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.

Looking Back on 2017…

It’s that time of the year, when I look back reflectively on the year past, and with excitement and expectation for the one that lies ahead.

2017 was a tough year.  As an individual I was tested, as a couple my parents were tested, and as a family, you guessed it, we were tested.  Yet, here we are on the first day January, with hope and courage in our hearts, and the faithful belief that things will be better this time round.  It was also the year that I bid goodbye to seven pairs of shoes, six pairs of which broke at the office.  Pair seven broke as I got out the car for my year-end-work-function. As I look back though, as tough as it was, it was a good year, all in all.

January started off slowly, but I did do one parkrun; the only one for the entire year.  It was a destined one though, because it was there that I met Heather, with whom I have become quite close.  We “get” each other, like uMeredith and Christina do.  We’re both book sluts and Dischem whores, who love drinking wine out of enamel mugs at Kaai 4, or eating fish and chips out of polystyrene containers on top of the iconic red London bus at the harbour.  In a short twelve months, she’s joined the ranks of “heart sister”.

In February I was faced with a bit of a surprise.  The institution through which I studied years ago let me know that if I didn’t complete the final subject of my tertiary year by the end of 2017, I would lose all the credits for that period.  I took the leap, borrowed the money and, at the tender age of thirty-seven, hit the books again.  It was an experience to say the least, because I struggled with self-discipline.  Honestly, had it been anything to do with writing I would have approached it with more enthusiasm.  It was also the month I met Charlie, in passing, at Heather’s birthday party, blissfully unaware that by the end of the year he too, would be someone genuinely important in my circle.

The Toppie, Bean and I also went on a bit of a safari adventure, arranged by Tina and some of her friends.  It was such a special time for us as a family, where memories were made.

March marched right by.  I’ve gone through my photos and I can’t find anything blog-worthy that happened that month.

In April, shortly after The Toppie’s 70th birthday celebration, my parents bid their home goodbye, and moved to a much smaller place, in an industrial area outside of town.  It was gut-wrenching to have to watch them sell off their possessions to be able to make ends meet, but through the hardship, they’ve learned that they didn’t need all that stuff – they’ve got each other.  It broke my heart when The Bean lost her precious cockatiel, Marley, shortly after.

That same month, a tiny pipe in my bathroom broke, resulting in a flood right through my flat.  For three months I couldn’t live there, but thanks to friends and an amazing colleague and his wife, I had a roof over my head the entire time.  If I’m honest, I kind of became attached to my transit-home, which was a garden cottage in said colleague’s back garden.  The fact that their beautiful Labrador would visit had nothing to do with it.

May was a cold month, so most of the studying I did for exams took place under the duvet, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.  I also spent a great deal of time reading for leisure in the evenings.  I discovered the literary genius of Afrikaans author, Deon Meyer and have since read two of his books, Koors and Spoor.

One of my best friends, Wolf also lost his mom, 19 days after having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 😦

June brought with it the birth of Shayla-Rae’s first child (and my goddaughter), Lily-Rose.  She was the most perfect little person I had ever seen.

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Here the precious little mite was not even a full day old yet.

My heart swelled with pride, not only because I was now a god-mommy, but for my childhood best friend, who pushed that perfect little person out of her vajajay.

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Now she’s almost seven months…

I won’t use the exact phrase she did to describe the process of child birth; needless to say, it was colourful.

June also brought with it exams, that, no matter how much I had studied, I still didn’t feel prepared for.  I dragged Tina with me to Cape Town, because she needed a break from the drama with her ex, and because I didn’t fancy being in the Mother City without decent company.  It was during that visit that I had the best Durban curry of my life – yes, in Cape Town.  It didn’t bode well for my exams the next day because it played havoc with my stomach.  I wrote what felt like a million words on the answer sheets provided and when I left, after not having completed the final question, I thought I think I’ve done enough to pass.  I took Tina up Signal Hill where we nearly blew away (Did someone say Cape Doctor?) and then we went to the Company Gardens to feed the squirrels.  The little critters are quite brazen when they know you’re hiding peanuts.

July was a good month.  I got to move back home, to newly installed floors and the luxury of a bath.  While I love my morning shower, sometimes all that cures the ails of a long day at the office in the middle of winter, is a hot, candlelit bubble bath.

I also got to visit Shalya-Rae, Shane and little Lily-Rose for a few days in the beautiful Tsitsikamma.  I really wanted to do the hike to the suspension bridge across the sea and Shayla-Rae indulged me, carrying a sleepy Lily the entire way in the car chair.  It was up countless stairs, and down through steep valleys.  The view, and the feeling of absolute freedom was amazing.  Granted we were windswept and a bit cold afterwards, but it was worth every leg-stiffening step.  It’s something I will definitely do again.

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The view from the end of the bridge – breathtaking!
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Windswept #Selfie
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The bridge is older than I am.

Charlie also came home for a holiday and we spent some time together, in an attempt to get to know each other better.  While he hasn’t managed to convert me to a KFC fan (yet), I think I did well to make him a Sherlockian.  He went back to work in August and his imminent return in January 2018 is something I’m looking forward to.

In August I got my exam results.  Thankfully I’d passed.  With distinction!  I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the results.  Over eighty percent.  I still don’t know how I managed the excellent mark; I can only think that there were many prayers going up at the time on my behalf.

