Update and Comments – January, 2021

Well, here we find ourselves facing a year in which anything is possible, and nothing is likely to surprise any of us any more! After 2020, for those of us who have managed to survive relatively unscathed, what is there ahead which can shock or disappoint us any more than the events of the past year. If anyone had told us on 1 January 2020, that we were facing a pandemic of previously unseen proportions, we would have asked them what they had been smoking or snorting! However, somehow, most of us have survived this year and if it hasn’t totally destroyed our mental well being, perhaps it has made us a little stronger than we were at the end of 2019.

It is impossible to be flippant about the past year as it has brought untold trials and tribulations for so many people. Financially, there are few of us who can honestly say that we know of no-one who has either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced to a level where mere survival is the name of the game. Some people may never ever be employed again and for others it will take years of hard slog and perseverance to creep back to some semblance of normality with the accompaniment of financial stability. When the past year has seen the loss of loved ones, no financial recompense is going to alleviate the loneliness and heartache which this has caused.

It is difficult to be positive when we are still being bombarded with statistics relating to the Covid 19 pandemic, and we are not alone. Most countries in the world are now in some or other form of lockdown yet again. The only areas which appear to be relatively “normal” right now seem to be in Asia. Where a ruling party demands respect and obedience, it seems that the population at large listen to the call to follow preventative protocols. Asian countries tend to be ruled in a disciplinarian manner whether communistic or not. The resultant low numbers of affected people are proof enough that it all boils down to doing what you are told to do by the government. Sadly, if the ruling party comprises a corrupt bunch of uneducated thieves then the public at large is hardly likely to take any instructions dished out by them as meaningful. Hence, no adherence to rules regarding the wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing, and refraining from mingling with crowds of people is resulting in the numbers of sick and dying people growing day by day.

The vaccines which are already being rolled out in many first world countries should eventually result in the pandemic being brought under control. However, in less privileged societies, who knows just how long the fear of being infected will continue. Only time will tell.

Meantime, wherever you find yourself in the world, may 2021 bring you good health, happiness and prosperity as well as safety for your family members!

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud!
– Maya Angelou (American Author).

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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ESP

It had been happening for as long as she could remember, but she just thought it was something which happened to everyone, but then again – did it? She had never mentioned it to another soul, other than her mother, and most certainly not to Gary, her husband, who was way too practical to have been able to understand it at all. He would be very quick to call for help and it might even include the kind which came equipped with restraints, and men in white coats!  It was a great pity that she had to keep all of this information bottled up inside. Also, very sad that they had so little in common, especially when it came to anything which he deemed to be bordering on lunacy or purely unscientific. Anyway, enough waffling, and let’s see when this gift of Jane’s was going to raise its head again.

Our heroine led a pretty mundane life which consisted of doing some part time work for a local vet and otherwise being a housewife, with one adult son, living in another part of the country, who was presently studying to be a lawyer. However, as it happened, things took an interesting turn one fateful morning in mid – December. She was shopping for Christmas gifts for her brother’s twin girls at the local mall, when she suddenly thought of her old school friend Maureen, and wondered what kind of a life she had lived. Jane hadn’t heard any news concerning her in years and she couldn’t understand why she should be thinking of her now. Despite all the distractions surrounding her in such a busy shopping centre, she just could not get thoughts of Maureen out of her mind. These thoughts were connected to their last day of high school, when everything looked exciting and no -one knew what the future might hold for them. Some of the students would go on to study further whilst others had jobs lined up or were taking a year to travel before worrying about the future. Those were the ones whose parents had enough money to support them while they made up their minds about what they wanted to do. Jane wasn’t one of those, although Maureen probably was, as her parents seemed to be well off, and she was an only child.

