Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Seeing the past differently

Last night I was suffering from a bout of insomnia.  Lying awake, I started to muse on the past.I had been reading a book about a woman who was teaching young college students and how she became involved in their development towards maturity and independence, This made me remember the time when I was the same age as those students particularly the year when I lived in a  flat with three friends I knew from University.  I remembered how I looked up to the other girls who seemed  so  sophisticated and confident, especially two of them, Shirley and Erica, who were close friends and had known each other from schooldays. They always seemed to know exactly how they wanted everything to be.  The two of hem together set the tone,and took  the lead. They made the rules about meals, shopping, how we shared expenses,who was invited to our flat etc. etc. Looking back I see that I was treated rather like a younger sibling, someone not quite competent. I wasn't bullied exactly, but my wishes were not much taken  into account. Now, so many years later, I suddenly perceive the four of us in a different way. I think of the behaviour of the other girls and see them as rather silly and immature, not particularly so for their age, but certainly more so than I. After leaving University I had found a job, so  I was the only one earning my own living.  The others were still completing their studies and had well-off parents who paid  all their expenses, I had always had holiday jobs and while studying, did part-time tutoring for pocket money.  I was the one in a stable relationship, was contemplating marriage and was probably more sexually experienced than they. I  also came from a very literary family and was better informed and better read than most of my contemporaries. Now looking back I can't understand why I felt at all inferior. I see myself now as the  more grown-up one and the other girls far behind in  maturity. How interesting to find that the past is not fixed and that although our memories may not change in themselves they can take on  quite different aspects when revisited in old age.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Wilderness Weekend

What a lovely interlude. to stay
in a "Bushcamp" that was really a mansion,
surrounded by wild forest, looking down on
a stretched-out golden-sanded beach,

with sons and daughters and grandchildren,
who have come from all over the country,
and even from across the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


I have just been reading a newspaper article about a newly appointed academic who is very eager to transform and decolonise her university department. As an ex-colonial, I know I am prejudiced, but I found the article painful to read. Not only was it full of  worn-out socialist cliches, but the writing was very poor too. I thought that the standard of English in the local papers had improved slightly lately, but it seems I was mistaken. However, that is beside the point. What was interesting to me was the rise of anti-colonist sentiment (which in this country means being against colonisation by Whites)  at the same time as immigrants from Africa are flooding into Europe.  Just as, two centuries ago, Europeans escaping poverty and wars in their own countries, settled in Africa, now North Africans and Middle Eastern people try to escape poverty and wars, by settling in Europe. In many countries there has been resistance to this new form of colonisation. Not all Western Governments have been as welcoming to refugees as Angela Morkel's has.  Ironically for a country that was once a great colonial power and whose citizens spread all over the world, there has been a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain.  Yesterday I read a moving poem explaining how wrong this is and how the influx of migrants enriches the country in which they have chosen to settle. not only financially and culturally, but also by bringing in new ideas. I am sure this is true. but it is also true that they cause changes that are not welcome.

All through the ages, populations have spread from one part of the world to another and a mixing of races and cultures has taken place. Sometimes this has been through conquest sometimes simply by entering and taking over. In some parts of the UK and some parts of France, I believe, natives are  now in the minority. Soon this may be the case all over Europe. Perhaps, instead of trying to eradicate European culture from our universities, we should be preserving it. It may not be around for much longer. It could soon be colonised out of existence.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Vegan Poem

