Why the countdown to the weekend? – 2021 September No. 1

I don’t know what the situation is in other countries, but in South Africa it would appear that everything revolves around the weekend, or one of our many, long weekends. The way in which the weeks seem to fly by nowadays, it’s a real shame to have a count down every week with people fanatically looking forward to two days or more of freedom from the work environment.

As more and more people have become self-employed out of sheer necessity, due to many factors, some of which are politically driven, then working longer hours and more days in the week have become the norm. So, I can’t be the only person who finds it irritating to hear radio personalities harping on every day as to how many days there are before it’s the weekend again so they can have time to relax or get in their cars and drive the many hours it takes to get to the coast, or the bushveld.

The irony is that we are currently in a serious recession, so one would think that there should be fewer trips away, and more hours spent working. Is this a common factor in countries other than China, where from a young age children have very little free time, being driven to achieve in later life? There is obviously a continuum with totally different work ethics at either end. There is a need for a lifestyle balance in order to avoid emotional breakdown, so work and play are both critical to a healthy mental condition. However, constantly longing for another break away from work or routine, must be a stress factor in itself. There are other ways to unwind, and spending some time watching the birds in the garden, or finding a quiet corner to read a good book, or doing some form of exercise might do the trick.

More than anything, the continuous countdown to the weekend cannot be healthy as it takes away the fact that every day should be viewed as a gift, regardless of the amount of work which needs to be done. If the Covid pandemic has taught us anything then it must be the fragility of life. We need to take stock of our own lives and become introspective regarding the important things which we may be overlooking if we are constantly rushing to get to the end of the week. Anyone else feel the same way, or am I just becoming somewhat of a cynic for trying to fit as much living into every day, regardless of whether it is at the beginning, the middle or the end of the week?

Update and Comment-2021-08-24

Passionate about reading

I would honestly say that, in my humble opinion, the best gift one can receive is being taught how to read. The pride and confidence which I recently witnessed when a grade two boy was able to read all the words on his younger brother’s birthday card, just emphasised yet again the importance of literacy.

Many of us can remember those first “readers” that we used when we first started school which had sentences such as “This is Janet”, “This is John”, “This is Spot”, “Run Spot, run!”. Tedious for parents having to listen to these being repeated over and over again, but the end results were well worth it! Watching children engrossed in a book has to be a wonderful reward for any parent. Far better than today’s common sight of eyes constantly focused on the screen of a mobile phone. Fortunately, books are still in demand despite the passion for social media and all its trappings.

I have just finished reading an extremely exciting thriller, and what was enlightening was all the reviews on its cover from other top crime writers. Just goes to show that, no matter how famous a writer becomes, they still carry on reading other peoples’ published works. The more one reads, the easier it is to write. There is also a link between literacy and numeracy.  Both of these skills are critical to living, learning and participating in today’s society.

The tragedy is that South Africa is a country in which the majority of the population are illiterate. As soon as the Government changed hands, anything which had worked well under the Apartheid government was disbanded. There is no longer a government run Teachers’ Training College. This has resulted in many instances of under-educated teachers trying to teach crowded classes of children. I could ramble on for days describing all the challenges faced as far as education is concerned. Suffice to say, if you are reading this article, then you are one of a very small percentage of the world’s population who have the privilege of being literate.  I hope that you enjoy reading as much as I do!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265

Fear in all its many forms – 2021 August No. 1

I hate having to admit it, but I have a total fear of many things, ridiculous as that might appear to less fearful individuals. One of the worst is my fear of the rapidly changing face of technology. I no sooner get my head around a particular way of communicating when, wham, bang, it doesn’t work that way anymore. I wish there were a slowdown button somewhere out there in the universe which I could activate to help me come to grips with everything which freaks me out! I no sooner feel pretty confident with the ins and outs of my mobile phone and all its finer points than I receive a message telling me that my contract is due to expire and that I need to go online to see what options are available to me. Oh, please, I cannot believe that two years have gone by already, and now I have to make decisions again regarding a choice of phone, the amount of data I need and whether I really do require such a large amount of talk time and sms’s. Why can’t I just carry on regardless – but then my phone has begun behaving rather erratically, so is that its way of telling me that it’s time for a new model?

