Sending him on his way.

It was the second day on board the cruise ship and Andrea was feeling more relaxed than she had felt in years as she leaned against the railing of the ship’s deck, gazing out at the horizon.  The constant strain of juggling home and office as well as the stress of her recent break up with her long-time boyfriend had taken its toll. She had been suffering from insomnia for weeks and her boss had noticed that she was constantly tired and irritable and suggested that it was time for her to think about using up some of her accumulated leave. She had been so diligent regarding her deadlines at work that she had hardly ever bothered to take any leave. It was only over weekends or when there was a public holiday that she was away from the office.

So far the week long cruise was proving to be exactly what she needed. Her cabin had its own balcony and she loved watching the flying fish and the occasional school of dolphins cavorting in the waves – she could forget about work for the first time in years, and even the hurt caused by the recent break up was surprisingly not bothering her much. The food and entertainment on board was first class and although she wasn’t really interested in spending much time with the other passengers, the ones she met at mealtimes were pleasant enough and not wanting to intrude on her privacy. She tended to be reserved by nature and found it rather difficult to make new friends. The few good friends she had were people she trusted and had known for many years and, due to her busy work schedule, she saw less of them than she really should, but maybe things could change once she got back home.

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Out of the corner of her eye Andrea noticed a middle aged woman with short greying hair who seemed to be talking to herself whilst trying to remove the lid of a square wooden box. Curiosity got the better of the normally reticent Andrea, and she walked over to the woman and introduced herself and offered to help her open the box. “It’s really stiff and probably due to the length of time that it’s been in my cupboard at home. Oh, by the way, I’m Linda, and thank you – maybe you can get the lid off!” With that Andrea tried to twist off the lid, and finally was successful. What she saw made her recoil in shock – the box contained ashes!

“I can see you’re a bit taken aback, Andrea, but before I throw these into the sea, let me explain”, said Linda. “It has been months now since I fetched the box and a lot of planning has gone into my taking this trip in order to do what is necessary and to say my final goodbyes. So many memories and feelings have been plaguing me and it has been a very hard decision to spend my meagre savings on this cruise, but I think once I have done what has to be done, then I can get on with my life”.

“I imagine that it is going to be a very emotional goodbye for you, and I hope that I am not intruding at such a difficult time, Linda?!

“Oh no, not at all. In fact I am just so glad that you came over to talk to me as I feel the need to unburden myself before I send him on his final journey. The past 12 years have been a total nightmare living with this aggressive, badly behaved individual who ruled my life completely. Being a positive person by nature, I always believed that thing would get better, but they just did not. My friends stopped coming to visit as they never knew what kind of a mood he would be in and often left in a hurry when they heard his snarling voice. They just could not understand why I tolerated it and eventually lost patience with me.”

“It sounds as though you have really had a lot on your plate and it reminds me of the past few years of living with my ex-boyfriend who was also very controlling and often bad tempered. There must have been some good times though?

On his way 2 350x211“Very few, sad to say. In the beginning he was so very affectionate and people admired his good looks and I got the feeling that many of them actually envied me having found such a great companion at the stage of life where many of my friends were on their own and feeling rather neglected. The trouble was that I started to loathe him for cramping my style and being so very demanding. I often felt that I was being totally manipulated and that my time was no longer my own. He was very faddy when it came to his likes and dislikes regarding his meals and I spent hours trying to find things that he would enjoy. Sometimes he actually seemed to appreciate all my efforts but I usually felt frustrated by the fact that keeping him happy was using so much of my time and energy. My decision to let him into my life had not been made in a hurry, but I must admit that there were days of serious misgivings and regret although I really did try to give him lots of love and attention.”

“It sounds as though you probably made a big mistake right in the beginning, Linda? Was it his good looks that attracted you?”

“That and the fact that I believed that we would have lots of fun together, but he turned out to be very ill tempered most of the time. It must have been due to his upbringing and his parentage but these were factors which only became relevant as time went on. I must say that I was actually relieved that, as he got older, he did tend to mellow somewhat and he aged very rapidly over the past few years.”

“It would appear that you had rather a challenging time whilst he was alive. Perhaps one day you will find a companion with whom you really do have great times together. You just never know what lies ahead do you?”

“I won’t be in a hurry to look for a replacement after this experience and the worst thing, Andrea, is that I feel that he sometimes really spoilt 12 of the best years of my life and it sounds very cruel, but I am relieved to be saying a final goodbye to him today. The reason I decided on this cruise in order to scatter his ashes is that he loved the sea and although I really don’t like swimming in cold water, I was forced to go down to the beach with him several times a week so he could race through the waves like a maniac whilst I waited on the sand for him to exhaust himself. Despite his extremely difficult nature, I felt a certain amount of guilt regarding my frequent resentment towards him so this is mainly to appease that guilt.”  With that comment, Linda leaned slightly over the railing and threw the content of the box into the sea. The slight breeze caught them as they floated down and it seemed to take quite a while before they disappeared into the waves.On his way 1 350x233“ Goodbye Rover, and thanks for the memories!”

