Racism

Racism

The attitude one shows when dealing with another person should never be based upon the colour of their skin, or the fact that they belong to another cultural group different to one’s own.  It should be about having respect for yourself and, in turn, respecting the other person, regardless of colour or creed. Anyone who is so full of hatred towards those who are different in any way to themselves and who are prepared to call another person a disgustingly insulting name could possibly be viewed as having some kind of a major personality problem. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that, when one insults or humiliates another, it produces very negative feelings not only for the targeted individual, but for the perpetrator as well.

The giving of positive feedback, or the praising of another person is actually of benefit to the one who has done the praising (albeit genuine and not a case of brown-nosing, or being patronising!)  It is the same as giving an unexpected gift to another person – who is it who really benefits from the action of giving? In many cases it is the giver, due to the unexpected and delighted response of the recipient!

Children are not born with preconceived ideas about anything, including the colour of a person’s skin. That is why, when they go to multi-cultural nursery schools and their parents ask them if there are Black, Asian or Mixed-race children in their class, the child often has no idea of what to answer. They themselves are not aware of the colour of their own skin.  They will often say that they have peach coloured skins and their friends have beige skin – if they are pushed to give an answer!

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Every now and again racism raises its ugly head worldwide, however, it is practically a pandemic in South Africa. This situation is obviously a smoke screen fanned by political parties to disguise the real issues which need to be addressed. These include unqualified, inept as well as corrupt government ministers and employees in various government run departments throughout the country, poverty, unemployment, ongoing corruption, a failing educational system, a totally inadequate government health service, an almost non-existent power utility as well as crime, horrendous numbers of road deaths due to the many unlicensed drivers, illegal immigrants – the list goes on and on, ad infinitum! Where politicians and the ruling party in general realise that they are failing in their duties, it is a way of trying to avoid any responsibility when they constantly relive the past and try to blame minority groups for all the country’s woes.

There will always be unpleasant people in the world, and it is almost impossible to avoid coming in contact with some of them. So, the fact that a person of another colour scowls and acts rudely might be part of their general make-up. We should perhaps look at the times when people of our own cultural group are rude to us and realise that we couldn’t label such behaviour as racism! We need to try to stop using the word “racism”, and face the fact that people by nature gravitate to spending time with others with similar backgrounds or points of view, or even those who speak the same language. Whether these groups of people happen to have the same colour of skin doesn’t mean that they are deliberately alienating other racial groups.

We should take a step backwards and observe small children in a playground setting who, as mentioned previously, give no thought to the colour of the skin of their playmates. They seem to gravitate to other children for various reasons, and it definitely is not due to their racial group. It could be that they feel comfortable around another child, because they enjoy playing with the same toys, have similar temperaments and do not feel threatened.

Perhaps we should follow the lead of our children and forget about colour and creed and enjoy interactions with other people based on commonalities such as interests and belief systems and finding the other person attractive in one way or another. Such attraction can be anything from admiring something they are wearing, their hairstyle, the friendliness of their smile, the tone of their voice or their body language, with no thought as to whether or not they have the same skin colour as we do. Much good could come of it and South Africans need to make a concerted effort to truly become that rainbow nation envisaged by the late, Nelson Mandela. However, it is a sad fact that the correct behaviour and attitudes in any kind of business or establishment come from the top downwards. This is a serious problem in this country right now due to the many uneducated, ignorant and often arrogant politicians supposedly leading the country who, by making unintelligent comments, are constantly setting unsavoury and totally unacceptable examples when it comes to cross cultural interactions.

One can only hope that all South Africans will eventually have a much less divided country once the current bunch of politicians become history and things change for the better. The country’s citizens can but try to stay positive despite all the negativity with which they are bombarded, via the media, on a day to day basis.

“If tolerance, respect and equity permeate family life, they will
translate into values that shape societies, nations and the
world.” – Kofi Annan

Update and Comments: 20 March 2020

Confusion reigns

We all believe that we are invincible and that anything which is happening in another part of the world is not going to affect us in any way. How wrong can we be, as this Corona Virus (Covid-19) virus is proving to us all. The fact that we are able, through all the technological advances at our finger tips, to follow the lives of fellow humans all over the globe, can cause mass panic and fear amongst us and this is becoming more and more evident as the number of diagnosed cases increases.

