Gratitude, in bushels!

This week is off to an excellent start.

Yesterday I worked with foreign tourists – for the first time in over a year!! I acted as interpreter at the wedding of a French couple who speak no English but, for various reasons, wanted to integrate their wedding with the honeymoon in South Africa. It was a wind-free warm day, the setting was a beautiful boutique hotel in Clifton, one of Cape Town’s most trendy suburbs overlooking the best beaches in the country. Everyone went the exra mile – not least of all the travel agent and I who were beside ourselves with nerves at seeing foreign clients again! Out came the pearls and make-up for me, and a suit and polished smart shoes for him – all manner of things we haven’t bothered with in 12 months of lockdown!

Everything went very well, our couple was thrilled and very appreciative with all the attentiveness. We followed up with a wonderful lunch in Camps Bay, the suburb next door which is also usually a very popular tourism spot. Sadly, we had almost the entire restaurant to ourselves because tourism is so dismal at the moment, but this meant we had undivided attention from our waiters. Our clients were even moved to order a bottle of champagne that cost almost as much as I earned for the entire day – normally I’d be horrified at this sort of expense but the gesture was highly appreciated as I sipped the bubbles of the widow and gazed on the white sands of Camps Bay.

I returned home extremely satisfied with myself and duly exhausted – for once I slept through the night like a log. I don’t know if it’s because of the chamapgne or so much delicious food.

This morning I received a message that I have won a book ! This may seem like no big deal but books have become very expensive and, more to the point .. as much as I love having a Kindle and being able to grab bargains on Amazon that are downloaded in a flash, I sometimes do miss the feel and smell of a book in my hands. And everyone loves to win something, right? I’ll do a book review blog when I’ve read it. In the meantime, big thanks to Paige Nick and Penguin Random House Publishers. If you enjoy reading and want to hear from other readers what’s hot and what’s not, join the Facebook group known as the Good Book Appreciation Society. It’s South African in that the admins are here and prizes are usually only for locals but we have members from all over the world. Readers from elsewhere who are interested in Africana often appreciate the suggestions and input from locals.

As if I wasn’t already giddy with self-satisfaction I received the top bonus of all in the form of an email from my tutor. What tutor? I’ve decided that because tourism isn’t coming back in a hurry and certainly not in the large numbers of before, it’s time for me to do something else. My low energy levels due to my lung problems and my susceptibility to the virus (and no vaccine in sight for a long time for me), make it very difficult for me to find a way to earn a living. I hit on the idea of teaching English to foreigners. I can teach online until such time as the world goes back to normal. So, I signed up for a course and I’ve been studying for almost two months.

Today’s email was to advise me I’ve passed my second assignment, at first attempt. That’s the most important part – first attempt! It’s quite common to be told to revise certain parts of an assignment and I struggled with this one so I fully expected to be given feedback about parts to redo. Not so! Now I can continue with the course (you have to wait for assignments to be returned before continuing), and the sooner I finish the sooner I can start getting some experience, and then teaching for real moola.

So, yay!! truly a red letter week so far! I dare not hope for more great news because they say these things come in threes and that’s my three but I did buy a few lotery tickets the other day so there’s always that glimmer of hope!

The magnificent Clifton beaches. Aside from being cute and smallish, their biggest appeal is that no matter what the wind conditions are throughout Cape Town, these four little beaches are always sheltered from the wind, That means a lot in a city known for very unpleasant strong summer winds. I spent an inordinate amount of time there in my youth, on each of those beaches as they waxed and waned in popularity and I have fond memories of them and all the friends I hung out with. And the bikinis … oh the bikinis!
And to celebrate all this I baked a lemon meringue – the lemon tree is bountiful at the moment so why not?

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.

Morsels of Gratitude, part 2

It’s not easy!!

