Friday, May 22, 2009

if you wait for life to get back to normal, you'll wait all your life!

...... So with that breathtaking realisation... I have stopped waiting, and accepted that life is a series of unplanned (and often planned, but bigger than intended) events and tasks, and so it is best to just go with the flow, do what you can, and enjoy the ride. One thing that makes it possible to survive the more hectic passages in one's life is the ability to stop and smell the roses, to see beauty all around, even if it is just stopping for a millisecond to take a photo and acknowledge the moment, before re-entering the spinning wheel.

And I guess that pretty much describes the last few weeks. I have been in "community crusader mode" on a couple of things (having left "political activist leading up to the elections" mode behind me for now!!)

One of the things at the forefront of all the others were a David and Goliath battle between us and our neighbours on the one side, and the Police Force, Public works department and Municipality on the other. Way too long to go into at this late hour, but i have mentioned it before... they wanted to build a really ugly 4 storey modern building and 50m mast on the edge of the park that we overlook, blocking our views and ruining this historic area. But by far the most serious aspect of the planned development was that part of it was to be on a portion of the park that was a historic burial ground (in the mid to late 1800s for the workers who lived here at the time, in what was called "the strangers location". I told a bit more of the story on our old PE daily photo blog last year. The developers did not believe us about the burial ground, but we made such a fuss that an archaeologist was called in to dig and sure enough, human remains and bits of coffins were found!

Max wrote copious documents for the Environmental Impact Assessment, and I even went so far as to organise an interview on National e-TV news for our local City Councillor, to protest about the fact that, despite the finding of the remains, the State seemed determined to proceed with the project.
Well I am delighted to say that this morning's paper carried an article with the good news that, due to the finding of bones in the disputed area, the project has been moved elsewhere, and our historic park is safe, for now! We will still be able to enjoy this view for some time...

The other crusade is to get our local Community Art Gallery running on a sound footing, and one of the ways of doing this is to renovate it. So I am afraid I have again donned the "chicks with power tools" mantle, and have been sanding and varnishing seemingly ENDLESS wooden floors for the last few weeks, as we had an unexpected gap in the exhibition schedule, and not enough time to fundraise and pay a professional contractor to do the job.
The walls were clad in some very drab green carpeting, and had had nails hammered in and pulled out at regular intervals for many years, so there was some major work to strip them, fill them and paint them. The floors had blue carpeting glued on them with some hideous glue that clogged up endless sheets of sandpaper.
The wooden floor was rotten in places, and as the gallery was formerly a semi-detached double storey that had adjoining walls knocked out, there were cement strips where the old walls used to be. These had to be chopped out and replaced with wooden floor boards.

This weekend we will rehang the picture rails, build a reception desk and complete the varnishing and painting, et voila, hopefully by Tuesday it will be all shipshape for the opening of our fabulous international Chinese art exhibition (I'll post some pix of that for you next week.)

We had no sooner started stripping the walls when I got an urgent call from East London to say my dad was very ill, so I dropped everything into the hands of other committee members and went down there. Sadly he had had a stroke, and was not responsive... he seemed to move his head slightly to my voice, so i think he knew i was there, but he could not talk, and his eyes were glazed. He died the following morning. He was 91, and very frail, so it was not a real shock, although even when you are expecting it, it actually does take you by surprise.
Luckily, just weeks before, my sister and her husband had come down from Zimbabwe, and we spent a lovely time with dad and Connie for his 91st birthday, and then i was there just two weeks before his death for an Art AGM, and had two lovely visits with him, so there was a sort of closure.

As he had outlived nearly all his friends and family, it was a small group who met at the Chapel in the Frail Care centre the next morning to bid him farewell. Our family is so scattered around the world, and were not able to make it, so i made an unusual request at the end of the service, and asked that everyone would remain seated so i could take a photo of the service, and send it to them, so that they too could feel as if they were there in some way, and had an opportunity to put a fullstop on the story of his life.

That is where one of the "stop and smell the roses" moments i spoke about happened. Well, not so much roses as catterpillers! The Milkwood tree in Connie's front garden had the most fascinating appearance, covered in webs from some sort of moth.


One really good thing happened because of the funeral. I have often posted in the past about my somewhat fraught relationshiop with my father, he could be unbelievably selfish, demanding and difficult. As we were supporting him for several years, I had built up a lot of anger and frustration towards him, I did my duty as a daughter, but found it hard to like him as a person. I guess all the tension and bad incidents had overshadowed any happy memories. A while ago, when he moved into the frail-care, Connie gave me a box of his family photos and books. I hung many of the photos, but could not bring myself to hang the one of him, as every time I saw it I got the old familiar knot in my stomach, and didn't want to be constantly feeling like that in my own home.

Anyway at the funeral, as his grandchildren were all unable to attend (being scattered all over the world) they e-mailed their memories of him for me to read out at the service. They had not experienced any of the drama of the last few years, and their memories were all the happy child/grandparent ones, laughing fondly at his foibles and eccentricities. Reading them out reminded me of the other side to dad, the side where there were happy memories.

At the same time, the minister, who didn't know us at all, but is a wise and gracious man, made a profound observation. He said that there is an apparent contradiction, on one hand we are "made in the image of God", and on the other we are "dust of the earth" He said the part the kids were remembering, the happy parts, were the "image of God" parts, and were to be kept for eternity. The unhappy parts, the parts that one would not want to hold on to, were the dust to dust part, best left behind with his ashes. I didn't realise the impact all this had on me until i was back home, and tidying the study last weekend. I came across the photo of dad, and, instead of the familiar tension, I felt a warm closeness. So I hung the photo on the wall with the others, and enjoy having it there. So, thanks kids, and Reverend, for restoring all my happy memories!

During all this, I had another "smell the roses" opportunity when I went to have tea with a friend who lives on top of a tall building on Brookes Hill, with what must be the very best view of the City ...... it was bliss sitting there enjoying this panoramic view while sipping coffee and talking art, thanks Basil and Esme! As you can see through the mist in the distance, our 2010 World Cup Soccer Stadium is nearing completion, and has become a major landmark in the city.

Anyway enough for now, I must try and get some sleep and be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow to continue the renovation saga! Good night.


Firefly said...

Hi Sue
So sorry to hear about your father.
On a happier note I am so glad that the whole building on the park thing has now been scrapped. Well done on your hard work. And staying on hard work, I am glad that you are blowing new life into the art gallery. When is the official reopening?

Janet said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your father but it seems that in the end you finally made peace with it all.

Good for you for stopping that park project! It's amazing how cold and callous people can be when they think they'll make a buck!

I hope your gallery opening goes as planned and all the work gets finished. Whew! You are a busy gal!! When do you find time to paint??

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,
Sorry to hear about your father. I'm glad you were able to find peace and let go the bad and remember the good.
You have been such a busy lady. So nice to see you back and look forward to seeing the next posts with all your hard work.

Laura Albertyn said...

Hi there - thanks for sharing about Grandad - lovely to read! Love you loads Laus