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!

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.

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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.

Motivation and Covid 19

I am beginning to wonder whether the last 5 months of lockdown, are responsible for my struggle with motivation. Is it all the diabolical rules and prohibitions which have been imposed by our wonderful government, who are not famous for their intellectual abilities, or the wearing of cloth masks? Every time I have to put on that mask, I know that my mental faculties are going to be strained to their absolute capacity.

Right at the beginning of lockdown, it was very frustrating having to stay at home and not being able to go about one’s life in the usual way apart from shopping for essential items. However, biscuit baking, sorting out problems around the home, contacting friends and family members as well as sending and receiving copious quantities of jokes via mobile phones were activities which resulted in a pleasant break from the hectic lives to which many of us were accustomed. That was fine for the first few weeks, but things have changed. Fewer biscuits are being baked, jokes have dwindled and have been replaced by political rantings, and motivation seems to have become somewhat of a challenge in many cases.

Self-motivation is not easy to achieve when one is surrounded by negativity, and due to this virus, we are constantly being bombarded from all sides with negative information. The numbers of confirmed Covid cases, the amount of deaths, the possibility of second outbreaks in various parts of the world are all factors which negatively affect us in our battle to feel positive and happy.  I, personally, have heard of way too many stories of people who have committed suicide over the past few weeks which, in my opinion, must be as a direct result of the pandemic and all its rules and restrictions, as well as for many, a feeling of total isolation and loss at not having visits from family members.

As I conclude this ramble, we are now in stage 2 of lockdown here in South Africa, but things are as crazy as ever. The government is now allowing the sale of alcohol only from Monday to Thursday from 9am – 5pm as well as permitting restaurants and shebeens (alcohol outlets found in townships as well as informal settlements) to serve it as long as no-one is out on the roads after 10pm every evening. This in the misguided belief that it will eradicate drunken driving, gender-based violence and hooliganism! Emphasis should rather be put on policing vulnerable areas, having regular roadblocks to find as many unlicensed drivers as possible and to arrest them all and impound their often unroadworthy vehicles. Maybe then there would be an improvement in behaviour as well as a reduction in the number of road accidents and the victims of violence.

Threatening to ban alcohol outright is a pathetic political attempt to turn what is supposed to be a democracy into a police state, whereas the police are failing left right and centre when it comes to controlling the horrendously high crime rates and many are themselves guilty of corruption and criminal activities.

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 The original reasons given by the government for the banning of the sale of alcohol, as well as tobacco products, was supposed to be to reduce health risks which may have caused more Covid 19 deaths. There has been absolutely no proof that this has been the case. What has happened through this stupid banning is that billions of rand in tax revenue has been lost along with the jobs of thousands if not millions of workers. Wine farms have gone bankrupt whilst illegal sales of both alcohol and cigarettes has created very lucrative blackmarket businesses. There is even speculation that certain politicians have themselves benefitted from such activities. A very clever move indeed, but that’s what we have come to expect these days! The virus has certainly been an eye opener if ever there was one!

I know that when I first started to blog, I stated that I did not intend to write anything political, but sometimes one has to vent a little bit of one’s wrath, and today is the day!

One thing is for sure, if one dwells too much on all the negative issues with which we are surrounded then it is almost impossible to be motivated. Therefore, it is time to listen to some meditation music, find a quiet, uninterrupted spot and focus on making sure that September turns into the most positive 2020 month so far!

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start
by lifting stones today. – African Proverb.

Little things please not so little minds

Isn’t it amazing how we often tend to forget that, as part of the human race, we are so lucky to have been gifted with emotions as part of our genetic makeup. This generalisation obviously refers to those of us who fortunately do not have any underlying conditions preventing the manifestation of emotion. We know that animals too have the ability to feel and to react in various ways to different stimuli, which we perceive to be their form of emotion. However, for this brief article I will concentrate only on emotions which are a common denominator amongst a large percentage of homosapiens.

Covid 19 and isolation apart, we are often so busy chasing our tails in the ongoing need to earn a living that we forget to “stop and smell the roses” for want of another more apt expression. That being said, the divine fragrance of a rose has the ability to elevate one above the mundane pressures always prevalent in life, and transport one to another world – a world where life is good and worries are banished. Surely this must be the reason for roses having been a symbol of love and devotion throughout the ages and still today, sending a bouquet of beautiful roses is seen as a sign of just how much the sender cares for the recipient. Sadly, cultivated roses tend to have no fragrance, so to own a rose bush which produces gorgeous smelling flowers and to be able to enjoy them for many months each year, is a real privilege.

