Natures list

I love randomness.
I love things that happen out of the blue and that are just so silly, or so “twee” that they make me laugh out loud.
This is a thing that usually happens to me when I am sitting at my P.C. at work in the morning, and the office is deathly quiet. when the most prominent sound in the room is the furious clickity clacking of fingers flying across key boards.
For some reason that is always when something random will take me by surprise and I will laugh and laugh and everyone will look at me funny (that is funny strange not funny ha ha)
It was just such a moment.
I was looking for accommodation for one the directors in Natures Valley. They wanted to get away for the weekend with the family and I volunteered to help find something suitable, seeing as it was a surprise for his wife (who therefore couldn’t be involved in the booking) and he would need some help.
I couldn’t find much on the internet. My trusty friend “Google” found that Natures Valley is not that well documented. At least the accommodations there aren’t. So I decided to go old school. I picked up the telephone (Yes folks, a dinkum land line!) and dialed the yellow pages (apparently this was somehow connected to a book with yellow pages in it – at one time in our history) and there found the telephone (land-line) number for Tourism information in Natures Valley.
I dialed the number. The woman on the other end of the line (a land-line is apparently connected to your ears by strings) answered, informing me that I was through to “the shop”.
I asked if she perhaps had a telephone number for the tourist information center in Natures Valley. She told me that she is also the Tourist information center. I exclaimed my delight at having the correct number and asked her if she could kindly furnish me with a list of available accommodations and similar type establishments in the area. Would she please e-mail me the list? She sounded a little unsure but agreed that she would. I gave her my contact details at work and then she said something that I thought a little strange. She said she would e-mail me the list, but that I would have to wait for her husband to return as he had it with him.
Weird, I thought, but perhaps it’s on their laptop and he has it with him.
Well later that day, when the e-mail finally arrived, it all became clear to me. In fact I cracked up!
I have become so accustomed to dealing with a super high paced digital market place, we order everything on-line, pay for it on-line, Skype chat people in the next room of the same building, send each other links to any new product that we want to try or share. Its all digital. You can imagine my surprise and pure delight when I received, via e-mail, a photograph of a hand written list with the names and phone numbers of the accommodations in Natures Valley.
I hosed myself. I cried tears of laughter. My colleges wondered at me and I simply didn’t have the words, so I sent it to them. They shared my laugh too. We had a good old chortle.
It was not because we thought any less of the sweet couple who sent me a photo of their list. It was because we had this sudden insight into how mad our lives have become, and how simple they actually could be.
It is kind of nice to know that there are places (not far away at all) where we are still in Africa.
Natures Valley is such a perfect, tiny little haven of beach and bush. It doesn’t need or want too much exposure. Why advertise paradise? It’s the hush –hush secret destination that everyone wants to go to. And those in the know will know that it is exactly perfect that its tourist info center consists of lady at the pub / restaurant / superette with a hand written piece of paper with names and phone numbers on it.
I just love it!