“Rover? Was that your husband’s name, Linda?”

Linda burst out laughing, “I have never been married, Andrea. Rover was a Rottweiler that I decided to adopt, against my better judgement, when a good friend of mine went to China to teach English and had no idea of what to do with Rover who was still a puppy back then. Big mistake, but that is history now and I feel very relieved and maybe my friends will start visiting me again once this cruise is over! No more bad tempered male interference to worry about. Now time for a nice glass of cold champers in honour of a strong willed companion. Want to join me Andrea?”Onhis way 3 350x350.jpg

 

The Great Escape

It was Henry’s first day on the job and he was already feeling somewhat doubtful about his future with this new company. He had been given a pretty hard time at the interview and some of the questions he had to answer had made him a bit uncomfortable. For example, “what was his attitude to females?” and “Did he believe in freedom of choice?” He had been a bus driver for years and had an impeccable record and many very positive letters of recommendation but never before had he been questioned about his feelings towards women! Oh, well, as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a holiday”, and he hadn’t had one of those in years!

His instruction for today was to pick up passengers at three designated points and to take them through to the airport. He had been told that these were desperate women who all had reasons to escape. It was this that was making Henry feel very uncomfortable indeed. Was he party to underhand goings on and was he likely to be cited as an accomplice? Oh, whatever, let’s just get the show on the road, so to speak, he thought and started up the bus’s powerful engine.

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At his first stop he found a motley group of women of various ages and cultural groups. None of them seemed to be particularly happy and most seemed to appear tired and irritable. Another thing that Henry noticed was the small amount of luggage each woman was carrying – nothing much larger than an average sized duffel bag as well as a smallish, over the shoulder handbag.  I suppose when one has become so desperate that the only way out is to pack up and run away from everything, that you take the absolute bare minimum of belongings with you, he mused. He wondered how much Mary, his wife of 25 years, would cram into a small bag if she decided to leave him in a hurry. Knowing her she would need a container to pack all the things she had collected over their years of marriage and which she seemed to value more than she valued him.

By the time the passengers at the second and third bus stops had been picked up and were settled in their seats, it was an hour’s drive to the airport. Some of the women shut their eyes and promptly fell asleep, others just gazed out of the window and made no effort to converse with their neighbours. It was a very small handful of the older women who seemed inclined to pass the occasional comment to their fellow passengers. It was the weirdest atmosphere that Henry had ever experienced, and it made him very nervous. A strange thing was that no-one was using a mobile phone or an i-pad. That was very odd indeed but maybe also to prevent them being traced? Obviously these women were leaving the country and heading for greener pastures, without their families and friends knowing anything at all about their plans. Should he head off to the nearest police station and hand them all over, or follow his instructions and take them, as directed, to the airport? He needed the pay, so he put his doubts aside and just carried on concentrating on his driving.

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It was with a sense of relief that Henry finally saw the signs in front of him directing him to the offloading section of the airport. It was then that one of the women stood up and, for the first time during the entire trip, addressed him.  “Excuse me, Sir, but you have to drop us off at the domestic departures, not the international”.  Oh, so they weren’t going to another country, just running away to another town or city. Might be even easier to get lost in some or other small village than being traced through Interpol!

As he stopped the bus and helped the women down the steps, he saw in front of him two people holding up a large placard which read “The Great Escape – a big welcome to all our ladies”. So this was an organized running away!  As the passengers dismounted, they all headed over to the people holding the board and once they were all ready, they walked in crocodile file into the departure hall. Only a few of them had even bothered to thank Henry for his services – ungrateful bunch, he muttered under his breath.

As he was climbing back into his vehicle he saw a piece of paper had fallen on the floor of the bus. He bent down and picked it up and started reading the information on it.

“Are you overworked and over stressed? Do your husband and your children take you for granted? Is your boss overly demanding? Do you feel that you need to run away? Well, call now as there is an escape route at an affordable price.  Join other women who feel just the way you do and have a weekend of total relaxation and pampering at The Great Escape hotel and Spa, overlooking the sea, and at affordable rates. From the moment you board the luxury bus en route to the airport, please ensure that your mobile phones have been switched off, and try to keep all conversations as limited as possible. This is to enable you to begin your weekend of rest and rejuvenation in the best possible way. We will give you time to recharge your batteries in order to face your day to day challenges. Hope to see you at our very next “women’s only” retreat. Regards, Management, The Great Escape.”

