Another view of Spring 2021

As is my habit I breakfast in the morning sun on the patio. It is fresh and I don’t switch on the radio, as I want to hear the birds.

Next to me is a kumquat tree with bright orange fruit and new season flowers, which have that lovely citruscent. One of the day’s decisions is whether to turn the fruit to marmalade – I think I will.

The lawn is patrolled by spotted doves and magpie larks. The local magpies pass through to ensure their territories are being respected. They viciously attack any magpie intruders.

A pair of magpie larks,called peewees, are frequent visitors. This morning one of them walked past my chair as I read on the patio after breakfast. I glanced at her and she stopped and eyed me over, then as I was not an obvious threat or interest walked under the table.

She emerged on the other side hopped up onto a chair and then onto the table, only 4 feet from me, looking for morsels. She then stopped, looked at me and sounded her ear piercing tweetshriek. Who knows: maybe defiance, or just a joyful greeting?

In the foliage around the bird feeder, where the pyton often hangs out, crested pigeons kerfuffle frequently – their libido goes through the roof in Spring. Rainbow Lorikeets pop in occasionally, but don’t linger.

Less frequently, we are privleged with glimpses of King Parrots and Pale-headed Rosellas and the occasional galah and cockatoo.

In the syringa tree, figbirds and blue eyed honeyeaters search for flowers or berries almost every day. Noisy mynahs squabble and shriek on the move like gangs of unruly children released from class. Their noise is often pierced by the harsher scrapescreech of the noisy friars who pass by.

Finally, there is a sweet pair of Lewin’s Honeyeaters, who bathe in a patio gutter that needs fixing, carelessly splashing and spraying. They chatter happily as they flit through the trees, playing catch.

Life is not too bad, if we stop and listen to the birds.

Retirement – permission to misbehave?

Suggested by Debra Hall Thursday 18 March

It’s not so much what you can do, when you retire, but how much you can’t do before you do.

From before memory what we hear is: “No” “you can’t have that” ”do what I say” “this is the way we do things here” with sub text “and if you don’t then we are not for you”.

So one would think that retirement would be like letting go of a wound up elastic band: Twwwaaangggg!!! Don’t stop me now…!

Thinking about what you’re going to do when you are free to do it is quite fun. No-one said it better than Jenny Joseph in her “Warning”.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

….and learn to spit

But she didn’t really know, she was only 29 when she wrote the poem.

It isn’t like that, immediately anyway. Stopping the engine from continuing to run at working speed takes time. You can’t just start sleeping in because you are retired. The dog still wakes you at five, your eyes open and your heart starts fast and you leap up to get the day on the go because you know if you don’t you’ll be late for work…. Oh, Duh!. 

Retirees struggle to fill their day. Retirement is a new job; you have to start from scratch again. Finding things to do when you’re used to trying to find time to do things is the world upside down. Getting things done when there is no structure and deadlines is difficult.

Learning to sit and relax and read or do nothing without guilt only comes after years of practice. When you can have cake everyday, it doesn’t taste so good.

You don’t have to shave, but you do. I wear my comfortablest (and tattiest) old clothes quite often. 

I say things which I expect to provoke, but they don’t! Somehow it seems to be expected from the older generation. Anyway what we oldies think is provocative or challenging is not seen as so. 

As we grow older and age, so do the values and attitudes we held. So being provocative is not easy. Its not easy to find that you have not moved with the times and whilst you might have been progressive or even radical when you were young, you find that you are far more conserv ative now.

 I mean I wasn’t quite  a Trotskyite but I was threatened with deportation once. (Mind you that was South Africa in apartheid heyday, so the bar was not very high…) Bit like Australia: if you are naughty we’ll deport you …plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose?

So I am not going to dye my hair (haven’t got enough left) or get a tattoo (so common these days and they look ghastly on flabby old bodies)

But I do have a floppy tatty hat which I love and a canary yellow waistcoat and salmon pink trousers and blue vellies!

I am such a rebel!

Orson Welles suggested: I don’t say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.

That sounds good to me.

The occasional cloud

I am my own doctor

(* click on the underlined texts for some vibes, ek sê)

I discerned the easy embrace, the clinging infiltration.

It was easy and almost soothing, maybe like drowning…?

Then I looked up and saw the blue sky and felt the fresh day.

And it slunk away, spurned like a jackal in the face of a lion.

