The Unexpected

PART 1.

The advert had read: “2 bed-roomed flat in well maintained complex. Sea view. Within walking distance of shops and other amenities. Immediate occupation.” Just what she was looking for, provided the rental was within her budget.

As it turned out, the price had been right and here she was, two weeks later, surrounded by boxes and feeling on the verge of hysteria. Gill had been thrilled when she’d viewed the place, but that had been in the evening when the lighting had been dim and cosy. Now, in full mid-morning sunlight she had the feeling that she might just have made a very big mistake. How could she have signed a 12 month lease for a dump like this! She felt the tears springing to her eyes, and struggled to pull herself together. A cup of coffee might help to improve her mood, but in her current frame of mind, maybe something a lot stronger might be more to the point!

Standing on the balcony, sipping the steaming mug of coffee (wine would have to wait until much later!) she tried to relax. Yes, she could see the sea way over there in the distance, and the flat was within walking distance of the shops and a large medical centre and was on a bus route. The problem was the flat itself. The paintwork was filthy, the carpets a grubby nondescript colour and, judging by the state of the bathroom, the building was at least 50 years old. The landlord had told her that she was free to decorate if she felt inclined, as he himself had no intention of ever moving into the flat as he now lived in another city.

Having finished her coffee, Gill braced herself before re-entering the living room. The furniture had been plonked down by the removal men and, apart from the heavy items such as the fridge, needed to be re-arranged. Where to start, that was the question. Why had she refused everyone’s offer of help? Sometimes her insistence on being self-sufficient was to her own detriment.  She had been determined to show everyone that she could cope very well on her own, and now she was already regretting being so hard headed. Her best friend, Margie, had often told her that she shouldn’t be so stubborn, and that people deserved the opportunity to help their friends. Gill knew she was right, but at 29 she felt it necessary to be as independent as possible.

Next birthday would herald in the 30’s and that was a very sobering thought. Some of Gill’s friends were already married for the second time, and yet she was still alone and rapidly heading for a place on the proverbial shelf. She had never been short of male company and on several occasions she had honestly believed that she had met Mr. Right.  Luckily for her, she had discovered on each occasion, before any plans were made for that trip down the aisle, that Mr. Right was in fact Mr. very Wrong indeed.

The decision to move from her sister and brother-in-law’s garden cottage had been made for many reasons. Firstly, moving into town meant far less time spent travelling to and from the office. Then there was the chaos which prevailed at her sister’s home. With 4 children all under the age of 8, 5 dogs, numerous cats as well as an African Grey parrot which all day long alternated between barking like a dog, imitating the car alarms and occasionally letting rip with some very choice profanities, life was far from relaxing. The cottage was attached to the main house so there was very little privacy at all. Yes, it was most definitely time to move out before she got taken away kicking and screaming by men in white coats!

Janet, Gill’s sister, was made for domesticity and the noise which prevailed constantly in her home seemed to go totally unnoticed. How Peter, her husband, could also remain so calm and collected surrounded by such total mayhem had always puzzled Gill. Different strokes for different folks!

Finally, Janet was always making rather snide remarks regarding Gill’s single life-style. It could have been a case of sour grapes due to Gill having only herself to consider and being able to afford trips abroad every couple of years. Sibling rivalry had always played its role when the girls were younger, with Gill being the prettier of the two and far more academically inclined than her sister. It seemed sad that this should have continued into adulthood but it was what it was. Gill had always been a very willing aunt to the children and was ready to look after the entire menagerie for days at a time to allow Janet and Peter to have the odd break.  Although it was appreciated, Gill still got the feeling that there was a great deal of envy where her single life was concerned. On her part, she would have been very happy to tie the knot if the right person had come along. If it happened then so be it, but at this moment in time, moving into her own flat was the most important thing.

PART 2.

Dragging her thoughts back to the present, Gill armed herself with a bucket of hot, soapy water and a scrubbing brush. There was no way on earth that she could consider unpacking anything without first cleaning the grimy paintwork on the doors and walls. Somewhere around lunchtime she was startled by the ringing of her doorbell. She wasn’t expecting anyone to call in today so she peered through the spy hole to see who was outside.  Standing there was a dark-haired man carrying a florist’s bouquet. She opened the door in surprise – it wasn’t her birthday and her friends didn’t even know the number of her new flat. So, who could be sending her flowers? The man smiled at her and thrust the beautiful colourful arrangement into her arms. “Enjoy your day ma’am” he said before turning and hurrying back the way he had come.

“Excuse me, but….”, too late! He had already disappeared around the corner leaving a bewildered Gill holding the flowers and feeling totally confused. She went back inside, closing the front door behind her before opening the greeting card attached to the flowers. Funny, but didn’t one usually have to sign for receiving flowers? The message on the card didn’t make any sense to Gill either. “Couldn’t believe my eyes. Welcome to Hilton Heights. D”. She would have thought the flowers were meant for someone else, except for the fact that she had just moved into Hilton Heights that very day. Who on earth was “D”?

