Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Best of the Christmas Season

Such a busy week! But so great to have friends that want my company. I am so blessed!
There was:
A braai with Joy on Saturday, lunch with Sindiwe at Steenberg on Tuesday. Tea with Leslie and Maggie on Thursday and Christmas dinner with my darlings Luke and Danielle( and also Tyler and Sindiwe) on Christmas day. And then there was the Carol service we had at Evergreen. Just a few readings and our choir leading the residents in "Away in a Manger" etc.  But I think the best was the carol singing on Christmas Eve.
Our imitation of the "waits" had its ridiculous side--  the straggling procession of us geriatrics battling with our sticks and walkers to keep up with Viv tHart in her motorised wheelchair and the occasional false start when we got off on the wrong note(literally) But the residents enjoyed it( all except one scrooge who slammed his window shut on us) and the choir enjoyed it too. The sweetest moment was when dear Eleanor who doesn't know who or where she is most of the time, burst into song when she heard us sing "Silent Night' and she and Allen gave us "Stille Nacht" as a duet.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Second attempt



Is this one going to work? I think it is a video  of  Yolande and Zoe.

vidoes

I am having another shot at downloading videos.
This is the first jumping trial on Saturday. Elisabeth and Halo on the course.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kommetjie

The U3A Fynbos Ramble yesterday was at Kommetjie, Of the slow group of walkers only Anne and I were there. The main group went up Rubbi Road. We drove down to the parking lot by the beach at Kommetjie and then walked along the board walk to the light house. I was a little envious of the others. I knew there were lots of interesting flowers to be seen on the hillside, but, probably because were walked so slowly, we did find quite few  plants in flower even though it was so late in the year. And of course it was a very pleasant walk as it always is with beautiful views of the sea and the mountains.



 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Some New Poems

The Motorway

On the False Bay end walls hide 
a suburbia of cottages and flats
and a graveyard with small crosses 
and jars of artificial flowers. Funerals
clog the road  on Saturdays, but in the week
it slinks with dogs and tik-heads,
crawls with girls and boys − schooldays 
with satchels, Sundays  to the beach with towels.

Today is Monday so there’s washing in backyards
A pair of boys push Supermarket trolleys,
piled with a harvest of suburban dirt-bins.
Men stand by the roadside on the Southern side.
One holds a paintbrush and a pan, another
stares out dull-eyed, a shovel by his side
still shiny after weeks of waiting.

At a rubbish-strewn alleyway entrance
drugs and gossip are traded in the afternoons
−.a dead body in one of the upstairs flats.
been there for two days, they say.
Yes, this is gangland, isn’t it?
A church, a school, a mosque, a shopping mall, 
the spaces between them strewn with plastic bags,
bent tins and cool-drink bottles.

But among the tenements, succulents are
struggling to survive in a guerrilla garden
and someone has planted lavender bushes
by a blue-washed wall

THE DOG AGILITY  TRIAL

The course flows like a piece of verse.
Spaces between words −
green grass between obstacles.
Numbers show line breaks,
commas and semicolons, pauses
for twists and turns. Some jumps
are words not to be taken straight.
You must go round them and
approach them from a different angle.
A tunnel curve hides meaning for
a moment; then a mid-stanza
see-saw shatters concentration before
a leap in another direction.
A struggle up a frame comes next.
A stop, another leap and then
a smooth run leads towards
a surprise ending.
.
WIND AT NIGHT

Tonight I listen to the wind’s soft groans.
They sound like cattle lowing.
The cows that used to graze here by the vlei
have all been moved to other fields.
But when I lived in George
my neighbour used to keep a dairy herd
and cows grazed in the field behind our house.
One Sunday night my neighbour’s wife called me
to help them pull a calf. Four of us there were
to strain on ropes tied round the legs. 
Little, black hooves came first,
then a brown soft-nosed head.
At last the whole body gurgled and plopped down
onto hard earth, and the calf lay there panting,
waiting to be licked to life.
and as she nudged it, the cow mooed
softly like the moaning wind 






Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fynbos Walk at Silvermine

Today Anne, Bridget June and I made up  Anne's Slow Group on the  Wednesday U3a Fynbos walk. What a lovely morning! Here are some of the flowers we saw.






 From the top: Aristea. Psuedoselago, Watsonia, Lobelia, Erica cerinthoides,Ixia dubia, Dilatris

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Technologically challenged

That’s what I am. Hardly surprising at my age. I thought I knew how to use a computer. I was quite complacent. I could cope with e-mails and I always wrote stories and poems straight onto the screen. I have been working on computers for longer than most of my contemporaries and have basked in the admiration of my friends at the Old Age Complex, most of whom can only just manage to send a text message on a cell phone. I didn’t know that there was huge abyss between my limited expertise and the ability of almost anyone the least bit computer-literate

I was made aware of this last week.  I decided to take up the offer of a new version of Windows. It would be free, I was told. It would be so easy to use and would offer all sorts of wonderful new features. This was the carrot. The stick was the threat that I wouldn’t be able to get updates any longer if I refused to upgrade. “What would be the harm?” I thought. I agreed to let Microsoft install Windows 10.

