Resignation

Dear Michael and Jane

It is with a great deal of regret and sadness that I am sending you this letter. We have been housemates now for roughly 4 years and I have got to the stage where, to coin a much used phrase, enough is enough. I am quitting as from today.

For all these years I have had your safety and needs at the forefront of my mind. I have never been able to do all the things that I really wanted to do, but only what you allowed. So many rules to obey and when I disobeyed them I was made to feel like an absolute loser, and you often threatened to get rid of me. Do you have any idea at all how that made me feel? You often made the comment that I looked upset, and maybe a bit guilty? Well, I actually did often feel hurt by your words and rough treatment of me, but all I was able to do was convey my feelings with my body language without saying a single word in my own defence.

You have been able to go out for expensive meals and have trips to the theatre whenever you felt like it, knowing that I was looking after your fancy house with all its precious antiques. I never ever broke a single item, and everything was always in perfect condition when you got home. You rarely even bothered thanking me for my loyalty, let alone having to stay awake until late at night until you both stumbled in, often reeking of alcohol. I must say that I was very glad when, several months ago, after your last run in with the traffic police, that you started using Uber to go out in the evenings. I used to worry as to what would happen to me should you be involved in a serious accident and not come home. I know it sounds very selfish, but we have been very much dependent on each other these past 4 years or so.

Anyway, as I said just now, enough is enough and I am leaving. At this stage I have not made up my mind exactly how I am going to move on with my life, but running away seems to be the best option. I am going to wait until I have had my breakfast tomorrow and, when you open the gate to bring in the rubbish bin, I am going to make a dash for it. I have made good friends with the woman who runs the local doggy grooming parlour, and she and her workers are very fond of me. I know that they will help me to find another job. They are sure to be prepared to give me a good recommendation, should it be required. They have always been suspicious of the way you two have treated me – almost like a poor, mentally deficient relative.

So, come what may, this letter is to tell you that you both need to look at your selfish behaviour and, before it is too late, make serious changes. Even at this stage things could be improved, but it’s all up to you. I have done my best to be hard working and honest, and I have never attacked you or made a mess in the house. I have been faithful, loving and courteous to your ghastly relatives with their ill-bred brats. I so often wanted to nip their overweight backsides, and really had to force myself to be well controlled when they visited you. You can be very grateful that I didn’t savage either of you two either, and believe me there have been many times when I would willingly have taken a big chunk out of you both. Especially when you sit on the couch, watching a rugby match, drinking beer and munching away on delicious biltong and offering me not a single solitary piece. Greedy devils that you are!

Well, you will find this letter once I have left, and hopefully you will come to your senses, see just what you have lost, and perhaps we can come to some or other amicable arrangement for the future. However, this is all up to you – the ball is totally in your court! Maybe you could consider buying me a couple of new ones if I do agree to any new terms and conditions which I feel may improve my life should I return to your home.

Anyway, you may find me at the parlour, unless I have already found a new home.

Regards

Mickey the Mutt

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The Unexpected

PART 1.

The advert had read: “2 bed-roomed flat in well maintained complex. Sea view. Within walking distance of shops and other amenities. Immediate occupation.” Just what she was looking for, provided the rental was within her budget.

As it turned out, the price had been right and here she was, two weeks later, surrounded by boxes and feeling on the verge of hysteria. Gill had been thrilled when she’d viewed the place, but that had been in the evening when the lighting had been dim and cosy. Now, in full mid-morning sunlight she had the feeling that she might just have made a very big mistake. How could she have signed a 12 month lease for a dump like this! She felt the tears springing to her eyes, and struggled to pull herself together. A cup of coffee might help to improve her mood, but in her current frame of mind, maybe something a lot stronger might be more to the point!

Standing on the balcony, sipping the steaming mug of coffee (wine would have to wait until much later!) she tried to relax. Yes, she could see the sea way over there in the distance, and the flat was within walking distance of the shops and a large medical centre and was on a bus route. The problem was the flat itself. The paintwork was filthy, the carpets a grubby nondescript colour and, judging by the state of the bathroom, the building was at least 50 years old. The landlord had told her that she was free to decorate if she felt inclined, as he himself had no intention of ever moving into the flat as he now lived in another city.

Having finished her coffee, Gill braced herself before re-entering the living room. The furniture had been plonked down by the removal men and, apart from the heavy items such as the fridge, needed to be re-arranged. Where to start, that was the question. Why had she refused everyone’s offer of help? Sometimes her insistence on being self-sufficient was to her own detriment.  She had been determined to show everyone that she could cope very well on her own, and now she was already regretting being so hard headed. Her best friend, Margie, had often told her that she shouldn’t be so stubborn, and that people deserved the opportunity to help their friends. Gill knew she was right, but at 29 she felt it necessary to be as independent as possible.