Another fear which probably sounds ridiculous is that of automatic gates leading into private homes or complexes closing on my car as I am going in or out. As some of these contraptions have a time within which they will close automatically, they give me the heebie-jeebies. I don’t even trust the sensor which is meant to be in control as long as something is actually positioned in front of it. The only time I feel pretty confident that all will be well is if a human being is actually holding a remote button and I have enough faith in them to believe that they will only close the gates once I am safely on the other side! I think this stems from having seen the damage caused to an acquaintance’s brand-new car when a gate closed too quickly onto it.

I have just read an article about Richard Branson, and that man has zero fear by all accounts. Now is that a testosterone overload, a defiance to defeat all the odds, or does he actually have a secret death wish? It is crazy to read of the numerous times that he has actually defeated death with all his hair-raising escapades and is still, in his early seventies, living life on the edge. All I can say is that his wife and children deserve medals of bravery for just putting up with life with Branson!

As I am writing this article, I can see a pigeon perched on a tiny branch at the very top of a tree and just surveying its surroundings. It wouldn’t do for a bird to have a fear of heights, would it? The same thing applies to a fish who has a fear of water or an owl who has a fear of the dark! This is getting a bit ridiculous, so I will close for now, read an article or two in one of my self-help books on how to get rid of fear in all its shapes and forms! If I don’t write anything for a day or two, or even longer, please understand that becoming fearless may take quite a bit of time and lots of meditation or exercise, or whatever else the so-called experts recommend!

Coffee and a Chat – 2021 July No. 1

Ever wonder what it feels like to be a bird, able to fly high above the trees, and to look down and decide which garden is a safe one in which to find something tasty to eat for lunch? From way up in the sky, is it easy to be able to spot the cats or dogs which inhabit the garden down below, or is it sometimes a dangerous gamble? Everything might look calm and peaceful, no humans in sight but there could be a vicious beast lurking in its kennel, or snoozing in a hidden, sunny spot! Just as you land on the back of a garden chair, contemplating whether the sweet peppers might be a good choice for that quick midday snack, with a roar like thunder all hell is let loose. Just time to make a hurried take-off and land up on a high branch of a fir tree. Looking down at the beast who caused your near heart attack – a large, black and brown four-legged watchdog – you realize that now is not pepper eating time, sad to say.

When the owner of the frightening beast hears its angry barking, he comes outside to see if there is any danger. After all, there are predators of many shapes and forms, and even humans have to be on their guard. Telling the beast what an excellent alarm system she is, he then proceeds to throw a red toy around for the animal to fetch. This goes on for several moments until both beast and master return to the safety of the house. Now all seems to be quiet and safe, as the door to the house is closed and the beast is safely out of the way. Yes, now really is a good time to get a quick snack down there in that vegetable patch. That fat, juicy, red pepper is just waiting for a beautiful, quick-witted young barbet to take a bite and savour the delicious juicy flesh. Not sure how the owner of the house will feel when he sees a large piece missing when he picks it for his lunch. Not my problem, sorry to say, as all is fair in love and war, isn’t it?  

  

Update and Comments – 4 July 2021

What is there to say when we are once again under lockdown level 4 with all its crippling restrictions for many industries. The situation concerning Covid has been badly mishandled by the powers that be, who spend more time taking one another to court than sorting out the crisis raging in our country, and Gauteng in particular. Our politicians prove over and over again that they are totally incapable of planning for the future. Everyone knows that the health department is in a real mess with a shortage of skilled staff as well as enough functional hospitals. All this whilst around 200 newly qualified young doctors have yet to be given posts to complete their internship programme. Their knowledge would surely be able to help to alleviate the current chaotic situation.  Much of the problem has been caused by total mismanagement ever since the current government came into power, as well as the ongoing illegal pocketing of millions, if not billions of rand, which is rife throughout the entire country. Most municipalities countrywide are on the verge of bankruptcy. Tax money paid from the hard-earned incomes of frustrated citizens have been pocketed by corrupt individuals who have been entrusted with the running of their constituencies. A very sad and diabolical state of affairs.

