Winds of Change?

Introduction

I made the statement when I first began blogging that I would avoid writing about politics and religion as both these subjects tend to be extremely controversial.  However, the fact that I am passionate about people per se necessitates my having a slight change of heart.  My wish is to be able to express some feelings as well as to share my many positive experiences regarding my dealings with people from all walks of life. Some comments will, of necessity, be viewed as negative, but by the same token, I am not writing a fairy story. So, to my readers, I want to ask you not to look on this or the one or two follow-up postings as a political commentary, as this is not my aim at all. Rather, I would like this to tie in with future socially themed postings.

The entire world seems to be in chaos at present, but then hasn’t it always been to some extent? The past conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the situation regarding Basque Separatism in Spain, a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany, Trump and his attitude towards the Mexicans (building a wall to keep them out), towards China, as well as his own government, the UK debacle over Brexit and the antagonism this appears to have caused in many sectors, not only in the UK but other countries as well – the list goes on and on. The fact is that, wherever there are human beings, there will always be discrimination and conflict of one kind or another, and this is fostered more often than not by the mouthings and actions of politicians suffering from a dose of verbal diarrhoea, and hoping to enhance their own often dubious image.

In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics”. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia – George Orwell

The current South African Situation

If one is living in South Africa then politics are part and parcel of every day life, and from the poorest to the wealthiest of people, everyone seems to be very quick to want to voice their own opinion.

The politicians are having an absolute field day in destroying the legacy left by Nelson Mandela. With Jacob Zuma in power for two terms, racial tensions became absolutely rampant. All the problem areas created by mismanagement of funds and blatant  corruption were blamed on the legacy of apartheid, and ultimately the fault of White people. The truth of the matter is that the majority of Black people have been neglected over the past 25 years since the new democracy came into being and have been denied even basic, never mind quality education, adequate health facilities and job opportunities. Billions of Rands which should have been allocated for all of these areas, have been stolen by thieving politicians and their lackeys. If one is unable to read or write, how easy is it then to be convinced by the rantings of politicians that all one’s woes are due to the greed of the White population.  Fostering this kind of attitude amongst the masses is frightening to say the least. By making false promises to illiterate people regarding job creation, improved health care and adequate housing is the way in which the ruling party manages to gain and retain the votes of the majority.

We are talking about mainly Black politicians, and those currently in power, actually not giving a damn about their own people. Millions of South Africans are frustrated as the realisation kicks in  that they have been given false hope regarding a higher standard of living and job opportunities. Schools and hospitals may have been inferior in the past and things were certainly not comfortable for the majority of South Africans   but many citizens did get educated and were able to read and write and had reasonable access to health facilities which is not the case in certain parts of the country these days. Keeping people ignorant and illiterate means that you can control them as they are totally reliant on the lies and garbage spewed out of the mouths of corrupt politicians. Blaming the Whites after all these years of independence just does not make sense any more and a large number of the population which includes many of the emerging black middle class would likely attest to this as well.

 

When skin colour is inconsequential

The truth of the matter is that, for many of us living in this country, the colour of one’s skin is actually irrelevant. It’s a fact of life that human beings choose to associate with others of similar belief systems, educational levels and, often, similar economic situations. Whether you live in Europe, Australia, America or Africa, people will always gravitate to groups within which they feel comfortable and at home.  Children are born not knowing prejudice and racism is something which is learnt and not inherent.  If youngsters are given the opportunity to make their own friends within a multicultural environment, they are likely to ignore the colour of the skin of their playmates, and start a friendship based on mutual attraction.

Since Nelson Mandela was released from jail, and became our first Black president, we have all been freed. (See my earlier posting dated 29 Nov 2018 and entitled “Those early days in South Africa”) Multi-racial marriages and relationships are evidenced in many areas and no-one bats an eyelid. Obviously there will always be those fringe bigots who, for whatever sick reason of their own, are disdainful of this integration, and have no intention of trying to change their unhealthy attitudes, but that’s life. Human beings are strange animals to say the least.

Nothing is more heartening than watching small children playing together, totally oblivious of any skin tone differences.  My own daughter was fortunate enough to have the advantage of being with children of other races for most of her school career – due to the change in policies in this country. She made friends with an African boy and they went through most of primary as well as high school together. After school they both pursued legal careers and their university years were spent at the same institution. When it came time to do their internship, both of them were handpicked by one of the most prestigious law firms in the country.  Despite her friend moving over to another company several years ago, they are still in touch with one another and their friendship has always been based on mutual respect and actually liking one another.