She watered the arrangement and placed it on the dining room table in amongst boxes of books and crockery. How on earth would she ever find out who had sent her the flowers? Oh, well, better get back to work. She switched on her small (rather out of date, but still very functional) portable radio for company, and carried on with the cleaning and sorting out. This continued for the rest of the day and by the time the furniture in the flat was relatively liveable Gill was absolutely exhausted. She would leave hanging the curtains until tomorrow as no-one could see into her apartment and she was way too tired to carry on any longer.

The thought of going out to eat supper was out of the question and she was about to hunt for a tin of something in her box of groceries which she could heat up in the microwave, when the doorbell rang once again. This time it was a teenager from a local pizza takeaway branch. When she said she hadn’t ordered anything he told her that it had already been paid for and no, it wasn’t a mistake. The address which he had been given was definitely flat No. 21. He wasn’t able to tell her who had placed the order, just that there was nothing to pay. Gill composed herself enough to give the youngster a generous tip before collapsing onto the couch to enjoy the unexpected and very welcome meal. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before and she could be forgiven for starting to think that she was hallucinating from overwork and low blood sugar level. She made a mental note to phone some of her friends when she had a spare moment to see whether anyone had any idea as to what was going on. Could the landlord be feeling guilty about the state of his flat and be trying to clear his conscience by sending her some moving-in gifts?

PART 3.

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully, and it was with a sense of relief that Gill arrived at the office on Monday morning. She was tired of cleaning and unpacking but the flat was slowly beginning to feel like home. She felt more optimistic about its potential now that her furniture was in place and her new curtains had been hung up. Altogether, it really looked very attractive and even the carpets weren’t as bad as at first sight. Once her trendy scatter rugs were in place you really didn’t notice their condition at all. She was determined to spend the next few weekends armed with a paintbrush and adding some subtle colour to the walls and doorframes.

No-one admitted responsibility for the flowers or the pizza, and her friends and colleagues teased her about her secret admirer. She wasn’t convinced though and suspected that her friend, Margie in accounts, had something to do with it all. Nothing unexpected happened all day, but her boss was ever more exasperating than normal. He was due to fly to Singapore the following week, so had mountains of correspondence for Gill to handle. He was a man who tended to become excitable and impatient every time he needed to go overseas on business. Gill suspected that he would be happier pottering around his garden at home rather than sitting around a boardroom table. He had once divulged the fact that he had been forced by circumstances to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and become a third generation accountant, but would have loved to have studied horticulture.

Margie popped her head around the door of Gill’s office to remind her about the dinner party she had planned for Friday evening. She said that it wasn’t necessary for Gill to bring a partner with her as there was a friend she wanted to introduce her to.  This happened on a regular basis and Gill found this whole “let’s find you a husband” routine to be getting rather tedious. However, the offer to help with any future painting and the promise of a phone number of a reliable and affordable carpet cleaning company was very well received. Gill was aching all over from the weekend’s labours and this time was only too willing to accept the offer of help. The sooner the flat was completely the way she wanted it, the sooner she could start inviting her friends to come over for drinks.

The week flew by. She’d almost worn her fingers to stumps with all the extra typing and it was a miracle that Mr. Hyslop hadn’t been strangled and thrown out of the 9th storey window. It was late on Friday afternoon that she gave any thought to the unknown person who her friend wanted her to meet. Margie was living with her long-time fiancé, Jacques, and the wedding was being planned for December. She couldn’t bear the thought that Gill was still unattached and was always on the look-out for prospective partners for her. So far none of them had been Gill’s type at all. They belonged to two clubs – Nerds Anonymous and Divorce Survivors. She was tired of listening to discussions of The Latest developments in IT, Healthy Living, Maintenance Payments and Life Without the kids.

When Gill arrived home, she found a note pinned to her front door telling he that there was an item of mail for her at the caretaker’s flat. She had only met the caretaker and his wife on two occasions before and they could have stepped right out of the pages of a Roald Dahl book. She wouldn’t like to cross swords with either of them. Not a particularly pleasant middle-aged couple at all. They had made it quite clear that they disapproved of loud music, noisy children, and late-night partying. As she knocked on their door she made a silent resolution to throw the biggest, noisiest, mind-blowing party the night before she moved out of this building one day in the distant future. Mr. Smit opened the door and nodded when he saw Gill on the doorstep. Studying the ground in front of her, he muttered something about a parcel having been delivered for her whilst she was at work, and that he had signed for it on her behalf. He shoved it into her hand and, before she could thank him, he had already closed the door. “I’d better make sure I never lock myself out of my flat”, thought Gill, “Waking him up late at night could be a fate worse than death”. The parcel in her hand was wrapped in brown paper and was addressed in black capital letters. There was no postmark that she could see, so she had absolutely no idea from where it had come.

