Saturday, June 28, 2008

sunrise, sunset

When I took the 'trick photo' for yesterday's Skywatch, the view that initially attracted me and prompted me to run home to fetch my camera was this.....

I had strolled across to collect some documents from a friend who lives nearby. They have awesome views down Albany Road and across the bay, and the mist across the water with a watery sun struggling through and turning the water to a mirror was amazing. It had already changed quite a bit by the time I got back, but it was still quite striking. If you look really closely you will see a ship floating on the horizon.

This is the same road where there was a burst water pipe last week, and when I went to photograph it, the same mirror effect was happening over the sea. Cars splashed through the flood while municipal workers frantically tried to stem the flow.

I don't know why I should expect it, since it is the same optical effect operating in both cases, but I always somehow feel that you should be able to see when you are looking at a sunrise or a sunset, but in fact it seems to be impossible, unless you happen to know from the landmarks whether you are looking towards the East or West at the time. This was sunset of couple of weeks ago, again looking across Albany Road.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who helped with sourcing Bosphorus photos. I have received some lovely ones from people all over the world, another indication of how awesome people in blogland are!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Skywatch .... super-dooper street light

A REALLY bright street light!
I am appealing for help with sourcing photos that I can use as reference for a painting of the Bosphorus Bridge, that I have been commissioned to do. If you can help, please drop me an e-mail ..... sueatelgeckodotcodotza
Tom at Wiggers world will link you to lots of really cool Skywatch pix. If you have time, go and meet some lovely people around the world.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

rum and raisins

The door opens and a querullous voice issues down the passage...

"Sue, my back is killing me, I need raisins."

I start to explain.... again.... that raisins are not a cure for backache. Backache is a very normal and common aspect of aging, and eating raisins will not help it.

The voice rises several decibels... "I KNOW that raisins help it, and I have been asking for raisins for 3 WEEKS NOW!"

"Dad, you have been asking for raisins for 2 days, and Max bought a large bag yesterday."

..."splutter splutter.... well I didn't know that!"

Here they are....

I try to keep calm, although inside I am quivering like jelly, pity there isn't any drink in the house, I bet a large neat RUM would be really good right now!

Sometimes all you can do is see the funny side, and from now on, I know the prescription to use when anyone complains of aches and pains... instead of raisin' my blood pressure, I will run for the raisins!
Thank goodness for aquarobics and heated swimming pools... breathe in.... breathe out... relax...
I'm off to escape for a couple of hours,

the heated pool, you didn't REALLY think I would show all us large geriatrics in our costumes??!!

cheers for now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bosphorus Bridge pix?

Hi, I have been commissioned to do a painting for the birthday of a Turkish gentleman. It must be of the bridge over the Bosphorus. I found 2 tiny ones on wikipedia, but they are not big enough to paint from. Can anyone in blogland help? (Of course, in a perfect world, I'd just hop on a plane and use the excuse to go there myself, but for many reasons, that can't happen... )

For one thing there is the money thing.... and then there is the fact that I am currently trapped in a situation where i have to look after my father.... this sounds really mean, and I hate the fact that looking after him feels like a real unwelcome duty to me and not an act of devoted love, but if you had an idea of what a cantankerous, manipulative, selfish and demanding person he is, you might understand that this is not a task to be undertaken joyfully, relishing the last bits of time spent with an old man. (He is 90 now and says he hopes to go on for at least another 10 years.... heaven help us!)

It is amazing how one person can change the atmosphere of a place for all the others who enter it. I have often seen it in workplaces, where one sulky or manipulative person causes the whole office to be a tense place. Remove them and the whole place feels lighter, happier, more harmonious. Sadly my father is one of those people, and our normally happy and loving home transforms into a tense and stressful place as soon as he arrives.

So rather than delighting in an opportunity to spend treasured time with a parent, instead it is an agony of constant dancing on eggshells to avoid yet another pointless confrontation over his irrational and unreasonable demands. I'd love to excuse him by saying he is old and losing his mind but he has been like this throughout my life, so it basically just boils down to the fact that he is an unpleasant person, who makes my home feel like a prison. And instead of cherishing time with him, I am counting the seconds till he leaves, and I can wake up and walk around my house without a knot in my stomach. And Max and I can go back to enjoying quiet , relaxing and harmonious evenings together.