Henry felt a bit deflated after reading this. His life was so mundane that it was actually quite exhilarating to think that one may have been party to a bunch of dissatisfied women running away from their previous lives to find love and happiness, and possible wealth by starting over again! Now it was another day in the life of a bus driver – a first day, so maybe other days might bring a bit more excitement. You just never know what is lurking around the corner- even if you are a bus driver! Nothing wrong with hoping, anyway!

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Update and Comments: March 26 2019

Once again time is running away with me. Don’t they say that time flies when you are having fun?

I think it would be true to say that it actually seems to fly faster when you are working hard! Anyway, I just want to mention that I am constantly toying with ideas for my blog, which I hope will appeal to many of you. My latest contribution is a new category which I have called The Armchair Travelogue.

There are so many amazing places on this planet which one can visit, and for those of you who are considering a really different kind of holiday, the choices these days are innumerable. That being said, I would like to think that I might be able to tempt you to visit spots which you may never have considered. On the other hand, if for whatever reason you prefer to be an armchair traveller, then this is just as much for you. Only time (that controversial word yet again!) will tell whether or not this new category is interesting enough to tempt you to follow future posts in a similar vein. I really do hope so!

That is all for now and I think I will refrain from posting anything on 1 April as it might not be taken seriously!!

That’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The Armchair Travelogue

Interesting places to visit.

It is a fact that if one is able to travel to other countries outside one’s own, the experiences gained  and the memories made often shape one’s attitude to the world at large. Depending on where one lives permanently it may be a stone’s throw to visit neighbouring countries at a fairly reasonable cost.  For others it could be that travelling overseas is a once in a lifetime occurrence and much planning may be needed to get the most out of the trip.

My plan for this segment of the blog is to whet the appetite of those fortunate enough to plan their next holiday or sightseeing trip as well as to entertain those  who are too busy to travel or who through their circumstances are avid armchair travellers. I sincerely hope that over the next few months you will find something of interest in at least one or two of the articles I plan to post. It could even be that you are tempted  to visit some of the places which I will be writing about in the future.

Ivrea – Northern Italy

The industrial city of Ivrea, the headquarters of Olivetti, known world-wide for being innovators in the past of typewriters, and later computers, situated in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, was declared a world heritage site in 2018. This came about due to the successful and unique design  of the area in order to develop the testing ground for the headquarters of Olivetti (incorporating the factory as well as accommodation) by leading urban planners between the 1930’s and 1960’s,to create a modern version of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.

Having once been fortunate enough to have lived in Ivrea, for several months, I remember how I faced the prospect of the move with a great deal of trepidation. I had a two year old child, and had visions of doing the daily washing down at a local stream with a load of unsophisticated local women. Oh boy, how wrong can one be – thankfully! All the mod cons were available and the furnished apartment we rented had a washing machine!! The local people were anything but unsophisticated and my husband and I both had Italian lessons with a lady from whom we learnt not only to speak the language, but also to appreciate some of the culinary delights.

Such an absolute privilege, looking back, to have had the many experiences we had during our sojourn in Ivrea, and later in Milano. Our time in Ivrea actually coincided with the traditional Carnevale d’Ivrea and the battle of the oranges, which takes place annually shortly before Lent. The only year it was cancelled was in 1960 due to the death of Adriano Olivetti. Watching the following video confirms that many traditions have stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to do so.

Firstly, a short description of the town of Ivrea. Steeped in history, there are still cobbled streets in some areas which are juxtaposed with modern shops and restaurants – old and new side by side.  Situated at the edge of the Aosta valley, Ivrea has the Alps on one side which, during winter months, are capped with snow. Close to ski resorts such as the town of Cervinia, which is located at the foot of Mt. Cervino (known world-wide as the Matterhorn) and a relatively short train journey to the Swiss border, it makes good sense for tourists to take the time to discover this mediaeval treasure.

If one is able to visit Ivrea at the time of the annual Carnival then it really is an amazing experience to be part of the festivities of the Battle of the Oranges. Dating back to around 1808 this battle commemorates the time when in medieval times  Violetta, the miller’s daughter, refused to be bedded by the local Duke who took it upon himself to sleep with all newly married women. She actually cut off his head, and the oranges which are thrown in their thousands during the battle are meant to depict his severed head. The teams of revellers are all dressed in ancient costumes and the ones on the horse drawn carts wear helmets whilst those on foot do not have this protection.

