Hiking – why it’s good for body and soul. Saved in the wrong shoes.

 

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” 

Mary Davis.

Stubbornness can be a particularly unattractive quality, at times, I admit and when I hear words like ‘senior’ or ‘elderly’ referring to me, I tend to kick my heels in.  My body, I believe, is still than of a marathon runner.  I have not run in forever.

So it came to be that i was very reluctant to join U3A.  U3A means University of the Third Age, a group of retiring men and women coming together now into their third stage of life. Not for me I reckoned, until a friend suggested I join her in a hiking group.  With little going on in my life of COVID, I agreed, already mentally preparing myself for the stereotype of hikers dressed in the proverbial gear, sticks and lanyards, whistles and water bottles, wearing name tags with emergency details attached.

All true. Defiantly I pitched up with trainers and gym pants. You won’t find me with long pants that can transform into shorts and thermo tops, my London beanie will do just fine thank you.

The initial hike consisted of a group of fabulous people, experienced businessmen and women who had travelled well, lived well, full of dreams for the future and engaging conversationalists. Over the past few weeks, we hiked up gentle slopes, along incredible shorelines and for me, fell in love with nature, perhaps for the first time.

The truth is, I have missed out on years of discovery.  Being so close to nature, trails into mountains and gorges that I would never have seen, stepping onto plateaus adorned with scarlet and white proteas, along rivers bursting from rain, I was transported to another dimension of views, of birdlife and fynbos.  Forests and rock pools, surf and silence in the face of God. My companions and I have met penguins, cormorants, whales and baboons in their natural habitat. To say I have been educated and enthralled is an understatement. A new addiction, but a healthy one to hiking for hours, sore legs but full heart, identifying flowers and plants along the way.

The physical and spiritual benefits of hiking are endless. Taking oneself out of the normal daily routine to engage with nature off the beaten track brings one to a complete oneness with the natural world. A breathing space far beyond daily living where we are simply spectators, receivers of gifts, observers, not takers for one leaves only footprints and respect.

The last hike was trying.  A route not meant to be taken, a massive climb on rock face, hanging, literally onto chains and washed away steps, it was terrifying. My trainers were useless on the cliff face, freezing cold in the unsuitable clothes, I was angry and feared falling down the mountain. This is not what I signed up for, get me down, and of course, it was a case of going back the same way, on my bum, not a pretty sight.  It was only when we reached the bottom and looked up that I realised we had climbed a mountain – friends with hip replacements, dodgy knees, a little extra weight and the smallest dictionary of what ‘elderly’ people own up too, and we began to laugh, proud and together.  We had done something incredible. Adrenaline rush, bursting pride.

Cannot wait to do it again. Hiking is a magnificent way to make new friends, be with old ones, out in the elements, pushing yourself to go further, do better, be silent and in awe. I have become stronger because of it, physically and mentally, grown as a person and most of all, appreciated nature as she should be seen. When I return to the UK I intend to explore the trails and wonders of mud island, and cannot wait to get back to the beautiful Cape to reunite and experience a new way of life, out in the open.

And I intend to be more prepared next time, so all hail to the hiking boots, the sticks, the thermo everything and going to hang onto the beanie who keeps me warm wherever I go.

PS. Find a local hiking group in your area and begin a journey that will make you genuinely happy.

Finding your place.

 

“It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” – Mae Jemison

It is a common belief that when we reach a certain age, the creating of it is done, and the living with the creating of it, begins.  We have schooled, married, sired, buried and built.  Post the half way line, we should be savouring and more importantly, be satisfied.

If you were like me, I don’t think I ever thought a philosophical thought in the first half century.  Nothing like what is going to happen to me in my old age, am I going to be purposeful, leave a legacy, that sort of thing – it was just the daily demands of life.

Until life comes and shakes you like a rag doll in a wolf’s jaw and that sense of belonging is shattered, confidence eroded and directionless is the operative word of the day.  Or you just find yourself in a place of iffiness, it happens to all of us.  When we are of a certain age, finding a place again… that’s tough. Many are feeling just a little left wanton, in need of another go.

Which brings to mind, this afternoon, the time I first became a volunteer for The National Trust, all eleven years ago. Totally out of my comfort zone.  At the time, the only out I could find from a confining flat and a big bump on my soul after moving to London. For someone who prided myself on my English everything knowledge, I had never heard of Ham House, but it was the closest.

