Friday, September 26, 2008

What ANc week!

South Africa has its third president since democracy in 1994 - Kgalema Mothlanthe, deputy president of the ANC. But you all knew that already, given that it took place yesterday. Yup, between the Zuma-Mbeki fight in the ANC and Mbeki resigning, suddenly it seems like our politics may finally have a bit of a restful period before the next elections. It is SO nice to have a president around whom there is not constant speculation of corruption. What would be even nicer is if we could have an ANC president of whom the same could be said.

Personally, I think they're both as guilty as sin. It's obvious they hate each other and are using the arms deal as the means to attempt to destroy each other. There are such strong factions within the ANC for each that this battle is certain to tear the ANC apart, despite all the ANC leadership's protestations that there is no crisis within the ANC. If that happens though, then that would bring about a very interesting time in SA politics, because we would no longer be a de facto single party state. Not being an ANC supporter myself, I would welcome this. I think it's very bad for any democracy to have one party that is able to dominate the political landscape so completely.

The ANC has done a lot of good in the country building houses, providing electricity and safe drinking water, and providing more primary health care clinics. I applaud them for this. However, I have been so disillusioned by their representatives in the Western Cape. The ANC members appear to be power-grabbing, self-serving, incompetent and corrupt. It doesn't surprise me at all that the Cape Town mayor is from a party that is not the ANC, even if the provincial government is ANC controlled. I think there are many Capetonians who are as fed up with the ANC as I am.

What really thrills me though, is that Trevor Manuel is once again our finance minister! Thank God for small mercies, and big ones. This man is one of the brightest and best when it comes to finance, and under his leadership this country has prospered financially. Long may his reign last.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Matric Art

I'm so proud of some of our kids! Just look at this incredible art work! (I apologise once again for my rubbish camera phone that takes pathetic pictures....) I took a bunch of photos, with some really incredible images, but these are the best quality of the ones I took.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I could KILL Haloscan

Well, I've managed to remove Haloscan, eventually. But now I discover that the previous comments have not come back. So, I've done some more scratching and digging... only to discover that... wait for it... they have been permanently deleted.

Yup, Haloscan does not import comments from Blogger. They say it's incompatible.

So ALL the comments on this blog, from the first to the last, have been WIPED.

I am NOT impressed. Not at all.

I am really sorry to all of you who have taken the time to comment, because now your words are gone. But at least any comments made from now on will be there again. (I hope.)

I really could kill Haloscan. They ought to have a disclaimer that is large and visible before you download anything from them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Snap shot of frustration

I am so annoyed! I love everything about my phone, except its camera. After upgrading from pre-pay to contract, I chose what I thought was a nice phone. OK, admittedly, I chose it on the spur of the moment, while listening over the phone to the description the guy on the other end was giving me. Admittedly, the line was awful. But the point remains that I thought I was getting a decent phone. And it is - except for the camera.

I love the way my phone's menus are set up, and the extent to which I can customise the display. I love the shortcuts. I love the fact that is has an FM radio built in. I love the feel of it in my hand. I love the keys. I even love the colour.

But I hate the camera. Why? It's like anything - when you're used to quality, to have to step back leaves one in the depths of frustration. Not only does my camera NOT have a flash, but it doesn't even have a 'night' mode. It's optical zoom is pathetic and it takes rubbish photos. So now I can't just snap Nellie doing something cute, because I know it's not going to come out. It's simply not worth the effort.

And that really makes me sad. I want to be able to capture my daughter (or anything else, for that matter) on the spur of the moment.

So - me thinks I'm going to have to get another phone. You see, now that I have an FM radio, I just CAN'T go back to my old phone (the one with the very cool camera!)... I'm too used to listening to the radio at all times and in all places. And this is how materialism gets it's filthy little claws into one.

Beware! Beware! Lest ye fall into the same trap! Beware! Ye should ALWAYS do ye homework first - NEVER, NEVER buy something without having done ye research.


Barry's funeral was on Wednesday afternoon. It was as beautiful as these things can be. Unusually, it was a communion service, but it felt so right given that my uncle was such a devout Christian - I learnt that not only is he a warden and sidesman, but also the treasurer.

The church tradition is 'high' church (or at least, it's a lot 'higher' than my experience of Anglicanism). This means that the clergy and others helping to run the service all wear robes (and stoles for clergy); when entering or leaving a pew, or when crossing the church in front of the altar, one genuflects to the cross; crossing oneself when certain words or phrases are used is expected; the congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel. I was surprised that the Gospel wasn't paraded into church and that incense and bells weren't used. A lot of it felt odd to me, because my tradition is much 'lower' church - I'm not a pomp and ceremony kind of girl. And yet... and yet...I realised something that I would not have previously anticipated.