Next birthday would herald in the 30’s and that was a very sobering thought. Some of Gill’s friends were already married for the second time, and yet she was still alone and rapidly heading for a place on the proverbial shelf. She had never been short of male company and on several occasions she had honestly believed that she had met Mr. Right.  Luckily for her, she had discovered on each occasion, before any plans were made for that trip down the aisle, that Mr. Right was in fact Mr. very Wrong indeed.

The decision to move from her sister and brother-in-law’s garden cottage had been made for many reasons. Firstly, moving into town meant far less time spent travelling to and from the office. Then there was the chaos which prevailed at her sister’s home. With 4 children all under the age of 8, 5 dogs, numerous cats as well as an African Grey parrot which all day long alternated between barking like a dog, imitating the car alarms and occasionally letting rip with some very choice profanities, life was far from relaxing. The cottage was attached to the main house so there was very little privacy at all. Yes, it was most definitely time to move out before she got taken away kicking and screaming by men in white coats!

Janet, Gill’s sister, was made for domesticity and the noise which prevailed constantly in her home seemed to go totally unnoticed. How Peter, her husband, could also remain so calm and collected surrounded by such total mayhem had always puzzled Gill. Different strokes for different folks!

Finally, Janet was always making rather snide remarks regarding Gill’s single life-style. It could have been a case of sour grapes due to Gill having only herself to consider and being able to afford trips abroad every couple of years. Sibling rivalry had always played its role when the girls were younger, with Gill being the prettier of the two and far more academically inclined than her sister. It seemed sad that this should have continued into adulthood but it was what it was. Gill had always been a very willing aunt to the children and was ready to look after the entire menagerie for days at a time to allow Janet and Peter to have the odd break.  Although it was appreciated, Gill still got the feeling that there was a great deal of envy where her single life was concerned. On her part, she would have been very happy to tie the knot if the right person had come along. If it happened then so be it, but at this moment in time, moving into her own flat was the most important thing.

PART 2.

Dragging her thoughts back to the present, Gill armed herself with a bucket of hot, soapy water and a scrubbing brush. There was no way on earth that she could consider unpacking anything without first cleaning the grimy paintwork on the doors and walls. Somewhere around lunchtime she was startled by the ringing of her doorbell. She wasn’t expecting anyone to call in today so she peered through the spy hole to see who was outside.  Standing there was a dark-haired man carrying a florist’s bouquet. She opened the door in surprise – it wasn’t her birthday and her friends didn’t even know the number of her new flat. So, who could be sending her flowers? The man smiled at her and thrust the beautiful colourful arrangement into her arms. “Enjoy your day ma’am” he said before turning and hurrying back the way he had come.

“Excuse me, but….”, too late! He had already disappeared around the corner leaving a bewildered Gill holding the flowers and feeling totally confused. She went back inside, closing the front door behind her before opening the greeting card attached to the flowers. Funny, but didn’t one usually have to sign for receiving flowers? The message on the card didn’t make any sense to Gill either. “Couldn’t believe my eyes. Welcome to Hilton Heights. D”. She would have thought the flowers were meant for someone else, except for the fact that she had just moved into Hilton Heights that very day. Who on earth was “D”?

She watered the arrangement and placed it on the dining room table in amongst boxes of books and crockery. How on earth would she ever find out who had sent her the flowers? Oh, well, better get back to work. She switched on her small (rather out of date, but still very functional) portable radio for company, and carried on with the cleaning and sorting out. This continued for the rest of the day and by the time the furniture in the flat was relatively liveable Gill was absolutely exhausted. She would leave hanging the curtains until tomorrow as no-one could see into her apartment and she was way too tired to carry on any longer.

The thought of going out to eat supper was out of the question and she was about to hunt for a tin of something in her box of groceries which she could heat up in the microwave, when the doorbell rang once again. This time it was a teenager from a local pizza takeaway branch. When she said she hadn’t ordered anything he told her that it had already been paid for and no, it wasn’t a mistake. The address which he had been given was definitely flat No. 21. He wasn’t able to tell her who had placed the order, just that there was nothing to pay. Gill composed herself enough to give the youngster a generous tip before collapsing onto the couch to enjoy the unexpected and very welcome meal. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before and she could be forgiven for starting to think that she was hallucinating from overwork and low blood sugar level. She made a mental note to phone some of her friends when she had a spare moment to see whether anyone had any idea as to what was going on. Could the landlord be feeling guilty about the state of his flat and be trying to clear his conscience by sending her some moving-in gifts?

PART 3.

