Old Friends

Last week I wrote of the passing of a kinsman and how my world seemed to shrink, but the warmth of our association remains.

This week I write about old friends with whom my wife and I spent time over the weekend.

Old as in ‘older than us’ from where we lived before, who are still good friends.best old ones

We were neighbours and shared a love of plants, summer lunches, sometimes heated discussions, poetry and word plays. We shared similar Southern African origins and discovered that we were almost related, with a sister and an uncle romantically linked for a  while.

alphabet friendsThe word “friend” comes from Old English “frēond”, which is actually the present participle of “frēogan”, which means “to love” and “to honor”.
a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

Synonyms: 1. comrade, chum, crony, confidant. 2. backer, advocate. 4. ally, associate, confrere, compatriot.

Tick all boxes!

goodbye friend

 

 

 

Autumn Leaves (one for my brother – he ain’t heavy)

 

This time of year brings to mind that song sung by Doris Day on her Day by Day album, released in 1956, music of my older brother who went to boarding school in a far-away city. He also introduced me to Rosemary Clooney’s (yeah, Georgie’s auntie!)  Come on-a my house and Irma La Douce, a fairly risqué musical about a mec (cool dude/pimp) – who fell in love with his poule (prostitute). This is the story: Valse milieu

Inadvertent education for a 6-year old (me); my brother was a sophisticated sixteen.

Talk about being led astray… this was supposed to be about the changes in nature that Autumn brings, but I wandered away down memory lane. Oh well, I enjoy doing that!

We don’t have a dramatic leaf colour display apart from a few exotic trees in public places that I try to avoid. However, trees like the paperbark gumPaperbark flower and the Golden Penda, come into flower and lure birds in flocks; driven to fatten up before winter. golden pendas tree

The ground below the trees is littered with flower wreckage. The raucous Rainbow Lorikeets are there and thus absent from our garden, so Bluebird, the ring-necked Indian Lovebird who has adopted us, comes to dine 5 or 6 times a day!

We are also visited by the Butcher Birds who gather in choirs and sing and whistle at each other in some sort of boundary identification ritual. Sometimes a few of them will fly straight up, high into the sky, then tumble and glide back down in graceful arcs. They too drop in for a crust quite often. Butcher Birdsong.

Magpies also start policing their boundaries, viciously chasing away juveniles. A pair swooped onto a young bird in our garden recently, pinning it to the ground and stabbing at it with their vicious pointed beaks.

Lulu 22 Oct 2016Fortunately, Lulu took exception and ran over and barked them away. I watched them chase the bewildered bird into the distance at great speed. A hard way to start adult life away from home

 

I suspect my thoughts are about growing old gracefully and accepting nature’s inexorable cycle.

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Spreading Happiness by the body

camel feeling goodYeah! I am back on the happy horse again. In the past, I believe that happiness and fulfillment were neglected. It’s like what happened to butter – it was once a no-no, with potentially fatal consequences (it and a lot of other stuff too).

Now we find that butter is really good for you. Suddenly old fashioned cooking and remedies are the in-thing. We should have stuck with our grandmother’s advice – after all, it was based on centuries of experience. Who said: Too much learning is a dangerous thing?  Give him a banana!

And so with happiness, the traditional approach to mental conditions, attitudes and behaviour has been from the unhappy end of the spectrum: cause and cure research has been focussed on the unhappiness in anxieties, neuroses and psychoses.

med next aisleLately, the realisation has dawned that the other end of the spectrum is the cure to many of those ills and greater attention has switched to positive psychology.

So prevention and cure could be: Don’t worry be happy!

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrivepositive-psychology-mind-map

A  Daily Telegraph article by Philip Johnston highlighted the new focus on happiness and wellbeing:

  • More than 200 colleges either have research institutes or offer courses in positive psychology.
  • Politicians are saying things like:
    • “the best society is that where the people are happiest, and the best policy is the one that produces the greatest happiness”.
    • “The first thing we know is that in the past 50 years, average happiness has not increased at all  – despite massive increases in living standards.”
  • Economists have noticed one apparent paradox: that despite a substantial increase in GDP in the industrialised West, the levels of human contentment have remained static.

More and more countries are developing a happiness and well-being index and measuring progress.

be so happyIn 2011, the United Nations invited all countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use this to help guide their public policies. The first World Happiness Report was published in 2012. The 2017 Report is available online.

make someone happyMy point is that if it’s happening on national levels, then everyone should be measuring their own happiness and well-being and working at improving it and spreading happiness.

Always look on the bright side of life!

As you may detect, this is not all my own stuff: I am doing a free course on Happiness and Fulfillment offered through Coursera.

If you are interested, have a look; there are 100’s of free info-only courses. I am on my third one!

 

Fishcakes

Even though I say it myself, I regard my culinary talents as adventurous, even challenging!

I only married in my 30’s, so had a fair bit of cooking experience in my bachelor days, despite living in Africa where cooks were often employed for most meals. Of course being an African male, I am an experienced vleis braaier, which is Afrikaans for ‘meat guerrilla’.

braai-vleisThe braaivleis, known as barbeque in many parts of the world, is a cultural practice which involves the cooking of piles of meat. The cooking often takes place after a few drinks and is not really that important; the meat just has to look cooked. It often does in the evening twilight, after a few beers…

But I am not here to talk about meat, of which, I have realised, I eat too much. Accordingly, I have resolved to give up meat for Lent in accordance with older traditions and instead of beer.

