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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Update and Comment 17 February 2019

I cannot believe that the last occasion on which I wrote anything under “update” was over a month ago. As I have said before, the world seems to be literally spinning out of control when it comes to having enough hours in the day. Surely I am not the only one out there who feels like putting a huge brake on time just to be able to do so much more than we are currently doing?

Although social media has its down side, it does help to a large extent when it comes to reminding us of birthdays and anniversaries of people who are important in our lives. However, it is so much more personal to pick up the phone and give that meaningful someone a few minutes of your time instead of just joining the list of well-wishers on facebook or twitter etc. A phone call is so often extremely gratefully received and for many people can make a huge difference in an otherwise possibly lonely day. However, making these calls does take up more time than keying in a quick sms or whats app message.  All this waffling is just to justify the ridiculously long interval between my last update and this one – loads of birthdays and anniversaries of happy as well as sad occasions that needed communication have taken up quite a lot of my time recently, but I am here now!

The year has been busy so far and constantly trying to multi-task can be a challenge especially when the weather decides to get involved with non-stop rain for days on end (in a country which suffers from weeks and often months without even one drop) then things can be complicated. A leaking roof with its resultant flooding of a living room, running a business and keeping in touch with clients and associates, as well as still having all the usual mundane day to day domestic chores that need to be taken care of all sound like a good excuse for my tardiness in this instance. I will try hard not to allow this to become my usual modus operandi.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone and I can hear many of you saying “thank goodness!” as it does tend to be a money making racket in many instances. I heard something very interesting on a local radio programme on 14 February regarding the happiest relationships being those where the parties concerned hardly ever, if at all, post photos and personal information about themselves on social media platforms. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Well, this update is already starting to look too lengthy, so until next time – au revoir!

Mind Travel

The sun was beating down, the seagulls were circling overhead making their raucous sounds, children’s excited voices could be heard coming from the distant beach but she was blissfully unaware of anything that could detract from her glorious feeling of aloneness.  Floating over the gentle waves, totally relaxed, this was the most incredible therapy. The past few months, and even years, if she was honest, had been extremely difficult in many ways. Some old friends had moved to distant shores and several had died. There had been the stress of coping with huge financial losses as well as certain health issues. On top of this, there were always decisions to be made and she loathed making decisions especially as they always tended to involve money, or the lack thereof. So very difficult to switch off and relax, but today was different.

Right now all these complications were of no consequence. She was experiencing the most incredible form of relaxation and she managed to clear her mind of every thought as it threatened to creep into her state of semi consciousness. Peace, calm, floating, floating, gently over the waves without a care in the world. This was something she should have done months before instead of trying to relax through the usual methods such as watching a movie, chatting to friends or reading a good book. Those activities used too much energy. What was needed was a mindless drifting form of relaxation. Today was absolutely perfect-just what her inner voice had been nagging her to do. Far better than trying to lie back in warm, essential oil infused bath water surrounded by fragrant candles – the persistent background noises caused by the other members of the family destroyed any true feelings of peace and harmony. Floating in the ocean away from the trials and tribulations of the real world – this was the closest thing to heaven.

What’s that ringing sound interfering with her feelings of calm? It’s going on and on. She forces herself to become aware of her surroundings and with feelings of dismay realises that she is lying on an inflatable mattress in her pool in the back garden and not floating in the ocean at all! It’s that wretched mobile phone that’s causing the disturbance to her tranquillity. Darn it – she should have turned it off, but with the possibility of business calls and potential problems with family and friends, it was usually left on twenty four hours of the day and night.  Oh well, that’s today’s mind travel episode over she says, and feeling cheated, clambers out of the sun-warmed water and forces herself, reluctantly, to get back to reality and answer the call.

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub”- Elizabeth Kubler Ross

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Short Stories

Imagination is the divine body in every man – William Blake

So often it is a short story which catches the imagination and there will be times when some of my posts are really short and, I hope, enjoyable. However, at other times I may divide a writing into several separate posts. Time seems to be the enemy of many of us, so I trust that the short writings will be received favourably by you, the valued reader, if you find there just don’t seem to be enough hours in your busy day.

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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