Year End to Boot

by Penny M

I watched my granddaughter kick her three year old body a few paces beneath the surface of the swimming pool towards the safety of mmarlin_doryy daughter’s arms. Besides the size of her, there seemed to be no difference to last time I witnessed such a feat, eighteen months ago. My respect for her paid swimming teacher
bottomed out with the pool cleaner that creeps around in confinement, sucking dirt and chugging incessantly.

I’m in one of those ‘treading water’ moments between Christmas and New Year when everyone has their brakes on. Don’t get me wrong, I love family times and am especially blessed this year to be away with them in Australia, but inertia is my worst enemy.

Being still in small doses is okay, but lengths of sultry days without the company of energy bunnies who are doing more than just living life; this is a new challenge. Not long ago, just over two years, I was a sixteen-hour-a-day employee in an eight-hour-a-day job. I couldn’t wait to put the brakes on to concentrate on things of eternal value, follow my destiny. In the last year, I have been so blessed and learnt so much about myself. I was keen to make a difference , but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still splashing across the pond of my existence in the hope that someday I will reach the other side.

Perhaps I am suffering from the after effects of reading Brian Houston’s excellent book called Live, Love, Lead.  Encouraged and inspired, I’m anxious to get on with it, conscious that time is slipping by unharnessed. All I can do is blog and wait.

I should be reading more, writing more, seeing more, doing more, meeting more people.

Instead I stopped off for the holidays like everybody else.

James Turner, local pastor of Hillsong Coomera, gave a rousing sermon yesterday on fruitfulness. He had noticed that we all seem to reserve our good intentions for 1st January each year; but what about today? I was ready for action and wanted to dash off to feed some poor fellow or encourage a lonely heart. Instead, it is still Christmas/New Year for those who know where they are but didn’t hear the message. I have to refrigerate my enthusiasm before it melts into oblivion.

It’s not all bad – I have a novella that could use a kick and a knitted clown in desperate need of arms, hands, a face etcetera – poor Bertie Bloomer didn’t get finished in time for Christmas Day, much to my granddaughter’s surprise. Perhaps that’s what triggered my mood – I missed a deadline and tripped over my disappointment. So, while the rest of the family are out partying, I need to kick butt and at least get Bertie finished before year end.

Wishing all our readers a splashing kick of a year in 2016 – if you start now, you have a whole year left to make a difference.

 

Photograph courtesy http://homekeepingtheadventure.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/just-keep-swimming/

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Food, glorious food

By Sue Trollip

Christmas turkey is Christmas turkey, whether it’s being consumed while watching the snow blanketing the world outside, or besides the braai (BBQ) on a hot sunny afternoon. But, the rest of the Christmas food differs vastly over here, in the ‘other’ hemisphere.

Tamales, for one. A delicious treat, which I have learned to eat with lashings of plain yogurt, despite attempts to tell me ‘that’s not really how you’re supposed to eat them’ along side green beans and brussel sprouts followed by chocolate pie for dessert. While tasty (except for those vegetables), it just feels odd.

It’s a slog to find mince pies, Christmas cake is a non-entity and Christmas pudding (you mean chocolate pie?) is pretty much impossible to locate unless you happen upon the ‘foreigners’ shop.

There, finally, the shelves are full of Walkers shortbread and an abundance of real Christmas goodies, like Quality Street chocolates (absolutely un-affordable) and Panattone and mince pies (did I mention them?).

But I am fairly organised this year. I managed to find, at what we’ve nicknamed Bob’s Booze Shop, a bottle of Amarula, so we can indulge in a homemade Dom Pedro. And after the turkey (yes, I’m going to skip those beans and brussels) I’m having milk tart for pudding.

I’m also, going to try my hand at home made mince pies. I’m not sure if they’ll look pretty, but I bet they’ll taste ‘lekker’.

Where ever you are, whatever you’re eating, I hope you’re surrounded with love. Here’s wishing you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

 

 

Harnessing Some Cat Energy

By Susan Roberts

It’s great living in Australia where there are rules and regulations that people actually obey, and fitting consequences if they don’t. These rules are not just for people, but for their pets as well.

