Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Vegetarians and Vegans

On Saturday I was at a party. It was the end of year party of our poetry group and one of the most enjoyable I have been to. The food was great, the company was excellent and the poems were of a very high standard too. While surveying the most wonderfully varied choice of snacks, the subject of Vegetarianism came up and with it the idea of the exploitation of animals. Somebody saying how poor cows were forced to produce more milk than was natural and chicken kept to lay eggs etc. Now, I am against animals suffering, but I am not sure that the exploitation of animals is the evil that some  animal lovers believe. Think of all the animals we share our world with. There are those we  use for our own purposes, and those we compete with for living space and food. The first multipy and thrive, the others are pushed towards extinction, unless preserved in game parks and reserves and there, of course exploited too, to make money as tourist attractions.

Animals do have feelings, but are we right when we equate their emotions with ours. I am reminded of friends from our dog club who asked me to sign a petition against using  animals in circuses.  "These creatures, " they said. " are put in cages, taken all round the country and made to perform tricks." I said that I thought it a bit hypocritical of us to condemn the practice, because it was exactly what we were doing with our dogs. We train them to run Agility courses, take them to events in different places and keep them in cages at shows when not competing. I am not just trying to justify it when I insist that the dogs simply love it. You just have to see my terrier's excited reaction when he is taken to a show.  Just because animals are made to work, doesn't mean that they are unhappy or badly treated. We may prize freedom, but do animals feel the same way? An animal in a well-run Zoo, kept safe and fed regularly is probably happier than the same creature in the wild, often hungry and in constant danger of predators or if a predator itself, in competition with other dangerous animals. We may get sentimental about the natural life in the great wide open spaces, but given the choice, we nearly all opt for a safe suburbia ourselves.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

All Souls Day

All Saint's, All Soul's and Halloween  all come at the same tine of year and I get them muddled. I am also confused about "the Day of the Dead. "  Is this the same as All Soul's Day?  At the churches where I worshiped previously neither All Saint's nor All Soul's was  celebrated. I always knew that the name Halloween meant Saint's Eve, so presumably it is the day before All Saint's day, but because of all the skulls and skeletons you see at Halloween, I thought it had something to do with the dead and so I thought the day on which one remembered the dead was the day before the day you remembered the saints.  I believed that All Soul's day came before All Saint's Day. I was very surprised to read the instructions in our latest pew leaflet. We were told, last week, to go to church on Wednesday evening as it was All Saint's Day and  again on Thursday evening for All Soul's day. So I must remember Nov 1 all Saints, Nov 2 All Souls. First remember the goodies and then all the other dead people.

Now that I am a member of  All Saint's parish , Muizenberg I am very aware of the date of our patronal festival. So I know that the actual day was Wednesday. But because not everyone can attend church in the week, there was just a short service on Wednesday and we waited until today for the proper celebration. We had a simply glorious service for this special day. The church was shining clean and full of flowers, the Youth band produced most joyful music and we had a scrumptious tea afterwards.

I had intended to go to the evening service on Wednesday. I even told Luke, who was to spend the night here, that I would leave his supper for him in the oven, if I was not there when he came.  I had been very busy all day making marmalade for the Evergreen Craft market which was to take place on Friday and just did not make it to church. I got everything ready. I put the meat and veg in the oven, sat down for a few minutes and fell fast asleep, only waking when Luke arrived. The pork rashers were a little overcooked, but thankfully not burnt. he was ravenous and didn't mind.

So having missed out on All Saint's, I attended the All Soul's service the next day. . It was quite a moving service. After the prayers when we remembered those that had died, we went up to the altar and lit candles for them. There were not very many of us in the congregation. The Parish council  had catered for a larger group and there were enough candles for each of us to light more than one. I thought of all those dear to me who had died. So many of my family, so many of my friends.
I made a mental list as I went up and lit candles. First, my Grandmother, who died when I was still at school. My aunt Bobby who lived with us died when I was at university, my father I lost when I was in my twenties, married and living in Zambia, my father-in-law died the same year. My mother-in-law died many years later when we were living in George, my other aunt Dorothy died at much the same time, but I don't remember exactly when. My husband died seventeen years ago. My eldest Daughter died eight years ago. After my husband's

  death I moved to Cape Town to be near my grandson and my youngest daughter(who have both since moved away, of course) . When I moved  I  had family living here as well as a number of old friends. almost none of them are left. I have out-lived them all. I was one of the youngest of my generation and had numerous older cousins. Of these I was very close to Jerry and Brian .Both died a few years ago. Closest of my friends were Poelie, Liz, Catherine and Helen  Of them only Liz is still alive and she is senile and bedridden. Why am I still around? I ask myself.