September.  The month of my birthday …Usually I have some kind of shindig to celebrate, but this year, I opted for something a little more low-key.  Jensen, a family friend of over twenty-five years, came to visit and took me out for pizza and wine at a new place in town.  It was a great catch-up.  First Sighting Shiraz is a wine I most certainly need in my collection.

Carmen and Ewan also welcomed their second child into the world.  World, meet little Roger!

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World, I love bathtime!

In October, little Liam, Eliza and Neil’s second child celebrated his first birthday.  I have a special tie with him; he’s my “bonding-baby” – the first child I every held that wasn’t even a month old yet, and I believe that he prepared me for Lily-Rose.  In the imaginary world I sometimes live in, I imagine the two of them getting married one day.

It was also the first time I got hypnotised.  Theresa came to visit and I convinced her to tag along with me to a hypnosis entertainment show.  I’ve always wondered about going under but didn’t for a minute think I would be on stage.  For over an hour!  Theresa was awesome, filming all my shenanigans on her phone.  I looked like I had tremendous fun and without a doubt, I will do it again.  I woke up the next morning stiff as a board, but after watching the clips, I understand why – I was really active on stage, from being a dinosaur, to a washing machine, to a goldfish, to a rapper, to a lifeguard and then some.

Now, there are few things as daunting as having a man who you’re not having sex with inspect your lady-bits, but in November I trotted off to the surgery.  I’d been putting off the gynae visit for months, but due to exacerbating problems around Aunt Flo’s visit every month, I was left no choice but to face the Fanny Flapper and his dreaded (to coin a phrase by a good writer friend of mine) dildo cam.  It should be mentioned at this juncture that the past two times I’ve seen him, it has been for emergency procedures, so when he greeted me with, “It’s so lovely to see you here, in my office, instead of the operating theatre,” I couldn’t help but smile.  After likening my cycle to that of pig slaughter, it was decided that a deeper look would be crucial to get to the core of the problem.  Oh yay, off I go to the hospital.  Again.  What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be for two procedures.  I’d had the first, a laparoscopy, before so I knew what to expect.  The second, a hysteroscopy, I was a bit worried about because it sounded a bit scary.  Turns out there was reason for concern:  The monthly vampire bloodfest seeping from my uterus was due to a teratoma (the same thing the first laparoscopy had been done for to remove).  The odd thing was it wasn’t on my ovary, where the little bastards normally cling on, it was between my intestine and my stomach lining.  It had all kinds of different human tissue, which I of course find fascinating; most people find it gross.  The doctor said they do tend to grow back, but in this particular case, this might be the remnants of the original alien that the first doctor didn’t get entirely removed.  Thankfully, I am feeling a great deal better.  The night-dwelling-day-sleeping-bloodsuckers are probably really pissed off with me about it though.

December.  By definition: Hectic.  It is par for the course when one lives in a seaside-resort-holiday-town.  With only three weeks available to do what felt like three months’ worth of work, tempers were clearly frayed and the prospect of a holiday was all that kept me from committing murder.   Fortunately, before that happened, our bosses were awesome and gave us a delicious year end dinner, which gave me a reason to dress up.

I originally wore a pair of killer silver heels, but both shoes broke as I got out the car.

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I originally had a pair of killer silver heels on, but both shoes broke as I got out of the car.

Little Lily­-Rose was christened in the Dutch Reformed Church a stone-throw away from a one-horse-town called Kareedouw.  It wasn’t without its own hysterics.  Shayla-Rae’s mum put her button-up dress over her satin slip (which was keeping her warm).  As we stood up to sing the first hymn, her pretty, pink pyjamas landed in a crumpled heap at her feet.  I of course was the only one who saw it, and trying not to laugh, only made me want to laugh more.  It may not sound funny to those of you reading this, but to me it was hysterical.

It was also my twenty-year school reunion, which I didn’t attend due to other commitments.  From the photos it looks like much fun was had.  One pleasant surprise was seeing Nola and her husband Connor, who decided to surprise my parents and I with a visit.  She was also a best friend at school and boarded with us in our final year.  Our paths don’t cross often anymore, because she lives in a different city, and has Connor and two beautiful boys to look after, but she has never forgotten my-, or my parents’ birthdays.  I on the other hand am an epic failure at remembering hers.

It was also the month I realized what my biggest fear is.  After having written that post, and some of the responses I received, a few things have more perspective for me now, for which I’m grateful.

Christmas was not a lavish affair for which my jeans still thank me.  We had a small braai with Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry and vetkoek.  For those of you not familiar with the term, it is bread dough that is deep friend which can be enjoyed with a selection of savoury spreads or sweet preserves.

Shortly after, my former roommate, Sarah, and her fiancé, Sam, came to visit.  She is also someone I refer to as a “heart sister” and she is the youngest one of them all.  I am her “big (but thin) sister”.  We had plans for a day of catching up in the summer sunshine, but not before this:

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I said, “Yes!!!!!!”

They’re getting hitched in November next year, so I already have something to look forward to in 2018.  You see, I’ve never been a bridesmaid before.

And then, to almost end of 2017, Shayla-Rae and her other half, Shane took me to an open air concert, where there were 12000 people.  It may not sound like many, but in the sleepy hollow town where I live, that is probably the entire population out of season.  It was the most fun I’ve had in a long while.  The R150 Shane paid for six beers though, left a bitter taste in his mouth – it was R10 short of what they’d paid for one (golden circle) ticket.

I’m off to spend the last night of the year with Shayla-Rae and her family at the farm.

See y’all next year!  2018 is going to ROCK!