Somehow, we have all been led to believe that the government and its policies will look after us when disaster strikes. We forget that every one of these so called “leaders” are just mere mortals like the rest of us. They have a tremendous task, when unforeseen events occur, to try to convince the population at large that they, the so-called people in charge, are aware of the problems and are in a position to offer solutions.  I suppose this is their way of attempting to prevent us all from going stark staring mad due to fear and panic. The trouble is that they are often spouting promises with little actual facts at their fingertips as to how to solve the problem at hand.

All one is hearing right now is how shelves in retail stores are stripped of items such as toilet rolls and hand sanitizer! For goodness sake, what happened to good old soap and water? It is a sad fact of life however that for many people in South Africa, as well as many other parts of the world, the availability of running water is a pipe dream (rather an unthinking pun, for which I sincerely apologise!) and those same people are not in a financial position to purchase expensive hand sanitizers. When you live in a crowded environment and have to queue up to use communal toilets, I hardly think you can afford to buy economy packs of 2 ply loo paper either. So, the more clued up you are about health and safety, sometimes the more idiotically you behave. One would have thought that, if you can afford to bulk buy in order to protect yourself, you would be in a reasonably good financial position which should surely be linked to a certain level of education and/or intelligence? Apparently not, if all the hooliganism surrounding the purchasing of toilet paper is to be taken seriously.

Whilst I may appear to be flippant about this pandemic, it is certainly not the case. One is constantly second guessing just how to carry on when making a living is all important. Being surrounded by others who are losing their jobs, having functions cancelled upon which their livelihood depends is very distressing, and it’s not easy to remain positive right now. We have abundant challenges world-wide every single day, even without the threat of coming down with the virus, but we just have to try to band together (from a distance, and after sanitizing our hands!) and offer emotional support if possible. Doesn’t the old adage say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger? Well, we can only hope that this proves to be the case right now.

As I am writing this, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and all is well in my little neck of the woods. The gate, which was hit by lightening a month ago has finally been repaired, my flat tyre on my indispensable little Hyundai i10 has been fixed, and I managed to get my doctor to issue a repeat of my prescription without having to spend time sitting in a waiting room which was jam packed with coughing and sick looking individuals.

So, all is well in this neck of the woods for the time being at least. Hope all who read this missive are taking the right precautions, and if you are quarantined, read all those books which you have been stockpiling for that elusive day when you have some time on your hands.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 8 March 2020

Wouldn’t it be great if …?

The whole world seems to be completely obsessed and paranoid regarding this rather frightening Coronavirus (Covid-19), and it might be a good idea just to change topics for a brief moment. Hence my latest, possibly rather frivolous, update which I hope lets you forget the doom and gloom of a possible impending annihilation of the entire human race as well as the endless discussions of the need for facemasks  and hand sanitiser which have dominated the media over the past few days.

With all the incredible inventions, as well as technological advances which surround us and seem to be racing ahead on a day to day basis, why hasn’t someone managed to invent a way of eliminating dust once and for all? It would be amazing, and a wonderful time saver, if once the mindless job of dusting was completed, it did not need to be repeated ad infinitum throughout one’s lifetime. Removing dust from every nook and cranny is just one of those irritating and necessary chores which never goes away. It’s fine if you are someone who can ignore that murky looking film, covering every possible surface, which arrives out of nowhere just when you have the least time and so many important matters which need your attention.  Now for your own sanity as well as your sinuses, you have to drop what you are doing and dust! What a pain!

Another thought is that it would be ideal if one were able to slow down hair growth when time and money are important factors in one’s life.  When you finally find a hairdresser who does exactly what you want after you have spent valuable hours sitting in the salon and the expensive result makes you look quite amazing, why can’t you slow down your hair growth for several months so that you can have time to really enjoy your new look? What happens? Two weeks down the line and that fringe needs a trim, the colour you paid a fortune to achieve is fading and your roots are beginning to show.  You have hardly managed to get used to the “new you” and you are rapidly heading back to the “old you”!

