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.

Time to read again

I used to read a lot. I was an avid reader from a very young age. My mother was, too, so she encouraged this and allowed me to read everything on her bookcase. School holidays revolved around having sufficient reading matter – at one stage we lived far from a library and it was a hellish period. As an adult, I can’t begin to describe the panic that would come over me if I thought I might run out of reading matter. I don’t re-read books so it was never a question of just grabbing something off my bookcase – there had to be an unread book available.

I often had several books on the go at one time; different types of books, for different moods, for a quick read or a long session. I went through fads of specific writers and read everything they produced. When I went to live in Zimbabwe for a few years, at a time when decent bookshops were scarce there and pre-internet, I joined a mail order book club – the catalogues came in the post and were fabulous, from thrillers to cookery books and autobiographies. I ordered by return post and paid for them by cheque – how quaint!

I’ve never understood people who never read and don’t own a well stocked bookcase. I hate it when people borrow books and don’t return them*. I always assessed (and judged!) a person’s bookshelf on arrival at their home. How could anyone not have a bookshelf and books lying around? (* However, I’ve started giving away the books on my bookcase. There are people who need them and can’t afford books, and this year I’ve done a lot of uncluttering of possessions. I have a decent collection of local non-fiction left, waiting for a worthy cause.).

I recently read a study that showed that people who don’t read are lacking in empathy, or that people who lack empathy do not read. That makes so much sense. I can see it in some of my non-reading friends who are also not empaths. It makes sense that someone who never reads about other people’s experiences, problems, happiness, death, joy or pain, can never understand the value of caring, or how to show it. Some people read only self-help books. That fits in with the self absorbed personality typical of those who lack empathy, and of course most of such books are a scam.

In recent years my interest turned almost completely towards non-fiction, with great emphasis on South African non-fiction. I have read few novels in recent years.

But, sadly, I have read very little in the past 2 years. It’s left me with a huge gap, to not read every single day. I can almost feel the need, the lack of peace. I feel almost guilty. And it makes me feel stupid, as if I have drained a part of me. I still absorb a lot of information via the internet and documentaries, but I don’t regularly lose myself in a book that is beautifully written and transports me to another world.

I blame social media and Netflix. I allowed them to steal me away from books. Thank goodness I don’t own a tv set, that would be the complete downfall of me.

This year, with all the time in the world to read, I tried, but my concentration was poor and I read only a few books, fiction and non-fiction. When I was added to a Facebook book group I realised I wasn’t alone with poor concentration, but I also realised I would soon turn into an imbecile if I didn’t increase my reading, a lot. I also need to restrict my social media addiction, that’s not good for the brain even if I filter out the obvious rubbish.

And then, Helen Moffett applied the pressure (without knowing it!).

I was super honoured when Helen had sent me a Facebook friend request and I love her posts. Helen is a multi-talented wordsmith and many other things besides. Read about her here and be sure to not miss her ‘rants’ – she delights us with an annual rant about Women’s Day.

Helen generously offered friends some of her duplicate books. I ‘applied’ for one and got it! All I had to do was fetch it, which I did yesterday. She added a second one as a bonus, and her only request is that I should review them on the Book Appreciation Group and pass them forward. Which I will do, of course, so it’s making me read! Yay!!

Left: the bonus book, short stories by some excellent local writers.
Middle: the book I applied for, Nechama Brodie’s thriller set in Johannesburg. That’s the one I’ve started reading and I’m loving it.
Right, on my Kindle, Helen’s latest book, the charming and gentle Charlotte, which I did start but will need to start again because my concentration was atrocious. (PS: if you read this today 30 December, Charlotte is available for 99p on Kindle if you live in the UK or Ireland!! and, if you’re keen on the current series Bridgerton, this is set in the same period.)

Here is a link to the crowdfunding campaign I’ve created in an attempt to save my tourism business and prevent my bank from taking my minibus. Any contributions welcome, and you are thanked in advance.


So much for my patience and great internet skills. Pinterest is doing my head in and even Vida’s giving me funny looks at every irritated expletive.

To be honest, I’m not exactly frothing at the mouth in excitement at the thought of yet another social medium that promises to gobble up my precious bandwidth but it would appear that I need to be one of the millions of people who are pinning.

Pinterest, for those who don’t know, is a virtual pinboard. If you like something you pin it and someone somewhere will see it and go “Ooh, that’s nice” or “Eeeuw that’s gross”.

It’s excellent for retailers of pretty things, that’s obvious, but I’m not sure how it’s going to help me get people to come to South Africa, book my services as a tour guide and ask me to organise safaris and shark diving (note to self: create a ‘shark’ board and fill it, sorry, ‘populate’ it, with many photos of happy sharks, remember to place it in the list just under ‘beautiful beaches of the Western Cape).

The beauty of it, or not, is that you don’t have to use your own lousy out of focus images , you can just swipe them off the internet, all you have to do is give credit.

So far I’ve managed to open an account and create several empty boards. I’m having difficulty uploading my own images but I did upload a pretty flower from Google, purely by accident.

Clearly my next step is to read the Help section.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of two of my favourite things. And I took it myself at Solms-Delta in Franschhoek when they invited me for a visit and wine pairing – very yummy, can’t wait to go back for more. I like food and wine pairing: you get small portions, like tapas, and I like that in food – lots of small varied nibbly stuff.


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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