Stuff and the joys of decluttering

I haven’t written in over a month and this blog has moved away slightly from its original purpose. The past few months have been torrid and it’s been almost impossible to be or do anything not mired in depression and anxiety. One day I’ll look back on this period amzed at what I’ve endured. I hate cliches, but this, too, shall pass.

I’ve suffered dreadful depression and high anxiety for a few years. Not too long, just the past 5 or so years. I guess it was always there lurking underneath, but specific events and situations gave it life. I am on medication, I have to lecture myself all the time, I can erupt easily, and I cry easily. But the meds help. A lot.

I’ve had support and help from one friend in particular who I can say without any reservation has been my rock. Without him, I’d be dead. Maybe even literally, because suicide was on my mind for a long time. But really, really, on my mind. It was a fantasy solution that played itself over and over, something planned and ready to be executed. My rock understood, supported, gave advice, played the shrink, sent me to a real shrink, and did not recoil. Unlike some – oh my goodness, how some people are terrified of the word. The very notion that someone else might be suffering so much is just too much for them to deal with. They might as well tell you to shut up and suffer in silence, which as far as they are concerned, is the best way.

But I woke up one day, put on my big girl pants and decided I was *not* going to die. I found that last vestige of life and courage deep inside me and nurtured it. I also addressed one of the biggest problems facing me and dealt with it, once and for all. Like a big girl.

This big girl has also decided to make a major life change. I am relocating, very far away. Away from my comfort zone to a different, new, comfort, away from all that is familiar and off to the bosom of family. From the fear of old-age poverty to state sponsored medical care. From open spaces and unique vegetation to safety, security and seasonal salad. I’m going to need a new blog title and concept.

Relocating abroad means selling all your stuff. I can’t afford to spend loads of money on schlepping my junk halfway across the world and … guess what? I won’t need it! As tough as it is, I am realising that stuff is just stuff and I can live without most of it. I will take just enough to make me feel at home in my new home but the rest goes to worthy causes or gets exchanged for lucre. And the lucre goes towards the cost of taking what really matters, my beloved dog and that of my son who is already waiting for us all.

But, oh my word, the packing and the decisions and the realisation that my precious belongings are just junk in some peoples’ eyes. The majority of things that matter the most are items I either picked up on a beach or in a forest – what am I to do with my stone and shell collection? Or planted lovingly – I’ll never get to see the tree grow majestic. Or were given to me by my mother an eternity ago? How can I sell the art deco cups she very specifically said I must have and not my siblings? Who would buy the strange piece she painted during her Jackson Pollock period?

I think I do look forward to the day I have divested myself of most belongings. I know there will be a feeling of freedom and liberty. Me and a couple of suitcases, because a girl needs shoes and her big-girl panties, and my faithful dog, and off we will go!

Today marks one month before I move out of my house. That’ll be followed by 6 weeks in a temporary lodging, and then the adventure will begin with a long drive across the country … watch this space!

Canibalism, corona style

I haven’t blogged in weeks – it’s been a tough time but I am in need of a rant, so please bear with me.

We live in a greedy world where, for some people, money equals respect. If you have lots of it you can command respect, or something akin to respect, because of the power it buys. You can ruin someone’s life if you have money and they don’t. You can get out of jail free if you can afford a better lawyer than your opponent.

I’ve always been anti-consumerism, especially conspicuous consumerism, but with my complete loss of income this past year as a result of the end of tourism, I am more than ever aware of the power of money and the people who wield it. Of course, it’s a 2-way thing – the people who have lost respect for me a a result of my financial devastation are people for whom I have no respect either, regardless of their bank account. Luckily, this applies to only a few people I know and most of my friends and acquaintances are decent human beings who treat me the same, money or no money. They see me, not my stuff.

A year ago the world was starting to lockdown against an unknown plague. We had no idea it would be this bad or last this long, but a conversation I had with some people on Facebook last year led us to speculate what and how the world’s communities would manage if the economy was completely destroyed. If the majority of people found themselves with no income and no way to feed themselves. We envisaged dystopian scenarios of foraging and trading. And sharing. Sharing – what a notion. Someone said the virus might be the saving grace blessing in disguise that humanity needs to show us a way more natural, more caring, more humane.

Ha! Not a fuck, hey? I read a lot of news and online stories of Covid19 and its effects around the world and I have not come across a single report about any positive changes in humanity as a result. Lots and lots of ugliness, though. Politicians downplaying the problem, others stealing relief funds, and some just hunkering down until it blows over. Average citizens refusing to wear masks, refusing to stay home, refusing to slow down social lives, claiming they have nothing to share or give the poor. I’ve had arguments with people who can’t understand why there are more beggars around.

