Time Thieves – 2022 January No. 2

I am going crazy and want to change areas of life which are probably causing many of us to have way too little time to do all the important or pleasant things that we should have the time to do.

This wretched world of “me, me and more of me!” is the problem, and it’s sucking the soul out of many of us, though millions of people will continue to be in total denial! Have any of you stopped or even paused for a single second to think about the ways in which your time is being stolen from you every day? Okay, so we all (or at least many of us who are living in a relatively sophisticated country) have computers and mobile phones. Each time you do anything on either of these devices, you are bombarded by advertisements which, if one is totally honest, are useless and irritating to say the least.

So, you switch on your phone and click onto Facebook, as an example. There is a new post by someone whom you actually know and like. So, you decide to watch the video which she has posted updating all her friends and followers about her current circumstances. You think this is going to be a quick update. Think again! This person has no consideration for your busy life, and all the commitments which you have to fulfil during a normal day. 15 minutes after starting to watch the wretched, dragged-out video, you are angry with yourself for falling into the trap of even caring what this person’s life is all about! You were hoodwinked into wasting valuable “you” time because of someone else’s self-centred “me, me, me” time!

The same thing happens when you log onto a news app and see that there is a tantalizing question regarding, just as an example, the British royal family. The question seems simple but, lo and behold, it takes wading through reams and reams of trivia and barely related facts to try to find the answer to the question and the chances are that you will be so frustrated, that you never do. For heaven’s sake, let’s start remembering our school days, and having to make a precis of a lengthy piece of literature. Can’t we all start considering other people and stop dragging out information. As most of us cannot bear to wade through garbage to get to the nitty gritty of a situation, wouldn’t it be great if everything were simplified and answers were, as they should be, readily available in the minimum amount of time!

I am also getting frustrated on a regular basis with well known authors who, despite the fact that they have in the past written some really gripping books, are now taking about 500 waffly pages before we identify the killer, let alone the crime. All of this could have been reduced to a mere 250 pages – is this all a matter of trying to justify their existence on the year’s best seller list? For me, personally, short chapters, and a comfortable, easy writing style say it all.  I don’t want to read a page whilst wishing to high heavens that the author would stop all the filling and waffling and just get on with the job in hand – and a bit faster too please!

Just the other day I saw an article on U tube where a young American woman was offering to show viewers how to make very attractive fabric gift bags in a maximum time of 5 minutes. Now that really did appeal to me, as I do like to indulge in the rare bit of creativity. So, I started watching. 15 minutes later, and totally fed up, I turned her off. She had taken all this time and the gift bag was only half finished – so much for a 5 minute job! We are being coerced into wasting valuable time over and over again. I really am going to try to make 2022 the year in which I nurture each and every moment I have and not allow my curiosity to steal any of my “me” time!

Odd one Out – Coffee and a Chat 2022 January No. 1

ODD ONE OUT

Looking through reams and reams of old photographs dating back to around the time of Noah (well, it feels like that sometimes!), I am distressed by the fact that what today is regarded almost as a fashion necessity, labelled me as a bit of a freak of nature. What am I referring to, you probably wonder? It is the fact that on all my school photos I was always the only one wearing glasses! What on earth was going on in the 1960’s which resulted in me being an odd one out? Nowadays every second person, including many children, are wearing glasses of every style imaginable.

I was diagnosed as having an alternating squint and had to have an operation to correct it when I was 3 years old. At that time parents were not allowed to visit their children in hospital and my parents could only peep through the window at the top of the swinging doors at the entrance to my ward. Even though I was so young, I have memories of having bandages over both my eyes and peeping under the bandage to be able to sneak a look at my surroundings. I also remember having to be fed by a nurse and the bowl was specific to the era – with a wide rim surrounding the actual bowl. This was probably to minimise any spillage.