The initial ‘hello’s and interviews were concluded and I was accepted.  So began the pages of notes to learn by heart.  Finding a way to get there on public transport and finding myself drenched long before I got to the bus shelter, in some ways so much harder than I anticipated.  Despite all the talk of diversity and inclusion, it has been very difficult to become part of the team, this giraffe of a South African taking tours on English Garden design – those ‘get together evenings’ when you wished you didn’t for feeling so out of place.  Out of place.  Not my place.

When I shifted my focus from feeling excluded to concentrate on what it was that makes me look forward to the next time, I began to find my place.  Engaging with guests, romantically thrilled at the change of season, deeper discovery into the history of the house and the fascinating folk that lived there, it was to own my experience that brought about place.  It was not about making small talk over tea and biscuits, but the deep sense of being part of something that found me in the Orangerie to work and watch the planting of the next season in the kitchen garden.

Others are surprised when I tell them I have been there for eleven years – it as if they are seeing me for the first time.  I yearn for my time there, push myself to be better at the tours, embrace the seasons as if they are my children, for no matter what time of the year, the garden is a magical place to be. I have discovered the underground passages, and those between the walls.  Breathed in the perfume of history and layers of paint in the mess room, felt the texture of the panelling in the buttery, the grandeur of the Gallery ( which for some reason is more dramatic in the winter) and the cheese scones I cannot resist.

Moving to a different country was, at the time, so awful and frightening.  Finding my place at Ham House was the beginning of finding other places, more and more until I can now say that I know the city, that great Lady, as if I have always been a part of her.

Never easy to step outside the comfort zone, or start again, but it is but a step.  And then, it’s your place.  You belong, at times just need to find out where.

 

 

 

You shall be missed.

The death of Prince Philip is one of those moments I shall remember, exactly where I was, when I heard the news.  As it was with Princess Diana.  I shall not cry as much as I did when then. The days of tears for a lost princess, taken so young – not this time, for a race well run, a life well lived, though sad, is not as heartbreakingly tragic.

Yet, the news draws opinions.  We are all so lovingly important in our views of a family thrust into the limelight.  All the more when flaws, and family dysfunction is ours to comment upon, being the experts on it all.  We love to love, and hate, and criticise as we feel, is our right, for after all, is the Royal British family, not ours, as taxpayers, to dissect, to regale, to give our little two pence worth?  Forget the fact that we only read, and take the bits we want to from a story.  Or so it seems …

Time to pause.  Right to have an opinion. To comment, though on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, I for one, am grateful to the Royal Family.  As a British citizen, following years of arriving, visas, costs and all that, the proudest day was my swearing allegiance to the Crown, the Queen and becoming a British citizen. You had to be there, all of us, immigrants with our own stories, so proud. We were proud.

I was there to see the sea of flowers at Kensington Palace when Diana died.  I grieved with all those close.  The tales of intrigue, betrayal and intimate scrutiny, mattered not. A family was grieving, in full public view, and how many of us have to endure the same invasion of loss? Tomorrow the world will watch a Queen, having lost her companion, her husband and friend, as part of her role, in full public view.  I cannot begin to understand the private to public scene and yet I know, despite the criticism of Prince Philip, the gaffes, the innuendos, we are saying goodbye to a man who played an indelible part in Britain’s history, who gave willingly, supported unconditionally and contributed to our country in his own way. Pragmatic first, personal last.

Of late, yes, negative programmes, stories of woe – claims made.  And I think to myself.  Do we forget the history, the sacrifice, the intrusion?  Do we forget the fortitude during the wars, the many stages of government that come and go, the endless tours and state dinners?  Ribbon cutting, balcony posing, the relentless attacks by the press?  And still, what remains is the quiet getting on with the job.

Tomorrow, as a British citizen, proud of the monarchy who, in it’s very self is something few countries can claim to, will be a testament to traditions held, despite the very need for privacy at such a time. And I am grateful and honoured to have these traditions, the tales and history of the Royal family.  They are not perfect, but they are there for us, as we should be for them.

A friend watched ‘The Crown’ and lamented at the coldness of those involved. Who would ever want to be part of the Royal Family.

The Family.  A family. Born or brought into, it is the way it is, and will be. Times have changed, and the Royals with it, still upholding their duties and traditions as we expect.  As we expect.