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When they all arrived at school on that last day, Shy Simon came into the class carrying a fluffy pink teddy bear. Well, you can just imagine the giggling and hushed whispers from some of the girls as well as the snide remarks from the rugby jocks who were part of the class. Poor Simon must have felt like a total idiot, but he had enough strength of character to ignore everyone. He put the teddy on his desk and didn’t even look around. “Hi Simon. Who’s the lucky girl – or is it for a boy perhaps?” That came from the class stud, Ian, who although extremely good looking, a first team rugby player and the most popular boy with most of the girls, was an absolute egotistical pig. He was also known as being a total dumbo when it came to academics whereas Simon was Dux scholar. Before Simon could answer, Maureen arrived at class and the giggling and sniggering stopped. She was a very pretty, unassuming girl who had a beautiful personality to go with her looks. No-one had anything bad to say about her.

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A few minutes later their class teacher arrived and addressed a few words to the pupils before his attention was taken by the bright pink teddy bear sitting on Simon’s desk. “Well, Simon, that is quite a bear. Who is going to be taking it home with them?”, he asked. With that Simon, who ever since grade 1 had been nicknamed Shy Simon, got up from his seat and walked over to Maureen’s desk and presented the bear to her. “I want to wish you everything of the very best for your future, Maureen. Our paths are very unlikely to ever cross again, but this bear will remind you of how much you have meant to me through all my school years. You will never know how much your kindness has helped me to cope when so many of the rest of you (at this point Simon turned to all the grinning faces which were ready to make a fool of him) couldn’t wait to try to make me feel like a loser. Thank you for your friendship Maureen and may the future bring you everything that you deserve. ” There was total silence in the classroom as Simon placed the bear on Maureen’s desk and went to sit down. No-one said a word.

The last morning at school was taken up with saying goodbyes to one another and saving the addresses and telephone numbers of the people you hoped to keep in touch with as well as signing one another’s school shirts to be kept as souvenirs. Then, in no time at all it was midday and those 12 years of school were finally over.

What has all the above to do with Jane and her extra sensory perception? Well, for as long as she could remember, Jane had been able to know when someone was going to phone her, or when she would find a letter from a friend or relative in her letterbox. It had become commonplace with her, and she just took it for granted. Her mother had also on many occasions seemed to know what was about to happen before it actually did, so Jane never questioned her own intuition, as she called it.  It was obviously a gift which she had inherited. Somewhere in the past there had been an Irish relative who was reputed to have been able to foretell the future, so it must have been a gift which had been passed down through the generations.

When Jane was checking her e-mails later on that day, after a successful shopping expedition and feeling quite tired after lugging so many heavy parcels out of the boot of her car, she could hardly believe what she was seeing. After almost 30 years, there was going to be a reunion of her final high school year. No-one had bothered to do anything at all regarding keeping in touch and now, after all this time, how many of her class were still in the country, or even still alive? The reunion was scheduled for the middle of January, as the writer (past head prefect) felt that too many people would be away on holiday over the festive season. Jane replied in the affirmative and then sat staring at the screen with so many thoughts going through her mind.

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After leaving school, Jane’s family had moved to another part of the country and Jane herself had started working for a small engineering company as their receptionist, but had soon been promoted. She had studied book-keeping part-time and once she completed the course, she began keeping the books for the company and then went on to marry the owner’s son, Gary, much to her parents’ delight. She had virtually lost touch with all her old school friends except for a girl called Shirley who just happened to move to the same town as Jane’s family and who also, coincidentally, joined the same gym as Jane and her husband. Shirley was gay and had moved away from home because her family were extremely narrow minded and made Shirley’s life a living hell. Over time, Jane saw quite a lot of Shirley and her partner, Kay. As Gary was not really into socialising other than with his family and a few golfing friends, the girls made a point of meeting for lunches or dinners at local restaurants or coffee shops at least once a month.

Shirley must have kept in touch with some of the other old friends from school days and given them Jane’s e-mail address, otherwise how on earth would she have been included in the invitation to the reunion? As she gave it some thought, she realised that it would be a lot of fun to go back to the old town and re-connect with some of her ex-classmates. It could be interesting to see just how their lives had panned out and how they differed from hers. Also, it could be very interesting  to find out who had married whom, and which of them were on their second or even third partner! Would Maureen be there, or had she emigrated? She was probably leading a very exciting life, maybe she had even landed up in Hollywood with her looks, and the modelling classes she had always taken. She had a stunning singing voice as a teenager and took ballet classes as well as modelling. Who knew what life had been like for her? Most certainly a lot more exciting than Jane’s!