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully, and it was with a sense of relief that Gill arrived at the office on Monday morning. She was tired of cleaning and unpacking but the flat was slowly beginning to feel like home. She felt more optimistic about its potential now that her furniture was in place and her new curtains had been hung up. Altogether, it really looked very attractive and even the carpets weren’t as bad as at first sight. Once her trendy scatter rugs were in place you really didn’t notice their condition at all. She was determined to spend the next few weekends armed with a paintbrush and adding some subtle colour to the walls and doorframes.

No-one admitted responsibility for the flowers or the pizza, and her friends and colleagues teased her about her secret admirer. She wasn’t convinced though and suspected that her friend, Margie in accounts, had something to do with it all. Nothing unexpected happened all day, but her boss was ever more exasperating than normal. He was due to fly to Singapore the following week, so had mountains of correspondence for Gill to handle. He was a man who tended to become excitable and impatient every time he needed to go overseas on business. Gill suspected that he would be happier pottering around his garden at home rather than sitting around a boardroom table. He had once divulged the fact that he had been forced by circumstances to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and become a third generation accountant, but would have loved to have studied horticulture.

Margie popped her head around the door of Gill’s office to remind her about the dinner party she had planned for Friday evening. She said that it wasn’t necessary for Gill to bring a partner with her as there was a friend she wanted to introduce her to.  This happened on a regular basis and Gill found this whole “let’s find you a husband” routine to be getting rather tedious. However, the offer to help with any future painting and the promise of a phone number of a reliable and affordable carpet cleaning company was very well received. Gill was aching all over from the weekend’s labours and this time was only too willing to accept the offer of help. The sooner the flat was completely the way she wanted it, the sooner she could start inviting her friends to come over for drinks.

The week flew by. She’d almost worn her fingers to stumps with all the extra typing and it was a miracle that Mr. Hyslop hadn’t been strangled and thrown out of the 9th storey window. It was late on Friday afternoon that she gave any thought to the unknown person who her friend wanted her to meet. Margie was living with her long-time fiancé, Jacques, and the wedding was being planned for December. She couldn’t bear the thought that Gill was still unattached and was always on the look-out for prospective partners for her. So far none of them had been Gill’s type at all. They belonged to two clubs – Nerds Anonymous and Divorce Survivors. She was tired of listening to discussions of The Latest developments in IT, Healthy Living, Maintenance Payments and Life Without the kids.

When Gill arrived home, she found a note pinned to her front door telling he that there was an item of mail for her at the caretaker’s flat. She had only met the caretaker and his wife on two occasions before and they could have stepped right out of the pages of a Roald Dahl book. She wouldn’t like to cross swords with either of them. Not a particularly pleasant middle-aged couple at all. They had made it quite clear that they disapproved of loud music, noisy children, and late-night partying. As she knocked on their door she made a silent resolution to throw the biggest, noisiest, mind-blowing party the night before she moved out of this building one day in the distant future. Mr. Smit opened the door and nodded when he saw Gill on the doorstep. Studying the ground in front of her, he muttered something about a parcel having been delivered for her whilst she was at work, and that he had signed for it on her behalf. He shoved it into her hand and, before she could thank him, he had already closed the door. “I’d better make sure I never lock myself out of my flat”, thought Gill, “Waking him up late at night could be a fate worse than death”. The parcel in her hand was wrapped in brown paper and was addressed in black capital letters. There was no postmark that she could see, so she had absolutely no idea from where it had come.

Once inside her flat she tore off the wrapping and found herself looking at the glossy hard cover of a book entitled, “Do it Yourself Home Decorating”. The pages seemed to be full of quick, up to the minute ideas on turning even the most depressing room into an eye-catching work of art. Just the kind of book Gill loved. She searched for some clue as to the identity of the sender. On the inside cover were the words, “Happy decorating. Best wishes, D”. Who on earth was “D”? Was it the same person who had sent her flowers, and most probably the pizza, and now this book? She’d known several Daves, a Danny and even a Dimitri over the years, but her most recent boyfriend had been Michael and the only D in his life was his regular Detoxification programme!

PART 4.

Glancing at the clock she realised that she’d have to hurry up if she were to arrive at Margie’s by 7.30p.m. She had just enough time to shower and wash and dry her hair. Fortunately, her current hairstyle was a chin-length bob which was quick and easy to style.  By 7p.m. she was looking good in a black mini dress and high heels which showed off her long, tanned legs to perfection. A quick spray of her favourite French perfume and she was ready to go. She could change her name to Speedy Gonzales at this rate!

As she arrived at the home of Margie and Jacques, she noticed a brand new red BMW parked in the driveway. Must belong to the mysterious new man, she thought. Well, at least this one had excellent taste in cars. One of Margie’s hopefuls had driven a bright yellow beach buggy covered in graffiti.