I live in a country of enormous poverty and an unemployment rate of around 40% (give or take inaccuracies and unofficial figures); 60% of the youth between 18 and 35 are unemployed and a huge number of those will never ever get a job! We are, however, still not the poorest in Africa and in fact we have wealth but it is very unevenly distributed. Last year people formed community based organisation to feed the poor but after taking off rather well, many of them are now struggling because even the donors are feeling the pinch – it is never ever the very rich who donate, it’s always those who don’t have much themselves. The government’s special temporary social grant for Covid relief has been far too little ($23/month!!! ) and so poorly managed that many did not even receive it, despite being approved to receive it.

Some have profited enormously of course – especially industries to do with e-commerce, also retailers of food and those selling anything connected to gardening and DIY. Food delivery services, groceries and take-out, are groaning with success – certain corners of cities are impassable due to the delivery scooters and their drivers taking up all the space (and not wearing masks or social distancing at all). Others have not lost their jobs, have barely felt the effects and in fact saved a lot by having activities curtailed. And all that lovely lucre is staying at the top of the pyramid. The beggars and homeless are on the increase.

Did we learn to be nicer to each other, as a whole? Not at all. We’re like a bunch of stranded shipwrecked survivors who slowly start to turn on each other and watch to see who will die first so the rest can eat.

And now we want to export those sentiments to Mars!!

This miserably depressing blog post improved with photos of the dogs – most loyal and loving and demanding of all beings! And half a selfie.

July 2020, and the plague marches on

The reason I am writing about each month is that I finally downloaded all my phone photos to my laptop. It’s not a pretty picture. There were almost 4000 of them since the end of March alone, about half being dogs and food. Dogs in the same position either on indoor couch, outdoor couch, or bed. Food being home-cooked, seldom photogenic, and becoming more and more boring every day.

South Africa finally reached the ‘peak’ of Covid-19. Hospitals were stretched to their limits and the mortality rates shot up. Not as high as Europe or the US because we planned well and we have a young population, but it was frightening. One of my lockdown inmates lost his father and had to fly to Johannesburg for a small family cremation and returned home the same day. The planning of the timing, obtaining a special police travel permit, and how to work around curfew – it was all a bit much for something as simple as a 2 hour flight, and he had to do all that whilst grieving at his sudden loss. We waited for 10 days to see if he had picked up something nasty at the airport but nothing came. Not a good 10 days.

And winter … oh, yes, another month of raging Cape winter storms. One day it’s warm and clear and sitting outdoors is a no-brainer, the next day trees are falling on roofs or cars, or blocking major roads. My ceiling survived the second bad storm but not so the wall separating me and my neighbours. Well, luckily not the entire wall, just the top few rows of a small section but it wasn’t amusing at all. Apparently the entire wall will come tumbling down one of these days but for now we’re ignoring it and hoping for the best.

Officially, spring is from September but our vegetation doesn’t follow the calendar so July heralds the start of the flower season. The sight of flowers and new growth made me think I should grow vegetables. A bit late, I know, but hope springs eternal and all that so I started with tomatoes – using seeds from store-bought tomatoes, large ones and the medium sized Rosa. I thought pots would be better than open ground because of the dogs. Bad idea, my pots were too small. I eventually transplanted them into the ground, protected with barriers from dogs, and am now, in December about to harvest a decent and gradual crop. More pics to come.

A few July pics, followed by the usual link to my crowdfunding campaign which is going rather well but needs constant boosting if I am to achieve my final goal. You are thanked in advance for any contribution, no matter how small.

Pano on a crisp wintr’s day – Constantiaberg mountains with Tokai garden in front.

My one and only aloe – watch how gradually the flowers drop. They are sucked empty by birds in the space of 2 weeks. The birds are impossible to photogragh – they’r tiny and fast, but oh so beautiful, mostly double-collared sunbirds and starlings.

This is what happens when you try to dry tomato seeds without first removing them from bits of tomato. The compost heap loved this!

Two memories – the precious and well-travelled Art Deco Limoges cups my mother gave me. The fluff of my wedding dress which I finally gave away this year when doing a big declutter of clothes and other things.

A plea for help to save a business

Well, that didn’t work out as planned. The Covid diary, that is.

When the virus poo hit the proverbial fan back in March this year, I read somewhere that one should keep a diary during lockdown because (a) it could last longer than expected and (b) we’ll forget details. So, I revived this blog and that was to be my diary.