Sixty seven minutes

Friday was Madiba day in South Africa.
As all South Africans know Madiba day is the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday. A great man who taught the world a great deal about tolerance and love. I think for most of us he is something of a modern day Jesus. Not that we think of him as a god, but because he changed things, in a good way, for all of us, at his own expense.
Now in the last four years it has become traditional for South African’s to pledge 67 minutes to doing some kind of charity work on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. It can be anything at all, as long as it is for someone or something less fortunate than yourself. It’s a charity day and although it is not a public holiday many South African businesses are starting to recognise the day and give their staff that little bit of extra time out of their work day to do something in their community. Some business even get on board and do something as a group.
I am lucky enough to work for just such a business.
We decided that this year, because Madiba had such a soft spot for children, we would do something for the local children’s home. We convinced our bosses to let us buy enough hot chocolate, milk and mini marshmallows to make all fifty children a mug of hot chocolate. Not something they get to enjoy very often, if ever. It’s been a pretty cold winter and we though they would like that.
That wasn’t the big thing, though. The big thing we did was donate them a computer. Complete with monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers. We got hold of some (legal) free software and loaded it on there. Our 67 minutes were spent setting it up for them and showing them how to use it.
The heroic ladies who run this establishment were over the moon! They were so excited to have access to a computer. Even though they don’t seem to keep any of their records digitally yet, I am sure that they will. What made my day though, was not the ladies. The really great thing was the excitement of the older children.
There was one little boy in particular who must be around 12 years old, who watched the entire set–up process from start to finish. We quickly realised that this little guy was going to be the new computer kid on the block. We gave up giving instructions to the kind aunties and instead showed him how to run the thing. Needless to say he got it immediately. His excitement at the games pack that we loaded on there was the most beautiful and pure type of happy that I have seen in while. He was in his element!
I know that I should be pleased that these ladies will have a computer to keep records on now, and that the kids will be able to use the educational tools to become more computer literate, but what makes me happiest of all is knowing that these kids will have the chance to play computer games. They will have computer time. They might have their daily access increased or reduced according to their behaviour, exactly like most kids do. Anyway we all know that you learn fastest while you’re having fun! What better way for a kid to get up to date with a data orientated society than by becoming an ace gamer?
They were just so happy!
It made such a difference to them, and such a difference to me. I managed to avoid the terrible sadness of their circumstances and be happy that they will have something that is fun, normal, in their lives. I couldn’t help but get caught up in their joy in that moment.
I was also pretty amazed by the remarkable women who run the place. They call themselves the children’s aunties, but really they are the mommies. You can easily see that they love these kids.
Strong, amazing women, and so grateful for every little thing that they have to work with.
I strongly recommend that anyone looking for something to give their lives a little bit of reason, or wanting to get involved in their community in some way, try reaching out to these establishments.
We visited the Dorothy Broster children’s home in Hornlee, but there are so many other similar places in Knysna and all over place.
You don’t have to wait until you hit the big time or get rich to be able to make a difference to these children’s lives. We were lucky enough to have our works behind us, but another friend of mine visited them on the same day and told me how excited these 50 kids were over a single ball that she dropped off along with the toiletries she was bringing them.
A ball costs R16 at the Spar!
Children’s homes should not be sad places. If anything children’s homes should be filled with the most privileged and well looked after children of all, because these are not children with one or two parents to provide for them, these are everyone’s kids. They belong to the entire community.
It made me feel well, happy and privileged to bring happiness to that one little boy. Even if only he is made happy, that’s enough.

These keys black beneath my fingers.
Clack clacking.
They are made of plastic. The screen is too. They are fed life by a low budget white plastic cord that runs from the wall.
Nothing, really. A cluster of keys, an illusion of a page, and a series of black scrawls meandering across the digital space. Ones and zeros. That is all they are.
But
What If
The words that are tapped out here are good words?
What if,
What if they are true and profound? What if they are terrible? Will they break hearts? Will they mend them?
What then is the value of this lump of plastic and metal at my fingertips?
Could it change the world?
Like it’s fore-father, the pen?
Could it inspire souls to do great things? This little key board at my fingertips
I hope so

Batman returns

A month or two ago a sad, sad thing happened.

It was Sunday morning, I was sitting on the back step sipping (okay gulping) my morning coffee from my Batman mug and admiring the wild roses, self-sown Saint Joseph’s lilies and general wild beauty of my back garden when one of the kids called to me for something. As I looked up I put my trusty batman mug down on the step, but more off the edge than on it. It fell off and it broke.

I was upset with myself for not looking at what I was doing. I had been using that Batman mug for years. I was forced to start making use of my Superman mug instead. I had originally bought them together but if I’m honest about it Batman was used all day everyday while Superman was just his back up. Not anymore.

I went back to the place where I had originally bought them, and what do you know? No Batman mugs! For months, every time I went into that shop I would check, but alas, no Batman.

I carried on using Superman, feeling like a bit of a traitor, but I eventually let it go and moved on with the rest of my life, as we do.

Then this Monday morning when I got to work feeling particularly Mondayish ( I forgot my keys, most of the office had to stand outside in the icy cold waiting for someone to rock up with keys)

And then the finance fairy arrived, with a gift for me, a shiny black Batman mug!

I couldn’t actually believe it! I was so excited by this small and yet ultimately meaningful display of kindness that I jumped up and hugged her, and of course had to make coffee right away. Not only did I have a new Batman mug, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of how nice it was of one of my co-workers to remember me and actually buy me something that is so personally my “thing” while she was out shopping with her family on the weekend.

But wait, there’s more.

I had been sitting at my desk another hour or two when the post man appeared at the door with a small brown box addressed to me! I receive many, many parcels in a week at work, but none of them are ever for me. Yet here was this parcel, with my name on it, from my sister far away. What a wonderful thing that is in itself. To receive an unexpected parcel delivered to your desk on a Monday morning. All wrapped up in brown paper with your name on the top of it. I had to have a moment just to enjoy the anticipation.

