Turning the Page

by Penny M

Have you ever read a book, got right to the end and been reluctant to turn the page? I have. Or perhaps you’ve waited through an entire movie for ‘the kiss’ until you read the words THE END and they haven’t. You rewind to make sure you didn’t miss something. ‘That’s it! I mean really, that’s it!’ How many good reads ran out of pages in the middle of your imaginings?

Now the bookmark of eternity is stuck in the last chapter of my life and I’m scared. I don’t want to find that the ‘ink has dried’ on the scribblings of friends; that my children have skipped a few chapters; that my places of significance have been demolished and skyscrapers of progress have left my life hanging in the balance sheets of heaven.

I don’t want to have to miss the chapter where I find my ‘prince’, or end before the kiss. Earthly resources ooze through the hands of planet thieves, yet I’m powerless to steal one more moment of the unearthly. The landscape of my comfort has an expiry date but let that day remain, for now, a secret on God’s lips.

My heart skips and stops in an effort to stave off the inevitable but my journal is relentless and I must turn over. Incredibly, my future spans the blank screen, with another day. The outline is patchy and uncertain, ready for hope that might cross the seas to where, one year soon, my knight might make my day and my grandchildren will read my stories.


Vodka, Russian Style …

By Sue Trollip

There’s an art to drinking vodka the Russian way with its rigid rituals. Shots must be imbibed in odd numbers. You may not have two shots then go home. You can have one, or three, or five … seven … nine …

If you follow the five steps below, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have no hangover. I learned it from a Russian who spurns the concept of mixing vodka with anything and flavoured vodka is apparently also alien to the Russian heart.1

It is not negotiable that vodka must be drunk as a shot; downed in one mouthful. No sipping is allowed. If you’ve tried drinking different vodkas, you too will understand the merit of Stolichnaya or Pravda and its vast difference from the likes of those costing under R50. It’s like comparing a Tazz to a Lamborghini.

There are closely followed customs when drinking the Russian way.

Step 1: Each shot must be preceded by something to line the stomach. Russian food is often covered in sour cream or mayonnaise, which no doubt assists with the coating, but a few mouthfuls of blini or soup will do.

Step 2: A toast is mandatory, as is the clinking of glasses.

Step 3: GULP! Warning: Do not inhale as you drink, it burns.

Step 4: Pop a pickle into your mouth and chew, or eat or sniff a slice of rye bread. It’s odd, but all these recommendations work, though the pickle is my personal favourite. (I don’t particularly like pickles but they go perfectly with a giggle inducing shot of vodka.)2

Step 5: Laugh loudly. Let the conversation resume. Wait 5 minutes and repeat. For shot three, which is a must if you’ve had number two, the wait is about 15 minutes. Only the first two are drunk in fairly quick succession.

Driving is not recommended.

If you don’t follow all the directions above there’s a guarantee that when you wake in the morning you’ll feel somewhat like a hedgehog in the fog.

No degrees are conferred, but I do think it’s important to be able to say, “I drank vodka like a Russian, once”, or maybe twice …

za zdarovye!

Green Leather, Red Wine … and Tea

By Susan Roberts

Some years ago in Hilton, I overheard a woman complaining about the year-round dampness in the KZN Midlands, and what it did to the contents of her wardrobe.

“It doesn’t matter what colour your leather shoes are when you put them into the cupboard,” she said. “They’re always green when you take them out.”

I have a cupboard like that too, except that I don’t live in Hilton. I live in Durban, where the damp is not caused by the rain and mist, but by the perpetual, melting humidity.

In the corner of my bedroom stands a traditional piece of Afrikaner cottage furniture– a Jonkmanskas, I think it’s called. Chest high and hand-made from Oregon pine, it has two ill-fitting drawers at the top and slanted tongue-and-groove inserts on the rickety doors below. I bought it in Johannesburg about thirty years ago, and it’s been a jolly useful piece of furniture in many homes I have lived in around the country, no matter which room it lands up in.

Until I settled in Durban, that is. When I moved into my cottage, the only place the cupboard fitted was the bedroom, but I couldn’t use it for clothing, especially not anything made of leather. Chameleon-like, my belts, shoes and handbags all changed by degrees into various shades of green as they adapted to their damp surroundings. No, the clothing had to find a home in another room. It seemed the ultimate irony to have a whole cupboard standing empty in a tiny bedroom in a cramped cottage. Until the solution hit me: what a perfect place to store wine! It’s like a miniature cellar: cool, damp, dark, and spacious.

