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Category Archives: memories

Over the rooftops

2-roof_0010a

The ripple earthy-red of clay-tiled rooftops is a visual that will always take me back to Sao Paulo. Yes, it’s found in other cities, towns and villages of Brazil and in many other countries, but Sao Paulo was such a huge part of my personal journey, that my thoughts go there.

What you’re looking at here are two houses. The tall house on the one side and it’s neighbour, glued to its side. It’s typical of housing layouts in much of Brazil. There is no space between the houses, which are long and narrow, often a series of rooms stacked one behind the other with connecting doors. It’s rare to find a passage.

I love skies and clouds and cloudy skies. I have far too many photos scattered through my albums of clouds, but what I’ve noticed is that many of them are where I’m in a confined area gazing out. It’s a pattern that’s repeated itself over and over from childhood. I was the child who had “… would do far better if she didn’t spend her days gazing out the window” or “…daydreams too much” in almost every school report, particularly the early years. I think much of that dreamer still exists. There’s many a time I find myself gazing at the horizon, thankfully, usually not from a confined space.

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in challenge, memories, photography, sao-paulo

 

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10p

10p

One of my most precious possessions is a 10p coin minted in 1962. It’s not a special coin in itself. It’s just an ordinary 10p coin, but to me, it means the world.

Jim, my hero-worshipped grandfather, and I were walking along Rink Street, probably heading for Lilwills, the bakery that made the best egg sandwiches I have ever had. They also made the best cheese and tomato sandwiches, now that I think about it. I was about 6 then and, as was my habit, was walking with my nose to the ground. I like to think it was so that I could spot coins, but it was probably out of a fear of tripping over a crack in the pavement. I was just that kind of kid. On this occasion, though, I did spot a coin, much bigger than the coins I was familiar with. Pounds and pence had been out of South Africa for some years by then.

Jim told me all about the pence. He was Scottish, you see and knew about these things. To me, that was the most exciting of all… a coin from ‘his world’! The fact that angels leave coins for people to find was even more special. We took the coin home and Jim put it on a chain for me. This chain is very long by my adult standards, so it must have hung at my knees back then, which is probably why I never wore it, but I treasured it. As an adult, I wear it a lot. It reminds me of Jim and makes me feel he’s still watching out for me.

It’s funny that… that I feel he’s watching out for me. Someone mentioned once that I had an angel watching out for me. I was going through a really rough time. It was about then that I had a dream that mixed Jim up with a lion and words of courage. Still, it was, to me, just a dream with a message. I thought no more of it. Not long after, here in Ireland, I found a shiny new 10c piece lying smack dab in the centre of a doorway. Still, I didn’t think much of it, as someone could have dropped the coin. When I found another one, also new and shiny and 10c, I started thinking it was odd, but what made it far more unusual was that this one was smack dab in the centre of the doorway of a chicken shed! Not the sort of place one would usually drop a coin. Ok, I was paying attention by then. I found 4 more coins. All of them, without fail, bright shiny new 10c pieces and all lying in the centre of doorways. This was in the space of a couple of months. Too much coincidence? I’d say. So don’t mind me if I believe my beloved Jim is watching over me and holding my hand when times get a little rough. I still have all those coins. Perhaps one day, I’ll put them on a bracelet to match my necklace.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in jim, memories

 

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He preached with his eyes closed

Yes, he did indeed preach with his eyes closed, but that was the least of what made Father Brennan unique. I remember the first time I met him very clearly. Jurgis and I had started dating. He decided to take me to the little (make that ‘tiny’) Catholic church in our neighbourhood just so that I could see it. I’d never been to a Catholic church before.

St Vincent's Catholic Church - Algoa Park

It was indeed a tiny church, two narrow rows of pews. Not the kind of church you can lose yourself or be inconspicuous in. To say Father Brennan was remarkable would be an understatement. Jurgis’ family were Catholic, by long-standing national/family tradition and purely in name, barely making it to church for the requisite christenings, marriages or funerals. Jurgis himself had probably only set foot in that little church a couple of times… and yet, Father B (to save me typing out his name each time) remembered him.