The dogs started to bark before Gill reached the front door, and Margie opened it and welcomed her with a hug.  “You look fantastic, Gill, and you smell deliciously expensive!”  As she shepherded Gill into the lounge, Jacques came across the room to kiss her on both cheeks. Trust Margie to find a charming Frenchman after all those years of French lessons and Cordon Bleu cookery classes.

The owner of the BMW had got to his feet as Gill entered the room. He was of medium height with slightly receding dark hair. “Gill, this is Chris Stewart. Chris, Gill McKenzie”. The stranger smiled at her as he shook her hand, and Gill wasn’t disappointed by his looks at all. Although he couldn’t be described as handsome as his nose was too big and his smile rather lop-sided, he was definitely attractive in a rugged way. Somehow he looked out of place in his suit and tie and Gill got the feeling that he would be happier in jeans and a sweater. It turned out that he worked with Jacques and had recently moved to Durban from Johannesburg.

It was just the four of them for dinner that evening and it turned out to be comfortable and relaxing. This in itself was a relief for Gill and she was able to unwind and be her usual witty self. She soon discovered that Chris had travelled a great deal like herself, and photography was his passion. He dreamt of starting his own photographic business one day and leaving behind the constant stress which his current job within a large pharmaceutical company created all the time.

“I’ll see you tomorrow at nine, Gill”, promised Margie as Gill prepared to leave. She popped her head through the open driver’s window to whisper in her friend’s ear, “Isn’t he gorgeous, Gill? I’m sure he’s attracted to you”. Gill ignored the comment and thanked Margie again for a wonderful evening. She waved to Jacques and Chris who were standing in the doorway, and reversed her little hatch-back down the driveway. Driving home she let her mind wander over the evening. She wondered if she would hear from Chris again. If Margie had anything to do with it, she probably would. It was odd, but she felt as though she knew him although they had never met before. He had fitted in so well with her friends that it was hard to believe that this was the first evening they had all spent together.

True to her word, Margie arrived promptly at 9a.m. the following morning. She was carrying a large plastic bag containing a pair of blue overalls which Jacques used for working on his car. After a cup of coffee the girls got to work. It was actually good fun painting together and amazing just how quickly the time went by. Before they knew it, it was mid-afternoon and they decided they had better break for a bite to eat. They took time to admire their handiwork. The bathroom was totally transformed. Amazing what a fresh coat of paint could do to the walls, pelmet and door. No more dreary grey-white walls and chipped door frames. Instead it was now lemon walls and a turquoise door and pelmet. With some new towels and a bath mat it would be perfect.

They took two fold-up stools out on to the balcony and sat munching on thick sandwiches which they had hastily prepared together in the kitchen. These were washed down with glasses of chilled white wine. Remarkable just how quickly one’s stamina could be revived with the correct kind of sustenance!

“I think you made the right decision taking this flat, Gill”, mused Margie. “It’s so nice and close to town and that sea view is very relaxing. Once the decorating’s finished you won’t want to move out”.

“After all this hard work, I’m here to stay”, replied Gill. The thought of moving again was anything but appealing. “Do you think I’ll ever hear from Chris again, Margie?”, asked Gill  rather hesitantly.

“Well, he couldn’t stop talking about you after you’d left last night”, Margie said. “He said something strange though, which has been worrying me since he left. He mentioned the fact that you lived in Hilton Heights, and neither Jacques nor I had told him. Did you mention it to him?”

“I spoke about my move, but I didn’t mention the name of the flats, as far as I can remember. Maybe he’s a bit of a mind reader!”

The question continued to puzzle the friends, but they soon forgot about it once they were again immersed in their decorating. They decided to call it a day at 6.30pm as Jacques would have returned from playing golf, and Margie thought it was time she went home. She’d had more than her fair share of brush-wielding aerobics for one day. A hot bath was needed before she expired totally!

PART 5.

Once Gill was alone again, she felt like having a relaxing evening watching some television and having a nice hot cup of coffee but suddenly realised that she had run out of milk. She decided to pop down to the café on the corner and spoil herself with a bar of well-earned chocolate as well, before showering and settling down for the night. She glanced at herself in the mirror in the bathroom before grabbing her purse. Yellow and blue speckles of paint were sprinkled in her hair as well as on her arms and face and tee shirt. She wasn’t too bothered as there was little chance of her bumping into anyone she might know, as she hadn’t met very many people in the last couple of days since moving in. She slammed the flat door shut behind her, only to realize that she’d left her keys inside. Horrors, how on earth could she get back inside? Other than spending the night curled up on the doormat, she really didn’t have much of a choice. She might as well go to the café for the milk before bracing herself to ask the indomitable caretakers to help her with their master key.

