Friday, November 30, 2007

Skywatch Friday #7

We have had some pretty extreme weather in this part of the world in the past week or so. Large areas of the Southern Cape have been declared Disaster Areas due to flood damage. Luckily we only caught the tail end of it, so although we had some decent rains, we escaped the flooding.

However, one good thing about extreme weather is that it tends to create spectacular skies, so here is a selection of photos taken during the past week, in the area around our house.

Sunday morning, this is the view that greeted me as I stood on the front veranda at 5.09am.... looking across the park, the sun just beginning to tinge the row of clouds building along the horizon.

On Monday morning at 4.33, the moon was going down in the West, and was creating great effects behind some puffy little clouds. If you look closely you should see a rainbow effect around the circle of light.

By 5.02 The sun was playing gently with the interesting clouds towards the North East, creating soft pastels
And 4 minutes later at 5.06 the moon was well below the clouds, almost on her way down

While at the same time, in the opposite direction, the sun was on her way up, and had backlit those same puffy little clouds

The peaceful beginning to the day soon gave way to howling gale force winds, with clouds building all day, and intermittent rain.

12 hours later, we had a heavy downpour, which lasted for a brief period, before the clouds were blown off across the sea.

I went and stood on the edge of the cliff across the park, and got a wonderful view of the storm, which had moved across the sea to the other side of the bay...

leaving in its wake a rainbow, and promise of blue skies the next day.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Christmas Revolution.....taking our Christmas back from the marketing gurus!

OK, last weekend I had a mini-rant about Christmas, and what it has become. Here's the bigger picture, as I see it.

Already, hopping around blogland, I see the whole big wind-up beginning, as more and more people start stressing. Just for example, Ruth said "I must admit for the first time ever I'm really stressed about Christmas both emotionally and financially"

and Sheila in lamenting how hard it is to find gifts for kids she barely knows said "Christmas isn't supposed to be like this, and I hate that I seem to be the one making a problem out of it." which elicited a flood of responses proving that she is definitely NOT the only one battling with it! In fact it was responding to Sheila's post that got me thinking more about all this.

What has Christmas has become in 2007?

  • people worry about the deadline for posting overseas gifts
  • the shops are already crowded with people scurrying around looking frazzled and frantic
  • prices of food rise like mad at this time, but ingredients must be found, cakes baked...
  • builders and decorators go crazy trying to get materials and meet deadlines, because everyone wants to remodel in time to impress the Christmas influx of visitors.
  • Credit Cards are stretched to the max,
  • people who barely have time to comb their hair on a normal day now have to squeeze in extra time to decorate the house with the year's latest flavour-of-the-month trend in Christmas baubles
  • poor defenseless trees die in their millions, or fake ones get hauled out (I battle to decide which is the lesser of two evils, I personally love a real tree, but ...)
  • Christmas cards have to be bought, written in and posted (does anyone still do that?)
  • Endless lists have to be made re who to send gifts and cards to, who did and didn't reciprocate last year, who did send but was embarrasingly ommitted from our list, and it arrived too late to send a last minute one in return... the politics of Christmas giving is almost as complicated as national politics, but with a smaller budget to overspend!
  • menus are planned and food bought in obscene quantities,
  • travel arrangements made and repeatedly altered as families battle to juggle ever more complicated schedules (airlines and hotels also bump up prices like mad)
  • and finding the right gift for someone who, let's be honest, already has all and more than they could possibly need for a happy life is just a huge pain in the proverbial rear end!

ENOUGH ALREADY! How did we buy into this madness of self-imposed duties and guilt trips if they are not performed on a scale that will deeply impress our neighbours and friends?

I realise the world is rapidly becoming more and more secular and self centred, but does anyone remember what the holiday is originally about? As I recall, it had something to do with giving families time off work so that they could be together to attend church to celebrate a religious event, namely the birth of the Saviour! And show appreciation for his gift by giving to others, in return.

Now not everyone is an ardent Christian, so I understand that other traditions have grown up around the holiday, so that even those who do not attend church can at least have a special time with their families.....