It will return for a sniff once or twice; such is the beast.

But I have its measure and offer scant sustenance for its cloying ploys.

I rejoice that it was sooo easy – all I did is look up and breathe!

The cur crept in on the tail of some lazy thoughts:

what a drag it is getting old and the pursuit of happiness is just a bore.

Mick Jagger sang it in 1964, would you believe!

Anyway, mother’s little helpers have been discredited.

But it isn’t really a drag, because you don’t feel old, (unless you fall over).

You may be gray and slow and can’t run, but that’s just your body.

You are your own doctor, because you choose how you feel!

Some easy ways for good health:

Never forget blue sky

Sleep is the single most important thing your brain needs for optimal functioning.

Exercise – all regular physical activity increases blood circulation and levels of many different neurochemicals and hormones in the brain

Sunlight: It is known that sunlight can affect serotonin levels …and may also influence dopamine.

Massage – boosts serotonin levels by as much as 30% and increases dopamine, activates endorphins, improves sleep, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.

Meditation –  can increase concentrations of dopamine in the brain’s cortex.

Deciding – The act of intentionally making any decision has been shown to cause positive changes in attention and increase dopamine rewarding activity..

Setting and achieving goals – When you achieve a goal, dopamine is released. Dopamine is not only released when you cross the finish line. You get dopamine boosts at each step along the way, which helps to keep you motivated.

Habits – Habits, both good and bad, become the routine in your brain through repetition and dopamine release. Unfortunately, bad habits are the ones that often give you lots of dopamine. However, when you perform a habit – even a good one – you get a dopamine reward and it gets further wired into your brain, giving you more motivation to do it next time.

Petting a dog – Studies show that simply petting a pooch increases dopamine and endorphins.

Yoga – Yoga has been shown to increase dopamine levels – plus it reduces stress, increases oxygen to your brain with deep, slow breathing, and ups soothing GABA. Yoga helps ease depression and stress in many ways.

https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/

snoopys secret

Bubbles and veg

 I will confess it now – I am beginning to feel guilty about eating meat. My daughter has become a vegetarian over the last few years, for taste not ideological reasons. My guilt arises from ideological, specifically environmental reasons. I still love eating meat except for the inner organs like liver and tripe.

I guess my brothers and most of my African friends will stop reading this in disgust….

One Wednesday MC offered to make lunch for me – I rarely refuse such offers and sat down to a vegetarian meal, feeling slightly challenged. To give me a little impetus in order to meet this challenge without flinching, I cracked a bottle of bubbly after a pre-prandial lager.

With wide-eyes and a faint air of forlorn hope, she presented a very daunting veggie looking meal – I felt my teeth growing longer by the minute!

Couscous with spiced eggplant and lemony yoghurthow greenie, hippy can you get? I girded my loins with a second glass of fizz and tried to smile as I had my first tentative nibble …. Sapristi!! It was bloody marvellous!!

I finished all there was and licked my plate clean.

Somewhere in my post prandial euphoria I was dared to eat one vegetarian meal a week. I accepted with the boast that I would cook the next one and the Wednesday Lunch Club came into being. We present a meal alternately.

Herself declined to be drawn in – she has had some experience of my culinary skills. Some of my faithful blog followers may recall this culinary foray: https://sillysocksonfriday.com/2017/02/17/fishcakes/

I have not been known to avoid any opportunity to indulge my self – so my vegetarian offering was a seafood paella, cooked on the braai. If I say so myself it was pretty toothsome – my guest agreed, although this may have something to do with the bottle of her fav strawberry fizz.

Week 3 was cunningly designed by MC to indulge my longstanding craving for a burger: Lentil-Chickpea Veggie Burgers with Avocado Green Harissa

Bubbles were now mandatory and afternoon appointments were cancelled.

On Week 4, I indulged a hankering to try a platter of Tomato slices with Mozzarella Cheese and a Balsamic Vinegar dressing. Not bad …

If my brothers are still reading their eyes will be bulging.

MC was feeling the pressure, so she tried to sway me by unorthodox tactics in week 5. Veggie Wraps: Pumpkin, rocket, beetroot, capsicum, feta (plus marinated beef strips for some). One has to keep an eye on these vegetarians – they will go to extraordinary lengths to further their cause. We committed to become purists – no meat henceforth. Sheer love kept me from declining the offering, which was yummy.