Goodnight Prince Philip.  You make me proud to be British.  I feel, at times, part of your family, and know that I am, but also not. And that is fine with me. You have served your country well. You have done your duty.  Step down soldier.  Step down.

Long live the Queen. My Queen. My Royal Family.

Images: The Daily Mail.  The Guardian

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace the new ways. It’s not always better in the old days.

 

‘Most millennials I know would rather get off with Nigel Farage for an hour than pick up or make a phone call. We’ve grown up with so many methods of communication – from MSN Messenger to Instagram DMs – that we naturally gravitate towards the least intrusive means of contact. Our thoughts are carefully composed, edited, screenshotted to a friend and edited again; an unexpected phone call is akin to your mum bursting into your room while you’re stark naked, doing something questionable.’

Don’t Text Me – I’m Only Using Voice Notes Now- Juliana Piskorz. Refinery29

My heart chipped a little today.  Thinking I would surprise my son with an impromptu call, mortified to have it declined. Doesn’t do well with chatting to his mother, voice to voice it seems.  Voice note, a text message and that’s about it, when we are far apart.  So I started wondering:  is it just the way it works today, and how do I, as a mature woman feel about it?  Why am I so quick to seek rejection in things I tend to compare to ‘back in our day’ and when am I going to realise that. rather than comparing and feeling I’m being left behind, get into the new way of communicating?

Then I read the article above.  There are many more, but sometimes we have to do a little research to take cognisance of what is really going on.  So at risk of just looking back when we get to this age.  Everything is memory bound, habit bound, fearful bound sometimes, and so very much resolved to still be the primary educator, judge and guidance in our children’s lives that when we do finally realise that they are now smarter and have lives of their own, we falter, fold and feel so sorry for ourselves.  It puts us in a place we are unfamiliar with.

That feeling and all those anxieties are for another time.  I would rather not spend an hour with Nigel Farage, but I need to get over the idea that phoning someone who does not relate, is not a personal affront.

Despite what many younger people think, we are still able to explore, and occupy new forms of social media, it may just take a little longer, and just when we get it, there are more apps and characteristics to master – and we shall. In fact, it’s exhilarating to think of the possibilities.

There are also some I don’t care a jot for. Love looking at the reels on Instagram, loads of giggles and after a while the boredom of desperate people in squeaky voices, who must have spent hours getting the reel together is no a burning desire in my daily life.

There is a certain vanity at stake here.  For individuals who cannot bear the thought of intimate conversations with another, surprisingly have no problem with filming themselves.  The love of self on film is one thing, but it still brings no confidence when in the same room.  Interesting not so?  You would have a million followers, a few hundred stalkers and a smattering of really damaged people who stare at you, yet you cannot deal with a simple conversation, face to face or voice to voice?

The first few voice notes had me at: ‘ what is the matter with you? I know you are online so just pick up the phone and tell me directly what I now have to listen to.’  Voicemail proceeds voicemail trying to establish a meeting, decorate a room, organise a flight, or Christmas, when all could have been settled by just speaking to one another. In half the time.

I get it now.  Going to forget about how I sounded when we used to tape each other back in the day and my voice, totally unrecognisable, and have some fun.

I was furious at my father for saying Leo Sayer looked like he was dancing with a wooden leg.  The Millenials prefer voice notes. Just laugh.  Imagine how mastering all these new social tools will help you in business, in your journey forward, and your relationship with those, who are smarter than you now.

Or are they …

 

Are you ready with your ‘Cape of Abilities?’

 

 

‘A revival or renewed interest in something.’  The months of a sleeping and creepy, dying world is shooting glimmers of hope.  The Vaccine, oh good and bad and evil and suspect and in the end, the only way of opening up the skies and the doors and getting those all essential hugs underway.

But much as this was, is a war in the world, the initial devastation and bombing of hope, livelihood and heartbreaking loss of life, we began the journey with much resolve.  This too will end, the collective must stand resigned and resilient against the enemy.  Consideration and kindness and mountains of banana bread smells emanated from open windows.

Garden centres flourished in our clawing need for nature and affirmation that the world will carry on turning. We both respected and were a little bit jealous of those still working, even under the worst conditions, whilst we slowly began to give up on Pelaton and exercise, baking and craft making when the second wave took us under.