Nowadays, if a child has a squint, the treatment is non- intrusive. The problem in those days was that eye specialists had yet to realise that, if you corrected the muscle in one eye, then the other eye started to squint. Why this was only discovered by the time I had children of my own, and my daughter began showing the same kind of problem, heaven alone knows. After all, the eye is a muscle and muscles can be strengthened by exercises. As a teenager, and having emigrated and now living in South Africa, I had a second operation on the other eye but still had to wear glasses. The eye specialists who had operated on my eye now recommended that I saw a lady in Johannesburg who specialised in teaching people how to strengthen their eyes through exercises using a variety of printed cards. Fortunately, with my own past experience, I was quick to find someone who would be able to work with a young child to avoid her having to wear glasses permanently. It worked!

The point I was trying to make is how advanced life has become and how attitudes have changed. When I was little, I was often teased and called “four eyes” by classmates. I was even asked if I wore them when I was sleeping. I eventually learnt to answer that I actually did sleep with them on so that my dreams were in colour! The glasses I wore in the early years were government issue (UK) and were round and pink with wire ear- pieces. If one compares what is available nowadays, mine really did look very antiquated, but then they were issued free!

How I would have loved to have been able to wear my glasses as a beautiful adornment instead of just a way of keeping my eyes straight at a time when image and being like everyone else was the most important thing in life. Teenage years are a time when you want to fit in not stand out! Anyway, suffice to say that as soon as I was able, and soft contact lenses became readily available, my glasses became a stand- by for reading in bed after my lenses had been placed in their overnight soaking solution. Unfortunately, by this time my teenage years were long gone and I was in my thirties.

 As soon as I became a contact lens wearer, life changed dramatically as now I could swim in the sea and find my way back to our spot on the beach without the help of a human guide dog! Contact lenses were the best thing since sliced bread for me. My eyes no longer squinted at all, I found that I wasn’t as much a failure at ball sports as I had been whilst wearing glasses and my peripheral vision was amazing! Another fantastic benefit was being able to chop up onions without any tears whatsoever, and putting food into a hot oven without the irritation of glasses misting up all the time. Raindrops falling on the glasses was no longer an issue and how wonderful it is to be able to actually see what you are doing when putting on eye makeup.

So now, why are so many people wearing glasses, whilst I, who have worn them from the age 3, couldn’t wait to swop over to contacts? Yes, there are some beautiful, mod frames from which to choose, but they still have the same drawbacks as before, except that no-one is made to feel embarrassed by wearing them due to them being viewed more as a fashion item than an aid for a disability! Sometimes one has to wonder whether they were born too early!!

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

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

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

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

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

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments – 2021 November No 1

What is there to say when one has completely lost track of time and only now comes to the realisation that months have flown by since my last post on this Blog! At least I can say that, although I seem to have lost track of time, I haven’t quite lost the plot …..entirely. That, though, is a moot point and open to discussion!

Here we are once again with the prospect of weeks of crazy, frantic over-spending just because we have Christmas, and all the extra purchases which that usually entails, in about four weeks’ time. Every year seems to spin out of control at a faster and faster rate, but that doesn’t mean that we are ready for the customary celebrations sooner than we were in years gone by. It’s best to take the bull by the horns and just try to relax somewhat and enjoy the fact that we have survived another year and are here to tell the tale of another Christmas season.

Having spent the first 14 years of my life in the Northern hemisphere, I still find it hard to feel in a truly festive mood in an often swelteringly hot climate. Mind you, there have been some South African Christmases where winter clothing has been a necessity due to unseasonable chilly snaps. This year might just be another one of those cool Christmases. However, I still tend to think that a snowy landscape, Christmas carollers singing at the front door, chocolate decorations on the Christmas tree, and frost on the windowpanes would be a welcome surprise at Christmas time.

Moans and groans aside, it is still the children who make Christmas the magical time that it can be. The threat of the Pixie on the roof watching out for naughty behaviour is the best thing ever. I remember making up this phenomenon many years ago, and I should have actually patented the idea. All of a sudden, many years later, every supermarket has an “Elf on the Shelf” toy on display for frustrated parents to buy in order to terrorise their children into behaving well for the weeks before the Big Day!

Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided that, after surviving one of the most difficult and challenging years ever, I was going to get my very ancient artificial tree, still with a few years’ life left in its branches, decorated and ready ahead of the usual date of 1 December. I felt that it would be a good idea to try to enjoy that warm, festive ambience, created by a pretty Christmas tree for a bit longer than in years gone by.

Well, I have been as good as my word. The tree is looking stunningly beautiful, if I say so myself! There are so many memories connected with all the ornaments as some of them are handmade and others actually came from Harrods and Selfridges in London. There are fat, little pigs sporting tutus, wooden characters on skis, toboggans, or dressed as soldiers, brass angels playing harps and trumpets, glass animals, as well as loads of delicate-coloured baubles … and the list goes on. Chinese, battery-operated, flashing, coloured Christmas tree lights add the final touch. After all, what better way to nurture our inner child than making an effort at Christmastime.

Xmas Tree 2021 550x285

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

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

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

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

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

Update and Comment-2021-08-24

Passionate about reading

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

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

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

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

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments – 4 July 2021

What is there to say when we are once again under lockdown level 4 with all its crippling restrictions for many industries. The situation concerning Covid has been badly mishandled by the powers that be, who spend more time taking one another to court than sorting out the crisis raging in our country, and Gauteng in particular. Our politicians prove over and over again that they are totally incapable of planning for the future. Everyone knows that the health department is in a real mess with a shortage of skilled staff as well as enough functional hospitals. All this whilst around 200 newly qualified young doctors have yet to be given posts to complete their internship programme. Their knowledge would surely be able to help to alleviate the current chaotic situation.  Much of the problem has been caused by total mismanagement ever since the current government came into power, as well as the ongoing illegal pocketing of millions, if not billions of rand, which is rife throughout the entire country. Most municipalities countrywide are on the verge of bankruptcy. Tax money paid from the hard-earned incomes of frustrated citizens have been pocketed by corrupt individuals who have been entrusted with the running of their constituencies. A very sad and diabolical state of affairs.

All of the above is apart from the psychological strain being put upon many citizens due to having lost their jobs, being confronted with the loss of family members or friends due to the virus, and then hearing all the constant negative news reports.  What appears to be a strange situation is that within the crowded informal settlements, the incidence of Covid infections seems to be very low. Could this be due to the fact that so many poor people have always lived in very close proximity to each other and have thus developed extremely strong immune systems? Has this perhaps resulted in them creating their own herd immunity? It has been documented that ever since the virus raised its ugly head, and protocols regarding the wearing of masks and keeping social distancing were implemented, these were totally ignored in many of the poorer areas. One would have thus expected the numbers of casualties to be astronomic, and this does not appear to be the case. No doubt there will be some or other kind of study done regarding this phenomenon, so only time will tell if living in a crowded environment with all the challenges of surviving on or even below the poverty line can actually provide a protection against the Covid virus.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265 Continue reading Update and Comments – 4 July 2021

Depression is on the Increase – 2021 June No.1

We are surrounded by uncertainty these days, and much of it is a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, which came out of nowhere and turned our lives upside down in a matter of weeks of its first appearance in China, towards the end of 2019.

According to a recent international survey, South Africans are rated as some of the least happy people on the planet, and for good reason. We are currently being bombarded with negative reports and disturbing news items. With a failed economy, a corrupt ruling party, crime which is rampant, a failed power supplier, potholes everywhere, unemployment (the list goes on and on) it is not surprising that many of us feel despondent and helpless. These negative emotions can manifest themselves in a state of severe depression which may be overlooked by one’s nearest and dearest until the sufferer may need medical intervention.

It is a sad state of affairs that we still have a negative connotation regarding mental illness. If you have a leg in a cast, or a huge bandage around an injury, the reaction from others is more often than not one of concern and sympathy. However, if you are sad and feeling down, and battling to find anything positive or amusing in your life, you may find yourself ostracised to a certain extent as being too miserable to be around. It is often uncomfortable to spend time or energy trying to cheer up a person who is negative and having an internal battle with themselves and their feelings. When the situation becomes desperate, and even possibly results in a suicide attempt, then those closest to the sufferer may feel guilty at not having seen the signs, or having avoided getting involved because it caused them too must discomfort.