But as Christmas traditions evolved, when did we all buy into the commercial aspects of it? When did it become mandatory to spend a fortune on gifts for every Tom, Dick and Harry and his cat? When did spending more on decorations than the average African household lives on in a month become an essential ingredient of a happy Chrismas? When did eating yourself into an early grave and consuming enough alcohol to fuel an entire month of hangovers become part of it?

Am I missing something, or was it originally intended as a time to rest and enjoy family and think about the things that REALLY matter in life? How did we let it become a time of stress and exhaustion and overspending, so that, instead of starting the New Year refreshed and strengthened, we start it tired and trying to overcome rising fear of the month end when the bills for all the excess will arrive, and we will somehow have to sort out the deficit?

Have we all become so shallow and materialistic that we don't believe someone loves us unless they prove it with a sizeable gift?

I am fully conscious of the need to maintain some of the traditions, because, as Ruth so eloquently put it in a comment to my Saturday post none of us wants to become part of the "ba humbug group", but we definitely need to give it all a re-think and get it back in perspective.

I'm not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater, and do away with it all. Far from it. All I am saying is, let's all do as much as we are comfortable with and can afford without stress to our time, emotions or finances! Let's stop labouring under self-imposed expectations that become a burden instead of a joy. It is a CHOICE, and we can CHOOSE not to buy into the excesses of the season!

One of the core traditions, and joys, of Christmas is giving, not because we have to, or to reciprocate, but for the joy of it! So maybe the question we need to ask ourselves is "Are we giving to the right people?" Let's face it, while we may not all be wealthy, it is a safe bet that anyone who has regular access to the internet and their own computer, and leisure time to blog is relatively well off compared to many in the world who consider themselves lucky to get a meal every day, and by comparison, our kids are really quite spoiled! So instead of giving to the already blessed, maybe we should consider giving to the less privileged.

The best Christmas our family had was when staying with my sister's family in Zimbabwe a couple of years ago. We each put all the money we would have spent on each other together and bought basic staple foods like maize meal, beans and tinned meat etc. as well as Bibles translated into Shona, and made up several food parcels. We went to a local high school and asked the headmaster to hand it all out to some of the poorest families. The look of joy on his face was the best Christmas gift we ever got.

So here's my offered solution (use it, don't use it!!) :)


All we have to do is send a notice to all friends, family members and colleagues who would normally expect a gift, along the following lines (obviously modified to suit individual relationships and circumstances!) :

"Please note the following. I have joined an anti-commercial Christmas Revolution.

I love you to bits, but I am not buying you a gift this year. Instead, I am putting together an amount I can afford, which would have been spent on gifts for all friends, family and colleagues, and donating it to ( your favourite charity).

As we all have as much as we really need in life, I would encourage you to do the same for me and my family, we know you love us, and do not need gifts to prove it, so please give whatever you would have spent on us to your favourite charity.

Please also treat this as your Christmas card, greetings to you and yours, may you have a wonderful Christmas.


thus endeth the rant!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

the circle of life

As I was editing my photos and resizing them for the web, I was about to crop off the dead flower at the top, and I stopped in my tracks...
because it struck me that this is such a visual picture of how life is for us humans as well.
In our little "clump" of family, friends, associates, like the daisy buds, some are about to be born, some are very young, some well on into the prime of life. There are those who, like the daisy behind the sticks and twigs, are caught up in tangled lives, even feeling a bit isolated, and like the daisy in the front with the unwelcome passenger, there are those who face sudden threats. Some just sit there and soak up the sun in happy freedom. And of course, there are those who are in their fading years now, and will soon leave us.
We are all at such different places in our lives, but we are a group, we enjoy each other's proximity, the comfort of being part of a community, and travelling through this life together in a clump.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

weekend wandering, a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

Let's kick off with a gratuitous sunset shot because... well who said you need a reason to enjoy a sunset? I took this on Wednesday night, on my way for evening visiting hours. But actually, there is a bit of a story behind it....

Port Elizabeth has been very dry lately. Theoretically we are supposed to get two distinct rainy seasons each year. We are sort of slap-dab between the Mediterranean winter rainfall climate of the Western Cape, and the more tropical summer rainfall zone that covers the East Coast.