Oh dear God, not again, we lamented, cursed and felt very un-Christmassy. Down like a lead balloon along with a non New Year.  Some hopefully bought 2021 diaries (I did) thinking, it just has to stop.  Much has been written about the pandemic, friends who are doing the same, hoping to be published, taking part in the launching of the ‘new genre of pandemicism’ (if that is actually a word.)

Post war, casualties lie all around you.  All is rubble and much of it, on a personal level, part of your life.  Have you still got the same job?  Do you still want the same job? Relationships survived?  Has lockdown brought the angels of transformation upon you – to begin something different, something new, get a new job and then you realise, not so easy when everyone is on the same sidewalk, but no reason to think this little, personal renaissance is not possible.  It is.

I am a little in that place.  My work is travel and tours.  For most of this coming year, these two sisters are staying at home.  Travellers hold their breath, and their credit cards until they can afford the joy of travel, rather than the immediate earning need, and unless you are Mr. Amazon, most are going to be a lot more frugal.

But what I mean, in being ready, is that lockdown brings lethargy – not to want to think, depressed at the very thought of everything, inertia central.  And when we can move and leave the house again, work again, socialise again, what kind of life are you going to want?  What kind of things matter more more than before?  Will you be ready to greet the world with your new ‘cape of abilities’ and empowerment tools?

Will you be prepared?

For this year, I have to diversify – remaining optimistic about doing what I totally love, and also being practical that financially other avenues may be more fruitful in the meantime.

Will I be ready and how can I prepare myself for the full return of the New Normal?  How has this been a lesson, a time to re-adjust, re-evaluate and re-align my life to be better, richer, more fruitful than it was before we stood dazed in half disbelief, and laughed when asked to bump elbows …

I’ll be ready.  Will you?

Of course you will.  With all those fabulous powers you have …

Image pintrest

Hands up who is a little scared right now? Harness it.

The execution of Lady Jane Gray by Paul Delaroche.

A little dramatic I know. But this painting, one of my favourites in the National Gallery, sort of sums up this year.  We are faced with death, not sure what to do about it, feeling our way as best we can and all so frigging tragic. Innocent (in some ways) we are facing execution by lottery of the virus and no matter what we do, sort of sacrificial lambs one and all … and it’s bloody awful.

Sat in the Gallery, before it closed, once again, and stared at this painting. Feeling as helpless as she must have felt. Because seriously, we have all been doom scrolling for the statistics and wondering if our little world will end on a hospital bed.  Didn’t feel so much before, all bravado and such over the past year, and it has been a year, being ha ha … is this for real, is this sort of really serious and now to … don’t touch me, spritz the sanitiser, avoid absolutely everyone and spending winter at one address. Christmas, yes it was lovely, yes it was lacking … and thinking, am I breathing ok, am I still smelling the Brie?  Even sort of starting thinking, if it happens, where the hell will my body go. Such morbid stuff.

Not at all evading the issue of real people losing their lives to the virus and the utmost pain endured.  I have been close to those who have sacrificed their loved ones, and left wanton as to the next step … it is not out of flippancy, but real fear that I think … are we all a little scared?  You are right.

Only I cannot stop living, right now. When it hits home, really home, all the jokes of stealing wine and illegal this and this, dissipates with the loss of a real life, a young, gone to soon life.  I cannot, and nor should you. If life is ready to be done with me, I must live as much of it that I can, right now.  Good thing I am of an age that going to the disco no longer has me panting. Curfew doesn’t  concern me, but the loss of jobs and livelihood do.  This year has ravaged and taken from so many. I have followed the rules, but I have also realised that I cannot, will not, give up before I have no opportunity to do so.

It is one of those things – me wanting to live a full life, and acutely aware of those who have not been given the chance.

This is to what I write about. It’s about still hanging onto hope. I am scared, very scared, even more so now, but I cannot settle for never laughing again, or travelling again, or just going outside the door and going … what can I do under the circumstances?

I can keep talking. Wishing and hoping. Most of all, I can keep talking. About curfew lifting and going to Paris.  Starting your own company, a little new business, a different way.  I can keep hoping you will say … enough of the couch and the comfort eating and get up to do something positive.  I can keep urging all to muster the strength of planning for better – a trip, a business, mending ways with those you are estranged from, deciding that time is of the essence to do the things you have always harboured in your heart and felt to afraid to begin.

