The first minute is gone

I can’t remember when it happened but some time ago I stopped having the first minute.

You know the one, when you wake up in the morning and for a few glorious moments all is well and there is nothing abnormal about your world. Then reality bites; your brain has to process how things have changed and you didn’t dream any of it. This lasted well into last year for me but the other day it dawned on me, pardon the pun, that it was gone. Everything has changed and the abnormal has become normal. In hindsight, I cherish having had that for a while. Now, I wake up and this is it. I guess we have to be happy that we do wake up at all.

Sleep patterns have all gone to hell and I’m pleased it’s not just me because I’d be very concerned if I was alone in this. Most nights I can get to sleep easily enough, especially with my sleeping pills, but I wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep. Restlessness, heat, anxiety, all keep me tossing and turning and it’s tempting to take another pill but one is already too many.

This morning, after only a few hours of sleep and a few more of tossing and turning, I heard the birds and decided to just get up. That’s not like me at all, I like my bed and I am not an early riser. But there I was, not even 6am and the dogs were fed and I stood watching the kettle boil. I then had two hours of good productivity [secret project has begun], a load of laundry was done, several tomatoes harvested, tomato plants trimmed of dead leaves, and new seedlings watered in anticipation of being planted.

It’s cooler today so I should start on the preparation of the new vegetable bed but sleep deprivation has hit me like a thunderbolt. At least, I hope that’s all it is because otherwise it’s the Rona – I feel like shit! Nausea, dizziness, stomach not right, sinuses completely blocked, and all at the same time I’m starving but can’t bear the idea of eating. All I want to do is go back to bed but I have a list of errands to run and an important appointment later, not to mention a walk for the dogs.


I wrote the above two weeks ago and forgot it in the draft folder. The first moment is a distant memory and much has happened since – some of it not nice and difficult to process. The Morsels of Gratitude diary has relocated to a more active and simple hand-written notebook, but I will continue to mention some here when this current black mood lifts.

The new vegetable bed was only done yesterday because it’s been too hot. Well composted and cleared of much of the disgusting builders rubble that keeps popping up all over this garden, despite 10 years of digging and soil turning – I’ve lost count of how much I’ve removed, from chunks of concrete to broken 100-year old bricks and pavers. Last night I fell into bed straight from the shower, exhausted from very dirty gardening and aching muscles – a fabulous feeling!

The bed isn’t full yet – tomatoes and basil have been planted, and some bean seeds sowed directly. I’ll plant out butter lettuce soon. There are already two other varieties of lettuce in another part of the garden. The original vegetable section is now a mix of leftover spinach, basil, rocket seeding itself, and some flowers that have seeded themselves and which I’ll allow. There’s one vegetable I cannot recognise and have no recollection of planting. Am watching to see if it develops into something I can identify, and eat.

Left to right: very late-blooming miniature agapanthus in a pot. One March lily (I don’t know what happened to the other bulbs, there should be more). Two varieties of lettuce. The new veggie patch under the spare room window, with dog protection. None of these would’ve existed or flowered if not for lockdown attention.

Major anniversary, almost unnoticed

On this day in 1990 the South African government made one of the most important announcements in its history: the banned African National Congress and all the other, smaller, anti-apartheid liberation movements, were to be unbanned. And the second part of the announcement was that Nelson Mandela was most likely going to be released from prison where he had been for 27 years.

For those of us who lived through apartheid, or most of it as in my case, the 1980s were the most frightening years. After almost 40 years of it, people had had enough. Protests, marches, violence, massacres by the police, states of emergency with restricted movements for all but mostly black people, we lived in a general state of internal revolt that could simply not go on. The entire world was watching and, for many different reasons, urging South Africa to end this system of legalised segregation. Apartheid has since been classified as a crime against humanity.

That day, 2 February 1990, was only the start. There were many hurdles to overcome, there were many more battles to be won, and there was a period in the early 1990s where, because of those who didn’t want the change to a democracy, we were on the brink of civil war, day after day. But this day in 1990 was the start of the end of living in a police state. Eventually, in April 1994, democratic elections were held for the first time and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black President.

Why did the government eventually capitulate to end apartheid? The country was broke as a result of trade sanctions, we were diplomatically in the cold, and we were pariahs in the world of sport and culture. Many people were ashamed and scared to admit their nationality when travelling abroad, assuming they could even get a visa for certain countries. The pressure to negotiate for a democratic government came from within and without.