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Christmas came and went in much the same way as it always did. Martin, their son, spent the festive week with his parents before joining his varsity friends for a holiday down at the coast. Jane’s brother and his family as well as their parents always tried to spend this time of the year together and it normally passed without any squabbles or unpleasantness, unlike so many families to whom Christmas and New Year always presented stress and disappointment. All the cooking and preparations were shared, and the time passed all too quickly.

Before one could blink, Gary was back at work and Jane was into her usual routine. Her three half days at the local vet had become her refuge from the humdrum pattern of housework and shopping. She had been replaced as the bookkeeper at Gary’s company once Martin had arrived. Over the years she had been quite happy to be able to spend the time when he was growing up taking him to all his extramural activities and helping out at school fetes and other fund- raising activities. However, those days were over and she enjoyed her job meeting new people and lending a sympathetic ear when there was worry regarding the health of a favourite pet. It was amazing just how much she had learned just by listening to all the conversations between the vet and the pet owners. She sometimes felt that she was so knowledgeable these days that she could diagnose some of the ailments herself!

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The school reunion was approaching and Jane made the effort of buying an attractive outfit and having her hair re-styled as she wanted to look her best after all these years. Unlike many women of her age, she had kept her figure and always made sure that she wore make-up before she left home. She was really looking forward to the event and she and Shirley had agreed to drive there together and had booked into a local hotel for the night. It was too far to consider coming back home after the dinner and they were certain that the whole affair would probably carry on until fairly late. The woman who had organized everything had found a restaurant which had a large conference room which they were going to use, and music was planned once the meal was over. It all sounded great, and Jane was getting quite excited at the prospect of re-connecting with old friends. Gary was quite happy not to accompany the women to the reunion, citing urgent business as his excuse. Jane was actually rather relieved to be able to play the role of the single woman, if only for one night, as he could be a real party-pooper if the mood took him.

On the afternoon of the reunion, Shirley picked up Jane and they had enough time to take it easy on the journey back to their old hometown. It was quite strange, but on the way, Jane suddenly started feeling really sad and depressed, and she just could not stop thinking about her old school friend, Maureen. Try as she might, her mood became very morbid, and she really battled to shake it off, in order to enjoy this rare time of freedom from the humdrum routine which was her normal life. She tried chatting about all sorts of different things while Shirley did the driving but deep down she felt sad and couldn’t understand why.

The women booked into their hotel and parted company as they each went to their own rooms to relax for a while before getting themselves showered and dressed for the evening. Shirley’s partner had also decided to avoid any form of potential unpleasantness which may have cropped up by joining in on the occasion, and it seemed that Shirley too was quite happy to have some time to herself. The arrangement was that they would arrive at the venue around 7pm and dinner would be served at 8pm.  

When they arrived at the restaurant it was to find that they hardly recognized some of the people whom they had last seen so long ago. It was unbelievable how many of them looked like total strangers. A large number of the men had lost most of their hair, had pot bellies and bore no resemblance to the 18 year olds with whom they had matriculated. The women seemed to have fared better, although some of them looked extremely overweight, frumpy or, in some cases, mutton dressed as lamb. Very short dresses with high heels were fine as long as the body did justice to the overall look. Once the drinks started flowing, and people started introducing themselves to one another, a festive feel came over the gathering. Jane, however, although chatting away to some of her old classmates, still could not dispel the feeling of sadness and gloom which had been bothering her most of the day.