So if you are feeling a little scared, it is ok.  We never expected this, but then there are chapters in our lives we never expected either. Scared, you are allowed to be, knowing you are in the category or a vaccine because of your age, who would have thought. It’s good, and ageing.

The poor lass in the picture had no choice and she fumbled her way to the block.  We may feel the block is close, but until it actually happens , I am saying … do not go gently … go with a great defiance of maybe the virus ignited a new fire in your hearts, a new idea to bring to fruition and more importantly, a conviction that you, and what you are about to do, defies fear.

 

Do we really begin to feel so old, or do others make us so?

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ― Sophia Loren

It has been a while since writing, much has happened and mostly the superior irritation of feeling a lot older than I normally do.

I berate myself for doing this, but as much as I tried, the weariness and physical inability to dance through the moments, left me not only hobbling and frayed, but spiritually bereft. All my own doing …

At first, lockdown had me at ‘once again’ transforming everything.  Walking and, oh dear Lord, trying to become a runner without having trotted for a million years.  ‘Besimpled’ is all I can say.  Would it be karma at her wittiest, in bestowing me with ‘runner’s knee’?  One minute I felt the twinging of my right knee cap and before you could say, ‘we can have wine again’ I was hobbling to the Physio therapist for treatment.  ‘You have Runner’s knee.’  ‘You have to be kidding!’ Pain central.

This was not enough however, I was shifting to the London mode.  Time to return to the wee bairns (now seriously in no need of mother’s attention), signed a lease, took a repatriation flight and spent three weeks, with the wounded knee, living out of a suitcase.  Moving to a new house – falling down the stairs. I am Methuselah. And I was doing it to myself, feeling like a cripple without fitness, no energy, lots of depression and basically, deeply unsatisfied, hurting and unhappy.

The injury heals and the energy returns.  Which made me wonder if I was just plain feeling my age, dear God, or sinking into the acceptance and telling everyone that I was feeling old and miserable, and thus began to be treated thus?

Yesterday two things happened.  The first was a darling elderly gentlemen, who has yet to work out the wearing of a mask on the bus, or defiant perhaps, escorted by I surmise, his wife, who verbally  erased him from any form of independence.  A two year old had more freedom of choice, how to get on the bus, where to sit, how to sit, what was in front of him, outside the window – it was horrible to watch and the more she babied, the smaller he became.  The same happened in a coffee shop.  Two women in their thirties I think, brought in their mother.  Brought, it was more like escorted, plonked down on a chair, positioned and decided what was best for her to drink. The more they ignored her, only to order her to drink up, the smaller she became, and I knew I had done that to my own mother, not so long ago.

Why do we do that?  It’s a patience thing I guess and I was treating myself equally so, having no patience with this injury, transferring the frustrations of a lame leg and moving into a state of believing I was to old to cope. Resisting the change, even though I had brought it upon myself?  Looking for sympathy and then feeling sidelined because others had no patience with me? Physically, things will take a little longer – I doubt I would qualify now for things I would not have qualified for two decades ago.

But I was pissed off yesterday.  We are dealing with such ageism anyway and now, spirits sink at every turn when we are made to feel smaller, and I just hate that we fall for it. We accept that those younger are so much smarter and can stream, beam anywhere, virtual this and drink us under the table, but maybe we just secretly don’t want to know and do all those things anymore.  Champion of the Boat race drinking at University was sort of my highlight and now Mommy cuddles the bottle of wine, not because she has become a stereotype, but perhaps sometimes this world had just become so super boring.  We have cooked, cleaned, bathed, soothed, medicated, worked, travelled, loved and lived in full technicolour, thank you.  Kudos to Hugh Grant and Colin Firth who both turned 60 this week, the heart can still flutter and maybe more so that the looks are chiselled rather than winsome.

‘Ageing is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.’  David Bowie.

As to the question, yes.  We allow ourselves to feel old, become morose and think we have passed our time and wallow, and yes, others do make us feel old and we allow them too.

I will never wear the purple hat and fall into the stereotypes we tend to, but dammit, I allowed myself to think my life, romance, experiences and everything else, was over, because I struggled to walk, moved into a new house, take three buses to work and wore a knee brace on a nine hour shift.

