2018: It Did Have Some Highlights

2018.  By far not one of my favourites. It was stressful, challenging and exhausting and the result of that combination amounts to every new hair sprouting on my scalp being grey and many, many tears. But as I do every year, I try to reflect on what was good about the year, even if that means that I had one sunny day in a dismally cold July.

January I know I must have rung in the New Year somehow, but I honestly can’t remember where, or with whom I spent it.  I quite possibly may have been at home on my folks’ couch, blissfully when the witching hour struck, signaling the end of 2017 and the start of 2018.  One thing I do remember was going back to work, enthusiastic and hopeful about what lay ahead for me.

February was the month Elizabeth introduced me to liquorice-flavoured ice-cream.  It sounds gross, I know, but as I tell people about many things: “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”.  It’s not always available at the parlour we frequent, so when we see it, we treat ourselves.

I also went away for a weekend to Rheenendal, close to Knysna. I did a woodland hike, which is something I love.  Few things restore this Misfit’s equilibrium as the smell of pine needles and mulch on the forest floor. I also love the different types of fungi that grow on the treestumps.  I also had a daily visitor to the cosy bungalow in which I was staying at a place called Fern Gully – the Knysna Loerie.  I also stopped in at one of my favourite places in the area, Jubilee Creek.

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March was a quiet month, as April was going to be a jam-packed one.  I have gone through my photo archives and can’t find any kind of activities.  This would have been the month that candle-lit baths and early nights were the order of the day.

April was a busy month.

A group of friends and I attended the annual sundown festival at Jakkalsvlei, a local privately-owned wine cellar.  There were local artists to entertain the patrons and the pizza and wine were the perfect fare for one of the sunniest days of the year.

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The following weekend Harriet roped me and two other friends into a treasure hunt which took us to various landmarks in- and around Mossel Bay.  The trio was blissfully unaware of my competitive streak and Formula 1 driving skills.  We got second place, which was a two night stay at a local guest house.  We opted to take use the prize in September given that my birthday falls in that month.

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I also went to Johannesburg to visit an old school friend, Kayla for the final weekend of the month – it was a five day weekend, courtesy of the State due to public holidays.  We went to the country’s largest amusement park, Gold Reef City, which I’d visited over 3 decades before.  We had so much fun.

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It was also a weekend of firsts – I had a Rocomamas burger, Krispy Kreme donuts and a Starbucks coffee for the first time ever.  I rode the Gautrain and also did a bus tour of the CBD where I spent nine years of my life – so many things were familiar, but sadly, the City of Gold is very neglected.

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Still, it was a memorable weekend and I left there feeling rested and extremely grateful for the opportunity to see Kayla and meet her son, Trevor, who at eleven is already a fine young man.

May I was pretty much broke after all April’s shenanigans, so I didn’t social much.  It started to get cold so I did many early nights which contributed to much needed rest – both physical and financial.

June my God-daughter turned a year old.  Sadly I couldn’t be with her on the day given work commitments, but her mom sent me lots of pictures and I got to visit a few weeks later.

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As always, Shayla-Rae made me feel so welcome, and allowed me to just relax which is what I always so desperately need halfway through the year.

Elizabeth, Yasmin, Carla and I also did the Moonlight Maze at Redberry Farm in George.  Charlie and I did the maze in the day last year and that was a feat in its own right.  At night it is ten times worse, but we did it, with a badge to prove it!

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July I took one Sunday for myself to recharge my batteries and headed down to the local hotel not far from where I live.  I had an alfresco lunch – the most phenomenal surf & turf ever, next to the sparkling pool.  I also devoured one of my favourite authors, James Patterson’s books.

August I got back in touch with an old school friend, Chante.  We’ve stuck to our agreement to have a catch-up at least once a month, despite hectic schedules.  We’ve had some interesting conversations and many a good laugh. I’m very grateful that our paths crossed again after such a long time.

September I got to meet a friend-of-a-friend, Linda in person.  She brought me a beautiful personalized artwork during a visit to a friend of hers, Tarryn who lives here now. It has prize place on my bookshelf.

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It was also my birthday, which meant the breakaway with Harriet and our other friends, Yusi and Mark.

October my amazing friends Eleanor and Nathan hosted a belated birthday party for me.  It was a film-based theme-evening and everyone who attended went to great effort with their costumes.  Fun was had by all.