Somehow, this year, we had very little winter rain, and I had to water the garden quite regularly (although my gasping plants will probably whine about neglect and tell you it was not often enough!!) The weather man has promised rain often enough, it is just that his promises have been somewhat empty... unless what he calls a 60% chance of rain refers to the three drops that fall and evaporate before they hit the ground!

So when I saw this newspaper headline on Wednesday, I was, I confess, a little skeptical.

That is why, when I saw that sunset, my mind was running along the tracks of "ok, at least there are clouds, that is a good sign... but all over blogland recently people have been quoting that thing about red sky in the morning, sailor's/shepherd's warning.... and red skies at night are supposed to imply good weather to come, so I wonder if this is going to be another damp squib?"

Fast forward to Thursday, hardly a drop here. I'm smugly thinking 'SEE... once again we are being misled'

Friday came, and this was the headline that greeted me in my morning paper... Apparently, along the South coast it was a different story!! Not the 50mm that was warned about, but OVER 300MM fell in one day over many parts of the coast!!! There is severe damage in many places, and people are being airlifted out as roads and bridges have been destroyed.

The coastal holiday village of Sedgefield was very hard hit. What you see here between the trees and the houses is (or was) the main freeway to CapeTown... so national transport systems have been severely disrupted.

these photos were e-mailed to my son-in-law from a colleague in George, don't know who took them.

Then, literally 3 seconds after I got Max into the house, on his discharge from hospital at lunctime on Friday, the heavens opened....yay!

But not for long, and it was over. Once again, PE only caught the tail end. Probably a good thing really, I wouldn't fancy dealing with a flood right now! But thoughts go out to all those left homeless by the latest hiccup in our notoriously quirky weather!

Can it POSSIBLY be Christmas again so soon??? Where has this year gone?
Meanwhile... while Max was in Hospital, I went off to the Greenacres Mall, next door, to get Max a dressing gown. I decided to stop there for lunch, and had a great calamari salad at Wimpy.

I couldn't believe all the Christmas hype going on already... it is TOO MUCH, people!!!!

So I would like to propose that we START A COUNTER REVOLUTION, to resist becoming pawns of the marketing circus which drives us to greater levels of stress with each new festive season....... more about this in the coming week.

And from one whine to another....
Over at Visual St Paul, Kate was chatting about the success of the re-marketing of Australian Yellow Tail wine, and how sales had rocketted since the new label was launched. I commented that, not being a wine drinker, if I do have to buy wine for an occasion or guest, I am totally influenced by labels and colour/shape of bottle (as you know by now, I have a THING about those delicious deep blue bottles!)

And I promised to show her my favourite South African label...apparently the wine isn't too shabby either!
I couldn't find out if the sales have rocketted as a result of the new labels, but here is the website with details about the re-launch. ,tall horse wines (I actually downloaded a cute screensaver from the site, which little grandson Ethan loves. Colourful versions of the giraffes in the label galloping around the world.)

I like it when a local product doesn't try to borrow imagery from other cultures, but celebrates our own unique continent. In fact the same applies to architecture, I am appalled by the proliferation of fake Tuscan houses springing up like mushrooms all over South Africa, and I already had a little rant about the Boardwalk Casino complex in my recent post on Jazz on the Lake.

Have a lekker weekend! (translation = enjoy!!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Skywatch Friday #6

The evening visiting hour at the hospital falls at that lovely time between the sun going down and the night sky getting interesting. Last night, on my way to visit Max, I was enchanted by some incredible puffy cotton wool clouds, so I did a little detour to Settlers Park to get a better view of them across the valley. By the time I got there, I had the bonus that the setting sun was tingeing them with pink....

And an hour later, when I walked onto the rooftop parking to go home, this is the spectacular sight that greeted me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


BTW ... There is a Max update at if you want to see a pic of how he is progressing!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

wood and trees

Before the wheels fell off last week, (wow was it only a week ago, it feels a WHOLE lot longer!!) I had decided to do a carpentry project. Our passage is long and has a large and ugly electricity db practically in your face when you walk in the front door. And our overflow of books is reaching epic proportions.