I am not wanting to create even more unemployment than is currently the case and dusting does create jobs, but it would be nice sometimes to be able to slow certain things down such as cleaning as well as hair growth (apologies here for those who are trying so hard to speed up the work of the follicles – nothing personal meant at all). If anyone is desperately planning on becoming an inventor, well maybe these are two avenues you could consider exploring. I won’t even ask for a commission for giving you the idea!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The Changing Face of Television

If you are a South African then do you remember how excited we all were in 1975 when we had an hour or so each day of television? It was thrilling to actually see the multi coloured tuning pattern on the screen, even if there was nothing else to view! We were catching up at long last with the rest of the world. Crazy that the Nationalist government had managed to prevent South Africans from being able to see what was going on in the rest of the world for so long. As a child in the U.K. I remember watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Muffin the Mule, Children’s Hour and so many more kiddies’ programmes (albeit in black and white) in the 1950’s. We were all told by our parents that we couldn’t watch too much tv or we would all end up with square eyeballs! In the 1960’s we suddenly saw the advent of ITV with its regular advert breaks.  Now mum had time to dash to the kitchen to make a brew of that British necessity – tea! By the early 1970’s colour televisions were the norm and no-one seemed to be walking around with square eye balls!

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Arriving in South Africa in the early 1960’s was a real culture shock which included the lack of television. People moving down to South Africa from Northern Rhodesia, as it was then called, brought their television sets down with them, to no avail! At least nowadays we are able to keep in touch with world affairs and because of that, the world would seem to be a far smaller place. Could be due in part to the size of the people who inhabit it these days, as well as a worldwide overpopulation problem!

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From the tiny black and white sets, to the cabinet model, and now to the huge flat and curved screen, smart state of the art tv’s, which are operated by remote control – television has most certainly changed its look from its humble beginnings. Now it is very often a statement purchase. The bigger the screen, the wealthier or more of a trend follower one is perceived to be. Furniture has to be purchased taking into account the position and size of the tv! Houses need to have enough windowless walls to enable families to have television sets in rooms other than the lounge. No-one wants to be left out of being able to view favourite programmes just because it’s time to cook dinner. So most homes have a smallish set suspended on a bracket in the kitchen. Useful too if you don’t know how to cook, as there are loads of so-called experts showing off their culinary expertise. Not all of these lessons take place in a traditional kitchen setting. Now you can even learn to prepare a gourmet meal on the banks of a river with elephants and giraffe wandering around in the background! After watching that, you dare not dish up fish fingers and chips without feeling guilty.

There are those people who have decided, for whatever reason, not to own a television set. I once met a very educated health worker who refused to have either a television or even a radio, and never read the newspapers at all as she was afraid of being the recipient of potentially negative information. I somehow think that this ostrich-like head in the sand attitude to life is quite inadvisable when one has an occupation which involves people interaction on a permanent basis. It really is important to be up to date with world affairs to a certain degree or run the risk of coming across as an absolute dinosaur with no current general knowledge whatsoever. Yes, try to avoid stress in your life if that’s the most important factor but, there really are limits!

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Owning a tv can be an expensive item especially when one is almost forced to pay a monthly fee to have cable tv because of poor local content. However, if one is circumspect about what one watches, television can be a form of relaxation, as well as often proving to be extremely informative. One may not be able to afford to take costly overseas trips, but by tuning into a geographic channel it is almost as good as the real thing. Armchair travel can take you wherever your heart desires, at the click of a button! No waiting at airports, no fear of airline crashes, or Isis attacks, just a totally stress-free experience!

It is also a wonderful way for children to learn about the world by having televised lessons. Instead of sitting through boring geography lessons, with a possibly disinterested teacher droning on and on, how much more fun is it to go on a visual exploration and to almost lose oneself in the journey. As far as the old-style classroom learning is concerned, does one really ever need to know where sugar beet is grown, or the names of all the lakes in Canada just to regurgitate such facts at exam time. (Deviating slightly, I just wonder, as an example, how many of us have used Pythagoras’ theorem since leaving school? Engineers or architects maybe?  It certainly doesn’t seem to apply when buying a home or raising children).

Since the introduction of music videos there have been studies which would seem to indicate that, if one uses more than one sense whilst receiving any form of information, there is a much better chance of such information being retained. Therefore, visual school lessons seem to make a lot of sense.  By all accounts there are many classrooms around the world which rely on televised programmes in combination, in most cases, with the traditional teacher in the classroom scenario. This is obviously linked to the availability of connectivity as well as the occurrence being mainly in the more affluent areas (when one is talking about developing countries). I would like to investigate the schooling scenario which is in place nowadays in remote places such as in the outback of Australia. Could make for an interesting future article perhaps? I am pleased to have read several articles recently, written by experts in the educational arena, stating that the teaching methods will have to change drastically in the next 10 to 20 years to prepare children for a constantly changing world.

