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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday, 13 November : Aunty Helen

Aunty Helen was a perfect aunt. She never scolded or punished. She could make up bedtime stories which carried on for weeks in a comforting, never-ending saga. She believed in fairies just as I did and didn’t mind tiptoeing on a damp lawn peeking in foxgloves and snapdragons, all excellent hiding places for the wee folk. She rubbed legs aching from growing pains until the sufferer fell asleep. The smell of 4711 Eau de Cologne marked Aunty Helen’s ministrations when I was fevered with tonsillitis or exhausted from throwing up last night’s dinner. She would generously sprinkle the astringent perfume from her precious bottle into enamel basin of tepid water and bathe my sticky hands and flushed face. Wordlessly she exchanged soiled nightclothes for clean ones and tucked a clean towel over the top sheet in the case of any other mishaps. She took me to symphony concerts at the Cape Town City Hall before I was the proper age and ignored my squirming on a creaky chair. Afterwards riding on the top deck of the bus headed for her bedsitter in Green Point, we talked earnestly about how music made pictures in my head: galloping steeds, dancing girls in silk garments, crashing waterfalls and placid streams. She heard my brother and my bedtime prayers and was persuasively behind our enrolment in Sunday School at a time my parents were only occasional churchgoers. She allowed me to brush her thick brown hair, which never greyed, into exotic styles, pinning it with jewelled clips and tying it with scarves. Then she would go downstairs and eat dinner with the rest of family without altering a single outlandish strand. When I had my girls, I watched her, thinner, wirier and wrinkled, do exactly the same for them, weaving a childhood magic they have never forgotten.

Was Aunt Helen happy in her spinsterhood which, according to family legend, was the consequence of her weak heart? Why did she arrive at our doorstep for an extended stay in the 50’s wearing a pixie cap of pink flowers and a set of leather suitcases embossed with her name? Was she always so reserved and shy, sometimes hardly speaking a word to the adults and favouring the children’s company? Did she really spurn a wealthy Scotsman because she didn’t like his bald head? With the self-centeredness of childhood, I never bothered to really find out. Later when these things interested me, she had become more and more taciturn, a precursor to Alzheimer’s and her last years in an old age home watched over anxiously by my mother.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday 5 November '09: Tribute to a friend: Sir Tristram

Sir Tristram (TristyBoy to his friends) has reached the rich age of twelve and a half human years or eighty-four canine ones. His eyes have a bluish tinge, his muzzle is frosty and his grin is gappy. He doesn't hear so well anymore. Just recently osteoarthritis has set in and our morning walk has been halved by two kilometers. Notwithstanding, his thick black coat still gleams. He remains a handsome knight of the finest kind.

Trist is my most loyal and loving friend. When Richard passed away, he mourned his beloved master for weeks. Then he assumed the part of my dedicated protector, a role which has caused him no little anxiety. The scarring on his leg, the result of obsessive licking to which Labs are susceptible, is probably the result of that trauma. To others he is a gentle warrior, with rather a distant air for a Labrador. But then he has Galahad, doesn't he? Galahad, the life and soul of the party, is always at hand to do the necessary socialising.

In June 1997 Tristram joined our household to follow in the footsteps of our previous black Lab, Valiant. His puppyhood and youth were expensive - he left behind a trail of chewed shoes, excavated irrigation pipes and dirtied dishclothes. But Richard, quick to anger and even quicker to forgive, said, "A dog must keep his spirit. You don't want him to become staid before his time." And spirit he had, also in the ring where he won a rosette or two or three. But Trist was not really a show dog. He never managed to hide his boredom at all the endless posturing and tended to sit down firmly when he received the command, 'Stand!' .

Old friends, like Tristram and I, don't need many words anymore. When he rolls on his back in my study, I scratch his tummy and he grins a wide doggy smile and murmers, "That's it! No, there, just over there!" When I nestle against the pillows with my opened Bible at the end of the day, he strolls to the bedside and says, "Oh, okay. But if you get to do any praying, say a word for me!" He gives me a nudge or two with his nose, while I sit hammering away at the computer keys in the mid-morning and remarks, "Don't take it so seriously, girl. Remember your in-basket will always be full!" I marvel at his wisdom.

How much longer do we still have together? In Tristram's view, that is a futile human question. "We're together today, aren't we? What more matters?" And I have decided he is right.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday, 3 November '09: The Union Buildings in a purple frame

It's November and the jacarandas are still a treat. The Union Buildings, seat of the administrative government in South Africa, in Arcadia are framed by purple.

From Waterkloof hills the suburbs have a purple haze.

I get sidetracked when driving down streets under a purple canopy.

Wishing you a happy Tuesday from My world. Take a trip in cyberspace and explore other worlds too.