It’s time to change the image header for my blog. As of Thursday, there are no more cats in my life. Jessy left for Valhalla two years ago, at nearly 20, and her daughter, Choccie, at the grand age of nearly 22, left this week. Choccie was an only child/kitten, her two siblings dying at birth. Unfortunately, in my own human experience, mothers and daughters do not get on at all well but these two were an exception. I miss them both.
Category Archives: miscellaneous
It’s a long weekend in South Africa, with today (Monday) being National Women’s Day. I decided to spend it in Napier, a small village two hours from Cape Town, on a personal retreat – just having a break from my usual routine and my senile delinquent cat. I brought my crochet, beads, books, laptop (for podcasts), and a hot water bottle. I’ve stayed at a quirky and ancient little guesthouse called Napier All Sorts. It’s on an enormous erf with a farm at the back (so far I’ve only seen sheep), a vegetable garden from which I’ve been encouraged to pick my own peppadews and spinach, and a craft and coffee shop at the front.
In between the crocheting and reading and, yes, some Netflix, I took myself for a walk on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t go far but it was a beautiful late-winter’s day and I was glad I’d made the effort.
I had not felt the need to be particularly sociable but thought I should make an effort to be friendly so spent an hour with Leon on Sunday morning in the shop and then being shown how he makes his pewter chess sets in his workshop downstairs (fascinating!). He himself has interesting stories to tell about his life, but the real shocker was being shown his collection of war memorabilia. I was not prepared for that.
There were medals and documents and uniforms and guns from both sides of the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second. My grandfathers fought in the First World War, one for Britain and one for Germany. They were both conscripted, as far as I know. My paternal grandfather moved to Switzerland in the early 1920s and then left for South Africa in about 1933 because he could see trouble brewing. As a German national, he would have been called back to Germany, this time to fight for Hitler, and he was having none of it.
I’ve been reading a lot about the Second World War, and also my ex-husband is Jewish, so perhaps that is why I nearly fell over with shock at seeing an original Nazi flag pinned to the wall, pictures of Hitler and his cronies, SS uniforms, a lot of swastikas, and a framed document signed by AH himself.
Sunday was also sunny but chilly and the wind was more insistent. I wandered off through some farmland and tried to let the strong breeze blow the cobwebs out of my mind.
Later in the day, tucked up cosily on the couch with a hot water bottle and a stiff Laphroaig (neat, no ice), I considered what a strange life we human beings have led on this little rock revolving round the sun in a single universe beyond which there is a galaxy of inumerable more.
I picked up my crochet hook and carried on with my rainbow jersey.
as I get older
I was chatting to someone the other day and began a sentence with, “And as I get older….“, when he interrupted and said “you get wiser“. First of all, I do not like being interrupted. Second, this is NOT what I was going to say. Perhaps he was trying to pay me a compliment. I do not mind compliments (at this stage, I’ll take pretty much any that get thrown my way – I’m weak like that).
But if he’d allowed me to finish my sentence, he would have heard “… I find I am becoming less and less tolerant of selfish, over-privileged people and self-appointed experts – and, what’s even better, I find I am able to express my opinions verbally and directly.” This is something I’ve had trouble with all my life – I was brought up to be polite and to treat others with respect, whether or not that respect was returned. A very deeply engrained survival tactic, which I had mastered by the age of 3, was to keep my mouth shut. Voicing one’s own opinion, however civilly and/or timidly, was the equivalent of navigating a field filled with landmines when I was growing up. Landmines were best avoided by standing in one place.
This is so liberating. What I say may or may not make any difference to the recipient of my intolerance or irritation, but I don’t care about that. I can’t change people’s minds about things and it is not my vocation in life anyway. (When I was 13 and fully indoctrinated by the Sisters of Mercy, I believed my vocation was to become a nun. Thankfully, by the age of 14, I’d discovered Levis, cigarettes, Neil Young, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kurt Vonnegut and a very attractive young man called Roy who used to ride his bike all the way from Melville to visit me after school every day. We only ever stood at the garden gate talking, but it was enough to make me realise that there was more to life than a narrow bed in an austere cell with a bunch of religious fanatics, no personal freedom and no choice of different outfits). I did have a glow-in-the-dark statue of the Virgin Mary on my shelf, and you could lift Mary up to reveal a little container presumably meant for your rosary. For me, it functioned as an ashtray. It took my mother years to discover the source of the smell of stale stompies. Revolting, I know, but there we are.
I have spent a little time thinking about these things. My conclusion is that the more seriously people take themselves, the more “special” they believe themselves to be. Yes, it is rather simplistic but it is a sufficient explanation for me. Well, guess what? We are all special and, ipso facto, none of us are special. We all have different abilities, interests, opportunities, circumstances; the colour of your skin or the amount of money you have in the bank doesn’t give you the right to think you are better than someone with skin of a different colour or less money or less formal education.