I have just been reading, on Twitter, a poem written by a vegan mother for her daughter. The gist of it was how glad the child should be that what she eats does not harm any animal. I am sure people who refuse to eat any animal products feel good about themselves. (Is it mean of me to think that feeling good and believing that you are better, more moral and more compassionate than other people are their reasons for doing so?) It is true that I sometimes feel bad about enjoying meat when it means an animal has had to die to give me that enjoyment. I do understand and sympathise with those who have opted to become vegetarians. It's a humane and civilised choice, but, on the other hand, were we not created omnivorous and so meant to be predators? Is it not rather presumptuous of us to know better than our Maker?  Vegans who do not use any animal products so as not to exploit animals, are another matter. I do not believe that they have thought through all the consequences of their choices. The mother seems to encourage her child to play with ducks, chickens, cows etc. but not to use the produce from these forms of livestock. That mother was obviously not brought up in the country as I was or she would know that poultry like chickens and ducks if they are regularly well fed and cared for don't seem to mind us collecting their eggs, but they simply hate being played with. They are not pets like cats and dogs. The same goes for cows and sheep who put up with being milked and shorn but are not happy with kids running around in their fields and paddocks. Interestingly, some of the  happiest animals are working animals, like shepherd dogs, and riding horses. In other words animals that are"exploited." Then there is the question of soy milk. Soy milk is a good substitute for those who are allergic to milk protein or are lactose intolerant but not the only possible substitute. If it is locally produced it is probably safe to drink it, although soy does contain phytic acid which reduces the absorption of minerals, and phytoestrogens which should not be taken in large quantities by children, but most soy products are imported so using soy milk instead of cow's milk or eating soy as a meat substitute can put local farmers out of business. Also imported soy is GM and contains glycophosphate which is possibly carcinogenic. So the milk you choose to drink because of your concern for animals may not be as good for you or your child as you think.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Why is it that today I was unable to access my blog? The password that is in my list was rejected. I know that the last time I did any blogging I didn't log in with gmail but this time I had to log in and change my password before I could do any writing. I see that Yolande's name.came up. Perhaps she used the computer for gmail or perhaps for her own blog. Yolande is often here but previously it was only once that I found any interference. Last time she house-sat her sister Bronwyn came with her. I wouldn't be surprised if it was something Bronwyn did that excluded me from my own Blog. I have now reset the password and am able to use this blog again.

The weekend before last, Danielle and I did our long awaited road-trip. It turned out to be a more extensive one than we had planned and we were together in my little car much longer than we had meant to be.
Several kilometres of  road-works made our eastward journey much longer than expected and then trying to avoid said road-works we took the wrong turning and landed up going very far out of our way.'Lots of time to bond" as Danielle pointed out.

It was a very pleasant weekend.  I am not surprised Luke is happy at having relocated to George. From being a rural backwater that all young people fled from as soon as they had left school, it has become a vibrant, rapidly developing hub of commerce and industry with gated complexes and huge shopping malls springing up everywhere. I hardly recognised the place.  It was great being with my old neighbours Kathy and Lesley and also nice seeing the pub "the Blind Pig" that Luke has an interest in and where his beers are sold.

Our journey home included four mountain passes. See the pictures below.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Losing it

Last week was not the best week for me. First, on Monday, I lost a dog lead when taking the dogs for a walk at the vlei. It was one of those special ones with a clasp at each end and not easy to replace. I have lost things there before and was sure I would not see the lead again, but I did tell a few fellow walkers about it, just in case. Then on Tuesday, I completely forgot to go to the Exercise class probably because Gairo, my domestic worker, had swopped her Tuesday workday for Wednesday and this put me out. The next thing to go wrong was a booking for a course at Summer School. My friend Julie had asked me if I would go to a poetry course with her. She was going to do the booking. On Wednesday morning she turned up at my house having been unable to book on her computer. We had no success on mine either so decided to drive up to the University Centre for Extramural Studies and sort out the booking in person. We found the building which houses this Centre without  taking more than three or four wrong turnings, but the drive had taken longer than expected and we had arrived just when most of the staff were on their lunch break. After a battle to find the information we needed and after filling out a very long and involved form, we registered for the course.  Then came the problem of payment. The office that dealt with fees was closed for lunch. I didn't want to stay until after two because Gairo, (the one who had changed her work day ) was waiting to be taken home as she had to  fetch her child from school. Eventually the lady behind the counter was persuaded to accept credit cards.  Then all we had to do was check on venue and time.
"Short Form Poetry? But that's this week not next week. The course started two days ago."
Julie and I were devastated, We could have sworn that the dates were 22nd to 26th not 15th to 19th, How could we have made such a mistake.  We must have been looking at the dates for another course.  We had to cancel at once. What a disaster! But just then the course co-ordinator, who happened to be an old friend,  appeared.
'Why don't you  attend the remaining two, sessions. We'll sort out the fees later."
So that's  what we did.