All of the above is apart from the psychological strain being put upon many citizens due to having lost their jobs, being confronted with the loss of family members or friends due to the virus, and then hearing all the constant negative news reports.  What appears to be a strange situation is that within the crowded informal settlements, the incidence of Covid infections seems to be very low. Could this be due to the fact that so many poor people have always lived in very close proximity to each other and have thus developed extremely strong immune systems? Has this perhaps resulted in them creating their own herd immunity? It has been documented that ever since the virus raised its ugly head, and protocols regarding the wearing of masks and keeping social distancing were implemented, these were totally ignored in many of the poorer areas. One would have thus expected the numbers of casualties to be astronomic, and this does not appear to be the case. No doubt there will be some or other kind of study done regarding this phenomenon, so only time will tell if living in a crowded environment with all the challenges of surviving on or even below the poverty line can actually provide a protection against the Covid virus.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265 Continue reading Update and Comments – 4 July 2021

Confusion reigns in the land of the gullible – June No 2

We, as South African citizens, must be amongst the most gullible humans on this planet. This probably stems from our past history of being controlled by old men in grey hats during the apartheid years. Only now, as we look back over the years do we realise that even those of us who were members of the so-called privileged White community had very little real freedom. We were only able to enjoy television in the 1970’s and then, due to boycotts because of the apartheid system, viewing was very limited and the few programmes which we were able to receive from overseas countries had to be dubbed into either English or Afrikaans as not all English speaking countries would let us have any of their productions.

What has the above got to do with our gullible disposition? Well, we are now in the throes of another horrendous 3rd wave of this terrifying Covid virus and many of us are suffering from ongoing stress, fear and sometimes, even panic attacks. So, when a picture of a massively (supposedly) pregnant woman appears on social media with the information that she has now given birth to 10 babies and will be in the Guinness Book of Records for this first-time event, it took our minds off the virus for a short while. However, was I the only person who doubted the picture actually being that of a huge pregnant stomach. Firstly, it looked as if a fully inflated Pilates ball had been shoved underneath a large pink shirt. The woman’s face was not in the slightest bit chubby, as one would have expected, considering the gigantic stomach in front of her.  The lack of a protruding belly button also was suspicious. All pregnant women tend to have a noticeable navel especially when the stomach has been stretched considerably.

Can one actually credit the fact that journalists working for all the major South African newspapers wasted hours following the story and trying to get to the bottom of the whereabouts of the elusive mother and her ten babies.  By all accounts, due to social media, the mystery of the missing decuplets was spread far and wide, and it is cringeworthy to think that so many people actually believed the story without any evidence other than the posed photo of the “pregnant” woman and her elderly looking partner in crime, aka the father of the 10!

It has now turned out that there never was a pregnancy and certainly no birth of 10 babies – five delivered vaginally and then the other 5 via caesarian section as reported. That in itself makes absolutely no sense at all. Such tiny little scraps of humanity would surely not have survived a natural birth. After donations from many crazy citizens into a bank account to assist with all the needs of these 10 premature (29 weeks gestation) infants, one has to wonder whether the stress of everything that is currently occurring in this mad country is turning brains into porridge. No photos of the babies, no confirmation from any hospitals or staff who were present at the births, and yet people put hard earned money into an account to help these liars and swindlers. The mind boggles!

South Africa must be the laughing stock of the educated world right now, but then aren’t we always nowadays? At the moment of completing this tirade, the apparent “mother” of the 10 babies, is actually in her late 40’s and is under psychiatric assessment in hospital. One has to wonder what the repercussions will be for the shoddy journalism which covered this ridiculous story! Also, what about the so-called father of the 10 who was involved in all this crazy situation? Oh, well, one has to wonder what we are going to find to become excited about in this crazy place we call our country!

Depression is on the Increase – 2021 June No.1

We are surrounded by uncertainty these days, and much of it is a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, which came out of nowhere and turned our lives upside down in a matter of weeks of its first appearance in China, towards the end of 2019.

According to a recent international survey, South Africans are rated as some of the least happy people on the planet, and for good reason. We are currently being bombarded with negative reports and disturbing news items. With a failed economy, a corrupt ruling party, crime which is rampant, a failed power supplier, potholes everywhere, unemployment (the list goes on and on) it is not surprising that many of us feel despondent and helpless. These negative emotions can manifest themselves in a state of severe depression which may be overlooked by one’s nearest and dearest until the sufferer may need medical intervention.

