Tag Archive | divorce

NO PICTURES, BUT A NEW VISTA COMING SOON

I’ve read many, many novels and seen countless films wherein the living space of a character, occurring in the dingiest neighbourhood, is portrayed very romantically. Loft conversions reached from street level via roll-up on-street steel doors, industrial spaces converted to sumptuous apartments are revealed after an arduous trek up a steep staircase, handsome men brush their teeth at kitchen sinks …  These scenes are, admittedly, usually set in London or New York where, apparently, the dictum of “worst property in the best location” does not apply as importantly as it does here in Johannesburg; a dictum which I ignored when I bought my flat.

In defence of my bad judgement, I was numb at the time: my circumstances were so inconceivable to me that I didn’t even bother to shop around; I bought the second flat I viewed. It didn’t matter to me that my friends would be too afraid to visit me; my daughter had cut me out of her life, what did I want friends for?

When, three days after moving in, the building’s hot water supply was cut off by the city council due to misappropriation of funds by the body corporate management company, I accepted the inconvenience with dumb stoicism and an unhealthy dose of self-pitying martyrdom: surely I deserved as much hardship as was thrown my way?

And then the delightfully unexpected happened and my daughter slowly came back into my life. She was careful not to let her distaste show when she visited me but, once she came to live with me, it soon became apparent that she was deeply embarrassed by our address. Weekend after weekend she chose to stay with friends after a night out, rather than be dropped outside our building by her friends’ parents, lest they be hijacked or harassed by the junkies camping out in the park across the road.

I’d more or less made up my mind that we would have to move, when South Africa awoke one morning to a wave of xenophobia. The news reports were nauseating beyond belief. My neighbours in the building were made up mainly of North Africans; they stayed off work, too frightened to venture out into the threatened violence against them. I myself felt fearful as I drove home every day.

As is often the case, a final sign came to me in the form of a routine bi-annual courtesy call from the estate agent who had sold the flat to me! Yes, I decided, it was time to get out of there.

The flat went on the market on Saturday, hopefully it will sell quickly. It has been a holding space for me during my darkest hour, but that hour has passed and it’s time to go out into the sunlight again. Louise Hay says to release your space to the new owner with love and that love will, in turn, await you in your new space.

And, as my wise friend Charlie always says, so it goes …

ive learned

THREE RANDOM REFLECTIONS ON TIME AND GRATITUDE

Three random reflections on the concepts of time and gratitude … But first, because those in the know advise that nobody reads a blog without photographs, here is a picture of my cat:

Reflections on the lost years

I am a recovering alcoholic. It did not happen overnight, but the progression from ‘normal’ consumption into active alcoholism was swift. It happened at the worst possible time for my child; just at the onset of adolescence. She coped by cutting me out of her life and I floated about the house like a wraith; an awful spectre to make her usher her friends quickly past my bedroom door. She is a girl of strong, strong character; she didn’t allow me to accompany her father when he took her to her first day of high school. She didn’t turn to me when she started her period. I learned second-hand of her first love and her first heartbreak. I wrote to her all the time; letters in vino veritas, letters from rehab, letters at each milestone: her birthday, Christmas, Mothers’ Day, the day my divorce from her father finally happened, and countless days of no particular significance. During my years in recovery, she began – with caution and an ill-disguised mistrust – to meet with me. Slowly, slowly, we drew close again until the most miraculous thing happened and she asked to come and live with me. And so it is with us now; we have a life together again. And it’s sweeter and stronger for the things we lost in those unhappy years. And so it happened that I began to believe in God. I know that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life and that I am only granted a daily reprieve. I understand that it will take much time before my daughter stops watching what I unpack after a trip to the grocery store; I understand and I accept it, with infinite gratitude.

Reflections on the short-lived romance

When I was 50-and-three-quarters-years-old; an age that, in my youth, I had regarded as middle-age; my brother died and I found romance with his best friend. It was, in hindsight, the whiplash of shared grief that we misconstrued as passion. It lasted three months and I was as dizzy as a teenager throughout. I’d not been kissed (the mwah-mwah air kisses from my gay brigade at social events aside) by a man for over a decade. A big, strong and sensitive man; he held me together and has remained a source of support and will be my friend for the rest of my life. And he made me feel desirable; for that I am grateful beyond words. Perhaps, one day, romance will sneak up on me again; for now it is enough to know that I am worthy of love. And I will, always, buy myself flowers …

