Do you still dream?

By Susan Roberts

Do you still dream about the passages in your old high school? Find yourself wandering up and down them as you slumber, peering into the past through half-open doors, listening to the chatter of your younger self and classmates, full of confidence, sure of taking the world by storm one day? Do you smile secretly as your ghostly self slides through walls and halls, knowing now that things didn’t work out exactly as you planned?

So do I.

Sometimes I wake up with a faint memory slipping away, and I know that I had a haunting return to the scholar I was then. And if the feeling is that strong for me, how much of it lingers in the old building itself, maybe inspiring others in a sort of morphic resonance? Is anything felt by the adolescents who currently inhabit those halls and classrooms, ripe with ideas of how they too will one day make their mark on the world? Or do they just think that their school is a creepy old haunted building?

The high school I attended in Pietermaritzburg in the late 1970s was old even then; it celebrated its centenary the year after I left. It also had a haunted classroom named in memory of a teacher who had died of Spanish Influenza in 1916. It was a small school, with only three to four hundred girls in it, but I always loved that building with its Victorian architecture, orange brickwork so distinctive of the region and era, and the smoothest, palest, most durable of wooden block floors. Wide passages and high ceilings rang to the shrieks and laughs of a bunch of girls who couldn’t wait to leave and go out into the world. Most of them, anyway.

The intimacy of such a small school meant that everyone knew everyone else’s name. In the five years that I was there, I saw prefects and seniors who excelled in all sorts of endeavours – hockey, swimming, even singing in the famous Natal Schools Choir and travelling overseas to Italy where they threw coins into Trevi Fountain in the hope of returning there one day.

I wonder if any of them ever did. I doubt it because, in each year that followed those great achievements, I saw many of our hockey heroines and swimming stars occupying menial clerical positions or serving behind local shop counters. The sinking into obscurity of house captains and overseas singers, post-school, was almost more than I could bear. Where are your dreams now, I thought as I watched them scuttle along pavements in cheap high heels, clutching fashion handbags and puffing on cigarettes, their backsides ever-widening on their dormant typist’s chairs, and in time, children clutching their skirts as they repeated the cycle of generations before them.

This made me more determined than ever to make my mark on a world that extended beyond those nurturing, promising school walls. But I didn’t match up to my dreams either. I never became the most famous actress in the world, that award-winning playwright or best-selling novelist, but something of those haunting dreams still unsettled me enough to spur me on when I picked up a pen twenty years later.

Of course, I have since realised that perhaps those other girls did fulfil their dreams. An impromptu survey during our matric year revealed that the chief ambition of 85% of the girls was to “get married and have babies” when they finished school. Of the 67 matriculants in our year, only four of us went to University, and another four became nurses. Twenty years later, at our reunion, it seemed that most of the others had achieved their ambition of getting married (some happily, some not) and having babies.

So in retrospect I’m grateful that I attended a school where all of our dreams were encouraged. It’s taken me thirty years to get my first two e-books published on Amazon, but if I can do it, so can anyone. Don’t let your dreams be forgotten. Keep alive that memory of your youthful optimism, and let it drive you forward, making your dreams reality, no matter how many years slip by. And spare a thought for the ghosts you left behind in your old school, to inspire today’s dreamers.


by Julianne Alcott (aka Michelle Dennison)It is almost October, and in thinking about what to write, I was reflecting on the year that has been.

It started with me getting divorced last October, and will end with my ex getting re-married this current October.

I had four possible relationships that started out promising, but ended in me being a  little sadder and wiser, and someone I cared about very much turned out to be the opposite of who I thought he was.

But the last 12 months haven’t been only sad…

  • I signed a contract for my first book to be published.
  • My second novel is currently being read by the publisher.
  • My little girl danced a solo in front of hundreds of people, and was amazing.
  • I made new friends.
  • I might have an opportunity to study further.

So this has been a reminder to me that that in every year there are good things and bad. Sorrows  and joys. Laughter and tears.All of them are part of life. The challenge is what we make of it.

And that reminds me of the lyrics to The Climb, sung by Miley Cyrus.

The senior choir at my school are practising it at the moment, and my favourite part is…

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down, but
No I’m not breaking
I may not know it, but these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep goin’,
And I, I gotta be strong
Just keep pushing on, ’cause There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb

I also came across this quote from Helen Keller. If ever there was a person who had every reason to give up, it would be her, but she accomplished amazing things. It’s a good one to remember when we are starting to feel afraid.

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
The Open Door

And I’ll finish off with this quote …

“Dance like the photo’s not being tagged. Love like you’ve  never been
unfriended. Sing like nobody’s following. Share like you care. And do it all
like it won’t end up on Youtube!”


by Penny M

Have you ever packed your suitcase so tightly that, to close it, you had to sit on it? I have. I remember lugging the victim of my indecision off a London train and wondering if my arm would actually return home on its own. It was a life-altering moment. From that point onwards, I have amazed family and friends with the lightness of my baggage under shrink-wrap.