Once inside her flat she tore off the wrapping and found herself looking at the glossy hard cover of a book entitled, “Do it Yourself Home Decorating”. The pages seemed to be full of quick, up to the minute ideas on turning even the most depressing room into an eye-catching work of art. Just the kind of book Gill loved. She searched for some clue as to the identity of the sender. On the inside cover were the words, “Happy decorating. Best wishes, D”. Who on earth was “D”? Was it the same person who had sent her flowers, and most probably the pizza, and now this book? She’d known several Daves, a Danny and even a Dimitri over the years, but her most recent boyfriend had been Michael and the only D in his life was his regular Detoxification programme!

PART 4.

Glancing at the clock she realised that she’d have to hurry up if she were to arrive at Margie’s by 7.30p.m. She had just enough time to shower and wash and dry her hair. Fortunately, her current hairstyle was a chin-length bob which was quick and easy to style.  By 7p.m. she was looking good in a black mini dress and high heels which showed off her long, tanned legs to perfection. A quick spray of her favourite French perfume and she was ready to go. She could change her name to Speedy Gonzales at this rate!

As she arrived at the home of Margie and Jacques, she noticed a brand new red BMW parked in the driveway. Must belong to the mysterious new man, she thought. Well, at least this one had excellent taste in cars. One of Margie’s hopefuls had driven a bright yellow beach buggy covered in graffiti.

The dogs started to bark before Gill reached the front door, and Margie opened it and welcomed her with a hug.  “You look fantastic, Gill, and you smell deliciously expensive!”  As she shepherded Gill into the lounge, Jacques came across the room to kiss her on both cheeks. Trust Margie to find a charming Frenchman after all those years of French lessons and Cordon Bleu cookery classes.

The owner of the BMW had got to his feet as Gill entered the room. He was of medium height with slightly receding dark hair. “Gill, this is Chris Stewart. Chris, Gill McKenzie”. The stranger smiled at her as he shook her hand, and Gill wasn’t disappointed by his looks at all. Although he couldn’t be described as handsome as his nose was too big and his smile rather lop-sided, he was definitely attractive in a rugged way. Somehow he looked out of place in his suit and tie and Gill got the feeling that he would be happier in jeans and a sweater. It turned out that he worked with Jacques and had recently moved to Durban from Johannesburg.

It was just the four of them for dinner that evening and it turned out to be comfortable and relaxing. This in itself was a relief for Gill and she was able to unwind and be her usual witty self. She soon discovered that Chris had travelled a great deal like herself, and photography was his passion. He dreamt of starting his own photographic business one day and leaving behind the constant stress which his current job within a large pharmaceutical company created all the time.

“I’ll see you tomorrow at nine, Gill”, promised Margie as Gill prepared to leave. She popped her head through the open driver’s window to whisper in her friend’s ear, “Isn’t he gorgeous, Gill? I’m sure he’s attracted to you”. Gill ignored the comment and thanked Margie again for a wonderful evening. She waved to Jacques and Chris who were standing in the doorway, and reversed her little hatch-back down the driveway. Driving home she let her mind wander over the evening. She wondered if she would hear from Chris again. If Margie had anything to do with it, she probably would. It was odd, but she felt as though she knew him although they had never met before. He had fitted in so well with her friends that it was hard to believe that this was the first evening they had all spent together.

True to her word, Margie arrived promptly at 9a.m. the following morning. She was carrying a large plastic bag containing a pair of blue overalls which Jacques used for working on his car. After a cup of coffee the girls got to work. It was actually good fun painting together and amazing just how quickly the time went by. Before they knew it, it was mid-afternoon and they decided they had better break for a bite to eat. They took time to admire their handiwork. The bathroom was totally transformed. Amazing what a fresh coat of paint could do to the walls, pelmet and door. No more dreary grey-white walls and chipped door frames. Instead it was now lemon walls and a turquoise door and pelmet. With some new towels and a bath mat it would be perfect.

They took two fold-up stools out on to the balcony and sat munching on thick sandwiches which they had hastily prepared together in the kitchen. These were washed down with glasses of chilled white wine. Remarkable just how quickly one’s stamina could be revived with the correct kind of sustenance!

“I think you made the right decision taking this flat, Gill”, mused Margie. “It’s so nice and close to town and that sea view is very relaxing. Once the decorating’s finished you won’t want to move out”.

“After all this hard work, I’m here to stay”, replied Gill. The thought of moving again was anything but appealing. “Do you think I’ll ever hear from Chris again, Margie?”, asked Gill  rather hesitantly.