Enough about roses, and what about the feelings which are stirred up from browsing through old photos, birthday or Christmas cards received from friends and family over many years. So often one tends to have forgotten just how precious a certain person was in one’s life and it can be a very emotional as well as therapeutic journey to spend some time just remembering the past. Nothing makes me feel more sad than seeing in a charity shop a photograph album which is full of old black and white photos which have no meaning to anyone other than the person who lovingly filled all the pages, and is now obviously long gone. A tragedy that there was no-one left behind who cared enough to keep the album, in memory of the relative or friend who died.

Ornaments which were purchased to embellish one’s home or as mementos of a much enjoyed holiday or given for a special occasion are items which often tend to just take up space in one’s home and periodically need to be polished, washed or dusted. Taking the time to actually think back to the reason for them being in your home can also resurrect all sorts of emotions, especially if they are connected to a place or time which created great memories for you.

Taking a little time to handle items which have been in a display cabinet, untouched, for years gives one the opportunity to take a well- deserved trip down memory lane and reconnect with the past in a very positive way. The smallest item may have the potential to make you feel a rush of emotion which may surprise you. We all know that the past is the past, but to have old memories conjured up by handling a small item which  has been in our possession for a long time can make you realise just how good life has been despite all the possible pitfalls and sadness along the way.

Being strong and not showing one’s feelings is all well and good, especially out there in the work force,  but sometimes we need to be able to let our defences down and allow our emotions to take over, albeit in the privacy of our own homes. To suddenly feel the need to dance around the lounge, to cry over some old photos or greeting cards, to giggle over memories of old friends – this is a gift which we humans have and we need to preserve it as long as we possibly can. After all, emotions and being able to express them are what make us human and show that we are all much the same despite our many differences. So try not to feel any guilt when you take the time to chill out, and to do those things which stir up your emotions and give you the much needed zest for life which life itself often manages to take away.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room
in our hearts.” – Winnie The Pooh

Temptation

As she walked into the living room, Jennifer saw that Stan had fallen asleep on the couch with the television still blaring out and was snoring gently. It amazed her that, in repose, he looked like such an amiable man, yet the truth was so often very different. Lately, he had become cranky and domineering and she sometimes wondered whether that blow to his head years ago had manifested itself into some sinister growth in his brain. Oh, well, the doctor didn’t seem to think so, and he was the so-called expert, wasn’t he? She had promised herself that if her husband died before she did, she would pay whatever it cost to have his brain autopsied, just to prove her theory.

They had met and married in their early twenties and had gone on to produce 2 daughters, both of whom had qualified as teachers and were now living in Australia. Neither of the girls seemed keen to find a partner and settle down, and were, by all accounts, having active social lives with lots of single friends. Good for them she thought, as she started to carry all the heavy shopping bags into the kitchen, feeling somewhat disgruntled at the way in which her life had turned out.

It was really strange that, looking back over the years, it should have been obvious that it was up to her to assert herself and not allow her husband to constantly dampen her spirits. When they were first married, they had had lots of fun, and were part of a group of friends who had all gone to school together. Perhaps that was the real problem – everyone had continued to live in the area in which they had grown up, and no-one had married anyone from another town, let alone another country! Most of the other couples had eventually moved away, and they had all lost touch with one another. Only Jenny and Stan still lived in the same village after all these years. Maybe that was the reason that their lives seemed to be so dull and mundane these days. Something needed to be done to bring back some excitement, if not for them both, then at least for Jenny.

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Stan carried on sleeping while she packed away all her purchases and then, arms folded, she stood looking at the open fridge and wondered what she should make for dinner tonight. She had always joked that if she ever came into a fortune, it would be takeaways, or eating out at local restaurants for the rest of her life. Cooking had become a real chore instead of a pleasure, and today was no exception. She had to admit though that her cooking was usually far tastier and more nutritious than the other options, and certainly much cheaper as well.

Maybe she would use the lamb that she had just bought and make a casserole. It was only just after midday, so there was plenty of time to braise the meat, prepare the vegetables and get the dish in the oven to cook slowly and then she would make that phone call that she had been putting off for days now.

She hadn’t told Stan that her friend, Margie, had recently had a financial windfall when an ex-lover, who never fulfilled his promise to divorce his wife and marry her, had died suddenly leaving her a substantial amount of conscience money. To help her get over her grief, Margie had decided that a shopping and sight- seeing trip to Thailand might just be what was needed. She didn’t want to go on her own and had immediately asked Jenny to go with her, all expenses paid.