It is a sad state of affairs that we still have a negative connotation regarding mental illness. If you have a leg in a cast, or a huge bandage around an injury, the reaction from others is more often than not one of concern and sympathy. However, if you are sad and feeling down, and battling to find anything positive or amusing in your life, you may find yourself ostracised to a certain extent as being too miserable to be around. It is often uncomfortable to spend time or energy trying to cheer up a person who is negative and having an internal battle with themselves and their feelings. When the situation becomes desperate, and even possibly results in a suicide attempt, then those closest to the sufferer may feel guilty at not having seen the signs, or having avoided getting involved because it caused them too must discomfort.

Isn’t it strange that we shun the words “mental health” yet we as humans, provided we are mentally intact ourselves, function as a result of our feelings and emotions most of the time. Unless we have succumbed to a frontal lobotomy we are normally bombarded throughout our waking hours with sights, sounds and various other forms of stimulation which result in our having a mixed bag of emotions. Being able to shrug off anything which causes us to feel down and sad, is usually achievable, within reason. However, if you are suffering from severe depression even the slightest trigger can be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. A failed attempted suicide may be the result, and this then creates a situation where the depressive may be given a limited amount of freedom and is watched constantly in case the next attempt is successful. A challenging situation for everyone involved.

I have known several families throughout my life who have had a family member who committed suicide and this has resulted in painful memories prevailing for many years after the event . There are always feelings of guilt from the surviving relatives or spouse and questions asked of how this could have been avoided.  Were there signs that this was going to occur? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? If a suicide note is left it probably helps to alleviate many of the unanswered questions. Without a note, is it possible that the act was never meant to be successful but more a cry for help?

There appears to be a massive move afoot in Western society to accept that mental health deserves as much attention as physical health. Telling people to pull themselves together and to cheer up is not an answer to serious depression. Even giving drug therapy often just treats the symptoms and not the underlying cause. It is a difficult balancing act on the part of professionals and is not as simple as mending a broken bone or removing a malfunctioning body part. A holistic approach is probably the most successful treatment which would be likely to include exercise, diet, counselling as well as the possible intervention of certain medication whether alternative or complementary or resorting to anti- depressants, if all else fails.

We all have times when the trials and tribulations of life threaten to be overbearing, but thankfully these interludes do tend to pass without too much trauma. However, if doom and gloom become the order of the day, it is definitely advisable to seek help so that the condition can be nipped in the bud before all the beauty around us fades into oblivion and is replaced by darkness and negativity with life itself having no meaning at all. Together we can all try to make a difference in the lives of others if we just observe, take notice of disturbing signs in those around us and bother to get involved.  Easier said than done as those afflicted may be resistant to others trying to help them, but help we must in order to try to prevent a possibly disastrous outcome.

Human,Hand,Helps,Sad,Young,Girl,In,Depression,Lying,Hugging

Having studied clinical psychology at an Honours BA level, and later qualifying as a Lifeline counsellor following the Carl Rogers approach, I do believe that many of us are capable of helping our friends and family members just by being a good listener. We all tend to run around like headless chickens being busy with our lives and we often resent having to give up some of our precious time for others. However, those who are emotionally hurting need to be heard. Talking to another human being and unloading one’s worries and distresses can be extremely cathartic. By simply identifying the other person’s feelings and emotions and feeding them back to them can sometimes help them to identify their own way forward. Telling a depressed person what they should be doing to get their lives back on track is totally counter- productive. We all (well, most of us at least) have two ears and one mouth. Let the words we are hearing from the one who is battling depression be received consciously by both our ears and let us be very careful what we utter in response.

Not a Blue Monday – June No1

A few Mondays back I found a very young baby pigeon shivering in shock and pain beside the wall of our carport. At first I thought it was dead, but on picking up the little creature it became obvious that something had harmed it and pulled out all the feathers on its tiny back. It looked so sore, and it was heart-breaking to hear its tiny feeble squeak. Anyway, I found a cardboard box, lined it with a soft towel and brought the little creature inside. I stroked it gently and tried to transfer some love and feelings of caring while talking to it quietly.

Many years ago, there had been a situation where another even smaller pigeon had been abandoned by its mother (maybe she had been killed and had not deserted her offspring) and was in a swallow’s nest under our patio roof. I had asked around and been told that the best thing was to get hold of a bird cage and to feed the baby bird with a very weak mixture of Pronutro porridge and boiled water and to administer it with a medicine dropper. This worked well, was pretty time consuming but resulted in a fully grown, healthy bird. Unfortunately, I felt that I had to find an alternative to keeping this bird in a cage. Someone I was told about had a large aviary and, with a very heavy heart, my baby bird was given up for adoption.