We walked in and found ourselves mid-church seats, neither of us being eager to attract attention. Jurgis hadn’t been in ages and I was out of my depth, not knowing what to do with all that ritual that everyone seemed to have been born knowing. I was just figuring out when to kneel, when to stand, when to open the little prayer book and flap around looking for the right words (often ending up on the wrong page and pretending I knew what I was saying) when the collection was taken up. Now I’m familiar with collections. All churches have them in one form or another. I’m even familiar with the ‘turn around and greet your neighbour’ bit. What I wasn’t prepared for was Father B himself. He swept down from his pulpit and stopped to chat with each member of the congregation. Yes, there were that ‘many’. He approached us and I prepared myself for the “Hello, nice to meet you.” What I got was more along the lines of “Faith! And it’s good to meet your future wife! You’ll be coming here for the wedding, won’t you?” Father B was an Irishman with a voice designed for cathedrals, not tiny churches with 20 occupants. Every face in the little church turned to watch his sheer pleasure at our impending nuptials we knew nothing about at the time.

That wasn’t the end of my experience of the dear Father. The sermon was yet to come. He stood, hands folded across the front of his chest, closed his eyes and swayed slightly… back and forth… back and forth. I thought he was preparing himself or offering some sort of internal blessing, but the entire sermon was delivered like that! I was so fascinated, I don’t remember a word of the sermon. Ok, that and the fact that it is now many many years ago.

Fast forward a time and a half. We went back to Father B’s tiny church after our engagement, perhaps to show him that his prophesying was indeed accurate. “Faith and you’ll surely be bringing the little ones here to be christened?” Uh huh. Definitely! We laughed all the way home.

On hindsight, we should have gotten married in that little church. I think our memories of our wedding would have been very different. As it was, we got married in a vast cathedral in town – a place not one of us enjoyed and came fraught with its own politics and issues. If I have any advice for anyone considering their nuptials it would be to find themselves a Father B and avoid the grandeur of vast halls. Sadly, we never saw him again, but he definitely left his mark on our memories.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in memories

 

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A ghost in the press

Funny how memories are set off. I was reading a book and a inconsequential conversation between two boys about the ‘ghost in the press’ caught the attention of long forgotten memories. At the first mention of the ‘press’, my mind went to printing, until logic suggested that, as they were in their bedroom, a clothes press was more appropriate.

ghost

What child doesn’t fantasise about monsters under the bed? I made a point of never having a foot or a hand over the edge of the bed just in case. I mean, you never know, right? I went through a phase of “if I can’t see them, they can’t see me” too, which started a lifelong habit of needing to be covered right up to my eyeballs. I still like to be completely covered – still afraid of the bogey-man? Perhaps, though I suspect the bogey-man has morphed into its adult form of a variety of nameless, faceless fears, but… it was the wardrobe that did it.

Many was the night I’d lie in bed staring at my dark-wood wardrobe, almost seeing it open and the skeleton hiding inside coming out to get me. It wasn’t always a skeleton. Some fears were far worse, some more insubstantial. Either way, the wardrobe was a horrifying element in the half-dark of my room.

Today, I wonder if the ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ talk of the adults around me weren’t at least partly to blame. The cupboard grew in my very vivid imagination to hold all manner of ills. I suspect there’s a little part of me… ok, perhaps not such a little part… that’s still somewhat afraid of what could come out of the wardrobe as soon as I let my guard down. I have no wardrobe in my current bedroom and the one I photographed is perfectly harmless… this wardrobe is in my mind – a dark, closed receptacle of nameless, faceless things that may or may not exist. Is it just me?

Naturally, if you had to ask me what I fear, I’d put my hands behind my back, lift my head and that same little girl will confidently say, “Nothing!” 

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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in memories, thought

 

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Sunday Memories

I was feeling a little nostalgic anyway, playing with Overenthusiastic-Odie….

odieI gots a stick, I has!

I miss having my own dogs around. Luckily, I have an abundance of dogs and other critters who make me smile here. I spent yesterday playing with Lupa, a rather goofy 7 month old German Shepherd.

lupaI want to let go, so you can throw it, but tug-o-war is so much fun!

We don’t work weekends. Really. Honestly. Ok, sometimes. Thing is, farming’s like that. You’ve read ‘Animal Farm’, right? Today’s politics involved the chickens. You’ve met the existing chickens… Now meet the newbies!

chooks

These arrived here with warnings that they were wild and could fly and liked to sit in the trees. Um… ok… We clipped their wings, put them in the hen house and set about trying to make friends with them. A couple of weeks later, they no longer squeeze themselves into the corner to get away and they do come forward when greens are offered, but… they fly! They fly to the window sill with their clipped wings (to clarify – only one side, before anyone tells me we did it all wrong).

