Attitude can make all the difference

Isn’t it amazing how, when you begin your day in a negative frame of mind, everything under the sun seems to be against you and there is just one disaster after another just waiting to happen! However, if you stop and consider the positives that the negative situation has created, things can be so very different!

“Keep your values positive because your values
become your destiny” – Mahatma Gandhi

It’s 6.30a.m. and you panic as you are already 30 minutes behind your usual schedule. Strange how dark and quiet everything seems to be and then the proverbial penny drops. There is no electricity and there was no warning either! So, you stumble to the kitchen to put on the kettle and then the realisation kicks in – you have no power and how can you boil the kettle?  Then you remember that you have a gas bottle in the back room which will allow you to make the coffee, and the donuts from yesterday are in the bread bin and will do very nicely for breakfast.

Next step is to have your morning shower. You turn on the water and wait for a few minutes, but it just doesn’t warm up! The geyser has been out of action due to the lack of electricity. Cold showers are meant to be excellent for your circulation and complexion, so you get on with it and the chilly water isn’t all that bad after all. There are so many people who do not have the advantage of having running water. Having to walk a long way in order to fill a bucket from a communal tap is a far cry from taking a cold shower in a comfortable bathroom.

Time to leave home and face the traffic that is going to be exacerbated by all the out of order traffic lights due to the power outage. Oh well, you try to be philosophical, at least the office will have electricity and, after all, there’s not much food in the fridge and freezer at present at home, so if it goes off it’s not the end of the world. Your householder’s insurance should cover any loss or damage to the appliances due to a power surge as well as loss of food once the fault has been repaired.  Now there’s a good excuse to try out the new fish and chip shop around the corner – they have a generator, so they will still be frying tonight! Your well stocked candle supply will add a peaceful ambiance whilst you listen to your favourite music on your ancient battery operated c.d. player.

You turn on your car radio and are feeling much more relaxed as you join the snaking line of vehicles all chugging along at a snail’s pace to get onto the motorway. Oh darn it, you have been so busy singing along to one of your favourite songs that you realise in dismay that you are in the wrong lane to turn onto the freeway! You desperately try to catch the eye of the person in the correct lane who is parallel with you and indicate with morse code –like hand signals your dilemma. Wonder of wonders, they smile and shepherd you in to the queue in front of them! Yes, today will be a good day after all and manners really do maketh man ….. and woman too!

Life is full of ups and downs for most people, with the occasional curved ball thrown in, just for good measure and it’s not always easy to stay positive in the face of challenges. However, there is some truth in the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining”- it’s all about having the courage to look for the silver lining when those clouds are bearing down on you.  Trying to laugh when you really feel like crying, and counting your blessings instead of concentrating on your mountain of woes and worries – sound like easy solutions. For many people they are actually very difficult to achieve and it’s at times like this that you often need to ask for help, whether from a friend, a colleague or a professional . Attitude is very important to our being able to carry on in a world which is by no means perfect, and we are not superhuman. To ask for support in order to regain a positive attitude is a tough call for many of us, as we all like to appear to be confident and coping members of the human race. It is, once again, a case of our attitude to asking for help that can make all the difference when the road ahead seems to be very rocky. Fortunately, it is a fact that “this too will pass” and we can often look back at our difficult times and feel triumphant in the knowledge that we survived and are able to once again enjoy the many pleasant things which make us human.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” – Winston Churchill

Direct Sales – Chapter 2

Choosing the company which suits you best!

The first step when considering becoming involved in direct selling, is to find a product which you can believe in and enjoy selling. In years gone by, items such as expensive vacuum cleaners and encyclopaedias were sold by salespeople who had to carry heavy demonstration items with them when going door to door to try to sell their product. With the incredible advances in technology things have changed dramatically when it comes to direct selling. It no longer has the stigma with which the “door to door” salesman of the past had to contend.  By the same token there are many people today who wouldn’t know what a set of encyclopaedias looked like!