Circumstances are different these days and I could not see myself being able to devote the same amount of time and attention to this new foundling. After contacting my local vet, I was given the name of a woman called Georgie who runs a rehabilitation centre for wildlife just a few kilometers away from where I live. Once I had managed to get hold of her, she arrived within minutes to pick up the baby bird. She had a look at it and said that she was convinced that the bird had been attacked by a cat. Although neither my husband nor I have seen a single cat in our garden in the 14 years in which we have lived in this house, she said that it was possibly a cat which hunted at night.

The outcome of this incident has been so heart-warming that I felt the necessity to write about it. Georgie not only took the little creature home with her but has been in constant contact with me ever since sending pictures of his newly grown feathers as well as up to date information regarding the development of the baby. Today I heard that he is now feeding himself, growing up fast and apparently is quite a little character. What might have been a real Blue Monday turned out to be one of the best Mondays in a long time.

A few weeks have passed and yesterday when I arrived home, I was taken aback to see a stranger in the garden, leaning up against a flowerpot and warming its tummy in the sun’s rays. The stranger was a very pretty little white and light grey cat! That is the first feline that has been spotted in our garden in the many years in which we have lived here. Beautiful or not, this little potential bird killer is not welcome here and I shooed it away immediately. It rushed up a nearby tree and went over the wall into our neighbour’s house. With a bit of luck it won’t be back again in a hurry. Hopefully, when Kelly, our German Shepherd, gets a whiff of a strange cat, her barking will be enough to deter the intruder. I really do hope so!

Bird Watching. – 2021 May No. 2

I know many people who seem to have an insatiable desire to constantly be on the move. Spending any free time in their own homes seems to be alien to them, and they probably miss out on so many simple pleasures which are often right there in front of them, just waiting to be spotted. This ramble is most certainly not a case of sour grapes, but rather gratitude for those little things in life which, when the odds seem to be against us, and life feels bleak, can be so heart-warming and a total delight.

Just the other day, my better half (I’d better describe him as such, instead of just “other half” as I need him as my designated editor!) called me to come into his office, which is situated on the other side of the house to my own office. We are fortunate to have indigenous trees in both areas of our garden, which attract a reasonable variety of bird life and both areas have bird feeders and baths. Anyway, on that particular occasion we were witness to a mass gathering of sparrows having a swimming party in the bird bath. There must have been at least 15 of them splashing around and having a whale of a time. It was a delight to observe and, only because any movement on our part would have disrupted the party, we did not photograph or, better still, video the episode. A pity, as it might be a once in a lifetime event, but still something which will be stored away as a beautiful memory.

Some of you are probably thinking, is that all she is going to say today? No, but even the common little sparrow deserves to be treasured for the pleasure it can bring. On a slightly more sophisticated level, we have the occasional grey lourie popping by to see if there are any pieces of fruit waiting for them to enjoy, as well as a pair of crested barbets who also like the fruit. These beautiful, colourful little characters apparently have a penchant for Hungarian peppers! Good to finally find out who it is who takes bites out of the ripening vegetables. They had a very cocky attitude when caught in the act yesterday and were not in the least bit embarrassed! Just strutted away and then flew up into the trees. Gorgeous little birds who have to be forgiven, as they obviously have excellent taste in their choice of fresh produce.

Lastly, my favourite garden guest has to be the Hadeda Ibis and it is such a pleasure to watch them, after rain, pushing their long, thin beaks into the soft grass to find the delicacies deep down in the soil.  I must admit to calling back to them when a group, sitting on the roof of the house, screech out their familiar ha-ha-ha-dah-da. It’s very funny to actually see them listening when I pretend to be one of them, and to have them shout out in reply. Oh well, as some of you may have come to realise if you have read any of my previous postings, that in my case little things definitely do please little minds! I just love watching the avian carryings on from the window of my office, whilst I work!

Coffee and a Chat

There are always so many moments in life which create memories, feelings and often a sense of nostalgia as well as a desire to share them with other people. That is why I have decided to create this new section within my blog. I sincerely hope that there will be writings which you find fun or thought provoking, depending upon my mood at the time. Some of these will be short and others not so short, but hopefully you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.