Yesterday I went to a wedding. It was a delightful occasion. I found myself becoming tearful. Why after all these deaths, do I cry at a wedding.Perhaps because it was such a welcome change from all the funerals and  wakes or  ("celebrations of a life") that I have been to lately.


Today I remember:
my Granny, who showed me how to sew,
and knit and darn my father’s woollen socks,
my Dad who didn’t say too much, but taught me
some Maths and some 
basic carpentry.
my Aunt, who gave me lessons in the pruning
of bougainvillea creepers, fruit trees and rose bushes,
my Mother who  introduced me to books,
my daughter Dot, who taught me patience among other things
my friends, Catherine, Poelie, Helen
with whom, I spent so many pleasant hours.

And last, I light a candle for my husband .Mike.
My hand shakes and the hot wax burns my palm.
”Butterfingers” he would have said. “Let me do that for you.

It's still hard to live without him.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Being in the Minority

Is it unusual, or do other people like me also increasingly find themselves the only Christian at a social gathering.  Of course, here, at Evergreen, so many of the residents are ex-Zimbabweans and probably originally from the UK, so it is not surprising to find a lot of non-believers. Church-going is not very popular in England these days. But apart from my friends from All Saints and St Martins so many of the people I spend time with are atheists.

The other evening  my friend, Joy, held a dinner party  as a  Farewell for Ruth and her son who had been staying with her. When we were all seated, the little boy, Luca, offered to say Grace. Joy accepted, and he did it very nicely. But Joy's friend and neighbour, Fabienne, was horrified at how the child had been "indoctrinated".  She was particularly perturbed by the short span of time in which this indoctrination had taken place. She kept on exclaiming that he had only been at a South African School for such a short time and yet been so thoroughly indoctrinated. All the other adults except me(or should it be I) distanced themselves from this embarrassing evidence of religious belief. I remarked on the experience of being so often in the minority and said that it seemed that Atheism was very trendy. Fabienne took exception to the word "trendy. I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps she felt I was not taking her seriously enough. I am not sorry that I was prepared to stand up for my faith,  but I think I must learn to be more tactful. In my experience, atheists are inclined to be very touchy.

All through my life most of my friends have been non-believers or at least not church-goers, but it is only in the last few years that I have noticed many being so vocal about their lack of belief. There are numerous prosetelising  atheists around too. and on Social media anti-Christian sentiment is common.

I am not sure what the cause of this upsurge of atheism might be. Perhaps it is the interest generated by the work on the human Genome  which has made writings on Evolution popular. I know Richard Dawkins has been very influential. His books on evolution have been best sellers, although I'm not sure The extended Genotype (if I have remembered the title correctly) was as widely read as the earlier book, The Selfish Gene. It is the God Delusion  that everyone has read and which I think may have  been a large influence in the drift towards Atheism in the English-speaking world, though other popular writers like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. have contributed too. On another level, Dan Brown's books, which I always considered just light entertainment, have been surprisingly influential. So many readers seem to have taken seriously the mishmash of old (and mostly discredited )myths and legends which form the background of the plots of his rather trashy novels.

Twenty years or so ago, remarks like those Fabienne made about "indoctrination" and "believing such silly stories"  would have been considered very bad manners.  Now, although it is not at all PC to insult Mohammed or belittle Islam, it is quite all right to say anything you like about Christians or the Christian faith. I suppose  we are expected accept this criticism meekly and  to turn the other cheek.

And on the subject of silly fairy tales, why do people like Fabienne think modern day Christians take the stories in Genesis absolutely literally. Surely even when they were first written, they were meant as allegories. The very names, Adam and Eve, meaning Man and Woman (or mother) are clues to show us how we are to understand their story.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Elusive Grand Marigold

Two weeks ago, my daughter, Shirley and I went off for a weekend  together. We had been planning this excursion for a long time. I have attended the annual McGregor Poetry Festival every year, but it was the first  time for Shirley. Granny, the old hand, was to organise everything. This turned out to be a mistake. First of all I found it  impossible to book events online. I had to ask Shirley to do so. I told her which ones I wanted, but somehow we managed to double book and acquire tickets  for two events in one slot. I did manage to do the airline bookings successfully after spending most of one frustrating morning at it and Shirley was able to arrive and depart  at the right times and on the right days. The accommodation, however was a different matter.