My cats ave settled into their new home easily, but they’ve had to make a few adjustments. They weren’t used to living by other people’s rules in Africa, where the law of the jungle dictates that if you venture into the territory of next door’s dogs, you may end up as a snack. My feisty little ginger cat Galadriel used to have great fun baiting the big dogs in the area, but Valentine, the black-and white, favoured a more strategic retreat when faced by his canine neighbours. Either way, they both loved being outdoors.

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In Australia, animals are more protected, but many are also threatened by domestic pets. Cats in this country have been responsible for wiping out entire species of small indigenous animals, so it’s only right that cats need to be placed under firm control before they destroy any more. Our neighbourhood is limited to two cats per property, both must be registered with the local municipality, and there is a curfew that prohibits them from being allowed outside between sundown and the next morning’s sunrise. They are not allowed to wander into neighbouring gardens or into the street, unless taken out on a lead. They also have to wear collars, which wasn’t a requirement back in South Africa.

Since my two hooligans have never been restricted by anything other than their own instincts, this has come as a bit of a shock to their little systems. Actually, the whole Australia thing seems to have been a shock to Galadriel’s system. Never one to accept change, she has adapted surprisingly well after three plane journeys, ten days in quarantine and a colder winter than any Durban cat has ever imagined even in its worst nightmares. Six months on, she’s taken it all in her stride, but don’t bring a harness near her!

Even without the harness, she can’t quite pluck up enough courage to face the great Australian outdoors. After whining to go outside, she retreats in terror when the door is opened, and if she does venture out there, she suddenly realises the enormity of her mistake and spins around, scratching and scrambling to get back inside, amidst plaintive howling and yowling that is vocal enough to wake the dead, never mind the live neighbours.

Valentine, on the other hand, has discovered the pleasures of strolling around outside on a long lead attached to a harness. As soon as I take him outside his first trick is to walk under a chair so that I have to fumble with transferring the lead from one hand to the other on the far side of the chair, while he tugs me towards the barbecue. I think this is his way of saying, “Suck it up, Princess. If you want me attached to a lead, you go where I go.”

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He was a bit hesitant the first time I approached with the brand new red harness, but with his natural curiosity he trusted me enough to let me fasten it on him. When I opened that magical door to the wider world, he quickly realised that there was a reward for pandering to my madness.

He does great dog impressions now. If I rattle the harness he runs to the door and waits for me to put it on him. Each day when I take him out, he wanders slowly around the garden with me in tow, while he sniffs every piece of garden furniture, the canvas cover on the barbecue, the pot plants and all the same shrubs and groundcovers that he sniffed the day before.

As you can imagine, this is potentially quite a boring walk for me. I always think that I should have brought my Kindle and a cup of tea outside with me, but somehow I never seem to pick up either before I open the door. Once that harness is on, Valentine is champing at the bit to get outside and won’t tolerate any delays from me.

The other night I was chatting to a friend’s husband at a party and he told me that he uses one of those extending flexi-leads to walk their huge Maine Coon cat around their garden. This sounded like an excellent idea, so I bought one. Now Valentine and I can enjoy the glorious outdoors with up to five metres of space between us. Bonus: I can also attach it to one of the patio posts and go inside to get my Kindle and tea!

For Galadriel, things are moving forward slowly. Some days I actually manage to get her outside onto the grass where she leopard crawls or huddles down in her harness, mistrustful of the world. She doesn’t stay outside for long before whining and bleating to be taken back inside, but her outdoor excursions are getting longer and less traumatic. She still feels safer sitting inside behind the screen door, watching Valentine enjoying himself.

I know that one day she’ll beat down this phobia in the same way that she has conquered all her other traumas, and be the fearless ginger kitty she was born to be. Until that day, I’ll be patient and let her do things at her own pace.

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A WHAT In A Snowdrift?