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Hospital stays may be made less traumatic if, when a patient is recovering from illness, they are able to watch a televised programme whilst lying in bed. By using the mandatory headphones this could be a way to avoid constant chitchat with the patient in the next bed, if that is the choice. Watching tv might also prove to be less exhausting than trying to read the books or magazines brought in by well-meaning relatives.

Even standing in a long queue at the bank, or reclining in the dentist’s chair, are occasions where it is no longer unusual to see a television set suspended on the wall, or above your head (in the case of the dentist) showing wild life videos, or a live  cricket match. In the case of the dentist, it is always rather nerve wracking when the practitioner appears to be more involved with the action on the screen than with what is going on inside your mouth! What is meant, with all the best intentions, to relax the patient may have the opposite effect entirely!

However, when all is said and done, that good old goggle box may have its critics, but it has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. The benefits, when viewing time is limited and programmes chosen with care, (especially in the case of young children and the kind of content to which they are exposed), can certainly outweigh the negatives. For those who live alone or those confined to their homes due to illness or lack of mobility, the difference a television set can make may be immeasurable and life without out it would indeed be pretty dull and lonely.

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained
in your living room by people you wouldn’t
have in your home”
– Late David Frost (British Television Host)

Update and Comments: 3 February 2020

Never Just Another Day !

Every day is a clean slate in many ways, and you just never know what you are likely to experience. Sometimes you tend to feel battered and bruised, especially when you are let down by friends and family who somehow just don’t do what you would have expected them to do. The only way to cope with these disappointments is to always try to remember that, no matter how much we think we know another person, everyone has their own unique agenda, and way of going about life.  It is somewhat egocentric to think that somebody else is actually capable of even knowing how you feel and what you expect from them. The upside is that life is rarely dull and boring when you are in contact with other members of the human race. That having been said, even one’s four- legged family members are often a complete enigma and can be full of surprises – not always what you would have anticipated or even considered when they came into your life.  That is another story entirely.

If you are, like me, a person who has always been labelled as talkative (at least one junior school report stated, “Judith would do better to listen more, and talk less!”) then it can really be a big advantage once you leave the restrictive school environment. When it comes to getting to know other people then it really is far easier if one tends to be more of an extrovert than an introvert. The years should have taught us to use our ears twice as much as our mouths, and then the interaction with new acquaintances is likely to yield some amazing facts. Nothing is more rewarding than finding that you connect really comfortably with someone you just happened to meet along life’s way, purely by starting a conversation.

There is always likely to be something which any two people have in common, be it age, culture, career, one’s children, pets or even just being in the same place at the same time. So often you stand in a queue waiting to be served and the person in front of you may seem quite unfriendly, judging by their demeanour. However, just a word about the weather or a comment regarding the products you have purchased, may result in a total change of mood and you find you have a very pleasant interaction until it is your turn to be served. Poking fun at yourself is also an ice breaker and it is good if we are able to take ourselves less seriously than we may have done when we were younger.

The reason for this piece of writing is due to my having had a really great experience last week. Walking through a local shopping centre, I happened to find myself passing a woman who was working on her laptop whilst having a cup of coffee. I couldn’t resist just making a comment regarding never being able to get away from one’s work. She responded immediately and it was very refreshing to discover that we had quite a similar outlook on life despite a difference in age as well as culture.  When I left I just felt that I needed to give her my business card, purely so she would have my mobile number as well as my e-mail address. A few days later I was absolutely thrilled to receive a short message from her saying how much she had enjoyed our conversation. I will definitely be keeping in touch with her as, seeing what it is that she does for a living, opens up many areas of common interest which would make for great future conversations.

So, my words of wisdom, for what they are worth, are that the best way to handle each day with all its potential challenges and stresses is to go out there and face the world and expect the unexpected! With a bit of luck, whatever the day may bring, as long as you have the right state of mind, you will experience more positives than negatives which should leave you feeling satisfied when evening comes and you finally drift off into the Land of Nod.

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect
– Oscar Wilde

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 13 January 2020

Stuck between a rock and a hard place and the New Year has hardly started!

