My body loathing.

The strangest thing happens to a lot of teenage girls. The notion that our body is ugly. It was a particularly tormented time for me and my skin showed the world what was going on in my mind. Hormones added to the quandry and I had terrible spots and pimples pushing out the toxicity of my system.

I always hated my body. One of my earliest memories of myself was thinking I was ugly. I don’t know how the initial thought got there because when look at very young pictures of myself, I certainly wasn’t ugly. But I equated everything wrong that happened to me was as a direct result of my ugliness. Such is the warped reasoning of a ultra sensitive child.

So my troubled thoughts through my teenage years saw me rebel in the most obedient way that I could – with clothes. I tried to look as boyish as I could because this body felt all wrong. I hid my skinny legs by wearing trousers. I would never dare show a hint of my very delayed cleavage. And I NEVER EVER bare my shoulders. There is a pet Afrikaans term I use for that obedient part of me- kloisterkoek. It doesn’t translate as well as cloister cake, but it became a part of my persona, one of the pure personalities that kept me ‘safe’ in my world.

But as I have aged and I think my running has helped calm the body angst, I have begun to marvel at this miracle of my physical machine. What a biological feast. And as my skin hatred eased, I realised that I still cringed at the thought of baring my shoulders. I have bought some vest tops due to global warming and the crazy Jozi temperatures. But I could never wear them ‘out in the world’ on their own. Now my excuse is- my angel wings sprouting under my arms.

I realised that I am still body shaming myself and not able to face the world in ‘limited’ clothing. I have consciously done a lot of physical things to get over my body loathing and putting selfies on Facebook was initially part of my ‘befriending me’ project. I’m fine with that now, but in various stages of undress?

Nah!

I deliberately took a picture of me wearing a vest top complete with camouflage top and put the photo as my profile, to remind me that my WHOLE body is a miracle and without it, I wouldn’t be writing this.

I still squirm a little about certain things of my body, and I am beginning to ask ‘why?’ I wish us humans would get over the shame and into the respect of the marvel that we are. As SaRk, a favourite writer says… the bodacious body of succulence.

Time to celebrate!

The birth of my new label

I was in std 7 when my oldest sister gave birth to my first niece. The first grandchild of the future generation. A little bundle of much anticipated joy. My life changed forever that day. I became an aunt.

With that responsibility, I realised that I was a keeper of space. A 14 year head start on my tumble through the planet. This role was different from being big sister, because I wasn’t expected to look after her, nor share my bedroom with her. I could offer to do these things which made the relationship with her, easier. The pressure was off me. But there was a queue of volunteers to hold her, feed her and entertain her. However the nappy changing queue was a lot shorter.

I remember looking at my sister differently and wondering how she felt being a new mum but her eyes were too wide with surprise to go into a philosophical discussion. Fortunately my mum, granny, was on hand to weave her magic and I would slip back into my (shared) bedroom to listen to my music.



My niece was a bundle of giggles and a real joy to watch. She charmed everyone with her presence as we all stared into that wordless space where she seemed to be entertaining a different dimension. She began to talk about this dimension and her ‘friend ‘ as soon as as could form words. I was intrigued but not surprised. I had my own awareness that I felt in the depths of music. Her friend became part of the family and I was glad my sister didn’t discourage her in any way, and amused when I heard she had to set a place at the table for her friend.



Life happened and I had my gap year and the small family moved overseas and my niece grew into a remarkable, capable and bubbly young lady. After studying teaching ( a job at which she is a complete natural) she became a mum herself. A concept which would have baffled my brain, had it not been for the internet and me being able to see this for myself. This new label of being a great aunt, was softened by the realisation that my niece is a damn fine mum, and I marvel at her capacity and ability to raise two well mannered, lovely, energetic and fabulous young lads on her own.
Grandma and Grandpa do their bit too, but this niece of mine doesn’t understand how me, as a non-parent ( who shies away at this kind of constant responsibility) marvels at her vocation as a mum.

Her birthday reminds me of the impact she had and still has on my life, and I am truly honoured to be able to call her niece.

But darling, what if you fly?

As a youngster, one of the jobs I saw myself doing (doesn’t everyone have more than one?) was air hostessing. Possibly as a result of being so impressed with the beautiful, graceful ladies I saw on our long flight from Scotland, but the travel appealed too. However, after the removal of my appendix at the age of 12, I locked myself into the idea of nursing. I had a messiah complex plus I was nosy and wanted to see what went on behind all those curtains.

A decade later, I was contemplating soaring the skies again. My two options were my planned gap year or just possibly an air hostess job. But the timing wasn’t meant to be and I set off on my gap year before the air company got back to me.