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It was interesting to find out how some of the classmates’ lives had panned out. Some of them had actually moved overseas but had made the effort to be there for the reunion, others were still living in the same town and their own children now attended the same high school as their parents and, unbelievably, some of the original teachers were still teaching there. Amazing how, although time marches on regardless, some things just stay the same. It turned out that two of the classmates had died over the past few years. One had sadly committed suicide when his business collapsed, and the other one had been killed in a light aircraft crash. Other than that, it seemed as though the passing years had been pretty kind to most of them.

It was almost time for them to take their places at the tables as dinner was about to be served. Suddenly two late comers arrived and all the chatting and laughing came to an abrupt halt. The late arrivals were assisted into the conference room by two of the hotel staff who held the door wide enough for the two wheelchairs to enter. There was a shocked silence, and no-one seemed ready to make the first move. The couple who had just arrived had hardly changed at all in appearance, but it was quite clear that their circumstances most certainly had changed, and not for the better either.

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It was Maureen who broke the silence by saying in her well- remembered, clear and melodious voice, “Hello, everyone! Thank you so much for contacting Simon and I. We wouldn’t have missed this occasion for anything!”

Everyone started gathering around the two wheelchairs and the whole atmosphere very quickly returned to its previous happy and jovial mood. No-one had expected Maureen and Simon to have remained friends, but it would seem that they were far more than friends. It was time to be seated at the tables and everyone had their name on their designated spot. It was ironic, but Maureen and Simon had been placed in the centre of the long table, as it was obvious that one of the old classmates had known their circumstances. It turned out, once Maureen started explaining, over the first delicious course of the dinner, that both she and Simon had gone their own ways for over 20 years, until bumping into one another whilst on an organized coach tour of Europe. Neither of them had married, and they each had several failed relationships behind them. They had found that they really enjoyed one another’s company and it wasn’t long before they moved in together, and a year later got married.

No-one wanted to bombard them with personal questions, but it wasn’t necessary as Maureen told everyone the devastating story which had resulted in both herself and Simon being wheelchair bound. It seemed unbelievably bad luck that within a year of their marriage, Maureen had taken a tumble down a flight of stairs at a local shopping centre and had broken her back in several places and would never walk unaided again, whereas Simon had been diagnosed a few months after Maureen’s accident with multiple sclerosis which was currently progressing rather rapidly, He was finding it increasingly difficult to keep his balance, hence the wheelchairs, which they now both needed. Maureen had enjoyed many years as a relatively successful dancer and singer and had travelled quite extensively until she found that she was getting very tired of the lack of permanence in her life. Simon, on the other hand, had qualified as an accountant and had held a high position but realised that he had an insatiable desire to travel. It was ironic that he should have booked for a European coach tour at the same time that Maureen had decided to have a really chilled travelling holiday, without having to arrange hotel bookings, theatre tickets etc. How strange that life had brought them together after all these years. They seemed so very much in love, and it was a real eye opener for many of the old classmates to see these two, with all the challenges ahead of them, being so comfortable with their situation, and so obviously happy.

Jane realised that those thoughts of Maureen which had popped into her head several weeks ago must have been her esp. along with the feelings of melancholy which had crept in today. Any sadness had now been dispelled as it was clear that Maureen and Simon had something very special, which many of the other people attending this reunion might never experience for themselves, even if they lived to be 100. Sad as their situation might appear to others, they actually had a relationship which was to be envied and not pitied. Life was full of surprises, good and bad, and having a sixth sense was something which you got used to and embraced. Altogether, the reunion just cemented the fact that life cannot be controlled and it is full of surprises, challenges, and good times which need to be savoured and stored in one’s memory, to be brought out in the years ahead to give meaning to everything. One just did not know what might lie ahead and, possibly, that was a good thing anyway.

Update and comment – 1 November 2020

It is a chilly, overcast day, here in Johannesburg, with more rain predicted for the next few days, and how welcome last night’s heavy rain has proved to be. Gardens were becoming parched and tempers frayed.  Weeks of extremely hot sunshine without even a drop of rain has made many of us very tired – not easy going about one’s day to day business in that kind of weather. Not everyone has the luxury of floating around on an inflatable pool lounger, drinking cocktails during the day and dreaming about life after Covid! Most of us have to face whatever it is that the day brings and try as hard as we can to be optimistic about the future and continue to try to make a living.

