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Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Passage of Time

Faster than the blink of an eye, 2011 has come and gone – well, almost. In a little over 12 hours (at the time of writing) we will be in a whole new year. It is unfortunate that Time has the habit of running out on us – sometimes quicker than we would like it to. Indeed, always quicker than we would like it to. Time is something that each of us is given at birth. It is a commodity that, if wisely used can appear to stretch out. Time appears to pass more slowly the younger we are. When we are in the autumn of our years it passes all too quickly. I recall reading somewhere, sometime, that some part of the brain compares the passage of Time with the total length of Time we have experienced since birth. I guess that makes sense. I am now at the age where I have stopped counting my birthdays – I merely try to guess how many I have remaining. I recall that in my youth I often wondered whether I would be alive to experience life in the 21st century – well, I have now lived through eleven years of it.

2011 has seen time run out for a number of individuals whom I personally considered evil – Osama bin Laden, Gaddafi, Kim Jong-Il are the three that come to mind. There are plenty more evil leaders still hanging on to Time – Mugabe immediately comes to mind - he can’t have much Time remaining in his coffers. And there’s that chap in Syria, what’s his name? It would be nice to be a god and to be able to pick out Earth’s most evil characters and just snuff out their candle. It doesn’t work that way though, does it?  

What about the celebrities who passed to the other side during the passage of 2011? There were actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Dana Wynter and Jane Russell, Apple founder Steve Jobs, actors Peter Falk and Pete Postlethwaite, boxer Joe Frazier, IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon and Betty Ford, widow of former president Gerald Ford. The list goes on of course, and I have named only a fraction of many celebrities who are no longer with us.

The year has not passed without its disappointments of course, the greatest of them being that of failing to find a new owner for the farm. We thought we’d sold it just a few weeks ago (see “Sold the farm – whoopeeeee!” blog) and at a good price – even shook hands, but then their bank refused or at any rate failed to come up with the money. We had hoped to have been celebrating tomorrow in North Carolina but – well, it just wasn’t our Time. So what now? First and foremost I want to get Liz to Louisiana to her daughter’s. I may have to beg, borrow or steal the money for her ticket (any takers?). She actually has a job offer in NC right now, but will have to turn it down. Meanwhile I am building up a valuable potential client base on the East Coast. Liz will be able to spend the time, until my eventual arrival, changing her name and applying for a spousal visa for myself. And me? Well I’ll let you know tomorrow – if I have the Time.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Internet dating

Exactly ten years ago today I received an email that included the following script

“Just came across your ad. Looks good!! Sorry, I just need someone to chat with once in a while….. Sorry. Hope you will email me back and we can have the opportunity to learn one another. Just a thought really!! Hope to hear soon. Me.”

Having been separated from my first wife for more than ten years, I had placed an ad in personals – not wishing to end up a lonely old man like my father had, I had been actively engaged in looking for a soul mate for quite a while. A few months later Liz flew to South Africa and we have been together since then. In May 2005 we were married, and in all the time we have been together have not had one fight. I am sharing this story to illustrate that it is possible to find one’s soul mate on the Internet. It’s all about positive thinking and maybe a little luck.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pre-Christian Christmas

One of the things that the elders of the Christian churches have taken great pains not to tell us is that the season that we have come to know as Christmas was, in fact, celebrated as a festival many years before Christianity was invented. It is no coincidence that Christmas falls at the time of year that it does, for the Northern hemisphere's winter solstice is an annual event that pre-dates today's organized religions. This is the time of year when humans saw the Sun at its lowest point in the sky, the time of year when the trees had lost all of their leaves, and the fields were barren. The solstice was celebrated in different ways, but the common theme that extends over many different cultures and periods is that of the Mother Goddess who, known by one of her many names, gave birth to the Sun itself, a theme that was adopted and adapted by the early Christian elders.

Many of the rituals associated with the Winter solstice have been embraced by the new religion. Fearing that the light of the Sun would never return, some of the Northern cultures lit great bonfires and burnt Yule logs. They hung burning torches from the trees, and decorated their homes with evergreen branches in order to persuade the apparently dead deciduous trees to grow again. It was a traditional season to give hospitality to family, friends and even strangers. Sadly this has given way to the commercialized money-making season that has come to replace the original reasons for the festival. This feasting was originally an annual magical ritual held to guarantee good harvests in the following year.

May I wish all my readers a prosperous 2012.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Silly Season

Welcome to the annual South African silly season. The season when all (well, most!) of South Africa closes down for three or four weeks. I thought it appropriate to write today about how the season regularly, without fail, lets down the general public by allowing supermarkets to run out of stock. But first, let me tell you about our local supermarkets.