So I decided to build a bookshelf from some big solid planks I bought on an auction years ago and have been carting around ever since. I got it half done, and there it stood. So yesterday I decided to finish it off. Well, to be more accurate, I got it to the stage where it will stand up and hold books without disintegrating, bearing in mind that my carpentry skills are less than impressive! And sometime in the FAAAAAR future I will sand it and paint it! But for now, all the heaps of books all over the house have a new home, and are even sorted in some sort of logical order, so it feels good. And I hinged one of my framed paintings onto it, so there is a door that hides the ugly electric box.
before after

As you know by now, I adore this time of year because the jacarandas are flowering.

Here are a couple I shot in Uitenhage last week on my way back from one of the hospital visits.

And here is one just round the corner from our house, taken at lunchtime today. As you can see, the blue seas and skies of last weekend are a thing of the past, and there are warnings of heavy rain and possible flash floods today! Actually a bit of rain will be welcome, it is really dry here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

a perfect day to play in the bay!

Well, after a decent night's sleep on Saturday, I decided after the Sunday morning visit that it was time to get a bit of fresh air and blow the cobwebs out of my brain. So I took my camera and prowled around taking photos for our new blog. (Max and I are doing a joint one in the City Daily Photo community, called, not surprisingly, Port Elizabeth Daily Photo.)

It is a different type of blog, because you are restricted to one photo a day (imagine me, Mrs "more is more" having to select!!) and the sort of photos are also a bit different. The 'shoot through the windscreen at 120km/hr just to give an impression of how things look' is not quite the thing there... being a photo blog rather than a personal chatty space, the pics need to be a bit better. So it is fun re-evaluating our existing pix, and looking for places to take new ones.

It was so beautiful and tropical looking as I drove past, the sea was a deep royal blue blending to turquoise in the shallows

So, on impulse, I invited the kids to lunch at the Boardwalk complex at the beachfront.

The design is apparently based on a Californian theme park sort of look. Personally, despite the fact that I love American architecture (after all many of the modern iconic buildings worldwide are the brainchildren of American architects) I think it is a shame that the developers didn't use the opportunity to express the unique blend of 1st world/3rd world and Africa meets the West which is so characteristic of P.E.

Also, the complex is on prime beachfront land, overlooking the Hobie Beach and Shark Rock Pier, where I recently showed you some dolphins swimming past. But it has been built in a circle looking inwards onto a manmade lake. You can't see the sea from it at all! Ok so my grumbles aside, it is still a cool and attractive place to hang out, and on Sunday even more so, because they were having a jazz festival. There is a sort of floating island in the lake, and the musicians played from there, so that the music could be enjoyed in all the restaurants and cafes around the perimeter.

It was just what we needed after the stress of the past week, and also gave some great photo opportunities for future posts on the PE Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And we all sigh with relief...

Even a warm voiced phonecall is not the same as seeing for oneself. So it was wonderful to go to the Greenacres Hospital yesterday and see him awake, chatting, the old Max. He is still in discomfort, (obviously) but he is getting better by the minute, everything is working as it should, in fact he has the blood pressure and pulse rate of a young man! And, having reassured myself with 3 great visits yesterday, I slept for 13 hours straight through last night.

He specifically asked me to thank all of you for the messages of support, and the care and concern that you have shown.

Max is, in many ways, a retiring man, he was painfully shy when we met (which I found amazingly cute and attractive!!) and despite that he is such a steady, ethical, logical, and intellegent person that he is a natural leader, and has had to overcome his natural shyness and reticence over the years to assume many leadership roles.

But he is still surprised when others recognise his strengths, and I don't think he had realised the impact his blog has had on so many around the world. He has been very touched by the reaction of so many who have never met him. Of course in my humble and unbiased opinion, it is just that you are all clever enough to recognise immediately what I have know since I met him 31 years ago, that he is a very exceptional, brilliant, special and NICE person!

Anyway, thanks again from both of us, the support has been deeply appreciated. And now we just take it a day at a time as he continues to get stronger and better.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Postscript to waiting...

Well now, that's a bit better! I just phoned, and a warm voice said "He's doing VERRRRY well my dear.." doesn't that trump cagey voice saying "fairly stable"?

