Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holding my breath

The piece I submitted to the writing competion. I print it and then I go through it with a fine-toothed comb changing and correcting with a pen. Then I correct it on the computer again, print it again and when editing it again, I normally make more changes. When I was 100% sure, I typed it up one last time and submitted it

One of my life long passions is writing. That is why I blog. I also read voraciously. It's a known fact that if you want to write (and get published, that is) you must read, read and read.

I subscribe to online writing clubs, mostly in the USA. I receive the Writer's Digest in the mail every second month and read it from cover to cover. I am in the process of trying to join and writer's club online here in South Africa.

While I lived and worked in West Africa, I found a wonderful writing website on which I made many online friends. This site had writing excersises and, if you rose to the challenge of doing them, you could be sure of wonderful writers, (many published authors) critiqueing your work. I no longer visit this site (blogging takes up too much of my time. LOL) but have kept in email contact with two wonderful ladies who are respectively a published author and a published poet.

Last month I decided to enter the Short Short Story competition in the Writer's Digest and who did I turn to when I needed help with my submission, but one of these dear friends who had re-started her interesting blog. Eleyne, whose interesting blog you can read by clicking on her name, very kindly helped me tighten the piece until I felt confident enough to copy and paste it onto the competition website and press enter!

Now I wait with baited breath until after 13th February, incidently my birthday, when I'll hear if my entry made an impact with the judges or not.

Meanwhile I continue to write and read and read and read.

You can read the story which I entered into the competition here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beautiful Clarice

For more photos of pets around the world, click here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Right of Way...

Returning from the township after dropping Emily off at home yesterday, I had just driven onto the one-way bridge when a herd of cattle were being - well -herded across it.
I was already two thirds of the way across so tried to brazen it out with the cattle. No way! They just kept coming.

And coming..I stopped dead and waited for them to squash past my vehicle. The children, who were sitting in the back of my pick-up, were delighted at the close proximity of these animals as they passed us.

Oh, cattle (such as these), goats and sheep, which belong to locals, are taken to a grassy patch, normally beside the road, and tethered to a stone for the day. They can move about for as long as their tether is and graze.

They just kept on coming... The children and I just LOVED the little calf who was fortunately still with his mother.

For other worlds out there, click here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Digging up the Town

The neighbouring town of Ladybrand, where my vet is and I normally do my monthly grocery shopping is sporting dug up streets for the festive season! This town borders on Lesotho and shop owners depend on business from the people living and working in that country. I arrived there last Monday (I took my old dog, Megan for her summer clip) to find the main streets dug up. Those that weren't yet "de-tarred" were cordonned off so that there was no parking for the cars.

Having worked for the regional and provincial newspaper, I took photos of the terrible state of the streets and spoke to several business owners, including a lovely young gentleman who manages the tourism board.
They all told me that the municipality employed contractors who dug the streets up one week before Christmas. No businesses owners were consulted or asked to be present at the meetings held in this regard. They felt they were losing business due to the fact that a) parking was a major problem and b) people were not keen to drive down the street with bulldozers and front-end loaders pushing, lifting and swinging huge chunks of tar through the air.

I am due to make a trip to Ladybrand again this week and wonder if any progress has been made with the roadworks. I cannot imagine that the contractors would have worked over the Christmas period and if they will continue to work again this week.

More again when I return from my shopping trip to Ladybrand.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Train of Thought

I took the above photo on the first day of our recent motorbike trip.

My son, John worked at sea for Maersk (
see here) for fifteen years before coming home to be with his young wife and family (see here) so this scene set off a train of thought into the past. I just had to photograph it.

For more scenes around the world, click here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Slow Down - God wants to talk to you

Are you always rushing around - never taking the time to slow down and hear what the Lord has to say. God is calling His people this day to "Stand still". What are some of the things that He is waiting to impart? The Scriptures have several examples.

Below is the first of a series of that I will share under this label over the next few weeks.

What the Lord commands concerning you and your family:

Numbers 9:8 says: "And Moses said to to [the Israelites]: 'Stand still and I will hear what the Lord commands concerning you. "

God wants to reveal to your His mind on the matters concerning you. But in order to know this, you must take time to consider this - seeking council at His feet. You cannot determine the "way to take" according to your own fancies or affectations. Every circumstance must be weighed in the light of His Holy Word.

May you find strength in these words to ascertain the direction of your family's life by "being still" and hearing God's voice.


