Keeping up with Change

Sometimes I think back to the late 1960’s when, as a 19 year old I spent a few months doing temping secretarial work in London. Travelling on the underground from my aunt’s house in the suburb of Kew Gardens every day to get to the Daily Mirror offices I used to read all the adverts on the walls whilst going up or down the escalators at the various tube stations.  At the time there was a show on called “Stop the World, I want to get off!” That was many years ago, and that saying would seem to be far more relevant in this day and age.

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We are constantly being bombarded with new ideas and new technology. In the 60’s things were so much slower although, at the time, we thought life was pretty hectic. Getting to work on time, meeting deadlines – if only we had had an inkling of what the future was going to be like, we would have looked at our situation in a totally different light! In some ways those years were paradise compared to the times we are living in now. The pop scene of the 1960’s took the world by storm and heralded changes in every area of life, particularly where the younger generation was concerned. Fashions changed, music changed for ever, and suddenly there was an expression coined which was known as “the generation gap”! Somehow, this had never had any relevance in previous times.

The old adage that there are only two certainties in life – death and change- can be pretty depressing. However, it depends very much on how one is able to cope with either or both of these facts. The former can actually propel us into facing each day with excitement, as it could be one’s last day on earth and therefore needs to be embraced and enjoyed to the very fullest extent. The latter is the one which can often cause the most stress and discomfort.

“ I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself,
‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do
what I’m about to do today?’
And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days
in a row,I know I need to change something.
” – Steve Jobs 

For the so-called baby boomers, there has probably been far more change to cope with than for any previous generation.  Social attitudes, technology, communication, medical advances – plus so many other areas which affect us on a daily basis have, in many cases, caused stress as well as improved lifestyle.

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Receiving up to date news items from all over the globe can in itself prove difficult to cope with. Years ago there was no such thing as the internet and we relied on radios and newspapers to keep us up to date. The situation that existed in many areas of the world such as the Iron Curtain (Eastern Europe) was so controlled that it prevented any form of negative news from being exposed to the rest of the world. This situation also existed in China. With the advent of the computerised office as well as the availability of the P.C., life changed forever. For better, or worse? That is a matter which could be discussed ad infinitum!

Today we hear about all the catastrophes affecting people in all corners of the world, from the moment we get up until we go to bed. Depending on one’s psychological makeup this can be devastating to one’s mental health or inspire one to try to make the best of a possibly challenging situation.

Then there is the pandemic of social media-itis. If you are unfortunate to suffer from this contagious condition then everyone else appears to be more beautiful, living a wonderful life, travels extensively, wants for nothing – oh yes? Scratch the proverbial surface and the truth is often a totally different story. So much can be said about this toxic situation but enough rambling for now – another time maybe!

“Is this where we’re heading…?” 

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“Just a thought!” \

Laughter is the best Medicine

My brother Bernard died in early March 2016, and his philosophy was to keep on laughing as a way to cope with the pain he endured for several years due to his aggressive cancer. It must have been such a difficult time for him to have endured, but I can say that he did seem to have managed to keep on laughing almost to the end.  He was extremely intelligent and unbelievably well read but had a very wicked and totally sacrilegious sense of humour and had no hesitation in taking the mickey out of all and sundry. I do believe though that a certain level of intelligence is linked to a good sense of humour – real humour, that is, and not the Laurel and Hardy slapstick type.

It has been documented by psychologists that there are noticeable changes which take place in the brain when one is laughing and there is no doubt that time spent having a good belly laugh changes one’s perspective, even if it is short lived. Laughter decreases stress hormones and improves one’s immune response as well as increasing antibodies to help fight infection and illness.  There is always something which one can find to laugh about, it just takes regular practice. A happy baby just laughs because he can, and that in itself is enough to make those around him laugh as well.

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Laughter therapy as a holistic treatment to assist in mental as well as physical well-being appears to be on the increase and there are centres in America for the treatment of cancer patients where laughter therapy is being advocated.  There is also Laughter Yoga and both Laughter Therapy as well as Laughter Yoga can be investigated on the internet as there seem to be various options available and an abundance of information.  If these methods can help alleviate day to day stressful situations and aid in coping with diseases such as cancer, then they do deserve some serious (excuse the choice of words) consideration.