It didn’t last long because after the first few weeks of baking and watching stats and Netflix and eating and eating, I hit a state of massive depression and realised that I was on the verge of turning my blog into a pity-party. So I stopped blogging.

Needless to say, I regret stopping because they were right – it did go on for bloody ever and I have forgotten many details. In these eight months, and counting, my household has seen despair, humour, love, anger and lots of food. We’ve run out of money, we’re not baking much anymore, we’ve spent autumn and winter staring at the four walls wondering if this is what life is all about.

Luckily, Spring came along – as it usually does after Winter, pandemic or no pandemic. The garden bloomed, the birds made loads of babies (yes, I became a bird watcher, lockdown does that to a person), and moods were lifted.

Christmas is almost upon us and I really have no idea where the time has gone. I haven’t worked in 8 months because there is still no tourism, even though borders are open. My target market is Europe but they’re back in lockdown for their second wave so not likely to be here any time soon.

So, this post is, after all, a pity-party because I need your help. I have not kept up the payments on my tourism vehicle and the bank is threatening to take it back. I have used up all my savings and I am desperate. So, the only way to keep my vehicle and save my business for when tourism starts again, is to crowdfund to pay the bank.

Here is the link to the crowdfunding site. The goal is in Euros which are almost 1-1 to the US dollar, and for South African rands it’s around 18 rand to 1 euro. So even 10 euros will make a difference. The payment button makes it seem as if only PayPal is accepted but it’s not; if you click on the PayPal button you’ll be taken to other options.

Thank you in advance and much love to all!

This is me with my son Paul. He’s a great lockdown cook and makes the best clafoutis in the world.
This is my friend Sheila. We ventured out last week to an art exhibition only to find it closed. We were rather annoyed because we had wasted petrol so we walked around the V&A Waterfront instead and took cheesy photos.
No blog post is complete without a photo of pets. Mine is the black one on the left, Vida, and the black and white one, Havana, is my son’s dog who lives with us.

Another day in the time of Corona

Day 3 of National Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa, wherein the country is globally praised for setting strict regulations. Also day eleventy of mass racism on the part of middle class twats who can’t understand that ‘stay at home’ isn’t easy for people who live 6 to a one-room shack.

People in nice homes should go and spend a few hours locked in one room with all the windows closed and the heat turned up to full. While you’re in there, you can spend the time formulating a convincing argument for the poor to do the same for 21 days, or more.

Stats: – I had it wrong the last time, there was ONE death, not two, and that hasn’t changed yet. (The second death presented exactly the same conditions as Covid-19 but did not test positive. She was only 28).  Infected cases : 1187 (this reflects only corroborated test results).  I get my verified information from the Facebook page of the Dept. of Health. or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.  Their stats are updated every evening around 21:00.

At this stage the stats don’t mean much but at some point they will be very meaningful. Either they will shoot up drastically in which case we get very scared or they don’t which will mean we have done the right thing by locking down.

While everyone complains of frustration and boredom after only three days of lockdown it’s hit me that I’ve been self-isolating for much longer than that. It’s getting to me big time and I wish I had taken the trouble to go for long solo walks or drives or something during those two weeks, while I could have done so in safety.

Yesterday I woke up with a variety of symptoms. While my friend was googling them to reassure me that they fitted my sinus problems and not Covid-19, I broke down and realised that, despite massive suicidal fantasies, I’m not sure I want to die alone in an ICU ward. Thelma and Louise style over a cliff, maybe. A final peaceful sleep somewhere meaningful after a good bottle of wine, definitely. But alone in a hospital bed with not even a busy nurse to hold my hand? Not very appealing.

So those feelings formed my entire day which I spent mostly in bed watching the last few episodes of my current series – Gold Digger, BBC, very good – and I made no attempt to blog. By the end of the day my symptoms had cleared up but I felt shell-shocked, almost as if I was drugged. I managed to cook supper, though – seems to be the most productive thing I do these days.

Speaking of drugs, I would not get through this if not for my supply of sleeping pills because, even with that, I am not sleeping well. The end of the month is looming with its debit orders and wolfish creditors. Oh, what a time to be (still) alive.

And in other news, the army is out in full force clearing the streets of disobedient citizens. The soldiers know they can’t throw everyone in jail so offenders are given a choice: a cell or pushups in the street. Most are choosing pushups. Don’t tell the jogging deprived middle-class.

Today was a better day than yesterday, although I’m not quite sure what that means anymore.

Here are a few photos of the dogs of this household. Black one is Vida, my dog, and the other is Havana, my son’s dog. We’re super grateful to have them around and, as most cats and dogs throughout the world, they’re chuffed to bits that we’re in lockdown.




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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