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Luckily, Jennifer’s passport was valid, and she had managed to save quite a few pounds over the years by being very thrifty when it came to buying groceries. Fortunately, dear Stan didn’t have a clue when it came to the cost of food and household products, so squirrelling money away for a rainy day (that really was a thoughtless pun, considering the weather in England!) had been really easy. She had opened her own savings account years ago, and he knew nothing about it. While he was away on business, which still happened regularly, she was able to be really tight when it came to making meals for herself, and that way her private money stash was looking fairly healthy right now.

Stan’s contracting job was irregular and right now he was on a month’s break – hence the sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day. To be honest, he did seem to be getting tired of all the to-ing and fro-ing to Africa and the Far East which his engineering expertise necessitated, but the money he earned was not to be sneezed at. The trouble was that he was a bit tight fisted to say the least when it came to actually spending what he earned. Yes, they would have to start looking at the future and potential retirement one of these days, but life really was for the living, as she so often tried to tell him. Their retirement policies were going to ensure a comfortable old age by all accounts, but the thought of having him under her feet day in and day out, once he gave up work completely, was enough to give her a panic attack. The way she felt right now, she would either have to start taking happy pills like so many of her friends, or doing what their neighbours did on a regular basis, and smoke pot! It all boiled down to coping!

Anyway, that phone call had to be made. She dialled Margie’s number and her friend answered almost immediately. “HI Jenny, I was hoping that you would give me the go-ahead today, so that I can book our tickets”.

Making sure that the bedroom door was securely closed before she answered Margie, Jenny rather nervously replied, “You know what Margie, I am going to accept your very generous offer as long as you allow me to pay my way regarding our eating expenses once we arrive. I haven’t said anything to Stan, and I am planning on doing a Shirley Valentine on him, and just leaving him a note on the fridge. After all, he is home now for the next 3 weeks, and there is enough food in the house to keep him going quite comfortably. Other than that, he can always go to his club and get himself a good meal, plus meet up with a few of his old cronies for a beer or two. He’ll survive, and maybe he will start to miss me if I’m not here at his beck and call for a while. It’s only 10 days anyway, and it’s not costing him a penny, so he has no right to complain!”

“Aren’t you glad that the girls have left home, there are no animals to worry about anymore, and you can just get on that plane with me and relax for a while?” asked Margie.

Glancing at her somewhat dishevelled appearance in the dressing table mirror, Jenny replied, “I can hardly imagine the relief I am going to feel once that plane taxies down the runway and we leave this miserable, depressing U.K. weather behind for a while. Thank you so much for asking me to join you Margie -this is the gift of a lifetime”.

The next few days were a bit of a challenge, as getting clothes and cosmetics ready for the trip without making Stan suspicious, was no mean task. However, he did pop out every now and again, either to buy the local paper, or on one occasion to pick up some fish and chips for their dinner.  Jenny had become an expert at deviancy and these few precious private moments were put to good use, and she packed with a vengeance. Fortunately, Stan never ventured into either of the bedrooms which had been used by their daughters in the past, so Jenny was able to hide her suitcase under one of the beds without fear of his finding it. She felt just as Shirley Valentine must have done, planning a secret getaway!

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The day of the start of the trip finally arrived, and the plan was that she would ask Stan to go to his parent’s house with a lasagne that Jenny had made for them. He hadn’t seen them for several weeks and it was about time that he did his duty and took them a peace offering. As soon as his car had left the driveway, Jenny rang Margie to tell her that the coast was clear, and she was ready to be picked up. They would be in plenty of time to get to the airport to catch their plane and have a celebratory drink before embarking on their adventure.  Jenny quickly stuck the note she had prepared for her husband on to the front of the double door fridge and made sure that the highlighter she had used would catch his eye the moment he entered the kitchen. She had just told him that she was taking a break with a friend and that she would more than likely be back in England in about 10 days’ time. She told him to enjoy his time on his own, and to look after himself.

An hour or so later, Stan arrived home and went straight over to the fridge for a cold beer. He was rather taken aback to find that Jenny wasn’t at home and then to see a note addressed to him on the fridge door. As he read her note telling him that she had gone away with a friend for 10 days he suddenly felt a burst of energy and a feeling of optimism that he hadn’t felt in years. Contrary to what Jennifer had anticipated, Stan was a bit of a dark horse to say the least. He may have played the part of the loyal husband, but deep down he had not always been such a good boy!