“Well, he couldn’t stop talking about you after you’d left last night”, Margie said. “He said something strange though, which has been worrying me since he left. He mentioned the fact that you lived in Hilton Heights, and neither Jacques nor I had told him. Did you mention it to him?”

“I spoke about my move, but I didn’t mention the name of the flats, as far as I can remember. Maybe he’s a bit of a mind reader!”

The question continued to puzzle the friends, but they soon forgot about it once they were again immersed in their decorating. They decided to call it a day at 6.30pm as Jacques would have returned from playing golf, and Margie thought it was time she went home. She’d had more than her fair share of brush-wielding aerobics for one day. A hot bath was needed before she expired totally!

PART 5.

Once Gill was alone again, she felt like having a relaxing evening watching some television and having a nice hot cup of coffee but suddenly realised that she had run out of milk. She decided to pop down to the café on the corner and spoil herself with a bar of well-earned chocolate as well, before showering and settling down for the night. She glanced at herself in the mirror in the bathroom before grabbing her purse. Yellow and blue speckles of paint were sprinkled in her hair as well as on her arms and face and tee shirt. She wasn’t too bothered as there was little chance of her bumping into anyone she might know, as she hadn’t met very many people in the last couple of days since moving in. She slammed the flat door shut behind her, only to realize that she’d left her keys inside. Horrors, how on earth could she get back inside? Other than spending the night curled up on the doormat, she really didn’t have much of a choice. She might as well go to the café for the milk before bracing herself to ask the indomitable caretakers to help her with their master key.

She ran down the stairs to the ground floor instead of taking the lift and as she raced out of the entrance she almost collided with someone on his way into the building. He dropped the packages he was carrying and almost over balanced. Gill, mortified, started to apologize profusely, when she looked up and realized that the person she’d almost knocked over was, in fact, Chris. She couldn’t believe it. The funny thing was that he didn’t seem at all surprised to see her. He laughed as she started to say how sorry she was for her recklessness, and helped him to pick up his packages. She told him how she’s foolishly locked herself out of her flat. He said that breaking and entering was just one of his many talents and he was pretty sure that they wouldn’t need to call on the assistance of the intimidating Smits.

The milk forgotten, Gill allowed Chris to accompany her back to her locked front door. Putting his parcels down, he looked around and spotted a small open window to the right of the front door. By reaching down and across he was able to grab hold of the keys which were still hanging in the keyhole. Carefully, he lifted them out and with an exuberant “Voila!, he gave them to her with a flourish.

Leading the way inside, Gill explained. “Please excuse the way I look, but I’ve been painting all day. Would you like a drink, Chris? Beer, wine, tea, coffee – oh heck, I forgot that I was on my way to buy some milk when I locked myself out. That’s where I was running to when I collided with you.

“A glass of wine would be great, thanks”. He smiled at Gill, “I think I’d better explain a few things Gill. Firstly last night was amazing and I was going to give you a ring early next week to try to arrange to see you again”.

“But what are you doing in this building, Chris?”, asked a very puzzled Gill.

“My brother, Mike, lives upstairs from you, and I brought him a few groceries as he’s got a bad dose of Man flu and is wife’s away on business until Wednesday.

Gill handed him a glass of wine and they sat down in the lounge. Chris suddenly blurted out, “I’ve got a confession to make Gill”, he admitted looking rather embarrassed. “Jacques showed me their engagement photos a while ago and there was one of you which interested me. He told me a bit about you and that you were unattached. He said he’d get Margie to arrange something and then, a few days later, while I was standing at Mike’s window looking down into the courtyard, I saw you coming out from speaking to the caretaker. It had to be you or an identical twin sister.

I asked Mike to find out from the caretaker whether or not you were moving in, and what your name was. He seems to get on all right with the old misery and got all the info I needed. There was no way I could just knock on your door and introduce myself – Margie had already planned the dinner anyway – so I got my brother to drop off the flowers. As for the pizza – I’d ordered one for Mike and I thought you might enjoy one after all the unpacking.”

“This is so crazy”, laughed Gill. “And I suppose Margie also told you that I’m dying to do a course in interior decorating as well, didn’t she?”

“She did let it slip”, grinned Chris, “And when I found that book on sale last week I thought you might like to have it”.

“But what does the “D” stand for, if your name really is Chris?”, mused Gill. “Determined, daft or demented – whichever you think best describes me! Actually, my first name is Damian, but I have preferred to use my middle name since leaving school”, he said with a grin.

“I’d better take these groceries up to Mike so that he can have some dinner. Poor guy is really feeling sorry for himself and never copes well when his wife has to go away. Being sick doesn’t help matters either! How about you and I going out for a quick bite to eat when I get back down from seeing him?”

Hurriedly showering, the only thought in Gill’s mind was the saying “In life expect the unexpected”!