The most popular direct sales companies nowadays would appear to be those selling household products such as Tupperware, and companies such as Avon, which has salespeople in many corners of the world making a comfortable living from selling their range of goods of which cosmetics form a large percentage. When one is putting out feelers to find a company which you would be happy to represent there are several factors to consider. First of all, is the warehouse which houses the company’s products easily accessible or will there be a considerable time lag between the placing of an order and receiving it?  Buyers tend to be very keen to receive their orders once they have placed them with a representative and If you live in a rather remote area, then it stands to reason that you may not have deliveries as frequently as if you were living in a larger town. The solution here is to collect your customers’ orders early in the month in order to place and receive them in time for month-end deliveries. This applies mainly to countries where people receive monthly pay cheques and budget for their purchases accordingly.

Once you have given some serious thought to joining a particular company as a sales representative, you need to find out whether there is a cost involved. You don’t want to have to take a bank loan in order to begin selling! In most cases the initial outlay is minimal and usually your payment will provide you with a starter pack of catalogues showing the current range of available items, and in some cases a few products for you to show to your prospective buyers. Once you start making some money, you can build up a reasonable supply of items which you can demonstrate to help increase your sales.

Another question to ask is whether or not you will be granted credit when you sign up with the company. In other words, will you have a certain amount of time to collect the money from your customers before having to pay your account or is it purely a cash business. If the latter is the case, then you will always need to collect the necessary amount from your customer as you take their order. You give them a written receipt for the amount paid to you and be very strict on how you handle this money. When you pay your account, the difference between the amount you have received from your customers and the amount you pay your company is your commission.  If you are granted credit then you deliver the products to the customer and only hand them over when you are given the amount due.

It is normal practice when you sign up with a direct sales company to be allocated to an area manager whose job it is to assist you when you have problems. This person may or may not give you regular training sessions themselves, or it may be company policy to encourage you to attend regular sales meetings run at the branch of the company closest to you. It is very important for you to learn as much as you can about the products you will be selling as buyers expect you to be knowledgeable regardless of the length of time that you have been with the company.

Depending upon how well you sell once you have started with your chosen company, there may be seminars which you are invited to attend where you will receive on-going training as well as motivation. Things change according to economic factors as well as management policy but you will find that the more successful you are at selling, the more your company should recognise your efforts.

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal.
It is courage that counts” – Winston Churchill

Direct Sales – Chapter 1.

Personal experiences and an introduction
to the world of Direct Selling!

After several years of long distance studying to obtain my degrees, I found that I was becoming somewhat isolated and also needed to earn some money of my own. Having seen several family members do a somewhat half-hearted job of selling various products such as Tupperware and a range of linen, I was sure that I was capable of making a success of such an endeavour.

I approached a Tupperware representative and basically recruited myself. Over a period of around 14 years I was very successful as a sales person and later as a manager, a position which included having a company car (dependent upon maintaining a certain level of monthly sales) and being responsible for a team of sales people. This was whilst raising children, running a home, being involved in a charitable organisation which cared for HIV patients, and continuing with my studies.  At a later stage, I also taught an African language, namely Northern Sotho, at a local private school.

The excellent on-going training which I was fortunate enough to have received during my years of direct selling gave me the confidence to succeed in other avenues such as the aforementioned teaching, lecturing psychology to students of natural healing modalities, being a co-owner and full time manager of a well-known, Irish themed, 72 seater pub/restaurant for 5 years, as well as continuing to be involved in different forms of direct selling. Enough for now, but I would love to share some of the most important factors which I feel could be of help to those of you who may know very little if anything about how to earn money through direct selling.

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For the uninitiated, direct selling actually means offering products to prospective buyers who have the benefit of being able to see, touch and often sample an item before purchasing it. The advantage of this kind of purchasing is the personal interaction between the person selling the product and the buyer. Unlike having to spend hours hunting for goods, and being faced with umpteen confusing options, having a professional salesperson guiding you in the right choice of product, is not only time saving, but can help prevent spending money on the wrong item. Another bonus for the buyer is that the order will be delivered to them personally by the salesperson.

