Monday, 8 February 2016

Fed up with Double Standards

I came to a decision early this year – okay maybe it should have been a New Year’s resolution but I only finally decided late in January.  I decided that now (being a double granny - second granddaughter Eloise was born on 30th October 2015 -  after years and years of waiting) that the time was right for me to stop colouring my hair. I have actually coloured it for years but after going raw (January 2004) I decided to stop putting chemicals on my head and changed to using henna, which I am assured is a natural herbal product.   However it fades and grows out at an alarming rate and then I have felt it is essential to cover up the tell-tale greys.   Having very dark hair any greys are immediately apparent and I have always considered them something shameful, something never to be seen in public. 

Then in late January of this year I asked myself the question ‘why?’  For someone generally considered quite bright I can be amazingly slow at times.  Now I ask myself why it took me so long.  I have never been big on make-up either (laziness probably) and our year on the boat in France completely put an end to it.  All I use on my face is coconut oil and Aloe Vera gel – which I find great as a natural sunscreen.  So I go around with a bare face and now will have grey hair to go with it.  Oh, did I mention I also stopped shaving my legs?  Of course one’s hair growth does get thinner as one ages so it’s really not that noticeable.   But shaving legs is definitely in the same double standards category as having to hide the grey just because one is a woman.

However I am only human so don’t want to go around looking a complete frump.  I decided that to go with my grey hair I would work on my face and my body.   I have started doing the 5 Tibetans – a series of yoga exercises marketed as the 5 Rites of Rejuvenation (how could I resist?)  I have a little book that I bought ages ago but they are readily available online (here’s a Wikipedia link – I have done them in fits and starts for about 10 years but now I do them daily – as well as a range of other yoga stretches and a few arm exercises (my granddaughters are really getting heavy – need to strengthen up). I have also tried facial exercises half-heartedly in the past but have now found an amazing woman in Australia – who offers an enormous range of facial exercises free on YouTube under the name Facerobics.  Check it out  The most amazing thing is that she is living proof of the effectiveness of her programme – you see before and after shots and also see how much younger and prettier she looks in her later videos compared with the earlier ones.  I have a LONG way to go.  But realistically I do have more than 10 years on her so I just need to work harder.  So every morning I now start with facial exercises then my exercise programme.   My fantasy is that by the time my hair is completely grey my face and figure will look so good that everyone will assume I’ve coloured it grey as a fashion statement!   I can dream, can’t I?

Till next time J

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Game Changer

I haven’t written for a while – haven’t even been on Facebook either.  It’s not that nothing has happened in my life, rather that too much has.  I hardly know where to start.
First HUGE thing, on 19th March 2015, our daughter gave birth to a baby girl whom they have named Jemima Joy.  After all these years of waiting we are grandparents – and I can tell you it is totally awesome.  I mean that in both the modern and the literal senses of the word J.  This tiny, beautiful scrap of a baby and I am her grandmother – what an honour and what a responsibility. 
We have been living 6000 miles away from our daughters, but now this has to change.  The trouble is that we really like living in Cape Town, and we enjoy the outdoor lifestyle which the weather affords.  My husband, Colin, loves his golf – but is the first to admit he is a fair weather golfer – so not for him the donning of heavy waterproofs and playing in rain and snow (joke I think – they wouldn’t see the ball in the snow J but we have known some very hardy golfers).  But we definitely need to spend more time in England.  Fortunately we both have dual citizenship so there are no nasty visa problems.
While we were over meeting Jemima we visited out other daughter, who was about to qualify as a vet, and received the amazing and very welcome news that we were to be grandparents again.  Come November we are to have another granddaughter!  What was that joke about buses?
All in all this has turned out to be a very expensive year for us.  We will have made four (!) trips to the UK – starting with February when we flew over for the funeral of Colin’s aunt to whom we were very close, then April to meet Jemima, July for the graduation (arranged over 5 years ago), and now we will be over for Christmas and at the same time meet our new granddaughter.   We are not wealthy people so this has made a huge hole in our capital – but from next year we plan to become ‘swallows’ spending half the year in England and half in South Africa.  So only one return trip a year, with our dogs.  A neighbour has kindly offered to look after the cat while we are away.  Unfortunately our daughters live several hours drive from each other so that is a logistical problem of its own. 
I tend to have a low boredom threshold but right now I am in no danger of being bored J

Till next time J

Sunday, 8 March 2015


I never thought I’d hear myself say that.  I only learned the term MOOC last month.  (It stands for Massive Open Online Course in case you are as ignorant as I was up till a couple of weeks ago.)  What happened is that I did a course last year, through the U3A, called Introduction to Astrology.  I really enjoyed the course (knowing nothing about the subject) and wanted to learn more – so looked online.  There I came across Coursera, and the rest, as they say is history.  I didn’t actually do the Astronomy course, though I do plan to in the future, as my life was too busy with house alterations and then a family visit (part of the reason for the house alteration).