Liz and I have this small farm in a locality called Martindale. We don’t actually farm, but rather use it as a lifestyle home. The house is huge and has been here for several generations – it started out before WWll as a shop on the corner of the dirt road that goes up to Peddie, and has been added to from time to time by different owners. Our closest supermarkets are either in Grahamstown or Port Alfred, each about 38kms away from here. It used to be that during the school holidays we would shop in G’town and during the annual Arts Festival we would choose PA. In each case this was to avoid the crowds. The supermarket we most often use has always been dictated by its demographics, but since the opening of the new Rosehill Mall on the road out of Port Alfred to Port Elizabeth, we have been more and more using the Super Spar there. It’s cleaner, the aisles are wider, and it is altogether a more pleasant place to shop.

I noticed a couple of days ago when I was doing our shopping that the silly season had started. The aisles in Spar were narrower, having been lined with rows of Christmas goodies to tempt the Vaalies who are down for the season. Port Alfred, even though short on hotels, is a magnet to hundreds, if not thousands, of seasonal tourists, many of whom either own a second home down here by the sea or rent one for the season. The town will be full of big Mercedes, Beamers, Audis and dozens of 4 x 4’s for a few weeks. Forget about finding a parking space near to the town center for the period. Fortunately the new mall is out of town and has plenty of parking.

Which brings me back to stocking up the shelves. Every single year – there’s been no exception, and it happens all over the country – in the days leading up to and after New Year, you will find the supermarket shelves becoming depleted of stock. Out at the farm we are fortunate – we know what is going to happen and usually stock up before our local supermarkets put their prices up for the season. The one item I have noticed is always missing from the shelves is dog food – whether tins or dry pellets, the shelves are guaranteed to be empty by about 3rd or 4th of January, and will remain empty for several days. The silly season will end when the schools go back in mid January. Meanwhile Liz and I will mostly stay at the farm, taking in Nature, and planning our future in North Carolina.

By the way - our farm is for sale at a giveaway price. This is a chance for someone to make a metaphorical killing. Contact me for details.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Great Letdown

Well, it was too good to be true. At the time of writing, the sale of our small farm in Martindale has fallen through – all because of the banks. We have not yet given up hope,  but we have decided to accept a much lower price if the prospective purchaser still wants to buy. We have also dropped the price on all of the websites on which the farm is advertised. This is even more of a disappointment as we had arranged for the freight company to come out and requite for moving all of our goods. Ah well!

One good thing did come out of the episode though. We went through the entire house sorting out the good from the bad. Piles of books ended up being given to Headman, the local Xhosa man who does odd jobs around the farm and doubles as the preacher on Sundays. In fact he is now the new owner of such junk as old computer keyboards, modems, switches and so on. He told us in his broken English that he was going to use them to start a museum at the local farm school – maybe some good will come of them after all. The school is on church land a couple of hundred metres from our main house, and has about 12 or 14 pupils and just the one teacher. If nothing else the house is now much tidier, the walk-in storage room has been cleared of all rubbish for the first time in six years, and everything is sorted and ready for the freight movers. 

So where are we now? Liz is very depressed because the chances of her seeing her grandchildren for Christmas have fled out of the door. I, too, am somewhat depressed over the whole affair, but at the same time have to be positive. As Robert Burns once said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley”. So, where are we? The price is down and we’re doing some active marketing at a lower price as well as having one more go at the prospective purchasers. I am a firm believer of Fate. We were obviously not meant to sell the farm at the price we were asking at that particular time. There is a time in the universal scheme of things when we will sell and will relocate. A little more patience is all that is needed.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Planning the move

It has been a while since my last rendition, but not one without its happenings. Liz and I have had our smallholding on the market for the best part of three years now. As you undoubtedly know the property market has been down in the dumps since the World recession three years ago – so much for our timing! However our perseverance has, hopefully, at last paid off. We have an offer, which we have accepted, and it is now down to the banks and the lawyers.

Knowing that we will be transferring possession at the end of the year – our purchaser begins a new job close by on 1st January – means that we have little time to get our things in order. The two of us have been going through the house sorting out what we will take with us, what is to be given away, what is to be sold, and what is to be left behind. When we first decided to sell three years ago we planned to take with us all, or at least most, of our furniture. This includes a Blackwood four poster bed and two Blackwood single beds. These are the three items we will most regret leaving behind. The cost of freight is astronomical and will eat into our meager profit. However we should hit North Carolina with enough for a reliable automobile and a sizeable deposit on a house.

For the benefit of any clients that would like to continue using my services – nothing has changed. Existing clients will probably continue to receive a favored rate, but my rates will surely have to be raised to be more compliant with existing rates in the USA and UK. Our ultimate destination in NC has yet to be finalized. We had thought of Murphy, but the town is probably just a little too off the beaten track. We have been concentrating on the Lake Lure region, where there are some nice looking properties. The final destination may well depend on whether Liz is offered a job at a specific place – It’s good to be flexible. Keep watching this space and note the gradual move towards American spelling.