Three decades later, I got a chance to play dress up as an air stewardess. With many air miles under my fake hat, I was assisting on a Heritage tour in my home city. I was super excited to be on this tour of a small privately owned, airport on the far side of the city. But I was also unusually excited to be dressing up. I suppose I am easily pleased, but I am finding fun in the small things in life and I try not to take it too seriously. I can be very intense in my ‘other’ real job as a therapist so my fun factor kicks in daily now.

I have spent the last couple of years going on many Heritage tours in Johannesburg and I am loving feeling like a real tourist in my hometown. It’s been an eye opener discovering the history, beauty and buildings plus it’s a lot cheaper on the pocket.



The Rand Airport was finished in the early thirties. It is a glamorous building that was the first international airport in the country, seeing both military and royalty go through its doors. It is no longer an international airport, which probably helps keep its more personal charm. Designed to look like an airplane from the sky, it has been lovingly restored and is a well preserved space that excites and delights me. Even though I had only visited it once before, it felt familiar and friendly. Perhaps it is the happy sound of helicopters and small planes that influences me but I played my role of hostess with a big grin on my face.

We got the chance to visit the kids managing the air traffic control (I really am getting old -lol) and had an escorted tour to see the fire engines and some fascinating hangers. The marvel of these metal beauties getting into the sky still amazes me and we were treated to a quick air show of some aerial acrobatics. Watching the small planes get parked in their hangar, by a long standing staffer manoeuvre his tractor with speed and skill was impressive. A quick visit to a hotel on site, made me mentally start saving up for an overnight adventure of watching the small hub of air activity for a prolonged period.

The tour ‘captain’ is passionate about flying and life, so it was easy to be led by his stories with assistance from a real captain who shared some fascinating experiences, one of which, being hijacked in the cockpit. More detail is needed about that, but sadly not the right platform for the whole story. All too soon, the group started to twitch and it was time to return to ‘earth’. A fascinating world with a sub culture that remains hidden until I begin to scratch. Definitely worth more digging, and I plan to visit the Air Museum also on the same grounds.

My ‘maiden flight’s over for now, but one of my life’s mottos has become ‘never say never’. I am open to the adventure of life.

A day dedicated to the Wimmen

Women. Lady, female, girl, lassie, hen…

Being born into a family full of different feminine energy, I was fortunate. But as a young lassie I felt somehow that I didn’t match up. I was secondary and doomed to the kitchen. A place I hated because all the action happened in the living room, (so I thought). My chores reminded me of the burden of being female. I tried to rebel against it by being the best Tomboy I could.

Poor Tom? I wonder where that terminology comes from? I digress.

I climbed trees, played cars with neighbour, Mark, I played in the mud, I always wanted to be Tarzan, not Jane. So I invented a sidekick for that tale of the jungle and he had to be Male. I interpreted the world of women as being inferior. Men’s bars, while the wimmen sat outside with the noisy, demanding, kids, were the sanctuary for the men, where who knows what type of executive decisions they came up with while drinking their draughts. I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed in and it infuriated my child mind. I wanted to know ‘why’? Why am I less than, why do I not get choices, why is my view not as important?

As a teenager I rebelled in my obedient way. I did my chores, I learned the workings of the kitchen, apart from the stove. Mum was in charge of that, and that wasn’t because she enjoyed it as such, I think it was purely economical and turns out she was magical in ways of money management. She made a thinning envelope of weekly wages stretch out to cover the needs of a large brood in a marvelous way, that only now am I truly appreciating. My rebellion saw me only ever wear dresses as my school uniform and never anywhere else. Looking back it was possibly also a self consciousness of feeling exposed as I hated my skinny body. How sad us teenagers go through this body loathing.

My Matric dance outfit was a tuxedo my mum sewed for me, and it suited (argh pun) me, at the time. I was proud of my uniqueness but I still hated the perceived weaknesses of my femininity. How wrong I turned out to be. In denying my feminine side, I allowed my power to be diluted. I couldn’t match the two words ‘strength and women ‘.

Yet, us humans are a balance of both. Masculine and feminine, yin and yang. Sometimes it tilts in favour depending on my mood, but I am realising just how strong a silent voice can be. How strength is asking for help ( no matter the gender) when it is necessary. How admitting my weaknesses to another, in fact, makes me stronger. Acceptance of my mistakes and admitting them, possibly even asking for pardon, makes both aspects inside stronger. Choosing myself when the easy option would be to remain in the status quo is a quiet strength, I never knew I had.

Life is filled with marvelous wimmen, and it is also filled with magnificent men. Isn’t this blue planet an awesome place to have fun in this human form?

Praise be to the wimmen, carriers of the future generation.. Praise be to this wimmen, who chose not to have a child. In my own feminine wisdom I had the power to make that choice.

Choose you!

Anniversaries

28 years without mum. The significance of the date, the number, the age, all etched into my psyche, seemingly forever.

