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


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


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


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.


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


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.


“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.