Too Late for Regrets

It was probably the most memorable Valentine’s Day in my life and, thinking back now after all those years, I feel quite embarrassed by my behaviour that day. In hindsight one always knows just what should have been said or done, but that doesn’t change things once they have occurred.

Valentine’s Day that year just happened to fall on a Saturday and I had a full agenda which included taking my 4 year old twins to a birthday party in the afternoon. The morning was taken up with grocery shopping as well as choosing a gift for the birthday boy. In fact, as I was taking two children to the party, it was only right that I purchased two gifts for the child. I left my two terrors at home with their father, and headed for the local shopping mall. It was a battle to find a parking spot, but finally I succeeded and made my way, first of all to the supermarket.

It took me ages to get all the items on my shopping list and then it was a case of packing them in the boot of my car before aiming for the toy shop.  I had a good idea of what I was going to buy for  Chad, who was having the party. He loved Lego, so I had already decided to buy two smallish, but very acceptable Lego models for him. I was, and still am, always on a budget so I felt that these toys would fit the bill very well indeed and wouldn’t make me look mean.

I found the items I was looking for and looked around to see where I could pay. I froze. In front of me and staring straight at me was a face I had hoped never to see again. I felt my cheeks burn in embarrassment and didn’t know which way to turn. “Fancy seeing you here, Shelley!”  I looked at the man who I had believed would be my husband one day and mumbled, “Hi John”.  I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me as I had a flashback of our last meeting, 8 years before.

Before I could recover, my ex-lover decided to start a conversation with me. “What are you doing in a toy shop, Shelley? You, who always swore that you couldn’t stand children and wanted nothing to do with them.  Perhaps you are shopping on behalf of your sister?” I was mortified. John knew just how maternal my sister, Lily, had always been and obviously assumed that she had the brood of children that she had always wanted.  I didn’t know what to say to him, and then blurted out, “No, they are for my twins to take to a party this afternoon”.

The look of shock which I got from John is one which I will never forget. We had dated for years and he was longing to settle down and start a family, but I had other plans in those days.  My job as a journalist with a large newspaper was taking off in a big way, and children were certainly not part of my long term plan at all. I will never forget the day he gave me the ultimatum. If I refused to get engaged and to set a date for our wedding, with the proviso that we would think of having children within two years of the wedding, then he was calling an end to our relationship. I had been shattered, but not enough to change my mind about putting my career first.

How foolish can one be when it comes to losing perspective. If only one could see into the future then the decisions one made would be quite different. John was devastated by our breakup, but that didn’t stop him finding a gorgeous blonde architect and getting married within a year of leaving me. I saw the wedding photo in the social section of the newspaper where I worked, and felt very sad at my loss. It was a wake-up call and forced me to look at my life, especially as my job suddenly was no longer as appealing as it had seemed when I had lost John.

 

I managed to pull myself together and forced myself to ask him about his life. He told me that he and his wife were in the process of moving overseas as he had a very good job offer and his wife would have no problem getting a good position as well. They had been unable to have children, sadly, due to his wife having had an infertility problem, but they enjoyed a comfortable life doing a great deal of travelling, a lot of scuba diving as well as hiking.

He asked me who I had married, and was surprised to hear that it was an ex -colleague at the newspaper where I had worked– a man quite a lot older than me, who had been married previously but had no children.  The paper had retrenched many of the staff members before closing down totally, so we were forced to pull in our belts.  Martin had taken a job with a lower salary and I was writing some part-time articles for a women’s magazine, which didn’t pay too generously but we were happy.

I didn’t take up John’s offer to join him for a cup of coffee as I was already later than I had hoped and needed to get home to prepare the twins for the birthday party. I really felt very uncomfortable seeing John again and remembering the way I had treated him. Would things have been more exciting if I had made a different decision at the time, and he had not become the one I always referred as “The One That Got Away”? I would never know and it was better not to dwell on what might have been. I was sad that he had never been able to have the pleasure of being a father, and this in itself made me feel very guilty.

I wished him all the best for the future, and never did find out why he was in the toyshop.  I knew he had always been very generous with his friend’s children and maybe he was buying for nephews and nieces. I have since regretted not even bothering to find out.  His parting comment was to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day! What a way to make me feel even worse than before.

I paid for the Lego and was relieved when I arrived at my car and was able to try my best to focus on getting home safely and with time to spare.

 

The World in Chaos

Open any newspaper or magazine and be prepared to feel suicidal! Obviously only negative newsfeed sells! Death, destruction, new untreatable viruses, new research on which foods cause cancer, the mess being created by so many politicians all over the world – the list goes on and on. What does one do to try to remain positive when surrounded by all this negative hype?

