Update and Comments – 2022 January No 1 – A new Year with New Dreams and Hopes!

Is it only optimism that allows us to go forward into a new year with plans and hopes, regardless of how bad and challenging the past year turned out?  Amazing how every year on 1 January we are able to face another 365 days of the unknown without dragging last year’s baggage along with us – well, that’s what we try to do, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it is often not easy to forget the failings and disappointments of the previous year, but all we can do is put our best foot forward and get on with life.

The past two years have been very difficult for people all over the globe due to the chaos caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. Strangely enough there have been businesses which have flourished whilst others have failed dismally, due to trading restrictions, lockdowns, curfews, and many other negative factors being played out during this time. With people spending more time at home due to countries’ attempts to control the spread of the virus, garden centres and companies associated with home maintenance as well as hardware stores have been known to have had record sales. Sadly, restaurants, entertainment venues as well as tourism have borne the brunt of much of the financial losses sustained, by all accounts. Truly a case of “one man’s loss is another man’s gain”.

Anyway, my wish for anyone being kind enough to read this update and comment at the beginning of this new year, is that you will find 2022 less challenging than the past two years may have been for you and your family. There will always be an abundance of fake news, words of doom, and worries far greater than we can possibly handle, but let’s just soldier on and try to do our best, despite all the negatives with which we are bound to be bombarded.

Good health and the ability to get up in the morning and face whatever lies ahead is my wish for you all. May we get to the end of December this year knowing that we have survived, despite life’s constant curved balls being thrown our way! A Very Happy New Year to you all!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Why the countdown to the weekend? – 2021 September No. 1

I don’t know what the situation is in other countries, but in South Africa it would appear that everything revolves around the weekend, or one of our many, long weekends. The way in which the weeks seem to fly by nowadays, it’s a real shame to have a count down every week with people fanatically looking forward to two days or more of freedom from the work environment.

As more and more people have become self-employed out of sheer necessity, due to many factors, some of which are politically driven, then working longer hours and more days in the week have become the norm. So, I can’t be the only person who finds it irritating to hear radio personalities harping on every day as to how many days there are before it’s the weekend again so they can have time to relax or get in their cars and drive the many hours it takes to get to the coast, or the bushveld.

The irony is that we are currently in a serious recession, so one would think that there should be fewer trips away, and more hours spent working. Is this a common factor in countries other than China, where from a young age children have very little free time, being driven to achieve in later life? There is obviously a continuum with totally different work ethics at either end. There is a need for a lifestyle balance in order to avoid emotional breakdown, so work and play are both critical to a healthy mental condition. However, constantly longing for another break away from work or routine, must be a stress factor in itself. There are other ways to unwind, and spending some time watching the birds in the garden, or finding a quiet corner to read a good book, or doing some form of exercise might do the trick.

More than anything, the continuous countdown to the weekend cannot be healthy as it takes away the fact that every day should be viewed as a gift, regardless of the amount of work which needs to be done. If the Covid pandemic has taught us anything then it must be the fragility of life. We need to take stock of our own lives and become introspective regarding the important things which we may be overlooking if we are constantly rushing to get to the end of the week. Anyone else feel the same way, or am I just becoming somewhat of a cynic for trying to fit as much living into every day, regardless of whether it is at the beginning, the middle or the end of the week?

Update and Comment-2021-08-24

Passionate about reading

I would honestly say that, in my humble opinion, the best gift one can receive is being taught how to read. The pride and confidence which I recently witnessed when a grade two boy was able to read all the words on his younger brother’s birthday card, just emphasised yet again the importance of literacy.

Many of us can remember those first “readers” that we used when we first started school which had sentences such as “This is Janet”, “This is John”, “This is Spot”, “Run Spot, run!”. Tedious for parents having to listen to these being repeated over and over again, but the end results were well worth it! Watching children engrossed in a book has to be a wonderful reward for any parent. Far better than today’s common sight of eyes constantly focused on the screen of a mobile phone. Fortunately, books are still in demand despite the passion for social media and all its trappings.

I have just finished reading an extremely exciting thriller, and what was enlightening was all the reviews on its cover from other top crime writers. Just goes to show that, no matter how famous a writer becomes, they still carry on reading other peoples’ published works. The more one reads, the easier it is to write. There is also a link between literacy and numeracy.  Both of these skills are critical to living, learning and participating in today’s society.