A decade or so ago I started collecting red wine. Nothing too fancy; just a few choice bottles gathered during the year. These were squirreled away for my annual birthday dinner but, generous guests being what they are, many brought wine with them and some of my bottles lay resting for a few years longer than was good for their contents. Add to this the fact that my wine-rack resided on top of a cupboard in my hot kitchen and … Well, you can see where this is going. Hot air rises, remember? So every birthday dinner I’d have to open two or three bottles of vinegar before a palatable wine was unearthed. I am pleased to report that since the migration of my wine collection to the mini-cellar in the bedroom, it’s been a while since I had one of those parties.

I could make jokes here about sleepwalking to the cellar and back in the middle of the night – except that in my house it would be more like astro-travelling since my bedroom is so small that I don’t even need to leave my bed when I need something to drink ….

Whoa, stop right there! I can just imagine readers thinking, “Uh-oh, typical writer – bottle in one hand, pen in the other.”

Actually, the truth is sadder than that. I have a kettle on the other side of my bed. I believe that morning tea should be served to one in bed, and since there’s no-one to do that for me (years of trying to train my cats and slumbering boyfriends have proved fruitless), the only solution is to have my tea-making apparatus next to the bed, and make it

So how does this relate to the wine? It doesn’t. Once again I have managed to write a completely frivolous, meaningless blog about nothing. You’ve read through all that and I’m not even a wine expert. Actually, I’m a peasant when it comes to wine. I know nothing about it beyond my tiny collection, but I refuse to let wine connoisseurs make me feel stupid. I mean, does anyone raise an eyebrow if a drinker of tea has no idea how his tannin-and-caffeine tipple came to be in his hand? No. All that matters is that he likes the taste of it. And so it should be with wine.

Green leather, red wine, and tea. So where did all the leather go? Well, that’s another story …


Writers’ Deluge

by Michelle Dennison AWA Julianne Alcott

Billions of words have been written about writers’ block. That discouraging, debilitating, paralysing ailment that causes the victim to spend hours staring at a blank screen or piece of paper.

I, unfortunately, am suffering from the opposite condition. My creative juices just won’t stop flowing. Ideas dart around my mind like bats on acid. Everything around me sparks my imagination. Characters come alive, and hammer at the inside of my head, trying to get out and live!

I wouldn’t be surprised if words came pouring out my ears. I just can’t write things down fast enough. This sounds like an idea situation for a writer, so why am I so discouraged? As usual, the mundane and urgent things in life get in the way.

My car won’t start …

This means time spent at the battery place, on the phone to the immobiliser people, long conversations with the mechanic and the helpful neighbour. Unexpected journeys up the hill to get the battery fired up again (although I am told that my battery is in full health).

We won’t dwell on housework, magazine-folding, envelope addressing, ironing, sorting out important papers and getting my phone through the RICA process.

At the moment, I am sitting at the car tire place, frantically scribbling, as information about wheel balancing and road insurance float around me. I am inspired to write this blog, and also to capture every detail of books one to three in the new series I am writing.

And then I run out of paper …

You’ve got to laugh!

by Penny M

“A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, …” Proverbs 17:22 (Amplified Bible)

“Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.” Henry Ward Beecher

Have you ever tried to stay cross or sad when fun tickles your endorphins into frenzy? A giggle can reduce blood pressure, hamper consequences of stress, heal a hurt, relax a relationship and generally make us feel better. Besides giving your belly a workout, a boost of mirth can pep your immune system. So, I’d say, ‘God knows what’s right for us.’

“If you have a sense of humour, you can get through anything.” Thus said my father, on one wise day. “You need to learn to laugh at yourself.” This adage weakened with maturity, both his and mine.

My friend and I teetered on the edge of hilarity during a recent visit to the Ice Rink. The show began before the show began when a gaggle of ‘old ducks’ deliberated at the bottom of a flight of rubberised steps without a railing for support. A performance ensued which might have rocked comedy junkies but had us frozen in our seats, guts bungee-jumping in horror as, one by one, the featherless birds assailed thrilling heights with walking sticks, balancing tricks and tickers without tickles. One wonders at the intent of the person who booked their perches so far above the ice; an ingenious attempt to reduce overcrowding perhaps. I think we could be forgiven for not rushing to their aid.

“Even if there is nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit.” Author Unknown

There are downsides to wit; jokes can flirt with cruelty and grief; derision and mockery sit on heaps of trembling lips and wet cheeks; broken hearts find no fun in the centre of attraction; childhood taunts bring cheer to none but the ghosts of fear in adult minds.

Just as you can talk at or talk to, you can laugh at or laugh with. Etiquette demands that you gauge your audience and your underwear before you chuckle in public.

I guess it all comes down to who foots the bill for your meds. As long as you can afford it, you’ve got to laugh!