In politics stupidity is not a handicap – Napoleon Bonaparte

An experience of a lifetime

For many of us who remember the oppressive apartheid years, there were also many occasions where a person’s race was of no consequence. I would like to tell you about the following situation. My daughter wanted to do a speech about Nelson Mandela for a school project and had no idea how to get the relevant information. This was shortly after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, so there was no googling to help her. When she told us about her choice of subject, her father actually suggested that we try phoning the ANC head office for help. She was only about 12 years old at the time, so I offered to do the phoning for her although I was very dubious about getting any help whatsoever.  Imagine my surprise when the phone was answered immediately and, when the person who answered heard what the call was about, gave me the home number of Walter Sisulu, who held the position of deputy president of the African National Congress.  I was flabbergasted as there is no way that during the years of the white Nationalist party being in power, anyone would have given out the home telephone number of any of the top dogs.

I rang the number and Mrs. Albertina Sisulu, his wife, herself answered. I explained about the speech and what my daughter needed to find out and I was told that she was busy cooking dinner for the family but if my little girl called at 7pm she would be able to help her.  True to her word, the conversation between the two of them carried on for about an hour and my daughter had the most incredible amount of information to put into her speech for which she got top marks. The point is this, that here was a woman who had fought for the rights of Black people her entire life, had been arrested on many occasions due to her political involvement  and had every right to be anti-establishment and perhaps even anti-white, prepared to help a young white girl with a school project. Colour was of no importance, it was about an adult with the necessary facts being prepared to help a child with a school project.  This is one of the many highlights of life spent  in South Africa over the years.

When Ma Sisulu (as she was affectionately known throughout most of her life, by many South Africans) died several years ago, there were many tributes to her being posted in the local newspapers. I felt that I had to add my bit, and wrote a short letter describing my experience, regarding the communication between me, the lady in question and my daughter. I was thrilled when I saw that my letter had been published but what happened next took me totally by surprise.  A day or two later I received a call from one of the top television studios in the country asking me to appear on a popular afternoon show in honour of Albertina Sisulu. The presenter had asked her production team to try to get hold of me and somehow they had managed to locate my contact details.  My daughter at the time was on secondment at a legal firm in London. It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I accepted the invitation and, through linking up via satellite with my daughter, she was able to recount her memories of her conversation with Ma Sisulu as well. What an absolute privilege that proved to be.

From the moment I arrived at the television studios, I was the only White person there.  From the young woman who met me, to the well-known presenter of the talk show, to the technicians – all were Black people.  I was looked after amazingly and the entire experience is one which I will never forget. The only fly in the ointment was my make-up for the programme. When I looked in the mirror, I was a bit disturbed to say the least, but who am I to know what makeup must be like for a live broadcast.  I realised later that it may have been the first time that the make-up artist had to sort out a white face. I looked horrendous, but for the partially sighted, my voice sounded great – and my daughter was live from London, so the make-up for her wasn’t an issue! All in all yet another situation where colour was totally irrelevant. A true feel good experience all round.

I have so many other incidents and anecdotes which I intend to add under this subject heading in the coming weeks, and hope they will be positively received by you, the reader.

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Adoption

In many ways, my mother has carried certain emotional scars with her throughout her life which are most certainly linked to her adoption at the age of 3 after her own mother died of toxaemia several days after giving birth to her second child, a baby boy. Due to financial difficulties my mother’s father asked his brother and his wife, who had no children of their own, to adopt my mother. The new baby was in turn adopted by his late wife’s family who never forgave themselves for not having adopted both children, but this was during the depression years in England and money was extremely scarce. For a little girl of 3 years old who was expecting her mummy to return from hospital with a new baby to suddenly never see her mother again, and having to go to live with an uncle and aunt, would more than likely necessitate the intervention of a child psychologist in today’s world.

Both her real and her adopted fathers died when my mother was 9 and 13 years old respectively. Her younger brother was more like a cousin than a sibling, and although they saw one another fairly regularly, they never lived together. In many ways over the years I have come to realise that my mother still carries the sadness and loss of not having her own mother around while she was growing up. She was made to feel that she had been given away like an unwanted possession, probably the words of an unthinking relative at the time.  The difference between this situation and other adoptions was that there was always contact with her extended family whilst she was growing up so she wasn’t left wondering who she was.

Having read many case studies, watched a lot of documentaries regarding adoption and knowing people who are adopted or who have adopted children, there appear to be some factors which are a common denominator in cases of adoption. Feelings of being unworthy and unwanted, as well as needing to know who one’s birth mother was seem to be the golden thread linking many adoption stories. It is a basic human need to know where we come from, and who we are and, if a child has been adopted and only finds out by chance that the people they know as their parents are in fact their adopted parents, the results can be devastating.