I’ve made a good start lately on this new, more outspoken me, and I like it. I am starting to like me more. I have boundaries. Don’t cross mine and I won’t cross yours (or at least I will try very hard not to, and if I do, I will apologise to you). We are entitled to differing opinions on climate change, psychology, the wisdom of covid vaccinations, critical race theory, capitalism, art, music, religion and politics. We are entitled to these opinions by our Constitution, by the true nature of democracy, and by common decency and the absence of judgement.
But talking about judgement —- right now, most South Africans are entitled to feel wildly and deliriously thrilled by the thought of ex-Prez Jacob Zuma going to jail. It’s supposed to happen today. Only for contempt of court, despite the other 782 million laws he’s broken, but jail is jail. No doubt he’ll be out soon, he’s a wily bastard, but until then he’s going to look really really lousy in orange.
It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens (Woody Allen).
I’m not a big Woody Allen fan so it annoys me when I have to attribute something clever to him, but fair’s fair.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about death in the last three days. A very dear friend, whom I have known for over 38 years, died on Friday morning from cancer of the oesophagus. She was my age (59) and put up a very tough fight in the last few months, but it was too late and it was her time to go. Her beloved aunt, who nursed her at home for the last few weeks, told me that Shona had died propped up in bed, with her glasses on and her tablet open in front of her, presumably watching something on Netflix. Her dog, Cayley, was lying next to her licking her hand. Shona and I had in fact spoken just the night before via whatsapp, and the last message I had from her was four kisses. For the first time, her exhaustion and acceptance were apparent in her voice.
I’m not trying to make this about me, but I have come to realise that that actually is what death is about. The person who has died has gone, they are no longer suffering or in a bitter struggle for survival, they are at peace. We all have to die one day. We all know this. It is the impact of Shona’s loss on my own life that I must endure, and find a way to accommodate.
A group of us celebrating Shona’s 53rd birthday at Forrie’s, Shona is the one in the light pink Chinese top:
I was brought up as a Catholic, I went to mass every Sunday and confession once a week. My father (who died at 46 from cancer of the pancreas) had the last rites at home, although he ended up dying in hospital. At 17, I did not question the concept that he had gone to be in heaven. I believed in heaven and all the other stuff until I was 18, to wake up one morning and realise that none of it made any sense to me any more.
Before anyone jumps down my throat, I’d like to make something clear – I am not criticising anyone who is religious (of whatever faith). My best friend is a practicing Catholic and she knows I am an atheist. I respect her beliefs and actions. I respect anyone else’s beliefs, as long as they don’t result in prosthelytising or causing harm to anyone else. I think the development of religion was a necessary evolutionary step for human beings. I truly wish I did still believe in the faith that my parents had, it would be comforting in so many ways. But I just can’t – I can’t force it, any more than I can force myself to be taller or shorter. I also do not say it lightly – I have read a great deal about religion, atheism, spirituality, human psychology, history, evolution, and as much science as my head can manage to absorb.
About seven years, I made Shona some fingerless mitts for her birthday. She was always so bright, smart, witty and sweet, and her life was difficult in many ways that I have never had to contend with. She was tougher than she looked, and at the same time more fragile than one would usually guess.
I would love to think of Shona “somewhere up there”, with my dad, my grandparents, Philip, and the many other people I have loved who have gone from my life. But in the end, for me, it all comes back to the impact on my own life and emotions. Shona’s death compounds my continued grief for my dad and for Philip, but it is all the same to them – they are no longer ill and in pain. I must live with my losses and find a way to give them space in amongst all the other things that make me human. I hope some of those things include empathy and consideration of others, but right now, it is just overwhelming selfish grief.
when a negative is a positive
Results of covid test yesterday = negative. Praise be. Result SMSed at 7.00am today. How efficient is that! (I had it done through a private company, not a government institution). AND also good news, my mother (at 84) has finally been given a time slot for her vaccination this week. Here’s our very own Tannie Evita** showing how things are actually getting done in the Western Cape.
My suburb has been without electricity since 10pm last night, it just came back on at 10.15am. It wasn’t useless old Eskom and loadshedding for a change, just scheduled maintenance by the City Council which, let’s face it, is great and what we pay such high rates for. But not when it runs four hours over schedule and PEOPLE NEED COFFEE. I knew some of my neighbours have gas (they’re campers – weird, I know, I’ll never get that, but it takes all sorts) so I resorted to staggering up and down my road when the sun came up in my fluffy gown and furry slippers, whimpering and bleating pathetically and clutching an empty thermos. Two of them came to the rescue and, once my caffeine levels had been restored, I was able to spend some time making a list of the things I ought to spend my Sunday doing. They may also have thought that my appearance lowered the tone of the neighbourhood, but that’s not my problem.
Now that the electricity is back on, and the sun is shining and the birds are singing, I had another look at the list and tore it up. It included ridiculous things like “continue tidying garage” and “weed garden” and “clean car”. None of those things can be done properly with one hand anyway, so I logged onto Facebook and immediately purchased a vintage wrap-over leopard-print jacket that I am convinced I can’t live without. I’m also going to put my walking shoes on and go for a brisk stroll in the park.
** Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout is South Africa’s Dame Edna (although funnier, in my opinion).