I found what seemed to be the ideal Bed and Breakfast place online. It was the exotic name.the Grand Marigold, that appealed to me. I duly booked two nights and received an E-mail confirming my booking.  I did not make a note of the street address or the phone number, but printed out the e-mail and put it in my bag. Unfortunately, I decided at the last moment to take a smaller handbag with me and the e-mail got left behind.

When we arrived in McGregor, early in the afternoon. I realised that I did not know where to find our accommodation, so we decided to go first to Temenos where the booking office was situated and where we would be able to get directions to the various venues. We were sure that the organisers would know the Grand Marigold. To our amazement, nobody there had ever heard of it!  Never, mind, we would go to the Tourist Office. The people working there would be bound to know where it was. No, they had never heard of it either. they had a list of places offering accommodation and a large board on which B and Bs and 'Self-catering rooms" were advertised. but the Grand Marigold did not appear on either. Booking sites on the Internet were consulted, lots of places found, but no Grand Marigold to be seen.
"Are you sure it is in Mcgregor and not in Robertson or Greyton?"
by this time I was not sure of anything except that we had come all the way to McGregor and now had nowhere to lay our heads.
The kindly lady in the tourist office offered to find us a room. At this late date it was an almost impossible task, but somebody appeared at the door just as we were about to give up with the news of a cancellation. A small cottage and we would have to  share a bed, but we took it.  It was quite close  being situated in Darling Street, which we thought was also the Street where the Grand Marigold was hiding, but though we drove up and down that street several times we found no sign indicating anything grand or Marigold. We saw someone coming out of a house and inquired of them where the Grand marigold might be."Never heard of it" was the answer."

On Sunday, about to leave, we were in the Booking office again. We told the lady behind the counter about our fruitless search for the Grand Marigold. She had never heard of it either, but she did a more comprehensive search on the Internet and  found it advertised there. There was even a picture of its front gates.
"I know those gates," she said. "It isn't the Grand Marigold. It is a place called the Loft"
It must have changed its name, but kept it a secret.
Back at home I received an E-mail asking why we had  not arrived at the Grand Marigold.


The room we booked had two big beds,
a kettle and  TV
We could have watched the breakfast show
while we drank our morning tea.

But though we searched McGregor
and everywhere around.
This most elusive B and B
was nowhere to be found.

McGregor Poetry Festival 2017

This year's Poetry Festival, the fifth one, was, I think, the best one for me. Because I was not doing a presentation, I was able to relax and attend more of the events. Best of all, I had the joy of introducing my daughter, Shirley, to McGregor and to the fun of hearing poetry and of writing it too. At the last event, an "Open Mic" she even took part and read a poem of her own!
One of the best things about the festival is the opportunity of meeting old friends, all writers or readers of poetry. For the first time, I was able to visit the donkey sanctuary. Unfortunately they were not doing tours as it was too late in the day, but we were able to see the donkeys from the other side of the fence. We also visited some art galleries and took home a wooden"sculpture".

Highlights of our weekend were the presentations of John Maythem and Finuala Dowling and the "Beat Poets" read by Chris Marais and co.

We had an unusual. adventure as well. we couldn't find the B and B in which we had booked a room and had to stay elsewhere, not quite as convenient but adequate.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back Home

I am back home from the hospital where I  spent a comparatively short stay, although it seemed quite long to me. Two days later, I am still  high on all the attention and  loving concern poured over me. I thank God today for my recovery and more than that, for the love that has been shown me in such great measure. From the hospital staff who cared for me so well,  to all the many friends who sent caring messages and offers of assistance. Most of all I am thankful for my family. I am so blessed to have them. My daughter Shirley as soon as she heard,( and that must have been in the early hours,) caught a plane and was at my side the same morning. My grand-daughter-in-law came to see me before going to her work to let me know that she had looked after my dogs and fed them and that she would fetch Shirley from the airport. My grandson who was in California on holiday at the time at once organised a changed return flight and was in Cape Town two days later. All the others were constantly on the phone or e-mailing to find out how I was. I was especially touched by the cards and goodies that were sent by friends from the dog club.  All Saints, my church  family, all sent good wishes and told me they were praying for me and dear Father Stafford Moses came to visit to pray with me and to cheer me up.