After downing his beer, Stan dialled a number on his mobile phone – a number that he had always been tempted to use, but always chickened out when he remembered Jennifer and how devoted to him she had always appeared to be. How could he cheat on her after all these years, and what if he got found out!  It was just a few seconds before the call was answered by a rather husky voiced woman. When she heard who was on the other end of the line, she suddenly became rather hesitant. “Oh, hello Stan. Haven’t heard from you in years. The last time I saw you was at that company function, which must have been about 3 years ago? To what do I owe the honour of this call?”

“Well to be honest Kay, I wondered whether you would like to have dinner with me tomorrow evening? You see, Jennifer has gone away for 10 days with a friend of hers, and it would be really good to get together again with you over a meal and a good bottle of wine.” There was a moment’s hesitation before Kay replied, “You must have heard then that I am no longer with Steve. I came home unexpectedly one day and found him in bed with our next-door neighbour’s husband. Once I had got over the total devastation, the embarrassment in knowing that It had became common knowledge was worse than the shock.  After all, we must have been the subject of many jokes as we  seemed to be the epitome of the happy, successful couple until this happened. “After chatting for a few more minutes, Kay agreed to have dinner with Stan the following evening.

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Sitting opposite one another at a popular Indian restaurant in a neighbouring village, Stan couldn’t help noticing that the woman he had last seen a few years ago had totally lost her good looks. She had put on pounds around the face and midriff, and her hair was grey and badly styled. He felt really disappointed, and no longer worried about being seen out and about with a woman other than his wife. No-one in their right minds could get the wrong idea about them being together. It took a huge effort on his part to actually try to chat to Kay and make the evening at least tolerable. She appeared to be distracted most of the time and was constantly checking her mobile phone.  When the coffee arrived at the end of the meal, Stan suggested calling for a taxi for her instead of leaving her to make her way home on the train. He had driven to the restaurant in his own car, but suddenly the very idea of spending any more time with this boring woman was too much for him.  He just didn’t have the inclination to go out of his way to take her home.

When the taxi arrived and they had said their rather uncomfortable goodbyes, the only thing in Stan’s mind was a tremendous sense of relief that, despite the temptation to stray while Jennifer was out of town, all that he was guilty of was taking another woman out for a meal. He realised suddenly that he was lucky that the evening had turned out the way it had. Things might have been quite different if Kay had remained the funny, attractive and sexy woman whom he remembered from the past. As it was, he felt quite sick with remorse when he thought of his wife, and how he took her and all her good qualities for granted. This was a wake-up call, and he was determined to make up for all his selfishness when Jenny returned home. He just hoped and prayed that she wouldn’t succumb to her own form of temptation whilst she was abroad. After all as he now realised, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, and a faithful bird in the hand is usually worth two dubious ones to be found in the proverbial bush!

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.
– Mae West (American Actress)

Too Many Choices

Wouldn’t our lives be so much easier, albeit rather boring, if we had far fewer choices to make every single day? From the moment we wake up each morning we have to decide what we are going to wear. There is no problem if you belong to an organization which has its own uniform or are in a job such as a nurse or a fireman which determines a dress code. Most of us, however, have a certain amount of freedom when it comes to deciding on what to wear today and it can be a real headache. So much depends on the weather as well as which of one’s clothes have been washed and ironed and are already back in the wardrobe. Making a choice that suits our current mood is also part of the equation.

Right, so you have finally made up your mind on how to dress for the day. Now it’s a case of deciding what to eat for breakfast. Remember that we are constantly being bombarded by so called experts telling us that this is the most important meal of the day. Now to decide as to whether to have a bowl of cereal or some toast and marmalade or to cook some eggs, or to go the healthy route and make a smoothie. Do you feel like your normal cup of coffee or is it to be rooibos tea or juice this morning? Decisions, decisions, decisions and the day has only just started. If you have a family to consider then the scenario just mentioned soon becomes a battle ground with every member’s mood as well as their own way of making choices potentially creating absolute chaos. Suffice to say that morning mayhem, due to having to make choices, could be ageing you well ahead of your time!

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So, you (and hopefully the rest of the menagerie – cats and dogs included along with a spouse and offspring) are dressed and fed (usually no clothes are involved for the cats and dogs) and ready to face the challenges of the day. As for you, well you have a shopping list which somehow needs to be taken care of along with your normal commitments.  This will have to wait until after work when you can stop off at the local shops on your way home. You have had to make choices in your office environment all day long and despite being exhausted, making choices just continues when you look at your shopping list.