Emigrate? Where to and who can afford to emigrate anyway? The super rich are probably not in the slightest bit affected by negative news stories. With enough money and time on one’s hands it is easy enough to jet off to a paradise island where one can be pampered and waited on hand and foot and to heck with the rest of the world! No need to relocate if you are in a position to flit all over the world as the whim takes you. However, that is not the situation for the average human being.

Most of us have to try to find ways to constantly look on the bright side of life. Getting rid of televisions, radios and cancelling newspaper deliveries may seem like a good idea for some, but that really is taking the ostrich approach. After all, an intelligent human being does need to keep relatively in tune with what is going on in the world especially when one is dealing with people on a daily basis in one’s line of business.  I know a very well qualified woman who practices alternative treatments  who has absolutely no idea of what is happening in the world outside her practice due to no television, no radio and no newspapers either.  Searching for Utopia is really a pipe dream!

“Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is to not stop questioning” – Albert Einstein

Handling the negative articles is the trick.  Maybe one should limit the amount of news that one watches or reads and search for at least one feel good article to balance things out. The trouble is that often the graphics are so vivid relating to an horrendous world event, that it is virtually impossible to blot out the mental images which remain. Exercise has been proven to improve one’s mood positively due to the influx of endorphins which the brain produces during vigorous routines.  Then it makes good sense to try to fit in a regular exercise regime as often as is possible during one’s normally weekly schedule.

Owning a pet can be therapeutic – depending on the particular animal’s behaviour pattern. Making the time to just stroke the cat, or walk the dog or, if one is a fish fancier, to watch them glide by in the fish tank can calm one down and minimise or even dismiss negative thoughts. I don’t know how true it is, but I did hear that psychiatrists often have a fish tank in their rooms as an antidote to stress? Is it to de-stress themselves or their troubled patients?

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I know that when I was studying psychology, I did find that several of my lecturers who had their own private practices seemed to be more in need of therapy than some of their patients possibly did. One in particular couldn’t stop fidgeting with a string of some or other totem which to some extent reminded one of worry beads. He was possibly a chain smoker, but whilst giving his lecture was under great duress, having to forego his favourite brand. Thus the fidgeting, whilst disturbing his students, may have been his means of controlling his urge to light up.

Then there was another lecturer who had assisted in setting the final paper and he gave us what he called very important tips on what were the most important areas to study on when preparing for our final exam in abnormal psychology. We were told what to highlight and what could be ignored. Come exam time and none of the areas he had told us to concentrate on were even mentioned in the paper!  Surely he must have had psychotic tendencies or was he just a mean devil!

Unless you are in a position to hibernate and ignore everything that is going on around you, then finding your own personal form of coping with the world at large really is a lifetime occupation. The majority of us manage to get on with life despite the curved balls we receive on a regular basis. The well-known saying of “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone” probably goes a long way to helping us to think twice about jumping off that bridge and floating into oblivion. So, let’s turn off the media, grab the dog’s lead and, with a smile on our face, go for a well deserved run in the park!

Just before I post this article, it is extremely saddening to read of the extent of the damage caused to the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and one can only hope that, with all the donations which have already flooded in for repair purposes, it will one day be restored to its original magnificence.

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The Armchair Travelogue

Interesting places to visit.

It is a fact that if one is able to travel to other countries outside one’s own, the experiences gained  and the memories made often shape one’s attitude to the world at large. Depending on where one lives permanently it may be a stone’s throw to visit neighbouring countries at a fairly reasonable cost.  For others it could be that travelling overseas is a once in a lifetime occurrence and much planning may be needed to get the most out of the trip.

My plan for this segment of the blog is to whet the appetite of those fortunate enough to plan their next holiday or sightseeing trip as well as to entertain those  who are too busy to travel or who through their circumstances are avid armchair travellers. I sincerely hope that over the next few months you will find something of interest in at least one or two of the articles I plan to post. It could even be that you are tempted  to visit some of the places which I will be writing about in the future.

Ivrea – Northern Italy

The industrial city of Ivrea, the headquarters of Olivetti, known world-wide for being innovators in the past of typewriters, and later computers, situated in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, was declared a world heritage site in 2018. This came about due to the successful and unique design  of the area in order to develop the testing ground for the headquarters of Olivetti (incorporating the factory as well as accommodation) by leading urban planners between the 1930’s and 1960’s,to create a modern version of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.

Having once been fortunate enough to have lived in Ivrea, for several months, I remember how I faced the prospect of the move with a great deal of trepidation. I had a two year old child, and had visions of doing the daily washing down at a local stream with a load of unsophisticated local women. Oh boy, how wrong can one be – thankfully! All the mod cons were available and the furnished apartment we rented had a washing machine!! The local people were anything but unsophisticated and my husband and I both had Italian lessons with a lady from whom we learnt not only to speak the language, but also to appreciate some of the culinary delights.