Apparently they have now got the medication sorted so that it both controls the pain and allows him to breathe, when I had to leave at 8 last night, the morphine was causing an either/or situation.

Note to self... (from good self..) maybe now you can grab an hour or two of sleep so you don't look like a haggard old bag when you go and visit at 11. (evil twin interrupts...) Or on the other hand, there is always another cup of coffee accompanied by some comfort eating....damn, why didn't I think of getting a tub of ice-cream on my way home!


They say the first 24 hours are critical. When I phoned ICU a few minutes ago, they said "he's fairly stable."
I said " not VERY stable, just FAIRLY stable???"
She said" what is very stable? This is the first 24 hours, he is fairly stable..."

And so it goes... the waiting for the critical period to be over. As they are very strict about visiting hours, much of it takes place in the silence of an empty waiting room, while the rest of the hospital bustles around outside the door.

Well, 'fairly stable' is good, for now. Better than the news the people in the bed next door had, as I came in to see him, 3 hours after he came out of surgery, when he was due to be taken off the breathing apparatus.

I was calm until then, this has become a routine operation, yes? Every second person you speak to knows someone who has a new lease on life, "oh he had a quintuple, and you should see him now..." But the lady in the bed next door did not make it.

I had seen them wheeling her out of theatre, just as I was waiting to go in and see Max as soon as he had been settled in. Now the curtains were drawn around the bed, and the family were sobbing and praying loudly, and a thin curtain separated them from me and this man I love so much, lying pale on the bed. And I was face to face with the reality that, clever as the doctors are, and as far as medical science has advanced, it will NEVER be routine to have your chest sawn open, and people ferreting around in your chest cavity!

So I am grateful for "fairly stable".... and I will continue to wait........

Friday, November 16, 2007

Skywatch Friday, and Max Update

Hi, thanks to all in blogland who have sent such encouraging and caring messages. Max is really touched, and I know he has gained strength from the care coming his way, as have I. He goes in for a quadruple bypass this morning. .....will keep you posted, if somewhat erratically!

Skywatch Friday:

Backlit clouds over Port Saint Francis

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

...and an unwelcome milestone...

After all the family milestones of recent months, I'm afraid we had a very unwelcome one yesterday.

Max had a heart attack. He seems OK, he is in ICU, cheerful, and no more pains, and it seems to have been caught very early, but until he gets to see a cardiologist and has an angiogram, we won't really know where we stand.

He was in Uitenhage consulting for Rocklands Poultry when it struck. It is a huge operation with a well run clinic, so he actually couldn't have chosen a better place for it to happen. They knew what was happening immediately, and while he was still wondering if it was indigestion or stress, they were putting him on oxygen and getting him into the local hospital.

I must say, the Rocklands guys have been wonderful, they have sorted out all the little loose ends that unravel when things like this happen, and been so supportive.

I'm sure it is going to be fine, but it will obviously involve a change in lifestyle. We have known we were pushing our luck for a while, way too many KFC dinners etc, and not enough exercise (too much couch potato time on the laptops, visiting blogsites!!)

It is a wake-up call, and we will heed it. Bunny food and long walks from now on... maybe less time in cyberspace and more in the fresh air.... but when you get a call to tell you that your ((best friend, soul mate, lover, companion, centre of your known world))husband is in hospital with "chest pains" the world stands still, and every minute stretches out and you realise you will do whatever you have to do in order to never have to hear those words again.

But just to reassure family and friends who visit this post, here is a photo I took while K and I were visiting him last night, and as you can see he doesn't look too scary, so don't stress, I'm sure he will be fine! (I might not be, when he finds out that I put a picture of him in his little green dress on the web!!! hehe)

And I'm sure you will all understand if blog visits and comments are a bit erratic for a while...
however don't adjust your set, stay with us and I'm sure normal blogging will be resumed shortly.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another milestone

This really has been the year for milestone birthdays in the family. This weekend we celebrated another. My other dad, Aubrey, will be 70 this week, and the family got together in East London to celebrate. (He is my other dad, because he was my mom's second husband, but has been a real dad to us.) In fact, as a family, it gets extremely confusing, because all the parents ended up with multiple marriages, and we got attached to the various partners, so that little distinction is made between actual biological parents and step parents. As a result, our kids have more grandparents than most people have cousins!