At first it didn’t seem so bad. The screen was prettier. It was simpler to get to my mail and some of my pictures. I found my way to most of my files with ease, but then I found that certain pathways were blocked to me. Icons had disappeared, the printer no longer seemed to be connected and worst of all, Free Cell Solitaire had vanished. Actually all three versions of Solitaire had vanished, but I am only seriously addicted to Free Cell. Being without Spider, caused a mild form of withdrawal which I could tolerate, but I had become used to indulging in a game of Free Cell every evening before going to bed. Doing without my usual fix was causing serious insomnia. 

What had happened to Solitaire? Could I get it back again? Windows 10 offered me various sophisticated games instead, but after trying out one of them I came to the conclusion that my brain was not up to the challenge. Perhaps I should forget about games and sort out the more important problems. I went back to battling with the connection to the printer. After switching the computer on and off several times it deigned to print one page, but then it gave up and resumed its sulk. I tried to find the printer trouble-shooter, but it had vanished too. However in my search for a solution to my printer problem, I noticed the heading: Microsoft Solitaire. I rushed my mouse over to it and clicked. Sure enough, there were my lost beloved card games. But there was a snag. It appeared that I had to have a Microsoft Account in order to access them.  As instructions for getting such an account were offered, this didn’t seem an insurmountable obstacle. I started following the steps that would lead to acquiring my own Microsoft Account. I followed the steps carefully and meticulously – too carefully and meticulously − half-way through, the screen went blank except for a message telling me that the process had timed out.  It was getting late, so I decided to go to bed and continue the operation in the morning.

The next morning, bright and early, I sat down at the computer and switched it on. As usual, the process called “Fast access” didn’t work. It couldn’t recognise my face and as usual I just clicked on the little round icon expecting to see the screen saver appear. Instead the computer demanded a password. It had never done this before. As far as I knew I had never had a password.  I vaguely remembered that one of the steps involved in getting a Microsoft account was entering a password, but the process had timed out before I could confirm it. I tried the password I had chosen. Of course the computer didn’t like it. I tried another one that I often use. It didn’t like that one either, but it did try to be helpful It gave me a url to use. It told me to “Use this link to update your details” or something to the same effect. This was no use to me as I was effectively locked out. I couldn’t use the link. Clicking on it produced a ping from a bell inside the works, but nothing more.  

I switched the computer off  and on and tried again. When things go wrong, this simple procedure often has a mysteriously magic effect. Not this time, though. The computer was as determined to keep me out as any Home Affairs Official faced with a foreigner without documents.

After trying everything I could think of, including banging the keyboard and shaking my fist at the screen, I tried to get help. First I rang the local Microsoft Offices. “Microsoft got me into this let it get me out,” That was my reasoning. But on a Saturday morning all I got was a message on an answering machine, suggesting I sent them an e-mail. Then I thought that perhaps if I used another computer, I could get it, somehow, to talk to mine and persuade it that I was its legitimate owner and not a hacker from the Ukraine. My neighbour has a laptop. I knocked on my neighbour’s door. She made sympathetic noises, but said she was about to go out to a Bridge Drive and wouldn’t be back until late.

The staff at my Old Age Complex were always so busy, I didn’t like to disturb them, but I knew that in the main offices there were several computers. Perhaps the Manager would let me use one of them. I walked over to the Main building.  Just as I reached the reception desk, Christo, the staff manager, appeared.   What a piece of luck! Christo, the Figaro of Evergreen Retirement Village, is a marvel of ingenuity. Christo can fix anything. I told him my problem. He tut tutted about the rashness of downloading untried programmes, (especially free ones), but he promised to come after he knocked off work at lunchtime.

Christo was as good as his word. He arrived at my front door on the stroke of one. He seated himself at the computer desk and fiddled around for a while. Then he told me to enter the password I had used before. It worked! 
“Christo, what did you do?” I asked him. He put his finger to his lips. I thanked him over and over again, but he said it was all in the day’s work for him and he wouldn’t accept anything from me.

Since then I have not had much trouble, at least not more than usual. I am getting used to a new format for Free cell. I am trying not to be put off by the ugly obese Kings and Queens on the picture cards and not to become annoyed at the extravagant explosion of stars whenever I win a game. The printer, I am glad to say, has stopped sulking and I can get on with my writing at last.


    

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gertrude Stein

This week Gertrude Stein features in Modpo

A rhyme I learnt when young:

In a notable family Stein
There was Gert, there was Ep , there was Ein.
Gert's writings were hazy, Ep's staues were crazy
And no one could understand Ein.

I would be inclined to say that no one could understand Gert either, but as a poet in the twenty-first century, I should be grateful to Gertude Stein and so do her the courtesy of reading and trying to study her work. By making literary society take her writings seriously, she has freed us, who come after her, to write about whatever we like and in any way we like, too.