Being able to keep in touch with friends and family members during this challenging year has proved to be a very necessary lifeline. It is so easy to wallow in self pity and become bogged down with worries and concerns, many of which are fuelled by listening to news reports or reading articles loaded with doom and gloom and resonating from the mouths of dodgy politicians or so-called experts in every conceivable area of life. So, a phone call to a friend, a joke shared on WhatsApp, or just a quick catch-up with a relative can give you enough mental energy to carry on regardless.

I was advised several years ago by a well- meaning sister-in-law to buy one of those highly recommended colouring-in books in order to forget my worries and relax. Well, after all this time I decided to get out the crayons and chill! It just isn’t for me at all! I know that I am an A-type personality and, yes, I do have some vestige of creativity within me, but colouring in? Not a chance! I was so irritable whilst trying to get good quality crayons to actually give me a dark enough hue (maybe they have just been lying in the box for so many years that their pigment has died a death!) to actually show up on the abstract design I was attempting to enhance that I got more and more agitated, and less and less relaxed. So, after about 15 minutes, I gave it up (probably for every) and have decided that painting a wall, or doing some necessary home touch-ups is definitely more my style than trying to find inner peace with a crayon in my hand! What do they say about different strokes for different folks?

Whilst writing this little epistle, the sun has come out and I might just endeavour to go into the garage and get out the green paint which is used for the garden walls and put my creativity to a practical use! Here goes, and I hope that the rain holds out just long enough to allow the pva to dry!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and comment – 30 July 2020

Many of us in the Southern Hemisphere are probably finding it pretty difficult right now to be full of the joys of Spring (well, it is in fact a very chilly winter’s day today, which doesn’t help matters), when all around we are being reminded of the Covid 19 pandemic. Even if we try very hard to concentrate on the positives in our lives, looking over our shoulder is that nasty little creature called reality reminding us that things are not the same as they used to be.

If one has children, and maybe even grandchildren, trying to put one’s worries and concerns about their health on the back burner, is an impossible task. If only we could put a blanket of safety over them all and keep them away from any risk of being infected, until the all clear is given by the powers that be. A pipe dream, but what an amazing thing it would be if that dream could become our new reality.

Then, in the midst of all this mayhem, something always seems to arrive to rock the proverbial boat. Why does the toilet decide to spring a leak, and a cupboard door collapse on its hinge? Is this a wake-up call from the universe to remind us that life still happens, despite the risk of attack by a vicious virus? Coping with these everyday household calamities just seems to be so much harder than in the days when our vocabulary was not dominated by words such as “cough”, “fever”, “mask”, “sanitizer” etc.

One of the worst occurrences though, at this challenging time was hearing that a family member had to face surgery with an overnight stay in hospital – when the pandemic is becoming worse by the day. No visitors are allowed, so that exacerbated the fear and stress concerning the operation. It has always been the norm for one to come around from any anaesthetic and find a partner or other relative at your bedside waiting for you to wake up. Thankfully, despite the surgery taking almost 3 hours, all went well and is now a thing of the past.

All that one can do is to try to be positive in these trying times and offer to be there to help in any way that is required when people have a need. Now, more than ever, human contact and emotional support (even if remote) is more important than it has ever been. In South Africa, the government has failed miserably to assist people who are desperate, not only to work and earn a living, but to be able to put food on the table for their family. Sadly, the bulk of those citizens who are desperate for food would still vote for the ANC despite the corruption, the lies and the lack of commitment to taking care of the poor.

So, the toilet will have to be fixed, as well as the cupboard door, and undertaking these mundane, irritating diy tasks will temporarily eliminate any thoughts of viruses and sanitizers. Without the necessary concentration and a steady hand, we will be faced with the expense of having to call in a professional handyman. Not an option at this time, so let’s get cracking and get the jobs done!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Motivation and Covid 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little things please not so little minds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Effects of Lockdown on Mental Health

For a large number of human beings who have grown up in societies where freedom has been taken for granted, lockdown with all its restrictions appears to have had a massive effect on mental health. I have read recently, as well as having heard reports on the radio, that many mental health professionals and organizations such as Lifeline, have been inundated with calls from people feeling so down that they are contemplating suicide.