She ran down the stairs to the ground floor instead of taking the lift and as she raced out of the entrance she almost collided with someone on his way into the building. He dropped the packages he was carrying and almost over balanced. Gill, mortified, started to apologize profusely, when she looked up and realized that the person she’d almost knocked over was, in fact, Chris. She couldn’t believe it. The funny thing was that he didn’t seem at all surprised to see her. He laughed as she started to say how sorry she was for her recklessness, and helped him to pick up his packages. She told him how she’s foolishly locked herself out of her flat. He said that breaking and entering was just one of his many talents and he was pretty sure that they wouldn’t need to call on the assistance of the intimidating Smits.

The milk forgotten, Gill allowed Chris to accompany her back to her locked front door. Putting his parcels down, he looked around and spotted a small open window to the right of the front door. By reaching down and across he was able to grab hold of the keys which were still hanging in the keyhole. Carefully, he lifted them out and with an exuberant “Voila!, he gave them to her with a flourish.

Leading the way inside, Gill explained. “Please excuse the way I look, but I’ve been painting all day. Would you like a drink, Chris? Beer, wine, tea, coffee – oh heck, I forgot that I was on my way to buy some milk when I locked myself out. That’s where I was running to when I collided with you.

“A glass of wine would be great, thanks”. He smiled at Gill, “I think I’d better explain a few things Gill. Firstly last night was amazing and I was going to give you a ring early next week to try to arrange to see you again”.

“But what are you doing in this building, Chris?”, asked a very puzzled Gill.

“My brother, Mike, lives upstairs from you, and I brought him a few groceries as he’s got a bad dose of Man flu and is wife’s away on business until Wednesday.

Gill handed him a glass of wine and they sat down in the lounge. Chris suddenly blurted out, “I’ve got a confession to make Gill”, he admitted looking rather embarrassed. “Jacques showed me their engagement photos a while ago and there was one of you which interested me. He told me a bit about you and that you were unattached. He said he’d get Margie to arrange something and then, a few days later, while I was standing at Mike’s window looking down into the courtyard, I saw you coming out from speaking to the caretaker. It had to be you or an identical twin sister.

I asked Mike to find out from the caretaker whether or not you were moving in, and what your name was. He seems to get on all right with the old misery and got all the info I needed. There was no way I could just knock on your door and introduce myself – Margie had already planned the dinner anyway – so I got my brother to drop off the flowers. As for the pizza – I’d ordered one for Mike and I thought you might enjoy one after all the unpacking.”

“This is so crazy”, laughed Gill. “And I suppose Margie also told you that I’m dying to do a course in interior decorating as well, didn’t she?”

“She did let it slip”, grinned Chris, “And when I found that book on sale last week I thought you might like to have it”.

“But what does the “D” stand for, if your name really is Chris?”, mused Gill. “Determined, daft or demented – whichever you think best describes me! Actually, my first name is Damian, but I have preferred to use my middle name since leaving school”, he said with a grin.

“I’d better take these groceries up to Mike so that he can have some dinner. Poor guy is really feeling sorry for himself and never copes well when his wife has to go away. Being sick doesn’t help matters either! How about you and I going out for a quick bite to eat when I get back down from seeing him?”

Hurriedly showering, the only thought in Gill’s mind was the saying “In life expect the unexpected”!

So much wasted time

We often bear grudges and carry hurts and slights for years, and I don’t think there is anyone who, if they are totally honest with themselves, can say that they have never borne a grudge against either a family member who has upset them, or a friend or colleague who they feel has let them down in one way or another. It takes courage and a real desire to put matters straight, to actually make the first move and try to normalise the relationship. Not always easy, especially if the other party has decided that they are quite happy with the current status quo. Even if one makes the first move to make amends, it isn’t always a straight forward situation. Often the other party refuses to co-operate and to communicate at all.  After several attempts there is often no other option than to try to put the matter behind you and to move on, but not always as easy as that. Depending on the relationship that exists between the two parties, it can sometimes drag one down emotionally on a regular basis. All of us really do have an innate desire to be liked, if not loved, and failing this can be very upsetting, or even depressing.

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Looking at other peoples’ scenarios, it is often divorce situations which culminate in grudges and hurts. To have to fight with an ex-partner for maintenance for one’s children can often result in feelings of anger, hurt as well as deep resentment. These feelings are often very obvious to the children of the broken relationship, resulting in unhappy situations for everyone involved. It is never easy to hide hurt and anger and it is often grudgingly that one parent allows the children to spend time with the other. Children soon latch on to the vibes prevalent in a broken relationship and are very adept at using the situation to their own advantage and playing one parent off against the other.