When I could stand it no longer I grabbed my scissors and cut through the layers of sticky tape.

Black tissue paper (another minor detail which in itself made me happy) under the first layer I found a white kit Kat. Under the second layer there was a Nestle Cappuccino pack. Then another layer of tissue paper… Something wrapped in bubble wrap. I opened it up, and would you believe, it was another Batman mug?! Now I have one for home and one for the office. Batman forever!

I don’t really go on about Batman that much, although I am a huge fan. All I can think is, here are two people who actually listened to something I said somewhere along the line. It was tear-jerking, actually.

My sister’s gift may have cost more to post than to purchase, but everything in it was meant just for me, to make me feel loved and remembered. And I did. I don’t really know if I am deserving of people who give me so much of their thought and feeling, but I am grateful.

It made my Monday J

batman two

Water and wine

A few weeks ago I, by some karmic oversight of the universe, found myself having dinner at a fantastic little restaurant with a ridiculously gorgeous man. In retrospect I have no idea how I came to be in that position, but when I got there I was fortunately too busy worrying about the kids and the nanny to notice, and by the time I had stopped worrying about them I was relaxed already, so I missed the panic, and had a lovely evening with a friend.

Anyway what was so great about this dinner, aside from the perfect gentleman I was having it with, was the water, and the wine!

In the entire time we were there I never touched the bottles on the table. While I was (unsuccessfully) trying to slurp spaghetti into my face in an elegant fashion (ha ha ha) my glasses were both being seamlessly topped up for me. Okay, so I have no idea how much wine I actually drank, but I felt (lord help us) like a lady.

It was so nice to be treated like something other than a human face wiping device (home) or general mad person (work) that I almost forgot myself. What I really loved though was how drinking a good red wine with a glass of water and a good high carb meal left me feeling sort of well and glowing rather than slurred and hungover. When I awoke the next morning I felt great. I didn’t have nearly as many cringe worthy memories of stupid things I had said as I should have had for someone who had been allowed in public with alcohol, only the normal amount that I would say sober anyway. I felt, healthy, and actually, quite calm.

I strongly suspect that I may have relaxed and enjoyed myself.

And now that a few weeks have past I have bought myself another bottle of red wine. I realised just how beneficial the odd glass with dinner (and water) can be.

Having grown up around a small town of heavy drinkers I have always been wary of alcohol in any form. What a wonderful thing it is to discover how a good thing in moderation can actually be a good thing. I guess this means I am really in my thirties now. I was so scared of giving up my twenties and essentially my wild youth (okay so it still hurts a little to think about it in as many words) that it didn’t occur to me that all of the older people who were telling me that their thirties were so much better than their twenties may actually not just be trying to make me feel better, but be telling the truth.

Viva thirty, water and wine.

Here is to the next ten years of healthy moderation.

Travel Buddies

Life has been a bit of a comedy of errors lately.

Having been dragged kicking and screaming into my thirties recently, my suspicions about what a terrible idea turning thirty was were confirmed by my car being stolen in the early hours of the morning on my birthday.

How do I know it was the early hours and not the night before?

Because I was up past one that Saturday night watching series on my PC, in bed, alone. And I am pretty sure that i would have heard the car start had I been awake.

Anyway, the long and short of it is I am now carless (and old, although not too old for zits, it seems) and on days like today when one or two key people (yes, okay, my mother) are not available I am forced to ask my poor, long suffering best friend for help carting the kids around after school.

And that is just what she did. With all of the grace and love with which she does everything. Well almost. You see on our way back into town after dropping the kids off the unthinkable happened. She ran out of petrol! And there we were. Two thirty something girls, all dressed for the office in heels and blouses, pushing her car down the road to safety. We were officially going to be late getting back to work. When we had the car safe we ran (yes, ran in heels) to the petrol station to persuade the attendants to find us a bottle to put petrol in. the funny thing is, by this stage, after our collectively shitty Mondays and working weekends, you would think we would have a little cry, a rant at least. Lord knows we had earned it. But instead we were struck by the hilarity of it all. We laughed our heads off all the way to the petrol station and all the way back. The petrol pump attendants thought we had lost our minds. Then we spent a good five minutes standing in the middle of the N2 trying to figure out how to open the petrol cap and fobbed off hopeful biker guys who stopped to offer pouring advise.