I am just finishing my first course, Introduction to Genetics and Evolution.  It’s a Coursera course (when I found out about MOOCs I also found out about other MOOC providers though Coursera is the largest), taught by an amazing professor from Duke University, Professor Noor.  He’s an inspired teacher, teaching with zest and humour and so much enthusiasm for his subject it rubs off on all his students.  I have loved every minute of it, finding  the course interesting as well as challenging – last time I did any biology I was 14 so it was quite a steep learning curve for me.  Each week there is a set of videos to download  and watch (multiple times in some cases for me) then once a week a problem set to do online.  Two exams, one mid-term and a final, which I hope to do next weekend.    I love having a deadline to work to – it’s only with a deadline that I accomplish anything.  I think that’s a sign of natural laziness J   Then next week my next course starts – Forensic Psychology by the Open University, though the MOOC provider is Future Learn, then in June another Coursera course, Animal Behaviour though Melbourne University then in September I’m doing a course in American contemporary poetry.  Might tuck in a few others in between.   Can barely remember what I did before I started this!   And I only started in January this year!
These MOOCs should come with a health warning – seriously addictive!
Till next time J

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Last week we experienced a miracle.

Our children having grown and flown, our dogs are our children now.  We have two beautiful toy poodles, Phoebe who is four and Lola who is nearly two.  Lola is the smaller, weighing only 2.5 kilograms, just over half the weight of the average cat. They are lovely, bright, friendly, loving  little dogs, who in spite of their small size are very good watchdogs.  We go everywhere with our dogs, they mean the earth to us.

We have builders at our house at present, putting in a loft room.   Last Tuesday morning my husband Colin, needed to tell the builders something so he climbed up the scaffolding to call them.  On the way down his foot slipped and he dislodged a section of scaffolding that had been standing upright against the main section.  As usual Lola was right at his heels and the scaffolding, weighing some 20 kilograms, landed right on top of her.  I was upstairs on my computer when I heard an almighty crash them heart rending screaming.   I ran downstairs shouting out ‘What happened? Who’s hurt?’

Colin said ‘it’s Lola’ then I saw her, her little body twisted like a pretzel, her head on one side and these screams coming from her mouth.  I grabbed Colin’s fleece, which was the nearest thing on hand and wrapped her in it and we headed for the car.  I didn’t stop to put on shoes, or take my handbag, or lock the doors.  Colin drove as fast as he could to the vets – asking me continuously to check that she was still breathing.  When we got there he ran ahead and told them what had happened so the vet was waiting.  He took us into the consulting room, unwrapped her, said ‘she’s convulsing!’ Neither of us had recognized the strange disjointed movements accompanying her screams, not having seen them before.  He said he’d put her on a drip and took her away, saying he would call us.

It was the longest afternoon ever.  At four o’clock the call came – one of the vet assistants who said Lola was doing really well but the vet wanted to see us at 6 o’clock.  Colin and I took the dogs (we had a friend’s dog staying for a few days) for a walk and came back in time to get to our appointment early.  Neither of us felt like talking much – the vet’s summons sounded ominous.  We were both sure he’d want us to make some sort of decision.  On the way there we discussed that we had to do what was best for Lola, not for us.

When we got there, somewhat early for our appointment, the assistant said we could see her, that she was awake.  There she was, looking very shaken, and attached to a drip, but very happy to see us.  I held her on my lap in front of her cage and we cuddled and spoke to her.  She seemed almost normal – it was hard to believe.  When the vet came he said he was amazed at her progress, he had had to anaesthetize her and had given her cortisone and pain killers.  He said she’d been X rayed and there were no bones broken.  He said she wasn’t out of the woods yet but he was cautiously optimistic.  He said they would see how she was overnight.  He did say that it was easy to lose these little dogs – a sudden bleed to the brain could cause it.   He said I could call them at 8:30 next morning .