What is it with my annual observation and analysis of a further 365 days without my mum?

Then I remember that humans are cyclic in nature. We have rhythms of body and nature. Seasons to plant, yield and rest. Watching the moon, the angles of the sun rays and surroundings helps us control the anticipation. We learn to expect certain things in order to keep a marginal order within.
We know that we can’t control the cycles of both life and death but our anticipation helps contain some of the chaos that we could get flung into.

Not having mum, all these years, left me with a loss certainly, but also a curiosity as to how she would be as an older woman. She was only 35 when we came to this country. Pregnant with her last child, mother to us 6 already, I forget that she was so young. Leaving Scotland and all her own siblings behind, made her the instant elder. All the British immigrants of the time became the elders. Mid thirties, and beyond, they held the new ‘colony’ in their own new wisdom and uncertainty. How young they were..

Would mum have embraced the new technology of today, I wonder? She could handle the Atari Space Invaders like a champ, and she also mastered her microwave. She whizzed over the electric typewriter keys at her work so I like to believe that she would figure out a smart phone. She would have loved to watch all the news on Facebook and I am sure she would have felt as much joy as I did, watching her son cycle the length of Great Britain. She would probably figure out how to use the video option to chat to her great grandsons and heap praise over their football awards. I wonder what radio station she would listen to and I’m sure she’d love all the Talent competitions on YouTube.

It’s nice to imagine still having her sage wisdom, but the wound of that fateful Thursday in 1991, still darkens out the lightness. Returning every year to mark off, yet another anniversary.

I miss you mum,
forever young.

Birthing day

53 years ago, my 31 year old mum would have gone into labour with her sixth child- me.

I wonder if she was nervous. I wonder if she really did hope for a boy, or was her hope more of a good health? Her fourth child was born with club feet, and her youngest 3 year old toddler, was developing severe asthma, so perhaps her concern was more of health than gender.
Nevertheless, a sixth child born was going to cause extra pressure to the young couple who were doing their best to provide for their family.

But, this was the sixties, in Glasgow. Steel workers were beginning to feel the pressure of a world needing less cargo ships. Factories were being closed down or moved down South and many workers were looking further afield to get jobs. A lot of people were in similar situations.

Big families were commonplace. Contraception wasn’t as reliable as a pint of Guinness and the Church was still something to be feared. One panel, skinny windows – pre-double glazing and central heating were at the time only for the rich folk and probably contributed to more ‘snuggling ‘ than any weekly ‘quota’ of sex. Glasgow can be really cold at night, who am I kidding- It can be cold during the day!

Being the sixth born, must have given mum some birthing confidence. I never heard if she struggled with complications, she seemed very calm about it all as I remember my little sister being born (6 years later on the opposite side of the world). Mum walked herself, during labour, to the hospital and birthed a few short hours afterwards. Never having been pregnant myself, this is one instance I can’t imagine. The impending child, gender unknown, scan-free, health unknown. I think I might have been petrified.

53 years ago, mum’s parents were still alive. Her brother was in Rhodesia, South Africa was not on the horizon. How I wish I could pick her brain and ask her these ‘grown up’ questions. Ask if she remembers the specifics. Ask her how she felt about another baby girl. Ask her if she was worried or was her faith in her God, that great that, she could just live in trust that it was all going to be okay. Because it was.

In fact, it was great. I only had her for 25 years but I am still discovering the secrets of her life and her quiet way of doing things and how she influenced me into who I am.

Thank you Mum.

A morning in June

It’s a crisp June morning, too early for the baboons, too late for the birdcall. The campsite smells of stale booze and future hangovers. The continued roar of the nearby water over a sluice is both annoying and comforting.

The hot air balloon helium injection called me out of my tent to wave good morning as it stretched it’s way across the dawn.

Returning to my old army style, single bed I am armed with a mug of tea to snuggle in the comfort of electric blanket as I wait for the campers to start rousing. I imagine the fellow morning people blinking in the dark tents wondering if they should stir the sleepers. With the thick canvas covering the windows of cold air and light, it is hard to determine the time naturally.

I like watching the sun claim the day, chasing away the traces of night. I love knowing that for the next 10 hours, light will triumph over dark.

There is only a brief section of the day, which feels exclusively mine. The part that I feel invincible, observing the quick shift in nature, asleep and awake. But the new noises of staff clearing up last night’s event remind me that they made claim to the day before it was mine.

The sunrise spills over the horizon and floods the land with light. Voices raise as people greet each other, deciding on how to start the first Sunday in June. A short visit to the countryside is a tonic for the soul.

Highveld Fling

When I was born, the world really was black and white and not just TV’s. It was a world of right and wrong, good and evil, fear and obedience. The hippie movement started breaking the post war mould. Elvis has started shaking it up, but the Sixties flower children stepped it up and what a job they had. No wonder they needed to be stoned. That movement needed courage.