One needs to be aware that direct selling should not be confused with pyramid schemes where money is made, not through the sale of products, but by recruiting more and more people into the scheme and coercing them into parting with hard earned cash in order to buy “necessary” training material as well as paying high prices on a regular basis to attend so-called inspirational seminars.   Although there may be levels within a direct selling company for the earning of commissions, there is no catch. It is purely about buying the product which appears in the catalogue or on the display table and not a case of being hoodwinked into becoming part of a “get rich quick” scheme. There are many reputable companies who rely totally on representatives placing orders on a regular basis.

I plan to post around 10 chapters on a regular basis which I hope will cover a wide range of information regarding the whole subject of direct selling.

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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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Homophobia

Just a while ago I heard on a news report that in Tanzania (as in many other parts of Africa), it is a criminal offence to be openly gay. This on a continent where those who have fat cat bank balances (often through foul means rather than fair)  tend to be ardent fans of designer clothes, accessories and top of the range motor vehicles. Perhaps those who advocate homophobia and wish to punish same sex couples should take the time to think about those items which they love to flout. It is a fact that many artists and designers are gay. It would appear that there is a strong correlation between right brain activity and, therefore, creativity, and homosexuality. Therefore, if you are obsessed with heterosexuality and are negatively disposed towards gays, lesbians, and transgender people, you should avoid purchasing anything which comes from the creative genius of someone who may fit into one of the aforementioned categories. Something to ponder perhaps.

What is it about being gay that offends homophobes? Is it perhaps that psychologically they are projecting their own unexpressed personal tendency to homosexuality onto those who are living a gay life? How on earth, in the age in which we are living, can people be prevented from being honest about who they are and who they wish to have as their partner? This is not about molestation, paedophilia or any of the other totally unacceptable behaviours which are just too prevalent in the world, but rather about freedom to be who you were meant to be.

 

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All foetuses begin life as female – hence the fact that both males and females have nipples. The gender of the foetus is only determined around six to eight weeks after conception. If the amount of male hormones called androgens which are needed to ensure that the developing foetus becomes a boy are out of sync, then the result could be a male child with a brain which is more feminine than masculine- a little boy who would become more and more gay in his behaviour as he reached puberty.  Another scenario is possibly a boy being born with a fully functioning female brain but having male genitalia. This child could become transgender –growing up always feeling that he is trapped in the wrong body. These are the people who often try to have the necessary, albeit radical, surgery in order to function more fully as their preferred gender. This subject is one which has been discussed and documented by many experts in the field of not only psychology, but physiology and no doubt gay rights organizations as well, so let me not gravitate too much away from the initial reason for this post.

Once people understand that homosexuality and same sex preference in choosing a partner possibly occurred in the womb, and is not a matter of choice, then surely there should be a total turn around in attitude towards homosexuality and transgenderism regardless of the country in which people happen to live? One can argue for hours about nature or nurture being the cause of someone being gay, but the fact of the matter is that many gay individuals were possibly the result of the incorrect amount of hormones at the time when the sex was being determined in the womb.

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An absolute travesty is that in Tanzania, and many other countries in Africa, as well as other parts of the globe including China, being gay is considered a crime. It seems crazy that, in ancient Greece, it was considered the norm for wealthy Greek men to have sex with good looking young men.  No-one was jailed for homosexual acts in those days! Religious beliefs have been instrumental in creating many evils in the world, as well as barbaric events, but it is unthinkable that people are being encouraged to report anyone suspected of being gay (in Tanzania) with the result that those being reported face being incarcerated. If one considers that being gay and living one’s life without interfering negatively with the well-being of other people then it just doesn’t make any sense to treat gay people as criminals. It is a fact that in many of the areas in Africa, where being gay is a crime, these same countries still advocate female circumcision. Potentially permanently damaging female bodies in the name of tradition surely constitutes a crime against humanity whereas being gay and choosing a partner of the same sex cannot in any thinking person’s mind be deemed to be a crime. Something just does not gel.