Today, we got another addition to the flock, Crocky’s sister, who looks a lot like that feather duster. She was put in with the other chickens by her now-ex-owner, only to be pecked on, so she was moved in with the frightened newbie group. We plan to try and put the whole lot with the old birds tomorrow. On Wednesday (or thereabouts), the new chicks should hatch. That’ll add another dimension to the whole drama. This should be an interesting week!

I’m now sitting here over my cup of dandelion and lemon balm tea with a wee drappie of honey. It’s delicious! I was feeling a little under the weather this past week. Hopefully this will give me the Oomph! that went missing.

I wanted to show Jurgis a video and was looking through my files with pictures of South Africa when we had a bit of a discussion about the location of a remembered landmark in our home town. That took us to Google Maps. I’d have lost a few kilos if I’d walked the distance we covered this afternoon :)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I had an idyllic childhood. How many children get to go to school in a school as full of character as this one. This is the old Albert Jackson Primary School. Its walls were solid stone and thick. It breathed history, but was bright and cheerful. It looked no different to the way it looks now (the building is protected by heritage laws), though it’s been many, many years since it held any children.

Albert Jackson Primary School (modern)

Albert Jackson had no playground of its own, so, at break time, we’d all line up and cross the road ‘crocodile’ fashion to the Donkin. Now can you imagine a nicer playground for school breaks? A view of the ocean, vast lawns, funky monuments and plenty of pigeons to absorb the lunch crumbs.

Donkin

The Donkin is named after Sir Rufane Donkin, governor of Port Elizabeth in 1820, when the British settlers landed. The unusual pyramid next to the lighthouse is a monument to his wife. I thought the story to be really sweet:

“His life is also one of romance and undying love. He married Elizabeth Markham in Yorkshire under a traditional organised marriage which was the custom in those times for the social upper classes. But Sir Rufane Donkin truly fell in love with his beautiful young wife. In most cases the wives of high ranking military officials stayed at home while their husbands were abroad. However Elizabeth Donkin chose to be with her husband and travelled with him to India where she was to become seriously ill, and died in August 1818 after their first son George David was born.

The effect on Sir Rufane Donkin after her death was immense, and to such an extent was placed on leave from his post, however he was given the task of organising the 1820 Settlers in Port Elizabeth. He was officially the first governor of PE from the 6 June 1820 – 1821. His wife Elizabeth was buried in Meerut in India but her heart was embalmed at his request.

…… Love it is said is as strong as death! Sir Rufane Donkin built a memorial to his wife Elizabeth known as the Donkin Memorial atop a hill above the city centre and named the city, Port Elizabeth, in her memory. The Donkin Reserve is open to all in perpetuity according to his will.”

From The Port Elizabeth Times

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in animals, dogs, memories, south-africa

 

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Photos in my mind

13

*A note to those who’re new to my blog…
My blogs are written on paper while I’m out teaching,
in the ‘dead’ time between students or on the bus…
just in case you find it doesn’t make much sense*

Oh look! Today’s Friday the 13th! So far, it’s promising to be peachy in spite of my horrorscope promising doom ‘n gloom. I think I’ll actually take a lottery ticket today. In fairness, the lottery place should be empty barring a few other souls as odd as me.

It’s Friday! : )

An old black man got on the bus – his most notable features were his work-worn hands. I looked up at his creased brown skin and my thoughts went back to old Joe. Joe was part of the landscape of my childhood, a short man, his face a map of ebony wrinkles. I’m not sure what his actual job was, but I remember him mostly on his knees alongside my gran as they lovingly tended pansies, dahlias and roses.

He was a quiet man. The only time I remember him actually saying something was when, during some controversial political upheaval in the country ~ “Ek’s ‘n kaffir. Ek sal altyd ‘n kaffir wees.” (Translates to “I’m a kaffir and will always be a kaffir”) He wasn’t being humble or downtrodden when he said that. He said it with an odd pride. I actually think that he had found the equality everyone else was crying for kneeling in the dirt next to a white woman, tending the flower beds they both loved. I was taught to respect him and who could do otherwise? I think he was old before time began.