I was in the new hospital, Melomed,very new, very lavish and very high-tech. I think they must have all the facilities there, because it seemed to me that (except for a major operation) I must have been subjected to every medical procedure and test  known to medical science. I lay in a bed in ICU attached to machines on both sides which monitored all my vital signs. All the figures the machines generated were filled in on a huge sheet. I felt as though I was being turned from a human being into a bundle of statistics. But whatever these procedures may have been like, eventually everything that was wrong with me was discovered and I am now more or less fixed. Except, of course, for a bucket full of pills which I have to take religiously for some weeks.still.

After all this excitement, life goes on as usual-- quite an anticlimax.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


In the old days before the microchip, we would be out of touch with one another all the time. Now we expect to be able to speak to friends and family on our cell phones at any time day or night. Have we become too dependent on these admittedly useful devices. Several years ago my charlady told me. "This little thing is your friend. Keep it close to you always" That was good advice and so I now never buy any item of clothing (except for panties and bras of course) that doesn't have a pocket that can hold my Samsung.and I carry it everywhere I go. But lately my "friend " has been letting me down. The battery doesn't hold charge for more than a few hours so I keep on missing calls and messages. Usually this doesn't matter much but yesterday it had disastrous consequences.

I had offered to fetch Luke's girlfriend and her son at the airport. Nicole and I had been sending text messages to one another about it and had agreed to meet at the pick-up zone. The plane was due at 12,15 so allowing for luggage collection etc. I planned to be at the aforesaid zone at 12 45. "Wait for me if I'm not there when you arrive" I told her.  I remembered to take my phone so we could get in touch as soon as the plane landed. I didn't remember to charge the silly thing in advance, but when I checked it before I left thought it's juice would last out. How wrong I was!

Having cancelled my Saturday Beginner Agility session, I duly set out for the airport just before 12. There was a bit more traffic on the road than I had expected so I arrived at Cape Town International a little later than I had intended, but still well before 1 pm. I took the turn-off signposted "Pick-up Zone" collected my parking ticket and found a bay, a rather narrow one, quite near the entrance. I noted that the plane had been delayed, but had landed a few minutes before. There was no sign of Nicole and Lucas at the pick-up Zone so I sat down to wait in a position from which I could see the stream of people emerging from the arrivals hall.

After waiting about twenty minutes, which is the longest I have had to wait for luggage collection myself, I thought it would be a good idea to get in touch with Nicole and tried to ring her number. My phone simply refused to do anything but tell me to recharge the battery. Nothing for it" I told myself. I'll just have to sit and wait until they appear. " But when more than half an hour had gone by I thought Nicole must missed the plane or have gone home some other way. She had no doubt sent a message to tell me about it and I had not received it. My free parking time had now run out. I went to the information desk and got them to page her, but there was no response. I couldn't find a way to charge my phone so decided to leave a message and  go home.

Meantime Nicole was standing outside the arrivals building in the drop-off zone. She was becoming frantic. Sure that I had been hijacked or had met with an accident she rang Luke who became a bit worried too and then Danielle who started ringing hospitals and police. Finally Nicole got an uber. She stopped off at Evergreen only to find that I had left hours before and was nowhere to be found. I drove home, not in the best of moods I must admit,and was told that Nicole had been looking for me. She wasn't in the best of moods either. I am glad to say that a plate of fish and chips each later, peace has been restored.

It struck me later that the advent of the cell phone has put paid to a whole genre of  stories. So many love stories and  romantic films produced in my youth centred round lovers failing to meet.. In those days this sort of thing happened all the time. I can't count how many times my husband and I made arrangements to meet which didn't come off because one of us went to the wrong meeting place.  Nowadays it only happens to old grannies like me.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