How do we explain these feelings of desperation? People by nature need contact with others unless they have chosen a life of solitude, such as becoming a hermit monk. I don’t think that the percentage of people who have gone in that direction can be very high, to be honest. Being isolated from family members and close friends has been very tough on most people but especially on those who live alone. Different countries have treated lockdown in their own way and with their own level of trying to control the spread of the virus. However, where it has resulted in the banning of friends and family members being able to come to one’s home, this has proved to be a very hard pill to swallow and has caused many people to feel extremely isolated and depressed.

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery
the time when we were happy.” – Dante

Even if one has been able to carry on making a living whilst working from home, just having to think twice before going anywhere can, in itself, be a very distressing way of living. Is it really necessary to go outside one’s home? What is the risk of coming in contact with the virus? Are you in that age group which is seen as the vulnerable bracket or do you have an underlying health issue which could affect you very negatively, if you should you actually get Covid 19? Are you comfortable having to wear a cotton mask whilst you are outside the home? If you wear glasses, can you even see with the mask having the effect of steaming up your lenses? Oh boy, so much to take into consideration and you are more than likely happier to stay at home after all, and make do with the groceries you already have in your store cupboard or do the obvious and order on line.

Many elderly people living in retirement homes have been in total lockdown for months now in order to protect them and the rest of the residents from the possibility of being infected by visitors who may be carrying the virus. These individuals are not in total isolation as there are others living close by as well as nurses and caregivers in most cases. They would have been in a much more difficult situation if they had still been living in their previous homes, very often after having lost their partner.

Much has been said recently about the effect this lockdown, and the fear of the virus, is having on children and young adults. Although children are believed to be fairly resilient and able to bounce back in many situations, this Covid 19 pandemic is completely alien to us all. No-one has so far devised a fool-proof method of teaching them new coping strategies. Only time will tell just how severely this lockdown, with all its restrictions, has affected the mental health of many young people all over the world. One can only hope that it won’t be too long before we can all relax a little and start to put our rather fractured lives back together again, even though we are warned that a “normal” way of life will, in fact, be a “new normal”.

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In the meantime, whilst we are playing the wait and see game, children are slowly returning, or have already returned, to the classroom. Having to have their temperature taken each morning before going into the school building, wearing a mask all day long, and being sanitized at the school door, are all practices which have to be followed. Some parents have reported having to cope with children returning from school complaining of headaches and being extremely tired. This could be as a result of the new regulations in place forcing them to breathe behind a cotton mask whilst trying to concentrate on the work being presented to them by the teacher. It is critical for parents and teachers to take cognisance of these side effects which appear to be the result of going back to school.

Having been home schooled for so long, it stands to reason that it will take some time before students, especially the younger ones, adjust once again to being away from the comfort and relative safety of their home environment. The school year had hardly begun in the southern hemisphere when Covid 19 reared its very ugly head. Little people had just become happy to say goodbye to their parents in the mornings and the crying and clinging had stopped. Now, there is a big chance that this will start all over again as the smaller ones face going back to pre-schools and nursery schools.

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The excitement of seeing friends again and interacting with other children is obviously a big factor when it comes to going back to school. Online lessons, with the advantage of Zoom, is a good substitute but nothing can compare with the fun that often comes from interacting with one’s peer group. This mixing with their own age group is particularly important for teenagers, who often feel that only their friends understand them. Months of keeping friendships going via social media and mobile phone calls does not have the same meaning as actually seeing and interacting with one another.