Obviously the ideal scenario would be for both mother and father to remain on good terms with one another, but this seems to be the exception and certainly not the rule. In many cases infidelity has caused the divorce in the first instance, so it would be highly unlikely for there to be too much love lost between the ex partners. Jealousy regarding the comfortable financial status of the errant partner compared to that of the “injured” party,  or the fact that the new spouse is more attractive or more qualified than the ex, can be a constant cause of pain and hurt.  The situation often becomes even worse when the new partner becomes pregnant and there is suddenly a half brother or sister to further complicate matters.

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We most certainly do not live in an ideal world and humans are human because they are creatures with feelings which often are very difficult to disguise. We do not, unlike our canine friends, give unconditional love and ask only for food and shelter. However, having said that, one can look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and he identified man’s first need as being the satisfaction of hunger and thirst i.e. survival. Secondly, the need for shelter and money. So, in that regard, we actually are not unlike our canine friends. However, once our basic needs are satisfied we are driven by other motivating factors such as the need to be loved, accepted and respected by others etc., until, finally, we are able to strive for self- actualisation – not a need which many of us actually achieve.

Just reading what I have written, I would like to reiterate by saying once again that possibly the only real unconditional love we will ever experience in life is that which comes from our four legged friends. They don’t bear grudges, sulk (well not often, anyway), or keep on harping on about past grievances. They seem to have an incredible ability to forgive and forget! If only we could be as simplistic in our relationships then our lives might be so much less challenging.

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Service with a smile – the ups and downs of running a pub/restaurant – Part 1.

Part 1

There are so many memories, both good and sometimes not so good, which I hope will make interesting reading for anyone who frequents pubs and restaurants.  Knowing what goes on behind the scenes whilst you are tucking into that succulent steak and taking a sip from a glass of really good wine could surprise you if you ever found out! However, some secrets are best kept secret to protect innocent people involved!

After having tired of the many years of being witness to the constant presence of in-house politics in the corporate world, my other half decided that it was time for us to have our own business and to take control over our lives. Little did we realise that having control, when dealing with the public at large, is more a dream than a reality. However, we were excited to try something quite new and, after a great deal of research, decided that to go the franchise route would offer us a much better chance of succeeding in our venture than trying to go it alone.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which 
so much happiness is produced as by
a good tavern.
” – Samuel Johnson

Due to many stumbling blocks along the way to our getting our business up and running, we finally opened our doors (under the watchful eye of several members of the franchise head office staff) a few weeks before Christmas. What an opening it proved to be. From the moment the locals knew we were in operation, it was absolute pandemonium. Despite all of us, owners and managers, front of house staff, as well as the entire kitchen complement, having received fairly in-depth training from the franchisor, the reality of providing quick, efficient service to the masses was daunting to say the least! None of us had time to eat anything at all whilst on duty during the first few weeks. Our uniforms started hanging off us due to weight loss but we were too busy rushing around to even notice!

The pub we bought had an Irish theme and catered for 75 people in the restaurant area. There were also tables in the bar area where one could eat as well. Therefore, it stands to reason that for brand new owners and staff it was no mean feat to keep demanding patrons happy all the time. Despite having had a trial evening where friends and family had been invited to test our capabilities in preparing meals and giving the appropriate service, the first few days of business were totally crazy. The most relaxed members of our entire staff were the barmen as they had taken to their job like ducks to water, or drunks to drink! They were young, enthusiastic and great with the public.

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We had really hit the jackpot by finding ourselves a true Irishman several weeks before we opened and we employed him as our head barman due to his previous experience and outgoing personality. He was confident in handling a busy bar and he proved to be an absolute bonus for the few months in which he worked for us. He left in a bit of a hurry under some sort of a cloud, by all account but it was probably due to domestic problems. He was in his early twenties and had a great affinity for a certain four letter word whilst telling you where to go! This came out of Gordon’s mouth regularly in a broad Belfast accent. He was working in a pub and not a church or a school so there was no need to censor the barman.  The piece de resistance was the fact that he taught one of our young Black kitchen staff to parrot his expression. Every evening as Jonathan left to catch the staff transport, Gordon would ask him to repeat his favourite saying.  The reaction of the patrons when they heard a Black guy swearing in an Irish accent had to be seen to be believed.

The kitchen staff were under great pressure in those early days but all things considered the mistakes were few and far between. The food which came out of our kitchen was first class and relatively speedily prepared. There are many amusing incidents which I would love to share with you which involved our kitchen workers, but this I will leave for a later post.