A Numbers Game

Every time we open a magazine or a newspaper or hear an announcement regarding a celebrity or even a criminal, we always seem to search to discover their age. What is it about one’s age that creates such fascination?  Does it mean that one can be too old or too young to do whatever it is that makes the deed or occasion noteworthy? The first question we ask one another is, “how old was she/he”? This is even more relevant when the person involved has either had an illness, or worse still, died.

This fixation with age must be something which is linked to a first world mentality perhaps? No-one seems to worry about the age of, for example, The Dalai Lama. His face emanates kindness and caring but it is also creased with signs of age. I have never heard anyone say that he may be past his prime, or a bit too old for the job! With medical advancement it is now a fact of life that, where people have access to good nutrition and health care, they are living much longer than in the past. This is posing huge problems due to the drain on a country’s medical system as well as impacting negatively on job opportunities for younger people. If you have to carry on working due to a shortage of money then you most certainly would not choose to retire at 60 or 65. Not all companies make it mandatory to stop working once these milestones are reached.  Therefore, it stands to reason that the pattern of having one person leave the company and a younger one being employed in their place no longer applies.

I have just heard a discussion on local radio where people were talking about having changed their career direction in mid- life and qualified in a field which until then had been something of a pipe dream. One man had graduated as a medical doctor at the age of 51 after having previously spent years in the corporate world. In this case one would assume that age might be to his advantage. If you have the need to see a doctor and he is middle-aged you would hardly even consider the fact that he may have very little practical experience. His age should work in his favour as I can’t imagine that there would be a banner on the practice wall announcing, “Our newly qualified Dr. so and so (age 51) has joined our practice. Welcome!”

“You have to embrace getting older. Life is precious
and when you’ve lost a lot of people, you realise
each day is a gift.
” – Meryl Streep. (American Actress)

People tend to panic about getting older and perhaps losing their youthful looks, but when one has had friends who died in their mid-thirties or early forties of cancer, then it really is a case of every day of good health being a gift which needs to be savoured. This epidemic of trying to stay as young at 50 as one was in one’s early twenties is crazy. One only has to look at current pictures of 1970’s Hollywood stars to see that sometimes it might be best to let nature take its course instead of searching for eternal youth. With botox, lip and cheek fillers some of these have-beens now look like cartoon characters. There are actors such as Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith, to name just a few, although showing signs of age still manage to remain dignified and believable. Life moves on, and whilst it’s great to make the best of ourselves, there are limits me thinks?

Age 3 350x211

We need to be careful that, by focusing too much on our age, we limit our potential. There are martial arts clubs as well as dance studios which cater for beginners of all ages. However, I would imagine that, for example, taking up either of these exercise regimes would have their limitations. Bruce Lee, Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn began early in life to pursue their chosen field of expertise. Somehow, it would seem to be far-fetched to imagine that a forty-something person would be able to reach particularly great heights in either of the above disciplines. I could be wrong and I hope that I am.

Age 2 350x305

There are many instances where top surgeons, artists and business people for example are still achieving amazing results well into their latter years. As long as one has good health and is not showing signs of slowing down, then the many years of experience are obviously an incredible advantage. Mentoring younger people can be an extremely valuable way in which one’s abundance of knowledge and experience will be passed on to the next generation. After all, what is the use of knowledge if it is not shared? Many valuable discoveries have probably died along with their discoverers due to selfishness and an ego-centred attitude and an aversion to sharing their findings.

The Rolling Stones, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, and not forgetting the Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan are just a few of many musicians who have not allowed getting older to hamper them in any way. In fact, like a good wine, they just appear to keep on getting better as the years go by. One only has to take note of the age of the people packing the stadiums when they perform at their live concerts to realise that age, when it comes to music and entertainment is totally irrelevant. Many of the concert goers are at least 30 or even 40 years younger than their idols.

Age 4 350x231

Another angle where age seems to rear its ugly head is in a situation when a woman marries or becomes involved with a much younger man. Somehow it seems to be far more acceptable for a woman to be in a relationship with a man much older than herself as opposed to her finding a young stud! The latter is seen as a case of cradle snatching and often looked down upon by friends and relatives. However, I have read findings over the years that women tend to reach their sexual maturity around the age of 40 whereas men peak at 20, so wouldn’t it make sense to marry someone who’s sexual age tallies with one’s own? However, it has also become a fact over the years that 18 is no longer viewed as the start of adulthood, as it was in the past. Now, it seems that one has to reach the ripe old age of 25 to qualify for adult status in many cases. There are clubs and restaurants who limit the clientele to those of a more adult age – obviously due to potential hooliganistic behaviour from the younger generation. Therefore, one’s social life could be seriously curtailed if the new husband is still viewed by society at large as a juvenile, despite the fun and games in the bedroom!