The tragedy is that South Africa is a country in which the majority of the population are illiterate. As soon as the Government changed hands, anything which had worked well under the Apartheid government was disbanded. There is no longer a government run Teachers’ Training College. This has resulted in many instances of under-educated teachers trying to teach crowded classes of children. I could ramble on for days describing all the challenges faced as far as education is concerned. Suffice to say, if you are reading this article, then you are one of a very small percentage of the world’s population who have the privilege of being literate.  I hope that you enjoy reading as much as I do!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Fear in all its many forms – 2021 August No. 1

I hate having to admit it, but I have a total fear of many things, ridiculous as that might appear to less fearful individuals. One of the worst is my fear of the rapidly changing face of technology. I no sooner get my head around a particular way of communicating when, wham, bang, it doesn’t work that way anymore. I wish there were a slowdown button somewhere out there in the universe which I could activate to help me come to grips with everything which freaks me out! I no sooner feel pretty confident with the ins and outs of my mobile phone and all its finer points than I receive a message telling me that my contract is due to expire and that I need to go online to see what options are available to me. Oh, please, I cannot believe that two years have gone by already, and now I have to make decisions again regarding a choice of phone, the amount of data I need and whether I really do require such a large amount of talk time and sms’s. Why can’t I just carry on regardless – but then my phone has begun behaving rather erratically, so is that its way of telling me that it’s time for a new model?

Another fear which probably sounds ridiculous is that of automatic gates leading into private homes or complexes closing on my car as I am going in or out. As some of these contraptions have a time within which they will close automatically, they give me the heebie-jeebies. I don’t even trust the sensor which is meant to be in control as long as something is actually positioned in front of it. The only time I feel pretty confident that all will be well is if a human being is actually holding a remote button and I have enough faith in them to believe that they will only close the gates once I am safely on the other side! I think this stems from having seen the damage caused to an acquaintance’s brand-new car when a gate closed too quickly onto it.

I have just read an article about Richard Branson, and that man has zero fear by all accounts. Now is that a testosterone overload, a defiance to defeat all the odds, or does he actually have a secret death wish? It is crazy to read of the numerous times that he has actually defeated death with all his hair-raising escapades and is still, in his early seventies, living life on the edge. All I can say is that his wife and children deserve medals of bravery for just putting up with life with Branson!

As I am writing this article, I can see a pigeon perched on a tiny branch at the very top of a tree and just surveying its surroundings. It wouldn’t do for a bird to have a fear of heights, would it? The same thing applies to a fish who has a fear of water or an owl who has a fear of the dark! This is getting a bit ridiculous, so I will close for now, read an article or two in one of my self-help books on how to get rid of fear in all its shapes and forms! If I don’t write anything for a day or two, or even longer, please understand that becoming fearless may take quite a bit of time and lots of meditation or exercise, or whatever else the so-called experts recommend!

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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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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Update and Comments: 18 April 2020 – Lockdown!

Lockdown

I heard the best ever reaction to our lockdown, from my 6 year old grandson. When he was told by his mother that our president had extended the period for our isolation, he apparently was absolutely thrilled, “Oh, great! I love lockdown. I wish we could always have lockdown!” The reason for this euphoria is all due to his parents devoting hours and hours (whilst they still have had to try to work from home) finding exciting and unusual ways to entertain two boys of 6 (going on 7) and 2 (going on 3)years of age.

I imagine that when this is all over, and we are able to return to some semblance of normality, the parents of these two children will breathe a united sigh of relief as they will probably be far less exhausted being back in their respective work environments than they are in their own homes right now. Everything from finger painting, building Lego, making a fort using their bunk beds as well as outdoor furniture, having an indoor obstacle course created for them, bouncing as a family on the trampoline, chasing around the garden, making muffins ….the list goes on and on. They are very lucky to be living in a home where there are parents who are able to give them this kind of attention and also where the fear of having no food to eat is not part of the equation.