The more one ponders the many ridiculous laws as well as outdated, and more specifically, inhumane practices in many quarters of our complicated and diverse planet, the less one can understand the human race! As I mentioned above, there are little girls still being forced to undergo female genital mutilation in many non-Western countries. In years to come many of these girls become incontinent after giving birth due to the damage done when they were circumcised.  As these circumcisions are not being performed under hygienic hospital conditions, children can bleed to death during the process. There are lobbyists trying to have this barbaric practice outlawed, but it is no mean feat to change tradition especially when the mothers of these girls are in favour of the practice.

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As the saying goes: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change! Many countries on the African continent have no desire to change and that is why it is so unsettling to realise that one takes freedom of choice very much for granted. Thus the reason to be concerned when one considers those children born into oppressive, backward thinking societies who are very unlikely to ever be in a position to live their lives free of all the prohibitions which their forebears have accepted unquestioningly for centuries. So much to think about and to celebrate if you are someone who is free to make choices as long as those choices do not harm another individual.

“It is not for me to judge another person’s life. I must judge,
I must choose, I must spurn purely for myself alone
.” – Herman Hesse 

Friendship Part 3

FRIENDS WITH A DIFFERENCE

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Can there be any friendship that is more rewarding than one between a human being and a beloved animal. The unconditional love that is shown by an animal to its owner has to be experienced to be fully understood and children who grow up in homes shared with animals have the advantage of knowing from their early years the pleasure that pets can bring. There are certain people who will keep a dog as a protector but, due to their religion, never even fondle the poor creature, which surely is a shocking form of emotional abuse. This was told to me by a vet who found it very difficult to cope with this kind of pet owner.  Unfortunately, culture plays a role in many communities and having an animal as a pet can be taboo. Children brought up with this unfortunate background often scream hysterically whenever a dog or a cat comes near them. I have been witness to a child screeching like a banshee when a little Jack Russell dog just wanted to say hello to the girl in question. The poor little dog was terrified by this unexpected and totally unnecessary outburst. Worse than that is when adults have gone hysterical just because a cat has come near to them.

If children are being prevented from having any form of animal in their home then it would be a very good idea for nursery schools or day care facilities to get such youngsters more comfortable around small creatures. I wouldn’t advocate a teacher bringing her Great Dane into a classroom, but to have a bunny as a classroom pet or even a hamster could teach children how to care for any pet they may own in the future. The child who grows up on a farm where there are not only domestic animals but also a variety of farm animals such as pigs, cows, goats, donkeys, ponies as well will probably never realise just how fortunate their childhood is compared to someone who has never even owned a puppy.

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We read accounts every day in various newsfeeds about the amazing deeds which animals have performed whereby human lives have been saved and warnings given regarding health issues as well as preventing dangerous occurrences. Dogs are being trained in some countries to be partners of children who have life threatening illnesses and to bark a warning when, for example, an epileptic fit is about to occur. This must be an absolutely fascinating form of animal training which must take hours of dedication and love for the job at hand. The same goes for people who are involved in puppy walking future guide dogs for the blind. We humans think we are so clever, but we know so little about the potential and intelligence of our four legged friends. The best we can do is to respect them, love them and care for them and appreciate the value they bring into our lives.

A sad part of growing old is that in many cases the elderly are prevented from taking their often equally elderly dog or cat with them into a retirement home. Having to leave a house they have often lived in for most of their adult lives is traumatic enough without the heartbreak of having to be parted from a beloved pet. The reason given by management of many of these retirement homes is that the pets can become a nuisance to other residents. The truth of the matter is that most of the time the dog or cat is content to sit at the feet or on the lap of the elderly person with a minimum of exercise required so that reasoning seems to be inconsequential to say the least.

“Animals are such agreeable friends; They ask no questions,
Pass no criticisms.” – George Eliot

A pig can be a wonderful pet and despite all the negative comments about pigs, they are actually very clean animals. So it really is an insult to the porkers to align them with grubby, messy humans!  The downside of having a pot-bellied pig as a pet is that they can grow extremely large and I believe can become rather aggressive. It is also much easier to take a puppy to puppy socialisation classes than a pot-bellied pig! Just thinking about the reaction of all the dogs at puppy school if a pig had to join the class is rather disturbing! I have heard though of a sheep going to dog training classes, so maybe taking your pig along isn’t so far fetched after all.