While we had a storm here, a storm which was not nearly as bad as we had been led to expect, Knysna was burning. It is one of the worst tragedies I have ever known. Twenty years or so ago I used to know Knysna well. We would visit often. We had many friends there. We would take the train and spend an hour or so. there whenever we had visitors. We would go there for squash matches or meetings of one sort or another, or just for an outing. I did a lot of work in the surrounding forests when I was employed at Saasveld. Forestry Research station.  This was a beautiful little town. now it seems to have been quite destroyed. Hundreds of houses burnt, hectares of forest and plantation gone for ever.
 Of course, the drought and the windstorms were very largely to blame for the excessive destruction, but if the Forestry Department had functioned as it did when I worked there, I am sure the fires could have been contained before they did so much damage. In those days, there were towers in strategic positions which were manned day and night and fires could be quickly spotted. Then there were many more permanently-employed forestry workers. Most of these were trained in fire-fighting, so there was a large pool of  fire-fighters to be called on when needed. Now most of the plantations are privately owned and the owners find it more cost-effective to out-source labour and employ temporary workers, and this has increased the risk of destructive fires.

I remember Willem, the forestry worker who had been seconded to the lSaasveld laboratory when I was in charge of it. He was such nice happy soul and such a  good reliable guy. He was known for being the first to volunteer when there was a call for help in putting out a fire. "Always the first to jump on the lorry," the foreman told me. I thought of him when I read of the 67 year-old fire-fighter who died of burns and smoke inhalation. That old man must have been somebody like Willem. I wrote this for him.


“You again!” they said.
“Always the first to jump on the lorry.”
“Why don’t you give it a break? they said
“Why don’t you leave it to the younger guys?”
“Stay home this time,” they said.

“Don’t you remember the heat and the dirt?
Ash, soot and sweat on your hands and your face
the smell of charred hair and blistering skin,
and the small, burnt animals on the forest floor.
It’s a nasty job,” they said

“Don’t you remember how a blaze from the ground
can flicker up tree-trunks  and fly to the sky?
Don’t you remember how sparks shower down,
and how smoke sears your eyes and grabs at your breath.
“Aren’t you afraid?” they said

“But they need me there,” he said

"Tales for Real Girls"

I have just  been reading on Facebook, a promotion for a book about women who have excelled in various fields. The purpose of this book (written by feminist women) is to be an alternative to stories like Cinderella where a girl is helped by a fairy to marry a prince. It is intended to give girls confidence.and make them feel that they are just a worthy and  competent as boys.T his seems a laudable aim, but one thing worried me.:the statement that girls should be encouraged to believe that they could be anything they wanted to be. Now this is such a blatant lie.! There is nothing wrong in encouraging children to aim high, but to tell them that they con succeed at anything they want to is just to set them up for disappointment. All children should be helped to develop  their special talents, but to encourage them to believe that they have abilities that they lack or to allow them to be blind to their limitations is just to be cruel and make them feel dreadfully guilty when they fail. It is bad enough that boys are pushed to dominate and excel at all costs, why put these pressures on girls too?

I am glad to have been born a girl and to have been born in the middle years of the last century. when girls were taught cooking and sewing and were expected to become  wives and mothers rather than astronauts or physicists. I had a mother and aunts who had shone academically and had done well in their respective careers, but I was not put under the sort of pressure to excel that the boys I knew experienced. I was allowed to be myself, I was allowed to be ordinary. I am sure a lot of girls feel this way. Of course we should be grateful for the stalwart women who have opened greater possibilities for us,enormously increasing our choices of career, but how nice to be able to believe that we don't  have to work long boring hours or battle our way up  corporate ladders the way men have to do to be accepted.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tour to Prince Albert and Eight Bells

I have just come back from a delightful tour for Seniors run by Tours-4-Us.  We were told that the average age of the bus-load of old people was 75, but as one of the passengers was only in her fifties, most of the others must have been over 80. They were, however, a very spry lot and also sweet and friendly..  It was nice being able to go with my friend, Cynthia. Apart from having to help her out of a bath on one occasion, her company was not demanding and we had fun together. The accommodation was good, unpretentious but comfortable and the food was good - too good. I ate far too much. We traveled through some spectacular scenery. Here are some photos.
 Du Toit's Kloof
 Prince Albert Main Road
Ancient Tricycle
 Meiring's Poort
Hartenbos Train
Eight Bells