I felt that a strong response was called for in week 6 and I was feeling nostalgic, so went for a double whammy: Pasta salad with peanut butter sauce  followed by  tapioca pudding with coconut and mango. (I couldn’t source sago – beloved frogs eggs of childhood). MC was highly complimentary

Week 7 was different: Miso soup, Edamame, Okonomiyaki (vegetable pancake) with Soba noodle salad and light cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries. Ah so desu ka! Domo arigato! おいしい Well done MC!

Week 8 was today and I fretted all week. Fortunately, Herself was in charge of the Commissariat and found all the ingredients for Green pesto minestrone soup followed by gingered Junket (more nostalgia). Declared to be even better than my last effort.

I freely confess that I have enjoyed every one of these meals and I now spend more time reading vegetarian recipes than following Donald Trump in the news!!

Wednesday has become a gleaming beacon day – the food and the company are excellent. Time with my daughter is gold.

I urge you all to consider vegetarianism … in moderation, perhaps.

Should you care for the recipes I am quite happy to include them in my next publication which will be an omnibus of short stories, rants, poems and recipes from sillysocksonfriday – I bet you can’t wait, y’all!

Am I grateful?

Some people will resist the powerful temptation to read another of my almost irresistible musings. I am eternally grateful to those who feed my ego by reading and indicating their appreciation or outrage (comme ci, comme ça, c’est la guerre!)

For some of us, gratitude just doesn’t come easy. It is an emotion, so is frequently at odds with intellect. Beware the emotional vampire!

One of the reasons for resisting gratefulness is genetic make-up, another is brain size or it may be our personality. I suppose we shouldn’t forget nurture either! Some people are taught pride and learn to perceive kindnesses as charity, which is not acceptable to the proud! … and often irritates the charitable, no doubt!

Nevertheless, intellect, being more modern, considered and cautious can coax gratitude out of its shell, to bloom and brighten one’s life and the lives of their nearest and dearest.

Research has shown that making conscious efforts to count one’s blessings is therapeutic: grateful people are indeed less likely to have mental health problems like depression.

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — we will always want to have something else or something more (Br. David Steindl-Rast). He also believes that the human response of gratitude is a part of the religious worldview and is essential to all human life.

According to Cicero “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.”

I get all this and I dig it. We don’t know how lucky we are!

I wrote this on my birthday a couple of years ago: https://sillysocksonfriday.com/2018/11/09/introibo-ad-altare-dei/

Passion

I hope that this title got your attention. Getting sneaky is how we get buy!

This is about resurgence of my passion.

My pre-passion mulling over period came to an abrupt end when I buttered my toast this morning. I was smiling in anticipation of a great gobbet of our New Zealand made lemon curd on top. Never smile at a crocodile, it will get there first! The cupboard was bare! I had to make do with Anchovette fish paste.

This obviously called for immediate action to avoid any further disappointment.

We are blessed in Queensland by an abundance of passion fruit; so many that even friends and neighbours are full up. So I have essayed into beneficiation – Clem Sunter’s answer to South Africa’s reliance on primary industry; Australia should consider it.

I sprang into action: to Google for a recipe and the cupboard and fridge for ingredients.

Now Baby Boomers men will understand that the challenge before me was of some magnitude. Particularly we who originated in the Dark Continent were not equipped with culinary skills of any sort. The more progressives had mastered making a cup of tea and operating a toaster quite successfully.

In my retirement I have taken steps to avoid stagnation by writing blathering blogs and amazing autobiographies. But now I have experienced… YES, I will confess – a new passion which has brightened my life appreciably.

I am talking about the kitchen arts: those that our wives and daughters absorbed from an early age from their mothers and grandmothers. Whereas when Mum was cooking, boys’ focus was who got to lick the bowl and the biggest slice; girls noted utensils and spoon sizes, pot size and the advantages of butter and how to whisk eggs… the list is long.

So, Dear Readers (those who are still with me), you may agree that the challenge facing me to ensure never having to endure another disappointment in much anticipated indulgence, was great. It may even have daunted some.

By googling “passion fruit curd” I was blessed with about 4,230,000 articles… I read the first three and being health conscious, I chose the one with only 1/4 cup of sugar.

The recipe required in addition:

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup of passion fruit pulp

What could be easier than that?

Huh! Have you ever tried to separate egg yolks from the limpid, runny stuff, without getting egg shell in the mix? … and pips out of lemon juice after it has been added to the sugar?

