When I’m 64

The entry into my 59th year wasn’t as auspicious as I had hoped. I had flu, a broken premolar, mouth ulcers and perioral dermatitis (which I only discovered, and started treatment for, when I saw a dermatologist a few days later). I was, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. I’m not sure why this was the case and thankfully I am now on the mend, although the tooth still needs to be capped. Fortunately my friend, Judy, was visiting at the time. She kept me company while I languished in bed watching telly and Peter, bless his cotton socks, made us endless cups of tea (during the day) and kept our wine glasses full after sunset.

Growing older is one of life’s great ironies. We’re so fucking relieved to have made it this far, but as we thankfully receive each additional year on earth so we degenerate a little bit more. I’m not complaining though since I don’t have any major health problems or any real aches and pains. What I have is down to just normal wear and tear – touch wood. I would go so far as to say that as I get older, I feel like I am a better person; more intuitive, less judgmental and all round more happy.

It’s a strange thing. Ever since I discovered that what I thought was socially inept behaviour on my part was actually a consequence of being an introvert, I have stopped being so self-critical and become much more relaxed in situations that previously I would have run a mile from. It definitely helps knowing that one is not alone, nor odd, in feeling alienated in certain circumstances where everyone else appears to be in their element. It’s a bit like having a disturbing recurring dream. Once you fathom out the message that your subconscious is sending you, the dreams stop.

When I was a child, many a Sunday evening was spent playing games around the dining room table. We played board games like Monopoly and Scrabble and my dad also taught us card games, like poker, chase the ace, sevens and pontoon. As a result, I love playing games, not from a competitive place but for the sense of togetherness that it creates. However, I have never felt comfortable playing games with people other than my friends and family. But last year, in an attempt to be more sociable, I signed up for bridge lessons in Nottingham Road and landed up playing club bridge once a week and social bridge twice a week. I often find myself marvelling at the fact that I’m sitting at a table with people I don’t know very well, playing a game that I haven’t quite mastered, and I’m actually enjoying it. I was fortunate to join a class at the same time as Margie, who is a delight to play with and has now become my regular partner in the club (and when she is not available, Peter steps in).

I think that bridge is quite a good game for introverts because chit chat is discouraged, except of course when one plays social bridge. Ironically, now that I feel more comfortable being quiet (after reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet) I seem to be joining in the general natter more easily.

It never ceases to amaze me that a simple discovery about one’s personality could result in such a monumental mind shift. Discovering this has, in effect, changed the way I live my life. What I’ve always thought of as flaws I now think of as strengths and I feel more confident than ever that it’s okay to just be myself. ­­­­­I just wish I could have learnt this sooner rather than later.

S'ne, Thandi's daughter, enjoying the pancakes at Mulberry Hill

S’ne, Thandi’s daughter, enjoying the nutella pancake at Mulberry Hill

firebreaks burnt at last

firebreaks burnt at last

Njabula, aka NInja, serving us on Father's Day at Bosch Hoek

Njabula, aka NInja, serving us on Father’s Day at Bosch Hoek

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I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

I turned 58 recently.

It didn’t really go according to plan.

No, that’s not true,

There was no plan that it could go according to.

The birthday dawned and

I felt a bit fluey.

So I took to my bed and that’s where I lay

Lamenting the fact that I felt shit, on my birthday.

 

 

I am ambivalent about birthdays. I appreciate that I’m still here but I sure as hell hate getting older.

But on a brighter note, I took some bubbles to school and the kids went crazy chasing them. They called them balloons and when I corrected them, their pronunciation of “bubbles” was totally Mr Bean.

bubble-mania

 

more kiddie joy

more kiddie joy

from top left: Judy feeding the Floozies their greens; harvesting the end of the chillies; aloes in the village; vintage cars at the Rosetta market

from top left: Judy feeding the Floozies their greens; harvesting the end of the chillies; aloes in the village; vintage cars at the Rosetta market

winter veggies

winter veggies

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What a Wonderful World

It is dry here, so very dry, like a tinderbox, just waiting to ignite. Frost came a month late this year, after a harsh drought. This delayed the burning of firebreaks, which has all the landowners now rushing to get them done before the windy season sets it. Not such a pleasant time of year, but pretty nonetheless.

winter-3-2015

 

winter-2015

winter-2-2015

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See What Love Can Do

 

Several years ago, I posted a blog in the form of a letter to Njabulo’s dead mother, Angelina. I was thinking of her recently and how proud she would have been of the person her oldest son has become, just as we are.

Njabulo has worked on the farm for the past year, ever since we had to layoff our erstwhile employee, Kho, due to ill-health. However the arrangement we had with both of them was that Njabulo would have to relinquish the job should Kho recover and want to return. After 6 months in Richmond Hospital recovering from TB and 6 months on unemployment and disability benefits, Kho  has returned with a letter from the clinic doctor declaring him fit for work. I have seen Kho fight back from the brink of death 3 times and for that he should be commended but I sincerely hope that he doesn’t neglect his health again because it will be, I fear, the last time.

Despite knowing that this day might come, Njabulo was understandably quite distraught at the idea of returning to the ranks of the unemployed. We have always believed that he was capable of being more than an unskilled labourer and, to that end, have sent him on various courses (computer and permaculture) and have sponsored a number of attempts by him to get his learner’s license. So when he went for his interview as a waiter at the Bosch Hoek Golf Club, we were on tenterhooks waiting to hear if he got the job. And he did, with immediate effect. He visited us on his day off and we got a full report.