It was great, as usual we ate till we could barely MOVE, I mean just LOOK at all that food, and that doesn't show the wicked puddings and cake that followed.

But what was special was seeing Aubs, who has overcome all the odds to still be with us, relaxed and happy, surrounded by his new wife, Rene, his children, grand children and even a great grandchild (the wee E).

In the past two years he has suffered two life threatening illnesses, and come through with flying colours. First he had a rare flesh eating bacteria, one of those horror ones you read about that gallop through your body, out of control. It was amazing that he survived, he was in intensive care for weeks, and an enormous section of his hip and buttock area had to be removed, damaging the sciatic nerve. He lost the use of his right leg, as a result, and was told he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. By sheer willpower, stubbornness and courage, he is now not only walking, but doing so without a stick or crutches, despite considerable pain.
He had no sooner got over that hurdle than he was diagnosed with Cancer, and underwent a course of Chemotherapy. He is clear at the moment, so lets lift our glasses......... cheers, here's to a brave, talented and delightful man, and we hope to have him around for many more years!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Chasing Baddies!

I was visiting a friend today, whose house overlooks the valley at the edge of the park in front of our house. They have spectacular views right across the bay, on a clear day the unspoilt dunes on the other side show clearly.

We were chatting away when suddenly our voices were drowned out by the sound of a helicopter, and there it was, hovering outside. We went to check out what was happening... and it was the Police, hunting for a criminal hiding in the bushes to the left of Albany Road, and showing the dog unit where to go.

We could not believe the skill of the pilot, the wind was howling in strong gusts, and they were swooping down so low amongst the trees that we were holding our breath!

In this one, you can see the Police van behind the trees, while the helicopter hovers above.

Here one of the crew hangs right out of the chopper, looking for the elusive fugitive.

Unfortunately, we never did get to see if an arrest was made. Notch up another day in the exciting life of Port Elizabeth's crimefighters!

Skywatch Friday #4

Silver Falcons Aerobatics team in formation turn
.....And now for something completely different.
One night I had been working in Cape St Francis, and only finished at about 10pm. As I was driving back to Port Elizabrth (about an hour away) I looked up and saw the most wonderful sky. I didn't have a camera with me, so I looked and looked and tried to remember as much detail and atmosphere as I could. When I got home, I was so inspired that my tiredness evaporated, and I rushed to paint it as I remembered it. The stars really did look as if they were sprinkled on purple velvet, in the gap between the clouds.
This is one of my favourite paintings, sadly it went missing from a gallery where it was being exhibited. To this day, we don't know if it was stolen from the gallery, or fell off the back of the bakkie (truck) when my assistant collected my paintings.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Newspaper House

This is where I will be going later today, to pay my newspaper subscription. It is called Newspaper House, and is home to the Eastern Province Herald which was Established in 1845. It is right in the heart of old Port Elizabeth, next to the Market square where the City Hall overlooks Main Street (now called Govan Mbeki Ave, after the late father of our current president, Thabo Mbeki.)

This is the view of the back of the building, showing the newer sections that were added on as the Newpaper business expanded. On the right is part of the old Post Office Building, which is the same one you see Max standing in front of in yesterday's post. Click if you need to see it bigger.

I used to dread having to go to this part of town, it was practically a no-go area unless you were some sort of masochist who enjoyed being mugged, while your car was being broken into.

Thankfully that situation is changing fast, and it is a treat to be able to go back there and feel safe while wandering around amongst these lovely old buildings.

A huge urban renewal project is underway, the streets are being patrolled, and the citzens of PE are taking our city centre back from the criminals who used to treat it as their own personal turf!

These pictures show how the market square looked at the beginning of last Century, and as it looks today. A real mess at the moment, but the construction is a good sign that our Town Council is committed to maintaining this area and not letting it continue to decay.
To the left is the City Hall, Newspaper House is the furthest one, in the centre of the picture, to the left of the streetlight. And to the right of it is the Feathermarket Hall, which Max wrote about recently in his Ostrich post. The golden coloured building on the far right is the beautiful Main Library Building .