And, if you’re still reading, here is an old picture I took of some potted roses on my balcony:

survived the hailstorm_edited

Reflections on being deemed too old and too pale

Shortly before we came back to work after the Christmas break, my boss took me to lunch and gently, as is her way, told me that it was time for me to ‘move on’. I’d come to work for her as her personal assistant at the beginning of 2014, when she moved her psychology practice to her home. It was a time when I was brittle in the aftermath of my divorce and we both agreed that it would be a temporary arrangement. She feels that it is now time for me to move back into ‘the real world’ and find a job which will utilise my experience and renew my sense of self now that I am so much stronger. I flew into an immediate panic and made an appointment with a personnel consultant who brutally informed me that I was on the wrong side of 50 and later sent me an article giving me news of the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Amendment Bill, which eliminates all white people including the disabled. (Read more about it here if you don’t believe me.) I fell into a stunned funk, from which I am just emerging. I will not accept this as the death knell for my future. I have too much to offer. For now I am safe where I am, working for someone who has become a stalwart friend, irrespective of where my future journey may lead. And, for the part she has played in my journey over the past year, I have boundless gratitude.

If you’ve read this far, thank you; here is a picture of some poached pears I cooked ever so long ago:

AN ANNIVERSARY AND A REAWAKENING

I was dreaming of food. Crisp baguettes, the flesh of the bread a virginal white, still steaming from the oven, and ripe cheese, its borders creeping towards the edge of the plate. Grapes and plums, stacked high in bowls, dusky and fragrant, their scent filling the air.” The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes.

Almost exactly to the date of the anniversary of my move into my apartment, I had a week-long leave from work. Restless and feeling that niggling Calvinist guilt at the prospect of a period of sloth, I was nonetheless determined to have a bit of a holiday – I had a new novel that – unexpectedly – had food reference throughout, and a stash of sweets. So, as one does, I also stocked up on what has been my staple diet for the past year: pot noodles and sardines. My kitchen has been neglected for the better part of the past year, with hindsight I now understand that neglect to be part of my grieving process. In any event, the pot noodles had to be laid aside when my microwave oven and my kettle died within two days of one another. I was forced to engage with my gas hob and oven.

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Removing the microwave to the rubbish collectors, I cleaned the counter top, rather pleased with the rearranged space and hauled my coffee machine out of its retired status and – very peculiar – the desire to cook again came over me. I had to bake immediately and did so, muffins first, then a tomato and onion tart tatin.

A lamb tagine followed; enough for two days’ lunch. I was mortified by the layer of dust that coated the tagine when I took it down from the shelf.

I went shopping and rediscovered that unfortunate-looking fruit of my childhood: the quince. Ah! Bought a little pork fillet and pan-seared it with cumin and ginger, then wrapped it in peppered smoked Black Forest ham and roasted it with the poached quince …

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“As lamb is often suited to flavours redolent of its habitat – grassy, herbal, maquis – so pork is complimented by the earthy flavour of cumin. Sprinkle ground cumin on pork tenderloin or chops before cooking …” The Flavour Thesaurus, Niki Segnit.

And so it goes, as if the advent of the end of our winter has swept spring back into my kitchen, I am filled with resolve to cook, if not every day yet, more frequently. And my healing heart can only grow stronger; one day at a time …

I just need something to look forward to, she wants to say. I just want to smile without having to think about which muscles to use.” The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes.

LE DIVORCE AND A LOOK BACK AT 2010

I’m aware that a new blog post is long overdue, but I’ve had the most dreadful blogger’s block and a lingering bout of self-pity masquerading as depression. To get me back in the saddle, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to revisit a post I did back in early 2010, and see how many things have changed or are still the same.

I am: made up of my life experiences, but am constantly changing.
Update: I am also – as of 25th April, finally divorced.

I have: about 54 pairs of shoes, most of them red.
Update: When I moved out of my marital home two years ago, I culled my shoe collection. I now own about 30 pairs …

I know: that I am unique.
Update: Deep down inside, I still believe this, but the depression sends me many “What’s it all about, Alfie?” days.

I think: I should have put the fillet in marinade an hour ago.
Update: Ah, that was the good life. I now rarely eat red meat, but when my budget allows I do indulge in a good steak, like I did to commemorate my divorce.

I don’t think: the weekend is going the way I wanted it to.
Update: My weekends bear no resemblance to those of four years ago. Now they are quiet and contemplative, with none of the frenetic entertaining I used to do. I attend 12-Step recovery program meetings and read or watch a movie. With my cat. The past weekend was very bleak.

I want: to change some very important things soon.
Update: How prophetic that answer proved to be!

I have: a tendency to cry easily.
Update: Yes, I still do. Takes very little to get the waterworks going.

