Imagine

I don’t “do” politics – generally speaking I’m inclined to think that most politicians are morally corrupt and self-serving. However I’m not sure that anarchy (as in the absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual) would be a desirable substitute. So we’re stuck with them and the best I can do is apply my ostrich approach to them as much as possible. Unfortunately Peter likes to keep abreast of local and global politics; actually he’s an avid political commentator which makes it difficult for me to completely ignore what is happening at a political level.

Of course I care about the future of the world, I care about the oppressed and disadvantaged; and I care about the environment. Unfortunately, all too often, it is left in the hands of politicians to make decisions concerning these issues and they haven’t really done a good job up to now, in my opinion anyway. Of course there are good people in politics – those that serve their constituents and have ideals of a better world. They just don’t seem to make it to the top. Except for Mandela, I can’t think of any leader of a country that I admire.

Normally I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the issue of Brexit or the election of Trump, preferring to think that this too shall pass or, at the very least, looking for some positives in the situation. However there have been so many posts on social media that, to be perfectly honest, have really got up my nose. The one that keeps coming up in response to both Brexit and Trump (from politically incorrect right wingers I presume) is that, and I quote, the politically correct left had it coming. Really!?

The general consensus among political scientists is that “left wing” includes liberals, progressives, socialists and communists, and the “right wing” includes conservatives, traditionalists, reactionaries and fascists.

 www.reference.com/government-politics/difference-between-left-wing-right-wing

If I had to place myself on a political spectrum I would definitely be on the left. I’m appalled by racism, sexism, discrimation, exclusivity, narrow mindedness, conservatism, exploitation and monopoly capital. The right wing just doesn’t do it for me.

As far as political correctness goes, I would think that it is a matter of common human decency to avoid “forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.” Yes, there will always be idiots who take things to the extreme, but they are in the minority and generally those of us who are politically correct are simply trying not to cause harm to others.

I therefore have to nail my colours to the mast and proclaim loud and clear that I am a politically correct leftie and proud of it. And Trump gives me the creeps – just saying!

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Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

Is it just me or are you also surprised to find that we’re more than half way through January already? 2017 shot across the starting line like Lance Armstrong on EPO (I’ve just watched The Program so that’s the image that springs to mind)!

Alex arrived home on the 4th of January and left for Miami on the 10th. It was a blur of admin – his car was sold, flight booked, forex bought, bank account cancelled and laundry done (lots and lots of laundry). We barely had time to relax and enjoy his company before he was off. However we did find time to have a birthday tea with my mum who turned 93. It was bittersweet though because both of them confided in me that they had doubts of ever seeing each other again and that’s tough.

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Alex really is a very lucky young man. Kiera’s in-laws, Jim and Jody, live in Miami and very kindly met him at the airport and put him up for his first night. The next day Jody sorted a phone out for him and took him to the apartment that his company has provided for the first month. That evening Kiera flew down to spend a few days with him before he started work on the 16th. She helped him get a social security number and open a bank account. Before Kiera arrived, Alex went to buy some groceries at a nearby supermarket. He managed to get a few odds and ends but gave up when he reached the salt and pepper – the choice was just too overwhelming. If he was bewildered by the array of condiments, I dread to think how he’s going cope when he gets to choosing actual food.

I didn’t really have much time to mope after Alex left as thankfully my social diary was, for once, quite full and visits from friends kept me from brooding. Kiera’s friend, Louise, her mum, Jane, and baby Emily came for lunch and later in the day, Louise phoned Kiera (using whatsapp). It was quite a surreal experience – Louise (who lives in Toronto but was visiting her parents in Durban) at the farm with us talking to Kiera and Alex, who were together in Miami. As you said Louise “The world is small but still too big.”

I want one!

I want one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day my friend Ashley, a keen photographer, came for tea with her daughter who enjoys swimming in our little pool, despite the rather chilly water. Layla, our labbie, gets highly excited when anyone gets in the pool – she jumps in and tries to rescue them. However Samantha was unfazed and Layla had the time of her life playing in the water with her. Ashley took this magical photo of the two of them.