Even though Max is very supportive about all this, and never gives me reason to feel that it is just my problem... (in fact he often bales in and deals with situations when I am struggling to cope) I still feel guilty, somehow, that he has to work so hard to earn enough to not only support us, but my father too. And that he has to come home to all the stress, and unpleasantness. I am not even talking about the revolting bathroom habits etc here, because I quite understand that when one is old, nappies might be neccesary etc, although waking up to the thankless task of cleaning a house that smells like the local sewer due to an accident in the night is also not my first choice of how to start the week!! But I am talking about the horrible and unneccesary atmosphere created by a mean personality. It just seems unfair that Max has to come home to all this, when it is not even his father!

What a sad legacy, to go through life and look back at the end to discover that the only impact you have made on the planet, and the people around you, was a negative one...... that when you are finally gone, the overwhelming feeling will not be one of loss, but of relief.

When I mentioned my reservations about dad coming to stay recently, Tom left a comment "Good luck with your Dad... I have a soft spot for Jane's old mum.... it's a swamp at the bottom of the garden :O)"

hehe, I must admit, I am driving past wetlands with fresh eyes lately!

Having been brought up on many old cliches, not the least of which was the one that goes "if you haven't got something nice to say, don't say anything at all...", I have agonised about whether to post this, or just let the writing of it be a pressure release valve, and hit the delete button. But this blog is a personal space, and this particular struggle is part of my life, so I decided to post it. Maybe someone else is struggling with similar issues and beating themselves up too, about the whole thing of being expected to love and honour your parents, when they have basically gone through life giving you every reason to dislike and disrespect them. And just knowing that someone else also battles with this might make them feel better, so here goes.........

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Spa---ring partners

Ok, I promised to tell you a bit about my day of being pampered on Thursday.

My friend Julie fetched me at 9am, and off we went to Addo. This is a little farming village about 70km from PE. It is better known for the Addo Elephant park nearby, but it is actually a citrus growing area on fertile soils fed by the Sunday's River.

On the way we went past the Swartkops River mouth, with the little village of Amsterdamhoek nestling on the river banks.

The lighting as the sun struggled to make an impact on the cold and bleak day was stunning, and Julie could see I was itching to take photos, so she very patiently stopped on the side of the freeway so i could do my she waits in Ndlovu (her new monster car, appropriately named... it means Elephant in the local Xhosa language, but what a great ride!)

As you can see, it was a really sombre day, but this is on the sea side of the freeway, and you can just see the line of buildings along the shore, with the sandbanks in front of them that shows the position of River mouth.

looking inland is the Swartkops Estuary and behind it the mountains where Uitenhage lies (famous as the home of Audi and Volkswagen South Africa). There is even a glimmer of blue sky!

We arrived at the Spa to this wonderful welcoming sight....

It was on a farm in Addo that Suzette Meyer had the vision of setting up a health spa. She trained as a beauty therapist, and then set about modifying the old farm house and building the Resort. She is a very talented lady, and has created a delightful place with a really welcoming, relaxing ambience.

(Here is Julie, seated on the front patio, with Suzette on the right. )
One of the things about building on an established farm is that there are already some wonderful old trees, like this magnificent Tipiana Tipu, which give is such a settled, peaceful atmosphere.

We started of with a nice hot cup of coffee on the front patio, overlooking the lovely gardens.

As you can see from our attire, it was still pretty cold!

The spa has been constructed around a gravelled courtyard, with the reception area and all the treatment rooms and in the old farmhouse along the front, and then surrounding it at the back are the Jaccuzzi, the gymnasium and some outdoor chalets for accomodation.

Then off we went to our respective treatment rooms, and wafted off onto clouds of bliss as we underwent all sorts of massages, facials, body wraps, Vichy showers, moisturising masques etc. By the time lunchtime arrived, we were glowing gently and feeling decidedly mellow!

We ended a delightful treat with lunch on the patio, and then headed for home.

And as a bonus, there is an orange orchard along the driveway. I bet there are not many Spas in the world where you are invited to pick your own oranges as you leave!

Thanks for the treat Jules.... it was wonderful!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Skywatch errr Thursday... or "Can't this woman ever get it right?"

I could literally fill my whole google upload allocation on sunrises and sunsets I have seen this week, it has been so beautiful, and so difficult to choose. Anyway eventually I settled on two, this one, of the sun rising through the little gap between the Church Manse and the Bed and Breakfast in St Phillips Street......

......and this one that I took this morning. Max spotted the body surfer in the clouds, whooshing down from the top right towards the church.

And as a tailpiece.... hehe..... I REST MY CASE!