I like: avocado pears.
Update: I like my boss. A lot.

I dislike: self-indulgent, egomaniac, me-me-me drug addicts.
Update: Renovations. We’ve recently had a lot of work done on my boss’s home (she practices from home) and – while the results are delightful – the inconvenience and mess were a hair-pulling experience.
I now have far more empathy with the drug addicts.

I hate: winter.
Update: Yep, no change there!

I dream: an impossible dream. But still I dream it.
Update: Ditto.

I fear: something so much that I don’t want to put it in writing.
Update: Again, ditto!

I am annoyed: quite often of late.
Update: By traffic-light beggars who swear at me when I have nothing to give them.

I crave: sunlight and starshine.
Update: Somebody with whom to share early-morning and late-night musings; someone to take turns with to make the morning coffee.

I usually: drink two cups of coffee a day and three glasses of wine a night.
Update: I usually have pot-noodles for lunch at work and drink far too much coffee. Those glasses of wine … oh, how much pain they ended up causing …

I search: for some good in everyone, often it is hard.
Update: For reconciliation with my daughter who has, once again, removed herself from my life. I’m told it’s quite common in the case of divorce for a child to become resentful to rebel against both parents if and when they try to present a united front in disciplining the child. Such is the case at the moment and my grief forms the backdrop to my daily life. I just have to keep the faith and keep praying that she returns to me soon.

I hide: my secret pair of Crocs away from everyone.
Update: See above re my daughter – I hide my pain daily and try my best to present a cheerful front.

I wonder: what Marthinus (my first boyfriend) eventually did with his life.
Update: What would have happened if I didn’t have all those glasses of wine every night …

I know: that madness is just a moment away for everyone. Some will evade that moment and others will succumb. Look at the survivors of the Holocaust.
Update: I will survive this period of my life.

I just can’t help: myself from reacting to bigots.
Update: Still guilty ….

I regret: a great many things. But looking in the rear view mirror may make me miss a signboard, so …
Update: The 2010 answer still makes sense …

I love: Quentin Crisp until my dying day.
Update: Spoiling myself with a bunch of fresh flowers once a week.

I can’t live without: writing.
Update: The 12-step recovery programme. I literally won’t be able to live without it.

I try to: deliver the best version of me. I really do try.
Update: Still trying …

I enjoy: swimming naked at night in summer.
Update: Getting into bed early, in warm pyjamas with a good book.

I don’t care: much for Chardonnay.
Update: I don’t care that I live in a ‘dodgy’ neighbourhood, I love my apartment.

I always: dry my feet first when I get out of the bath.
Update: Yes, still do.

I never want to: be misunderstood, but it happens all the time.
Update: I never want to be homeless.

I rely on: my husband, too much perhaps.
Update: And look where that got me ….

I believe: that there are things I cannot change.
Update: Yes, still, and God grant me the serenity to accept those things, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I dance: and it embarrasses people, so I try to only do it when I am alone.
Update: Far, far less than I used to.

I sing: and my family get very cross about it.
Update: On Sundays, when our local radio station plays golden oldies. My cat leaves the room when I do.

I argue: badly. I am non-confrontational and generally a pacifist.
Update: Ditto.

I write: constantly, without it I would die.
Update: Infrequently of late, which makes me sad.

I win: wine sometimes in competitions. I am lucky that way.
Update: I don’t enter competitions aymore.

I lose: my reading spectacles very frequently.
Update: No change there …

I wish: I could fix something I broke.
Update: I could turn back the clock …

I listen: to classic rock on DMX channel 119 almost all the time.
Update: More carefully to what people are saying than I used to.

I don’t understand: Swedish, but I am working on it.
Update: How my life changed so much in so few years. (And I still don’t understand Swedish … )

I’m scared of: again, I can’t write it down.
Update: Financial insecurity.

I forget: family birthdays. Always.
Update: No change there either … but Facebook has helped a lot.

I am happy: enough.
Update: Some days. On the rough days I just roll with the punches and know that things will surely get better.

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BEING THIN, RITUAL SLAUGHTER, REJECTING SWAINS AND CONTINUED GRATITUDE

No roses to wish my readers a happy Valentine’s Day, but I’ll share a photo of a belated housewarming gift I received from one of my neighbours last week. Her name is Ethelynne, she’s 86, Jewish and is an incorrigible gambler. She tells me that not a week goes by that she doesn’t buy a lotto ticket and has done so since the advent of the lotto draw in this country.

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I’m settling into my apartment with increasing enjoyment and I continue to ‘play house’; having finally unpacked the last of my boxes, the place is beginning to look more like a home and less like a furniture warehouse.