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November was also a memorable month.  Charlie was back in the country, almost heading back out again, so I twisted his arm to join me on a weekend away at local lodge in the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn.

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The town is known for its extreme temperatures, but the particular weekend we went, it was even hotter than usual given devastating veld fires that raged throughout the entire region.  As with my April weekend away, this weekend held many firsts of its own.  We both ate crocodile, and Charlie opted to eat zebra, which he still talks about.  We also attempted to fish in the dam, with zero success and we went swimming in one of the lodge’s two chilly swimming pools.

The following weekend, my former roommate, and sister-of-the-heart, Sasha got married and I was a bridesmaid (also a first!)

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I’ve seen many beautiful brides, but Sasha was by far the most breathtaking, and her groom, Shaun looked dashing.  I unfortunately had to be strapped into a corset as I’d injured my back (again!) two days before the wedding.  It didn’t stop me from dancing though.

December I had the privilege of being able to treat my parents to an outing at Outeniqua Moon Percheron Stud Farm where we learned all about the Draft Horses of Old.  What incredible creatures – true gentle giants.  The owners of the farm, Peter and Christine Watt do incredible work to create awareness about these amazing animals that are on the verge of extinction.

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I also got to take my folks out for lunch on Christmas Day.  It was good to be able to forget about all the awfulness that has surrounded them (and me by extension) lately, if only for a day.

Shayla-Rae and her hubby Shaun also treated me to a concert at the local amphitheatre.  There were over 12000 people in attendance and the atmosphere was electrifying to say the least.

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So yes, while 2018 was not the best year of the twenty-teens, it did have some good times, and those are what I’ll remember, because in the words of Victoria Holt, “Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful; if it’s bad, it’s experience.”

Here’s going into 2019 with a positive attitude and hope that the negative things unfortunately having to be carried over will be sorted out, so that life will be happy this year.  Cheers!

PS. I’ll be blogging more this year, I promise!

 

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We Sat Next to Each Other in Fourth Grade

You’ve got each other’s numbers, you live in the same sleepy-hollow little town, yet you never see each other… Sounds familiar to many of you, I’m sure.

Chanté and I have known each other since fourth grade I think – her memory on this is slightly better than mine.  I went to her 21st birthday party, and her wedding, but when she told her husband she was having coffee with me, he had no idea who I was.  I don’t blame him – despite being quite extroverted around people who really know me, I am a wallflower where crowds are involved.  She told him all he needs to know is that when she and her family moved here, I was the first person she sat next to at school.

Shortly after tying the knot, she and her hubby went overseas and while we were connected in Facebook-Land, we lost touch in the real world.  When they moved back a few years ago, I saw her for coffee twice, but we didn’t really reconnect.  Whether it was timing, or that we were at different phases in our lives, I’m not sure, but something was a little (for lack of a better word) “off”.

I’ll admit, she’s been way better at touching base than I have, sending me the odd motivational/inspirational message, that always seems to come through at the perfect time.  On Monday though, I felt the need to see her, if nothing more than just to say a proper thank you in person.

So, we got together at a local franchise restaurant last night, originally intent on a quick coffee.  We got talking and the conversation flowed, as if no time had passed – whatever had been “off” before was definitely “on” now!

Two lattés, and hours later, we’d covered a myriad of topics, including how women in general seldom take time for themselves because they’re tending to someone else’s needs – whether parents, husband or kids – before their own.  With that in mind, when we eventually left to go home, we undertook to do a coffee-catch-up at least once a month.

I’m glad we got together – it was good, and it was needed.

A long-standing friendship rekindled is a true gem; and by that token, if you’re reading this, Chanté – you’re a diamond, and of course…

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Emotions Running High…

Nikita and I drove to work amidst the sound of chants & sirens, the smell of smoke and what might have been shots being fired.  You see, yesterday a group of angry residents of one of the local informal settlements decided to protest about the apparent lack of service delivery in the area.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you squat, you can’t expect to have services delivered because there is no damn infrastructure in place for said services to be delivered.

Look, it’s not that I am totally unfeeling towards the people – I too have things I am not happy about, but they are small in comparison to the conditions these people must live in daily.  I live in a fairly safe area, far removed from the blue lights, rubber bullets and tear gas, but I am not unaware, nor do I not comprehend that their issues need addressing.  I do feel though that if common sense is a flower that grows in your garden (which it clearly doesn’t with everyone), you would either wait for your state-funded-residence, as so many before you have, and you’d join the ranks of the rest of society that pays (regardless of the amount) for their services.