Monday, April 17, 2017

Education by Face Book

Just when I had decided that I should not waste my time with the daily reading Facebook, I start getting really interesting posts. Whether friends send them to me or whether it is the newspapers that are targeting me I don't know, but I have been receiving the most interesting articles. No only have I been able to keep up to date with what Zuma has been up to, but I have been exposed to some lovely poetry that I would not have otherwise been aware of and I have also learnt about new research findings in Biology and Neuroscience.
Today I came across an article published by the New Yorker about Schizophrenia( written by Siddhartha Mukerjee)  Genetic research has thrown new light on this disease and found a connection between immune response and Schizophrenia. A pair of genes (B2 and B4, I think they are called) are responsible for the production of proteins that destroy foreign matter, harmful compounds and junk of various kinds in the body. These proteins travel about scouring our organs including the brain and twine themselves around bits they want to destroy. They also twine them selves around some synapses. Apparently during early development, even before birth, our nerve cells are making more and more connections , but when we reach maturity many of these connections are destroyed by the aforementioned proteins, presumably because otherwise we would have far more than we need.  A variant of B4 causes too much synapse-destroying protein to be produced and synapses that are actually needed are destroyed. Somehow this gives rise to the symptoms of Schizophrenia. (and also bipolar conditions). Scientists think this is why the onset of psychotic episodes occurs typically in late adolescence or early adulthood when these proteins are active.

The brain is a very strange organ, more wonderful than we could ever imagine. It would be great if knowing more about the causes of mental illness could mean that a cure is in sight for this horrible illness, but I am afraid this is wishful thinking.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The decay of the ANC

So our infamous president is not going anywhere.  I am not surprised. Those who are greedy and unscrupulous can usually get what they want.The Guptas and their patron/puppet,Zuma have won. We shall have to get used to living under their evil and corrupt regime. Living under a bad government  is something we had to learn to do in the past. We can learn to do it again. We must get ready to face more poverty, more unemployment, higher prices, more government inefficiency. When I supported the struggle against the Apartheid government, I knew that this could happen. But at that time to join the forces opposed to the Nationalist Government was the right thing to do. It is no consolation to me to know that I foresaw the future so accurately.

This is a sad day for South Africa.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Atheists on Facebook

Some of my best friends are ... Isn't that what we say when we are about to be critical of some group or other. We throw a hypocritical sop to those who would say that we are too unkind or too picky or something of that sort. But thinking about it, it is actually true, that some of my best friends are atheists. This is hardly surprising as atheism is very trendy these days, especially among those who consider themselves intellectuals. The famous biologist and atheist, Richard Dawkins, is one of the most influential writers today. Perhaps not quite as popular as he was a few years ago, but still a best-selling writer. Whether it is his influence or not, proselytizing  atheists are popping up everywhere. It is  reading another Atheist rant on Facebook that has given rise to to what I am writing now.  What I would like to say to those who post such things on social media is this. "So you are an atheist. You don't believe in God. You are very pleased to have discarded all those restricting superstitions. Fine! I'm happy for you. But you don't have to dis the Faith of other people."

This is what I have against some Atheists: They are so radical in their attitude to religion.  Richard Dawkins in particular, is rabid in his opposition to all religion, but especially Islam. Any right-minded person must deplore the excesses of Islamic extremists, but the overwhelming majority of Moslems are not like that. Those I know personally are good decent people, dedicated to clean living and good works, which leads me to believe that Islam is actually a force for good in the world, although I do not subscribe to its tenets. But the Crusaders have nothing on Dawkins when it comes to hating those who believe differently.

Just a note on the above: The well-worn assertion that Religion has caused all the wars of the past      ( and the present too probably) is countered in  Karen Armstrong's Fields of Blood . She maintains that wars are all fought over land and that it is not religion but agriculture that is to blame. Personally I wonder whether most conflicts are not all about resources and that leaders of governments just cynically use religion to justify the bloodshed. The crusades were probably really about the Spice Trade and the modern ones are mostly about oil.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Colonials and Colonists

A new buzzword--  Decolonisation.  Actually this word is not at all new to me, It was very popular in Zambia in the sixties and seventies. It is always evoked when people want to change names of public buildings and streets. I approve of it in this context. We don't want to be reminded by signposts and maps of many of the rather awful people who have given their names to avenues and airports. Decolonising school and University curricula is also  justified. There is probably too much emphasis on European literature and African History should be taught far more from an African point of view than it is at present. But nowadays  colonist  colonialist   colonisation. have become dirty words. A lot of bad things have been perpetrated by colonists in the past, of course, but I am afraid very often anti-colonial is used to mean  not against being taken over and exploited by foreigners, but actually simply anti-white.