At the other end of the continuum are the millions of poor families who suffer so badly whenever anything unexpected takes place. Whether this is bad weather, illness, a collapse in the economy resulting in job losses or, as is the current situation, a previously unknown epidemic, they are the ones who need to be remembered and helped wherever possible. Unfortunately, where a country has an almost collapsed economy the plight of millions of people becomes a bigger problem than the epidemic itself.  It is, however, heartening to hear of the extremely generous donations being made by people such as Nicky and Oppenheimer – R1 billion; Mary Oppenheimer and daughters  – R1 billion;  the Rupert family and Remgro Ltd. – R1 billion; the Motsepe family and associated businesses – R1 billion, as well as R1.5 billion donated by Naspers, part of which will go towards the Solidarity Response Fund established by the government to help limit the lockdown’s impact on the economy and those who are living in poverty.

As is so often the case, there are normal individuals who have put their hands in their pockets to give whatever they are able to afford, as well as giving time to assist where they can, for example sewing masks for local hospitals.   Radio stations have come on board together with big companies in trying to help those suffering the most but only time will tell just how bad the outbreak is going to be and how quickly all the informal workers as well as the self-employed can start working once again and avoid an even greater disaster than the pandemic itself.

The whole world is reeling from the shock of this epidemic and all we can do is to try to remain positive and to keep in touch with others who may be in isolation and alone. A phone call to say that you are thinking about them may make a big difference in their lives at this challenging time, just knowing that someone cares.

Wash your hands, sanitize, wear that mask if you go out, and more than that let’s all try to enjoy the day we have today and hope that tomorrow is here for us all and finds us well and still sane!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The New Royals

The New Royals – or just stupidity?

When you read the word Prince or Princess, what normally pops into your mind? More than likely it is crowns, castles, palaces, and most of all a way of life foreign to the majority of us. Over the years there appears to have been an emergence of a pandemic affecting a large percentage of parents and their offspring which is going to have a longer lasting effect than the Corana Virus (Covid-19), in my possibly slightly jaded opinion, and that is this new bunch of royals in the making.

No, I am not referring to children who are being born into royalty. This is a case of crazy behaviour amongst so-called educated humans whereby they fawn over their children and refer to them as “my little princess” or “my prince”. I have even seen invitations to baby showers where the sex of the unborn baby has already been revealed and the invitation reads “Princess baby shower”. It just doesn’t bode well for the future when, even before it is born, a child is elevated to the level of royalty.

Over the years I have been into many homes where there are signs on bedroom doors announcing the fact that a little princess or prince inhabits the room. In one case recently, the father of one of these so-called princesses said that his 4 year old daughter is totally out of control being very cheeky and refusing to listen to her parents at all. What is wrong with the world when a father sounds as though he is actually intimidated by his own child? Letting the little cherub believe that she is a princess is hardly the way to instil socially acceptable good behaviour and manners, not to mention respect.

Many years ago, I recall reading an article where the author made the observation that we should treat our children as if they are on loan to us. It was something of a wake-up call as she, the writer, made the point that none of us know for how long we will have our children. The message was to enjoy them, teach them well, but to always be aware of the fact that they are on loan to us from a higher power (will not get into religious discussions on my blog, so the interpretation of this statement lends itself open to personal beliefs). At no time was there any mention made of having to treat these children as demi-gods, or princesses and little princes. The message was to value the time that you have with your children and to do the very best that you can to have meaningful relationships with them and to try to teach them well. I found this a very profound statement.

On the subject of the word “princess”, there is a worldwide situation whereby many women are still striving to be taken seriously, especially in the business arena. Salaries are often much lower for a woman doing the exact same work as her male counterpart and is something which is an ongoing bone of contention. If one considers this scenario, and the fact that it may take many more years before the situation is sorted out for a lot of women, then what on earth is the point of treating your daughter as a little princess? If you want her to be able to handle life in the fast lane as a successful businesswoman, doctor, lawyer, teacher etcetera, then you are doing her a grave disservice by doting on her and pandering to her every whim.

Another point which I would like to make is the issue of the millions of women worldwide who still have an ongoing struggle to be given basic human rights. In some countries, and due to archaic laws, education has been limited to the males of the species whilst women are still treated as second class citizens and have to obey their fathers and later their husbands, and sometimes even their brothers, whilst living within the boundaries of a patriarchal society . In some cases, these women are actual genuine princesses within their own community, but they are controlled by the males and often have virtually no say in the running of their own lives. Given a choice they might well prefer not to have the title of “princess” in exchange for the freedom of life in a western society.