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15 years ago I bought a book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. As she writes in the Foreword, “This book is organised as a walk through the year, beginning on New Years Day.” Recently I’ve started rereading it, one day at a time, for inspiration. This morning, January 20th, she quotes Russell H Conwell:

Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them.

When I read that I thought of Ashley’s picture, and it struck me that I really do have diamonds in my backyard.

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Welcome to My Yammy

You’re a good mother – you give up your job to be a stay-at-home mum; you devote yourself to family life; you nurture them and help them grow; they give you sleepless nights and grey hair; and what’s the thanks you get? At the first chance, they bugger off! First your only daughter takes off for China and then, to add insult to injury, she marries an American and immigrates to the States. Then your only son, your baby, goes to the Cape to study. What does he do when he qualifies? He gets a job in Miami, that’s what. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted for both of them. I suppose it’s what we always wanted for them, to spread their wings and experience the world. But I’m just not sure that it’s what I wanted for me!

At the end of 2016 Alex qualified as a chartered accountant. Instead of staying on in SA, he decided to apply for jobs in America to get some international experience under his belt. He accepted a job in Miami and is due to start in mid-January. It’s been hard, I will not lie and even as I write this I’m tearing up – not because I don’t want him to go but because, although he left home 7 years ago (4 year degree at Stellies and 3 year articles in Cape Town), I know that this is his real turning point, and it’s mine too.

I had a taste of things to come this Christmas when Alex was unable to make it home because he had to go for his visa interview in Cape Town on the 3rd January. This was the first Christmas since we became parents that we spent it without either one of our children and it was difficult. When I invited Judy to spend Christmas with us I did warn her that I was going to be pretty miserable and pretty miserable I was too. It didn’t help that I had a tummy bug and was unable to consume as much prosecco as I would’ve liked. I think what distressed me the most was that Alex told me he would be spending Christmas on his own. Fortunately he heeded my pleas not to be alone and accepted an invitation to spend the day with a friend and his family.

Christmas morning - I changed for lunch and then got back into my jammies

Christmas morning – I changed for lunch and then got back into my jammies

Although I wouldn’t for second wish that my children (or I) had not gone in the directions that we have, I can’t help but be envious of those families that have remained in close proximity, at least on the same continent (for fuck’s sake).

Okay, if I have to be honest, my children’s adventures have provided me with wonderful opportunities to fulfil my own travel dreams. I always wanted to visit China – and I got the chance to do that when Kiera was working there. I’ve had amazing experiences and fabulous trips to Thailand, America, the Bahamas and the Cape, thanks to Kiera and Alex, so I really can’t complain.

But I really hate that I only get glimpses into their lives now, that I see everything from a distance. I wasn’t there when Kiera and James got married, I missed her graduation, I haven’t spent Alex’s birthday with him since he left home and now Kiera and James have moved into their first house and I’m not there to help. To top it all, this was the first Christmas without either of the children.

I’m envious of people whose lives seem to have run the course of a continuum. More often than not, they have a hometown, old school friends with whom they keep in regular contact and children and / or family who live nearby. They may not be entirely comfortable with who they are and what they do but they’ve got there step by step and the human condition plays out within this continuity. What I covet is the lack of bewilderment at finding themselves where they are at any given time – they are where they are meant to be.

My life, on the other hand, feels so disjointed, like I’ve lived in parcels of time, as one person morphing into another, time and again. I look back and I can’t see the connections. I’ve reached my late 50’s and I still have no clear idea who I am or how I got here. The problem is that I’m always aspiring to be somebody else instead of coming to terms with the reality of who I am and what I do.

I remember telling my daughter, when we still lived in Durban, that when I moved to the farm I was going to start a business  propagating and potting plants in “junk” containers. She asked if I had already started collecting suitable containers or propagating any plants. When I replied that I was waiting until I moved to the country, she expressed doubt about my commitment to the idea. “If that is what you really want to do, you would’ve started on it already” she said. And she was right; I didn’t make any effort to get my potted junk idea off the ground.