Such defining moments populate my life, and I’ve come to realise that they can surface from memory during seismic seizures. Over the past few years, I have been subconsciously squeezing every grain of my life into a giant-sized hourglass. In fact, there was so much sand inside that time had simply run out.

It was time to unpack. For most of us, packing is harder than unpacking. Perhaps that is why some of us leave it to the last minute and then just throw the basics into a bag before the mind has a chance to kick in. It saves the agony of deciding if you genuinely need the extra jersey or those boots that go with the outfit you will need, if the weather changes and it snows in May.

On one occasion, I invited a friend to accompany me on a visit to my folks in the UK. When I arrived at her home, her partner suggested that I take a look at what she had packed. I inspected the piles of jerseys and pants, one for each day of the week. Matching belts were carefully rolled up and positioned in colour codes next to shoes that were packed just in case the winter sun was warm enough to show painted toes. I gave my companion the benefit of my experience, and she hastily unpacked.

Unpacking is far easier when all you have to do is empty your bag, fill the washing machine, and then return freshly laundered items to their spaces in cupboards and drawers.

Not so with life. We pour our hours into people, pastimes, health and wealth. Some might still be fortunate enough to find solace in the early hours, or Sunday space.

No, unpacking my life is a delicate matter. I have to decide what I can do without. Everything is valuable, but it’s all about balance. Just as mother earth shifts beneath us, shivering her warnings, I have to decide what mountains I need to move to make space. It’s time to reapportion the contents of my suitcase. Precious moments are to be juggled. I seek more to spend with family and close friends. I must be clever with the leftovers.

A couple of weeks ago, I attempted to push the door open that would give me access to the steps and parking area beneath our offices. The shoulder strap of my bag, heavy with laptop and homework, slipped. My lower arm strained under the weight as I caught it, but my upper arm and shoulder now bear the pain. Mobility is reduced. The experience brought new meaning to the phrase ‘putting your shoulder to the grindstone’.

I am reorganising my baggage. My dream is to turn my hobby into wealth which, in turn, will make space in the suitcases of those I love. If I arrive on your doorstep all shrink-wrapped, I hope you won’t send me packing. And so I write on …

Modern day matchmaking – not for the faint of heart

By Zoe Dyer

Unfortunately Yente, the wrinkled gossip from Fiddler on the Roof, was a notorious face of matchmaking in my childhood.

‘Even the worst husband,’ she says, ‘is better than no husband.’ She lacks every quality needed for matchmaking – taste, discernment and discretion – and I must emphasise, I am nothing like her.

As a committed friend, I screen out the drunkards, batterers and players. Yente was just out for a buck and let’s be honest – she was scraping the bottom of the barrel in that village. I’m looking for men with high morals and low, preferably nil, divorce rates. Rugged men who are drawn to mountain ranges and starlight camping. Men who don’t hog the mirror.

There is only one problem. My success rate is zero.

The last couple dated for two months before it crumbled. Seven months later she married somebody else. I took notes from that one. Matchmaking, like writing, is obviously a learnt art. I just needed to learn some more.

Things, however, are going slightly awry. Two months ago my husband and I went for a lovely break to the Midlands, where we received astonishing kindness from the couple who ran the place. I looked them up and down. Good people.

‘Let me know what I can do for you,’ the man said as he was about to leave our pristine cottage.

I jumped at the chance.

‘Do you know any good young men in the area?’ I demanded.

The room went quiet. He looked from my husband to me to my husband again.

‘I mean,’ I said, ‘I know a bunch of beautiful ladies who are needing husbands. Is there any good stock in the area?’

‘Good luck,’ he said, and there went my plans for finding salt-of-the-earth men for my friends. And then he added, ‘I’ll see what I can do.’

He never came back to me. Stained glass windows and the economy was where he tightly navigated conversation.

But I’m not one to accept defeat. I organised my first cocktail evening – high heels, suits and bubbles … Conduits of love, I thought.

Well. For the first time in Durban history, there were twice as many guys as there were girls. We propped ourselves on the wrought-iron chairs of the Oyster Box’s Light House Bar, and sipped our champagne and laughed and talked and laughed some more.

We sat beside the wide expanse of Indian Ocean, the waves roaring in our conversation. Opulent red couches winked at us from inside the bar … The ocean swayed with moonlight. If anybody wanted an excuse for romance, it was here. And everybody went home happy … but very single.

Potential, I thought. Cocktail events have potential. So a month later, I decided on round number two – with cell-phone blazing I invited as many as I could to a sparkling night at Moyo pier …

We arrived to music – less Frank Sinatra and more techno drums that made glass shudder. A radio station and their beat had overtaken the pier. We moved to the Cape Town Fish Market, where we shouted at each other across the table, not quite escaping the beat. I gazed at the group and started laughing. There were two men (my husband being one) and six women …

But next month we’ll cocktail again, hopefully where we can hear each other talk. Three is a lucky number. Besides, as Babe Ruth said, ‘every strike brings me closer to the next home run.’