Is it better to buy toothpaste for sensitive teeth, whitening toothpaste, fluoride toothpaste? Surely one that does the whole bang shoot is the best choice in a busy life? Then what about the shampoo? One which all the family can use or one for thinning hair, one for dry hair, one for oily hair, one for heat damaged hair – oh for goodness sake now what to choose? Right, let’s get on with this as it’s getting late – one bottle for all hair types will just have to do for now.

Over to the groceries and more decisions to make. Beef, chicken, pork or fish for dinner or should it be a vegetarian meal tonight? Most of the vegetables look a bit jaded after being in the fridge all day but the carrots look ok and the green beans seem fresh enough. Now for the bread for tomorrow. Should it be brown, wholewheat, a farm style loaf (but that’s white bread and it’s meant to be unhealthy). Oh what the heck, it looks the most appetising of them all, so in the trolley it goes.  Rush, rush, rush – time is running away and the family will all be at home by now waiting for your return so you can whizz up a delicious evening meal.  Just remembered, there is washing powder to buy and which brand should that be? The usual one is out of stock so it takes forever to compare prices as well as claims regarding the efficiency of each product before a box is put in the trolley. By now you are totally fed up and, along with every other tired, and disgruntled end of day shopper, you have to stand in the queue to pay for your purchases.

When you finally get to the checkout lady you still have to decide whether to pay with your already heavily loaded credit card or to use those extremely rare bank notes. When will the decision making end? You carry away your shopping and put it in the car.  Now to decide on whether to hoot at the gate of your home in the hope that someone will come out to help carry the packages inside, or just to drive in, park and go it all alone. Just another day filled to the brim with having to make choices – but what would the other option be. Daily rations of bread and water and an orange jumpsuit to wear every day perhaps? Maybe not such a good option after all! So carrying on making choices has to win the vote!

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New Year 2019

Regardless of the country in which you live, if you are reading my blog right now you are possibly making plans to celebrate the end of 2018 and the start of a New Year, with all its promises.

We humans seem to have the knack of facing the New Year with optimism time and time again. It is this hope and positivity when thinking about the year ahead that keeps us going, despite any  hardships and sadness that we may have had to endure during the past year. It’s just as well that we are often able to start the New Year with enthusiasm and a certain amount of excitement at what the coming year will bring.

With the world having become so very much smaller due to technology, one is able to watch people in all different countries celebrating the arrival of the New Year. One can begin by watching magnificent firework displays in cities such as Sydney, Australia, or Auckland, New Zealand and then travelling to Africa and watching festivities taking place in Cape Town. Two hours later, the crowds around Trafalgar Square in London, despite the cold, are always up for a rip roaring New Year’s Eve party – even going so far as to jump into the freezing fountain (obviously alcohol fuelled!) Firework displays along the banks of the River Thames are also par for the course.

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Times Square in New York is among the last cities to celebrate the arrival of the New Year (obviously this depends on which continent one is living when making the comparisons) and the freezing cold weather seems to do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for being part of the activities. Similarities do seem to exist in Western societies when it comes to the New Year celebrations. Counting down the minutes to 12 midnight, letting off fireworks, kissing those nearby (!) and toasting one another with glasses of bubbly – all these are well known to many of us.

The singing of Auld Lang Syne (composed by Robert Burnes) is, for many traditionalists, an absolute necessity at the start of the New Year.  However, if one were to actually celebrate New Year in Scotland things could be quite different.  The Scots celebrate Hogmanay (as opposed to New Year) and for them the traditions include the “first foot”. This has to be a dark haired man bringing with him a piece of coal and other items such as some shortbread, and a “wee dram of Whisky” entering one’s home at the stroke of midnight, or just after, in order to ensure good health and prosperity for the coming year.

Many of us have good and maybe not so good memories of New Year’s Eve celebrations over the years. Waking up on 1 January can be a painful experience due to the night before. There are parties which may have been well worth the headaches of the morning after, while others are best forgotten. With drinking and driving laws in most countries these days, many choose to stay at home on 31 December and watch television, or have a special meal in an attempt to stay awake long enough to toast the arrival of the New Year with a glass of champagne.

Here’s hoping that 2019 worldwide is a less traumatic and troubled year than many of the more recent ones have proved to be. To anyone who is reading this, my wish is that you will have a wonderful start to the New Year.