It used to be frowned upon to ask a woman how old she was, but this certainly no longer seems to be the case in many Western societies, by all accounts. Anyway, having to reveal your ID number in South Africa, there is no running away from the fact. As long as the person to whom you give the required information has a working knowledge of arithmetic, they will very quickly work out how old you are. What bigger complement can there be than the recipient of the information turning to you and saying that they would never have thought you were that age!  What is the point of lying anyway, after all life is for living, and each day counts. So, while age is relevant and we are all obsessed with finding out how old everyone we come in contact with is, it really is a privilege to, hopefully, make old bones!

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease
to  stand like curious children before the Great 
Mystery into
which we were born.”
– Albert Einstein (German – born theoretical physicist)

Roast Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg ripe tomatoes halved
  • 2 red peppers deseeded and quartered
  • I large onion cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tblsp dried oregano
  • 1 Lt vegetable stock
  • 2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • Salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Heat oven to 160 degC.
  • Combine the tomatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic in a roasting pan.
  • Add oregano, balsamic vinegar, a good splash of olive oil and sugar and mix altogether using your hands.
  • Roast in the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes until the tomatoes are breaking down and releasing their juices. Its Ok if some of the skin blackens as this adds a slightly smoky flavour.
  • Transfer ingredients to a medium sized pot and add the tomato paste and enough stock to cover all ingredients.
  • Gently simmer for about 1 hour.
  • Transfer ingredients to a blender and blend ingredient into a smooth, thickish liquid.
  • Strain through a sieve back into the pot, adjust seasoning in need, and keep warm.
  • Serve with croutons and fresh basil.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Bourbon Honey Pork Ribs

Ingredients

  • 5 kg raw pork ribs
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 500ml Apple juice

For the Rub

  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Maldon salt
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp Coleman’s mustard powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp onion salt.

For the Bourbon honey Glaze

  • 100 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mustard sauce
  • 2 tsp gochujang paste (found in any Asian supermarket)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 100 ml Bourbon

Method

  • Combine all the rub ingredients
  • Combine all the glaze ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until use
  • Cut rib racks into more manageable pieces +/_ 5 -6 riblets
  • Cover the ribs in the rub and leave covered in the fridge for 4 hours (preferably overnight)
  • Turn the oven on to 120deg C
  • Put the ribs in a roasting tin, add the apple juice and stock and cover tightly with foil.
  • Cook slowly until the meat is very soft – approx. 4 hours, basting with the juices every hour or so.
  • When cooked, take out of the oven, uncover and allow to cool for about an hour.
  • Increase the oven temp to max (approx. 250degC)
  • Brush the ribs liberally with the glaze and heat in the oven, basting every three minutes or so. Take care that the glaze doesn’t burn.
  • Remove the ribs when they are heated through and they are well coated with the sticky glaze

Serve with a side of slaw and corn on the cob.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

The amazing benefits of a Reflexology treatment

For many people the sheer idea of someone handling their feet makes them shrink in horror. It may be something which sounds totally alien and a little too personal to contemplate with any degree of seriousness. However, for those who have discovered the wonders of having a qualified reflexologist giving them a treatment, it is a totally different story.

A foot rub does not constitute a reflexology treatment. This needs to be said, as a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Only when one has studied reflexology does the realisation kick in that our state of health as well as our personality is reflected in the soles of our feet and there is a specific way of giving a treatment. So yes, let your partner rub your feet if you are stressed, but if you really want a therapeutic treatment, then make sure this is done by a qualified practitioner and not a charlatan.

A reflexologist is not qualified to diagnose illness but they can advise a patient to seek medical advice if they suspect a potential problem. By looking at the condition of the feet, the colour as well as the texture, much information can be gleaned about the person to whom they belong. The toenails and the shape of the toes also hold their own information about the patient but the best measure of all, is for the practitioner to take a full medical history before doing a session for the first time.

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering
and a work of art,” – Leonardo da Vinci

Many years ago I was coerced into allowing a beauty therapist to give me several reflexology treatments at a special “stress package” price. In hindsight this really was a big mistake to make, but at that time I was ignorant as to what exactly reflexology was all about and how I would react to a treatment.  The first session just left me feeling rather tired later in the day and I found the woman giving the treatment did not make me feel relaxed at all. In fact she was rather rough and it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience.  However, having paid in advance for the entire package I did go for the next treatment. This time it just happened to be in the afternoon prior to attending a business dinner at a restaurant that evening. The so-called therapist did not at any time say anything relating to the dos and don’ts of a post reflexology treatment.  It is important to know that afterwards you should drink plenty of water, limit alcohol intake and take it easy and not be over active.

That evening, on arriving at “Fat Franks”, an upmarket and very popular Johannesburg restaurant at the time, my husband and I were both given a tequila as our welcome drink.  Then it was time for the meal to be served and my choice was one of extremely rich food accompanied by wine. I remember having eaten and drunk very little when I had to go to the bathroom where I spent most of the rest of, what should have been a pleasant get together of colleagues, throwing up. It was highly embarrassing as it must have appeared that I had drunk way too much whereas that was very far from the truth. I just had no idea what it was that had caused me to be so ill.