Just a last thought. Have you ever been ill or been forced to lie in bed to recuperate after an operation and your cat has slept on your bed the whole day, purring and keeping you company? You just never feel alone if you have that four legged family member to give you that unconditional love. Whether it’s a dog, a cat or even a pig on whom you lavish attention, the emotional rewards cannot be measured. That wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you return home after having been away for even a few hours and your pet bounds over to lick you or rub himself around your legs, has to be experienced to be understood. That is true friendship of the highest order.

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The Human Touch

“At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato

Babies who area left unattended and unloved at birth do not thrive and that has been a fact which has been verified over and over again through research and long term studies. The modern way of thinking is that, even prior to birth, the unborn child can benefit by the mother talking to the baby, playing soothing music to it and generally trying to keep a calm and positive frame of mind during her pregnancy. This is proving to be a big challenge in a world where many mothers are leaving the reproduction process until their career is well established.

It would appear that in many instances, the higher the achiever, the more stress their career usually generates. We land up with a catch 22 situation with a highly motivated mother to be who is bombarded with masses of available data informing her of how to handle her pregnancy in order to have as healthy a new-born as possible. Sometimes one has to wonder whether the saying “while ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise” doesn’t actually have some merit. The more information which is available, the more the poor future mothers have to worry about.  It’s don’t do this, don’t eat that, avoid the following but, make sure you take the time to enjoy your 9 months gestation period!Print

The reality is that many new mothers have to work almost up to their due date, so the luxury of taking things easy is often only enjoyed by a privileged few. However, once the baby arrives it is the love and nurturing that is of utmost importance for the future well-being of the baby. This is not always easy to achieve when you find yourself with a niggley, colicky baby who doesn’t feed well, and cries a lot. Then the feelings of guilt may kick in whereby a new mother starts worrying that it is due to her having pushed herself so hard at work to meet all her deadlines before commencing her maternity leave.  This is when the support of a friend or a family member is so important as it is easy to become depressed and riddled with anxiety. The lack of sleep after having a baby is absolutely horrendous and has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Being zombie like for weeks on end doesn’t make bonding with your baby any easier either. This is the time for a special kind of human touch.

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A partner who is understanding of the new mother’s need for emotional support can make all the difference.  Modern fathers in many cases are way more hands on when it comes to helping with a newborn than men were in years gone by. However, a female friend, sister or mother can be invaluable in helping in the early weeks after the baby’s arrival. Once a woman feels that she is coping with her new role it becomes far easier to give the baby the loving attention which it so badly needs to thrive.

The upside of the above is that, in most instances, a new mother has had the best part of 9 months to prepare for the baby’s birth. How much more difficult is it when, often quite out of the blue, a phone call comes in saying that you are now at the top of the adoption list and your longed for child has arrived, and can be fetched very soon! There have been none of those irritating trips to the toilet during the night for the past few months, to prepare you for broken sleep. It’s now a case of sink or swim and your nights are no longer your own.

When all is said and done, the human touch prevails in most cases and millions of children benefit from being nurtured and cared for despite the concerns and worries of their over-worked, over ambitious but extremely loving mothers.

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure
love, are dogs and infants.” – Johnny Depp

Friendship Part 2

TRANSIENT FRIENDSHIPS

Friends often tend to be transient – they come into our life at a particular stage and at the time can be an amazing support system. Then, years later when thinking back, you wonder why the friendship just petered out. There has to be a common bond in order for a friendship to start in the first place. You may find yourself connecting with a colleague at work, and the company and its politics, as well as your personal situations could be the common factor. When one of you moves on to another company, or starts working from home, it can be quite upsetting to find that there is very little that one has in common any longer and ultimately it becomes rather tedious to try to continue the relationship.