Friday, December 25, 2009


We have had an exceptionally hot and dry December so it was a welcome to see the clouds gathering for a storm last night.
While I stood outside and photographed these clouds in different stages, I could feel raindrops cooling the stifling air.
However, when I went indoors and downloaded the photos, I looked out of the office window and the storm had passed over. Perhaps later today...
I loved the reflection of the sun behind that clouds
Thanks to the wonderful team at Skywatch Friday for this amazing meme. To see more skies around the world, click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

No Water in the Township

Does the title sound familiar at this time of the year? No water in the township/No room in the inn. When we hear the latter statement read from the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 verse 7,we kinda feel indignant that there was no room in the inn for a young couple, the woman obviously pregnant, who had travelled a great distance to take part in the census of the time.

Yesterday morning as I drove to the township to collect Emily, my houselady, I noticed streams of people walking from the other parts of the township (there are no "suburbs" in the township) all carrying buckets, large plastic bottles, jugs and other recepticles.

A little further on I saw a long queue of men, women and children, all with containers, waiting at a tap. It suddenly dawned on me that the township was without water. I'm not sure how or why, but obviously there were two or three water points in people's yards (not many gardens in the township either) which had water. Everyone was drawing from these few taps/faucets.
Sure enough, when Emily got into my car, she told me that they'd been without water since the previous day. The "people who work for the municipality" told her that the water purifying pump at the town dam, had broken. I assured her that as soon as I got home, and the municipal offices opened, I would phone the people responsible and enquire as to when the water would be available again. (Which I did and was told that the problem was being resolved as we spoke)

It brought it home to me how comfortable my life (and that of almost everyone else living in our town) is. And how we take so many of our amenities for granted. In the fifteen years that I have lived in this town, we have been without water exactly ONCE. It was on a Friday night in October 2008 . We had the family staying with us and I remember how irate I felt at the incovenience. Yet I have three garden ponds and the children's swimming pool was filled to the brim so we had water. We drew it from the pool first (and would have progressed to the ponds sifting out the tadpoles and water life first) and boiled it on the stove. We all had a reasonable "top and tail" sort of bath. We had water to flush the toilets and we had a vehicle and cash so we could drive to the cafe and buy bottled water to drink.

The majority of the people in the township subsist on between US$166 and US200 per month. Those are the families who have someone who has employment. A family in the township can consist of a mother (often no father, this is the norm, rather than the exception) and between four and six childen. If any of your relatives have succumbed to the modern scourge of mankind, you may have three to five more of their orphaned offspring. Then you may have your aged mother or father living with you which is more of a blessing than a problem because at least they draw an old-age pension of US$113 per month. On the downside, this often leads to abuse because a member of younger generation takes the aged parent to sign for and collect his/her pension and then takes it from them.

There are literally thousands of people in the township who don't have any regular income and I don't know how they survive. Many people do "piece work" which is casual labour - a day at a time at the legal going rate of US$7.54 per day.
Tiny children sit at the side of the road (above) while their parents are out earning a living
Times are tight all over the world; we're all feeling the economical crisis this year, but none so much as the people in our townships right across the country.
A week or two ago I posted about the "fatherless/absent father" homes especially in our townships. Of Emily's four grandchildren only two have a father and a mother who are married and have the children in their home. The other two, from Emily's other two daughters, live in Emily's home with no fathers in the equation. And these two children are the truly blessed and fortunate ones. They have a loving grandmother, (who is in the firm employ of yours truly) a mother and an aunt to care for them. Yesterday morning, not only did I see people walking miles to collect a bucket of water; I also saw dozens of children sitting on the street corners with nothing to do. Their mothers had gone to work in the towns (and that is a blessing) but there are no parks in the township. During the holidays there is nothing to keep these children occupied until their parent/s arrive home that evening. Even then, they are shouted at by exhausted parents who are struggling to make ends meet. Often they are chased out of the house and told to go and play in the street again...
Emily's grandchildren (see above, in front of her house) are of the more fortunate and blessed children in the township. In the photo above this one, there are many children sitting on the street corner with nowhere to play ball and nowhere to go. Definitely no extravagant celebrations for them at this time of the year.

My household staff which consists of Emily, houselady; John and David, gardeners and Simon, a once-a-a week gardener, (becuase he has no other income) will each receive a hamper of groceries from me this afternoon. I also buy stewing meat and chicken portions for each of them to cook up with their families in the township on Christmas day. Since they've been in my employ, I have given them each a Christmas / annual bonus. This is a month's salary (thirteenth cheque, as it were) in cash. Next week, as normal, they receive their December salary. But today they are given an extra month's pay. This is all I can do for them; to quote a wise man (with apologies, I forget who!) I am but one, but I am one. So I do what I can.