Unlike Armentroud, who took snippets of writings and conversations and put them together deliberately in a contrived and artificial way, Gertrude Stein appears to write without deliberation. The pieces from  Tender Buttons remind me strongly of the writings of  my schizophrenic daughter. I could always see that what my daughter said made perfect sense to her although it might have sounded like nonsense to me.  In the same way I feel these pieces make perfect sense to Stein. I liked reading my daughter's  poems and short pieces and could  sometimes enjoy listening  to her  ravings. Not that she was always raving; she could usually talk quite sensibly, but what she wrote was nearly always strange and disjointed. Could Gertrude Stein have suffered from a mild form of schizophrenia, or perhaps been influenced by someone close who was schizophrenic.

Gertude Stein's pieces,  I suppose they should be called prose poems, need to  be read in a different way to the poems we have been studying up to now.  There is no point in trying to extract  conventional meaning out of them. When you read them aloud, the words are musical and pleasant to listen to.  The pieces can be enjoyed on this level alone, but with repeated reading, phrases  will form images, which take you on one train of thought after another. I found I enjoyed Stein's writing more than I enjoyed some of the more self-conscious  poems in the previous weeks of Modpo.

Cynic that I am, however, I wonder whether Gertrude Stein would have acquired her reputation as a writer if she had not been the sister of a very rich patron of the arts and through this connection come to know all the "best people" in the world of Art and Literature. Her close friendship with Picasso couldn't have hurt either.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Red hill

I was feeling full of flu, but Anne Warneke persuaded me to join her on her slow Fynbos walk. Two other Evergreen residents, Bridget Stoddart and June Orsmond came too. The walk was indeed a slow one; just as well as I wan't feeling up to much exercise, but this enabled us to notice all the flowers and there were lots. Here are some pictures.
Felicia Fruticosa(I think)

                                                               Babiana ringens
Diastella divaricata

Mimetes cuclatum

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Postberg Sept 2015

Each year the flowers in the West Coast Park are magnificent and each year they are different. I think that this Spring they were the best they have been.



 

Monday, August 31, 2015

McGregor Poetry Festival

What a wonderful weekend. Sheer delight from the start -- driving up through the beautiful DuToit's Kloof pass and the Breede River Valley with Sindiwe and Stephanie, then staying at Green Gables with its old-world charm and lavish breakfasts and, the poetry programme itself which was full of delightful moments. There was just too much going on at the same time so that I had to miss a number of events that I wanted to attend. I didn't even make the launches of Stanzas and  McGregor 2014.

Highlights for me were:
Graham Dukas, Stephanie Saunders and Pam Newham at the fringe -- very, very funny.
Ian McCallum and Wendy Woodward(?) with their passion for Nature, delighting us with their readings of their own and other poems about the Wild.
Sindiwe's inspiring talk
Helen Moffett  with Sindiwe and Liesl Dobson proving the poetry can be fun.
Liesl Dobson's offerings of poetry and Bassoon. I had no idea a bassoon solo could sound so beautiful.



Saturday, August 22, 2015

HELPING THE HOMELESS

On the  cold winter's days we have experienced lately your heart goes out to the homeless people you see shivering huddled under bridges and in doorways. You want to help them. You give them money or you give them warm clothing and blankets and food. But are you really helping them? Only too often the people who are really benefiting from your help are bottlestore owners and drug lords. So many of the homeless are alcoholics or drug addicts.  I knew one homeless woman who used to visit me often. She lived on the street rent free. She was fed by various charitable organisations and churches, who provided regular suppers of soup and rolls at street corners, and she wore the cast-off clothes kind people gave her. Then she was able to spend her entire disability allowance on alcohol.

It is difficult to know what to do for the best. These people obviously need help. They are hungry and cold . Many, unlike the woman I mentioned, have no means of supporting themselves.  If you don't help them what are they to do? But when you give to the homeless or allow them to sleep in your doorway or on your street, you are enabling them to continue in their self-destructive lifestyle. If you want to help give generously to the organisations that build and maintain shelters and to the centres that rehabilitate addicts.
 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

ESTATE PLANNING

I had to sort out my Income Tax today and once I had done that, I decided to look at what was in the top drawer of my desk and tidy it up. Now although every other draw and cupboard is in a state of chaos, that drawer is as perfect as it can be.

The first thing I  found was my Estate Planner. This wonderful booklet was obtained for a few rands from U3A. I have gone through it and updated what needed to be updated. I am very proud of myself! I can die happy now, or relatively happy. I have a will and my affairs are in some sort of order. In this book, whoever has to deal with my death will find instructions on what needs to be done. I have been presuming that person would be my grandson, Luke, but now I wonder if he might not be away at the time. Consequently, I have just sent a message to the other nearest (geographically) relative, Danielle, telling her where to find it.  Perhaps I should let Melanie know about it too. My house is a mess, but there is a measure of order of which nobody but I am aware. However, if either of them read the booklet carefully cover to cover, they would be able to find most of the information they need. (That is if they can read my writing which has deteriorated horribly in my latest years)





Monday, August 10, 2015

SUICIDAL TEENAGERS

I have recently been doing an online course in Writing for young readers in which I had to do "peer reviews" of other students work. One of the stories was about a miserable girl staring at a gun and trying to decide whether or not to kill herself. This was labelled by the author "suitable for 13 to 17 year-old readers".  This made me notice how many books full of gloom are to be found on the Young Adult shelves.  All the stories seem to deal with  subjects like dysfunctional families, anorexia, drug addiction, and suicidal depression.  Is this because teenagers like this kind of stuff or because publishers think this is the kind of book teenagers should read? What happened to the exciting adventure stories I used to love? What happened to school stories full of midnight feasts and tricks played on teachers?  I have read that teenage suicide has become more of a problem lately and I wonder whether the depressing literature that is dished out to them could not be a factor. Reading that story certainly made me feel depressed.