Our young waiters had all just recently left school and there were some amusing incidents (in hindsight, and not at the time). A few weeks into running the business a rather irate woman called me over to her table to complain about one of my waiters who had sworn at her. I asked who had served her and she told me who it was – the only boy we had as yet employed (girls were the favoured choice of the franchisor – but we soon changed the dynamics to suit our needs). I called the youngster over and, away from prying eyes, I asked him what had happened. It turned out that the woman had asked him what was in the pie of the day? Being new to the menu as well as the job he answered “shit, I don’t know!” We all found it amusing – pity the miserable old bat couldn’t see the humour! Anyway, afterwards we tried to ensure that all the young staff actually had a good idea of the contents of each day’s special pie!

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We were put on a spot by our replacement bank manager to give his blonde and rather dumb daughter a part time waitressing job. Suffice to say she didn’t last very long as she just could not learn at all. The best memory I have of her was the busy Sunday lunch when one of the waiters was frantically looking for the chicken schnitzel which the kitchen staff had prepared ready for delivery to the customer. It had disappeared from the relevant preparation station. However, there was an abandoned ostrich fillet starter standing all alone in the cold prep section. We soon found out what had happened. The dizzy blonde had grabbed the schnitzel and taken it to the customer who had ordered the ostrich starter, who in turn hadn’t said a word and proceeded to devour it. When the waitress was told what she had done, her reply was, “well, I knew it was some kind of a bird!”

So many memories, but that is all for now! Will be back with another batch of memories of those busy days (and nights too!).

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they  wake up
in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going
to feel all day.” – Jack Lemmon

Face Book – A Psychologist’s Best Friend?

I am convinced that since the advent of Facebook as well as Twitter, Instagram etc. and the enormous growth of users, psychologists are being inundated with patients needing help to cope with their perceived worthless existences.

In the past few weeks I have seen old wedding photos of people I once knew well. Reading all the syrupy garbage that not only the couple, or one of them (usually the wife,) but dozens of their friends and family members have posted on their Facebook page is enough to make even the soppyist of people puke! Oh come on, let’s get real. How many marriages are so absolutely wonderful. How many partners are these amazing walking demi gods who have been such perfect soul mates? Sure, it’s great to celebrate a long marriage, but scratch the surface and you are sure to find some polyfillerd cracks of various sizes and shapes.

I remember a few years ago saying to a group of female work colleagues that, if anyone says that they have a wonderful, argument free, marriage and that their husband is perfect, then just look a bit deeper. Either he is full of guilt due to extra marital affairs, or he is a closet gay! One of the women in the group piped up with “that’s what happened in our marriage – he was having it off with his secretary!”  I may sound cynical, but all this on-going rubbish that is being posted on Facebook is one huge ego trip and often a load of total hogwash.

It would be really refreshing, when a couple wish to let the social media world know that they are celebrating a wedding or commitment anniversary, to read something along the lines of  “on this day x amount of years ago I committed to sharing my life with a person with whom there have been many memorable occasions, good and bad. We have had our challenges which often involved in-law interference, or money worries but we have survived! We have had our times of fun and laughter along with the difficult days. So, let’s have a toast to more years still to come!” Now, no-one is going to feel sick with jealousy because they cannot compete with this perfect match made in heaven, and hopefully that would stop all the hypocrites from waffling on about the perfect couple – blah blah blah!

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It goes further as far as the bragging is concerned. Everyone out there seems to have children who are amazing, and never cease to make their besotted parents gloat in wonder. The certificates, awards, successes –both in the classroom and on the playing fields -the list goes on and on. There must be many parents who read these posts who feel that they have been dealt a really lousy hand where offspring are concerned. They may be coping with children who are just average or perhaps challenged in some or other way be it academically or physically. I had a good friend for many years who always used to say “there are no throwaway people” – everyone is worthwhile regardless of their achievements. This is the crux of the matter isn’t it? Whatever challenges we have in life, we sometimes really struggle to accept the fact that we either cope with what we have in front of us, or just give up. The latter is not an option in most cases, and that is where the professionals and their counselling can be of incredible assistance. Feeling inferior, hard done by, worthless, incompetent – all emotions which are so readily fed and watered by the many ego-driven postings out there on social media.

It would be interesting to see some statistics relating to the demands being made on psychologists and psychiatrists since the advent of social media-itis and before it raised its often ugly head. I may be wrong in my presumptions, but I do know that there is a lot of evidence that more and more youngsters are feeling depressed, worthless, and inferior and often contemplate committing suicide. There has to be a correlation with the fact that these same young people seem to be spending most of their waking hours using their cellphones, either to send posts themselves or reading what others have to say. It appears that it is no longer the norm to get together with members of your peer group and hang out and have fun. Nowadays it would appear that, in many instances, relationships start and end with the use of cellphones. How devastating to receive an sms or a WhatsApp message letting you know you are no longer the flavour of the month or to see evidence on Facebook that your ex has replaced you and wants the world to know.Depression-flat-simHow far is all this going to go before the bubble bursts and life once again returns to some semblance of normality? Never, only in our wildest dreams and this is the “normal” for all those young people born into a world of social media. Oh well, let’s accept the inevitable and just hope that there is a constant stream of qualified and empathetic psychologists graduating from quality universities to handle all the world’s troubled souls!