I think it has finally sunk in that instead of trying to find myself, I should be trying to accept myself. I’m not lost, I’ve been here all along, but I haven’t given myself enough credit. It was not very fashionable to describe myself as a fulltime mom; I never regarded being a mother as something one could put on one’s resume. However, I now realise that most of my decisions are based first and foremost on the fact that I am a mother and that I need to value that. Spending time with my children is the most important thing I do – my life therefore has to allow for that.

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Simple Life 4

(Couldn’t resist this video – lip syncing obviously not their forte!)

I thought posting one simple pleasure a week would be a doddle. After all, there is so much in life to enjoy – sunshine for a start, or rain or everything else in Cherry Blossom Lane. However, it’s not as easy as it may seem. The world is teeming with simple pleasures but pinpointing them is more complicated. Why? Because we take so many of them for granted and/or we just don’t identify them as simple pleasures.

Just squeaking into the 4th week is the simple pleasure of getting into bed and having sheets that make you want to sing “it’s good and clean and fresh, tra la la”. I find something very comforting about crisp, clean linen.

Since we started cutting back on our consumption of water earlier this year, our bedding doesn’t get changed as frequently as it did before. I used to be quite fastidious about changing the sheets every week but if needs must, standards must fall. Which makes the pleasure of climbing into a bed newly made with freshly laundered sheets all the more sweeter.

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Simple Life 3

Riding a bike is not only a simple pleasure but it’s also good for your health. For some time now I’ve been deliberating about doing some form of exercise. I can’t seem to stick to an exercise regime on my own plus my shoulder is still somewhat frozen. I love swimming but I just can’t get motivated to do it – I think it’s the cold weather that puts me off. That and the thought of having to get in my car and drive somewhere just to exercise doesn’t really appeal. I walk and I garden and that’s about it. I know that it’s not enough, especially as I think that fitness and health contribute to a fine 3rd act. So I decided to start cycling.

When I was a child my favourite pastime was riding my bike and I spent most afternoons riding around our neighbourhood in Port Elizabeth. I knew every street, every house, every garden and every open space. As soon as I got on my bike I entered into the world of my imagination. As I rode I got lost in the stories I made up in which I was the main actor and Mill Park was the stage on which I played. One day I left my bike in the driveway and it was stolen. I was bereft; it was my golden chariot, my trusty steed, an extension of me. My parents replaced the stolen bike but it was never quite the same after that.

When Peter and I lived in the Zululand bush in the early 80’s, I used to ride my red Western Flyer about 3 kms to the local school where I volunteered as an English teacher. I enjoyed the solitude of those rides and of course the track through the bush was beautifully wild. Once, on my way to school, I came across a goat giving birth. I stopped to watch for as long as I could before racing off to tell the children my news. They stared, amused and bemused, as I excitedly explained what I had just witnessed. What was this crazy white woman jabbering on about, had she never seen an animal give birth before?! Of course, it was a common sight for rural children.

my western flyer, now a garden feature

my western flyer, now a garden feature

The last time I rode a bike was 10 years ago in Italy and I loved every minute of it, until I got off the bike and fell over because my legs had turned to jelly. Be that as it may, determined to do something about my expanding waistline and wheezy chest, I decided it was time to air Alex’s mountain bike, which had been gathering dust in the garden shed ever since he left home. I must admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive getting on the bike – I wobbled a bit and then I was back in the saddle – like they say, it’s just like riding a bike!

taken on my cycle trip around the outskirts of Lucca

taken on my cycle trip around the outskirts of Lucca

Like Lucy Jordan I’ve long since realised that I’ll never ride through Paris in a sports car, but how lucky am I to be able to ride along country roads with the warm wind in my hair and not feel a care in the world? Sometimes, on my return home from morning rides, I stop at the orchard, pick a handful of berries and stuff them straight in my gob – it can’t get any better than that. Cycling has definitely brought my inner child back.

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Happy Together

When I first started writing my blog, I was quite keen to do an online creative writing course run by the University of Cape Town but it was too expensive, so I never did. Kiera suggested that I do a MOOC instead but I wasn’t convinced that anything offered for free would be worthwhile and ignored her advice. You get nothing for mahala, right? Wrong, so wrong! I recently completed a brilliant 4-week massive open online course (MOOC) run by Oregan State University. The course was an introduction to permaculture and it was so well put together and presented – what an incredible resource, and all the more so because it’s free. I found it extremely useful and thought-provoking, in particular the permaculture design principles. These principles have really inspired me to view our smallholding and my relationship with the land through new eyes.