As visitors to this spectacle you are advised to purchase and wear a red hat which resembles an elf’s hat, as this is meant to protect you from being bombarded by oranges. It doesn’t always work though, and I remember being able to choose to view some of the battles being fought behind a wire fence erected for the purpose and still having to duck regularly to avoid being hit by a citric missile! The thousands of oranges used during the festival turn the entire town centre into something resembling a gigantic juice extraction plant. One can hardly bear to think about the huge amount of cleaning up which has to be undertaken once the festivities come to an end.  I think the consumption of oranges probably declines dramatically for quite a while after the Carnivale!

The carnival is not just about the orange fight though as there are stalls selling amazing sweet and savoury treats along the banks of the local canal. More information is freely available on Google and well worth the read.  All in all several days of merriment for both young and old to enjoy, despite the chilly weather.

 

 

New Year 2019

Regardless of the country in which you live, if you are reading my blog right now you are possibly making plans to celebrate the end of 2018 and the start of a New Year, with all its promises.

We humans seem to have the knack of facing the New Year with optimism time and time again. It is this hope and positivity when thinking about the year ahead that keeps us going, despite any  hardships and sadness that we may have had to endure during the past year. It’s just as well that we are often able to start the New Year with enthusiasm and a certain amount of excitement at what the coming year will bring.

With the world having become so very much smaller due to technology, one is able to watch people in all different countries celebrating the arrival of the New Year. One can begin by watching magnificent firework displays in cities such as Sydney, Australia, or Auckland, New Zealand and then travelling to Africa and watching festivities taking place in Cape Town. Two hours later, the crowds around Trafalgar Square in London, despite the cold, are always up for a rip roaring New Year’s Eve party – even going so far as to jump into the freezing fountain (obviously alcohol fuelled!) Firework displays along the banks of the River Thames are also par for the course.

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Times Square in New York is among the last cities to celebrate the arrival of the New Year (obviously this depends on which continent one is living when making the comparisons) and the freezing cold weather seems to do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for being part of the activities. Similarities do seem to exist in Western societies when it comes to the New Year celebrations. Counting down the minutes to 12 midnight, letting off fireworks, kissing those nearby (!) and toasting one another with glasses of bubbly – all these are well known to many of us.

The singing of Auld Lang Syne (composed by Robert Burnes) is, for many traditionalists, an absolute necessity at the start of the New Year.  However, if one were to actually celebrate New Year in Scotland things could be quite different.  The Scots celebrate Hogmanay (as opposed to New Year) and for them the traditions include the “first foot”. This has to be a dark haired man bringing with him a piece of coal and other items such as some shortbread, and a “wee dram of Whisky” entering one’s home at the stroke of midnight, or just after, in order to ensure good health and prosperity for the coming year.

Many of us have good and maybe not so good memories of New Year’s Eve celebrations over the years. Waking up on 1 January can be a painful experience due to the night before. There are parties which may have been well worth the headaches of the morning after, while others are best forgotten. With drinking and driving laws in most countries these days, many choose to stay at home on 31 December and watch television, or have a special meal in an attempt to stay awake long enough to toast the arrival of the New Year with a glass of champagne.

Here’s hoping that 2019 worldwide is a less traumatic and troubled year than many of the more recent ones have proved to be. To anyone who is reading this, my wish is that you will have a wonderful start to the New Year.

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CHEERS

Update and Comments: December 28, 2018

I cannot believe that it is over two weeks since my last update and comment! These public holidays which are accompanied by frenetic activities such as cooking, baking, wrapping gifts and spending time with family and friends tend to result in my getting all mixed up regarding the days of the week. Anyway, another Christmas Day has come and gone and a great time was had by all and now it’s time for a quick update!

As promised, I have inserted a photograph in the about page, and I have also created the contact page. Furthermore, the “Guest Contributor” section has been started with a hobbyist chef and his recipes. I am planning that, over the next few days, I will be starting to publish the first of several articles on local South African artists highlighting some of their work. This is all thanks to the kind co-operation of the Staedtler Company in South Africa and their extremely informative magazine, “MARS arts crafts and design”.  More information will be given to you under the umbrella of “Artists”. Suffice to say that I hope you will find this section of great interest.

Since having to say goodbye to our dear Rudie, I have been in touch with the well respected breeder from whom we purchased him almost 13 years ago, and it seems very likely that soon we will be welcoming a new German Shepherd pup into our home. I will be giving you more info (for those of you who, like myself, are dog lovers) regular updates on this development.

Meantime, as we all recover from an overload of food, alcohol (if one does imbibe), people and end of year stress, I will just say that I truly hope that we can share a lot of thoughts, ideas and useful information in 2019.

Once again, that’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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