I have recently read the opinion that it is important to define what a colonist is. My dictionary simply defines a colonist as somebody living in a colony, which in turn is defined as a settlement abroad controlled by the founding country.How does a colony come to be and how does somebody become a colonist. A group of people might be sent out (as some of ancestors were sent to the island of St Helena) to establish a settlement which would be a colony of their mother country. The land might be uninhabited like St Helena was, or there might have been other people already living there, but it would be land that had not previously belonged to those who were colonising it. So you might define a colonist as someone who settles on land that did not previously belong to him. An appropriator of
land.in other words.

White settlers  in many cases, simply moved onto land in various parts of Africa, built houses and farmed land.. These certainly fulfill that  definition. There are also those who have acquired land through conquest. British people have been very successful in doing this. One can  also say that white people from the Western Cape colonised most of Transkei and the Eastern  Cape. I believe that  people who are now using the term, think of a colonist as a white person who has settled on land that did not belong to him(but probably to an innocent black person) However the definition above can also apply to Zulus who in the past acquired land through conquest, and what about the numbers of  people from the Eastern Cape who have settled on land in the Western parts of this country that never belonged to them. So if you are deriding colonists and colonisation (and in fact there is good reason for deploring the exploitation that has accompanied colonisation) you ought to refine the definition and say exactly which colonists you are talking about.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fear of Poetry

Is there a word for this condition like claustrophobia - fear of small spaces. There should be. It appears to be widespread. In Evergreen and surrounds it is almost epidemic.   People who will discuss politics, philosophy and even literature come all over trembly when poetry is mentioned.
At this old age complex we have several clubs which hold regular meetings. The most well attended is the Knitting circle, but there are also Bridge groups and Canasta groups, a Book Club and a Photographic society. The Management, through the staff at reception, put up notices on a notice board and send out notices of the meetings of all these clubs,  All these, except the Poetry Club. For quite a long time there has been a regular poetry meeting on the third Wednesday of the month. Every month I remind staff at reception to publicize this. Every month they forget. Perhaps this is not deliberate, but a expression of a sort of subconscious fear.

There seems to be an of avoidance of poetry almost an hostility towards poetry that is very hard to understand. Here we have a very adequate in-house library which is in constant use. Not all of us watch TV all the time. There are  very many a readers and to judge by the books that have been donated by residents,  many readers who are knowledgeable and discriminating.when it comes to literature. Why then this resistance to poetry? Is it that they think poetry has nothing to say to them or that they  are afraid of what it might have to say to them? Or is it just a reaction to the boring way that poetry is taught in schools?

I have just completed an online course in Modern American Poetry(Modpo) and enjoyed it, so when I found that there were some short courses to fill in the time between the main course, I decided to try one of them. (a short course on John Ashbery's poems) After a few weeks of this course, I am beginning to understand the attitude of my fellow residents. Most of the poems in this course are quite obscure. I  enjoy reading them, for the imagery and the musicality, but have very little idea of what they are about. But the long involved discussions by fellow students are just too much for me to take. I am obviously not cut out for literary studies. Reading poems, even reading them a few times over to get the flavour of them better, which is what sometimes do in our sessions,, is great, but tearing them apart in order to write long screeds about them is just boring to me. As a poet I want my poems to be read and enjoyed, of course, but I don't think I fancy having them dissected.

What I enjoy is going to Poetry readings like Off the Wall, or the Poetry evening at Joon Cafe in Muizenberg, These provide a platform for those who write poetry. People come to read their poems and listen to the poems of others without discussion or judgement. Some poems are better than others, some are very good indeed, but everyone comes to read and to listen and simply to enjoy the evening. Those who find poetry threatening, should come to one of these events, I'm sure it would  change their minds.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beginning of this New Year

For me this time, just after the holidays is like a hiatus, a time of  blank diary pages and silent telephones. Everyone has left Cape Town or so it seems to me. In fact to judge by the roads, everyone has come to Cape Town from  all over the country. But this influx of visitors only means that I stay at home rather than driving anywhere, because driving is so stressful. The other day we traveled to Fish Hoek so slowly that we were overtaken by a man walking next to a toddler on a tricycle.