G and I have recently been going to a non-denominational, charismatic church. (Ooooh boy, I can see how admitting that is going to open up a whole can of worms for some people!) While we love a lot of things about the church, it's not the perfect church, and I'm not even sure if it's the perfect church for us.

Sitting in the funeral service on Wednesday, I realised that I have really missed the Anglican liturgy. I found myself not only able to sing the hymns by heart (apart from one), but I was able to participate in the liturgy by heart too. (From a practical perspective, that was probably a good thing, because I was crying so often during the service that I would have struggled to read text anyway.) I finally had an experience of how liturgy can be a useful, supportive, encouraging thing. This is not to say that I've been anti-liturgy, because I haven't been; merely that I am not a liturgy kind of girl.

I don't like formulaic religion that does what it does because that's the way it's always been done. Religion like that is often empty and meaningless. For many years, as a child growing up in the church, I would recite liturgy without even thinking about it. When I realised what I was doing, I began to hate liturgy. I needed something to make communion 'fresh' to me, to help me realise what it's all about, why it's such a sacred (and yet secular) experience. I didn't get that from liturgy.

But on Wednesday, I suddenly saw a new side to liturgy. I found being able to recite the prayers comforting. In many ways, being in that church felt like coming home, which was odd since it was the first time I've ever set foot in that building. But that's precisely what one of the aims of liturgy is - it's supposed to make it easy for Christians to go to an Anglican church anywhere in the world, and feel at home; it's supposed to remind us that we are all part of one family, with one purpose for gathering together. On Wednesday, it succeeded in that role for me.

But I realised something else on Wednesday.... right now, my precious Zoe is getting to enjoy her great-uncle! His laugh, his sense of fun, his twinkling eyes - his love of children - she is getting to experience that right now. And he is getting to experience her in all her beauty and grace. And that comforts me too. I miss him, and I miss her, but at least they are together now, and one day, all of my family will join them, and together we will worship our God - there can be no more precious experience than to worship our Maker and Master as a family. I look forward to that day.

Large Hadron Rap

My thanks go to Bron whose sciencist hubby found this very cool rap about the Hadron Particle Collider. Although I'm a Bio teacher, not Physics, I think this is WAY cool.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ahh yes, I remember it well...

You know, one forgets very quickly how awful the process of grieving is. It's exhausting.

I have a pile of marking to do - none of it urgent, but I'd like to get it done before the holidays so that I can actually HAVE a holiday. I had time today, but I simply couldn't concentrate enough to do it.

I have an assignment to do for lectures tomorrow.... it's an easy one, and it's already half done. I couldn't face finishing it.

I need to sort out labels for the nappies (because the ones I have aren't working), but I simply don't have the energy to pick up the phone and have a conversation with my supplier.

I need to go and buy weed killer for the lawn because it's very obvious that my efforts at weeding are not up to the task. But I know that when I get to the nursery, I'll stand in front of the rack with the weedkillers and not be able to make a choice about which one to buy.

I remember this state well. I hate the fact that I don't have time to grieve. That's something to be said for the Jewish culture. When someone dies, you sit around at home for a week or so, and do nothing. You sit Shiva. Everyone gives you a week off to do what you need to do - to sit numbly, to cry, to yell, to remember, to tell stories. Our western culture has robbed us of that necessity.

I was offered some time off this morning because I was in tears before I even got to class. But to be honest, I don't want to sit at home alone. Grieving is something to be done as part of a community. It's not an individual effort. Yesterday I spent the day with my family, and it was such a blessing. We talked about Barry, and we talked about everything under the sun. It was so nice to be with people, and to have the freedom to talk to them, or not. If I was at home alone, I would be alone, with no-one to talk to.

With Zoe, I reacted by withdrawing completely from everyone and everything. While that approach works too, and while I know I need that to some extent to process my own emotions so I can support my dad and my aunt, right now, I don't want that. I want people around me I can talk to, and say 'Remember when...' to. Since I won't get that if I'm at home alone, there's no point in being home. Better to be at work and at least feel marginally useful.

But not processing means I'm even more exhausted. And so I'm getting stressed because there are things to be done, and I can't get on and do them. My stomach is tied up in knots and I feel almost ill - both from grief and frustration. I'm sleeping well, which is good, but when I wake I still feel just as tired as when I went to sleep. Grief takes its toll, I guess.

This evening I sat in front of the TV, munched on chocolate, and mended a very old teddy bear of mine called Bruno. Before he was my teddy, he used to be my brother's teddy. Now he's Nellie's teddy. There was something very therapeutic about working with Bruno tonight, something that spoke to me of continuity, and legacy, and heritage, of the connectedness of family, of being part of something bigger than just myself. It made me feel less alone, and less lonely.