Isn’t it strange that we shun the words “mental health” yet we as humans, provided we are mentally intact ourselves, function as a result of our feelings and emotions most of the time. Unless we have succumbed to a frontal lobotomy we are normally bombarded throughout our waking hours with sights, sounds and various other forms of stimulation which result in our having a mixed bag of emotions. Being able to shrug off anything which causes us to feel down and sad, is usually achievable, within reason. However, if you are suffering from severe depression even the slightest trigger can be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. A failed attempted suicide may be the result, and this then creates a situation where the depressive may be given a limited amount of freedom and is watched constantly in case the next attempt is successful. A challenging situation for everyone involved.

I have known several families throughout my life who have had a family member who committed suicide and this has resulted in painful memories prevailing for many years after the event . There are always feelings of guilt from the surviving relatives or spouse and questions asked of how this could have been avoided.  Were there signs that this was going to occur? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? If a suicide note is left it probably helps to alleviate many of the unanswered questions. Without a note, is it possible that the act was never meant to be successful but more a cry for help?

There appears to be a massive move afoot in Western society to accept that mental health deserves as much attention as physical health. Telling people to pull themselves together and to cheer up is not an answer to serious depression. Even giving drug therapy often just treats the symptoms and not the underlying cause. It is a difficult balancing act on the part of professionals and is not as simple as mending a broken bone or removing a malfunctioning body part. A holistic approach is probably the most successful treatment which would be likely to include exercise, diet, counselling as well as the possible intervention of certain medication whether alternative or complementary or resorting to anti- depressants, if all else fails.

We all have times when the trials and tribulations of life threaten to be overbearing, but thankfully these interludes do tend to pass without too much trauma. However, if doom and gloom become the order of the day, it is definitely advisable to seek help so that the condition can be nipped in the bud before all the beauty around us fades into oblivion and is replaced by darkness and negativity with life itself having no meaning at all. Together we can all try to make a difference in the lives of others if we just observe, take notice of disturbing signs in those around us and bother to get involved.  Easier said than done as those afflicted may be resistant to others trying to help them, but help we must in order to try to prevent a possibly disastrous outcome.

Human,Hand,Helps,Sad,Young,Girl,In,Depression,Lying,Hugging

Having studied clinical psychology at an Honours BA level, and later qualifying as a Lifeline counsellor following the Carl Rogers approach, I do believe that many of us are capable of helping our friends and family members just by being a good listener. We all tend to run around like headless chickens being busy with our lives and we often resent having to give up some of our precious time for others. However, those who are emotionally hurting need to be heard. Talking to another human being and unloading one’s worries and distresses can be extremely cathartic. By simply identifying the other person’s feelings and emotions and feeding them back to them can sometimes help them to identify their own way forward. Telling a depressed person what they should be doing to get their lives back on track is totally counter- productive. We all (well, most of us at least) have two ears and one mouth. Let the words we are hearing from the one who is battling depression be received consciously by both our ears and let us be very careful what we utter in response.

Not a Blue Monday – June No1

A few Mondays back I found a very young baby pigeon shivering in shock and pain beside the wall of our carport. At first I thought it was dead, but on picking up the little creature it became obvious that something had harmed it and pulled out all the feathers on its tiny back. It looked so sore, and it was heart-breaking to hear its tiny feeble squeak. Anyway, I found a cardboard box, lined it with a soft towel and brought the little creature inside. I stroked it gently and tried to transfer some love and feelings of caring while talking to it quietly.

Many years ago, there had been a situation where another even smaller pigeon had been abandoned by its mother (maybe she had been killed and had not deserted her offspring) and was in a swallow’s nest under our patio roof. I had asked around and been told that the best thing was to get hold of a bird cage and to feed the baby bird with a very weak mixture of Pronutro porridge and boiled water and to administer it with a medicine dropper. This worked well, was pretty time consuming but resulted in a fully grown, healthy bird. Unfortunately, I felt that I had to find an alternative to keeping this bird in a cage. Someone I was told about had a large aviary and, with a very heavy heart, my baby bird was given up for adoption.

