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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The Changing Face of Addiction

Having studied the subject of addiction during my psychology courses quite a number of years ago, I am beginning to wonder nowadays whether or not the incidence of addiction is on the increase with the ongoing technological advances with which we all seem to be faced?

In the past, when one mentioned the word “addiction”, thoughts went automatically to alcohol abuse, over-eating, the use of recreational drugs, gambling and even exercise. These days the goal posts have moved, and we see people who cannot function if their mobile phones are not in their hands or positioned on their desks right in front of them. First thing in the morning the phone is grabbed whilst eyes are still bleary from sleep – “what messages have arrived during the night, who has posted some exciting information on Facebook whilst I have been asleep, what earth shattering news have I woken up to read? I need to scroll down and update myself before brushing my teeth, having a cup of coffee, and generally facing the day.”

One of the biggest catastrophies in modern day society, is often the theft or breakage of one’s mobile phone. Heaven help us all if we lose reams and reams of totally inconsequential information, not to mention photos from every person with whom we have had any dealings at all, be they good friends, family members, or just passing acquaintances. How are we ever going to survive without this personal encyclopaedia of trivia? Archiving the information in “The Cloud” can be one’s life saver when this happens, I believe (never having had to travel that road, thank heavens). So, if one is techno-savvy, there is always light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

The trend amongst many of the so-called millennials is to exercise to extreme, and to spend as much time as possible at gyms, pounding the pavements, or swimming the oceans or taking part in triathlons of one kind or another. The health stores are benefitting all the way to the bank, due to all the supplements, vitamins, and health foods which go hand in hand with all this obsession with beautiful bodies. This kind of life also can be lumped together with other forms of addiction, one would think. There is the obsession with attempting to prevent the ageing process with cosmetic surgery not to mention purchasing the most expensive cosmetics which promise eternal youth.

I have realised over the past few weeks, since the beginning of December in actual fact, that as business slowed down, so there was more time to engage in mindless, time-wasting activities, and the mobile phone was the partner in crime. So easy to download casino games, mental exercise apps, you name it, you can download it. Once you have learnt the basics as to how to play the game, then voila, you are soon hauled in, hook, line and sinker! It takes a very strong will to actually limit yourself to a certain time of the day for playing, or even a certain amount of games before you close the app., and get on with the serious matters of the day. One does not need to be a neurosurgeon to realise that something is happening in one’s brain when these apps are downloaded. It doesn’t take long to become addicted – or is that just me? The solution seems to be to uninstall these apps and get on with a normal day?

face id smartphone parasite, woman and Internet addiction

I would really like to know just what does happen within the brain’s wiring system which allows us to so easily become an addict of one kind or another. Are we born as potential addictive personality types, depending upon our specific DNA? Or is it all a matter of a certain chemical reaction taking place due to a particular occurrence that results in our suddenly being able to waste valuable time, or mess with our healthy bodies because of having acquired a specific craving which conflicts with our previous behaviour? All I can say is that it must be very trying for those individuals whose job it is to assist in breaking these destructive behavioural patterns with which addicts of any kind are afflicted,  as well as for anyone seriously trying to move on, addiction-free.

If it is an addiction linked to one’s physical health, such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc., then it is probably more difficult to handle than one which just messes with one’s brain, e.g. the mobile phone, or the computer, and is more detrimental to one’s quality of life. However, seeing people unable to interact with one another without the perpetual glancing at phone screens to check for messages, then how detrimental are any addictions when it comes to personal relationships and the future of the human race per se?

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the
narcotic
be Alcohol or Morphine or Idealism”
– Carl Jung (Psychologist)

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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.

Друк

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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Spaghetti with Duck Prosciutto, Broad Beans and Aged Parmesan

This is an extremely easy pasta dish with heaps of flavour. If you cannot get or make duck prosciutto, substituting with pork prosciutto will work just as well. Break the egg yolk just before eating and stir though your bowl of spaghetti.

Ingredients

  • 250 – 300g thinly sliced duck prosciutto. Normal pork prosciutto will be fine if duck cannot be obtained
  • 2 cups frozen broad beans
  • Parmigiana Reggiano, preferably 30 months aged, grated
  • 1 packet spaghetti
  • Egg yolk
  • Salt and cracked black pepper

Method

  • Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until el dente
  • Whilst spaghetti is cooking, cook the frozen broad beans in a separate pot of salted boiling water until cooked – approximately 5 minutes
  • Drain the spaghetti and add the broad beans. Stir through
  • Add a portion of spaghetti to a bowl.
  • Top with a good serving of duck prosciutto, lots of grated Parmigiana Reggiano, cracked black pepper, and top with the egg yolk.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

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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Temptation

As she walked into the living room, Jennifer saw that Stan had fallen asleep on the couch with the television still blaring out and was snoring gently. It amazed her that, in repose, he looked like such an amiable man, yet the truth was so often very different. Lately, he had become cranky and domineering and she sometimes wondered whether that blow to his head years ago had manifested itself into some sinister growth in his brain. Oh, well, the doctor didn’t seem to think so, and he was the so-called expert, wasn’t he? She had promised herself that if her husband died before she did, she would pay whatever it cost to have his brain autopsied, just to prove her theory.