And I am looking back at the pictures – not to feel sorry for myself, but to teach myself that granny frocks and socks and trainers and not really my style, so why the hell did I think my age made it acceptable?

If you are reading this with some delightful socks and crocks … you know what I mean.

Cheers!

 

 

er

Summer heat and finding my feet.

If Lucifer is testing me, am not ‘going to pull ‘a Karen’, but Hades, it’s hot!  London and heat like this has us wilting at sunrise and crisp by even fall.  32 degrees at seven pm – how are you holding out? What are you doing to keep cool?

George has been semi comatose all day.  Feet in cold water, feeding of the ice cubes, poor little fellow.  I have resorted to freezing grapes and juice, cold showers on the hour and still the glow has turned to ditch digging sweat. Still, its great to be back in London. From the alcohol ban in South Africa to this – Lucifer has been busy.

Patiently waiting for the International boarders to open, the wait is ongoing.  Decided to do a ‘repatriation’ flight back to the UK.  The prospect was daunting with all the rules and regulations and I was in a total panic; what if the temperature was a little high, the document a little missing … this was all a non-refundable exercise.  No going directly to the airport, loaded on buses and single file, we returnees were ushered onto the flight.  Gone were the lovely uniforms, replaced by white suited, visor clad and mask wearing crew. Understandable.  Worst airline food in history – no hot food, no coffee – day old smashed chicken and a slice of cheddar on a stale bun. Moving on.  Then there was the delightful ‘you must register with the UK government and quarantine threat.’ No-one at the airport to check.  All the drama for nothing – I think most airlines are stepping up to the ‘repatriation’ game to just get back into the air (at a hefty fare of course.)

Don’t blame them.  Let the world open up now thank you!  It has been too long, very sad and life changing, but too long. So what did you do in the months of not being allowed to step outside, stop working or work from home.  How did it work for you?  Are you still employed?  Many face redundancy and worse, many over fifties are now facing an uphill battle to find work.  Don’t stop going for it, it will happen.  This is just the time to re-evaluate and perhaps change direction. Is there something you have always wanted to do but feared for it at the same time?  Now is the time.  This lady is in the tourism business.  The tourism business is on it’s knees right now, and it breaks my heart, but I remain optimistic that it will pick up again.  That doesn’t mean I am not looking in different directions for something to add to my working life.  If weddings are on hold, I have seen wedding photographers change course and are giving virtual lessons, doing family shoots … you know what I mean.  It isn’t easy, and that is why, once again, I am finding my feet in a new dynamic, in a new world so to speak.

Challenging, but exciting at the same time. Finding you feet is what it is all about.  Doubt if I will ever be hired as a CEO in the next few months, but Lordy Lord, do I want to do that?  Rather be a dog walker (when it gets cooler).  No, it is not going to be easy, but it is going to be a path of discovery and DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE. If I am a typical Karen, than it is only because no is not a word I have a place for anymore.  Over the past few years, I have had enough no’s to build a fountain – base of no’s ,water of tears, but I have put that angel right on top.

As Dory would say, ‘just keep swimming’.

A darling friend, who like me has had an interesting, if never to be repeated, past few years.  She took her maintenance and bought a Guest House in December.  World crashing, I asked her how she was coping.

‘After what we have been through, this virus is nothing.’  That’s the spirit boss girl, that is the baby steps to success.

Not quite going to dive into the Thames, but a paddling pool in the living room is looking ever so attractive.

Hello lovelies … it’s going to be a great time.  I have been lying low, sort of if you have nothing to say, don’t spill the banal onto pretty ears, but now, oooh, now there is so much to say, do and discover.

Watch this space and get inspired in your own Silver Street – such a cool avenue.

Images: The Standard

 

 

 

 

Covid and Peanut butter sandwiches.

In a world gripped by Covid, we are all struggling, in our own way.

The day has been one of torrential rain, gales so fierce it is difficult to go outside.  I am safe and warm in my home, but I am also in a country that many are facing starvation – poverty so dire, it is difficult to imagine the sheer extent of it all.

So tonight I write, not of pretty gardens or far off beautiful places, but of what is happening, right here, right now.  And the heart is breaking for those who fight the elements of the fiercest cold, and the most desperate of hunger. The predicament has always been here, but perhaps Covid has brought the plight of the homeless and destitute to the fore.