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lounge couch for blog 14 feb

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lounge wall for blog 14 feb

After the disastrous encounter with the amorous Italian Paratrooper, I am meeting more of my neighbors and have begun to acquaint myself with the diverse African cultures that make up the melting pot that constitute the tenants of this building.
Without being familiar with the South African accent, one may miss out on the humour in the exchange I had with an ancient lady from the third floor the other day: I’d arrived in the foyer to find her trying to wrestle her shopping bags into the equally ancient elevator, while struggling to keep the heavy door from squashing her tiny, crippled frame to a pulp. The sweet old dear must be over 90; I’d hazard a guess that she may well be over a hundred years old. The doors swished shut and I said “I’m Cindy.”
“Oh,” she said, “I’m thin too! Always have been, no matter what I eat.”
I managed to restrain my mirth while I carried her bags to her door, but I now smile every time I pass the third floor.
Less amusing, and very alarming, is the rumour – conveyed to me by our busybody caretaker-lady – that the Nigerians a few doors down from me are trainee witchdoctors and are slaughtering live chickens in their apartment in order to use the blood for rituals! I’ve taken to keeping a beady eye on Princess Ally’s demeanour, in the firm belief that cats have a superior sense of knowing about the nearby presence of evil of any sort and that – if the chicken-slaughter story holds any truth – Princess Ally would be going about hissing and spitting with her heckles up. On the contrary, she is the most relaxed cat I’ve ever known and her show of “How dare you have left me alone for so long?” indignation when I walk in the door at the end of the day is an act worthy of an Oscar. It’s quite apparent that she’s been happily sleeping since my morning departure.
I fact, I have – on occasion – had to pat her gently to wake her!

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In other news, I’m loving my job; I must have the nicest boss on the planet and I steadfastly believe that an act of God lead me to be employed by her. I’m very grateful for the amount of free time my job gives me, which enables me to fetch my daughter from school most days. Watching this child of mine undergo the transition from girl to woman; to change daily before my very eyes, never ceases to take my breath away.


The most surprising news I have to tell is that I’ve had tentative overtures from a few potential swains. I am, however, only just beginning to enjoy my single status too much to reciprocate in kind and my inner-grammar-Nazi makes their (there!!!) amorously texted declarations of honourable intent cause me to break out in hives – as opposed to eliciting a demurely flattered blush to the cheeks.
Still, the fact that I am engaging in even vaguely romantic dialogue is a sign of my miraculous growth over the past two years. I often catch myself, these days, marveling at how far my spiritual journey has brought me to be in the world which I inhabit today.
I’m living life on life’s terms; one day at a time. And I’m finding it more joyous than anything I could have imagined…

WRESTLING, ABUNDANCE AND A FAREWELL TO 2013

I’ve been the target of an unwelcome suitor. A knock came at my door some weeks ago and I, thinking he was here to discuss some water problems we’ve been having in the building, allowed a very drunk Italian man who lives on the first floor into my flat. The caretaker of our building has since told me that he’s a general nuisance and a hopeless alcoholic. Anyway, once inside, the man lurched at me and told me that he’d known at first sight that we were meant for one another and that he was going to make me very happy. Grappling at my left breast and slathering my neck with smelly wet kisses, he proclaimed himself to be so generous that he’d just last week given his ex-fiance R10 000. To get new teeth. I was too busy fighting his hands away from my chest area to ask about the fate of the ex-fiance’s old teeth. I darted behind my dining room table and eyed my sabrage sword hanging from the wall. Before I could get to it, your man – very unsteady on his feet – charged at me and got me in a bear hug, clutching each of my buttocks firmly in his hands and proceeded to tell me that he’d been a parabat during his military service and that he’d make sure nobody would ever harm me: his ‘queen’.
By this time I’d managed to dance him back toward the door and – before he knew it – I had him out onto the landing and shut the security door between us. In a wheedling tone he begged to be let in again and then took to bellowing that I was a ‘stuck up cow’ and did I realize that he was not only rich, he had friends in rough places I’d never even heard of. One door down, the door opened and my neighbour, Brice, from Nigeria, an ebony mountain of a man, came out onto the landing and stood, arms folded, an implacable expression on his face and steadily gazed at the Italian who, by now, was spouting and spitting vile gibberish.
Finally registering Brice’s presence, the inebriated wretched slunk away down the stairs. He’s been back a few times, but I simply don’t answer the door. And I now have Brice’s cell phone number saved on quick-dial on my own cell phone.
I’ve had happier attentions from my close friends and family over the last hard times, like my darling sister jumping in to replenish my internet airtime when I ran out.. While I’ve been job hunting a friend has taken over Our Alice’s char wages and my best friend through high school – whom I’ve known for going on 44 years – surprised me with a delivery of a truck full of luxury groceries. From fancy cheeses, pates, chocolates … toilet paper, shampoo and soap … fruit, bread, cat food and cat litter … I don’t need to cross the doorstep of a supermarket for at least two months. I was speechless and at a total loss for words at her generosity.