I am angry though.  Angry that they feel it is okay to damage public property with their tyre burning escapades and torching private dwellings.

Photos from Citizen.co.za and eNCA

Yes, you read right – these criminals razed other peoples’ homes to the ground because they’re not happy about the state of affairs at their own.  I wish I could find these cruel idiots and shake some sense into them, asking them how YOU would feel if someone did this to you, or someone you cared about?!  Where is the logic?  Just this morning we heard from a colleague that had to travel through the hot-zone that a minibus carrying innocent school children had a brick tossed through its window.  Sure, there is a visible police presence, but I think the laws of this country allow the criminals to rape, pillage and plunder while the police have to stand with their hands tied, trying to appear fierce and forceful.  I would even wager that down the line the community may take matters into their own hands because they are also starting to get gatvol.

During the drive, Nikita and I were talking mainly about the fact that we have a compassionate employer, one that empathises with the situation many of the staff find themselves in because of the barbaric acts taking place close to them.  I have a few friends, also employed by local business people and am totally disgusted how they are told “You will come to work or face disciplinary action” or “Fine, stay at home, but just remember, no work, no pay”.  Have these people no compassion whatsoever? Would a better approach to the situation not be “Yes, I know the situation is volatile, but let’s assess it in a few hours, maybe you can come in then?”

Their employees, people I know are often hardworking and sometimes exploited because they are desperate for the pittances they receive as remuneration are now in need, yet understanding from their employers is not forthcoming; these poor souls are not even heard out.  I find myself wondering how such business owners sleep at night.  Is their revenue for the day more important than the life of one of their employees?  In many instances, it appears so.

Again, yes, I get that this protest action is screwing with our already junk-status-economy but being a royal doos to your employees who actually want to be at work but can’t because they fear for their lives tells me you don’t have much wealth in the brain-, or compassion bank.  You should take a leaf out of Richard Branson’s book:

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Soul-Recharching Sunday

So, I did what I said I was going to with my previous post and relaxed.

I had a decent lie-in until after nine, a lazy hot shower at ten and made a decision to go somewhere sunny.  At first I thought of going to the local farmers’ market, but the idea of people put me off.

Armed with my phone (for photo taking purposes only – the data was off so nobody could bug me) I ventured down to the Riviera Hotel, close to my house where I spent some time in the sun, reading Humans, Bow Down by one of my favourite authors, James Patterson.  For a long while I was the only soul there and it was bliss to hear the tranquil ripple of the pool and the river and the ocassional cheep of the wagtails.

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Given that the meds I’m on are somewhat potent, the doctor warned against using alcohol with them, so I opted for a Lime ‘n Soda, because for all anyone else knows, it could have been a vodka 😉

I heard the seagulls squawking, but not overhead.  Turns out, they were having a Mexican stand-off with a cormorant close by.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a seagull just sitting on the water like that.

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The sun got hotter, as did the bergwind, so I moved into the shade, thinking to myself, “You should have brought your bathing costume.” How inviting doesn’t the pool look?

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Hours passed before hunger struck.  I went a little overboard, but when I saw prawns and steak, I knew I just had to order the surf and turf.  It didn’t disappoint!  I’ll definitely be having it again sometime, with a glass of wine!

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Today though, is Monday, and not a regular one… it started with protest action 😦  Every one is on edge and yesterday’s R&R seems like a distant memory already 😦  The only way to rectify that, is to have another Me-Time Sunday, and soon!

Chesty Stressy Misfit

So, I have a condition called costochondritis. It sounds scary, but in actual fact all it is is inflammation in the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breast bone.

 

I had no idea that inflammation in cartilage was an actual thing, but after having spent a small fortune, I’ve discovered it is. What’s more, the medication the doctor prescribed apparently has a “drowsiness” side effect. In my case it’s more like exhausted. I sleep at least ten hours after taking the evening dose, but during the day I am praying for my half-hour lunch break, so I can nap in the car. I am on day three of the minimal five-day regime (it may be extended with another five days if the pain isn’t alleviated soon).