I believe that one’s home can be a very dangerous place to be. Yesterday could have resulted in my demise, if truth be known. With the semi-long-haired German Shepherd spending several hours having a much overdue grooming session at our local dog parlour, it seemed a good time to get rid of all the dust behind all the kitchen appliances. This is a job which is impossible to do when dear Kelly is around as she sees any form of housework as an invitation to become a total monster. She barks aggressively at brooms, vacuum cleaners, spray bottles, dusters, in fact anything that remotely resembles a cleaning tool and does her level best to destroy the item in question.  I am beginning to think that she is the reincarnation of a previously badly treated maid.

Anyway, back to the potential disaster whilst cleaning. I pulled out the washing machine as well as the dishwasher. Both of these appliances must have originally been installed by someone who had zero idea of the necessity of cleaning behind them once they had been installed. The hoses on both machines have to be secured in the exit points in the wall tiles with Prestik! If they are just pushed into the holes in the tiles, then the water pressure, when the machines are in operation, is capable of making the hoses shoot out of the wall, and the resultant gush of water will flood the kitchen. Therefore, the need for blocking the holes and securing the hoses with Prestik.

I managed to squeeze between the two pulled out machines and, sitting under the countertop, with great difficulty managed to stuff a large amount of the Prestik into both outlet holes after pushing the hoses in as far as they would go. Now came the dangerous part – how on earth to squeeze back out from under the kitchen counter with both machines partially blocking my exit. Getting in under the counter hadn’t been difficult, but now to get up from a squashed, sitting position, and to extricate myself (fortunately I am not a particularly big person) was ample cause for hyperventilation and the start of a panic attack!! Crazy how getting into a situation is one thing, but getting out of it is quite another. Being alone at the time, it was rather nerve wracking to say the least. Anyway, I had to take a very deep breath and relax, then squirm my way to a semi standing position, grab the edge of the kitchen counter and ease my way out.  I cannot over emphasise the relief of being upright once again and made sure I didn’t put my back out whilst pushing the afore-mentioned appliances back into their respective spots.

If it had been later in the day, I think a nice glass of wine might have been in order, but not at 10am! I am beginning to believe that one should have an insurance policy to cover any unforeseen eventualities whilst cleaning one’s home.  Anyhow, I am still here in body (the mind is always a debatable entity)  to continue blogging into 2020!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Birth Announcement – Futuristic

It is with great pleasure that my wife and I are letting you all know that our beautiful new baby has arrived. The birth was eco-friendly, albeit two weeks later than we had expected, as no drugs were involved, and the child came into the world in an inflatable paddling pool made of bamboo which we put outside on the front lawn.  The water we used to fill the pool came from the many litres which we had harvested in recycled plastic buckets during the very heavy rainfalls of the past few weeks. There were a few leaves and some other bits and pieces floating in the water, but then babies need to build up their resistance as soon as possible, I believe. Melody, my tough as nails wife, recovered instantly and, after we had cut the baby’s chord, and wrapped it in a yellow blanket, got out of the paddling pool, showered, and made dinner. She is amazing to say the very least.

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The name we have chosen for the new arrival is Green Cherub. We will let the child decide as to whether they would prefer to grow up either male or female or transgender, so we will be dressing it (not using a gender at all until the child has decided) in gender neutral clothes and colours until the time that we know whether we have a daughter or a son. We are sure you will understand, after all we are living in modern, non-stereotypical times and we feel very strongly about saving our planet. As new parents we hope to be able to do our best in assisting in reducing the carbon footprint.

Melody plans on breastfeeding the new arrival until it is time for nursery school – probably about 4 years from now. We both believe in having as much input as possible in the early years with very little outside interaction with people who have no regard for things that we hold dear such as veganism or serious recycling. Once the child is old enough to mix with other children, we will choose a nursery school with great care. If needs be, Melody is considering starting her own school so that she can hand pick the kind of children with whom our child will mix. There is still plenty of time for us to make final decisions on the child’s education but, one thing is certain, this child will be taught Mandarin along with English as soon as it is starting to talk. One has to be objective and look at the future and how China seems to be encroaching in every area of life.

If you would like to send a gift for the new baby, it would be really appreciated if you would consider making a donation to Green Peace in lieu of baby gifts. We will not be using any manufactured perfumed baby products as well as nappies of any kind. The disposables are creating havoc in landfills and then the old-style terry towelling ones need chemicals to keep them spotlessly clean. Therefore, we have decided to go au naturelle and just mop up as nature takes its course.