During this very peaceful period, before the world wakes up and gets back to work again, I should be getting down to work myself and doing some serious writing. I have been somewhat discouraged lately, because I have not been very successful in getting work published, but I have just read a very inspiring article written by a writer with a similar problem. She complained to a more successful friend who gave the following advice. "Don't aim to get your work accepted. Aim to get 100 rejection slips" You  have to work very hard to do this, but you have a very good chance of succeeding and you also have definitely increased your chances of getting an acceptance.

Writers, particularly poets, should remember that we are not in this game for the money. No one makes a living out of writing verse. Neither are we in it for the glory and fame. I know dozens of poets living nearby, talented, gifted poets, but none of my other friends have heard of them.
So why do we write stories and compose poems? We write, just because we love to write.

New Year

I see on Face Book my memory for today is the losing of my blog. (that happened a long time ago)  When I saw this post it  reminded  me that I had not posted anything in my blog this year. I had not been inspired to write anything, an indication that I was feeling low and  did not think  anything worth writing about'

The year started rather sadly, with my daughter Eleanor  and her husband Andreas leaving for Namibia and Luke going back to George, with some problems too. Amanda and Carlyle had already left, Danielle was back at work and,of course,very busy. Nothing much was happening here to distract me .Here is a gloomy poem about it.


After the flush of holidays the tide  recedes
 leaving the  beach exposed and litter-strewn,
bleached  grey under a smoke-stained sky.
I walk alone beside the shallow waves
 barefoot through rough and gritty sand
 dragging behind  me memories
and thoughts of joyful days.

The New Year splashes icy over  me,
its taste metallic, bitter on my tongue.

But now things are improving. Evergreen Choir practices have started up again. The first U3A meeting was most entertaining and enlightening(more about this later) and My old friend Pinkie(Elizabeth) Hulbert has come to stay nearby in the St James Hotel. She actually stayed a few days with me first because her luggage and  furniture hadn't arrived, It only got  to Cape Town three days after she did. 

The worst thing about the new year has been the fires. They have been particularly widespread this year. The dry weather and the strong winds have made ideal conditions for \veld fires. Smoke from fires as far away as Paarl reaches us here. Everybody is sure they e been deliberately set, but the culprits are never found. If only a band of dedicated fire-spotters like the shark-spotters could be employed. I'm sure it would actually save money. After the towers used for spotting fires in the plantations round George were abandoned, fires were much more frequent and a lot of timber was lost. 

Old Age Revisited

The talk at the last U3a meeting was most entertaining. Rayne Stroebel, from an organisation called Eden Alternative(SA) told us about aging and how to prevent it, (or rather how to slow it down.) His contention is that it is the perception of old age rather than the actual condition that causes most of the problems.  I thought his presentation excellent, but a bit over the top. I mean that certain aspects seemed to me to be exaggerated.  For instance I can't believe that life expectancy has increased as much as he claims. People in the first world may be living longer, but I don't think many of us are going to be living to 130 whatever certain statistics may say.
These points, however, were worth considering:-
a)There is no need for the rapid deterioration often seen when someone goes into an old age home.
b)When one is treated as old and incompetent one begins to believe this assessment of oneself and acts accordingly. c)There are certain factors that cause more rapid decline.
Triggers of rapid decline  are:
1.Falls. After a fall very many old people become much less mobile or even bed ridden. He also says that it is not only a fall itself but the fear of falling.that causes over-cautiousness and reluctance to try anything.  Exercises to improve balance and strength can certainly help here.  I always say there is a difference between falling and "having a fall" People at Evergreen "have a fall" and are never the same again. I fell by the dam at Silvermine a few weeks ago when the dog pulled me over and I only had a few scratches to show for it. Is this because I fall differently? I don't know, but I do know that I don't usually hurt myself when I trip and fall, but many people break bones when this happens.
2, Incontinence. There can be a number of reasons for this but people are often too embarrassed to talk about it or ask for medical help. It can lead to people not wanting to go out and can also lead to bladder infections and some of these infections can have  symptoms  that can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of dementia. (something that I was quite unaware of)
3. Over medication. All medicines have side effects and when several are taken every day there are bound to be unwanted effects. Often old people have been prescribed so many different drugs that they are in a half-dazed state most of the time. Medicines should be periodically checked and monitored
4., Being with negatively motivated people. A positive attitude is very important. Being surrounded by poeple who have a negative attitude can hasten the aging process.
5. Anxiety. Anxiety about health, finances, physical security can all contribute to premature aging.