to the appeal for food) which can be filled with food they may need. That they were very welcome to take it.

Every one of us is affected by the current economic woes of the world. Every single one. Many may not have anywhere near enough. Some have lost jobs. Some cannot find new jobs. Retirement plans have collapsed. All have to find ways to make a restricted budget stretch in unbelievable ways. Gone are the days of plenty. Unless one happens to win the lotto, and then, one hopes one would be sharing with everyone, of course. Young people are living back at home because of the lack of work opportunities. Salaries going down while costs shoot up is a recipe for disaster for families.

And yet......

We are rich. Compared to 99% of the global population, aren't we? Rich beyond measure. We are commanded (not an optional extra) to love our neighbours. In the same way as we love ourselves. This is the second most important commandment, according to the Son of God. I believe Him. To treat them just as we treat ourselves. That means practical help too. It means knowing. Noticing. Being aware. Doing things. Meeting needs. Sharing. Caring. Helping. Reaching out. Opening our eyes.No matter how little we may have. So when we go shopping, instead of putting "tin for the food bank" at the bottom of the shopping list, how about putting it at the top? Pop that in the trolley (cart) FIRST.  Make it a priority.

It could be the difference between life and death for someone.

So here at RCR Central, Mother is crocheting blankets for the homeless with donations of wool collected from friends. She is nearly 86, but she will make sure some of them stay warm. Granny is beavering away at the rate of one blanket every 7-10 days. She is amazing.

Donating food, clothes, blankets..... all are good and help so much. But right now, it is the suffering in silence that really bothers me. Maybe if we all keep watch, we can make a real difference???

No memory post today, unless I am stuck by the muse later. This is much more important. Today is what matters. Not yesterday.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Memories - insurance.....

My camera. Well. Unlike the 57,900,288 previous times when I have lost or broken something, this time, I called the insurance company to report the demise of said camera. I loved my camera. It was a gift from my sister and brother-in-law for Christmas nearly 3 years ago. And the call went fine. Yes, I know I have an excess of £100 (stupid me. I should have lowered it a bit) and yes, the camera is available for inspection. And all was fine. A company would call me to make arrangements for a replacement.

Now bear in mind that excess, people. The call came. Oh yes, we have a replacement, Linds. It is not a Panasonic like your old camera, but an Olympus. WHAT??? I have a new for old top of the range all singing and dancing bells and whistles policy and you want to replace the Panasonic for an OLYMPUS?? Yes. We do not have to match manufacturers and this one does what your OLD (emphasis theirs) camera did.

And how much does the camera cost? Remember that £100 excess. £89. WHAT??? Yes. You will have to pay us your excess and we will send you a voucher to go and get the Olympus. The £89 Olympus.

Please insert Millennium fireworks at this point. In HD. With sound.

After a 10 minute firework display and a few home mathematical truths (using long and complicated words which I am positive the imbecile on the other end of the line could not comprehend), I cancelled the replacement and called the insurance company back and repeated the pyrotechnics. Calm down, Linds, the Insurance lady said. Well. If ANYONE tells me to calm down when I am in a rage, it is dangerous territory. But she persevered. And said she would do some research and call me back.

15 minutes later, she called to tell me that the replacement I had been offered did not come close to the specs of my old camera, and that they could replace it with a newer version of mine, a Panasonic, but not the most recent. I am not in the slightest bit bothered by the fact that it is not the latest model. I just want my camera back. One I know all about. So I had to pay the £100 on the spot, and they sent me the voucher today. Their contribution was considerably less than mine, may I add. Maybe it is time to switch insurers. But, any time after 1pm tomorrow, I am free to go and use the voucher and get my camera. You have no idea how complicated they make these things. A camera. I will have a working camera, at least.

Tuesday was not the most tranquil of mornings.