During his 2 days of training he excelled so much that he was asked if he had worked as a waiter before. He replied that his only experience was as a barman at Kiera and James’ wedding reception! One of his duties includes clearing and setting tables. So when he was asked to lay some tables and he responded that he had already done so, his speed on the job earned him the nickname “Ninja” by the chef.

His leaving the farm so abruptly has kind of dropped us in the dwang since Kho will only be starting in July. All of a sudden Peter and I have to get back into farm work but it has done us good to get involved again and, of course, we are so pleased for him. The chef asked Njabulo if we were okay with him starting immediately and he told her that we are his family and that we would want what is best for him. So it was with bittersweet emotions  that he took his leave from us and the farm.

As another fledgling leaves the nest, I wish I could tell his mother  we did the best we could but that her son did the rest and credit must surely go to her for laying the foundation of love.

James and Njabulo in front of their  RDP house

James and Njabulo in front of their RDP house

 

 

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Blueberry Hill

 

You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging much lately. I would like to say that I’ve been too busy but the truth is quite the opposite. Yes, I’ve been playing a shitload of bridge and volunteering at the local farm school but when I’m not out and about, I’m sitting at home and twiddling my thumbs. I feel a bit stuck and Annie Dillard’s words “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives” are starting to haunt me.

When Peter joined me here on the farm we employed a young woman, Thandi, to clean the house and do the ironing. Before that I did all my own housework and, if truth be told, we should be doing it ourselves, we have the time. Njabulo looks after the allotment and rest of the farm and I’ve kind of handed it over to him because he “does it so well”. And since I decided to let the indigenous bush swallow up the garden, there isn’t that much for me to do there either. So really I could use all this spare time to be more creative and productive, instead I don’t. It feels like all my focus has become diffused and even my camera lies gathering dust.

So I’ve decided to post a little something just to keep the blog alive until I get my mojo back. Please don’t expect too much!

Recently I saw a notice in the Notties Network newsletter that the nearby Bosch Hoek golf club was looking for waitrons. I immediately phoned and sold Njabulo to them as an ideal waiter (I’ve always felt that, with his engaging personality, he should be in the hospitality industry and not a farm worker).  I was told to bring him in the next day and that he was basically going to be thrown in the deep end as the club was hosting two major events, back to back. I was also informed that he had to wear black and white, so we rushed off to Mr Price in Howick in the morning and kitted him out with black jeans and white shirt before dropping him off at the club. I was then treated to a tour of the kitchen and what was being prepped for the special event (which was a Ken Forrester wine pairing) and I must say it all sounded quite delicious. I’m definitely going to the next one now that I know about it, it’s a Delaire Graff wine pairing. I think they’ve got a gem of a chef at Bosch Hoek, just hope they can hang on to her.

We’re hoping that Njabulo will be offered a full time job at Bosch Hoek not only because it would give him a bit more mobility than if he stayed on the farm but also because our regular farm worker has indicated that he would like to return to work after being on sick leave for the past year.

We had our first frost this morning, about a month late, and firebreaks can now be burned. What a relief – it’s always a bit scary come fire season because we have a thatch roof. But there is something very earthy about living under thatch that, despite its drawbacks, I wouldn’t want to change.

I’ve been playing quite a lot of bridge lately, perhaps too much but I do enjoy it. My best is Friday afternoons at Blueberry Café: the venue is so sublime, the cappuccinos and cookies are delicious, the atmosphere is very laid back and we have a lot of fun. It’s the perfect end to the week and, to top it all, the sunsets from Blueberry are magical. Afterwards, when I’m driving home along the old Curry’s Post Road, I really couldn’t wish for a better place to be.

Njabulo, looking very dapper

Njabulo, looking very dapper in his waitron kit

Ah ye, this is what it's' all about

Ah yes, this is what it’s all about

yin and yang

snuggles in front of the fire

 

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Maggie’s Farm

Recently I spoke to a friend who is planning to retire next year and is busy pondering what life after work could possibly look like. I envy her because she is in a position to prepare herself for what is going to happen. When I lost my job as full-time mum, I never saw it coming. Redundancy is “the state of being not or no longer needed or useful” and boy did I feel totally redundant. We spend most of our adult lives devoting our time to our work and / or our families and when our services are no longer required, our sense of self worth goes out the window. I spent many hours ranting and railing at the cards I had been dealt. And the question I asked myself over and over again was, “how the hell did I end up here?” It all seemed so very unfair.

But, with hindsight, I can now see that “retirement” is not only inevitable but it is also an invaluable opportunity to rediscover and reinvent oneself, if you can find it in yourself to do so. I would urge anyone going through this stage in their lives not to panic and to just go with the flow, trust me! Eventually you start to give up on the old life and become aware of the new one. Slowly but surely, after the initial angst, you start to find your way back to yourself and the possibilities that are now available to you.

One of which is the time to read poetry. This poem seems to sum up, quite beautifully, the process of rediscovery.

LOVE AFTER LOVE

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

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What a Wonderful World

 

We had a spectacular sky this afternoon.

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DSC_0005_edited-1The koppie is awash with Leonotis leonurus (wild dagga).  A sure sign that autumn has arrived in the Midlands.

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