When you are young it is easy to be influenced by what you read and what you see on the screen.  If it is true that young people are mostly sad and depressed, then shouldn't they be given stories with a positive spin on life, even, dare I say it, stories that are just fun to read and don't carry any serious message.  Of course, you may say, most young people read very little. so what they do read ought to carry a serious message. Then their reading time is not wasted.  But I think differently about reading. Occasionally I read something because I feel I ought to read it, but mostly I read simply for enjoyment. More than anything I want to share the joy of reading and I want to pass on this tremendous source of fun to the next generation.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Some more poems

Here are some poems I have written recently.

The first is one I wrote after going to a Mary and Martha service (Anglican Women's Fellowship service) and getting lost on the way.

IT'S NOT A PROBLEM. JUST FOLLOW THE BUS

There’s a red and white bus to take us to our meeting.
(We all simply must be there,)
but I can’t stay for tea; I have to leave early, 
so I drive  in my car, my own little car,
my little blue car
just behind it.

The sun shines bright, the gulls fly free.
The bus trundles on, on the road by the sea.
I sing as I drive in my own little car,
my little blue car,
just behind it.

The bus-driver swerves out to pass a slow truck.
 There are cars in the way and I have to swerve back
The bus speeds on, on the road by the sea
and I am there in my own little car
my little blue car
far behind it.

The bus turns left and then turns right
I see it stop by a traffic light,
but when I get there the bus is gone.
Do I turn left, or right, or go straight on
in my own little car, my little blue car,
in order to follow behind it?

The chairlady sitting in the back of the bus
gets worried when she looks 
through the window of the bus
and she doesn’t see me, in my own little car
my little blue car
just behind her.

I get a message on my hands-free phone
With directions to get to the meeting
then the phone goes dead. There’s no coverage.
The bus has gone without trace and I’m quite lost
in my own little car, my little blue car
far behind it.

But somehow I reach the town of Belhar
and there I meet a charming man called Basil (of Belhar,)
who takes me to all the churches in Belhar
until we find the red and white bus
and I park my own car, my little blue car
right behind it

  
DIPSTICK

She was the first dog that was my very own,
wouldn’t walk with anyone 
unless I told her to. She owned
one black ear and one white
and on her head a spot
to indicate the place to drop a kiss.

The face she showed the world
was pure and innocent, but underneath
there lurked the nature of a thief,
a devious raider of cupboards with a love
for trash and rubbish bins.

She was a hunter, dedicated to
the hounding of squirrels, geese and ducks. 
a killer of rats and moles, a TV star,
a guardian of the home, and
for all her sixteen years,
my friend.

GHOSTS

“He sees a ghost,” you say
When your dog stares, growling, at an empty wall.
But do dogs see ghosts?
No, they don’t. They smell them.

There is a mouse-shaped smell that haunts
the space beneath the kitchen cupboard,
just in the spot a hapless rodent met its fate,
head bitten off and swallowed.
Say”mouse”− Jack Russell, Beemer
jumps up and barks and runs straight there.

There is a smelly feline ghost
that lives in the back lane and even I
catch whiffs of it at times. And then
there is the postman ghost
that hovers by my grandson’s gate
Dogs always circle him
with hackles raised.
though no one sends us letters any more.

And when my little dog sniffs round and round
a worn patch on the mat, and curls up
next to it, I know he smells the ghost
of my old beagle, Dipstick
lying there.



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Birds in Winter

My new camera has a better zoom than the old one, so I have been experimenting with snapshots of birds. My success rate is rather low. By the time I have got the subject in focus, it has usually flown away. But the exercise has been worthwhile in other ways. Looking out for birds that are close enough to photograph, I have been amazed at how many different species can be seen in the garden in our Retirement Complex. I would have thought that there would not be much food around at this time of year.  It is true that my neighbour does have a bird table with seeds and fruit and I have seen quite a lot of birds there, mainly mainly pigeons and starlings, but all sorts of other birds can be seen in the communal garden in the centre of the complex. Unlike many of residents private gardens which are full of exotic annuals, the communal garden is planted exclusively to fynbos species and it is these plants that the birds seem to like.



 
.  