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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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Sincerity in a hectic world

“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.” – Diogenes

Most of us spend a good deal of each day using verbal skills to communicate with friends, family and business associates as well as casual acquaintances. This can result in a huge amount of conversation and the choice of many thousands of different forms of syntax, regardless of the language being spoken. However, how much of what is being relayed qualifies as truth and how much is pure dreaming or just saying what you think the other person wants to hear?

How often do we hear the phrases, “we must have coffee soon” or “let’s make sure to get together before too long”? So easy to let these words float out of our mouths, but what is the point if they are purely being used flippantly? I had an occasion recently where someone whom I had known for many years accused me of being of no use to her in my business endeavours as I was obviously too busy to do a good job, as I had never bothered to have tea with her! Being told, “Oh, you must pop in and have tea one day” does not constitute an invitation and being self-employed, there is very little time to socialise, and certainly no time to just “pop in” on the off chance that I may be welcome. In trying to explain to this very obnoxious woman that my time is constantly being taken up with my business and trying to earn a living, I was very abrasively shouted down. However, if she really had wanted to speak to me over a cup of tea or coffee, she should have made the invitation genuine and I would have certainly made the time to see her.

Since the advent of social media, things seem to have become far worse as far as meaning what one says and being genuine instead of trying to just make an impression. We see all these flowery “Love you my angel” with the response “Love you more”, etc. etc. and one wonders why anyone would need to put comments like these out there for the world to read instead of just telling the person in question the very same words?

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What is it about the human race that there is this need to be seen to be other than who one really is. Not to say that we need to show our bad side to others, but let’s try to be genuine instead of fake. How much better to only use certain words of endearment when the person you have strong feelings for is hearing them coming out of your mouth and not splashed on a screen for all to read. So often these comments are totally cringeworthy – especially in cases where you know just what the people concerned are really like.  The results of a recent survey showed that the happiest relationships are those where the people involved do not post personal comments on social media.

Nothing boosts our mood more than having a friend or acquaintance phoning us or sending a personal message to say that they are thinking of you and when can you meet? Now there is a genuine desire to get together and it wasn’t put out there as public news.  I get the feeling that the reason there is so much loneliness in the world today is due to us not taking the time to say and do the meaningful things which, as human beings, we all need in order to make us feel cherished and worthwhile. It’s just become far too easy to get so involved with one’s own life and day to day existence that to clear one’s conscience with those flippant words, “we must get together for coffee soon!” have become way too common.  Putting messages out there in the social field could also be a quick fix which eliminates the need for giving up on personal time.

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So many wonderful words are spoken at memorial services after a friend or family member has died, but when they were living did they ever hear the same words being said to them? In many instances they have been more or less abandoned by these self-same people due to their busy lives and them preferring to spend leisure hours doing more exciting things than paying a visit or making a phone call. Sincerity often means making sacrifices of one’s time in order to do it right when it actually can make a difference in the other person’s life. Young or old, the need to feel special is part and parcel of the human condition and it is often those who appear to be totally self- sufficient who drastically crave the human touch.

Very often just making the time to do the right thing turns out to be an extremely rewarding experience. When you realise just how much your selfless act of sharing some of your valuable “free time” with that other person has cheered them up as they face life’s challenges, then you are usually rewarded with a feeling of self- worth and satisfaction. So being sincere in caring has two-fold benefits which are not achieved by sending meaningless messages via social media just to show all those “friends” (many of whom you have never met and probably have no desire to meet either!) what a great person you are.

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A friend of mine who sells intricate beaded ornamental items at a flea market stall told me of someone who also used to have a stall at the same flea market who suggested that they become friends on Facebook. My friend was actually angry at the request because the person in question had never ever bothered to pass the time of day with him having been in the same place, weekend after weekend over the past 10 years. Again, is this sincerity or just idle words and why bother? If you cannot make friends with another person face to face then what on earth would you have to say to them via social media? Having hundreds of these so-called “friends” may be great for one’s ego, but what is the point unless it is purely to try to sell your product or advertise your business. That may well be the case, but if you really do want a friend, you have to be prepared to be a friend, in the true sense of the word. The Oxford dictionary defines “friend” as “one joined to another in intimacy and affection”. By the same token, the word “sincere” means “not simulated or assumed” i.e. genuine.

This is not intended to create feelings of guilt at all, but many of us are like the proverbial hamster spinning around and around on his wheel and we need to sometimes jump off the wheel and do the right thing by that other person. Just a thought!

“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln