Category Archives: Cirque de Westcott

A Full Life

My father died recently. Despite his ill health I was unprepared. I was forced to contemplate my future while reflecting on the remarkable life of an extraordinary man. I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of my father’s success until I had to plan his funeral. So many awards, so many achievements, so many firsts. His passing brought to an end the era of the self-made post-colonial black businessman.

In response to numerous requests here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral, (with a few amendments).

“I stand before you today faced with perhaps the most difficult task of my life. Robert (Bob) Yorke was a visionary, an icon, a man of the people and for the people who stood tall among Caribbean men. He was my daddy.

As I sat down to write this eulogy I sought help from the experts – the friends and family who knew him best. He was a complicated, complex man. We frequently didn’t see eye to eye but I always appreciated and admired his intellect, his generosity, and his infallible belief in the power of positive thinking. The story I will tell you today is a true rags to riches story. But this is no fairy tale.

Robert Theophilus Yorke was born in Patience Hill, Tobago on May 14th, 1933. He was the second of eight children born to Adam and Jane Yorke. His parents were hardworking, humble people. His father was a fisherman and freelance government surveyor; his mother a homemaker. Bob’s mother kept him close to her, as he was a sickly child, always with a cold on his chest. It is perhaps ironic that a bout of bronchitis would be his final illness.

The family lived off the land. Bob grew up planting sweet potatoes, peas and corn. When he came home from school he would have to grind corn to make coo coo or pick peas to make pea soup. Several times a week, Bob went fishing with his father and brothers.

The Yorkes kept cows, goats, and chickens. The children fetched water from a pipe up the street and the house had no electricity. Bob shared a bedroom with his brothers and the family used pitch oil lamps at night. Although they were poor, they never went hungry; and Bob lived by the credo “big ones help the little ones”. His sisters describe him as a gentle, loving brother who always looked out for them.

It was a close-knit, happy family. Bob pitched marbles with his brothers and spent school holidays with extended family members – Uncles, Aunts, and numerous cousins. Bob revered his older brother Norris – the Sibling In Charge – and emulated him in many aspects of his adult life. He was devastated by Norris’s untimely death in 1987 and rarely spoke of him after.

Bob’s father Adam was the Choirmaster at St Luke’s Anglican Church. The family went to church every Sunday and Granddaddy Adam – or Polly, as we called him – taught all his sons music. This early introduction to music inspired in Bob a love of the musical arts that would stay with him for a lifetime.

My father loved a singsong, and his love of jazz is well known. When I was growing up, he was the box bass player for the Aruac Rd Parang Group. This was a parang side formed by the families on the Valsayn street where we lived. I was a cuatro player, along with a few of the other children and Uncle Leo Martin played the guitar. My mother and the other ladies were the backbone of the choir. Every Christmas Daddy would get the song sheets printed at his office. The whole street looked forward to this annual tradition of paranging each others’ houses.

In later life Bob would indulge his passion for jazz music with annual trips to the St Lucia, Toronto, and Montreal Jazz Festivals before starting his own Jazz On The Beach at Mount Irvine Bay Hotel.

Bob and his friends once followed renowned jazz singer Abbey Lincoln from St. Lucia to Toronto. Like groupies, they gathered backstage where Abbey greeted them and before they knew it, the Master of Ceremonies ushered the singer and the T&T Posse onstage. Security tried to restrain them to no avail. (Hold back a Trini? No way.)

To the surprise of the audience, Abbey dedicated her opening number, for which she received a standing ovation, to the Trini fans who had followed her all the way from St. Lucia. Upon hearing the loud acclaim, the Head of Security looked at Bob and his group in amazement and accepted defeat.

Growing up, Bob was a good cook and regularly cooked for the family. His sister Christine remembers how he would always let her taste what he was cooking. His cooking skills would come in handy in later life when he migrated to England.

His fellow passengers on the voyage from Trinidad to England did not like the fare produced by the galley and complained bitterly about it. After a time the exasperated ship’s crew asked if anyone would like to take over the cooking duties. Bob did not hesitate to volunteer and quickly assumed the role of ship’s cook, earning himself some money on the voyage. So successful was he, and so popular was his cooking, that the Captain offered him a permanent job on the ship. Bob declined, telling the Captain that he had his heart set on becoming a structural engineer.

Bob attended the Patience Hill R.C. School. At around age fifteen, after gaining his school-leaving certificate, he got a job doing masonry with a man called Fred Cruikshank. His sisters would wash his clothes every evening – hand-me-downs from older brother Norris – in preparation for work the next day.

In those days there were few job opportunities for bright young Tobagonians apart from teaching and the Public Service. Bob’s older brother and sister were already training to be teachers but this was not a career that appealed to Bob. He worked with Fred for a while but he always wanted better for himself.

At age sixteen Bob asked his parents if he could move to Trinidad. They agreed and he went to live with his mother’s brother, Thomas Guy, in Mayaro. Bob’s cousin Chrissy, Thomas’s daughter, remembers that even then Bob was doing correspondence courses with a school in England in an effort to further his education. After a while he moved to Curepe to live with other relatives and his cousin Eccles Benoit got him a job at a brick factory in Longdenville. Bob would stay with the Benoits until he migrated to England. I have many vivid memories of visiting Cousin Eccles as a child, and he was always spoken of fondly in our house.

Bob worked at the brick factory for some years. Despite having a good job, Bob was restless. He hungered for more. He had developed an interest in structural engineering and longed to pursue it.

While living in Trinidad he occasionally visited his family in Tobago. It was on one of these trips that he told his parents that he wanted to go to England to study engineering. His parents wanted him to explore other opportunities and gave him their blessing. He was the first member of the family to travel overseas.

Bob arrived in England in 1956 not knowing a soul. He stayed in a youth hostel and soon met a Trinidadian who offered him a place to live. Times were hard for a black man from the colonies in those early days. His brothers in Tobago sent him a portion of their salaries until he found his feet and was able to support himself. Bob never forgot the debt he owed his brothers and until his death he helped them and their families in any way he could when he returned to Trinidad.

Bob wrote home regularly and his mother proudly read his letters to the family. In those days, especially for a Tobagonian, having a son in England was A Big Deal.

Bob enrolled at Greenford High School in London to complete his secondary education and was subsequently accepted at Hammersmith College of Art and Building to pursue a Diploma in Structural Engineering. While studying he had several jobs, including selling TVs and working in a cider factory.

At one point, Bob was a Manager in an electrical goods store. Bear in mind that this was in the early sixties when jobs were difficult to get, especially for coloured people. He had a small black car and being a natural entrepreneur, he decided to do mobile electrical goods sales. He loaded televisions and radios in the front and rear seats of the vehicle, and set off in search of customers.

He soon attracted the attention of a policeman who pulled him over for obstructing the view out of the rear window. When questioned about the items in the car, Bob explained, and suggested to the officer that he could be his first customer – to which the officer agreed. Bob wasted no time in retrieving and preparing a Hire Purchase agreement for the officer. The television was delivered the following day and Bob was not charged.

Bob never forgot his family back in Tobago. As soon as he was established he started sending money back home. His younger brothers and sisters eagerly devoured the big box of candies, cookies, biscuits – whatever he could afford- that Bob would send home every Christmas. Even in those early days his generosity was legendary.

Former flatmate Selwyn Burkette recalls meeting Bob in London:

“I first met Robert Yorke at a friend’s home in London. I had been in England only a week and when Bob learnt I was from Trinidad, he eagerly questioned me on the state of affairs in the country he had left three years ago. We were both studying engineering and our conversation came to an end with the promise that we would see each other again.

Six months later I was looking for a room to rent in Earl’s Court. Whilst speaking to a gentleman on the sidewalk, Bob came up to me and enquired what I was doing in the area. He gestured to his residence, which was only two doors away while relating his intention of moving into a new flat in two weeks, which would have an extra room; “Would I be interested in being a tenant for that room?” I agreed and two weeks later I moved in with Bob at his flat in Baron’s Court.

Bob was not much of a party-goer but occasionally he would have parties at the flat on a Saturday evening. His favourite music was Jazz. He had the complete works of Glenn Miller and on his recommendation I saw the film “The Glenn Miller Story”. Two of his favourite tunes were Little Brown Jug and Pennsylvania 6-5000. He loved those tunes so much he would put the lever on the radiogram in the repeat position so that he could play them over and over.”

I personally can attest to watching The Glenn Miller Story on TV with my parents. It was one of my father’s favourite films. I think I can still play Little Brown Jug on the piano.

Selwyn lived with Bob, and later Greta, for two and a half years. Selwyn remembers Bob as being kind-hearted and God-fearing; and always treating him as a member of the family. After Bob and Greta returned to Trinidad, and Selwyn some time later with his own family, the friendship continued.

It was at a student party in London celebrating a Trinidadian event that mutual friends introduced Bob to a pretty student nurse from Barbados. Greta was living in Bristol at the time and had only come to London for the weekend on the insistence of her friends.

Bob was instantly smitten. Greta was not impressed, and returned to Bristol without another thought about the young man from Tobago. Much to her surprise, Bob turned up in Bristol a few weeks later and soon became a regular visitor. Several months later when Greta moved to London to complete her nursing training, the pair became close and on March 4th 1961, they were married. Bob’s family in Tobago knew nothing of Greta until Uncle Norris told them Bob had met a lady from Barbados and they were going to get married. As he did many times throughout his life, Bob consulted his older brother before making a decision and sought his approval.

I grew up hearing stories of those early days in England and to say my upbringing was very Anglophile in nature would be an understatement. I learned about wine at a very early age. We had dinner together as a family every night and my parents served wine with Sunday lunch. From age 10 I was allowed a sip or two as my father felt it was only right and proper that I be introduced to “the correct way to dine” as he put it.

By 1967 both Bob and Greta had completed their studies and Bob was anxious to return to the Caribbean. This was a time when many countries were gaining independence from Britain and West Indians overseas wanted to explore the promise of newly independent Caribbean nations. The young family – by this time I had joined the mix – set sail for Antigua where Bob had been offered a job with the Antiguan Government. When I was little I used to love looking at photographs of my parents dressed in their finery on the ship and think “How wonderful!”

Bob and Greta spent no more than a year in Antigua then went to live with Bob’s brother Norris in Tobago. Bob left his wife and young daughter with his family in Tobago while he went to look for a job in Trinidad. Fortuitously, he was offered a job with Sanders and Fosters (Caribbean) Ltd.

Bob was enthusiastic and relished the opportunity to put his education to good use. He moved up rapidly through the ranks from Engineer to Technical Director and subsequently assumed full responsibility for the Company’s operations.  This served him in good stead when he to started his own company Yorke Structures Ltd. in 1972. The rest as they say, is history. I won’t bore you with the details of Yorke Structures’ history but I will highlight a few achievements:

  • Yorke Structures has the largest steel fabricating workshop in the English speaking Caribbean
  • The Company builds Industrial, Commercial, Municipal, and Residential buildings
  • YSL has won numerous awards for trade and export and prides itself on the excellent quality of its work
  • From Belize to Guyana, Yorke Structures has worked in fifteen countries
  • Methanol Plants, Ammonia Plants, Atlantic LNG Trains 1,2,3 and 4, Piarco Airport, local and regional schools and hospitals, the Shaw Park Cultural Complex – Yorke Structures built them all

Bob was passionate about regional development. In the past few days I have had calls from people all over the Caribbean wanting to express their gratitude for the work Bob Yorke did in their countries. When Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada in 2004, Yorke Structures assisted in the rebuilding effort. Yorke Structures built a wonderful Library in Plymouth, Montserrat, which unfortunately was buried under ash with the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano. One of the saddest days for Bob had to be when he could no longer go to his office because of illness.

As a child my Sunday afternoons were spent driving around the country visiting Yorke Structures’ sites. By age eleven I knew more about steel erection than most graduate engineers. It came as no surprise to my parents when I decided to do a degree in civil engineering.

Many of you know Bob as a successful businessman, hotelier, dapper dresser, jazz aficionado, host extraordinaire, and nation builder. But he was so much more. As his friend Wendell Mottley (former Trinidad and Tobago Government Minister)  put it – he was a Tobago patron, a pillar of the Anglican church, pioneering innovator, and confidential advisor to so many – including Ministers of Government.

For many years Bob was the Property Advisor to the Anglican Diocese in Trinidad and Tobago. He visited every single Anglican Church in the country and reported on their state of repair (or disrepair, in some cases).

He was one of the first people involved with the National School Feeding programme and a supporter of the Boy Scout Movement. He donated generously to countless schools and causes, far too many to list. Bob never forgot that those who have, must help those who have not. Several family members owe their tertiary education and their homes to the generosity of Uncle Bob.

And of course, there were Those Parties. Long before all-inclusive fetes there was Bob Yorke’s Christmas party. Unless you were under 15 years old in the early eighties or living under a rock, you knew about Bob Yorke’s legendary parties. My father used to say this was a way of advertising Yorke Structures and thanking customers for their patronage, but I knew this was a thinly veiled excuse to throw a lavish party.

I doubt any one who attended can forget the year Bob Yorke brought Trader Vic’s – the legendary Polynesian Restaurant at the London Hilton – to Trinidad. The guest lists for those parties read like a Who’s Who of Trinidad and Tobago society. In true Trini style some people would try to storm – only to be turned away at the gate.

The downturn in the Trinidad and Tobago economy in the late 1980s reluctantly brought the YSL Christmas parties to an end but the memories live on. Bob’s friend Chanka Seeteram said it best – Bob taught Trinidad how to live. He showed us that we could live a first world life in a developing country. It wasn’t for show. How Bob entertained was how he lived.

Bob was a member of the official delegation under then Prime Minister George Chambers that visited China and the Far East in 1984. It was during that mission that Bob met the Malaysian owners of the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel and secured its purchase. For Bob this was the pinnacle of his triumph over colonial society’s strictures to keep him and his kind in their place.

Many of you may not know this, but my family has had a long history with the Mount Irvine Bay Estate. When Bob was a child, his father went for a job at Mt Irvine Sugar and Coconut Estate, what is now the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel and Golf Club. Granddaddy was turned down and when he argued, he was beaten. Subsequently he was banned from ever entering the estate again. The sting of this incident stayed with young Robert and when the opportunity arose to buy the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel he seized it.

Bob was enormously proud of his grandchildren. One of the happiest days of his life was the birth of his first grandchild, Benn. So delighted was Bob, he gave every employee of Yorke Structures the day off work and closed the Company for a day. When my second son Joseph was born an employee complained to me “Buh we ent get no holiday for this one.”

In later life the onset of Parkinson’s disease would have a marked effect on Bob’s quality of life. Although his mind remained active, his body slowed him down. In the last five years as he became less and less mobile, he frequently did not recognise friends and family members. Eventually he could no longer talk. But every now and then he would say or do something to let us know that his brilliance was still there. Right up to the end he listened to and enjoyed jazz music every day.

Every accolade, every award Bob earned, he deserved. I learned many valuable lessons from my father. How to open a bottle of champagne efficiently, how to pair wine with a meal, how to travel, how to throw a good party. But most importantly I learned the value of education and hard work. I learned that what whatever I do in life, I must do it well. Bob believed in striving for excellence and maintaining an inner belief in oneself.

To quote Wendell Mottley ” Bob’s greatest asset was his strong value system. When you went to Bob and Greta’s house, you knew what they stood for. And the greatest of these values was loyalty. Loyalty in commercial relationships, loyalty to country, and above all, loyalty as a friend. You could count on Uncle Bob.”

He wasn’t a saint. He had his little miserable ways but he was such a charmer, and had such a wicked sense of humour, you couldn’t stay mad at him. Daddy and I would argue and then share a bottle of champagne.

Daddy always said that when he died I would drink his cellar dry. He was absolutely correct. Tonight I will raise a glass to Robert T Yorke; an icon, a pioneer, my daddy. May he rest in peace.”

One of the last lucid conversations my father had was with his grandson Benn, four weeks prior to his death. He said:

“My name is Bob Yorke. I am an engineer and you are my grandson.” It was perhaps a final reminder of the passion which sustained him for so many years – his love for structural engineering – and his indomitable spirit until he drew his last breath.

I will be eternally grateful for the influence he had on my life.


Going Pecans

This blog post is dedicated to Gina Henning, author of Going Pecans.

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Gina Henning is an American author of contemporary romance and commercial fiction. Click here to buy Going Pecans  on Amazon

Contact Gina:  Facebook    Website    Goodreads   Twitter

 

When Twitter pal Gina Henning invited me to join her Blog Hop “Going Pecans” to promote her book of the same name, I readily agreed. The premise is fun; write about a time when you were going nuts, i.e. pecans. But then I thought – what should I write about? Should I blog about the time I unwittingly signed up for HUET (Helicopter Underwater Evacuation Training) so that I could work on an oil rig? Or the time I was pursued by Mormons? Running out of money while backpacking solo across Europe certainly generated a few hairy moments. I eventually decided on the insane period following the birth of my second child.

Husband, two year old son and I were living in a rented house in Cambridge, England. Short story – we had just returned from eighteen months in Mozambique and tenants were living in our own home. We were happy to be back in Cambridge where we’d spent many previous years.

They say that having a baby changes your life. Well, DUH. “They” also say that when you’ve had one baby, the second one is easier. Bull crap. The arrival of my daughter catapulted me into a Twilight Zone of perpetually crying children, an endless laundry pile, and a permanently screwed sleep pattern. I couldn’t even seek solace in a decent Sauvignon Blanc. Nature is cruel.

I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Whole days were spent in a front-opening nightgown with a toddler clinging to my leg and a baby hanging off my breast. Brushing my teeth and showering regularly became dimly remembered luxuries I could no longer indulge in. Sitting on the toilet with the door open became the norm. I needed the door open so that I could yell “It’s OK darling! Mummy’s coming just now!” over the combined wailing of my offspring.

Watching Orange Is The New Black recently brought back vivid breastfeeding memories. It was the episode where Polly answers the door to Larry with a nipple poking out of her unbuttoned shirt  Pride goes out of the window when you have a screaming child to feed. I couldn’t give a toss who saw my tits as long as a nipple in her mouth shut my daughter up.

Mealtimes – what mealtimes? – were forgotten altogether. My husband and I wolfed hasty bites of whatever scraps we could find between nappy changes and shoving fish fingers and mash into our son.

I envied my husband’s daily escape to interact with The Real World. I was stuck in an endless cycle of Children’s BBC (I can recite every word of dialogue from every episode of Postman Pat ever made), breastfeeding, and strategic cleaning. (I can’t call it housework. Everything was a mess). I was truly “going pecans”.

Even the simplest of chores became a major undertaking. A trip to the supermarket was a mammoth task. The sheer effort involved in getting a baby and a toddler dressed to face the British winter and strapped into car seats could take the best part of a morning. At least all I had to do was throw on a coat. No-one needed to know I was wearing a grubby T-shirt and sweatpants over yesterday’s knickers. As for make-up, don’t be ridiculous. A good twenty minutes was usually spent tracking down where my son had hidden the car keys. Inside the video recorder and behind the settee were favourite places.

We’d arrive at the supermarket and after parking in one of the coveted “Mother and Children” spaces I would spend the next forty-five minutes hissing at my son through gritted teeth “Benn! Come here! Put that down! Leave it alone!” By the time we got home I would be stressed, my son would be over-excited, and the baby would be cranky.

If it hadn’t been for my local National Childbirth Trust Mother and Baby Group I would have lost it altogether. NCT Group was my salvation. I lived for the weekly encounters with other harassed new mothers, several of whom were also doing the second child shuffle. We spent our meetings exchanging tips to stop Child No 1 from killing Child No 2 and bitching about our irritatingly calm husbands who took the changed family dynamic in their stride instead of having screaming hormonal breakdowns.

For two blessed hours I was in the company of women who were in exactly the same situation and handling it equally badly. There was something strangely comforting, indeed satisfying, in sharing our tales of woe and maternal failure. We bonded over rumpled clothes (who the hell had time to iron?), sleep deprivation, and sore nipples. Misery does indeed love company.

Not for the first time I appreciated the ability of sisterhood to save my sanity while nourishing my soul. As crazy as the time was – days would pass before I remembered to comb my hair – I wouldn’t have swapped the new baby-toddler-circus for anything. I understood this was a learning curve. I was starting at the bottom but I would get better. Or at least better at faking being a Domestic Goddess, with the support of my fellow new mommies.

Did I mention Nature is cruel? So cruel that when you become proficient at faking Domestic Goddesshood, Nature makes you forget the newborn hell and knocks you up again. The arrival of Baby Number Three threw me into a fresh nightmare. But that, my friends, is the subject of a whole ‘nother story.

 

Going Pecans Blog Hop

Please follow along and enjoy these great blog posts below. Everyone who comments on every single post will receive a Going Pecans Recipe Card signed by Gina Henning. Please be sure to include your email!

August 14th

Gina Henning Blog

August 15th

Waiting On The Westcotts

Anya Breton’s Blog

Missy Devours Delish Reads

August 18th

Kasper’s Ramblings on the Hunters of Reloria Website

August 19th

Loss For Words

The Edible Bookshelf

In Search of Romance

August 21st

Helen Rena

August 22nd

Word Forward

Amber Daulton

Ana Blaze

August 25th

Keepin it Real

Feeling Beachie

August 26th

Krysten Lindsay Hager

Anais Morgan: Things are about to get hot

DM Brain Waves-dmarblog

August 28th

Wilson Writes

August 29th

Writing About Love

See Bethany Blog

Lover of all things crafty

Susanne Matthews

Stumbling Towards the Finish Line

 

Click here to enter the Going Pecans Raffle!

 

 


My Life as Bridget Jones

I am currently reading Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones – Mad about the Boy. It struck me that whereas I tittered smugly over Bridget’s trials in previous novels, middle-aged Bridget and I suddenly have a lot in common. I wondered what would my life look like if I documented it Bridget Jones style? Apologies to Helen Fielding.

Tuesday November 12 2013

Calories – 1200ish (excellent); Cardiovascular exercise completed – nil. Cardiovascular exercise contemplated – lots. Alcohol units consumed – 1 glass of wine (v. good)

8.50am Frantically searching my desk in vain for the scrap of paper on which I scribbled the name of the person I’m meeting this morning. Bugger. Oh well. At least I know where the office is.

10.00am Arrived at destination and attempted to bluff my way past Nigerian security guard.

“Who are you here to see ma’am?”

“Err…the HR Director”

“Who?”

“The HR Director…umm Manager…Ms….”

“I need the name of the person you are here to see. Please pull to the side.”

“Umm yes…I’ll just make a call…”

Hurriedly dialled a colleague who (thankfully!) took the call and provided me with the all-important name.

“I’m here to see Mrs. Coglan.” I declared authoritatively.

“This way, ma’am.” Success!

11.00am Skillfully negotiated first face to face meeting with potential client. Delighted to observe the poster of Idris Elba on Mrs Coglan’s office wall. I like this woman.

Now at second appointment; meeting with my charity ladies group. Channelling charitable thoughts…

2.00pm Home. EXHAUSTED. A Pretty Woman panini from MovieTowne, hurriedly wolfed down in the car, served as lunch today. Was accosted by the gardener as soon as I drove through the gate.

“Boss Lady – not sure you noticed, but we have a bee situation on the external wall.”

“Eh?” What is he talking about. What bee situation?

“Could be a hive. Maybe you could get someone to look at it?”

“OK…will do…” I replied vaguely. Odd. Where is George who cuts my lawn? He hasn’t shown up for two weeks.

Should go straight to the office but really need a sit down first. And maybe a cuppa.

5.05pm Bugger! Should have picked up youngest child (Son Nº 2) from orchestra practice 5 minutes ago! How did I fall asleep? To the batmobile.

5.30pm Fought my way through two miles of ridiculous traffic to be confronted by bemused offspring.

“Mum why are you here? I told you I was finishing at 7.30pm today.” What???? Mommy brain is real, y’all.

Irritated. Back to the car…

“Where are you?!” – Irate husband. Crap. Supposed to drop him to the airport.

“Almost home! Five minutes away!” Bugger, bugger, BUGGER.

8.50pm Collapsed on the bed; fingers loosely wrapped around a wine glass. Dropped husband at the airport to catch international flight, made tomorrow’s lunch for Son Nº1 (SN1), tidied kitchen, checked and responded to work emails. 

Picked up Son Nº 2 (SN2) at the correct time, albeit in my pajamas. I forgot I had to leave the house after 7pm. I would have gotten away with it if I didn’t have to get out of the car to speak to the music teacher and SN2 hadn’t said rather loudly “Mum why are you wearing pajamas?” (My youngest child was born without a volume control button. I think it broke off in delivery.) To the music teacher’s credit he only slightly raised his eyebrows at my flowered pants.

Speaking of SN1 – where is he? Don’t think I’ve seen him today….This is not unusual as he works an early shift and we often pass each other like ships in the night; but I’m struggling to think when last I did see him. I’ll wake up super early tomorrow and catch him before work.

God, I’m such a terrible mother. At least I messaged Daughter In University several times today. Or I think I did. What if someone stole her phone and was pretending to be her?  I must call her first thing in the morning.

But for now…The Originals and Daniel Gillies require my undivided attention.

 

Wednesday November 13 2013

Calories consumed – 2000 (homemade veggie pizza is low cal, right?). Alcohol units – nil (hurray). Cardiovascular exercise – nil (boo)

12.25 am WTF? Why are all the lights on? Is that broken glass? I should wash my hair.

5.45am Gaaaah! What is that noise? Bloody alarm! I feel like death…what day is it?

7.00am By some miracle got SN2 ready for school and out the door. This is my most difficult task of the day.  Unless I stand over SN2 he will not get out of bed. I have to wake him, get him in the shower, get him out again, stand over him while he dresses and instruct him to eat breakfast. All this while making his breakfast and lunch; and appeasing the increasingly insistent demands of the cat to be fed immediately. WHY ARE THERE MAGGOTS IN THE RUBBISH BAG?? 

3.15pm Spent morning and afternoon in the office; fielding inquiries from potential clients and steadily working through huge pile of paperwork – important stuff like invoices and that sort of thing. I am efficient, productive Chief Executive Officer. Mistress of My Domain. Even found time to make myself a tuna salad for lunch. Had tiny panic attack when I noticed today’s date and realised I had forgotten my housekeeper’s birthday. Hurried back to be house and enveloped her in a massive bear hug. First rule of survival – never piss off people who cook your food.  I’ll make it up to her with the Christmas bonus.

Made 8.00am appointment to go through house repairs list with my Mr Fix It tomorrow. I’ll mention the bee thing to him.  Seriously annoyed about the lawn – the grass is knee high in some places! Just wait until I get my hands on George. Why hasn’t he called?

Haven’t heard from hubby either. Slightly worrying, especially as he’s in the UK dealing with a family crisis. Do I have time to go to the bank?

4.10pm Spent annoying forty minutes in the bank paying bills and depositing pennies. Of course my phone rang the minute it was my turn to approach a cashier. Hubby. Family crisis worsening. Oh dear.

Now on my way to pick up SN2 from after school history class. Still haven’t seen SN1. Must call him if I don’t see him tonight.

6.30pm Why does this country have so much goddamn traffic? Ridiculous that it took me 65 minutes to drive 8 miles! Humph. Must finish off work in the office. Poo.

11.08pm Brain fried. Spent the evening doing Client reports. Ugh. Almost fell asleep on my laptop again. Confirmed SN1 was alive with brief conversation in the hallway.

Was joined in the office by my two office assistants – Lily (cat) and Van Persie (dog). Predictably the animals’ playful posturing soon descended into a brawl over control of the waste bin. I threw them both out.

 

Thursday November 14 2013

Calories consumed – stopped counting after 2500. Alcohol units – err…

Major problems encountered – several. Major problems solved – none

2.00pm Bloody HELL. Absolute tits up day. Barely managed to scramble into clothes before persistent knocking at the back door alerted me Mr. Fix It was here. Spent an unhappy hour trailing him as we went through a surprisingly long list of necessary house repairs. The coup de grace was the bee situation. I had no idea such danger lurked less than 100 yards from the house.  Mr. Fix It and I gaped horror-struck at the humming swarm, thousands strong, steadfastly protecting a massive hive, half-hidden in a tree next to the external wall. How had I never noticed it?? How long had it been there? Even Mr. Fix It and I know he can’t fix THAT.

Panicked, I sought help in social media. Found it on Facebook! Took the advice of friends and called the Ministry of Agriculture’s Apiary Unit. Just spoke to a very helpful lady who took my details and promised to call back for directions to the house.

3.00pm The Apiary Unit hasn’t called me back. Maybe I should call again?

3.15pm Called the Apiary Unit again. No answer.

4.30pm Still no response and I’m living next to Bee Armageddon. Thank God it’s Scandal Thursday! I’ll just pop a bottle of wine in the freezer before I drop SN2 to orchestra practice.

 

Friday November 15 2013

Calories consumed – who cares? Mostly alcohol based. Cardiovascular exercise – does heart pounding count? Crises – growing.

12.27am So sleepy. Ate my wine slushie while watching Scandal and finishing off a teambuilding proposal. Managed to clean most of the glass out of the freezer…perhaps I should set an alarm next time.

6.00pm I wish today had never happened. I feel trapped in a disaster vortex of growing proportions.

Three men arrived from the Apiary Unit shortly after 8.00am to prevent Bee Armageddon.  They took one look at the angry swarm, collectively exclaimed “Oh Gaad oye! Nah man!” and hurriedly retreated to the safety of their ministry truck.

After some discussion they called a beekeeper who happened to be in the area. He arrived within ten minutes and immediately took charge, much to the relief of the Apiary Unit “experts”, who sped off. Before I could say “honey” the beekeeper had donned semi-protective gear (I noticed he wasn’t wearing gloves. Very odd.) and was putting up caution tape and traffic cones.

There is nothing like caution tape to attract a crowd. People see the wispy neon yellow plastic and immediately gravitate towards the danger. Surely that’s the opposite of the intended purpose? Mr. Fix It, the gardener and the housekeeper materialised out of thin air and were soon joined by my mother’s handyman, whose macometer is exceptionally well tuned. Just as the beekeeper began smoking out the bees, the pool boy rocked up and launched into a lengthy discussion with the gardener about what hurts more – a bee sting or a jep sting.

The plumber, who was scheduled to fix the guest toilet and who usually works alone, arrived with a crew of four others (to fix a toilet???). Naturally they decided to take in the show, along with some of the neighbours, who by this time were observing nervously from their gates.  My normally quiet street was soon full of traffic as people driving by slowed down to watch, comment, and give the beekeeper unwanted advice.  By 10.00am we had a good sized crowd of spectators watching the bee removal from behind the safety (lol) of a few rolls of caution tape. I half expected a news crew to show up.

It occurred to me that whatever kept George from cutting my lawn the past two weeks probably saved his life. The beekeeper calmly explained that the hive was a mixture of Italian  and African bees, who will attack at the slightest provocation, especially noise. If George had turned on the lawnmower or weed wacker…the outcome could have been deadly.

At 11.00am a message from Daughter In University alerted me that all was not well with the family in England.

“Have you called Dad? You should call Dad.”

I retreated to my office and began frantically calling my husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law without success. The inability to make contact only heightened my anxiety and fueled the nightmare scenarios already playing in my mind.  Eventually a call from husband confirmed my worst fears. My father-in-law – a good, decent man – had passed away.

I made it through the rest of the day on autopilot. This was not the time to fall apart and grieve. This was the time to remain in control and keep my ship steady.

The beekeeper completed his task and departed with a buzzing box. The crowd dispersed. The housekeeper cooked a meal. I bought groceries. I sent emails, made calls, and broke the sad news to friends and family members, including SN1 and SN2. I made plans. In reality I was keeping busy until I could collapse in bed with the remainder of my broken wine bottle. That time has finally come.

Could things get any worse? Sadly, I believe the answer is yes.

 

Sunday December 29 2013

Calories consumed – It’s Christmas time in Trinidad and Tobago – who and who counting calories?? Please, eh. Steups. Alcohol units – does it really matter? YOLO and all that. Cardiovascular exercise – will definitely do some in 2014.

3.00pm Six weeks have passed. During that time I’ve had a funeral (sad, but oh so wonderfully done), planned and executed a Christmas party (tremendous work but worth it), caught up with family and friends (lovely), and survived Christmas Day (a happy occasion despite raging migraine and crazy parents).

I cannot wait for 2013 to be over. Keeping everybody and everything going is draining. Frankly I am tired of looking after everyone at the expense of myself. I need someone to look after ME. My resolution for 2014 is to say NO more frequently.

Yeah, right. If I was capable of putting myself first I would have done that years ago. But somehow, somewhere at some time in 2014 I need to STOP and reassess my life. Maybe I just need some fun. A vacation would be nice. Alone. Well maybe a few girlfriends could come along for company. Or would a family trip be better? Gaah! There I go again! Perhaps it’s best not to think about it. At least for now. Right now the hubby and offspring are blissfully engaged  (elsewhere), the house is full of food, and most importantly  – there is cold champagne in the fridge.

8.00pm Had a teeny glass of champagne to toast the year’s end. OK, maybe two. The point is – God bless bubble therapy! Feeling much more positive and ready to face a new year! I am Mistress of My Domain! Or I’m drunk. Either way – I’m ready for 2014. BRING IT ON.


The Not So Empty Nest

As the mother of a 14 year old boy and 20 year old man-child, the most frequent words I hear are “What’s to eat?” and “I have a problem.” The response to both is the same – make a sandwich. I’ve commented before on the trials of being a MOB but seriously – I’m beginning to wonder if my sons are bottomless needy pits. I look at them and I see open beaks constantly squawking for attention. When does the boy child become self-sufficient?

Lest I be accused of male-bashing, let me state that my female offspring has frequent bouts of mummy mania. But somehow the common sense gene seems slightly less recessive with her.

After discussing this with friends I realise my problem is far from unique. SMOGs report that girls grow up, get educated, seek gainful employment, and leave the nest. MOBs paint a very different picture. As boys increase in size, so do their appetites and capacity for causing mayhem and incurring unexpected, unwanted expenses.

In spite of the fact that – as one friend bluntly put it – Murphy has a “special” relationship with my family –  I think I have had more than my fair share of testosterone-tainted calamity. The bigger the boy, the bigger the issue. In my household we’ve graduated from “I’ve lost my school shoes” to “I crashed the car” and “I got robbed”. I spend an inordinate amount of time sorting out OPP* when I should be focused on myself.

But being Mrs Fix-It is only part of the problem. In the rare event you produce a boy who submits to formal education without protest, the chances of getting him to leave home post-graduation are slim. I recently suggested to my eldest that now that he is gainfully employed, perhaps he’d like to consider moving out? From his reaction you’d think I’d asked him to lop off a testicle.

I blame myself. Home is clearly Too Nice. At age 22 I was a fresh faced graduate living in a cold apartment and determined to prove I could make it on my own. My mother was thousands of miles away; and even if she hadn’t been, I doubt she would have been setting an alarm to wake me up, make my breakfast, pack my lunch, and wave as I drove off in her car.

By contrast both of my sons have made it quite clear that they have no intention of leaving home any time soon – perhaps never. Why should they? Free room and board, laundry service, transport, and Wi-Fi. I briefly contemplated losing the 14 year old in the mall after a shopping expedition last week. He’s 6′ 1″, 160 lbs, and wears a size 13 shoe. The expense of clothing this goliath is astronomical. And don’t talk about my grocery bill. He requires feeding every two hours.

I honestly don’t know how much longer my finances – and sanity – can withstand the constant and ever-increasing demands. I followed the rules of the parenting manual. Loved, nurtured and guided – so why the hell can’t they fend for themselves? I’m sure I’ll be relegated to the maid’s room when both sons take over the house with their wives and kids.

I love my boys dearly and these home grown money pits are my creations. This is my reward for helicopter parenting. Given the opportunity for a redo I probably wouldn’t change a thing. Living in a country where baby-faced thugs casually extinguish life for an iPhone and a pair of Supras has given me a grim appreciation for the endangered young male species. As much as I bitch about their dependence at least I know where my sons are. Sadly many mothers in Trinidad and Tobago cannot say the same.

So here’s to the bottomless laundry basket, the empty larder, and the dent in the just-serviced car. Drink a toast to mama’s boys everywhere; and the women who made them.

OPP* – Other People’s Problems


Giving Up For Lent

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week for Christians. As the Lenten season draws to a close I am reflecting on my forty plus days of going without. This year I decided to forgo meat. A popular choice but not an easy one for me as my diet consists of 98% chicken. Perhaps this explains why my feathers are easily ruffled.

As it turned out, going meatless was relatively stress free and I wondered – how does modern day abstinence compare to times of old? It used to be that giving up meat, alcohol, sweets, or…ahem…other pleasures, was considered sacrifice enough.

Times have changed.  According to a recent survey conducted by the UK Church Times, traditional Lenten abstinence is highest among students and people in their early 20s and declines steadily with age. Surprised? I was. Even more surprising is what young people choose to give up – swearing, online shopping, and social networking. Lenten abstinence takes on a whole new meaning when one announces “I’ve given up Facebook for Lent”.

My first thought – no big deal. Online shopping I could do without – God knows my credit cards could use the rest – but swearing? That might pose a few difficulties for me.  Remember, I live with Cirque de Westcott. Repeat – CIRQUE DE WESTCOTT.  Expletives are seldom far from my thoughts as I come to grips with my family’s latest exploits.

As for giving up social networking,   consider the difficulty in trying to prise a laptop or smart phone away from a teenager. In my house that involves the use of Extreme Force and more often than not I find myself wishing I had a taser. I vividly recall a Christmas vacation spent in a lovely cottage in England without telephone or internet. The children were rabid by the end of the first day.

Has our need for constant access and accessibility become the New Vice? How often do we encounter someone without a cell phone these days? It is practically unheard of, and on the rare occasion when it does occur, we regard the individual with shock and awe, unable to comprehend how they get through the day. Forty days without whatsapp or Twitter might be a stretch after all.

Whenever I choose to ignore my telephone for whatever reason, I am rewarded by increasingly hysterical voicemail messages from family and friends: “I called, texted, whatsapped, bbmed, tweeted, and Facebook messaged you! Why didn’t you answer me?” Being “off the grid” has temporary advantages but could I do it for an extended period of time? I’m not so sure. For starters I’d never remember anyone’s birthday without Facebook. Isn’t that the purpose of Facebook? Birthday reminders and opportunities to gawp at friends’ photos?

Lent is not an endurance test. It is a chance to examine our lives and look for the temptations that we could resist. Or so I thought. According to some persons polled by the Church Times, the meaning of Lent is:

  • A time for giving things up
  • A Christian festival
  • A diet before important holidays
  • A type of tropical fish
  • How the EU is keeping Greece afloat (These are real answers).

Maybe the younger generation is on to something. Traditional sensory pleasures have been replaced by the allure of the internet. In giving up the internet, social networking or even just the use of a mobile phone, this represents a real sacrifice for some. The point of the sacrifice – giving up something we really want or need – is to draw us closer to God. Perhaps next year I’ll give up Twitter; half-killing myself in the process and definitely drawing me closer to my maker.

What’s your guilty pleasure? What are you prepared to give up?

Tell me your thoughts.

 

 


Who Will Attend My Funeral?

Life has been a bit grim lately and it is reflected in my writing. As I explained to someone, I have no control over what I blog. The thoughts come and I chase them to the keyboard. I haven’t lost my sense of humour. That’s harder to shift than a politician in the limelight – but my musings are currently not trotting down the laugh track. Trying – truthfully somewhat unsuccessfully so far – to channel my inner Maya Angelou: “No matter how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

 

Life After

Recent events have me thinking about what will happen when I die. No, I don’t mean the hereafter. I’m a Christian (Anglican with a capital A, to be precise) and I believe in the afterlife. I know I will see my loved ones after I’ve passed on.  What I am talking about is the sequence of events once I’ve departed – specifically my funeral. Who will attend?

I did a rough count in my head of the likely suspects. I reckon about fifty people. Surprisingly, when I analysed the attendees I realised most of them would be people who felt obliged to my parents, husband or children. Less than 40% would be attending for me.  This got me thinking – what does this say about me as a person? Is it that I have made so little impact on the world that my passing will be relatively unnoticed? Or have I lost my identity and am now seen only as somebody’s wife/mother/daughter?

Further questions arose. Why do we go to funerals? Of the funerals we attend, how well do we know the deceased? What did they mean to us?  I came to the conclusion that my attendance at the vast majority of funerals has been as a result of my connection to the family of the deceased. Most of those who passed I knew peripherally at best.   Perhaps this is a good thing. It implies that in my lifetime I have lost few persons I truly loved. But it also implies that I attend funerals principally out of a sense of duty – and I’m sure I am not alone in this.

The aha moments kept coming. So….if I don’t know the people whose last rites I attend very well, how well do the people who (may) attend mine know me? Despite my dependence on the internet (OK, so I need a twitter or FB hit to get through my day), the truth is – not many. I share what I feel comfortable with the world knowing. The inner me is very private. Which leads me back to the original question – who will attend my funeral? Is the number of attendees a reflection of my life?

Experience leads me to think emphatically yes. But I’ve also realised that it is not necessarily how many people you impact, but why. If only three people attend but they are people to whom I truly meant something, and who I have influenced positively in some way, my life was not wasted. The death is not important. It’s the life that matters.

And therein lies the answer to my question. I should not be concerned with who, but why. Luckily I figured this out while I still have time to impact the eventual outcome. A life lesson learned…through death.

Care to share your thoughts on this topic?  Comment away.


Two little girls

This blog post is a departure from my usual witticisms and rants. I’m sorry to disappoint my regular readers but I had a life changing experience yesterday. Talking about it is difficult but for some inexplicable reason, I find myself compelled to write. Maybe this is part of the healing process.

Inane crazed musings will resume…soon.

The Sister I Never Had

Yesterday my best friend SA passed away. I don’t know where I am on the seven stages of grief but I suspect I’m still in shock and denial.  Today I don’t want to think about death. I’d rather reflect on the treasure trove of memories SA and I built over a friendship that spanned 36+ years.

On a warm September day many moons ago I joined 104 other young girls and their parents in the auditorium of St Augustine Girls High School for Form One registration. I recall nothing about that day except this – the principal asking the assembly to acknowledge the girl who had achieved the highest mark in the entrance examination.  As I turned to look at the pretty girl dressed in red with the big smile I remember thinking – that’s the girl I have to beat. Over the next seven years I would occasionally match but never surpass SA’s academic achievements. She was quite simply, the smartest girl I knew.

In a friendship that grew from childhood to adulthood we shared everything – disappointments, triumphs, celebrations, and heartaches. Our conversations evolved from whispers about first kisses at the back of the classroom and furtive notes hastily written on torn scraps of paper, to late night conversations on childcare and the directions our lives were taking. Every school experience, painstakingly written letter, phone call, text message, email, Skype call, girlie vacation, and raucous night out brought us closer together.

What didn’t I share with SA? Not much. She was my sounding board, advice columnist and favourite liming partner. Being born a month apart, every birthday and milestone was a reason to celebrate together. If I were to line up all the bottles of wine and champagne we’d shared over the years….I doubt one landfill would suffice.

Many a time we rescued each other and she quite literally saved my life. Separation by distance did little to dim our friendship. Somehow we slipped seamlessly from innocence to womanhood without losing the candour and strength of our bond. Out of all my friends she was the most like me. SA fully understood my complex family relationships; like me she strived for more and struggled with periodic bouts of self doubt. We comforted and supported each other.

Many people were baffled by the close nature of our friendship. SA was a perfectionist and could be intimidating. But I saw beneath the sometimes prickly exterior to the warm person inside – the nurturing mother and loyal friend who never missed an opportunity to lavish care and attention on those she loved.

We had great plans to meet in London last August for a memorable weekend of the kind we had become accustomed to over the years – lots of food, alcohol, and female bonding. When SA called the day before we were due to meet up to say she felt unwell I suggested rest and a check-up. She concurred and agreed to see a fellow professional (she was a doctor) the next day. I was not prepared for the phone call less than 24 hours later informing me that what we thought was a tummy bug was in fact cancer.

I last saw SA in person four months ago when I visited her where she eventually drew her last breath. We both knew the time was fast approaching. We said everything we had to say to each other and most importantly – expressed our love and gratitude for the positive impact we had on each others’ lives. Not many people get that opportunity and I know we were lucky. We maintained regular communication via Skype and text until three weeks ago when SA’s health deteriorated to the point that this was no longer possible. Today’s news was inevitable and expected; I monitored her condition to the end.

There are some people who enter our lives and despite their constant presence, their impact is minimal. That was not the case with SA. She significantly affected those around her. To paraphrase Senator Edward Kennedy eulogising his brother Robert Kennedy – she need not be idealised or enlarged in death beyond what she was in life; remember her simply as a good and decent woman who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it.

At some point the tears will come, but not yet. I am mindful of Rabindranath Tagore’s wise words – “If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”

To my beloved SA – thank you for a lifetime of friendship. I am a better person for having known you. Rest in peace.


Humbug, bah

It’s the most wonderful time of the year …yeah right. Christmas brings out extreme character traits we keep submerged for the rest of the year. The additional stress caused by crowded shops, traffic and family pressure among other things is enough to frustrate even the happiest elf.  Normally polite individuals become foul-mouthed demons competing for the last shopping trolley and parking spaces near mall entrances. Cuss outs in traffic queues are common and bank meltdowns become de rigeur (had one myself last week; they called security). Credit card machines breakdown under the additional strain and ATMs empty faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m.

It is also the time of the year when people who don’t usually drive hit the road, much to the annoyance of other drivers. Nothing worse than being stuck behind granny or granddad while they try to remember which turning is the correct one for Cousin Jean’s house.

I’m beginning to view Christmas as a multi-disciplinary event – a kind of Seasonal  X-Games.  We compete in a series of events – the office party, Christmas Day with family and friends, shopping, parties – and emerge either victorious or defeated at the end. Christmas Day is the showcase event and naturally the most challenging; a Seasonal Steeplechase with several hurdles and water pits to overcome. For example:

  • Accepting every party/lime invitation lest you offend someone
  • Buying the perfect Christmas present for everybody on your list without ending up in chronic debt
  • Eating every food item put in front of you with gusto as if your life depended on  it
  • Drinking to excess without telling certain family members what you really think of them
  • Spending several hours in a confined space with your nearest and dearest without killing them

Consider your skill sets and choose your events wisely. Most of my neighbours take part in the Decoration Decathlon.  They try to outdo each other with garish light displays while taste takes a back seat. For the record, my outdoor lights are pathetic; having mostly been destroyed by my cocker spaniel. I choose to avoid this event in favour of the Christmas Cooking and Seasonal Shopping. At least I have a shot at those.

The Seasonal Shopping event is particularly competitive as shoppers literally do battle for the last tin of cranberry jelly and this year’s must have toy. Forget about courtesy. I saw the Coach handbag first and I WILL have it. Seasoned competitors know this is a team event. Plant someone in the checkout queue while you race madly around the store grabbing items on your list. It helps to have a third team member – the scout – who hunts for tricky items and alerts the team captain. “Christmas crackers on aisle 2 by the wrapping paper!” God bless smart phones.

As with any event, there are different classes of competitor. Seasoned competitors line up against Lazy Lookers (self explanatory) who get in the way and Harassed Harrys who just want to buy something – anything – and go home. Lazy Lookers are never alone. They always bring the whole family to gawp, point and generally clog up the shops. Then there are the Smug Shoppers (some of these are also SMOGs so they have a double reason to feel superior).  Smug Shoppers complete all their Christmas shopping by the end of September and return to the shops solely to make friends and relatives they bump into feel inferior.

At this time of the year parents are under extreme pressure from offspring wanting iPads, iPods, and iPhones.  Well here’s the situation – iPoor. As I explained to my kids, times are hard and no such luxuries would be forthcoming this year.

Coming down to the last few shopping hours before Christmas Day, Desperate Dans join the Seasonal Shopping Event. Visit any shopping mall on Christmas Eve. Who are the shops crowded with? Wild-eyed men willing to pay extravagant amounts for spa gift certificates, chocolates, lingerie, fake fur lined carpet slippers in any size –  virtually any present that will ensure they don’t end up in the dog house on Christmas Day.

By far my favourite event is the Christmas Cooking. This is a serious business. It can be a daunting task preparing festive meals for one’s entire family and friends, particularly when you live in a country where finding items like brussel sprouts and fresh cranberries is akin to searching for Sasquatch.

I am a competent cook and start my training in early October, focusing on upper body strength. One needs strong arms to lift the turkey out of the oven and quick reflexes to snatch a just-baked mince pie away from ever present pilferers.  I find bicep wine curls to be most effective. Pour wine in glass, neck it down, repeat. Not only does the added hydration put me in a good mood, it enables me to spend hours in the kitchen churning out culinary masterpieces. Except for last week when a few bicep curls too many might have contributed to me almost pouring whiskey in the brandy butter.

One of the primary challenges for me during the Seasonal X Games is overcoming the Obstacle Course. The obstacles are many and varied – the traffic, the crowds, the annoying relatives, and the propensity for every appliance in the house to break down. For some reason, come December every year all my appliances successively give up the ghost. This year it was the dishwasher quickly followed by the air-conditioning units and two showers. Feeling left out, the gearbox in my car packed up. After all, I wouldn’t be doing much driving in December, right?

It’s a conspiracy perpetrated by appliance stores and tradesmen. They know full well that faced with the prospect of no fridge/stove/washing machine for Christmas we will gladly sacrifice a firstborn and remortgage the house to ensure the much-needed appliance is repaired/purchased by Christmas Eve.