Circumstances are different these days and I could not see myself being able to devote the same amount of time and attention to this new foundling. After contacting my local vet, I was given the name of a woman called Georgie who runs a rehabilitation centre for wildlife just a few kilometers away from where I live. Once I had managed to get hold of her, she arrived within minutes to pick up the baby bird. She had a look at it and said that she was convinced that the bird had been attacked by a cat. Although neither my husband nor I have seen a single cat in our garden in the 14 years in which we have lived in this house, she said that it was possibly a cat which hunted at night.

The outcome of this incident has been so heart-warming that I felt the necessity to write about it. Georgie not only took the little creature home with her but has been in constant contact with me ever since sending pictures of his newly grown feathers as well as up to date information regarding the development of the baby. Today I heard that he is now feeding himself, growing up fast and apparently is quite a little character. What might have been a real Blue Monday turned out to be one of the best Mondays in a long time.

A few weeks have passed and yesterday when I arrived home, I was taken aback to see a stranger in the garden, leaning up against a flowerpot and warming its tummy in the sun’s rays. The stranger was a very pretty little white and light grey cat! That is the first feline that has been spotted in our garden in the many years in which we have lived here. Beautiful or not, this little potential bird killer is not welcome here and I shooed it away immediately. It rushed up a nearby tree and went over the wall into our neighbour’s house. With a bit of luck it won’t be back again in a hurry. Hopefully, when Kelly, our German Shepherd, gets a whiff of a strange cat, her barking will be enough to deter the intruder. I really do hope so!

Bird Watching. – 2021 May No. 2

I know many people who seem to have an insatiable desire to constantly be on the move. Spending any free time in their own homes seems to be alien to them, and they probably miss out on so many simple pleasures which are often right there in front of them, just waiting to be spotted. This ramble is most certainly not a case of sour grapes, but rather gratitude for those little things in life which, when the odds seem to be against us, and life feels bleak, can be so heart-warming and a total delight.

Just the other day, my better half (I’d better describe him as such, instead of just “other half” as I need him as my designated editor!) called me to come into his office, which is situated on the other side of the house to my own office. We are fortunate to have indigenous trees in both areas of our garden, which attract a reasonable variety of bird life and both areas have bird feeders and baths. Anyway, on that particular occasion we were witness to a mass gathering of sparrows having a swimming party in the bird bath. There must have been at least 15 of them splashing around and having a whale of a time. It was a delight to observe and, only because any movement on our part would have disrupted the party, we did not photograph or, better still, video the episode. A pity, as it might be a once in a lifetime event, but still something which will be stored away as a beautiful memory.

Some of you are probably thinking, is that all she is going to say today? No, but even the common little sparrow deserves to be treasured for the pleasure it can bring. On a slightly more sophisticated level, we have the occasional grey lourie popping by to see if there are any pieces of fruit waiting for them to enjoy, as well as a pair of crested barbets who also like the fruit. These beautiful, colourful little characters apparently have a penchant for Hungarian peppers! Good to finally find out who it is who takes bites out of the ripening vegetables. They had a very cocky attitude when caught in the act yesterday and were not in the least bit embarrassed! Just strutted away and then flew up into the trees. Gorgeous little birds who have to be forgiven, as they obviously have excellent taste in their choice of fresh produce.

Lastly, my favourite garden guest has to be the Hadeda Ibis and it is such a pleasure to watch them, after rain, pushing their long, thin beaks into the soft grass to find the delicacies deep down in the soil.  I must admit to calling back to them when a group, sitting on the roof of the house, screech out their familiar ha-ha-ha-dah-da. It’s very funny to actually see them listening when I pretend to be one of them, and to have them shout out in reply. Oh well, as some of you may have come to realise if you have read any of my previous postings, that in my case little things definitely do please little minds! I just love watching the avian carryings on from the window of my office, whilst I work!