From top : Cape Wagtail, Laughing Dove, Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Bulbul, Cape Sparrow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Awake at night


HIGH TIDE
Awoken on this windless night, I am aware
of roaring, as the sea pulled by the waxing moon
stills every other sound. There is
no rush of traffic on the road, no night-bird song
only the rumble of the waves, a trumpet
on alternate notes: soh fah,  soh fah, the moan
of conch shells in my ears. My blood
pulses more quickly and my skin chills with
the salt breath of growling breakers as
they bare their teeth.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Flamingo






I was delighted to see flamingos visiting Sandvlei again. These strange and elegant cratures are definitely my favourite birds.  I took my new camera when dog-walking and got some nice shots. I tried to video them, but was not so successful. This was my fault, not theirs. They were strutting up and down in full view, just the other side of the river, only a few metres away.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

MacGregor Poetry Festival

So I am not as famous in Macgregor as I thought. I have just received an e-mail to let me know that they are willing to let me read my poems at their festival as long as I do it at my own expense. I do understand that they want to spend their money on poets that carry more weight in the literary scene -- poets that everybody has heard of like Antjie Krog or the poets who have won prizes. Nevertheless, I shall decline their invitation. I do intend going to the festival, but if I have to pay for the petrol to get there(and it is rather a long way) and pay for my room at a B and B and for my meals at restaurants in the village, then I want to enjoy myself and not have the stress of having to perform for an audience not to mention all the hard work that goes on beforehand of having to prepare a presentation that will appeal to fussy festival-goers. Also, I would like to see the programme before I commit myself to all the hassle of organising to go away( trying to get lifts or someone to help drive, getting a house sitter, letting the people at church and the people at the dog club know that I am not available on that weekend etc.)
I shall answer the e-mail and tell them so.
It  has also occurred to me that it might be possible to combine the trip with a visit to my daughter in the Eastern Cape.  But that might mean driving by myself.



Monday, May 25, 2015

Slavery and slave owners

At a recent literary party we had a number of  poets reading their work. One of them, I am afraid I don't remember her name, read a long and impassioned tirade about her Slave ancestors. Why, I wondered,did this annoy me and make me uncomfortable. Thinking about it I realise that it is because poems like this are intended to make pale people like me feel guilty for having slave-owner ancestors. Yes, indeed I did have ancestors who lived on St Helena and were owners of slaves, and most unsavoury characters they were too. I have recently been researching them on Google and have been quite shocked at what they were capable of. But what my researches also turned up was that not all my forbears were lily white. Some of them were definitely rather dark of complexion and must have been the offspring of black African slaves. So now I can also lay claim to slave ancestors and I can stop feeling ashamed and get all indignant instead. And, come to think of it, the poet in question, was not nearly as dark as the West Africans that were brought into the Cape in the early days. Could she carry in her veins the blood of  at least one wicked Slave owner? How much of that evil person's nature did she inherit? Shouldn't she also feel shame?
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

AWF Function

Yesterday I attended the AGM of the False Bay Diocese AWF. I looked upon my presence at this event as something of a duty, but found it unexpectedly enjoyable. Th main reason, I think, was being in the company of such very nice people. We are very blessed in our little congregation. I am so glad that circumstances brought me to All Saints Muizenberg. No, not circumstances, it was the Lord who led me to this small friendly parish and I am very grateful to Him.

Our Bishop, Margaret Vertue, gave the address and her theme was the need to combat the scourge of Gender  abuse. Of course the abuse of women is a bad thing. Of course we should be fighting it. But what can I do in my specific situation. I know our branch is involved in providing trauma packs at the local police station for victims. That is helping, but in a small way. Some people I know are involved in counselling, but that is not really for me. I did, of course, come into contact with abused women when I was a member of Alanon, but I don't want to go back to that. I haven't been close to the problem for such a long time that I can no longer make much of a meaningful contribution at meetings. Thinking it over, and now putting my thoughts into writing, I have come to the conclusion that making a financial contribution to an organisation like Rape Crisis is probably the best way for me. I know that throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily solve it, but Rape Crisis does excellent work and, I believe, gets very little funding. The fact that this is easy for me to do does not mean that it is not worth doing. I think rape Crises is on my internet banking page as a beneficiary. I must go and check this and then organise a regular contribution.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MOOCs

A few months ago I was introduced to the wonderful world of the MOOC.  The first one I attempted was the delightful Modpo. (Modern American Poetry) Then just to show that I am serious about my career as a writer, I studied English Grammar( Crafting a more Successful Writer) and finally, and this is the one I have enjoyed the most, I did a course on Linguistics (The Miracle of Human Language) It turned out to be far from being the dry-as- dust subject that I had always considered it. This course was enthusiastically conducted by the charming Hollander, Marc Oostendorp, and I found it fascinating. I feel quite lost now it has come to an end. Why don't I start another course? I think I need to go though a period of mourning and withdrawal first. If I start another immediately I won;t be able to prevent myself from comparing it to the Human Language one and might not be able to give it the dedication and attention it deserves. These three courses are all part of the group called Coursera. I understand that there are a number of other organisations that offer free online opportunities for study, but Coursera has a very wide variety and they are all of a high standard.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dogs

Dogs have featured largely in my life lately. I have had a very doggy weekend at the Western Cape Agility trials with Luke's Jack Russell, Beemer. I didn't run him myself. I am lucky enough to have a good friend, Yolande, who is an excellent handler, to take him round the courses. It was a very good weekend although he only managed one medal. But the overshadowing event lately was the death of my old dog, Dipstick. She was the first dog, actually the only dog, that was my very own. All my life there have been dogs in my home, but they were never really mine. When I was a child, whatever  dogs we had. attached themselves firmly to my mother. Even though my parents said they had bought them for me, they never took much notice of me. After I was married, all our dogs gave their allegiance to my husband, the Alpha male in the household,  It didn't matter that I often fed them, that I walked them and groomed them daily and was the one who took them to the vet for their check-ups and shots, he was their lord and master and I came a very poor second.