Began for me, oh dear, staying longer than expected in South Africa, and making the best of it.  What to do, get though this, until I could fly back to London.

I felt very sorry for myself. How to pass the time and I have no work here.  Do a little decorating, work in the garden … wait it out.  Then  I found, by chance, a group of women who were making sandwiches for children who were now, not getting a meal at school, for schools have been closed.  Make a few sandwiches, they asked, help these children have at least one meal a day in their bellies.

I can do that, I thought.  Make my own little contribution.  Toss in a bag of oranges, or two. Every week I made sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches ( peanut butter is more nourishing) and happily deposited my bags of charity at the point of collection.  Once a week. Keeping the distance.

If I could post some of the pictures of the children, and adults, receiving packages of basic food, I would. But I won’t, for their sakes.  They are lovely, the utter gratitude, but also the real ‘picture’ of hunger, and fear. They do not need to be put on social media, or this post, and I will respect them.

This amazing, and generous, group of women has grown to the stage where nearly two thousand sandwiches are made every week.  As is, the need for other basics became evident.  Blankets, clothes, diapers, plastic, drinking water and even just something like tampons were top of the list. A handicapped child was found in a squatter camp, his mother trying her best. We were made aware, hospital visit arranged, a wheelchair donated by funds from children, parents, anyone who could help. Still I thought, do what I can, from a distance.

I was asked to visit a squatter camp, to take photographs for a newsletter, for a charity. Was reluctant. It’s one thing helping out, and quite another, getting up close. Feelings of dread, not wanting to seriously engage. I did go. There are people, of all races, living under plastic sheets, hoping against hope for a wooden structure, a steel container, anything to protect them from the elements. There is no race issue here, only one of survival. In the most basic form. The most basic act of just getting through the next hour, the next day.

And I thought.  How did you get to this?  How can you not make something of yourselves, seriously, is there no job, or self help scheme to lift you from this desolate state? As I began to speak to a few living there, there isn’t. Zenophobia excludes help. A few are trying to earn a few cents by begging at stoplights, making scarves and jewellery, selling plants they have gathered in the mountains behind them.  Yet, everyone I spoke to was strangely calm, hopeful and grateful. Can I just say, I felt so small.

I would love to post pictures of the smiles on those children’s faces when they received a peanut butter sandwich. I cannot.

The pandemic has prevented many from going to work. I worried about getting more wine. Africa is Africa and poverty will always be here I suppose, but now, in this time, people are willing to risk getting Covid rather than starving. They will risk the disease instead. In becoming involved, I have seen the elderly grasp at a parcel of soup mix, children running for bread, mothers crying quietly with resignation, others huddled against the cold. Under plastic, crates, makeshift corrugated iron sheets. And still helping others.

Around the world, statues are going down, anti racism protests, political chaos.  Dare I say it, but there are do-gooders who shout for a while, and go back home.  They should come here and see the volunteers who risk their own health, and at times safety,  to go into townships and squatter camps to feed and nurse the worst hit by the lockdown. Quietly – in all weather.

I would love to post the pictures. I won’t. I will honour those who think a tin of beans is a gift.

As the rain beats down, and the winds lift the tiles, I think of those who need a blanket, and a peanut butter sandwich.

 

As they say, keep safe, but also, keep giving. Give in any way your can.

 

 

 

Lockdown, a little bit of sex and the Chameleon going for a walk.

Lockdown day one million.  Little mercies.  A good walk.  Will I call it a ‘Beautiful walk’ as at My Silver Street?  In the beginning perhaps, on the Estate and nature in all her glory, hedging towards Autumn. Now it is the same walk, round and round. At least I still drag myself out of a virus inflicted crazy dream and little sleep state and pull on the trainers.

Beginning each day with ‘Enough, going to do this and that, change my life, change the world’ to end of day … blah. Getting the little soldiers into a plan of action.

The weekend had me in a chatroom. The Zoom Room.  Chatting to family who are shedding the jumpers for summer frocks, and an Art Class; sketchbooks.  Of course Karen, the moment you find a shop open with Art Supplies. you have to buy the biggest Sketch book known to man.  A great big, bloody red Moleskin sketchbook.  Initially the idea was sound, to put and plaster and tag and dot little pieces of inspiration.  Quite the other when you have to show it to the group via webcam and cannot actually hold the atlas/doomsday book up for them to see.  Memo, a little one will look so much more attractive in your handbag whilst sipping a noisette ‘a la sidewalk cafe in Paris in future.  The Red peril will not fit into your suitcase.