I did a bit of reading up on the condition – it stems from either heavy lifting, or a blow to the chest, or a coughy-sneezy-condition, or stress. Yes, I rejoined the gym in June, but quite frankly I haven’t been there as often as I’d like and I’m not remotely close to the strength level I was when I left, so heavy lifting isn’t the cause, unless you count my handbag, which rivals that of Mary Poppins some days. I haven’t had a blow to the chest, because I don’t have the skills required to even shadow-box and I haven’t been a snot-factory for a long time, so that leaves stress.

I’ll concede, the last few months have been stressful due to certain things happening at work, and while I almost always appear unfazed, I was taking strain. The issues are still there and as time marches on, they will become a reality, but the stress is less as there is a clearer picture of what lies ahead.
Then of course, I add to the stress-shovel by deciding to have some kind of shindig for my birthday (which is still two months away). There are plans that need to be set into motion, a cake to be planned (I’m leaving the task to someone else way more capable than I am), canapés to be made (although Carmen says I should have everyone bring a plate and have a prize for the best one), bubbly to be bought, a costume to be sourced and whatever else goes into a fun night with good friends. The creative gods fortunately grabbed me earlier this week, so the ‘save the date’ and e-invitations are finalized.

Harriet and I were talking last night, and she made a very valid point – that I am constantly busy with people around me – if it’s not my bi-weekly nail appointment, it’s a catch-up with someone, weekends with my parents, quiz night (which was last night). Her exact words were, “You’re always around people.” Her observation is valid, I don’t deny it; I am a social person, but my circle is small, having shrunk exponentially in the last three years or so.

As I’ve got older I’ve realized that there are people who thrive on drama, others who are around when the weather’s fair (and I’m not talking about the sun shining outdoors), and those who judge. Others have just fallen by the wayside because their (or my-) priorities have changed and we don’t fit into each other’s moulds anymore, or merely because I got tired of putting in the effort all the time.

What she didn’t say, but what I heard was “you need some me-time” and she’s right. This condition is one of the ways that my body is telling me to take a time out and rest. Alone. Whether it’s a relaxing walk on the beach, or taking a drive to the point to feed the pigeons and the gulls, or a movie night complete with popcorn, chocolates and ginger beer, it needs doing and it needs doing with me, myself and I.

So, I’m heeding her advice – and going home tomorrow afternoon (the first time in ages I won’t be with my folks the entire weekend) and I’m going to have some special Misfit-time, and even possibly a few analogue hours on Sunday, I’ll see. One thing’s certain though, this Misfit wants to get back to normal because as benign as costochondritis is, the chest pain that goes with it is dreadful. I’m trusting that the R&R will aid a speedy recovery.

Have a good weekend y’all!

Inspiration to Travel Down Memory Lane

Last night I was reading The Brain Bleacher, the final short story in the second Sticky Fingers anthology by JT Lawrence, with whom I was at school with for a short time before moving to Mossel Bay.

I was chatting with Charlie after I’d finished the book, and said to him that one day I will write like that – as in short stories, because while I know I have a writing gift, I do not possess the mad skills to weave a tale in a limited amount of words that grabs you from the word go.  JTL just has it.

One quote in the story above really resonated with me: “While a memory is a mental snapshot of a moment, it carries with it layers of emotion and texture and scent.

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It reminded me of quite a few mental snapshots and something my colleague, Carla and I discussed when we spent a girls’ night away at a local lodge about three years ago one November weekend.  She said when she looks back in time,  she doesn’t necessary remember the things that were around her at a time, but she does remember the smell of the air, or the warmth of the sun on her skin, or the song in the breeze; most importantly she remembers how she felt in that moment. Thinking about that outing, I remember being stretched out on a long wooden deck chair, with a book listening to the trickle of the stream nearby.  While I don’t remember the title of the book, I remember the feel of the parchment between my fingers and the smell of the ink.  I remember feeling completely content, even if only for a few fleeting moments.

Another memory that popped into my mind was our visits to Mossel Bay when I was a child.  The Bean and I would catch the train from Johannesburg and travel to visit my matriarchal grandparents and all the aunts, uncles and cousins.  The one olfactory memory I have of these journeys is pulling into the station and smelling the oceanic saltiness in the air – a world removed from the Johannesburg smog that enveloped us during our time in that concrete jungle.  I remember loving the feel of the sea sand between my toes and being bribed out of the freezing cold water with what was probably an even colder ice-cream cone.

I recalled other memories too – and with focus on the emotions, texture and scent, I was transported back to those moments in time, and it felt as if I was there again.