They had met and married in their early twenties and had gone on to produce 2 daughters, both of whom had qualified as teachers and were now living in Australia. Neither of the girls seemed keen to find a partner and settle down, and were, by all accounts, having active social lives with lots of single friends. Good for them she thought, as she started to carry all the heavy shopping bags into the kitchen, feeling somewhat disgruntled at the way in which her life had turned out.

It was really strange that, looking back over the years, it should have been obvious that it was up to her to assert herself and not allow her husband to constantly dampen her spirits. When they were first married, they had had lots of fun, and were part of a group of friends who had all gone to school together. Perhaps that was the real problem – everyone had continued to live in the area in which they had grown up, and no-one had married anyone from another town, let alone another country! Most of the other couples had eventually moved away, and they had all lost touch with one another. Only Jenny and Stan still lived in the same village after all these years. Maybe that was the reason that their lives seemed to be so dull and mundane these days. Something needed to be done to bring back some excitement, if not for them both, then at least for Jenny.

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Stan carried on sleeping while she packed away all her purchases and then, arms folded, she stood looking at the open fridge and wondered what she should make for dinner tonight. She had always joked that if she ever came into a fortune, it would be takeaways, or eating out at local restaurants for the rest of her life. Cooking had become a real chore instead of a pleasure, and today was no exception. She had to admit though that her cooking was usually far tastier and more nutritious than the other options, and certainly much cheaper as well.

Maybe she would use the lamb that she had just bought and make a casserole. It was only just after midday, so there was plenty of time to braise the meat, prepare the vegetables and get the dish in the oven to cook slowly and then she would make that phone call that she had been putting off for days now.

She hadn’t told Stan that her friend, Margie, had recently had a financial windfall when an ex-lover, who never fulfilled his promise to divorce his wife and marry her, had died suddenly leaving her a substantial amount of conscience money. To help her get over her grief, Margie had decided that a shopping and sight- seeing trip to Thailand might just be what was needed. She didn’t want to go on her own and had immediately asked Jenny to go with her, all expenses paid.

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Luckily, Jennifer’s passport was valid, and she had managed to save quite a few pounds over the years by being very thrifty when it came to buying groceries. Fortunately, dear Stan didn’t have a clue when it came to the cost of food and household products, so squirrelling money away for a rainy day (that really was a thoughtless pun, considering the weather in England!) had been really easy. She had opened her own savings account years ago, and he knew nothing about it. While he was away on business, which still happened regularly, she was able to be really tight when it came to making meals for herself, and that way her private money stash was looking fairly healthy right now.

Stan’s contracting job was irregular and right now he was on a month’s break – hence the sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day. To be honest, he did seem to be getting tired of all the to-ing and fro-ing to Africa and the Far East which his engineering expertise necessitated, but the money he earned was not to be sneezed at. The trouble was that he was a bit tight fisted to say the least when it came to actually spending what he earned. Yes, they would have to start looking at the future and potential retirement one of these days, but life really was for the living, as she so often tried to tell him. Their retirement policies were going to ensure a comfortable old age by all accounts, but the thought of having him under her feet day in and day out, once he gave up work completely, was enough to give her a panic attack. The way she felt right now, she would either have to start taking happy pills like so many of her friends, or doing what their neighbours did on a regular basis, and smoke pot! It all boiled down to coping!

Anyway, that phone call had to be made. She dialled Margie’s number and her friend answered almost immediately. “HI Jenny, I was hoping that you would give me the go-ahead today, so that I can book our tickets”.

Making sure that the bedroom door was securely closed before she answered Margie, Jenny rather nervously replied, “You know what Margie, I am going to accept your very generous offer as long as you allow me to pay my way regarding our eating expenses once we arrive. I haven’t said anything to Stan, and I am planning on doing a Shirley Valentine on him, and just leaving him a note on the fridge. After all, he is home now for the next 3 weeks, and there is enough food in the house to keep him going quite comfortably. Other than that, he can always go to his club and get himself a good meal, plus meet up with a few of his old cronies for a beer or two. He’ll survive, and maybe he will start to miss me if I’m not here at his beck and call for a while. It’s only 10 days anyway, and it’s not costing him a penny, so he has no right to complain!”

“Aren’t you glad that the girls have left home, there are no animals to worry about anymore, and you can just get on that plane with me and relax for a while?” asked Margie.