So it was that Dipstick, who came to me after Mike died, was very special. She was not demonstrative, she would greet me with a casual wave of the tail when I came home, but she always knew she was mine. She liked to be close to me. Whatever room in the house I happened to be in, she would be there too.  She would never go walkies with anyone else, even friend or family members that she knew well, unless I told her to do so, and then she would go very reluctantly.  She would walk nicely to heel with the other person, but look back often to see if I wouldn't change my mind and come too.

It is now more than ten days since she died. They happened to be very busy days, which has perhaps been a good thing. But now I am really missing her. Little, Jack Russell, Beemer seemed, at first, to be almost more affected than I was. He was off his food and rather distracted during the show last weekend, Now he seems to be back to normal, but I have been sad and depressed all week. It is only now that I can bring myself to write about my old dog. She was a great companion and we had so much fun and so many adventures together. I know  have been blessed in having had her company for so long. No other dogs we have had, have lived as long as sixteen years. She was getting rather slow, but looked good and was in good health until the day before she died. Poor old girl, she had a severe stroke and by the time I realised how bad she was and Luke came to take her to the vet, she was only semi-conscious and didn't really know what was happening.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Children and Money

I have just been reading the Tonight section of the Cape Argus. I would not waste my hard-earned (or  even my not so hard-earned) cash on this newspaper if it wasn't for the crossword puzzles. These are of a very high standard unlike the articles. The local content is written in very poor, but amazingly pretentious,  English. Take this phrase "...with her DNA strongly rooted in entertainment." Whatever does the  writer think DNA is?  Does she envisage a helix-shaped molecule somehow growing out of rhizoids which have been planted among other dancing and singing molecules and then attached or perhaps given to the  actor referred to. Reading it over I came to the conclusion that the reader is supposed to infer that the person in question comes from a family associated with TV or the theatre. No further mention is made of these relations, who may or may not be"household words." So perhaps the writer just means to say that the actor was previously involved in the entertainment industry. Am I being fussy in preferring plain English? Why do journalists have to use a long word when there is a perfectly good short one. For example "Celebritydom comes at a price."This is the first sentence in another article in the same paper.  "Celebritydom" may well be a word in some American dictionary.(It is not to be found in my copy of Chambers), but it is a very ugly one. There is no reason why "Celebrity" the abstract noun, meaning "fame" could not be used here.

Other articles, the ones which have been previously published in overseas journals, are more readable, if not particularly exciting. A whole page in the latest edition is given to the question of teaching children about money. So many of the children I know are extremely mercenary. Do they really need more instruction about money?  What the writer(Lieber of the Washington Post)  advocates is making children set aside a proportion of their pocket money for savings and for charity. Having "three jars" is how she puts it. One is for spending money, one for money to be saved for something special and one for charity.This is supposed to teach them economy and generosity. She also believes strongly that lessons about money should be given at home and parents should not expect children to learn these lessons at school.

On the face of it this seems to make sense, but in fact, is it really a good system?  Children are totally dependent on parents. Parents supply all their needs. Pocket money is a gift like a toy. It is an educational toy, of course. When they spend it they find out how to buy things in a shop and how much these things cost. Making them put some of it in a "savings' jar is a bit of a con, like pretending to give a present and then taking it away again. And teaching them at home before they learn about money at school?  Without a good grasp of Arithmetic, how can they have any idea about budgeting?
You can forget about teaching children the value of money when they are really young. When they are teenagers a clothes allowance might be a good idea. They might learn the difference between what clothes are really necessary and what are not, but this is a luxury that only really well-off parents can afford.

Actually, after bringing up five children, I have come to the conclusion that thrift is a virtue that one is born with and it can't be taught. Also I think that we live in such a commercialised world, the most difficult problem is to get children to think less  of the importance of money.. . . . .

Monday, April 6, 2015

The poems I like to read

I have downloaded the programme for the Franschhoek festival. I would like to book now, but I must wait to see what Jenny wants to do. We are going together either on the Friday or the Saturday. I think probably the Friday.  We had thought of staying over, but the cheapest place will not accept bookings for less than two nights and Jen doesn't want to stay away from home that long.

When deciding what to book for I am looking particularly at the Poetry events. This is not only because I am a poet myself and read quite a lot of poetry, but also because I want to support my fellow poets. Many of those that are reading are personal friends.

As far as the Festival goes, I am attending the events prepared to listen and  enjoy, but when it comes to reading poems and even more when I contemplate buying a book of poems, I am rather fussy. There are several kinds of poems that I don't much like. Some of these I will listen to if I really have to and will skim over when I encounter them in a journal, but some I don't want to read at all. I list those below.