When we moved to the UK, our possessions were packed by the same company in two lots. One load when we sold our house, and another 10 months later just before we left. And the packing was superb. However, customs in the UK selected our container to inspect, and they most certainly went through everything. There was nothing to find, because my detail was, well, detailed, to say the least. And then they tossed (and I use that word advisedly) the lot back in the 40ft container, and sent it on to me. The driver of the container broke the customs seal outside my front door, and told me to go and get my camera. It was a disgrace. When it left Cape Town, the container was not entirely full, so they build wooden fence-like structures to hold everything in place. That was gone, and I do not lie when I tell you that they shoved things in any which way. Welsh dresser - back broken. Desks broken. Beds. Broken. So much damage.

It was such an ordeal - the moving. Geoff was in the Far East. I hated the house he had bought. Kids upset to say the least. Argh. Not a good time. So I contacted my insurance company. And discovered, oh joy, oh delight, that the two loads of packing (into the same container) were covered by two insurance companies. Beds in each. Desks in each. And they each said it was the other's responsibility and in the end I got nothing. Zero. Nil. And I had no energy for a fight.

So up until now, my insurance experiences have not been stellar, and like so many people, I do not call them up whenever I lose things or break them. Basically because it is me who has to do the calling and I am sick to death of battles. But this time, that camera was really important.

Well, I think this post covers the memory category too. It will have to do. David has been cleaning all the garden furniture today, so that has all been packed away for the winter. It must be nearly 30 years old, that white Alibert garden furniture. I swear it will outlive me. It just keeps going, even though it does not look pristine any more. But we have somewhere to sit, so it is all good. And I emptied a couple or 6 more pots. Progress. The sun is shining, though it is not exactly tropical, and the washing is out. A good Saturday. I hope you are all having a good time too.......

Friday, October 14, 2011

Memories - a special young friend

Today I am going to tell you about a little girl I met many years ago. No-one will know who I am talking about, except........maybe she will. One of the things I loved about having my children, was meeting new people. Making new friends. And once they started at pre-primary, the gathering in the car park, waiting for them to burst through the doorway was a great place to chat to other mums. And oh yes, we chatted. Children came home to play for the afternoons. Mums collected them. Mums came to tea. Dinner parties. Fun family times. And any special event at the schools heralded more interaction, and cemented friendships.

So, I met another Mum. She had 3 children, while at the time, I had my older two, and they were the same age as her younger two. That meant many years of sitting outside the same schools together. And in each other's homes at times too. The little girl I want to tell you about was the big sister in that family - a couple of years older than my children. Super bright. Quiet. She always had her nose in a book, or, when the adults sat and talked about global affairs and other such fascinating topics, I remember her sitting quietly, so hardly anyone noticed her, listening, watching, learning. She seemed to fit in more with the adults than she did with the children. I noticed. I used to watch her too. And wonder. She fascinated me. And I always thought that she was going to grow into one amazing woman one day.

I loved talking to her. We loved the same authors. She asked me questions. Her mind worked at lightning speed and mine was still fairly agile back then, so at times it seemed as if we were talking a totally different language compared to the others in the room. We talked a lot. In so many ways she was so like me. She could have been my daughter. That made me smile. Even though she was a child, we shared so many interests. She dreamed about being a doctor, just like I did when I was young. I remember talking to her about the death of my dreams when I came up against a teacher who loathed me, and wouldn't sign the admission application to medical school. The teacher was wrong. But I was wrong by giving up. I told her never to let anyone else decide that her dreams were over. Or give up. She didn't need my advice, by the way. I think she knew exactly what she was going to do.

And she did.

She became a doctor in South Africa, has practiced in the UK and now practices in the States. (There is a great deal more to that part of the story than that one sentence implies, believe me. A WHOLE lot more. My admiration for her tenacity and courage is boundless.) You know my list of Things To Do Before I Die?? I tell you, that child woman is going through MY list at speed. She doesn't know that the things she does are all on my list too, you see. But I watch her off on her adventures, and I sit here and I grin. She blogs too, so I get to see her creativity at work - you should see her knitting. Amazing stuff. And she spins too. I see how she still loves reading. She is funny and loving and SO interesting. And I smile, because I get to know how right I was back then. She is an amazing woman. One I am so proud to know. And one who is now MY friend. The generation between us ceases to matter, not that it ever did.  However, I will continue to sulk about the Alaskan trip for a couple of months at the very least.