With changing attitudes nowadays, at least in Western societies, it is common to let a child know, as soon as they are old enough to understand, that they were “chosen” and therefore “special” and it was because the birth mother was not able to care for the baby herself that she had to make the extremely difficult decision to give the baby up for adoption.  Where a mother died in childbirth, and a father was unable to care for the baby, the emotions felt by the adoptee may be more feelings of sadness and loss and less of abandonment.  Sometimes it seems that this need to begin the search for the real parents raises its head, either during late adolescence or once the adoptees themselves become parents. It would appear that the desire to search for one’s birth mother is far more common than a need to know who one’s father is. Obviously this is a generalisation, but does seem very often to be the case.

The laws in many countries have been relaxed regarding adoption, and nowadays it seems to be quite common for adopted children to gain access to the names of their birth mother through the adoption agency in order to try to contact her. Many times the birth mother has had some contact with the adoptive parents, and has even received photos of the child she had to give up.  Years ago this was totally taboo and, in the case of single mothers, babies were literally wrenched out of their arms at around 6 weeks of age and handed over to the new parents. The heartbreak felt by the girl/woman having to give up her baby to strangers would seem to be a pain which often never heals. The memory of that day would be likely to stay with her for the rest of her life.

The adopted parents must go through really tough times when their child decides to investigate and find their blood relatives. It takes a very strong relationship to be able to face the fact that you may be losing your child to strangers who just happen to be linked by DNA. Counselling seems to be the way to go when an adopted child decides to contact a biological parent, as often there is a degree of disappointment, anger and distress once the meeting takes place.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption it may result in the biological mother refusing to meet her child. This could be due to the pregnancy having been the result of rape, or just the disgrace of an illegitimate birth and possibly never having revealed the fact to her current husband and other children.

I find adoption to be a very emotional and intense issue which cannot be taken lightly. For parents adopting a child of another culture, or ethnic group the issues are even more complicated.  There needs to be a lot of support all round and honesty and family discussions would appear to be a critical factor. Care and love are the basis of a happy childhood but we humans remain creatures who have a need to know who we are, where we came from and what characteristics and potential health issues we may have inherited from our parents.   When a baby or child is adopted by family or friends of the biological mother, there is likely to be adequate information available regarding her which could be a source of comfort as the child grows up and becomes curious about the family background.

Basic RGB

Gluten Free Almond Cake/Tart

This cake is absolutely delicious and extremely simple to make. It is really moist and has a great almond flavour.

Cake

Ingredients

  • 100g ground almonds
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g regular sugar
  • 1 large egg – beaten
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (55g), melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

Glaze (optional) – Mix the ingredients below adding more or less sugar depending on the consistency you want

  • Icing sugar
  • Water
  • Almond extract
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line the base of a 6-inch (15cm) cake pan with parchment paper cut to fit and generously butter the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, salt and all sugars.
  • Add the beaten egg, melted butter, and almond extract to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. The batter should be quite thick.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.
  • Pour the glaze (if using) over the cooled cake and allow to set (approx. 20min). 

The almond cake will keep in an airtight container, or well wrapped in plastic wrap, for several days.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

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!

Cartoon Frog

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.

Update and Comments: December 10, 2018

Being rather technically challenged where IT is concerned (another shortcoming along with astronomy – planets, stars, galaxies etc.,  which are still a total enigma to me), I have a “behind the scenes” assistant who is presently still familiarising himself with WordPress. Therefore, I must admit that the blog is still “under construction”! I hope you will bear with me on this one!

I have lots of plans for keeping my blog one which should be interesting and, hopefully, appealing to many people who have varied interests and opinions. To prevent you from only hearing my voice, there will be a section for “Guest Contributors” and this will give an insight into the lives and passions of a variety of people from totally different backgrounds. I am not going to say too much about this section right now but you won’t have to wait too long for the first contribution.

Taking selfies is not something which appeals to me and I have never really enjoyed being photographed. I will, however, be replacing my unusual “About” photo once I find one which is more the real me – one which highlights just how much my looks have changed!

I realise that initially my posts tended to be too long, and the objective criticism I received in this regard has resulted in my splitting them into portions which should prove to be more easily digested. I do not want you to feel that you have to wade through my writing to get to the point.

Oh, by the way, I will also have a contact page on my blog in the not too distant future.

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

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Update and Comments

I do hope to be able to communicate my plans for my blog with you, the reader, using this section in the weeks and months to come. Sometimes I won’t be doing a full post, but will just jot down some thoughts and opinions right here which I trust will be meaningful and possibly thought provoking?