That night neither of us slept much, though we both prayed a lot, as we had been doing since the accident.  I remembered that on the Sunday, two days previously we had had a sermon on St Francis, whose saint’s day had been on the Saturday.  I don’t think I have ever prayed to a saint before but I prayed to St Francis all night, to intercede for little Lola.

 At 8:25 next morning , gathering all my courage, I phoned the surgery.  The assistant said she had been about to call me.  ‘Lola is wonderful’ she said – you can come and get her.’

Neither the vet we had seen first nor the one I saw on Friday when I took her for a check up could believe it – she seemed absolutely fine – no sign on any injury, no sign on brain damage, just nothing!   She is a little diffident, and nervous near the scaffolding but that’s only to be expected.  She seems to sleep a lot, perhaps a little more than usual, but that’s presumably her body telling to rest – she had the incredible trauma, plus an anaesthetic, both of which can put enormous strain on her little body.  The vet said she seemed remarkably resilient – but we know the truth.  It was a miracle.

Till next time J

Friday, 21 March 2014

You couldn’t make up stuff like this. I know I wouldn't dare.

Or you could but it would be shot down in flames as being far-fetched and unrealistic.   Has the world gone mad?  All I know is that people, even people who purport to find the news depressing, have been glued to their seats watching the TV news as it unfolds. 

I feel quite sorry for the press – generally if there is one big story it’s a lot but this month we have three 1) the continuing Ukraine – Crimea – Russia saga, with Putin appearing to thumb his nose at the west, who are making paper gestures.  Where this could lead is too frightening to contemplate.

Then of course 2) the baffling question of flight MH307.   Was there a catastrophe on board?  Was it hijacked?  Was the pilot making a political statement?  Was it taken by aliens, is it under the Indian Ocean? Or possibly it’s now in a parallel universe, having gone through a worm hole (seriously I have both heard this one and read of It, though how tongue in cheek I wouldn’t like to say).    But the families are getting more and more desperate.  I know if it were my family I would be praying that the plane had been taking by hijackers and was now in Pakistan or Afghanistan or somewhere, because that way there would be a chance, however slight, that the passengers have survived.   But as the days go by this hope must be slowly fading.   My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of most of the world are with them. But is seems it might be years till the full story is known.

And 3) here is South Africa, we have the eyes of the world on the Oscar Pistorius trial.  This one is really over the top.  Beautiful young couple, him a world icon, both a Paralympics and Olympics sporting star, her a rising TV celebrity, as well a law graduate.  Then another St Valentine’s Day Massacre.   You couldn’t make up a story like this.   Now the South African judicial system is on trial too, being judged by the world, to see if one of our icons can received a fair trial.  I know the SA police are stretched (what police force isn’t?) but generally I think they’re giving  a good account of themselves.  I didn’t expect to find the nitty gritty of the court case so fascinating (perhaps I should have, being a life long fan of legal fiction) but I do.  When the court is in session I am glued to my chair, waiting only for the commercial breaks to cross over to the BBC news/CNN/Sky News to see how the other dramas are panning out. 
I don’t know how much longer we can take all this excitement.  Though when it’s all over I am sure we will find our usual fare of corruption, local politics, gang and drug warfare, just a little dull.  As I said perhaps the world really has gone mad.  And what do we learn from it?  Don’t trust Putin.  Avoid flying (easier said that done when one’s family lives half way across the world).   And the whole gun culture is really dangerous, especially in the hands of a loose cannon – but we knew that anyway, didn’t we?