Another short man from my past comes to mind, Oom de Vos. I can picture him clearly. Actually, I can smell him clearly too. He carried a musty old-man smell about him that made me imagine him carrying mothballs in the pockets of his equally old black suit that he probably dug out especially for these visits. I wish I knew more about him though. He’d known my gran for many, many years. Apparently, he had been a manager on the family farm. He always spoke to my gran with warm deference. I suspect that he could have filled in a lot of the gaps I have in the family history. I’d look his family up, but, sadly, De Vos is a fairly common name in South Africa and I know absolutely nothing else about him. For the lack of photos, I wish I were an artist. I’d paint a picture. The memories are crystal clear.

A young girl, a student, got onto the bus and stood next to my seat. I offered to hold her bags, but she put them on the floor at her feet. She did, however, allow me to hold her book, a thick tome on Clinical Anatomy. Have you ever held a book and wished you could just absorb all the information in it through the covers… osmosis-style? I did. I wonder if she’d have thought me odd or presumptuous if I’d started flipping through the book.

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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in life, memories, people, thought

 

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To all my mothers

This is a repost…. edited slightly

One woman gave birth to me, but I had many mothers. This blog is dedicated to all the mothers out there… the women who were mother to me and to those who have the souls of mothers, but could never, for whatever reason, be one. My life is a series of moments where I changed hands… I went from mother to mother, each one holding my hand and leading me on to the next stage of my growth.

My first dedication, naturally, goes to my gran, the woman who raised me as her own. What I am today, is largely thanks to her. She empowered me to be me. Then there was Sophie. Sophie was the one who abba’ed me (carried me on her back), strapped to her back, Xhosa style, while she worked. She fetched me from school, gave me my lunch. She taught me to love samp and beans. I remember Aunty Val, the lady at Sunday School who took over when my gran took me there at the age of 3 to learn about God. Then there was Miss Brown, my Grade 7 teacher, an elderly spinster lady. Everyone dreaded getting to her class, as she was ‘strict’, but when we go there, we knew we’d reached a safe place to grow and thrive. We loved her and cried when we had to leave her. We cried again when she died.

Then there was Lynette’s mom who said she’d happily adopt me. I cried on her shoulders quite a lot as a drama-queen teen.

The list would not be complete if I didn’t mention the hostel moms at boarding school who put up with a lot of stuff ‘n nonsense from us, listened to our crying and ‘bullied’ us into keeping cubicles tidy and doing homework. Now Margaret was hardly a mother-figure, but she was a fair deal older than me and knew how to be a wife and keep house. When I found myself alone in Cape Town as a newly-wed, she was the one who helped me with her unique mixture of humour and common sense. Aunt Molly was the one who later held my hand and let me cry on her shoulder after Ceinwen’s death. She had lost her son too. She was just ‘there’ and helped me through a really difficult time.

Ros… my dear friend, sister, mother and the one who attended Tatiana’s first grandparent’s days. Ros had plenty kids of her own to keep her busy, but opened her heart, home and life to more as they appeared on her horizon. She was my spiritual mother and there in a very practical sense too. She was the one who helped me stay slightly sane through the trauma of leaving home. And Aunty Ruth *smiles* who was mother to all living creatures that crossed her path. It didn’t matter whether you were a child, a woman, a nasty bullying pidgeon or a little turtle dove, whether you were a cat or a dog. Every creature was loved and cherished as only a mother can. My own "Mrs Pepperpot".

Once in Brazil, my mothers were online. The one who truly comes to mind is Felicity. Felicity was, to me, mother, sister, and very dear friend. She was there for me pretty much from the word go when I was struggling to adapt to this strange country and missing home sooo very much. Let me not forget Llynde, who has played a very important part in keeping my dreams alive and helping me grow in the talents she saw in me.

Many of these women are no longer with us, but I know their spirits are still with me, guiding me, keeping me strong and giving me comfort.

Strangely, this is the first time I have not had a mother-figure in my life. I look around me now and I see my fellow-mothers and sisters, those who are mothers and mother-figures to others, the women who go through the same joys, fears, hopes, dreams, sorrows that I do, who inspire me and light my journey. You are all so important to me.

Thank you!

 

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Posted by on May 9, 2010 in family, fel, memories, reflections, thought

 

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