By Jac Dowling

It was actually a red mini.   But that comes later.

A recent comment of Sue’s regarding the snowy landscape in her part of the world set me thinking about my snowy encounters in the dim and distant past. It doesn’t snow in Hermanus you see, and the closest we get is a panoramic view of winter peaks shining in the sun somewhere over Franschhoek way.   ‘OOO’ we say, ‘just look at that . Better pop over and have a close-up and lunch.’ Which is what we did. Lunch at Boschendal in one of the old buildings turned into a bistro. Bare oak branches cast shadows on the white walls and thatch, daffodils bloomed around the base of orange trees and snow covered the surrounding mountains. Perfect.

In another country, Scotland to be exact – and it is still part of the UK as far as I know . . . we set off one snowy, blustery day, against all warnings from the met office and headed for the Highlands. Winter colours in Scotland are superb, they really are.   Red rowan berries along moorland streams, tawny winter grass, deep blue/green lochs and a glacial turquoise sky over all.   Add in the odd shaggy cow, deer and, if you’re lucky, eagles. We had ruined castles as well, which means we were pretty far north.   The snow grew deeper – and deeper – and we didn’t have snow tyres or 4w/d. Suddenly there was no view other than high snowdrifts on either side of the car; the road was single track because we were at the highest point in Scotland, and the snow plough ahead of us wasn’t doing a good job at all.   So, without any fuss, we slid backwards with no steering control, landed deep in a drift and the engine died. Nothing daunted, we scraped our way out through the little windows and were immediately bogged down tits high in the snow. From which we swam and waded our way back to the icy track and drew straws as to who was to go after the plough and explain our – position. Took me at least an hour to creep, crab-wise up the hill and find the driver, who was just on lunch and not a bit pleased to be disturbed. But he agreed that we should not freeze to death because of a couple of sandwiches, or ‘ma piece’ as it’s known up there, reversed back down, dug us out with the plough and sent us back the way we came.

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A black cat crossed in front of us, stark against the white fields; its paw marks deep, silent. Soon covered by the falling snow.

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That was just one one of the snowy happenings. I shan’t mention breaking my ankle on the Glencoe ski slopes and having to walk to work each morning on crutches…the Irish and Poles repairing the road were unfailingly rude about my predicament, in the nicest possible way of course.

The most beautiful memory however, is of a heavy snowstorm on Christmas eve.   Our cottage lay in open fields, inland a bit from the river Avon.   A hill led down to the river through a farmyard and, when the snow stopped and the sky cleared, we walked down to the river in crisp, sparkling and crunchy new snow.   The stars were like crystals, so clear in a deep purple sky . The river was full of little icebergs; frozen at the edge, the sluggish midstream carried them in a cacophony of squeaks and groans towards the weir.

And then the bells from three parishes rang out for the midnight service.   Across the snow fields deep into the thatch and tiles of house and farm they rang.

‘It came upon the midnight clear…’   but, in spite of the deep silence, I never did ‘Hear the angels sing’.

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Great Expectations not by Dickens, but … by Penny M

Penny Mitchell - Communications that Matter

In keeping with tasteful tones of past and present, the regular venue for Melbourne Lit Group is housed beneath the sandstone levels of Federation Square, in and bordering the historic Federation Wharf vaults. The restaurant overlooks the banks of the Yarra River, around which the city of Melbourne has grown.

(Click the following link for more information and atmosphere –  http://www.australia.com/en/places/vic/fed-square.html)

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Melbourne Lit is one of many writers’ groups advertised on the Melbourne Meet Up website (http://www.meetup.com) which site boasts 990 writer members in all at the time of writing. An old, Qwerty-keyed typewriter features centre stage of their web page, bearing a notice, ‘Every Saturday and Every Wednesday at 3 p.m.’ Text and details further reiterate this information.

‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘this group must be something. A meeting twice weekly means it’s popular and buzzing.’ Susan Roberts, one of my writing buddies (https://susanrobertswriter.wordpress.com) and I were…

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