1. Poems in which the meaning is very obscure.
Sometimes one has to read a poem a few times before knowing what it is about,  I am prepared to do this if the poem is worthwhile, if the words are beautiful for instance or if it has something new and important to say. But some people who write poetry seem to think that a poem should be full of ambiguities and some even seem to think intelligibility is unnecessary and that it is the reader's job to supply meaning. I was shocked to find this sentiment actually expressed by a modern, (or perhaps Post-modern,) American Poet. If the writer himself doesn't care enough about what he wants to say, to make it clear to the reader, why should the reader care about it either. If on reading the first stanza of a poem two or three times, I still don't understand it,I don't bother to read the rest of it.

2. Sermon poems.
These are poems listing or dwelling on sins. Not the poet's own sins but the sins of those around him or her. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness are favourites. Lack of care for the poor or the environment are also frequent subjects. I have never liked being lectured. A pet hate is Philip Larkin's This be the verse.

3 Confessional poems.
But not all confessional poems. There is much confessional poetry that I like very much, but some poems are just too gloomy and others are the kind of which it is said that they give "too much information." I prefer blood and guts to be in crime novels,

4. Political poems
I know I should read  more of the so-called "Struggle  Poetry" and I do think that some of the Black poets are very good, but I just don't enjoy this kind of Poem.

5.Long narrative poems.
I prefer a story, unless it is very short, to be in prose. On the other hand I am not very fond of Flash Fiction (I make an exception of Liesl Jobson's work)

Now with all this in mind I must decide what poetry sessions to book for.


   

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cleaners

I was listening to somebody holding forth on Cape Talk about cleaners and how they are not appreciated and should be paid far more."Cleaners," he said, "Are more important than other categories of employees at the university. They are essential. The university would not function without them." I do agree that cleaners are paid too little, but I disagree when he says that they are  essential. Cleaning is not a highly skilled job. Neither University staff, nor students are unable to do a bit of cleaning and in some other countries they are expected to do so. I think of my own situation. I don't like housework and it suits me to employ a domestic worker two days a week, but I don't need to. Most of the residents in the Old Age complex where I live do their cleaning themselves.and if it meant that I had to pay the equivalent of R10000 a month, I would do the same. The truth is that my charlady needs me much more than I need her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Memoir

I haven't written anything in this blog for months. At first I was very busy with the memoir course and coming out of that, the piece I wrote about living in the Zambian Bush. "In the Bush with a Baby in a Meatsafe". At last that mini-memoir is finished. It wasn't very long but it took quite a few weeks. I am pleased with it now.  I wouldn't consider trying to get a publisher interested in it. I know a number of the people on the course do have that in mind, but what I want is just a presentable chapbook (a few chapters and some pictures) that my children and grandchildren might like to read.

Here is an extract and one of the pictures.

ARRIVAL AT MKUSHI

I don’t believe it,” I say. “Are you telling me that this is where we are going to be living for the next couple of months?”
“Actually more like eight or nine months,” my husband, cheerfully, replies. “It’s an ideal spot; near a river, so we can fetch water easily and there is lots of timber lying about so we won’t run out of firewood.”

It has been a long, dusty journey. We have driven hundreds of kilometres up the Great North Road and over several kilometres of narrow winding bush track. Now Mike and I, with our three-month-old baby, Dorothy, have reached our destination − a small clearing in middle of the Zambian bush. It seems a very long way from the nearest human habitation. I was expecting something like the accommodation one gets in the Kruger Park. Instead, I see a large, weather-beaten tent, obviously army surplus, surrounded by several hastily assembled grass huts.  This, I find, is to be our home for the whole of the dry season − from early in April, to the beginning of the rainy season in November, when we will, at last, strike camp and head back to our proper brick house in the town then known as Broken Hill.  

“But what about wild animals?” I say, looking into the surrounding bush. The grass is thick and high and the tall trees crowd in on us. I am sure I can see movement and hear rustles. “You know, lions and leopards and things?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a gun.”
“Yes, a little .22 rifle.”
“No, a proper gun.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I borrowed it from Dad’s cook. It’s probably illegal, so don’t tell anybody,”
“And the baby? Will she be safe? What about spiders. What about snakes? What about mosquitoes.”
“There is a meat safe for her to sleep in. They’re unloading it from the lorry now. She’ll be perfectly safe in a meat safe.”
“A meat safe? Do you expect our child to sleep in a meat safe?”
“Why not? What’s wrong with a meat safe. I was brought up in a meat safe and so was my brother. We both slept in meat safes. No creepy crawlies can get to her in a meat safe. A meat safe is the best place for a baby.” And it is. We put a little mattress and a pillow into it and she is just as happy as if it was the finest baby carriage. 


Fires on Mountain

Fire at Muizenberg

As I walked in the evening by the river,
the fire was climbing all over the mountain,
flames were dancing on top of the bushes
and smoke was rising, covering the peak.  
Then the sun, pushing through thick brown cloud,
turned to blood and its rays
fell onto the water

And the river was on fire



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Being a poet

I have been thinking again about the Memoir course I have signed up for. Twenty years ago I wouldn't have dreamed of doing such a thing. And when I was younger? I might have written a few things in my early youth. I know I kept a diary for a while, but memoir?  Did I ever think that I might write memoir. For that matter did I ever think I might write poetry/ Now I am known as a poet, if not a famous one,(except in McGregor) at least a published one. How did it happen? What were the influences, the events, the people, the books, that steered me in this direction. I think this is the aspect of my life which I would like to explore.