Such an absolute privilege, looking back, to have had the many experiences we had during our sojourn in Ivrea, and later in Milano. Our time in Ivrea actually coincided with the traditional Carnevale d’Ivrea and the battle of the oranges, which takes place annually shortly before Lent. The only year it was cancelled was in 1960 due to the death of Adriano Olivetti. Watching the following video confirms that many traditions have stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to do so.

Firstly, a short description of the town of Ivrea. Steeped in history, there are still cobbled streets in some areas which are juxtaposed with modern shops and restaurants – old and new side by side.  Situated at the edge of the Aosta valley, Ivrea has the Alps on one side which, during winter months, are capped with snow. Close to ski resorts such as the town of Cervinia, which is located at the foot of Mt. Cervino (known world-wide as the Matterhorn) and a relatively short train journey to the Swiss border, it makes good sense for tourists to take the time to discover this mediaeval treasure.

If one is able to visit Ivrea at the time of the annual Carnival then it really is an amazing experience to be part of the festivities of the Battle of the Oranges. Dating back to around 1808 this battle commemorates the time when in medieval times  Violetta, the miller’s daughter, refused to be bedded by the local Duke who took it upon himself to sleep with all newly married women. She actually cut off his head, and the oranges which are thrown in their thousands during the battle are meant to depict his severed head. The teams of revellers are all dressed in ancient costumes and the ones on the horse drawn carts wear helmets whilst those on foot do not have this protection.

As visitors to this spectacle you are advised to purchase and wear a red hat which resembles an elf’s hat, as this is meant to protect you from being bombarded by oranges. It doesn’t always work though, and I remember being able to choose to view some of the battles being fought behind a wire fence erected for the purpose and still having to duck regularly to avoid being hit by a citric missile! The thousands of oranges used during the festival turn the entire town centre into something resembling a gigantic juice extraction plant. One can hardly bear to think about the huge amount of cleaning up which has to be undertaken once the festivities come to an end.  I think the consumption of oranges probably declines dramatically for quite a while after the Carnivale!

The carnival is not just about the orange fight though as there are stalls selling amazing sweet and savoury treats along the banks of the local canal. More information is freely available on Google and well worth the read.  All in all several days of merriment for both young and old to enjoy, despite the chilly weather.

 

 

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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Is Communication Technology a Time saver?

It wasn’t all that long ago that people sat down and wrote letters in order to keep in touch with family and friends, and even to conduct business. Provided that there was a reliable postal service, things seemed to work well and mail generally arrived timeously. That all changed with fax machines. Now a letter was typed on a computer or even a typewriter, and then sent via a fax machine to the recipient who also had to have access to their own fax machine. Business was speeded up as there was no longer the delay caused by postal deliveries.  Nowadays very few people appear to be faxing as a form of doing business as e-mailing has become the medium of choice for most of us.

With the advent of mobile phones, landlines are often rarely used by individuals, although they are still a necessity in many business organisations. Looking back over the last few decades, there was a time when even having a home telephone was deemed a luxury. Many people had to make do with using public telephone boxes and putting the required number of coins into the slot provided in order to place a call. There are young people today who may never have seen one of these, let alone used one.

The benefit of using a mobile phone is that one is able to make and receive calls wherever one may be. No longer is it necessary to be in an office or at home in order to get in touch with people. This is rather a double edged sword, as there is no escaping being called by clients, any time of the day or night, unless the phone has been turned off. A big advantage, however, is that it is possible in many instances to contact one’s doctor, if the number has been made available to patients, in a medical emergency situation, outside of specified surgery hours. Other situations where mobiles are invaluable are when one has burst water pipes, or burnt out gate motors, where the specific expert needs to be called for help and is contactable on their mobile.

Having so many opportunities at our fingertips to communicate with one another, why is it that we are always complaining about not having enough time? Just looking at the whole scenario of everyone having a mobile phone, often an I-pad and a laptop, is it perhaps that all these modern gadgets have a tendency to become time wasters. One only has to look around to see that the majority of people, regardless of age, are carrying their mobile device with them wherever they go. Therefore, it is very tempting to constantly be checking for messages or interesting gossip on facebook instead of getting on with the job at hand. It would be interesting to monitor just how many working hours are wasted due to employees spending time on their phones instead of doing the job for which they are employed?

Many of us easily become addicted to all sorts of things – food, alcohol, exercise and nowadays, the internet and social media.  Downloading games onto one’s mobile seems like fun, but it’s quite frightening how, sitting playing casino slots, or one of the many more challenging brain testers, the time just flies by. So, all things considered, was the pace of life actually slower in bygone days when people used old style forms of communication, and are we all perhaps guilty of wasting precious minutes in the way in which we are using the so-called time saving devices.  Makes one wonder.

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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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