I can hear Melody calling me to come and help bath the new arrival, so I hope that you will be happy for us and understand if we seem to be hibernating for the next few years. We do not use social media as a means of keeping in touch, so it will be very occasionally that you have any updates on what is happening in this neck of the woods, but if you are nearby, please do not hesitate to call in to see us. We will always be on hand to offer you a healthy drink or a homemade rusk.

Kind regards

Harry, Melody, and Green Cherub

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Assuming – can make an ass of you and me!

In the fast- paced world in which we live, it is so easy to miss important cues when dealing with other people. We also often tend to overlook a situation where another person is having a hard time because it might just be too uncomfortable for us to acknowledge their need. Assuming that the front which someone projects to the world at large is a true reflection of their life is a common mistake which we all make at one time or another.  Sometimes all that it takes to really learn about someone is to listen attentively to them, not to constantly interrupt, and to show that you are interested. It isn’t always possible to do anything physical to help improve matters, but one can offer comfort in many ways. A statement which I read recently really struck home. “You will be remembered, not for what you did, but how you made people feel”. If we could all follow this advice, the world could be a much less challenging place in which to live.

“Assumptions are made, and most assumptions are wrong!
– Albert Einstein

Nothing is more satisfying than having someone tell you that, just because you gave up some of your valuable time to listen to them, and perhaps offered some worthwhile advice, they feel so much better after having spoken to you.  You never know just how much showing that you care about another person, can affect their future. We all need recognition and it isn’t always forthcoming. Regardless of the kind of family to which we belong, we are often unconsciously competing with other family members for feelings of self-worth, and emotional reward. Where young people are concerned, this situation commonly flows over into the school environment and, later in life, the workplace as well. In fact, in modern society at least, competing has become a way of life and the frightening fact is that it seems to start almost from the cradle with over zealous parents comparing their offspring with those of their friends and relatives. Social media has the rather negative ability to exacerbate the entire situation.

To take oneself out of the equation in our interaction with others, is something which does not come naturally to most of us. After all, who doesn’t love to hear the sound of their own voice? This in itself can be a problem when we are dealing with other people. Everyone wants to be heard, but I don’t believe that many of us really like the kind of person who has verbal diarrhoea and always tries to dominate the conversation. We need to remember the old adage that we were born with two ears and only one mouth, therefore we should be listening twice as much as talking. Not always easy to remember, but certainly worth a try! You can only truly listen to what is being said if you learn to force yourself to stop preparing your own contribution to the conversation whilst the other person is still speaking.

Several years of Lifeline counselling, using the Carl Rogers method, cemented for me the importance of allowing the person needing help to formulate their own way of moving forward. This is a non- invasive form of counselling whereby the counsellor does not direct the form of action which the person being counselled should take. It is a safe method which allows people to take control of how they will try to change their own set of circumstances. Just by their feelings and concerns being fed back to them by the counsellor, a person is often able to see their way forward.

In our day to day interactions with other people, it may be very enlightening to take the time to ask them a little about themselves. Very often those people who seem to be fully in control of every area of their lives, are the ones who are actually battling with inner demons and feelings of inadequacy. We have the proverbial hats which we wear in various situations and, after all, we are all members of the human race (there are always those who somehow don’t seem to fit into that category, but let’s leave them alone for now!)and we share doubts and fears which plague us all from time to time.

Just knowing that someone cares and is interested in you can be a life saver when things are going pear shaped, and there seems to be no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  Yes, we all know that things  change over time but, in the here and now, to have someone who bothers enough to lend an ear to your concerns may make all the difference and enable you to carry on despite the struggles with which you are faced.  A late friend of mine who offered counselling for many years used to say, over and over again, “There are no throw away people”. We should bear this in mind when we are dealing with one another and be there when needed if we possibly can. By not assuming that what we see on the outside is the same as on the inside where our fellow beings are concerned, we may be able to make a positive contribution to their lives in ways of which we may never be aware.

“Your assumptions are your window on the world.
Scrub them off
every once in a while or the light won’t come in.”
– Isaac Asimov 

Update and Comments: 6 December 2019

I seem to do nothing except make excuses and apologies for my lack of writing every time that I manage to sit down and start bashing away on my keyboard. However, this time around I am laying the blame totally at the feet of that always unseen, and criminally inclined creature with whom I have had dealings before, the very dislikeable time thief. He lurks out there somewhere and, when there is just so much to be done, and so many ends to be tied up, he wields his evil magic, and steals precious hours, and even sometimes days! In this case, and I know that I am not alone in my belief that 2019 did not have the usual numbers of days, weeks or months, he really surpassed himself! I say “he”, but the culprit could just as easily be a “she” or even an “it”. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope that 2020 and the start of a brand new decade sees the creature retiring or expiring completely. I need 365 days – oh bonus! 2020 is a leap year and we get that extra day in February! Now all that is required is for each day to have 24 hours with not a minute being stolen, hidden or removed in any other fashion. Too much life to be lived and words to be written.