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Seemingly as a sign of a new chapter opening, one of my miniature rose bushes – which I’d all but given up hope of ever flowering – has just produced a bud …

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And to end the year, one of those quizzy-things that’s doing the rounds today:

  1. What did you do in 2013 that you’ve never done before? I bought my own washing machine. And I learned to accept help from people who care about me.
  2. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, a dear friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
  3. Did you attend any funerals? No.
  4. What date/s in 2013 will you remember and why?  14 July – my daughter said she loves me and we began our reconciliation after a long period of not speaking to me.
  5. Were there any illnesses or injuries in your family? Not in my immediate family, no.
  6. What was the best thing you bought? My apartment.
  7. Where did most of your money go? On buying and renovating my apartment.
  8. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed…”
  9. This question is missing.
  10. What was your favourite TV programme? I don’t have a TV.
  11. What was the best book you read this year? White Truffles In Winter by N.M. Kelby.
  12. What was your favourite movie this year? The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  13. What did you do on your birthday? I moped. I’ll celebrate my 50th birthday next Wednesday, hopefully in a better mindspace.
  14. Did you travel anywhere this year? No.
  15. What did you do for Christmas? I had a sumptuous lunch with a friend and her extended family at the Johannesburg Country Club.

Goodbye 2013, thanks to all my blog friends for your unstinting love and support. May 2014 bring you all rich blessings. xxx

“I believe in justice. And in love. And in NOT getting over it, because that’s too much to ask of a human being. Getting over it is the wrong thing to want, anyway. You should never expect to get over it, the best you can hope is to live past it. And you go on. Your past becomes a part of you, you just fold it into the gnocchi dough and keep rolling.” Lisa Scottoline

BREAKING THE BLOCKAGE AND GETTING BACK IN THE SADDLE

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View from my balcony: Saturday afternoon cricket match – King Edward School.

“Mr Edgerton was suffering from writer’s block. It was, he quickly grew to realise, a most distressing complaint. A touch of influenza might lay up a man for a day or two, yet still his mind could continue its ruminations. Gout may leave him racked with suffering, yet still his fingers could grasp a pen a turn pain to pennies. But this blockage, this barrier to all progress, had left Mr Edgerton a virtual cripple.” The Inkpot Monkey – John Connolly.

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View from my balcony towards the East / Linksfield Ridge with Jacaranda Trees.

I can extend my deepest sympathy to poor Mr Edgerton; I too have been beset with writer’s block for the longest time. My torpor extends even to reading my friends’ blogs. So too my kitchen passion has waned and it is all I can do to force myself to eat a slice of toast and a glass of milk. I’ve been mired in self-pity and fear as I get to grips with the reality of my new life and wrestle with the task of finding gainful employment at a very bad time of the year. As Johannesburg begins to ready itself to empty as its residents flock to the coast for two months, I begin to dread spending the festive season on my own.

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View from my balcony of a storm brewing over King Edward School.

I sooth my dread with the thought that the lovely views from my balcony will be mine alone for a time and that I will be able to enjoy the afternoon summer storms without the customary noise of excessive traffic. I make sure that I make a daily gratitude list, and on that list the first five items are always the same:

My relationship with my daughter continues to prosper and we talk daily

I own my apartment outright and don’t have to worry about paying a mortgage

My divorce will soon be final and it has been amicable

Despite my currently poor diet, my health is very good

I have an extremely loyal and supportive group of friends

I constantly remind myself that the acronym for FEAR is FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL.

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View from my balcony over King Edward School.

A wise friend suggested that I make a list of 10 random things that make me smile – not obvious things close to my heart, like my daughter or my cat; just arbitrary things that never fail to lift my spirits. I will admit that making the list did render a smile:

Jacaranda trees

Vanilla milkshakes

Ducklings

Harley Davidsons

Santana’s “Oye como va”

Braai (barbeque) fires

Watermelon

Toddlers

Roses

Fountain pens

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Roses blooming in my little potted balcony garden.

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Princess Ally; my ever-loyal companion.

And so I remain steadfast in my quest to keep the faith and to believe that – soon – all will be well again …