Think about the fact that by treating your little darlings with kid gloves and spoiling them with everything their heart desires, you may be elevating them to think that they are better than their playmates. Behaviour is taught, be it good or bad, and children come into this world as a blank slate upon which the caregiver (parent in most cases)  has the power to write the script.  One should take cognisance of everything which subsequently becomes written on that slate, and having some humility as well as confidence and caring for others should be way up there at the top of the slate! Once again, I am going to leave you, my valued reader, with the thought that we are responsible for the next generation – of princes and princesses? One can but hope that this is merely a ridiculous passing phase, which may have been fuelled to a large extent by Disney as well as all those toy shops displaying an abundance of “over the top” prince and princess outfits, designed specifically for all the mini pseudo royals in the making.

“In fairy tales, the princesses kiss the frogs and the frogs
become princes. In real life, the princesses kiss
the princes and the princes turn into frogs.”
– Paulo Cuelho

Psychopathy

There seems to be a great deal of information quite readily available these days regarding the rather disturbing incidence of psychopathy. I watched a documentary recently which involved a young boy of around 4 years old who has already shown frightening behavioural patterns which would seem to indicate that he is possibly a young psychopath in the making. His mother, when interviewed, said that he had already killed a kitten by microwaving the poor creature, and was constantly harming other defenceless creatures and showing no remorse whatsoever. It must be extremely unpleasant to witness this kind of behaviour in such a young person, but what is one supposed to do?

The answer is quite clearly that the parents need to get professional help as soon as such disturbing tendencies are noticed. Depending upon one’s financial circumstances, as well as the country in which one resides, this may be easier said than done.

Years ago, if a child committed any kind of act which was deemed to be anti-social or plain cruel, the parents would have most likely taken a belt to their backside and punished them with taking away any privileges. However, what we don’t know, is just what effect such punishment ultimately had on the child and if possibly it exacerbated the occurrence of the disturbing behaviour. If we take a person such as the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer it would seem that he appeared to be a normal, happy boy during his early childhood. He had surgery for a hernia and, according to his mother, his personality began to change thereafter with him becoming withdrawn and morose. However, there was also the added stress of a baby brother being born, and then his parents divorcing. So, is it possible that the surgery itself may have, through the anaesthetic having been administered, paved the way for his becoming a psychopath? Interesting thought, but has it ever been the subject of research, one wonders.

In many documented cases where a mass murderer has been arrested, tried and found guilty, there often seems to be a common thread running through the personalities of many of them. This commonality appears to indicate an innate desire to harm, torture and destroy, with a total lack of empathy, and no feelings of remorse for their actions, from a very young age.

Although psychopathy and sociopathy are both classified as mental disorders, and are both antisocial behaviours, there are differences. Psychopaths are believed to be born and their condition is theorised to be due to the underdevelopment of the area of the brain which is responsible for impulse control. Sociopaths, on the other hand may develop these behaviour patterns through physical or emotional abuse in childhood. What is concerning is the estimated percentage of people whom we are likely to come in contact with, who are possibly psychopaths. They may be in our work environment, or at social gatherings and yet we possibly view them just as unfeeling individuals or plain antisocial in their behaviour and we may tend to avoid them as much as possible. Many psychopaths will never end up in jails or psychiatric institutions, but they may still be capable of wreaking havoc on those with whom they come in close contact, such as family members.

I remember as a child picnicking on a beach one Sunday morning with my parents, and next to us was a boy of about 7 years old who was with his grandmother. He appeared to be very intense and somewhat morose and he seemed to be completely engrossed in building little humps of sand with his spade. When my father asked him what he was making, he replied in a very creepy voice  (rather unnerving in  such a young child), “I’m building a graveyard!”. His tone gave us the shivers and one has to wonder just how he turned out when he grew up. Another Jeffrey Dahmer perhaps? Or maybe another Stephen King? Who knows, but gives one something to ponder.

“People who do hideous things, do not look like people
who do hideous things.
There is no face of evil.”
– Martha Stout (American Psychologist)