Where the Art continues to be curious and beautiful, the book reading attempts right now, have been less so.

The painting is by Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678)  You can find it in the Wallace Collection, in London.  It speaks of abundance, both in flesh and nature, of plenty, of fertility and harvest.  Surrounded by humans, satyrs, children (fertility) and reference to Bacchus/Dionysus, the god of wine and hedonism, the composition is one of sensuality, voluptuous abandon and lust.  Lust, sex and passion.  An allegory of Fruitfulness.  Ripe with sex.

Poetry does it beautifully, and many novelists can engage the words with graceful imagery to evoke all the nuances and beauty of sex.  Just as many get it so wrong. So embarrassingly wrong.  There is even a ‘Bad sex in literature award’.  I kid you not.  Anyway, there is no Daunt Books close by, but dear Lord, why have the past two ‘International Best Seller’ books been sadly lacking in writing about sex in a realistic, yet magical way.  Of course, the first I read had to deal with every topical subject the author could tap into; we have war, rape and revenge.  Now I am trying to, with a skewering, vinegar in your eye determination to finish, has me going ‘oh dear, forgiving Lord, has EL James begun writing under a pseudonym?  Have I not escaped her? Again the topical jam it all in list: dreary marriage to a cold hearted orc, jumps in the Seine, totally rescued of course, anyone can dive into the Seine with its currents and whip out the desperate – runs away, to the idyllic seaside town.  Instant job, lodgings, favourite of all – late life sexual awakening, first orgasm and sjoe … the convenience of it all!  Does it not reduce you to a pulp of craving for wine – it did me.  So please, good recommendations for I cannot do the ‘hope it goes to Hollywood’ stuff.  Amazing don’t you think, when you think of it, just how every book seems to be ‘The number 1 bestseller’ – what would happen if it were the ‘Number 4 best seller’? Oh dear … Suggestions please, or I shall revert to the classics once again (always a good thing) to read about real passion and sexuality.

Fans of EL James, by the way, you have made her immensely rich.  I hope she took some grammar lessons with the loot.

Sadly, the past week, we read of the passing of Nigel.  Monty Don and his beloved Nigel, which I watched religiously on ‘Gardener’s World’ – the perfect couple, boy and his best mate. They were the closest to what I believe a real home, garden and life should be.  It is a long time ago, I had any of these together, and I suppose they were like a dream team – his loss will be great, for those who love the programme, but immense for Monty Don and his family.  Times I think, this is what it really should be like, pushing the wheelbarrow through the seasons, followed by two faithfuls in a beautiful garden – and the nuzzling, the unconditional love an animal gives, that is the most powerful love. I hope one day, when I grow up and settle down, I will have a companion like Nigel.

In closing, I stumbled upon another unique couple.  On my walk today – we have  to distance and it’s rather a stop and let pass situation, complete with masks, as one does in the fresh air. Seriously? An elderly gentleman came towards me, and I stopped to allow him right of way.  Walking stick in one hand, the other was held out in front of him, almost in a shield holding fashion and it was only when he was right beside me, I noticed the chartreuse, bulging eyed chameleon perched there.

I am not a fan, afraid more like. When it comes to some animals, I wish David Attenborough a long life, he can cuddle them. Yet, as I walked on, I thought of how much he must love that green fellow.  The responsibility to nuture is there. Is gives sense to being. Maybe the fraught existence of sex and lust and passion has waned with every step.  Maybe he still feels them all, I hope he does. We must endeavour to feel the fluttering for as long as we can.

Reflections in the water.  A few Geese and Coots still visit.  The birdsong is lyrical, and the tiniest weaver is in the orchestra. It is a quite and reflective time; I may not be able to visit the Galleries, but art abides.  Not sure of the reaction if I meet swivel-eyed Sam, now being aware of him, but how charming was that moment in the morning?  Just to find a really, really good book that doesn’t make me despair.

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
–“Sonnett XVII,” by Pablo Neruda

“my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom”
–“since feeling is first,” by e.e. cummings

Want more words like these … be safe and plan for your own continued journey.

Till more xxx

Image: own and Bournmouth news.