The last time I saw her was, I think, just before we moved back to the UK in 1990. David was a baby. She was in her teens - she went to the same school I went to. See? I told you there was so much we had in common! I have never forgotten her. And I spent a great many moments wondering how she was and where she was, until the Internet put us all in touch once again.

There will always be a place in my heart reserved especially for her, you see. I am SO proud of her.  And there is something so special about watching the potential in a child become reality in adulthood. I never doubted it for a second. I like being right. And one day, it would be fun to knock on her door and continue those amazing conversations started 20 odd years ago. One day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Memories - finding out about a surprise baby long ago.....

My youngest son, David, and I were having a chat earlier about how I was somewhat surprised when I found out that he was on the way. He was not actually planned. (The shock wore off fast, let me add, and he has always been a wonderful, wanted and loved addition to our family!) It was 8 years after Diana was born, after all, and I had spent my 20s chasing little ones. My 30s were supposed to be somewhat different. Hah. The Good Lord had another plan in mind. He knew better. I knew almost immediately that I was pregnant. I just knew. So the official confirmation was not a huge surprise. Making plans has never really worked for us. Things happen. Great things, in this case. 

Diana was very excited. Andrew? Well, he was 11 and horrified. His immediate reaction was hilarious and is remembered by all - "Oh God how gross. If it is a girl I am leaving." I still grin when I remember his words and I can still see his face. Priceless. My street cred was somewhat elevated when 2 more Mums of boys in his school year also announced they were having surprise babies, and I moved from gross to sainthood, because I was going to have the first baby. You have to think like an 11 year old here! 

He and Diana came up with the names. Jessica for a girl (Murder She Wrote was a favourite at the time) and David for a boy. I had no idea what I was having because I chose not to find out - I love surprises! So when I went into labour 2 weeks early, I called my friends, Jane and Lynda- both had been nurses once upon a time before babies, and we spent the day playing card games in my lounge while timing contractions. Listening to Queen in concert on a video. As one does. Singing loudly. There may have been chocolate involved. They had arrived around lunch time, and by approaching midnight, they looked at each other and asked each other exactly when last they had delivered babies, and decided that maybe I should decamp to the hospital immediately. 

So off we went. Geoff too. He was home for the birth. He was there when Diana was born, but in Norway when Andrew arrived. The obstetrician, who happened to be Lynda's Dad, delivered all my babies, but he was away at his holiday home, and not due back for a couple of days, but fortunately, as we arrived, Jane spotted a friend of ours who was also an obstetrician in the corridor. He was delivering another baby but agreed to deliver mine if necessary, so we were all sorted. The girls stayed outside and Geoff and I paced about the labour ward, and then towards dawn, in walked my own doctor.  A miracle. He had a feeling he should come back early, so he did. Just as well, because within an hour or so, David made his entrance. 23 hours after labour began. The earliest and smallest of my babies. (It is really strange how my first labour was 6 hours, the second, 11, and the third 23. Just as well we stopped then, because I hate to think what the next one would have been.....)

The kids thought he looked like ET. I thought he was beautiful. I still look at the photos, and have NO idea what they were seeing. He was gorgeous. And ours. And we could not have been happier. Do you know that the nurses at the hospital said that I had to bath him in front of them before I could go home? I stayed in a week. Well, firstly, I looked at them and said, excuse me, I have 2 children. I am quite capable of bathing my baby. Oh we need to check, they said. I think not. I did ask if they were parents. No. Not one of them. I rest my case. I did not bath him while there. Good grief. I could have given lessons in the art of bathing a newborn. My other 2 had survived after all. 

However, my week long stay was wonderful. I had one of those private rooms, with my own bathroom, tv, and a balcony where my meals were served, with a view of the mountain. It is a wonder I did not stay there 2 weeks. Or 3. And my son, the big brother? He adored his baby brother on sight. And all his friends brought him little presents, including a ninja head band, because all baby boys need ninja head bands, of course. So sweet!  And they queued up to hold him. He became the class favourite. Actually, by the time he was one, I think he thought he was 12. He was so used to being with the big boys. 

