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!

Landscape

I think we need to mow again.

I’ll do it just before the rain.

Everything’s growing lickety split:

Soon there’ll  be  no place to sit

I’ll trim it too, to look the same.

 

cat-on-grass

Before you speak, let me explain:

To me the work is a happy game,

So  rest you here for a bit

I  will do it quick to keep me fit.

And no, I really won’t complain.

#introtopoetry

What makes me happy?

jumping-for-joy

The casual affection of a grandchild

The crooning of our puppy

Picking fruit from my fruit trees

My wife’s smile

The chatter of family at a braaivleis cold-beer

Songs that snare memories

The colours of new leaves … old leaves … most leaves

Condensation on a glass of cold beer

Chewing biltong

The call of the Piet-my-vrou

take-a-smile

 

What am I grateful for today?

The just enough breezebee-happy

The blossom bending under a bee’s knees

Our solitary pineapple

Doves cooing

The yellow green of leaves on the unidentified trees against the ever so slightly faded blue sky

The droop of the fuchsia

That I am far away enough not to smell the rotting fruit of the cherry guava tree.

The relative silence of obscure suburbia.

The pelargonium red that almost pierces my eye

The fat smile of the Buddha my son gave me

 

There are more – these are some I perceive from where I sit on my verandah at home.

choose-happy

Christmas of my childhood

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” 
Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

My earliest memories were from colonial days in the 1950’s, when we lived in Swaziland. There were certain rituals and traditions some of which have lived on through the generations.

xmas-treeThe first was the hunt for a Christmas tree. I seem to recall that there was some subterfuge required as pine and cypress trees in and about the town were council property. Daddy could not participate as he was a high panjandrum in the government, so it was up to Mum.

Suitable trees would be identified during the year. As it got dark, Mum would drive to the spot (usually next to Mbabane Oval) and the tree was quickly felled with an axe and the tree stowed in the boot and we would hasten home trailing pine needles. Dad would splutter but faced with a fait accompli he was powerless.tree-decorating

Decorations came out of a box: beautifully coloured delicate globes and silver and gold tinsel, with the Star placed on top by Daddy, which made him an accomplice. Presents were piled around the foot of tree – cause of much speculation and dreaming. Quite a few presents as there were six of us and Gogo (as Granny Vialls was called), Bessie (the dog) the servants: Samuel, Lamzima, Jane and Tsabetse, our convict gardener.

We also made streamers by cutting and plaiting strips of red and green crepe paper.

nativityCarols by candlelight were held at the amphitheatre. Daddy who loved to sing,  would sing protracted Noweeeeeeeels, much to the amazement of all in general and our acute embarrassment! There were a little crib and a live donkey: I always loved Away in a Manger thereafter.

The Christmas box was a local tradition where little gifts were given to deliverymekids-treen and service people like rubbish collectors. We carried wrapped sweets in the car to throw out to the Swazi children who would run along the side of the road calling out ma-sweeet, ma- sweeti!

Oxmas-sockn Christmas Eve we would be given orange bags as stockings to hang on the end of our beds for Father Christmas presents. We retired very early and awoke at about four a.m. to start investigating … soon rustle, rustle would turn to yips of glee and look what I’ve got’s.

The best gifts for my brother and I were a space-age machine gun which emitted a ferocious rattle and flashed sparks. No-one slept after four am that Xmas.

Gogo would make mebos (tart apricot preserve) which was a great temptation. As we would be going to communion we were not allowed to eat until after mass. The mebos suffered at the hands of early morning sinners…

Father Botta knew better than to delay his parishioners by a long sermon and we invariably passed the Anglicans as they came out of church. Dad would say: beat the Prods again! (Not very good behaviour for a papal knight!)

After breakfast, there would be tidying up and the grown ups would sip port and nibble mince pies, while we hovered around the Christmas tree where the family presents were piled.xmas-kids-and-dog

Eventually, Daddy relented and Tim and I being the youngest had to deliver presents after he had read the label.

Then tidying up again, laying the table, trying to sneak charms out the crackers and stealing nuts and mebos

Wxmas-faree still managed to eat turkey with cranberry sauce and roast potatoes, wearing silly hats and reading silly jokes… then came the pudding, bathed in blue flame with glints of silver treasure. In the pudding, Mum had inserted sixpences and tickeys (threepence) which was big money – our pocket money was tickey a week.

Then a toast to “Absent Friends” and Daddy would choke up and Mummy would finish for him.family-cricket

We’d clear the table and set up the kitchen table for the servants’ dinner; somewhat hurriedly as there was lawn cricket outside. We managed a few overs before Daddy nodded off behind the wickets.

 

We do it a bit differently in Australia these days and have Christmas braai (barbeque) on Christmas Eve, as it can get quite hot here in the day. But we still have port and mince pies and always remember “Absent Friends” which becomes harder as we grow older and the list grows longer…

One of our children has gone off meat so next year we will have vegetarian options:

  • Borshch (beet soup).
  • Vegeducken – layers of pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini and asparagus are filled with a crispy hazelnut stuffing and baked to perfection.
  • Vushka (small dumplings with mushroom).
  • Varenyky (dumplings with cabbage and potatoes).
  • Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage roll)
  • Kutia (sweet grain pudding).

merry-christmas-austrli

felinavidad

A Stairway to Heaven

stairway.jpgYesterday I re-posted a blog which ended in a quote from the Dalai Lama:  “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they got lost.”

That raised thoughts about the pursuit of happiness and whether such a seemingly hedonistic, self-indulgent goal is virtuous and whether it is compatible with a ‘good life’ in the religious sense.daily-choice

Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. His conclusion is that happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue

You have got to choose to be good to be happy and good is not that easy, sometimes.

bee happy.jpeg

 

 

 

  • Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence
  • Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.
  • Happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. Hence it is a goal and not a temporary state.
  • Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since man is a rational animal, human happiness depends on the exercise of his reason.
  • Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.
  • Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our rational capacities.

In keeping with the Stephen Covey model, 7 habits of happy people are identified:

  • Express your heart – People who have one or more close friendships are happier.
  • Cultivate kindness – Reach out
  • Keep moving and eat well – “sound body, sound mind” 
  • Find your flow – do what you’re doing  because you like what you’re doing
  • Discover Meaning – a close link exists between spiritual and religious practice and happiness
  • Discover and use your strengths – the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths  and virtues and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goalspiglets-heart
  • Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope – gratitude is one of the greatest virtues. It defeats pride which is the sneakiest of vices.

Most of the above comes from http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org

do-i-make-you-happyThis website has wonderful and good stuff on positive psychology and the pursuit of happiness. Check it out and start looking for your own stairways, y’all.