It was hilarious. Truly the best fun disaster I have had in a long time. I realised that there is no one else I would rather have been stuck on the side of the road with than this girl. Because no one else would have found it as funny as we did together (except for maybe my other extra special friend who lives far away). Lord knows it would have sucked if I had been alone.

It made me realise, yet again, that what is most important in life’s journey is not where you are going or even how you get there. It’s who you travel with that is the most important thing.

Choose good companions for your journey, and no matter what happens, you will find something to laugh at and have someone to hold your hand while you run down the highway into the great unknown.

 

 

never explain yourself. If you are going to be weird, be confident about it.

There is always a risk involved when you pour yourself into your writing. you are exposing yourself to scrutiny, ridicule and judgement. But I think it is better to risk disapproval for who you really are than to risk being mediocre. Or to risk living your whole life without ever really expressing yourself. My goal remains to share through words the beautiful pictures I see. I hope to share a little bit of light and a little bit of the daily wonder that we often gloss over. Life is beautiful. People are beautiful. Every day is full of beautiful happenings. Life is also Random. I love Randomness because it tends to be authentic. Random is beautiful.

So as for my writing, I may still have a long way to go. I may or may not ever publish my work. I may or may not ever finish my work. But I will try to be honest in my writing. and pray to avoid mediocrity at all costs. If i am cliched I apologise. Life is a Cliche, after all.

Treasures

What is your greatest treasure?

What defines your wealth?

For the longest time I have been pushing, striving, struggling to get myself into a position of wealth. I want to have security, I want provide my children with the best of everything. I want them to have everything in never did. And I suppose you can get quite manic about that sort of thing. It can also seriously get you down.

But although in theory I have always understood that there is more to being wealthy than just being materialistically secure, I have seen a lot of things recently that have brought it home.

Last week I spent a gruelling few hours waiting in queues at the provincial hospital to see a specialist. While I was in my third or fourth hour there I noticed an old man who was there to visit the same specialist. Too old and frail to manage to get around at the hospital by himself he was accompanied by a young woman who I assume must have been his granddaughter. When his name was called she took him tenderly by the hand and led him gently down the corridor. There was such a wealth of tenderness and compassion in that taking of his hand. It was the simplest thing, but in that moment I realised that here was a man who had lived his life in such a way as to invoke the kind of protective love and compassion that would lead a young family member to not only go through all of the hours of queuing and waiting, but to do it with such largeness of heart that there was no frustration at the waiting. There was no hurry. There was just love and compassion. She was reassuring him that everything would be okay. And I thought, wow. That old man has a kind of wealth that few people might ever earn.

I regularly take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the scenery around me when I drive to work in the mornings. I have this wealth of beauty around me on a daily basis. It comes at a price, it’s true. But I am happy to pay it, in order to live somewhere that looks like an airbrushed post card most days of the week. It lifts your soul in a way that not many things can. Just the same way that gazing out over the sea at sunset and sunrise and breathing that salt air will do you as much good as several weeks of visiting an inner city therapist. I always appreciated the view. What I should have taken more time to appreciate was where I was seeing it from.

You see, my car, which took me to so many beautiful places, was stolen. Of course I am not insured. Insurance is for people who have money to pay for it. So here I am, in a bit of a pickle. But although I was relatively devastated (in fact I spent the first eight hours in total shock. It simply didn’t sink in) I keep thinking, Thank God my kids are okay. I am okay. My mom is okay. My beautiful friends are okay, my cat is okay! I realised that although I have always known that the people in my life mean more to me than any thing, the people in my life are my greatest treasures, my greatest assets.

I have a handful of friends who are kind, gentle, considerate and funny. They are intelligent. They are beautiful. I have children who are quite simply fantastic. I have a mother who is willing to lay down her entire upbringing in order to love and accept her children and I have siblings who would kick the living shit out of those car jackers if they had half a chance. Not to mention my bouquet of wild aunts who would keep a running commentary while they did. I have people. Good people. They are my greatest wealth. Knowing that they would be there for me today was worth more to me than I can ever explain. For all the wonders of this mortal coil they remain my greatest treasures. I am grateful for the hard times, because without them how would I know who my friends are? I am grateful for my sorrow and my black states of depression, because without them how would I know joy or peace? I am grateful for sitting on the beach with friends and a bottle of sherry, letting my worries run out across the water and giving my soul room to stretch and breathe. I am grateful for friends who I can not only share my thoughts with, but my comfortable silences too.