In one, I felt the gooseflesh rise at the receipt of a gentle touch in a tender moment, even though my heart was racing with uncertainty and angst and flaming desire at the same time.

In another, I felt the dread and horrific realization induced by the smell of burnt chicken (I won’t live it down either, I promise!)

In another I was warmed by the soft heat of a gas heater with the fairy-tale lights of a Cape Town Waterfront Christmas display to illuminate my friend, Andrew’s face as we caught up five years’ worth of news over a chocolate-berry-spiced red wine and lekker South African fare.  I also remember the indigestion that followed shortly after seeing the bill.

In another I remember sitting against the trunk of a tree, after a particularly trying parkrun.  My hair was plastered to my forehead with glue-au-de-perspiration and my breathing was laboured, so much so I’m sure I could have given The Big Bad Wolf a run for his money (bacon, anyone?). A woman approached me asking about Herbalife (yes, I was branded for the walk – not my finest advertising moment) and we got chatting.  Eighteen months later, that woman, Harriet, is one of my closest friends.  I haven’t been able to do our routed parkrun since though because of my bum knee.

I could reminisce like this for hours, and I think each day I shall get in my time machine and take myself back to at least one happy (or funny) memory – where I can relieve the sensation, feel the grain, and inhale the fragrance of times gone by.  And sure, sometimes it’s necessary to revisit the sad and bad memories, to remind oneself how far you’ve come, but for the most part, I want to simply revisit the happy times, filled with laughter, hope, friendship, family and most importantly the love that surrounds all those things.

So, here’s to joyous recollections, all inspired by a single line, from an incredible book.

Cheers to you JTL!  I aspire to be an author like you.  You are a creative genius and an absolute legend.

Virtues: Honesty

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what my writing approach to the virtue of honesty, which will be followed by its significant other, integrity, would be. It’s been tough, because it isn’t as cut and dry as other virtues like kindness – you’re either kind or you’re not; patience – you’re either have buckets full of it, or the little you do have wears thin very quickly; creativity – you either have some kind of arty-farty side, or you don’t.  Honesty though, is quite a grey area I’ve come to find as I’ve been chatting to various people in preparation for this piece.

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Honesty implies being truthful with your spoken communication, but in the words of one of my favourite musicians, Billy Joel, Honesty is such a lonely word // Everyone is so untrue which is a fair generalization.

Face it – we all lie at some stage of our lives, whether it is telling the- proverbial little white lie*, an outright blatant one#, or omitting the truth+. Most times these dishonesties are justified by good intentions – the examples below are ones I’ve personally heard.

*My ex-wife wanted me to tell our four-year old daughter we were going to the park, because she didn’t want to get into the car to go to church.

#Of course those pants don’t make your arse look fat!

+I spent the day baking (the bit that was omitted was space cakes)

Nikita, the colleague I travel to work with, gave me an entirely different angle as to why people aren’t entirely honest – fear.  She used a simple illustration of having spinach stuck in her teeth and me not telling her, for fear that she would be upset with me for the potential embarrassment she’d initially have, but that she’d rather I told her, than have her walk around the office for hours without knowing and everyone having a right old snigger behind her back.

The thing with any forms of untruths is that they may open the door to the creation of trust issues and let’s not try and baffle each other with bullshit here – if trust is broken, it is seldom ever one hundred percent restored.

This is the reason many relationships fail, because the words are empty. Neil Diamond summed it up well when he recorded Love on the Rocks in 1980. Love on the Rocks // ain’t no big surprise // pour me a drink // and I’ll tell you some lies…

The question though is if you really know the person you’re communicating with, and they’re not being entirely honest with you – is it not because they’re trying to protect you? Or because they know you well enough to know that you can’t handle the whole truth (at least not at that moment in time)? Simply answered (and this is hard for me to admit) – yes. However, with that said, there are only a handful of people I know would opt to go this route because they’re thinking more of me, than they are of themselves – and they are the people that are not only honest in my book, but the ones that have integrity too, because they will back up their words with their actions.

I’ll be brutally candid here – I’ve failed at being honest in the past, but with age has come wisdom and I know that my words have power, so I try to be as truthful as I can, with whomever I come into contact, and I will by that same yardstick, maintain my integrity back backing up my words with actions.

I love this definition of honesty – because it is not as black & white as many of the others I’ve found during my research and it is fundamentally true.

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