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

DEPENDENCE

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

Knysna

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.

FIRE -FIGHTER

“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
 Matjesfontein
 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.