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Years later, when I studied to become a reflexologist, I soon realised just what the problem had been. The body tries to expel toxins whilst, at the same time, attempting to achieve a state of homeostasis (balance)  when you have a reflexology treatment. Therefore, loading it with more toxins whilst the de-toxifying process is taking place is a recipe for disaster. That is why I have a total aversion to people with very limited knowledge giving others so-called foot treatments. Like anything related to the body, if you don’t know what you are doing and what damage you can possibly cause, then leave it to the experts.

The health benefits from reflexology are numerous and I have been witness to this over the years during which I have given treatments to people of all ages and levels of fitness. The amazing thing for me, after many years, is just how well one is able to pick up on personality traits as well as health issues by studying the feet of the person one is treating.  It is also beneficial for the therapist who is giving the reflexology treatment as the nerve endings which are linked to every part of the body, which one is working on in the feet, are also present in the hands. Therefore, I believe that by giving a treatment and using one’s hands, this has to have positive results for the reflexologist as well as the patient.

It has been found that where reflexologists give treatments to children, who have suffered horrific burns, there appears to be a big reduction in the pain and the trauma which accompanies having the dressings changed.  Several years ago I recall that a Cape Town hospital which has a paediatric burns ward had volunteer reflexologists who were on hand to assist when these painful procedures had to take place. This is probably still the case today and the caring attitude combined with the treatments appear to be of immense value.

You may have had massages and various other forms of alternative treatments. If you have never tried having a reflexology treatment, believe me you will most likely find it a pleasurable experience. This is provided that the person giving the treatment does not use excessive force and cause undue pain. The ideal is that enough pressure is used on every part of the feet to be of benefit without being uncomfortable and hurting you unnecessarily. Enough said. When you are looking for the right therapist,  ask around and make sure that they are qualified to give the treatment.  You will soon find out whether their style and personality suits you and allows you to fully relax and enjoy the entire experience. If you are unable to relax and feel irritated during the session then you need to find somebody else! Putting your feet in another person’s hands is a personal experience and it should be pleasurable.

 

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So much wasted time

We often bear grudges and carry hurts and slights for years, and I don’t think there is anyone who, if they are totally honest with themselves, can say that they have never borne a grudge against either a family member who has upset them, or a friend or colleague who they feel has let them down in one way or another. It takes courage and a real desire to put matters straight, to actually make the first move and try to normalise the relationship. Not always easy, especially if the other party has decided that they are quite happy with the current status quo. Even if one makes the first move to make amends, it isn’t always a straight forward situation. Often the other party refuses to co-operate and to communicate at all.  After several attempts there is often no other option than to try to put the matter behind you and to move on, but not always as easy as that. Depending on the relationship that exists between the two parties, it can sometimes drag one down emotionally on a regular basis. All of us really do have an innate desire to be liked, if not loved, and failing this can be very upsetting, or even depressing.

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Looking at other peoples’ scenarios, it is often divorce situations which culminate in grudges and hurts. To have to fight with an ex-partner for maintenance for one’s children can often result in feelings of anger, hurt as well as deep resentment. These feelings are often very obvious to the children of the broken relationship, resulting in unhappy situations for everyone involved. It is never easy to hide hurt and anger and it is often grudgingly that one parent allows the children to spend time with the other. Children soon latch on to the vibes prevalent in a broken relationship and are very adept at using the situation to their own advantage and playing one parent off against the other.

Obviously the ideal scenario would be for both mother and father to remain on good terms with one another, but this seems to be the exception and certainly not the rule. In many cases infidelity has caused the divorce in the first instance, so it would be highly unlikely for there to be too much love lost between the ex partners. Jealousy regarding the comfortable financial status of the errant partner compared to that of the “injured” party,  or the fact that the new spouse is more attractive or more qualified than the ex, can be a constant cause of pain and hurt.  The situation often becomes even worse when the new partner becomes pregnant and there is suddenly a half brother or sister to further complicate matters.

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We most certainly do not live in an ideal world and humans are human because they are creatures with feelings which often are very difficult to disguise. We do not, unlike our canine friends, give unconditional love and ask only for food and shelter. However, having said that, one can look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and he identified man’s first need as being the satisfaction of hunger and thirst i.e. survival. Secondly, the need for shelter and money. So, in that regard, we actually are not unlike our canine friends. However, once our basic needs are satisfied we are driven by other motivating factors such as the need to be loved, accepted and respected by others etc., until, finally, we are able to strive for self- actualisation – not a need which many of us actually achieve.