2 posts ago I wrote about the perversity of cats for insisting on drinking from the oddest places in favour of their lovingly filled kitty bowls. I had no sooner hit the publish button, when I spotted Fergussen on our front steps....

I still want to tell you all about the trip to the spa, but it is SOOOOO tiring being pampered, so I will do it tomorrow, hehe! Cheers.

(To see more of Skywatch, go and visit our charming and dedicated host Tom.)

Variety is the spice of life

I adore living in Port Elizabeth. You have to dress in layers here, like an onion that can peel or put on layers as necessary. Most of the time the bay looks blue and serene like this (taken on Thursday last week) and even though it is mid winter, you are running around in a T-shirt.

Then you wake up to amazing sunrises... with the promise of an interesting partly cloudy day. It is windy but pleasant... but it could go either way, so you carry a jacket around just in case.....

And then suddenly you find this...(taken yesterday morning)

And you pile on a few more layers, jersey, hat, scarf...

If you are chicken, you just stay in the car to enjoy the views! I must admit, I adore winter, so for me the grey is a fabulous change from all the clear blue skies. Bring it on!!!

And now (in the immortal words of Monty Python) for something completely different....

I am about to be SPOILED! Later this morning my friend Julie is picking me up and taking me to Casa Mia a wonderful health spa in Addo for a day of pampering, facials, massages and possibly a jaccuzzi (although, since today looks pretty much like yesterday, and the jaccuzzi is outdoors, the jury is still out on that one!)

here we are at Casa Mia a couple of years ago, doing a session of African drumming. I am in pinkstripes and Julie is to my right in the photo (left in reality!)

No sleeveless tops today, that's for sure! YAY.... I shall return tonight glowing, and wafting along on a cloud of bliss..... Don't fancy poor Max's chances of me climbing off the cloud and cooking dinner, hehe... but since take-aways are a thing of the past chez farty, (see his post on heart issues!) I guess it's going to be re-heated leftovers.... mmmm bean curry again!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dogs have owners, cats have staff......

Appropriately enough, this black cat lives at my favourite art supplier, Chat Noir, although he is not the original black cat after which it was named.

I was tickled to see him lapping from this puddle on the roadside, because my cats tend to do the same thing. No matter how careful I am to make sure there is fresh water in their bowl, they will always choose to drink from some other place.

Fergie and Felicity both love jumping into the shower and bath after we have finished, and lapping the droplets around the drain. They will drink the green water from our garden water feature, and when we lived in our old house, the cats all contorted themselves in amazing ways to reach down and lap the swimming pool water, and the fish pond water, rather than drinking from their bowls. It makes no difference if I use filter water or tap water.

I guess the bottom line is, cats are perverse creatures, and if you are one of their willing slaves, you just have to accept that!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Skywatch - skylight

The skylight of one of our favourite restaurants, 34 degrees South, at the Boardswalk Complex on the beachfront. ......

And to see it in its context.....

Here it is ...... the blue roofed building on the right. On the left is the floating bandstand, where jazz is often played over weekends. Sitting on the deck, looking out over the lake and enjoying good music, while eating great seafood, what a treat! If you want to see what it looks like inside, we did a couple of posts on it in the last few days over on Port Elizabeth Daily Photo.

I am flying under the radar here, I love Skywatch Friday, but won't get a chance to visit, as I like to, if I participate. So I am posting some pix, but not linking to Mr Linky this time. However, if you do have time to visit some friendly people and enjoy their wonderful sky shots, check out the links at Tom's place!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Enough is Enough

This is the slogan of a movement called the Million Man March, held in Tswane (formerly Pretoria ) yesterday. It is an anti crime initiative, led by comedian and actor Desmond Dube, who was inspired to arrange the event after a neighbour, Bashimane Mofokeng, was killed in a hijacking.

The idea is to mobilise citizens across the country to stand up and be counted, and make a statement to both the Government and the criminals (often one and the same...more about that later) that the people of South Africa have had enough!
Here is the mission statement of the MMM movement:

The Million Man March is an anti-crime initiative formed as a direct response to the unacceptable levels of crime in South Africa.
The March aims to:

  • Unite all South Africans against crime, crime can only be defeated if confronted with a collective will, a combined commitment and a united plan of action.The March endeavours to empower people who feel helpless, vulnerable and alone by giving them a specific time and place to join together with others, and provide them with a voice against that which they fear the most.
  • The March will call on the Government of the Republic of South Africa to act decisively on the crisis of crime in South Africa. Urgent attention needs to be given to combating crime, more resources need to be allocated to our police, with efficient mechanisms put in place to combat corruption.
  • Law abiding citizens have the constitutional right to have an efficient justice system to support them. We want to call on the people of South Africa to recognise that we are part of the solution. We call on each and every individual to take responsibility of his or her actions.
  • We aim to challenge the perceptions that our society have about crime and use this opportunity to engage government, business, religious groups and individuals that this is the platform to launch and extensive and aggressive MORAL REGENERATION PROGRAMME.
  • Remind one another that there is a lot to celebrate about our country and need to make sure that the negativity of crime does not take away from all the good that has been accomplished.
  • The integrity of the march is dependent on the peacefulness of its nature. It is scheduled and planned to take place within the boundaries of the law.
  • This march is for all citizens of South Africa who feel passionate about making a positive contribution towards the country, it will not be used as a platform to advance political or financial gain.

The march took place yesterday, and although the goal of a million marchers was not reached, a large number of people did participate, and it was a peaceful event. A memorandum was handed over to Minister Balfour, who received it on behalf of Government. ..... somewhat ironical, since this is the Minister of Correctional Services (the new euphamism for Prisons) who, in response to overcrowding in prisons, resorted to a special remission of sentences, whereby all offenders irrespective of their sentences or offences got 6 months off their sentences. This trivialized the sentences of the courts and was a slap in the face of victims of crime.

Placards saying "where is Mbeki" emphasised the weak leadership this Government has suffered under. From the start of his Presidency, Thabo Mbeki has been involving himself in international diplomacy, at the expense of his own country. Many are deeply outraged that our taxes are used to fund his little jaunts around the world in the Presidential jet, so that he can angle for International glory and a crack at the top spot in the UN, while back home, the country spirals out of control on many levels.

My advice to anyone who considers offering him any leadership post after his term is over would be... DON'T do it! His so called 'quiet diplomacy' in Zimbabwe basically translates into "Mugabe is my buddy so keep your hands off him and leave him to finish the plundering of his country in peace". Every important crisis here is met with "crisis, what crisis?" His silence over the recent spate of Xenophobic killings and attacks on foreigners is nothing short of criminal, weeks went by before he issued a lame statement, and not once did he bother to show his face at any of the hot spots or personally intervene to show how unacceptable it is.

However, I digress, sorry, at the moment the word Mbeki is a bit like a red rag to a bull, I am outraged by his silence on so many critical issues in his own country, and his total lack of concern over the suffering and deaths of people here. And I assure you this is not just me ranting about the ludicrous lack of leadership, check out these cartoons...

To me the statement at yesterday's rally that really hit home hard, and for which I want to applaud Desmond Dube wildly and loudly is the one he made to the effect that "crime is not just when someone holds a knife to you and threatens you. Crime is someone taking money from an institution and failing to provide services to that institution."

Yes Desmond, you hit the nail firmly on the head. We have become so conditioned to extreme levels of violent crime in this country, that we sometimes fail to even see day to day dishonesty and lack of integrity as crime any more, and the threshhold of what is acceptable keeps sliding further and further along the continuum from petty to extreme crime.

But every civil servant or Cabinet Minister who receives a salary at the end of each month, and fails to do the job for which they are being paid, is STEALING from the tax payers who employ them.

Well Done Desmond for highlighting this fact! I salute you for this initiative, for using your celebrity status to get the attention of the nation, and for giving so freely of your time and money to organise this initiative.

(Going back to the irony that it was Minister Balfour who was sent by Government to receive the anti-crime memorandum, it is Ngconde Balfour, the Minister of Correctional Services, who said that 738 members of his department had been suspended on full pay in the 2005/6 financial year, costing the taxpayer over R34-million!!!)

I hope the MMM initiative will continue to snowball, and that ordinary citzens who are tired of being victims of crime will stand together and clearly let the criminals inside and outside of Government know that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

reflections on flying

On one of his visits to PE, our son chartered a Cessna 172 and took us for a flip down the coast to go whale watching. We didn't see any whales, but it was still really beautiful up there. I love this shot of the sea reflected under the plane's wing.
We also got some interesting angles on the lighthouse at Cape Recife, which was obviously a delight for my little inner child who still squeals with excitement when spotting cool stuff like that! (If you want to see more of the lighthouse, I have been featuring it in a series of posts on Port Elizabeth Daily Photo.) And best of all, it is only the second time I have been up in a light aircraft that I didn't disgrace myself by puking my heart out. (Although I must confess we didn't land a minute too soon.....) Motion sickness is a dreadful pain for someone who is a travel/speed freak who adores flying and aerial photography!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Skywatch ...errrr....Saturday

Ok, so I missed the boat a bit, but you know how the old cliche goes, better late than...

and hopefully this sunrise will bring a smile to your dial like it did to mine when I saw it from the dining room window recently.