What’s a double boiler?

What if you have no unsalted butter AND no whisk, which you discover only after you have started mixing the stuff …

In my passion, I took the bit between my teeth and combined pulp and sugar and warmed it over a bowl in a pot of boiling water (ingenious, I know).

I managed to separate most of the yolks and whipped them with the lemon juice (only a few pips remained) and I mixed it with the passion fruit, then added the cubes of butter slowly, while whisking the mix until they melted…To demonstrate my nonchalance at my new found prowess, I made a cup of tea and sterilized an old coffee jar at the same time. Multi- tasking I believe it is called.

A prime aspect of this curdling process is whisking, which is required to be continuous. Imagine my horror when someone knocked on the front door! I had to remove the pot from the flame, attend the inquiry (can I clean your gutters ?) and dash back to resume my whisking.

New-fangled culinary technology does not faze me – I even managed to take the temperature of the cooking curd as I whisked.

Once it reached 160 deg F, I whipped it off the stove and jarred it! I tell you now whisking for about 20 minutes requires perseverance and some endurance.

But I did it … and I got to lick the bowl and the spoon.

I am passionate about cooking …

Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
*

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge

To my granddaughter, at 5 days

In my day and my Daddy’s day, grown-up was 18, when most people finished school, got a driving licence and ordered a beer in a bar. You won’t need a driver’s licence, my beloved, as the cars that are still around won’t need drivers, they’ll drive themselves far better than we could ever do. Try to give beer a miss.

My grandfather used horses to get around. He never owned a car or a telephone. CMR Officer

He was a soldier and rode into battle on his horse, with a sabre and a rifle.

I hope that I will be able to read you stories, but I suspect that books will also have largely disappeared. I know your Dad has already started reading to you.

Sharing anything with anyone is always a good thing, because even if it is a bad experience you will be able to share the pain and if it is a happy one you will be able to double your joy!

It is very important that you take time to talk to other people and do things together. Try to eat one meal a day with your family – no distractions, just talk to each other.

You will probably be a vegetarian, although you will eat stuff that looks and tastes like meat – we have a braai tradition. But real meat will be too expensive so we will cook vegieSteak and goggaPrawns on the barbie…

If you are lucky, your family will have its own vertical TerraFarm next to your house, which will produce most of your food. Maybe one of your first tasks will be feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs.

mzikiWe had a fine rooster called Mziki when I was young. He was very fierce and crowed the loudest of all roosters in town. I hope you are able to keep a rooster so you can wake up when it crows in the morning.

I hope you will love growing things as well.

When I was a boy, this world was still being explored. New societies were still being discovered in deep jungles. You will be able to work on Mars and explore outer space. Remember to call home. Parents never stop worrying about their children. Perhaps you could rather send an avatar so you won’t miss dinner and your Mum won’t fret.

Do your best, be brave, be humble, help others.

Sing

dance!

Smile

Dance

A living will is a dying wish

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die and you to live. Which of these two is better, only God knows.”

-Socrates

Such clarity of mind and absence of fear, when faced with imminent death, is remarkable and unusual. His last words were a reminder to Crito to pay a debt for him.

I am not dying, nor do I intend to do so for a number of years yet. However, I suspect when that Spectre is nigh, that I might not be possessed of the coolth and clarity of Socrates. So I will tell you now about how I would not like my dying to occur.

My intention is to inform my kith and kin and doctors to avoid the involvement of lawyers, who insist on making simple statements complex in order to guarantee certainty … and fees, no doubt.

In accordance with our will, my estate and all my possessions are to become my wife’s property and in the event of her death, before or after me, will be divided equally amongst our five children.

A simple concept was developed in Florida, USA to encapsulate the how I want to die / don’t want to die situation, called the Five Wishes, which met the approval of even Mother Theresa :