As I was mending him, I noticed that he'd been mended before. This is one well-loved teddy! While I hope that one day Nellie will be able to pass him on to her children, I know there will come a day when Bruno won't be able to mended anymore, when he will have to be thrown away. Everything must come to an end I guess. Even us. It's just so hard to say goodbye and to be left behind.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stormy times

Once again Cape Town is being lashed by a storm. Our street is already partially under water. Thankfully, this one is not as bad as the last one. However, it seems so appropriate that the weather is so foul...

... the more details I learn about the manner in which my uncle died, the more tragic his death becomes. Had those he had been hiking with not been negligent in their care of him, he might well be alive today - no doubt in a critical condition, with an uncertain future, but alive.

I am so proud of my family; at the faith, courage, strength and wisdom they have shown in the face of this incredible tragedy. It is such an honour to call myself part of this family - and it makes me proud to carry their surname still (I kept my maiden surname when I married - that's another story though).

It still hasn't really hit me. It doesn't seem real to me. I keep thinking that he's going to walk into the room with that infectious smile and laugh of his - the way his whole face used to crinkle up when he smiled... and say "Hello, my girl! Howzit?"

My uncle had a habit of sticking his hands in the top of his pants (trousers) when he was relaxing on the couch and getting sleepy. The family used to tease him mercilessly about it, but he always took it with such grace. My brother, dad and I were joking this afternoon that when we go to the funeral, we're all going to have to sit with our hands in our pants.

Probably my favourite story of my uncle is how, when I was a little baby with terrible colic, he used to let me lie on his chest and I would fit between his chin and his belt. Often, he was the only one who could get me to calm down enough to sleep. The moment I was removed from his chest, I would start crying again, so he would often sit with me like that for hours. (My mother once confessed to me that to get me to stop crying she had, on one occasion, in tremendous desperation, considered throwing me out of the first story window... I'm grateful she didn't!)

Funny how hearing that story used to make me embarrassed, even though I loved it. Now, I'd give anything to hear him tell it again.

If his death has taught me one thing, it is the lesson I thought I had learnt through losing Zoe. Life is precious. Family is precious. Time is fleeting and tomorrow is no guarantee. Please - ring your family today and tell them you love them. They may be gone tomorrow.

Lost in the ether

I've uploaded some coding onto my templates that was supposed to make it easier for people to trackback to particular posts, and to make posting comments easier. While it may do that, it has also made it impossible to read previous comments. For this, I apologise. I am going to try to remove the coding again, but it may take me some time to do that, because I'd rather not lose those comments. Please bear with me until then...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

One amazing man

My uncle was 75, and fitter than many 35 year olds I know. He was an incredible man with a great sense of humour. It's hard to describe the role he played in the family, because he was often in the background, but he was a real pillar of the family. Dependable, loyal, wise.

My father and my aunt had a really tough childhood (understatement of the year), and my uncle (who was 10 years older than my dad, and 12 older than my aunt) was their surrogate father. He took care of them, provided for them, loved them.

To us kids from the next generation, he was always good for a laugh. He had the most incredible stories to tell, and would tell them with such aplomb. When it was hard to get my father to talk about his parents or his childhood, my uncle would always oblige, telling incredible stories about the things they would get up to. He was also a joker. He would love to wind people up - especially my aunt. I suppose that after 50 odd years of marriage you really know which buttons to push, and he loved pushing them. He would wink at you, smile, and then say something or other. When my aunt would react, he'd grin, chuckle and just keep going till everyone around was in fits of laughter.

My uncle was also a man of deep faith. Even at 75 he was still very involved in his church community, and loved the Lord deeply and quietly.

He was, as I've said, very fit. Every week he walked on the mountain with a group of his friends, which included his minister, so he was no stranger to it, or to its dangers. He and my aunt also have a house out at Langebaan where he would walk and sail. Since their retirement, they would spend probably half their time there, and half back here in the city, so he was always very active.

My biggest regret is that I didn't see more of him since we returned. Just a few weeks back Graeme and I were saying how we really ought to invite him and my aunt over for a meal, because we hadn't seen them for such a long time... Nothing like death to put one's priorities back in order!

I shall remember him for his stories, and his wisdom. He had such life experience, and such wisdom from that experience, that he could always tell you the best thing to do in any given situation. I will miss him terribly.

He leaves behind him his wife, two children (both living in the UK), and 3 grandchildren (also all living in the UK).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Death and grief

This afternoon my uncle died very unexpectedly. He was walking on the mountain when the ground gave way beneath him. He fell into a subterranean cave, sustaining serious injuries. He was alive when the mountain rescue reached him. They tried to stabilise him, but he died before they could get him out.

We are all in shock.