Links to more awesome skies over at Tom's Place

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

bizarre topiary

There is a gardener at Malealea in Lesotho, who delights in trimming the bushes into these odd little drum shapes.... they provide a humorous diversion on an early morning stroll.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

clicketty clack down memory lane

I love train travel. In Harare, where I grew up, and Port Elizabeth where we have lived for the past 30 years, there are no suburban trains. They have never been a part of our daily lives. So a ride on a train has always been a special event, and brings back so many memories for me.

The circus used to arrive in town on a train, and somewhere in one of the family photo albums are a couple of black and white photos of my sister and I as little girls, greeting the elephants at the station. (Obviously, as an adult, I have different views about all that, and I hate to see performing animals in captivity, but I have to admit, as a child it was magic! )

I went to University in Pietermaritzburg. It was a two day journey by train, as the line didn't go straight South through Beit Bridge at that time. (The direct line was only constructed as an emergency measure during the Zimbabwe civil war, when South Africa was the only country that did not apply sanctions, and a direct link was needed for sanctions-busting fuel and other vital supplies.) So I used to travel by steam or diesel train SW through Bulawayo and into Botswana. Then we would turn SE to Johannesburg. There we would swap onto an electric train to head East for the coast. Those student journeys were great fun, but I did learn one important lesson................. If you are sleeping overnight on a steam driven train, do not lie with your head facing the window, and the window open! I woke up in the morning with my mouth feeling all gritty and crunchy, and when my friends saw me they fell about laughing. I looked in the mirror, and my face was pitch black except for white rings around my eyes. The soot had blown in during the night, and it was a real mission to wash it off!

In Port Elizabeth, there is a narrow gauge line which runs through the outlying farming areas, Westwards towards the Langkloof. For as long as I can remember, (which admittedly is getting shorter by the day, I seem to have the memory span of a gnat these days!) there has been a steam train running on this line as far as Loerie, over weekends, taking passengers for a little jaunt into the country for lunch and back. It is called the Apple Express, and we first went on it for our son's third birthday, my mom was visiting from East London and came with us. The kids adored her, and had a ball on the train. I still remember it as one of those special memorable days that you look back on fondly.

Sadly the beautiful steam engines like this one, called Granny Smith after the apples she used to transport, are in serious need of TLC, and the train is currently being pulled by a diesel engine until they can be renovated.

My sister's family used to visit us regularly from Harare, and one year we realised that their kids had never been on a train. So we arranged to travel from the lovely old Victorian station in PE, which had been freshly restored and had lovely pictures of Port Elizabeth places of interest on the walls, to the nearby town of Uitenhage, and Max, who does not share my love of train travel, was happy to give it a miss, and would drive Dave's car and meet us at the station in Uitenhage.

He was delighted at the opportunity to drive the fancy new Merc, and sat there behind the wheel feeling very good. Then, looking left and right in a Mr Bean-like fashion to make sure he was being admired in the fancy car, he tried to pull out of the parking bay. At this point, things started going pear shaped, because he couldn't get the car to budge. It had a fancy foot operated handbrake, which Dave had forgotten to show him. He sat there at PE station stressing about not getting there to meet us, but luckily, setting aside his usual aversion to reading handbooks, he found the manual in the cubbyhole. Thus enlightened, he set off to fetch us! In the meantime, the 5 cousins (our two and their 3) were having a ball, and to be honest I must confess we adults didn't do badly either, we loved it. I imagine those of you who spend hours commuting every day must think this is insane, but we adored the novelty of it.

Train travel in South Africa is not what it used to be, in fact in Capetown and Johannesburg you take your life into your hands if you have to travel on the commuter trains. Which brings us to this photo, taken a couple of weeks ago, at the PE Station. We took our pepper spray and went to check it out, because it is in a part of town that few people go to anymore due to the poor security situation. It was a pleasant surprise, the station still looks cool, and we had a great time wandering around taking pix for our PE Daily Photo blog. But I don't know when we will ever get a chance to travel by train again, perhaps in Europe, if we ever manage to get there!