  •  My wife is the person I want to make care decisions for me when I can’t. If she can’t, then I wish one or two of my children to do so.
  • I do not wish to receive Medical Treatment that will prolong my life, unless I would be able to enjoy a good quality of life thereafter. Don’t keep me alive as a vegetable, don’t resuscitate me unless I could go swimming unaided and sing songs thereafter.unplug me.jpg
  • I like the idea of pain relief and maintaining dignity, even if it might not be good for continued breathing.
  • I do not wish to be a burden on my family, especially if /when I become demented. Place me in care and only come to see me if I will recognise you.
    • There is a Catch 22 here which you will need to resolve: the cost of care will come from our estate, which may diminish your inheritance. Let your own quality of life be the guiding principle.
  • I would like a memorial gathering where people can offer prayers, tell stories, laugh and cry.
    • Above all I would like to hear the singing from wherever I may be;
    • I wouldn’t mind a wake – in any event, I would like people to have a bit of a hooleyd'ya tink Im dead
    • I would like my ashes to be the growth medium for an umVovovo tree (huilende boerboon / tree fuschia).

tree burial

Bollemakiesie

The young can make us young again too.

beer and braai

As is our habit we braaied at the weekend, well on Easter Monday. It was our usual family gathering with dear friends and some visiting rellies from across the ocean.

Somehow there was a slightly more festive spirit than the norm which seemed to make the beer and fizz go down easier.

We were a somewhat eclectic crowd with some in their sixties, fifties, forties, thirties, three dogs and a four year old sprite.

Normally a fairly shy child, on this day, she was filled with the energy of a March hare and the command of a Ringmaster. While we chatted and kept up the level of our liquids in the early stages, she inspected the toys and her dolls house, engaging the dogs in a number of role plays. A bit later, I noticed the dogs had gone missing. I found them in the dolls’ house, waiting patiently to resume the game.

However, the young queen bee had moved on and was engaging the adults, commanding their participation in a number of exercises and role plays, including  catch-the-grasshopper and a tea party.

Her timing was impeccable and her enthusiasm and commands were charmingly irresistible. The new activity at Playschool was yoga so all were instructed to participate in yoga exercises. Peer pressure enforced participation, which should have been more wisely considered in some cases.

Head over heels (bollemakiesies in Afrikaans) were the exercise for men and all surrendered their dignity to roll around on the grass in pairs. The last pair included a grandfather who was proud to have been in his primary school gymnastics team and remembered well his star turn of a somersault over a wooden horse…

His bollemakiesie was very well executed, symmetrical and straight. However, the total effect was spoilt by the unfamiliar pressures on reasonably airtight gaskets. The resultant lapse of the system was quite a blast.

dogrofl.jpg

A nervous glance sideways revealed that it had not gone undetected.. two people were crying and the dogs were trying to run away…

Growing old does not prevent infection by the rashness of youth, it merely impairs the ability to maintain dignity and integrity while under its spell.

My granddaughter is quite a lot older and wiser now.

finger pull fart

Happy Day

Its already a year on since I wrote my appreciation of Australia Day.

It seems that my opinion is not shared by all. There are some that say gday mate

celebrating  the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales is not OK – that ultimate New Age condemnation.

 

 

So sadly, there will be some people who will say that celebration of the arrival of a different culture is in fact a celebration of the subjugation of the Aboriginal people who were already in Australia and apparently owned all the land and resources thereon.

This is a common theme of native populations who were affected by the arrival of more technologically advanced and powerful colonists. It is a sad fact that in Australia and the Americas, by and large, the people who were there were defeated and subjugated and those who were not successfully incorporated into the new societies still suffer diminished and pathetic lifestyles and the disappearance of traditional cultural practices.

In Africa and Asia, the colonists were expelled after a century or two of domination and exploitation, leaving modern technology, knowledge and infrastructure and some vicious struggles to achieve power and the benefits that flow from the dispensation of favours. The eventual collapse of economies and reversion to tribal conflicts is frequently blamed on the historic, invasion of the colonists.

That is a digression which may make some people hot under the collar – we don’t really need that as the southern part of the continent is stricken by a heatwave, leading to the cancellation of many functions. But let me hasten to add -NOT THE CRICKET!! australia day cricket

(On second thoughts, given the success of the Australians against the Poms, maybe it should be cancelled as a threat to national morale.)

No doubt this viewpoint of the mainly left wing and some indigenous people will  gather momentum, like the #Me Too movement, notwithstanding Germaine Greer‘s opposition. (Who would have thought of her on the right side of the spectrum…?) .

Me? I am not an Aussie mate, but I love the country. I thought the day was meant to celebrate Australia, not some ancient event invested with political significance.

Pick a day which doesn’t create too many bleats and change it. Celebrate the day like the popular song says:

Australians all let us rejoice 
For we are young and free 
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil 
Our home is girt by sea…

Look forward, not backwards!