We don’t get medals for successfully completing the Seasonal X Games so why compete at all? Because somewhere at the back of our minds there is that notion of peace and goodwill to mankind and the importance of spending time with those we love. So every year we grit our teeth, gird our loins and knock back another glass of Baileys before inviting Auntie Bessie over for Christmas lunch. The real prize is the memories we create and the joy of making our loved ones happy. And if you believe that BS, you are just as sappy as I am. Bah, humbug.

Best wishes to you and yours! Sound off in the comments below and tell me your favourite/least favourite Christmas event.


Blood Ties – The Teenage Menace

Two things happened recently which gave me pause for thought. The Vampire Diaries returned for a fourth season and I heard Christmas music on the radio. Christmas means the holidays are approaching and my home will once again be under siege from pernicious, home grown bloodsuckers – aka teenagers.

Teenagers are basically vampires. During their vacations they sleep all day and emerge at night to prey on my wallet and food supply. They terrorise homeowners (parents) with incessant demands for money, possessions, and vehicular access. Their grip on our emotions – and finances – is vice-like; those of us unlucky enough to fall prey to these creatures are unable to shake them. I am currently harbouring three within my walls and they show no intention of leaving.

Like vampires, teenagers have to be invited in. Foolishly, we innocently welcome these creatures into our homes in their infancy; unaware of the impending danger – and poverty – we are unwittingly bringing upon ourselves.

Vampires are clever. They woo us with their childish antics and playful innocence, all the while biding their time until the transformation take place. What transformation you ask? This is the night when your  loving affectionate child goes to bed aged 12 and wakes up aged 13 sullen, moody and blaming you for ruining his/her life. You would think with all the advances in Genetic Modification somebody somewhere would have figured out how to create a teenager without raging hormones.

Once a vampire has claimed your home as his/her lair you, the homeowner, have few options. Forget about garlic, crosses, and holy water. You cannot abandon or forsake your bloodsucker. Apparently that is illegal in most countries for reasons I do not fully understand. You are bound by blood to the creature and if you are not careful you will succumb to a serious case of anaemia. I heard of a place called boarding school you can send the vampire to at 13 and have it returned to you at 18, semi-matured and ready for university/ workplace. Tried that. Mine got expelled.

During non-vacation periods vampires hide among us masquerading as school kids. Some of them have adapted well to daylight and can often be found clustered together at shopping malls and popular liming spots. Most vampires however, shun the light, preferring to spend endless hours in their bedrooms attached to laptops, iPads and smart phones.

The male vampire is particularly dangerous. This creature has hollow legs and the capacity to decimate the contents of a refrigerator or larder cupboard within a matter of hours. My advice? Buy a lockable fridge. Male bloodsuckers have another unique talent – they are experts in attracting mayhem, chaos and exorbitant bills which inevitably accompany their…ahem…”adventures”. (See my views on the MOB – Blog post March 14, 2012.)

Selfish and narcissistic in nature, the vampire is the centre of his/her universe. Our only value as victim/parent is to provide a constant source of food, finance and transport. Unlike the creatures of legend, these vampires are unable to fly and need their parents to take them everywhere. Inevitably, this means your life is on hold until the creature is old enough to travel unaccompanied and/or compel a Transport Official to give them a driving licence (paid for by you of course, lessons as well)  – and trick you into handing over keys to a vehicle.

But the situation is not completely hopeless. Some parents gain relief when the vampire leaves home to attend university. But here’s the kicker – you have to pay to send and keep them away – and they return at regular intervals to resume their bloodsucking habit.

Some teenagers chose to jump right into the workplace and forgo the university route. Their parents rejoice but the elation is usually short-lived because even though gainfully employed, the vampire often chooses to live at home and continue parental debilitation.

Given the pernicious, selfish and ungrateful nature of these creatures why oh why do we continue to harbour them? Because we stubbornly believe that one day our little vampire will be saved and miraculously transformed into a mature self-sufficient adult capable of making a meaningful contribution to society. Why are we kidding ourselves? All we are doing is perpetuating the cycle so that our monsters can make monsters of their own. I understand now why grandkids are called the grandparents’ revenge.

In the meantime I continue to nurture my home grown bloodsuckers in the hope that one day I shall find salvation. Pray for me.

 


Burnin’ Down Da House

Drama follows me around. You guys know this or you would not be reading my blog. A normal visit to the hairdresser yesterday turns into a Cirque de Westcott adventure…

So there I am sitting under the dryer reading an exceptionally boring novel on my ipad and questioning why I am still paying this book any attention. I’m OCD like that. No matter how awful a book is I have to finish it.

My hairdresser – let’s call her Flo – rents a treatment room in her salon to a nail technician. The nail tech’s room is located next to the wash and dry room (ladies you know what I’m talking about). I’m sitting there minding my own when my idle musings were interrupted by an explosion and loud screams; next thing I see two women running out of the nail tech’s room.

My first thought? We were being robbed. I expected the women to be followed by three Glock-toting guntas wetting down the place. Cell phone at the ready, I was poised to call the popo. Then I smelt smoke and got up to see what was going on. A trolley filled with nail care products was doing a very good impression of a burning bush while smaller fires glowed merrily around the room. Quick thinking Flo switched off the electricity mains and filled a bucket with water. There was no one else at the salon apart from the nail tech and her client who were running around screaming like headless chooks. Note to self – fire and hysterical women do not mix.

I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the first container I could find – a plastic box of curlers. Tossed the curlers on the counter, filled the container with water and ran back to the Red Room of Nails to douse the burning bush. Seeing Flo and I in action seemed to snap Headless Chook and Ms Thang (hereafter known as HC and MT) out of their hysteria. They were soon flinging water in the room but to no avail. The small fires were quickly outed but burning bush got bigger and bigger and the room rapidly filled with smoke.

HC opened the windows -”Yes! Let’s give the fire more oxygen!” By this time thick black smoke was burning our eyes and lungs and it dawned on me that the Situation Was Serious. I spied a rack of towels and long forgotten fire safety training came flooding back. (Thank you, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme!) I grabbed a few towels – “Not the white ones!” screamed HC; flung them at the others and shouted “Wet it!”

I threw the towels on the burning bush and FINALLY the fire was under control. Flo and I dragged the bush outside and put it out for good. While HC and MT collapsed in a hysterical heap, Flo and I turned our attention to clean up. The salon was flooded.

I noticed HC was limping and realised she had been burnt. Luckily not badly, and some antiseptic cream from my bag soon took care of that. Trust me folks – in the event of a nuclear disaster or act of God, you want to be standing next to me. My handbag is a moving survival kit. Food, water, medication, makeup – the works.

It turns out HC was trying to pour acetone from a bottle, it splashed on a tea light and boom! I think she may consider investing in a fire extinguisher…

Flo turned to me and said “Is your hair dry? Let’s get on with styling it”. By this time my freshly washed hair was reeking of smoke and my clothes were covered in soot – including my white T-shirt captioned “Keep Calm and Carry on”. Ironic, eh? We left HC and MT on clean-up duty and retreated to the relatively smoke free styling area. There was a lot of smoke and water damage but the room appeared structurally sound. Priorities – I had to finish my hair.

I left the salon thinking this brings a whole new meaning to a hot hairstyle. Such excitement I could do without. But it reinforced how quickly a minor incident can turn disastrous. The moral of the story? Throw away my unused mani pedi gift certificate. Life’s too short.


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