My wife is perturbed as I said that I would eat more fish, which she is not fond of. So I have set out to show her that there is no need to fear, by cooking some fishcakes as a surprise.

In order to ensure a special dish, I used my pilchards in chili sauce, which I had been saving pilchards-chilifor a treat. I combined it with some bread crumbs of the nutty, seedy bread she prefers. To make the mixture more special and because she doesn’t like raw onion, I used sliced pickled onion, which I thought was quite innovative. To add some colour, I added a couple of sliced pepperdews, small red capsicums in a sweet syrup. I mixed in an egg for binding, salt and pepper seasoning and some finely chopped parsley from the garden. Simple!

Please note, this was my own recipe!

The mixture made six and a half cakes, which I fried in olive oil. Even though I say it myself, they were delicious! (A couple fell apart, so I had to eat them for lunch).

To my consternation, my wife turned down the fishcakes without hesitation – she doesn’t like tuna, chili or my cooking, especially when I try different ingredients…

Looks like I’ll be cooking for myself for the 40 days of Lent.

P.S. I had a nibble of half a cake before I went to bed. I must confess I had a very weird dream about riding a brown ox which was chased by a lion past a lion reserve full of identical lions following each other, holding the tail of the foremost one in their mouths…

afrikaner-ox

Don’t worry, be happy

I like the idea of positive psychology.  she-believes-she-could

Instead of studying what’s wrong with us to eradicate it, study what is right to emulate it!

The stoic philosopher Epictetus believed that: ‘It’s not things that upset us, it’s our view of things.’

We all have inherent tendencies to certain negative thoughts that evoke unhappiness and disturbance. Once we accept that fact, we can learn to spot these negative thoughts as they arise and then challenge and re-think them.

Or just stop thinking negatively:                  i-decided ctrl-alt-del

 

get-upi-can-do-it
face-sunshine

roses-and-thornsCognitive therapy is all about learning about how our thoughts create our moods; I can recommend it.

be-kind-to-yourself

let-shit-go

It teaches one to test one’s negative thoughts, which become beliefs which become thunderstorms.

 

Looking at them closely discloses their falseness, so they can be discarded.

Fill that space with good thoughts! 

you-are-stronger

AUSTRALIA DAY

Having grown up in  Africa with its history of different loyalties, ethnicities, languages and monarchs, it is refreshing to experience the casual pride and almost universal pleasure of Australians on the national holiday.oz-flops

The weather is invariably hot, so outdoor visits to bodies of water are mandatory. Beaches, rivers and pools are soon surrounded by near naked flesh and flimsy gazebos.

Childreniced beer.jpeg frolic and squirm away from suncream lotions and sun hats; adults expose their tattoos and drink beer from as soon as the tent is up.

Even the roads are relaxed and festive with a number of cars festooned with national flags, fluttering in the slipstream.

prawn ice bucket.jpeg
XXXX, Jimmy Barnes and iced prawns are the iconic choices of the majority.

The day is probably the best part of Straylya!

Goodonyer!

If I was King of Australia

… I would decree that all homeowners would be required to have rainwater tanks, solar energy, groparsley sage.jpgw vegetables and fruit in their garden and keep chickens.

In this little garden, we have a few basic herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I feel a song coming on)  as well as chives, lavender, garlic and turmeric.

We will soon have a sufficiency of lemons and the yellow guava tree has a score of fruit. I cut down my first paw-paws for not producing enough fruit, but one has re-sprouted and the sprout has two fruit. Hopefully, it will be a lesson for my two new-fangled, self-pollinating red papayas, which are really shooting up. Our fig tree should bear next summer and our solitary pineapple is nearing fruition.

Our raised-from-seed granadillas gave us a score of fruit in their first year; if we are lucky we will get a second harvest.

The chubby maroon cherry guava looks likguava-cherrye it’s perfect for harvest. Sadly, it’s too late – it is already over-ripe and will have a rotten, fermented fruit taste and smell and likely a number of lively fat grubs.

I have never seen such a bountiful crop. I munch one or two green-yellow skin ones which are at the safely edible stage of ripeness; I don’t see any worms, but then I don’t look.

The rainbow lorikeets add their greens, reds and yellows to the tree and at night the flying foxes squabble over them. I bet they can smell the fruit from a mile away.

I think of my grandmother, who we called Gogo (pr: gawkaw) in the Swazi way. She would boil them up and strain them through muslin to make guava jelly – the perfect accompaniment for the impala roasts of the winter to come. We got to lick the wooden spoon and the bowl.

Now that I have become old and fat, I have become an anti-sugar Nazi, so can’t make the jelly which requires pounds of the sweet poison. But it saddens me. I am happy when my friend Grant comes and noshes a few of the fruit, recalling his childhood too.

tamarillosWould you like some tree tomatoes! Called tamarillos here, they are bountiful on my tree and I can’t eat them all. Flying foxes and possums find their smooth waxy skin too difficult, so I have to dispose of the whole crop. Lots of giveaways, to protect me from gout, caused by too much tomato. (Definitely not beer!). What will I do when the second tree comes into fruit? – I may have to go commercial!

Our bountiful garden gives me great joy. A hydroponic system is under consideration but may be too finicky; chickens have been vetoed. I am not yet King of Australia.

Nevertheless, go forth and cultivate!