At the end of the course we were challenged to take what we’ve learned, do something with it and post it on the course’s Facebook page. This is what I wrote:

I live on a smallholding in a farming community in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The contrast between the haves and have-nots is quite stark. On the one hand there are many prosperous farms, some of the most expensive private schools in the country and elite housing estates. On the other hand farm workers are among the most poorly paid; there are high levels of unemployment; and inadequate infrastructure including grossly under-resourced government schools – as many as 75% of the rural population live in poverty. Of course this leads to high levels of crime and many landowners tend to form what we call here a “laager mentality” (I think in America it’s called “circling the wagons”). As a landowner myself I’m trying not only to live in harmony with nature but also with the wider community. I was very interested to learn about the permaculture principle “Integrate rather than Segregate”.

In order to build relationships with the community I volunteer as a preschool / English teacher at a local farm school. When I read about the challenge I decided to buy colourful pots for all the children I teach and together we planted them with seedlings. The children were given their pot plants to take home, nurture and hopefully harvest.

Our school year has ended and next year, after the summer break, I plan to start introducing permaculture into the school curriculum.

these are our future permies

these are our future permies

This is something that really concerns me. We belong to a neighbourhood security network and each farm was asked to contribute R5,000 towards the installation of cameras on the district roads. Although we didn’t believe that this would sort out the crime issue, we contributed because we wanted to be neighbourly. Since the cameras were installed, the burglaries have increased! I do believe that if there wasn’t quite so much emphasis on security and more on integrating the community, the crime rate would drop. At the moment there is a definite us and them mindset which really doesn’t help matters. In total R250,000 was contributed towards 3 cameras – I’m sure a fraction of that could’ve been put to better use by trying to integrate rather than segregate.

Once again, the path of joy was connection and the path of sorrow was separation. When we see others as separate, they become a threat. When we see others as part of us, as connected, as interdependent, then there is no challenge that we cannot face-together.

Dalai Lama & Archbishop Tutu: The Book of Joy

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Simple Life 2

The next best thing to a perfect cuppa tea on the bedside table is waking up to the gift of a free day – no commitments, no obligations, no deadlines. I may be retired but that doesn’t mean I have a lot of free time. Alex uses the term admin to refer to unpleasant chores that require undue effort and sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed by admin tigers snapping at my heels – accounts to pay; phone calls to make; emails to send; fundraising proposals and reports to write; and a mountain of filing that never seems to shrink. I must confess that I spend more time worrying about what needs to be done than the actual doing requires. But I’m afraid that is the way of a procrastinator. On top of this there are always thankless and never-ending household chores lining up to claim my time, especially tidying. I spend a disproportionate amount of time clearing surfaces and putting stuff away only to find that, as soon as my back is turned, the clutter magically reappears.

I also have commitments that take me away from the farm, like playing bridge in the village several times a week and volunteering at the school. When you live on a smallholding you tend to try and kill more than two birds with one stone whenever you venture out. So although bridge in Nottingham Road may start at 1 pm, I usually leave home much earlier as inevitably I need to run quite a few errands while I’m out. Shopping once a week in Howick is a day affair; it takes 30 minutes to get there and after numerous stops we usually treat ourselves to a lunch out. Despite the fact that I enjoy doing all these things (indeed I’m grateful I have them to do), I still relish the days when I have no obligations.

So here’s to the simple pleasure of commitment – and admin – free days:

There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things, and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From The Sea

Layla, stopping to smell the daisies

Layla, stopping to smell the daisies

Buddy, enjoying a mid morning walkies

Buddy, enjoying a mid-morning walkies

a beautiful serval spotted on my way home the other day

a beautiful serval spotted on my way home the other day

some of the wild flowers and grasses popping up in the garden

some of the wild flowers and grasses popping up in the garden

Looks are deceiving Debbie! This is me on the same day as the doggie pictures.

Looks are deceiving Debbie! This is me on the same day as the doggie pictures.

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