Those who readily smile and refrain from taking themselves too seriously are often people who are having to cope with the most difficult of situations. These same people are often very quick to laugh and often at themselves. However, there are many of the miserable ones out there in the big bad world who are just sad sacks who really have very little to complain about. Yes, maybe they are just depressive by nature, but sadly their tendency to see the glass half empty instead of half full, can be a turn-off as far as other people wanting to spend time with them is concerned.

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I live in a suburb where there are many upmarket retirement complexes in the vicinity. People buying into these complexes are most certainly not financially needy as the prices asked in most of them are too high for many citizens to afford.  The local shopping centre is frequented by many of these “pensioners” and there is rarely a smiling face among them. Sad to say they really could do with taking a look in the mirror at their miserable, down-turned mouths and start re-assessing their good fortune. They have the security of the complex, the comfort of a warm bed at night, and very often relatively good health to enjoy. A smile and more than that, a really good belly laugh, could improve their looks remarkably!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not attacking only the older generation regarding their lack of a smile or a sense of humour. There are many much younger people who seem to suffer from the same disease called “smilelessness” and many of them drive fancy cars and dress in expensive clothes and even have time for personal pampering sessions. It doesn’t seem to change the fact that they just don’t seem to take the time to look at their lives, be grateful for what they have and smile and laugh a bit along life’s way.

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it destroys any
kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese

Despite all the negativity which is so prevalent in South Africa currently, it isn’t hard to find a smiling face. Usually it is the less fortunate people who have very little to be thankful for who are the quickest to respond to a friendly greeting with a huge smile. It is an African custom to greet one another in passing, regardless of whether or not you know the person whom you greet. Having studied an African language as well as the culture of several of the African language groups, it has become second nature for me to wave or greet African people when I pass by. If the day is bleak for whatever reason, a friendly smile and a “how are you?” can go such a long way to improving one’s frame of mind. Taking a few minutes to make some or other silly remark to the people one meets during the course of the day often can result in laughter.  Therefore, how sad that in the case of so many privileged people,  a smile would most likely cause their dissatisfied faces to crack – and a laugh, now that is really stretching things a bit too far!

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Caramel and Salted Pretzel Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 x 380g tin caramel / dulce de Leche
  • 400ml cream
  • 100g egg whites
  • 1 tblsp icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Crushed salted pretzels
  • Cocoa nibs

Method

  • Whip the caramel/dulce de leche until smooth
  • Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks are formed
  • Whip the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until soft peaks have formed.
  • Fold the cream into the caramel and then fold in the egg whites
  • Pour into glasses to serve topping with crushed salted pretzels and cocoa nibs (optional)

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Update and Comments: 28 June 2019

I initially began this update with a summary of my shocking experience regarding the renewal of my South African driver’s licence in a town called Krugersdorp, which is in a municipality adjacent to the Johannesburg municipality in which I reside. However, just remembering the 7 hour agony of the wait made me decide on a précis (it has become a rather long précis!) of the whole unpleasant debacle. If the characters working there had any self-respect as well as some human dignity, we would all have been in and out in record time. Many people had suggested that the Krugersdorp licencing department would be far more efficient than one closer to my home. This was not the case. Suffice to say that the disgustingly militant attitudes from every single woman working there on that day should have resulted in them being fired or at least hauled over the proverbial coals for rudeness to those of us who actually pay their salaries through our taxes. Unfortunately, this is the state of affairs in many government and municipal offices in this country these days.  No-one is taking pride in their work, and the public is treated with disdain and contempt regardless of skin colour. Sad but true.

One good thing to come out of all those wasted hours was the interaction amongst many of us who were in the same situation. One woman kept on telling us that she was sending messages to Cyril Ramaphosa (our president!) and that he was on his way to sort things out!  I had a Black guy called Tumi, who drives children to school, sitting near me and between his chirps and my own, we managed to laugh our way through what would otherwise have resulted in one or both of us having a stroke or a heart attack. My licence only needs to be renewed in 5 years’ time but he has to go back in two years due to his public transport licence! I feel that after a certain age we should have a renewal from now until death – except that when I saw some of the elderly people doddering around and waiting to renew their licences, it would actually make sense to be re-tested at some stage. Oh no, forget I said that. With the incompetents working at the licencing departments let’s leave things the way they are!