Till next timeJ

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

New Direction

Last time I wrote I was pondering the three deep questions about my life and its meaning and direction.  I can’t say that I’ve really reached any great conclusions but I have taken a few small steps.  I have enrolled for a short course called Basic Astronomy – just a series of 5 lectures, which I am finding really fascinating.   Somehow compared with all that’s out there our little worries and concerns seem very small and trivial indeed.  I am now enrolling for a slightly longer on line course called Introduction to Astronomy, through Duke University ( ) – this is 12 weeks and includes homework (6 to 12 hours per week, they say).  Later in the year I am taking another short on line course called Philosophy and the Sciences, through The University of Edinburgh this time ( ).   Both look very interesting and it will be fun to study again, after a gap too large to mention!   Amazing what is out there, and these are all free too.  I think I might like to be a perpetual student!
The other thing that has happened is that at the end of January we reached our 10 year anniversary as raw vegans.   It’s just a way of life now.  The health issues that prompted it initially are just a distant memory, and this is how we eat.   People have been nagging me to actually get down to writing a raw food recipe book – I always say there are hundreds out there – often written by raw chefs.  But then I thought , I own quite a few of those and often the recipes are just too complicated or the ingredients are just too expensive so I tend to do my own thing.   So now I am tentatively working on a new book.  A book of fairly simple straightforward recipes which don’t take days to prepare nor break the bank.  I also try to use all fresh produce, rather than packaged.  To me it goes against the grain to use, for example, garlic powder when fresh garlic is available. 
So, if I am not actually solving the great mysteries of life, I am keeping myself busy and my brain active, though playing bridge, doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles help there too.  Also keeping myself physically active, with Kundalini Yoga twice a week, aqua aerobics twice a week, and a home exercise programme.  Colin and I recently completed the 30 Day Plank challenge, ( –  found the last part very tough going, but we now plank for 3 minutes three times a week for maintenance.    So, though I consider the word retirement, to be a dirty word, and aging not even a real word, I am still doing my bit at total denial.  
I do have several ideas for more novels, have about three partly written but nothing that grabs me so much I am prepared to miss meals to write.  There have in the past been occasions when Colin is reading in bed, and wants to turn out the light and  go to sleep but I am still banging away on my laptop.  When I get an idea that inspires that amount of compulsion no doubt I will drop everything else and write it but there’s nothing like that at the moment.   However, watch this space!
Till next time J

Monday, 6 January 2014

Food for Thought

I seem to get on numerous people’s mailing lists, often newsletters I had no intention of signing up for.  Every now and then I do a big purge and follow all the instructions to unsubscribe, though some people are very persistent and don’t make it easy. 
But I do keep some that I find interesting, although I often just skim and then delete.  One that I have hung on to, although I really don’t  remember how I got on their mailing list is from Adoley and Jim.  And right now I’m very glad that I did.  
I have been feeling a bit unsettled, as I often do when a new year comes along (and by implication a clean slate).  I have been wondering whether I should make some major changes in my life.   One change that I am making is in my volunteering.  I have regretfully decided, after quite a few years, to stop helping with a children’s literacy programme at a school in a severely underprivileged area.   I loved the children (and loved the fact that they tend to be touchy feely kids who always come for hugs and cuddles),and loved feeling I was being of some use to them, but unfortunately I have found that I have picked up so many viruses and bugs that my health seemed to be being compromised.  All children seem to carry lots of infections but it seems much worse with these children, many of whom live in tin shacks so it’s hardly surprising.    I seem to have had numerous infections over the last few years, far more than I ever had when teaching full time, and the severe chest infection and asthma that I had in October was the final straw.  So I reluctantly decided that this form of service was not for me any longer.  I am still exploring avenues where I can be of use but where I will not be exposing myself to so many infections.   I’ll have to leave this one to people whose immune systems are more robust.

Back to the point I was trying to make.  At the start of this year Adoley asked what she called ‘three critical questions’.  They were
1.  What do you do that really matters?  (this one attributed to Mother Theresa)
2.  What do you want to experience this year?  What feeling or quality do you wish your (area of life) to express?
3. If you were to die today, what is the one thing that you didn't get to do that you would regret?

 I have been doing some deep soul searching on these.  The first question seems to pertain directly to my volunteering – I really need some clarity on that.    The second one I’m not sure of – I do intend to work on various areas of fitness and core strength this year – I have already embarked on a home exercise and stretching programme in addition to my twice weekly kundalini yoga, and my twice weekly aqua aerobics (though this one is still on Christmas break).  I am also giving serious thought to completely changing my writing – the genre, the location, even to writing under another name.  I have several ideas but haven’t quite narrowed them down yet.

It’s number three that I am spending most of my time on.   What would I regret most?  It’s not travelling – I really have never had the travel bug.  While I enjoy seeing new places I accepted years ago that you can’t go everywhere (try telling our elder daughter that! J).  Perhaps it would be never having held my grandchild, but that ‘s really not up to me.   We have two amazing daughters for whom I am grateful every day of my life.  They have given us so much happiness that even if they don’t give us grandchildren we can have no cause for complaint.    So perhaps it should be something  that I can actually control. 

 Then is occurred to me that perhaps what I am doing wrong is thinking that the three critical questions need three separate answers.  Perhaps if I can find the right answer to the first question it will answer the other two as well.    Whatever it is I shall keep on with my soul searching.  Thank you Adoley – you have really given me food for thought.

Till next time J