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CHEERS

Update and Comments: December 28, 2018

I cannot believe that it is over two weeks since my last update and comment! These public holidays which are accompanied by frenetic activities such as cooking, baking, wrapping gifts and spending time with family and friends tend to result in my getting all mixed up regarding the days of the week. Anyway, another Christmas Day has come and gone and a great time was had by all and now it’s time for a quick update!

As promised, I have inserted a photograph in the about page, and I have also created the contact page. Furthermore, the “Guest Contributor” section has been started with a hobbyist chef and his recipes. I am planning that, over the next few days, I will be starting to publish the first of several articles on local South African artists highlighting some of their work. This is all thanks to the kind co-operation of the Staedtler Company in South Africa and their extremely informative magazine, “MARS arts crafts and design”.  More information will be given to you under the umbrella of “Artists”. Suffice to say that I hope you will find this section of great interest.

Since having to say goodbye to our dear Rudie, I have been in touch with the well respected breeder from whom we purchased him almost 13 years ago, and it seems very likely that soon we will be welcoming a new German Shepherd pup into our home. I will be giving you more info (for those of you who, like myself, are dog lovers) regular updates on this development.

Meantime, as we all recover from an overload of food, alcohol (if one does imbibe), people and end of year stress, I will just say that I truly hope that we can share a lot of thoughts, ideas and useful information in 2019.

Once again, that’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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How Full is YOUR Glass?

Do you ever get the impression that somehow your moods are being determined for you and that there’s not much you can do to change how you feel?  I am constantly in touch with people of all cultures, creeds and financial situations and everyone seems to have one thing in common – an on-going battle to see the glass half full, when life is throwing curved balls their way. Somehow these challenging moments often coincide with the end of the calendar year and the Christmas season. This is a time when families are often separated and loneliness itself can be debilitating. How can one cope when you are feeling sad and abandoned and spending the holidays alone?

Glass 285x201 458985955Depending on where in the world you find yourself, it shouldn’t be too difficult to identify others whose circumstances are far worse, or at least comparable, to your own. Just reaching out to give them some encouragement often helps to alleviate your own feelings of sadness or despair. If you are able to cheer up another person  and maybe even get them laughing, it’s amazing how much it impacts on your own mood. I am not talking about major depression here, that is a different situation entirely, and medical intervention is critical to prevent potential self-harm, especially at Christmastime.

Missing someone who has recently died and handling the grief process makes it virtually impossible to see the glass half full. Something which I found helped me tremendously after losing a best friend through cancer, was to sit down and write her a long, chatty letter, telling her all my latest news. Having spoken  to her son and his family, I was able to tell her about her young grandson whom she had never met. It was very emotional to write this letter, but once I had finished it, re-read it and then disposed of it, it felt just the same as when we used to have our regular conversations before her illness. A cathartic way of channelling sadness which may be of help to others.

A totally different way to try to lift the cloud of negativity is, and I know this is a cliché, to do some form of exercise which will produce the endorphins in the brain which in turn will assist in a more positive frame of mind. All of you personal trainers out there will most likely be endorsing this advice.  It can be so tough to actually force oneself to get up and at it and do that dreaded exercise. However, it is amazing how much better you often feel after a good workout, whether it is running on a treadmill, going for a long walk, riding a bicycle, bashing a punchbag with great gusto or having a swim. The results are much the same, although the amount of stiffness the next day depends on the activity chosen!

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The moral of the two frogs

The story of the two frogs who fell into a tub of cream is another example of seeing the glass either half full or half empty and acting accordingly.

The first frog looked at his situation and, knowing he couldn’t swim in the cream, just gave up and sank to the bottom of the tub and died. His brother on the other hand realised that if he kept on kicking his little legs he could stay afloat in the tub of cream. He kicked and kicked and carried on kicking. Suddenly the cream began to turn into butter, and guess what? The little frog was able to hop out of the tub of cream and life carried on for him.

So, the moral of the story is that things are not always as bleak as they may first appear. Sometimes one has to try to look outside the box to find the answer to life’s problems. When all seems to be lost just carry on kicking your way to the top.

When the glass still seems half full, the following poem might help to keep you focused on the fact that everything changes, and when you are really down, the only way is up!

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DON’T QUIT

When things go wrong,
As they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging
Seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and
The debts are high,

And you want to smile
But you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest, if you must…but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.

And you never can tell
How close you are,

It may be near when it seems afar.

So stick to the fight
When you’re hardest hit…

It’s when things go wrong
That you MUST NOT QUIT!

Anon.