Well, at least my passports are valid, I am legally allowed to drive my car after waiting 8 weeks before my new licence was ready for collection and I have a valid South African identification book. Just one other comment before I bore you all to death. When a request was made to change my husband and my I.D. books over to the new card system, we were informed that because neither of us was born in South Africa (we both have South African citizenship and vote) we cannot get a card. However, we can apply for a new book if we want!! What kind of logic is this? Someone must have got the wrong end of the stick. Just another frustration in an otherwise perfect world! The sun is still shining in Jo’burg even though it is mid winter so what on earth is there to moan about!!

I would really be interested to know whether people living in other parts of the world have to suffer similar situations at government or municipal offices, or is this purely a South African scenario? When I had to apply for a new British passport 3 years ago it was completely painless and professional. The relevant documents were couriered to the U.K. and I was kept informed every step of the way as to where they were and at which stage of the process. In a very short space of time I was phoned by a local courier company to ensure that I was at home in order to accept the delivery of the new passport.  Zero stress involved at all. Oh well, there is a saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!!

How about having the following saying displayed for all to see in government or municipal offices all over the world!

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 6 June 2019

If only we had won the lotto recently, then I would not once again be berating the fact that time has played against me and I have not posted anything for the past few weeks. The only excuse that I have – and it is a valid one I can assure you all – is that having to earn a living can be time consuming! If a huge windfall had come my way, I might be writing this from the deck of a luxury liner, having booked for a world cruise! Now that is an attractive thought – just as long as the liner was equipped with enough life jackets and lifeboats to accommodate the entire quota of passengers and crew. I have seen Titanic several times so certain factors would have to be in place before I packed my suitcase and set off for the trip of a lifetime. I am certainly not that big a gambler – safety first is a good motto to live by!

Back to reality, and the past few weeks have been extremely busy, which is obviously a good thing especially when one is self-employed. A friend of mine who is a chef and has her own catering business said that the trouble with working for oneself is that often when you wake up in the morning you face the unpleasant fact that you are unemployed! You just have to get up, brush yourself off and try to get more business. Definitely not for the weak hearted! The emotional side of working with people can be very draining as well and last week was no exception, with the death of a client with whom I had become friends over the past months. Enough waffling and time to get back to what I love doing – writing articles which I can post in the hope that you may find them entertaining or informative, or both.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Materialism in the 21st Century

One only has to be in contact with children these days to see that quality time spent with parents seems, in many families, to be a very rare commodity. Both parents are usually working full time just to pay the bills and with the amount of time spent in traffic commuting to and from the workplace it stands to reason that juggling work and family time is a constant battle. At the end of the day it is much easier to give the children material gifts instead of trying to fit in reading a story to them, or chatting to them about the events of their day.  The majority of children from middle to upper income homes all seem to have access to the latest technology such as mobile phones, tablets and computers as well as having no shortage of up to the minute clothing – brands such as Nike or Adidas being firm favourites. Even very young children are demanding clothes with Disney or superhero logos on them, all of which are more expensive than the no-name items. So, materialism and the desire to have more and more belongings can begin very early in the home.

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Obviously the above observation is very general, but it is now accepted that children are communicating with each other via their mobile phones, and even youngsters barely out of nappies are allowed to play games on their parents’ devices.  Travelling with young children can be very challenging and it seems to be quite normal to settle them in the back of the car with headphones and a choice of entertainment on tablets or i-pads. What happened to talking to them and playing games such as spotting certain makes of car or animals in the fields or a game of I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter ….?

Obviously sending youngsters to crèche or nursery school does alleviate a certain amount of the guilt feelings which parents may have due to their rushed lifestyles. However, even these institutions seem to foster the whole concept of materialism. I have seen that it is customary for children as young as 2 who are at crèches or nursery schools to be expected to come dressed in costumes for events such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or Superhero Day.  The poor overworked parents now have to conform otherwise their child is going to be the odd one out. The world really has gone stark raving mad! All these extra demands which are being made on the parents always result in purchasing things such as dress up items which really don’t have an awful lot to do with education when all is said and done. This whilst many millions of children worldwide are living in abject poverty. Somehow the more we are made aware of the desperate situation of millions of people all over the world, the more we are hammered with adverts to buy this, wear that and drive the other! Definitely, the first world as well as developing nations are constantly being succoured in to the ego-driven world of materialism. Sad, but true!