Just reading what I have written, I would like to reiterate by saying once again that possibly the only real unconditional love we will ever experience in life is that which comes from our four legged friends. They don’t bear grudges, sulk (well not often, anyway), or keep on harping on about past grievances. They seem to have an incredible ability to forgive and forget! If only we could be as simplistic in our relationships then our lives might be so much less challenging.

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Why no cure for the common cold.

When last did you stop and look around you whilst in either a pharmacy or a supermarket and take note of all the bottles and boxes of products claiming to help you recover from a common cold? The money being made by pharmaceutical companies from we humans trying to stay healthy during winter months must run into the billions (whether rands, pounds, dollars, euros or any other currency). If a cure were to be found for the common cold then there would be no need for all these hundreds and possibly thousands of products cluttering up the shelves.

A cough, a runny nose, itchy ears , sneezing– these can all be signs of a cold and we are constantly being told that the best course of action is usually to try to prevent it from turning into something more serious such as bronchitis or, the worst case scenario, pneumonia. Are we not perhaps prone to being brain washed into believing that we have to take off-the-shelf medication or, worse than that, a prescription for an antibiotic, in order to get rid of the cold? If caught in its early stages  an early night with a home-made toddy could be the best remedy of all, perhaps with no side effects either.

In the past it was the usual routine to drink a hot lemon drink which contained a spoonful of honey  (and maybe a tot of brandy) in order to help us stop coughing and to feel better.  Once tissues replaced those ghastly and bug infested cotton handkerchiefs it became easier to manage one’s cold. Blow, flush away and wash your hands afterwards became routine instead of having all those filthy germs sitting inside a soiled rag in your pocket. Yuck! So, with improved means of coping with that wretched cold what has actually changed for the better?  From taking vitamin C tablets, cough mixtures, rubbing one’s chest and throat with a vaporub, there is still no cure- all for the common cold. Why? Is it possible that, like so many areas in life where the controlling force is money, that any invention which could prove that it really does cure a cold would be hi-jacked before it could become common knowledge? Too many people would lose too much money if none of us ever again needed to peruse the shelves in search of that elusive successful cold remedy.

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At the risk of being attacked from all angles by anyone who is earning an extremely lucrative living from being part of a huge pharmaceutical company, I am extremely cynical when it comes to medicines and the ease with which doctors dispense a pill for every possible ailment. Sometimes a placebo might be the best option as we all have heard time and again of the power of our minds. The current extremely high incidence of cancer must be one of the very best calamities as far as the pharmaceutical companies are concerned. The moment anyone is diagnosed with the disease it seems that in most cases the first thing the doctors do is to recommend chemotherapy or radiation, or both. If a growth is removed, then these options also seem to be very much the route which is followed.

Sadly, over the years I have seen many friends as well as a family member suffer the most incredibly painful results of the above treatments and none of them is alive today. So, all the cost and extremely unpleasant side effects didn’t save their lives. In some cases maybe they had a few months longer than if they had opted to refuse the treatments? I know that there are many people here in South Africa who are trying Cannabis Oil and when it comes to pain alleviation, the results would appear to be very positive in many cases. Not for me to judge, but the billions spent annually on chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments would surely be a factor which may be preventing that elusive cancer cure? Just a thought but there must be others out there reading this post who have seen or experienced first hand loved ones suffering the pain and indignity of these treatments  and seen the patients  losing their hair, feeling weak and debilitated for a great deal of the time and then dying anyway.

There do seem to be excellent results in many instances where children have been diagnosed, for example, with childhood leukaemia. Although they have had to endure all the pain and suffering of their chemotherapy treatments, the disease has gone into remission and often never ever raised its ugly head again. As parents it is obviously going to be a case of trying anything and everything to save your child’s life.  When it comes to adults, perhaps we should be considering all our options before taking the route of radical treatments.

However, with all the advances being made in the medical field why do we still not have a cure for cancer? We also don’t have one for the common cold but we are looking at being able to have a body part replaced using 3D imaging. Too much income would be lost by the massive pharmaceutical businesses worldwide if cures were to be readily available perhaps in the form of an injection or drops taken orally as with smallpox or polio.  A controversial issue and one that we could debate ad infinitum. Suffice to say that we have been blessed with a questioning mind (most of us, anyway) and we do have the right to make our own decisions without being bullied into taking a course of action which is against our better judgement.

On a more cheerful  note, let’s all try to keep some kind of balance in our lives as far as our health is concerned and  do our best to enjoy every day to the full. I trust that you found something of interest in this post as I enjoy putting my thoughts down on paper, despite possibly ruffling a few feathers in the process.  Some subjects lend themselves to future posts and health and lifestyle are one of many. So, stay well, eat well, exercise when you can and most of all try to keep a positive outlook on life. Not always easy to do, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

“Suggested remedy for the common cold: a good gulp of
whiskey at bedtime – it’s not very scientific,
but it helps.
” – Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)