When I feel able to, I will tell you all about this wonderful man. But right now, I just can't.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Death and periods

I'm almost "officially dead". At least, that's what my CMT thinks. Not having heard from me in over a week, nearly 2 in fact, she was becoming convinced that I was dead.


OK, so I've been REEEEEEALLY busy. But I'm not dead. Not yet. Give me a few years at my current pace and maybe I will be, but not yet. I'm having too much fun to die!

In fact, a colleague asked me today how I do it - working full time, with a family, and LL, and studying part-time. I had a good think about it, and replied that I'm not sure.

On the one hand, it's about expectations - I have to do stuff, so I just do it. Be disciplined and just do it. There are enough hours in the day. On the other hand, there aren't enough hours in the day, so something is always falling off the bottom of the list - like time with Graeme, or my sleep and health, or LL, or my marking.... It's just a matter of juggling which one, so that the one falling off the list isn't urgent. Of course, I don't recommend it to anyone else, not even myself. But I'm having fun... so I don't think I'm ready to give anything up just yet.

But back to the story about my CMT. So I'm chatting to her about how I'm really not yet dead (aren't you pleased to know that?!). She's shaking her head at me incredulously, when I promptly inform her that next month is THE MONTH. (We're falling pregnant next month, if you didn't know. Don't call us [we're going to be BUSY], we'll call you.) At which point she nearly fell off her chair laughing, until she realised I was serious. 'But Nicole,' she said to me, 'how are you going to manage that ON TOP of everything else?' I just smiled, shook my head and replied - I have no idea, but probably in the same manner I'm not managing now, except that things are about to get a lot more interesting with my head down a toilet bowl all day.

(Oh yes, I have horrible, nasty, never-to-be-repeated-unless-you-absolutely-have-to kind of pregnancies! There's no cheaper way to have a baby. I love feeling the baby kick, unless it's into my lungs, or down into my fractured spine. I love bonding with the baby over 8 months. But I HATE being pregnant. Cramps, sore legs, sore back, sore tummy, sore knees, vomiting, nauseous, unable to sleep, unable to walk... I'm going to stop now, before I convince myself this is a really bad idea!)

It's hard to believe that this will (hopefully) be my last cycle for the next year. Hooray! No more pads or tampons or leaks. No more feeling cheated and jealous when I see other women with big bellies.

I know this sounds absolutely crazy (and this is not tongue-in-cheek), but I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to hurl my guts into the nearest loo about once a day. I am looking forward to having my bones come apart to such an extent that I have to wear a special pregnancy hip and thigh brace to be able to walk without pain. I am looking forward swollen ankles and being berated for not drinking enough water every day. I am looking forward to being woken up at 2am in the most excruciating pain as my leg or foot tries to bend itself the wrong way round. I am looking forward to feeling 100x more tired than I am now. I am looking forward to getting more stretch marks on my stomach. I am looking forward to not being able to bend over, or see my toes.

Simply put, I am looking forward to feeling awful. Because feeling awful MEANS something. It means that there is a new life growing inside me. I am looking forward to holding that new life in my arms, looking into her eyes and hearing her cry. Everything will be worth it for that single moment of knowing that I have succeeded in bringing forth that new life.

It doesn't matter to me that I am already more busy than anyone else I know, or that there really isn't time in my life for this, or that I'm already tired. To be honest, I really don't care if I lose the business, or fail my course. What I care about most is that new life. I can't wait to meet my new baby....

And this time around, I am going to cherish every moment of my pregnancy. Every kick, every heart-beat. Because if this one should die too, as is highly probable, I don't want to carry the guilt I carry for Zoe - that I failed to appreciate her while I had her with me. I won't make that mistake twice.

This moment has been 18 months in the coming, and that's an awfully long time to wait for something you are desperate for. While I usually hate having my periods (they are SUCH a las!), this next one I will celebrate with joy. One more to go, please God! Please, God?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cape Storm

In my search for great storm photos, I'm grateful to other lovely people for showing me these links. Some pretty AWESOME photos!

Kalk Bay photos
St. James (click on both Cape Storm tabs, to see both sets)
News24 (105 photos!)

And if you go to Ballacorkish's (also has a blog called '6000 miles from civilization' with more photos and video) photostream you can see several videos.

But these are my favourites - I couldn't find them online, but they were emailed to us, so thank you to whoever took them!


Apparently, if you're a Saffa in London, then you've already seen this. But given as how I'm back in Saffa-land, I haven't. I saw it for the first time tonight, and... well... I nearly wet my pants! I think you can only appreciate this if you are a Saffa, but I think Saffa's who either live in London or who have recently done so will truly appreciate the beauty of this little story.I hope you find it at least a little bit funny.

And here's the Aussie version too...Graeme thinks it's better. I'm not so sure.