Wednesday is always a busy day. I had been to a U3A meeting in the morning. The trip up to UCT had taken several hours and I had just enough time to pick up my notes for our Evergreen poetry club meeting which started at three that afternoon. I also had a church meeting at 6 and I just had enough time to feed the dogs before rushing off to that. That is why I only got to the vlei the next day. I was a bit later than usual after the "short form poetry" too. One of my dog walking friends gave me some good news
"Paul has your dog's lead. He's gone home already, but you can get it from him tomorrow."
I knew just who she meant. Everybody living near the vlei knows Paul. He is the one who owns no fewer than six rescue dogs and takes them to the vlei every morning and evening without fail.   I would be sure to see him the next time I walked my dogs. But, somehow,what with one thing and another, I kept on missing Paul. I finally caught up with him.
"Oh no!"he exclaimed.  "I brought the lead with me every day, but finally  I gave up and today I left it at home.  Be sure to come tomorrow and I  will bring it tomorrow"
The next day, I discovered that I had lost my watch. It was one of Gairo's workdays so I asked her to look for it when she was cleaning the house. Unfortunately she failed to find it. It was one of the hottest days this month and I when I got the dogs ready to go for their walk, I realised that the heat of the afternoon had made me think it earlier than it actually was. When I got to the vlei I could see no sign of Paul.
"He must have gone home already," I thought
If only I could have sent him a message, but all that week( I did say it was a bad week, didn't I ) my phone would only send messages in Spanish.
I gave the dogs a quick run and then drove to Paul's house. He has no bell at the gate, so I shouted for him, but there was no reply and no dog barking either.
So it was back to the vlei and sure enough, there was Paul, just about to walk his dogs home. I called out to him and he reluctantly turned back.
"When I didn't see you ,I'm afraid I gave the lead to Hazel" he said. "She lives in the house two houses from the corner."
So I proceeded to a house which I thought was the one he meant.
"No, There is no Hazel here, but I think the chairlady of the Neighbourhood Watch is called Hazel. I'll give you her number."
"Is she a a tall person who has a limp?"
"I don't think so, but I'll try her anyway."
But the chairlady was not there.
I took the number and rang later.
"Have you a dog lead that belongs to me?"
To my amazement , the answer was "Yes" and soon I had my lead back. "Thank you Hazel" Although Hazel was not the Hazel I thought she was. but a quite different Hazel.
However, in spite of everything, there were some good things about last week. The two poetry sessions were really worthwhile, and somehow the fees seem to have been forgotten. The lead did come back and since then I have managed to get someone to fix my phone so it speaks English again.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Modern Poetry

I have not been writing much lately. This is partly because .I have started a course on Modern American Poetry. Not the famous Modpo, but a course run by Illinois university. I don't think it as good as Modpo, but I like the way it does include a number of poems(and poets) that are not part of Modpo. Poms covered so far are of the kind that I can relate to. These all fall in the period that is known as "Modern" and not "Post Modern" and date back to the early 20th century. But I have recently read some poems which were highly praised by prestigious American critics and these I am afraid I cannot relate to at all. It is not just that they are difficult to understand.  Of course I am old-fashioned enough to prefer poems that make sense to me, but I can often enjoy teasing out the meaning from a poem that seems obscure at first reading. I don't really like poems that are made up of numbers of seemingly unrelated images like those of Ashbery's later work., but I can get enjoyment from the vivid description in the word-pictures Ashbery paints. I can also enjoy the music of  many modern poems  though I may not understand what they are about.

I think it was in the New Yorker, (sometimes pages of this journal get sent to me) that I  read about some young American poets who had all received prizes for their poetry. I instituted a Google search and that is when I decided that Twenty-first Century Poetry/Contemporary Poetry/ or perhaps Post-Modern Poetry had past me by. I have experienced various set-backs recently. I was rejected at the MacGregor festival.The new on-line literary journal, the name of which I can never remember, informed me that the poems I had submitted were not of a high enough standard and the poem I thought had been accepted by the journal, Stanzas was not included in its latest issue. I read these prizewinning poems carefully several times, but I could make neither head nor tail of any of them.  It was not just a case of a series of unrelated statements or unrelated images, they seemed to me to be just a number of unrelated words set haphazard on a page. I read them aloud because I have found many poems come to life only when read aloud. Some of Gertrude Stein's work which looks at first glance like the "word-salad" of a schizophrenic, trips delightfully off the tongue and makes its own kind of sense when you hear it. But this was not the case with this poetry. It is true that American speech has its own  cadences and rhythm so perhaps I am missing something by reading the poems in my clipped South African English, but I don't think it is that. It must be I who is not in tune with the literature of the New Century. Perhaps I should consider retirement. At Eighty-three it is not surprising to find oneself a has-been.