And his big sister thought he was the best too. She was a second mother to him, and just loved helping and carrying him about. I was really fortunate. In a sense, David has always had what must seem like 2 sets of parents, you see. From his earliest memory, Andrew and Diana have been the height of adults. But he has always been surrounded by people who love him to bits. 

When I found out I was expecting him, I said - I think there is something really special about this baby. I just hope I live long enough to find out exactly what  it is. I just had a feeling, you know. And now here I am with that "baby", who is a man, 22, and towers over us all. He is in the process of making life-changing decisions, and is just such a blessing. I love him to bits. And I cannot wait to see what he does next. 

He really is special. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I am playing with templates. I HATE PLAYING WITH TEMPLATES. RCR may look discombobulated for a while.

Memories - music and camps and childhood fun....

The parcel arrived at its destination over on the other side of the world yesterday. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago, when I said I had finished the quilt I was making? This is my ta da moment - here it is.....

For Kelli, my sweet blogging friend, who is waiting for a new kidney. Sigh. I am so glad it got there safely.

On Monday, I had to go to be re-assessed for the industrial injury payment I get each month. A pittance, but still it helps. You know, having to talk about pain and the limitations it places on me always knocks me for six, and I hate, hate, hate it. I want to focus on what I CAN do , not what I cannot. And now I wait to see if it will carry on or expire. So yesterday, I could hardly move. No sleep either. Dire. Just dire.

But today is another day.

I could talk about what has happened in the past 5 years, but to be frank, you can go back and read the blog and see it all there. Those years are indelible memories too. And they, more than anything, have shaped my "today", haven't they.

So today,. we will talk about things I did when I was at school. I taught myself to play the guitar, using a little book called "Guitar" by Dan Morgan. Good grief. I remember his name too. The very first song I learned to play was Swanee River, and it drove my parents crackers. Long pauses while I managed to find the next chord, but I learned anyway. And I loved playing. I last played a few years ago, when I was a part of the church band. I loved that.

My parents had a swimming pool built, so every weekend, the pool was full of our friends. My Mum got an extra fridge which was full of cool drinks and fruit salad and cold meat, and we could eat anything from that one, but had to leave the other one alone. Great thinking, Mum! Dad used to do BBQs for the Scripture Union events, which were usually at our place. Some of my church friends also played musical instruments, and so we used to meet at our home and practice together. I remember once having about 12 people plus guitars in a bathroom, singing away, because the acoustics were so good! We did love the echo.

Music - so much a part of my life. I went to piano lessons with Miss Maritz down the road. She tried hard, but I loved playing by ear, and improvising, and reading music was boring, so I used to watch her playing at the top of the keyboard out of the corner of my eye and copy her. To this day, I can read the right hand perfectly, but the left hand....Hmmm. I have to work it out. When I sing now, at least I can read what I am supposed to be singing, but forget finding a note and just belting it out.

So much of our out of school social life was bound up in the church we went to - badminton on Saturdays, youth club on Fridays, movie nights, fetes. And there was a great deal of singing and playing there too. We went away on camps. Once we went to Namaqualand to help build a school. That was really good, but I remember it being very cold too. In high school, I went to a series of S&V camps. Scripture Union based "Schools and Varsity". Going away on a big train with sleeper carriages was such an adventure. When I got a little older, I went to kiddies ones, as a leader, and that was wonderful. And at school, we also had camps we went to down at Froggy Pond, down the coast. Not far from home but that did not matter at all. Such beauty - the coast around the Cape peninsula is spectacular.
Froggy Pond - photo courtesy of Google Images

Froggy Pond - photo courtesy of Google images
This is also the beach where my older son, aged 11, went on a school camp and learned to dive. The entire year was taught diving by the navy people, and then they took to the water, complete with real diving knives strapped to their ankles. They knew how to use them too. This trip involved a second mortgage. Not really, but it was close. Each child needed full wetsuit, cap, goggles, knife, straps, gloves, boots, underwater watch, weight bands. I am sure there was more. He did look stunning in his kit, I remember. And he had a total ball. I went down to help one of the days he was there.

I could go on and on, you know, The mind skips and dances through the decades. More tomorrow......