I wish all my blogger friends a very blessed season with their loved ones. Thanks for your love, visits, comments and kindness during 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Longest Day

Yesterday, the 22nd of December was the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. Around this time of the year, the 21st or 22nd of December is known as the summer solstice. This is reversed in the Northern Hemisphere, hence the icy, often snowy conditions experienced there at this time of the year.

Back to our Summer Solstice. Yesterday morning I took my camera and walked around my garden taking photos. The dogs were thrilled that I was out there that early and gleefully bounded across the lawns and through the beds (I have a child, insect, bird, pet and human friendly garden - no watching where you walk - you just enjoy every part of it)

So please take a break from all the holiday and season's preparations and walk with me through my garden on this beautiful midsummer's day.

Starting off at the ponds, let's meander across the streams connecting them. Enjoy the bird sounds, can you hear the male Southern Masked Weavers and Orange River White Eyes swizzling? Oh, there's a juvenile Diederick Cuckoo in the peach tree. Hear him calling loudly for his adopted parents (three, yes, three exhausted White-Browed Sparrow Weavers) to come and feed him.

Along the soft lawn and just out of sight is a juvenile Cape Robin pecking in the grass.

The two white stinkwood (Celtis Africana)throw a welcome shadow over the ponds

Uh-oh, here come the dogs.. Angie comes bounding through my "dry" garden of Aloes, Bulbines, Obiculatas and Tecomarias
Whoo-hoo, Eddy sniffs the ground for possible frogs... A bit off the mark, Eddy; the ponds are behind us

Megan - just NOT visible - is waddling up the path to the right. (Megan needs a serious doggie diet, but she won't tow the line with me!)
Look up above: A lone Egret. I don't know which one, but we normally have flocks of Cattle Egrets flying overhead every morning. Do you think this one overslept?

Aha, Eddy turns; is she calling Angie?

The shadow of my house over my garden
Here is the butterfly bush (Gaura lindheimeri) This amazing [exotic] shrub dies down in winter and returns again in summer. And yes, it attracts butterflies.

Ah, mum, here's a visitor in our garden. And there's MEGAN in the middle of the flower bed

I'm the only person in town who does not stomp on snails or place snail bait (poison) down for them. I actually save snails from harm, much to the horror of many of my friends. (LOL)

As I said, I have an [everything] friendly garden

I hope you enjoyed the meander through my garden. You're welcome to visit anytime.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Camping in the Garden

On Saturday night my grandchildren asked to camp out in the garden under my bedroom window (I heard their dad tell them: "I'll set the tent up under Gran's window in case you need someone in the night" Clever parents, I thought. With a nine-month-old baby who is teething, dil who's three months pregnant, they don't get many unbroken nights of sleep)

The first morning I could hear the children were awake very early and chattering away to each other. When they came inside, they asked if they could sleep in the tent that (Sunday) night as well. They did.
All should have been well, but this night a strong windstorm came up in the night and I awoke at 1.30 am (I checked the bedside clock) and heard the most awful crying under my window. Fumbling to get into my gown and slippers, I looked out of the window and saw two little children with their arms around each other and wailing fit to bust!
I ran to the entertainment centre door and wrenched it open. The two children looked up, still sobbing and my granddaughter asked accusingly "Gran, WHY did you lock the door?" By now my befuddled-with-sleep dil had joined me in the doorway and together we gathered the children up and carried them indoors to bed.
When I asked my granddaughter this morning, why she had woken up, she said she thought there was a storm brewing. So I asked how her little brother (who is able to sleep through anything) woke up, she said: "I woke him!"
The clouds looked a little stormy again last night, so when we asked the children if they were going to sleep out in the tent again, granddaughter said: "I think our camping days are over."
For more scenes around the world, click here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

From Generation to Generation

Recently I read an interesting article in a magazine. The subject, called "From one generation to the next" was what we can teach our children. We should be teaching them how to handle money, how to have respect for themselves and others,to have a sense of humour, to show gratitude, to mind their manners and many more.

What piqued my interest, however, was a box at the side of the article which said: "Top 5 things not to pass down to our children"

Here they are:

Debt - Don't expect children to clean up after your mishaps and mistakes.

Prejudice - Here in South Africa we live in a country full of history and diverse people and cultures. Discrimination and intolerance for others leads to hatred and forgets to respect others, forgets open-mindedness and manners.