Teenagers have been affected badly by the lockdown and isolation and they have always been a very vulnerable group where suicide is concerned. Without school classes as well as sporting activities it stands to reason that many young people would have experienced feelings of anger and frustration Those looking towards writing their final exams at the end of the year must have become very anxious, especially if it was impossible for them to study on line. Others may have suddenly had to give up the intense physical training they were doing regularly in their various sports. With so much having been halted in one foul swoop, it is no wonder that the result is often depression and a severe feeling of loss.

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Many parents too must have thought the end of the world had come when, having to work from home, surrounded by young children needing care and on-line lessons, they are totally exhausted every single day. Realising just how demanding trying to teach children can be has definitely raised the respect level given to the teaching profession. However, the feelings experienced by parents of not doing everything as well as they should, may also have caused much anxiety and despondency as this is not a normal situation, by any manner of means.

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One wonders whether the effects of this pandemic will be long lasting or will we all forget just how stressful life in 2020 has been. So far, we have actually lost a huge portion of the year which has included Easter, Mothers’ Day and soon, Fathers’ Day and one hopes that by the time Christmas arrives, things will be looking a little brighter. It seems that it is only countries like New Zealand and Australia who have been affected very little by Covid 19, whilst the rest of us are soldiering on and hoping for brighter days ahead. Well, hope doesn’t cost anything, but if you are suffering from severe depression then hope can be a pipe dream.

My wish at this time is that all those people who are at the end of their tether reach out to the organizations who are available when life seems worthless and that they find a listener who has empathy and the ability to assist them and prevent a disaster. After all, tomorrow is another day, and sometimes there really is light at the end of a very dark tunnel – as long as hope survives.

“I am so angry with myself because I cannot do what
I should like to do, and at such a moment one feels as if one
were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom
of a deep
dark well, utterly helpless.” – Vincent Van Gogh 

Coronavirus – A Game Changer? 

Every dog has his day….well maybe that is what this new Coronavirus is all about. After all, it apparently has been passed on to humans from animals, but probably not dogs. However, the way that the world has handled the annihilation of so many animal species through human greed and ignorance has probably resulted in this being the price we are all going to pay as we face the stress and anguish of a virus which may have the potential to reduce the earth’s human population if it goes totally out of control. Who knows if it isn’t going to be a case of we, the clever, educated, know-it-all homo sapiens becoming a rare commodity one day and animals having the last laugh!

Picture if you can the following scenario: Mummy Rhino takes baby Rhino out for the day and they happen to come to a fenced area with a sign on the front reading “only 100 of this rare species, known as the human race, are to be found worldwide”. Baby looks at the creature in the enclosure and, sounding puzzled, asks Mummy, “what is that animal?” Mummy replies, “My boy, that creature is the reason that our little family is so small and that you only have a couple of cousins.  Those cruel individuals used to kill us so that our beautiful horns could be sold to some unintelligent yellow people across the sea. They were so stupid that they believed that our horns had amazing, almost magical health benefits. It was all a lot of unintelligent garbage, but it meant that we Rhinos were hunted and butchered, often leaving little babies without their mums.”

“So, what happened to those cruel creatures, Mummy?” “Well, they all started to get sick, coughing and sneezing, and then gradually dying, one after the other. That one in the cage is one of the few we still have here in Africa, and I don’t feel at all sorry that his species is now endangered, with only about 100 left in the entire world. Have a look at his face and you can see that he is very unhappy to be caged up and have animals staring at him every day, but he is having to suffer for the cruelty and greed of his ancestors and now knows how we felt when those of us who were not hunted, were often caged and gawked at in zoos around the world”.

“Let’s go Mummy, I don’t like this place and that strange person makes me feel very sad thinking about all our poor family members who must have been killed by people like him.”

Direct Selling after Covid 19

No-one can accurately predict how life will continue once this virus is under control, and the new phrase seems to be, “normal will be a different normal”. When it comes to how people will shop, then there is obviously the question of how will they feel about handling and trying products which have more than likely been previously touched by other shoppers?