Glancing at her somewhat dishevelled appearance in the dressing table mirror, Jenny replied, “I can hardly imagine the relief I am going to feel once that plane taxies down the runway and we leave this miserable, depressing U.K. weather behind for a while. Thank you so much for asking me to join you Margie -this is the gift of a lifetime”.

The next few days were a bit of a challenge, as getting clothes and cosmetics ready for the trip without making Stan suspicious, was no mean task. However, he did pop out every now and again, either to buy the local paper, or on one occasion to pick up some fish and chips for their dinner.  Jenny had become an expert at deviancy and these few precious private moments were put to good use, and she packed with a vengeance. Fortunately, Stan never ventured into either of the bedrooms which had been used by their daughters in the past, so Jenny was able to hide her suitcase under one of the beds without fear of his finding it. She felt just as Shirley Valentine must have done, planning a secret getaway!

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The day of the start of the trip finally arrived, and the plan was that she would ask Stan to go to his parent’s house with a lasagne that Jenny had made for them. He hadn’t seen them for several weeks and it was about time that he did his duty and took them a peace offering. As soon as his car had left the driveway, Jenny rang Margie to tell her that the coast was clear, and she was ready to be picked up. They would be in plenty of time to get to the airport to catch their plane and have a celebratory drink before embarking on their adventure.  Jenny quickly stuck the note she had prepared for her husband on to the front of the double door fridge and made sure that the highlighter she had used would catch his eye the moment he entered the kitchen. She had just told him that she was taking a break with a friend and that she would more than likely be back in England in about 10 days’ time. She told him to enjoy his time on his own, and to look after himself.

An hour or so later, Stan arrived home and went straight over to the fridge for a cold beer. He was rather taken aback to find that Jenny wasn’t at home and then to see a note addressed to him on the fridge door. As he read her note telling him that she had gone away with a friend for 10 days he suddenly felt a burst of energy and a feeling of optimism that he hadn’t felt in years. Contrary to what Jennifer had anticipated, Stan was a bit of a dark horse to say the least. He may have played the part of the loyal husband, but deep down he had not always been such a good boy!

After downing his beer, Stan dialled a number on his mobile phone – a number that he had always been tempted to use, but always chickened out when he remembered Jennifer and how devoted to him she had always appeared to be. How could he cheat on her after all these years, and what if he got found out!  It was just a few seconds before the call was answered by a rather husky voiced woman. When she heard who was on the other end of the line, she suddenly became rather hesitant. “Oh, hello Stan. Haven’t heard from you in years. The last time I saw you was at that company function, which must have been about 3 years ago? To what do I owe the honour of this call?”

“Well to be honest Kay, I wondered whether you would like to have dinner with me tomorrow evening? You see, Jennifer has gone away for 10 days with a friend of hers, and it would be really good to get together again with you over a meal and a good bottle of wine.” There was a moment’s hesitation before Kay replied, “You must have heard then that I am no longer with Steve. I came home unexpectedly one day and found him in bed with our next-door neighbour’s husband. Once I had got over the total devastation, the embarrassment in knowing that It had became common knowledge was worse than the shock.  After all, we must have been the subject of many jokes as we  seemed to be the epitome of the happy, successful couple until this happened. “After chatting for a few more minutes, Kay agreed to have dinner with Stan the following evening.

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Sitting opposite one another at a popular Indian restaurant in a neighbouring village, Stan couldn’t help noticing that the woman he had last seen a few years ago had totally lost her good looks. She had put on pounds around the face and midriff, and her hair was grey and badly styled. He felt really disappointed, and no longer worried about being seen out and about with a woman other than his wife. No-one in their right minds could get the wrong idea about them being together. It took a huge effort on his part to actually try to chat to Kay and make the evening at least tolerable. She appeared to be distracted most of the time and was constantly checking her mobile phone.  When the coffee arrived at the end of the meal, Stan suggested calling for a taxi for her instead of leaving her to make her way home on the train. He had driven to the restaurant in his own car, but suddenly the very idea of spending any more time with this boring woman was too much for him.  He just didn’t have the inclination to go out of his way to take her home.

When the taxi arrived and they had said their rather uncomfortable goodbyes, the only thing in Stan’s mind was a tremendous sense of relief that, despite the temptation to stray while Jennifer was out of town, all that he was guilty of was taking another woman out for a meal. He realised suddenly that he was lucky that the evening had turned out the way it had. Things might have been quite different if Kay had remained the funny, attractive and sexy woman whom he remembered from the past. As it was, he felt quite sick with remorse when he thought of his wife, and how he took her and all her good qualities for granted. This was a wake-up call, and he was determined to make up for all his selfishness when Jenny returned home. He just hoped and prayed that she wouldn’t succumb to her own form of temptation whilst she was abroad. After all as he now realised, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, and a faithful bird in the hand is usually worth two dubious ones to be found in the proverbial bush!

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.
– Mae West (American Actress)