Part of this gratitude lark is to stay positive and avoid anything that will bring me down. I was doing well until I realised that my visit to the specialist last week cost R2000. Yes, my medical aid will pay for it but it’s a third of the total annual fund supposed to cover all doctor visits, medication, any blood test or x-ray, spectacles, and so-called dental basics. There is NO justification for such a high fee for a 20 minute consultation. The special machine used to measure my lung capacity was a once-off expense, years ago by the looks of it, and nothing else was used. We are ripped off by fees like this. The alternative is to go to a public hospital but there are problems with this. One is the long queues, like all day sometimes, second is the possibility of catching the virus, and thirdly, although this country has excellent medical people and training, the system itself is a disaster.

What am I grateful for today?

As I type this, my son is washing my car. This may sound like no big deal but it’s actually a minibus (see at the end of this post) and it’s an exhausting job to wash it, so I’m really grateful that he’s doing it.

Grateful for living close to nature and open spaces. I’ve heard many people from Europe remark on how wonderful it is that this city and surrounds still has so much open space, so much nature. This is something many people take for granted or simply don’t care for.

I couldn’t live in a big city. I couldn’t live far from open space, water, mountains. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to go too far to walk amongst vegetation that is unique in the world – the wonderful fynbos of the Western Cape; or along a stream in the green belt nestled in the middle of a residential suburb; or the wide open white sandy beaches (when permitted, not these days of lockdown limits), and of course the mountains that cover almost all of the Cape peninsula. Further afield, the wide open expanse of the Karoo and the Northern Cape are sublime and I miss them enormously, having not been to either of those regions ages due to the virus limitations.

Pics below were taken this morning at the Tokai Plantation. It’s half plantation and half fynbos garden. The fynbos section has been reborn by cutting down a large portion of the pine plantation and allowing the natural vegetation to grow back. In cooler weather the open area is wonderful to walk in but the plantation is ideal for hot summer days because the trees provide much-needed shade.

I mentioned my minibus. Below is the link to a crowdfunding campaign I’ve set up to help me pay the bank for this minibus so that when tourism picks up again I have my vehicle all paid up. Any contribution will be welcome and very much appreciated!

Morsels of Gratitude, part 1

Finding the positive in a dark world where negative is more comfortable

I’ve been experiencing depression for several years. I thought it was manageable but I was wrong and the pandemic has exacerbated it. It’s been building up for several years and is now a massive problem. This is not depression out of the blue, it’s linked to specific events and practical issues. The events of the past tend to fade with time but the practical reasons are always there and have, in fact, increased dramatically in recent years.

Then came the virus to put a real cap on things. Suicide, often on my mind, is not really an option but forging on seems impossible. So I’m stuck in a demotivated nightmarish rut.

Fight or flight? I have to choose fight but it’s easier said than done because negative has become too comfy. My therapist has urged me to keep a gratitude journal because apparently it really WORKS!! So, here goes. This is very difficult for me to do because I find it super-cheesy and reminiscent of Oprah-type clichés, but I’ll give it my best shot.

I wanted a special blog for this but I’m struggling with the newfangled functions of WordPress that have popped up since I created this very simple format years ago. I’ll work on it and then transfer posts, but for now this will do.

  • Grateful that my friend Michael has survived his hideous ordeal with Covid-19 and can be discharged from hospital as soon as his husband can get his hands on some oxygen for use at home. I’ve not met Michael in person, he lives in another city, but we have mutual friends and a few years ago he sent me a very gracious and old-fashioned friend request which I happily accepted. I’ve never regretted it because he’s wonderful. I can’t wait to meet him one day. We’ll drink exotic tea and eat fancy little cakes.
  • Grateful that my lung capacity has improved slightly. I was apprehensive to go for a check-up this week because no-one wants to visit doctors or hospitals these days, but it was necessary and I wanted to find out how my lungs are doing. I’ve had bad days lately so I thought my COPD might have worsened, but it turned out there’s a slight improvement and my ‘bad days’ are normal.
  • Grateful to have had a little brainwave that might lead me to earn a living again, while we wait for tourism to revive itself. Watch this space!
Photo by Hiu1ebfu Hou00e0ng on – Because these Gratitude entries are different to the normal things I post, I’ll use free WordPress stock photos.


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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