I hope that you, my readers, are coping successfully with the end of year wind-down (often extremely hot in the southern hemisphere), and chilly festive preparations (in the northern regions) and may we all look forward to the end of a particularly challenging 2019  (for most of us here in South Africa at any rate, and possibly elsewhere too) and a bright new 2020!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The Joy of Teddy Bears

The Teddy Bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the USA, who was a keen hunter. He was out on a hunting trip one day when he came across a bear who would have been an easy target for shooting. The president took pity on the animal and refused to harm him. This resulted in a cartoon being drawn showing this event and, consequently, a toymaker took the initiative to produce a soft toy to mark the occasion, and called it Teddy’s Bear (Teddy being the nickname for President Roosevelt). The toy soon became so popular that everyone wanted to have a teddy bear of their own.

What would childhood memories be without a favourite teddy bear. Years ago we lived in Italy when our eldest son was 2 years old. He had left behind all that was familiar to him including grandparents, most of his toys and not least of all, his spaniel, Suzie. It must have been a very confusing time for the poor little boy who was only just starting to speak English. Suddenly he was in an environment where children were revered and a lot of attention was lavished on him, but practically every word spoken was in Italian. We didn’t realise initially just how much living in a foreign country was affecting him.

One Saturday afternoon we were in the toy department of one of Milan’s largest departmental store where there was an entire wall dedicated to teddy bears of every conceivable size and form ranging from the tiniest to almost adult human dimensions. We told our little boy to pick a teddy for himself. He toddled over to the bears and picked up one which was almost the same size as himself and started chatting non-stop to this newfound toy. At last there was someone who listened and seemed to understand his baby talk. The bear was purchased and named Arturo, as he was, after all, an Italian bear.

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Arturo and friends

Now, many years after the arrival of dear old Arturo, he has become part and parcel of our family history. He is still around, although not quite as sprightly as in his heyday, but still wears a very snazzy knitted Italian outfit.

It is customary in South Africa, and possibly in other parts of the world as well, that where there is childhood trauma, teddy bears are given to the affected children to help ease the pain that they are currently enduring. The fact that teddies are usually fairly soft and chubby makes them easy to cuddle and research has shown that when children are given a choice of dolls, they will usually choose ones which are rounded and cuddly looking. Having a favourite teddy to take to bed at night has been a comforting factor in the lives of many children in various parts of the world for a long time.

Teddy Bears come in many styles and varied price tags. If they were made a long time ago and are jointed (arms and legs and head which can be moved into different positions), and especially if they were made by a respected toymaker, they could fetch a very high price on auction. A hand made and jointed bear made from mohair, would be far more valuable than a bear which is not jointed and was mass produced in a factory using a manmade material such as nylon. By the same token, if a bear was owned by a famous person, then it could also have a high selling price attached to it regardless of the kind of bear it might be.

Let us not forget some of the bears who, over the years, have become household names. Among these are Winnie the Pooh, made famous by A.A. Milne,  Rupert the Bear (still going strong and appearing in cartoon form in certain newspapers, after decades of wearing the same yellow check trousers and red jacket) and the delightful Peruvian bear who was found lost and bewildered at Paddington station in London.  He has even become a renowned movie star in his own right!

For most of us, the value of the teddy bears which we remember from our childhood days has far more to do with the memories connected to them than their potential re-sale value. One of the first bears that grandparents gave to one of our children was named Growly Bear. Not only was he jointed, but when turned onto his tummy he growled quite fiercely.  Somehow, he disappeared over time, and sadly he might have proved to be valuable by now, if only we knew where he has been hiding all these years! Perhaps he attended a Teddy Bear’s picnic and forgot how to find his way home!

Fortunately, despite today’s children being techno savvy from an early age, some things just don’t change and a love of teddy bears seems to be one of them. May the humble teddy remain as popular  with future generations of children as has been the case since President Theodore Roosevelt saved the life of that fortunate brown bear so many years ago.