Receding hairline - Every family has some kind of ailment passed down from generation to generation to a selected few in the family. This is out of your hands, but in the name of Jesus you can cut off those ailments, believing that God will honour your faith and it will not be passed onto your offspring.

A health-hazardous habit - Bad eating habits, smoking or drinking or any other negative lifestyle habit you may acquire in your lifetime, is best stopped with you. For the sake of your little ones, give up any bad habits, replacing them with positive ones. Your children always emulate you. No use saying do as I say. Rather DO the right thing and they will follow suit.

Fear - Whether you are afraid of spiders or failure, your fears should not be passed onto the next generation. Encourage yourself and your children to overcome fears by reciting this amazing Scripture:

"[For God has said:] I will never fail you. I will never forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

Source (with adaptions by me) Weigh-Less magazine (Summer 2009 Edition)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Midsummer Day Scene

A scene taken from the moving car on the way back from the city last week

Thanks to all at Scenic Sunday for another year of this wonderful meme.

For more scenes around the world, click here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Special Family Outing

We had a lovely picnic on the lawn outside the doctor's rooms on Thursday

On Thursday John and Debbie asked if I'd accompany them to the gynaecologist in the city. I did and am I glad I did! It was a wonderful family outing and the first time I'd ever been present at a scanning of the baby in the womb. (When we had children in the seventies, there were no scans or technical devices to show the parents/grandparents what the baby looked while it was being expected.)

Before the allotted time of the appointment, however, we had lunch. To save us the trouble of eating in a restaurant or coffee shop with three small children, we decided to picnic on the lawn outside the doctor's rooms. We bought fresh bread rolls, a ready-made Greek salad, a tub of cottage cheese. We sat on the grass and made our own salad sandwiches and washed them down with ice-cold fresh juice. A really relaxing repast.
The whole family waited for quite a long time before seeing the doctor. The children were as good as gold

We waited in the outer waiting room for about forty minutes before we were called into an "ante-room". Here a nurse took Debbie's blood pressure (much to my three year-old grandson's fascination) and then took her into another side room for further [more personal!] tests and samples.

Next, we were all ushered into ANOTHER room: this time one with a bed, onto which the nurse settled Debbie. There were two large flat tv screens suspended above the bed - one over the pregnant mommy's bed and one in full view of the dad and/or other family.

When Debbie was pregnant with our grandson, his daddy (John) was away at sea. He planned his leave to coincide with the birth extended for six weeks into the life of the newborn. So when Debbie had to go for a check-up and scan in a very advanced stage of her pregnancy, John asked Angus (our younger son) to accompany Debbie to the city. At the same time John and Angus' best friend, Charles, (who later was Angus' best man at his wedding) was visiting Angus. So it was absolutely natural for Charles to accompany Angus who was accompanying his sister-in-law to the gynaecologist. When Debbie entered this room with two men, neither of whom were John, the doctor (who's a jokester of note!) looked up and said, "Which one of you is the father?"

But I digress. Last week, when the gynaecologist eventually came in, he asked me if I was the gran of this HUGE family! He was a dear man who then approached Debbie's bed and by his manner you could see how he put her at ease. When he applied the scanner to her tummy, he looked at the children and asked what they were wishing for. Both the older children immediately said: "A baby brother!"

By now the images had appeared on the screen which I could see and I realised once again, that the miracle of birth will never cease to amaze me. We could see the baby clearly; it moved around all the time. The doctor then turned up the sound and we could hear the heartbeat. He used the cursor to point at and commented about what you were looking at: "There are the two hips seen from the back" ; "These two little knees, perfect" ; "The heartbeat: 64 per minute - excellent" We noticed the little mite lift a hand towards the mouth and the doctor said: "There, it's sucking it's thumb" What a precious moment.

Then six-year-old granddaughter, in a very loud whisper, said: "Gran, is this ALL we came for?"

When our little baby (nine-month-old granddaughter) began to cry because she was tired, cold, (the airconditioning was so high in the room),hungry and had just plainly "had had enough", I told John I would take the children and wait outside while they chatted to the doctor in his rooms.

What bliss when we walked out into the late afternoon summer sun. Wheeling the pram and with the older children beside me, we meandered to the duck pond and waited there for John and Debbie.

After viewing the scan of our unborn grandchild, I took all three the "present" grandchildren out into the gardens to look at the ducks
I am truly blessed with my precious family. Praise God.

Friday, December 18, 2009