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If one looks at the way in which our parents or grandparents managed to survive without the trappings of modern day materialism and compare our lives today, we see just how things seem to be spiralling out of control at an alarming pace. In years gone by, life was tough for the majority of people and children had very few belonging. Clothes and footwear were often hand me downs  and the only toys may have been home-made playthings – a far cry from today where everything in the modern world is geared to spend, spend, spend and then more!

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Nowadays the leftover Christmas turkey has hardly been devoured when shops are advertising Valentine’s Day gifts. After that it is the Easter eggs which are on the shelves alongside appealing fluffy bunnies. Hardly time to take a breath then it’s (in certain countries) Mother’s Day, followed by Father’s Day and the last one to hit the money grabbing retail outlets – Halloween! Where is it all going to end? There is definitely a move towards once again creating instead of buying a mass produced product. Examples are young women learning to knit and crochet after years of such pastimes being scorned by many. Another avenue which has taken the world by storm is cooking and baking.  One only has to channel hop on television to come across yet another cooking competition and these have certainly inspired many people to attempt to cook or bake instead of buying ready-made food.

Maybe, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  If there is a concerted worldwide effort to try to educate our children to appreciate the little things in life, which perhaps are far more important than material belongings, then things may change for the better. There are so many organisations involved in saving the planet, preserving endangered species, and caring for the less fortunate, which can be a means of making children aware of the importance of social responsibility. Education leads to knowledge and knowledge is power. Therefore educators as well as parents and family members can all help to improve this materialistic world before it implodes on itself due to mankind’s ignorance and selfishness. One can but hope and hope is what keeps us humans continuously carrying on regardless!!!

“It is the preoccupation with possessions,
more than anything else, 
that prevents us
from living freely and nobly
” – Bertrand Russell

Friendship Part 2

TRANSIENT FRIENDSHIPS

Friends often tend to be transient – they come into our life at a particular stage and at the time can be an amazing support system. Then, years later when thinking back, you wonder why the friendship just petered out. There has to be a common bond in order for a friendship to start in the first place. You may find yourself connecting with a colleague at work, and the company and its politics, as well as your personal situations could be the common factor. When one of you moves on to another company, or starts working from home, it can be quite upsetting to find that there is very little that one has in common any longer and ultimately it becomes rather tedious to try to continue the relationship.

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Women often seem to find it easier than men to make new friends. This is more than likely due to women having, in many cases, better verbal skills than the majority of men.  A short hospital stay is often the place where women connect and continue to keep in touch long after they have both recovered from their illness and gone home. When a woman has a baby she may find herself bonding with another woman in the same ward. It can be a great support to be able to discuss common worries with someone who is in the same or a similar situation. Men, on the other hand, can be in the same ward as other men for several weeks after having an operation, but never find out the name of the person in the next bed.  I know this is a generalisation, but I have been witness to this kind of scenario. Men are from Mars?

“Wishing to be friends is quick work,
but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” – Aristotle 

It can be disappointing when one tries to get back into a comfortable relationship with friends from the past only to find that you have absolutely nothing in common any more. This is why I wonder just how beneficial it is to search for past friends via facebook, or google and then spend valuable time trying to make up for all the years when there was no contact at all. If these so-called friends were really interested in keeping in touch then surely you wouldn’t have lost contact in the first place. Looking at their profiles and comments on line and seeing just how successful their lives appear to have been and how blissfully happy they are as a family, can be very distressing if your own circumstances are less than ideal. Scratch the surface of all the bragging and “look at my wonderful life” comments and the truth is probably quite different. At least when one has a “real” friend your interactions are less likely to make you feel inadequate and if that isn’t the case, then you can just cool the friendship somewhat and don’t constantly see more on line bragging.

My point is that, throughout one’s life, there is often an opportunity to make a new friend and, even if that friendship lasts a relatively short space of time, while it does exist it may provide you with a much needed emotional lifeline. Human interaction is a necessary part of having a healthy, well-balanced life (unless you have joined a nunnery or a monastery and taken either a vow of silence, or become a hermit monk) so we shouldn’t be too obsessed with the length of a friendship and enjoy the fact that many are transient in nature and that’s okay too.

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