I heard a radio discussion recently which involved the beauty counters of many up-market retail stores. The concern is that when one is given the opportunity to test certain cosmetics and fragrances, they could have been handled by someone who is carrying the virus. Items such as perfume testers are always a great temptation when one is browsing in a shop, but is it wise to pick them up and try them out? Lipstick testers as well as foundation samples are usually available for trying on one’s hand to get an idea of whether or not they suit your colouring. It could be that in the future people will be less inclined to buy their cosmetics from a store but might feel much happier choosing their products via the pages of a well designed catalogue.

The economy in many countries has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus and we are likely to see many shopping centres with shops which have been forced to close down. The face of these centres could change completely, and it may be that shopping online or through a direct sales representative becomes more and more desirable. For anyone who has been looking for a way to earn some extra money, or to start a new career, then this could be the ideal time to start being involved in direct selling.

One needs to try to stay positive despite all the negative feedback with which we are bombarded every time we listen to a news broadcast or buy a newspaper. This is often a difficult call, but necessary if we are to avoid deep depression, and planning on doing something new could help lift the feelings of doom and gloom.  Starting a new career is always full of challenges, but there are most definitely going to be a lot of advantages for your future customers when they are given the option of avoiding busy shopping malls by opting for distance purchasing instead.  When it comes to being able to shop from the relative safety of one’s home, and even receive personal delivery of the products purchased, then the benefits are huge. Valuable time is saved, as well as having peace of mind that the products you are purchasing have not been handled by many. It is far easier to sanitize the packages and bottles when you receive your order than worrying about all the potential germs on items on display at beauty counters.

It isn’t only cosmetics which are handled by many when they are displayed in a retail outlet. What about products like Tupperware? Yes, to gain the full benefit of the products they should ideally be demonstrated by a well-versed salesperson but that necessitates a lot of handling by all and sundry who are keen to get the feel of the product being demonstrated. However, training customers in the use of the products can always be done in the form of written instructions or through an on-line video. The latter is something which direct sales companies need to take seriously at this time.

So, if you feel that direct selling is something which suits your personality and could benefit you financially as well as emotionally, then I trust that the foregoing chapters which I have produced will prove invaluable as you start out in this new direction. For those who are already involved in this kind of business, you may just find that reading through the relevant information is a memory jogger as well as a way for you to improve your sales skills.

Update and Comments: 16 May 2020

The end of the world as we know it?

It is getting more and more difficult to stay positive here in South Africa during the lockdown and being isolated from family and friends. Unlike in other parts of the world, it seems to be more about turning the country into a police state than protecting the vulnerable. There are just way too many ridiculous rules being made with no explanation given as to the reasoning behind them. There is also an unacceptable level of violence being committed by those whose job it should be to protect the public. How are we meant to maintain sound mental health when we are bombarded constantly with distressing statistics and reports of violent behaviour.

Hundreds of South African schools have been vandalised, and in many cases set on fire, during the past few weeks of lockdown, and this is a country desperately in need of education. There is absolutely zero control over crime, and this has been the situation for years now. Currently many things have gone completely crazy, as the emphasis is on checking for illegal cigarettes and contraband alcohol, due to the ban of the sale of these products during lockdown. This kind of draconian control has no intelligent reasoning behind it. No-one had the common sense to consider that there should have been 24-hour armed surveillance at all schools whilst they were unoccupied. Instead, they became an easy target with laboratory equipment, computers, in fact anything the thieving swines could get their hands on was stolen.

The control is over the middle-income (not going to be middle-income for much longer) group as the poor do not heed such things as social distancing as it is not part of their culture. They are the ones who are suffering from food shortages due to so many employers being unable to continue with their businesses and being unable to pay their staff. Some will receive a smaller amount than their usual income from unemployment pay-outs, but this is likely to take quite a while to be implemented and people need to survive in the here and now. The government are proving to be totally inept when it comes to preventing hunger among millions of poverty-stricken individuals.

It has been so easy to convince the masses, mainly uneducated and usually totally illiterate, to always vote for the ANC, as for many they honestly think that Nelson Mandela has something to do with the party today. How very wrong can they be?

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