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 a woman 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 prosytelising  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) was as widely read as :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 stories 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) 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 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

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.