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Women often seem to find it easier than men to make new friends. This is more than likely due to women having, in many cases, better verbal skills than the majority of men.  A short hospital stay is often the place where women connect and continue to keep in touch long after they have both recovered from their illness and gone home. When a woman has a baby she may find herself bonding with another woman in the same ward. It can be a great support to be able to discuss common worries with someone who is in the same or a similar situation. Men, on the other hand, can be in the same ward as other men for several weeks after having an operation, but never find out the name of the person in the next bed.  I know this is a generalisation, but I have been witness to this kind of scenario. Men are from Mars?

“Wishing to be friends is quick work,
but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” – Aristotle 

It can be disappointing when one tries to get back into a comfortable relationship with friends from the past only to find that you have absolutely nothing in common any more. This is why I wonder just how beneficial it is to search for past friends via facebook, or google and then spend valuable time trying to make up for all the years when there was no contact at all. If these so-called friends were really interested in keeping in touch then surely you wouldn’t have lost contact in the first place. Looking at their profiles and comments on line and seeing just how successful their lives appear to have been and how blissfully happy they are as a family, can be very distressing if your own circumstances are less than ideal. Scratch the surface of all the bragging and “look at my wonderful life” comments and the truth is probably quite different. At least when one has a “real” friend your interactions are less likely to make you feel inadequate and if that isn’t the case, then you can just cool the friendship somewhat and don’t constantly see more on line bragging.

My point is that, throughout one’s life, there is often an opportunity to make a new friend and, even if that friendship lasts a relatively short space of time, while it does exist it may provide you with a much needed emotional lifeline. Human interaction is a necessary part of having a healthy, well-balanced life (unless you have joined a nunnery or a monastery and taken either a vow of silence, or become a hermit monk) so we shouldn’t be too obsessed with the length of a friendship and enjoy the fact that many are transient in nature and that’s okay too.

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Friendship Part 1

WHAT IS A FRIEND?

Remember the old saying, “Make new friends but keep the old, some are silver but others are gold”? Somehow that is even more relevant in today’s fast paced and internet driven world. We are able to google or search on facebook and find people we knew years ago, re-connect with them and have them on our social media sites as friends – but are they true friends? What is a friend? One dictionary definition of the word “friend” is: “one joined to another in intimacy and affection.” If we are to take this definition and apply it to the many “friends” we have on facebook, twitter or instagram, what actually is the reality? Great to be able to tell all and sundry that you have so many hundreds or even thousands of social media friends, but to whom do you turn when you really need a friend?

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During our school years we made friends, but did we keep in touch with many of them after moving on, either to university or college, or out into the big wide world of the working environment? In many cases it may have been the occasional one or two people with whom we managed to stay in touch over time. A friendship has to be a two way interaction otherwise it dies a death and this happens more often than not.  Some people thrive on keeping relationships going, but without reciprocation it is often a futile exercise.

A friend of mine from many years ago who had terminal cancer once said to me that if you can count your true friends on one hand you are luckier than most people. I tend to believe that this is true. A real friend is someone with whom, despite the passing of the years, you are able to immediately carry on chatting to as though you last spoke to them yesterday. If you have even one person like this in your life it is a gift to be savoured and valued. I have such a friend and she is one of very few of my current acquaintances who knew my late father. The day he was killed at work when a malfunctioning transformer blew up and electrocuted him plus several other people working with him, it just happened to be this friend’s birthday.  Needless to say, phoning her to chat on her special day every year always tends to include a rather sad side too.  She has recently relocated to Perth, and there is the different time zone to consider when getting in touch with her, but I know that whenever we speak the years will just fade away and we will carry on our conversation as though no time at all has passed since our last chat.

I also have a very good Indian friend whom I met during time spent living in Italy many years ago. When meeting up with her and her husband after a long period of keeping in touch by mail and the occasional phone call (this information really does date the length of our friendship!) it was as though no time at all had elapsed since our last meeting. Once again it must be said that such friendships are rare and extremely valuable and deserve to be nurtured. Are you also fortunate enough to have this kind of friend? A busy life is fine, but it really is critical to squeeze in a quick phone call or a voice WhatsApp to keep those relationships going. There can be nothing more soul destroying than constantly procrastinating about making that call only to find that it is now too late, as the friend is no longer around.

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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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