Read more about the turbulent years before the end of apartheid here.

Of course today, most South Africans are more aware of the fact that last night the President announced a lifting of our lockdown prohibition, and that’s what everyone is celebrating and rejoicing over today. I’ll do both – I’ll raise a glass to the end of the old way.

The view of Table Mountain from Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years of his total 27. The island is now a Unesco Heritage site and one can visit it by ferry from the city, with guided tours including a prison tour with an ex prisoner as guide.
This statue of Nelson Mandela is at the entrance to the prison where he spent his last 14 months. Here, he lived in a comfortable house, away from prying eyes of prison staff and other inmates, and hosted regular meetings with a variety of officials and business people, negotiating his release.

Morsels of Gratitude, part 3

I’m not having the easiest time, there are so many very important decisions to think about that my head is spinning. I am sleeping badly, I have trouble concentrating, my lungs are not healthy, and my future is uncertain. But, things have actually been worse in the past and there are always morsels of gratitude to be found and I need to find them, as difficult as it may seem. It does help me to write them down.

After almost a year of lockdown I am very grateful for the internet and social media helping me through it all. In a pandemic world, social media has become many people’s only world. In a state of lockdown where staying home is the best option, social media provides enormous relief and allows one to be social without physical contact. I’m grateful to know how to avoid fake news and hoaxes, I have good radar for that, and I’ve learnt how to use the good side of social media. In modern parlance, I know how to curate lol! Facebook is my main platform and in recent years I’ve been put in contact with some awesome people, people who are interesting, informed, socially conscious, who don’t fall for conspiracy theories, and who are anti-racism/bigotry – sadly, there’s so much of that around and on the increase with social media allowing people to expose their ugliness.

I’m grateful that these people, some I have met, some I have not, share quality information, engage in interesting debates and points of view. We have discussions that inform me, that don’t degenerate or go off topic, discussions where people back up their point of view with reasons and explanations, as opposed to simply repeating something they’ve heard and then when challenged respond that they don’t want to argue (but just want to make contentious ignorant comments), or my worst, who say: “let’s agree to disagree”, yet refuse to back up their opinion. No, no, no – I no longer have the capacity to even pretend to tolerate that. I need people who stimulate and challenge me, and who encourage and inspire me. All in all, I’m grateful for the internet in these difficult times.

I’m grateful for my continued tomato harvest. This is the first time in my life I’ve had success with vegetables (yes, i know it’s really a fruit) and it feels great! It hasn’t saved me huge amounts of money – everyone knows growing vegetables is seldom going to save money but is rather for its own satisfaction, is pesticide free, and at times convenient – but it’s hugely satisfying. I planted basil with the tomatoes which was also a great success, and a few varieties of lettuce which I loved for the ability to pick just a few leaves for a small salad – is there anything worse than surplus lettuce that liquidises at the back of the fridge? I’ve seeded more tomatoes and bought some small plants – to stagger production, you know – as well as newly-seeded lettuce (two varieties) and rocket. I’m hoping to harvest a leek or two soon – not my biggest success.

I am grateful for just being alive. I once read that the most boring people are those who, when asked how they are, tell you. This is true but I’ve often forgotten it, and never more so than in the past year. I’ve done my share of whinging and complaining, kvetching, as my friend Sheila calls it. In my defense there was, for a long time, a specific personal problem that overwhelmed me so completely, virus or no virus, that it caused my brain to overheat. But now, when asked how I am and how things are going I can’t bring myself to mention any of the challenges I face because there are too many people dying and fighting for their lives. I am just grateful to not have the virus. I am grateful to the people who did everything they could to keep me safe.

Photos: Grateful for my little dog Vida, aka the Minx, who sometimes leaves me a bit of space on the bed and whose love of walks is the highlight of my day. Middle pic: Grateful for the simple and cheap peach cobbler I’ve been making quite often lately, this one with plums and apple – not well distributed, I know, but still delicious. Bottom pic: tomatoes, sprinkled with basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, olive oil, pepper and feta cheese, slow roasted until cooked and then grilled briefly. I make this at least twice a week, either as a side dish or a main dish with an egg broken on top at the last minute just before grilling.


A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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