When I think about the wealth of friendship and good health in my life it seems almost brazen, almost blasphemous, to want for anything more.

And yet….

The heart wants what the heart wants, just as the ego and the body do too. I have managed to master them all, save my heart. It continues to long for what it does, paying no attention to reason or well meant warnings from my conscious self. It beats bravely in a quiet room inside my soul, watching from a high window and hoping.

Thank you to the treasured ones who have fed it with your light.

I only hope that every person who reads this will take a moment to realise their own personal wealth.

Malls are the route of all evil

There are no really big malls in Knysna where I live. So when one has occasion to go the nearest proper sized town provision must always be made to go to the “big mall”.

You put off buying things for weeks (or months) because you will get it when you go to “the mall”. You have a list of things you want and need, you are armed with credit cards upon which you have been dutifully paying installments without spending and are loaded to the gills with credit.

You have a set list, you will not be swayed from the list. You are so pleased when you have finished with whatever you are in town for and the shops are still open.

And then you go to the shops.

And you cant find anything at all that you even like.

You search through the shops, the first one slowly, taking your time. but as you cover more ground without finding anything suitable you start to pick up the pace. The place is so huge, there are so many shops, how can it be so hard to find what you want?!

And then you think you have. Relief. You thought you might leave with nothing, but here are a few pairs of skinny jeans. So you grab an armload and off to the fitting rooms.

Oh. My. Word.

Fitting room mirrors were designed by sadists, obviously, or at the very least by a man.

How can you look so short, fat and lumpy in triplicate? And not only do you see yourself from every horrifying angle but because of that trick with the mirrors there are an infinite number of you stretching into the distance.

The jeans you had decided you would pay exactly double what you were expecting to for (on credit) are a disaster anyway. Every last pair. It seems that the more expensive a pair of jeans are the less actual fabric the manufactures are willing to use to make them. So you leave them all and end up at the Mr.Cheap shop buying the original crappy pair anyway. If you are going to be lumpy why pay through the nose to do so?

Then the boots search. It very nearly ended in tears. When I finally found an acceptable (not lovable, but satisfactory) pair it was at a shoe shop not covered by any of the fantastic plastic and I had to dole out cash anyway.

The worst of the lot though was going in search of new mascara. We small town girls are not very good at fobbing off sales assistants. So before I knew what was potting I found myself sitting in the clutches of the in-house makeup artist getting my free makeover. Not that I wanted a free make over. Actually I just wanted a new mascara, exactly the same as the last one, to replace it as it was finished. But once they have you in their grasp you are toast. Realising my error I resigned myself to my fate and decided to relax and enjoy it. The kids were being collected from aftercare by granny, no need to rush the 40km home. After a while I started to enjoy myself. I had an expert makeup lady figuring out my skin tone, trying all kinds of products on me, making me beautiful, I hoped, you never know, maybe there really is magic in those bottles. When she showed me my face in the mirror I was happy. I bought the mascara and a few other things I clearly needed now that I knew about them, and bagged my free gift happy as a clam.

But when I got back to the car and had a good look in the light of day I was horrified! I looked like a clown! An aged clown! An old, wrinkly badly made up circus performer. Turns out the magic is not in the bottles, it’s in their mirrors!

Desperately trying to rub the stuff from my cheeks with my discarded cardigan I pull into the drive through and treat myself to some fast food. A rare treat. I never eat this stuff, I know how evil it is, but I have had a hell of a day and I am starving.

Needless to say it was gross. Mac Crap. I got half way through my shake and fries (they don’t deserve the title of chips) and couldn’t bring myself to put another mouthful into my poor, shocked body.

What is that stuff? I think I can safely say that I will never eat from the red and yellow towers of mac gross again. I still feel nauseated and it was hours ago.

As soon as I got back to Knysna I made a bee line for our branch of the chain store where the makeup was bought and returned most of it, save the mascara, which I actually wanted all along.

Our only redemption in this soulless consumerist society, we have the right to take it all back! As long as it is in its original packaging and condition, of course. Although they have the right to reward you with store credit instead of refunding your cash, thus starting the whole process from scratch, only worse because now you feel you have to buy at that shop, as you’ve credit there.

I am happy to live in a town without a big mall. They don’t actually have more cool stuff, they have the same amount just hidden in between larger quantities of pure crud.

Bring on the markets and the thrift shops baby, malls are not for me. better yet, let’s stay home and wear slippers.