 Firstly, I am sure that my desire to write, my love of writing and the joy I get from my writing are gifts of the Holy Spirit. After a session of prayer and the laying on of hands, the others in my bible study group began to speak in tongues. I was disappointed because that didn't happen to me, or only to a very slight extent. I was encouraged to go on trying to develop this gift, but somehow I knew all the time that it was not meant for me. Soon after, I was asked to write a play for the Women's Church Fellowship and I began to write.

 Looking back, I can identify many things that have affected my development as a poet. My parents loved poetry and poetry was part of my childhood. The shelves all round our sitting room were full of volumes of poetry: Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Byron, Wordsworth,Shelley, Keats. I had poems read to me, read poems myself and learnt poems off by heart. In the little school my parents ran, we were encouraged to recite poems and were allowed to choose which poems we would learn. Then at High School I was made to learn numbers of Afrikaans poems "uit my kop" Just about a whole book in fact. My father's sisters were great readers too and sent me books as Christmas and birthday presents Some of these were poetry books and I discovered the more modern poets, Auden, Day Lewis, MacNiece. At University I studied Science, but many of my friends were "doing" English Literature and discussing it over coffee sessions in the evenings at "Res" so I suppose I must have absorbed some poetic culture by osmosis then too. After I left University it was years before I read poetry again. When I began to write, it was because I was asked for little playlets (sketches really) for children's church services. It was to learn to do this better, that I joined Paul Mason's writing group. We started off by writing short stories; then tried other forms, drama, travel writing, memoir and poems. Then I signed up for a course at Summer School, run by Finuala Dowling. After completing it I started attending her poetry workshops. Later I began to go regularly to Hugh Hodge's Poetry School. It seems that my poetry has been derived from many sources.

The other thing that I wonder about, is the role my computer played in my career as a writer. Whatever I write, stories essays poems, I think about for quite long time, deciding on theme, form, length and so on, but the first draft goes directly onto the computer. Most of the poets I know write in longhand first and then type the finished poem out afterwards. I suppose that most of them also do revisions  on paper too. This is in contrast to nearly all the writers of novels and other longer pieces, who type directly on the computer. Without a computer would I ever have been a writer? I don't think so. I really don't like writing by hand and my handwriting is awful, almost illegible. I am always grateful for my decision to fill my empty evenings, while my fiance was away, with study. I thought a secretarial qualification would be useful, so I took an evening course in Typing and Shorthand at the Cape Technical college. Learning to type was one of the best things I have ever done. I didn't pass the course, I am sorry to say. I never could type well. I was most inaccurate, but I was fast. What a joy to find, when we bought a computer,  that making typos doesn't matter any more; doing corrections on a computer is so easy.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Good Old Days?

Someone said the other day, that they thought most people were envious of their parents or rather of the people of their parents' generation. She thought that life was much better fifty or so years ago than it is today. I can't agree. I suppose it is true that there is still much poverty and misery in the world. There may well be more poor and miserable people now than there were a hundred years ago, but then there are far more people altogether and for very many of them life is good. Personally I believe the twenty-first century is a wonderful time to be alive even for an old woman like me. I think of all the present-day technology that makes our lives easier. Every few months brings a new innovation to marvel at. When you are eighty years old it is bewildering, sometimes overwhelmingly so, but very exciting too. You don't have to buy every new gadget, you don't have to understand what apps are or what they do (what are grandchildren for, after all) but you can still take advantage of all the inventions that save you time and trouble and bring you information and entertainment. In the town where I lived when I was a child, there were no minibus taxis, workers trudged to work on foot. There was no waterborne sewerage system. (This was only instituted in the late forties) A "nagwa" came to collect buckets once a week from the outdoor latrines. We had to boil our drinking water. Tap water was unsafe. There were outbreaks of typhoid every year and as antibiotics had not yet become available, many people died of it. Nowadays we all complain about Eskom, but I remember several outages, when the local power station broke down. One lasted more than a week and nobody mounted a service delivery protest! Then who would really want to go back to the days of leaky fountain pens. (Does anybody remember what blotting paper was or what it was used for) And think of the hours spent washing and ironing. I suppose washing machines of a sort did exist then, but nobody I knew had one. Washing was all done by hand in a tub with a scrubbing board. Babies' nappies were made of towelling and were definitely not disposable. These days I very occasionally do a bit of ironing, but then no clothes were crease-resistant. There were no fitted sheets and sheets were all ironed too. E-mails and cell phones - how did I live without them? Post would take a long time and I wrote very few letters and received even fewer. Now my 'mailbox' has dozens of messages every day. Not all of them welcome of course, but most of them making for enjoyable reading. Without the ability to send text messages, the members of my family were always failing to meet one another and we were always missing phone calls on land-lines. There is another thing that my contemporaries forget when they grumble about this modern age. In previous times before the medical miracles of "multiple by-passes, arterial stents and laser surgery, most people of their age would not still be alive.