In my small world, I was taught ‘us and them’. Glasgow then, the ‘them’ was Protestants. We were the Catholics. Mics and Proddies. Across the Irish Sea, this sometimes was a matter of life and death. I vaguely remember talk about the Paki shop, but there were no people of colour in my world. Okay, perhaps redheads, and I had 2 Ginger sisters and some cousins were also ‘different’.

This religious separation caused trauma, adrenaline, adventure and when it came to football, the intensity shifted gear. The air was always electric when there was a ‘match oan’. But before I really got stuck in those ways of life, we moved to South Africa.

Colour everywhere and the heat flooded my body. Suddenly the usual account for safety shifted. I remember being fascinated by the first black man who served me in the hotel restaurant.  He called me ‘miss’. I stared and stared. I was five, so I do apologize but it might have been rude. I also didn’t like him calling me ‘miss’. Our family had rules and he was my elder, I was supposed to call him  ‘mister’.

Unfortunately the barbaric laws of the land prevented so much learning and growing. The hippie movement didn’t really arrive at these African shores. But all the new dangers unfolded in my world. The  Boer. They hated us rooinekke and I didn’t really know why. However most of them were Protestant, so that was a reason to stay separate.

Suddenly the local Catholic Church introduced me to Chinese people, Italians and even Indians. The Italians were in the majority though, but the new definition of British didn’t really get us to mingle with those ‘others’. In our ‘tribe’ suddenly I had Proddie friends. Even people from  Edinburgh! I was familiar with Irish but had never met English people. And in a way our identity shifted to find familiar in a foreign world.

I remember our tribe longing for ‘home’. Getting drunk and having sing-songs always ended up with some tears. I watched as these grown-ups greeted and I wondered why. As the years went by, life shifted and some families returned to Britain. Other families moved as the 4 year contracts ended and the pocket of familiar changed.

Today I attended a Highland Gathering in Johannesburg at a local school.  Pipe bands came in their hundreds to compete and I sat fascinated by the sights presented to me. Kids of all nationalities in kilts, carrying drums or bleating a bagpipe. Different cultures all finding a common love for the music and culture of MY people. Even, yes, some Chinese.

We had the opportunity to hear some background from a teacher who told us that in the Apartheid years, Catholic and some Private schools ‘rebelled’ against the militant governments rules of ‘cadets for kids’ and added some bagpipes because the band ‘marches’. I was amazed at how supported this pastime still is. Flabbergasted actually and secretly quite honoured, although my ignorance to my Scottish history is almost embarrassing. We sat surrounded by the music that felt so familiar and loved the community spirit.

The grand event of the day didn’t seem to be the prizegiving, although I may be biased, but we were told about the mass piper march at 3.30. The field opened up and the bands lined up at the far end of the field. The drum majors marched smartly to the front and the sound of a thousand bees suddenly ripped through the air. The bagpipes began their melodic wail with ‘Scotland the Brave’. Suddenly the crowd stood still, went quiet, tears spilled and other filmed with their phones and everyone felt it.

Home .

PechaKucha- chitchat

2019 is proving to be a year of many changes, so in what-used-to-unusual fashion, I decided to try something outside my comfort zone.

I think it might be my age, or planets, or lack of running but I am a lot more adventurous in my fifties. I seem to have let go of my underlying chronic anxiety. The fear has feared off. So to do an ‘internal’ test, I said ‘YES’ to doing a public talk at Montecasino. The Japanese format of PechaKucha which gives me 20 seconds using 20 slides and a grand total of 6minutes and 40 seconds to impress an unfamiliar audience.

I seem to be saying ‘Yes’ to a lot of things on impulse but I am enjoying the flow it is bringing to my life. I had a concept for my talk but I struggled to get the flow of the middle bit. Knowing that I can talk for waaay longer than the allotted time, and I can speak really quickly just to confuse non-accent-familiar folks, I deliberately put in less words than necessary. This was to force my pause and roll my vowels ( my mouth just sounded that last bit out).

So eventually the day arrives and I am excited but oddly non-plussed about my clumsiness with the middle bit of speech. We are encouraged to have a rehearsal beforehand to test the system and get familiar, which I always like. So I line up after two delightful polished, speakers who swan through their 6 minutes. My turn on mic, gets me into a very unusual knot. My voice trembles, my brain freezes (sans ice cream) and I swear out loud on mic. The second attempt, I walk away from the third slide, stifling a gallop to my car and a drive to the coast.

I pace up and down the casino complex passages mouthing to myself in 6 layers of crazy, yet the nerves are still silent. I have become extremely good at self scanning, so I wonder if I have just pushed myself so far over into complete numbness. But I realise I am still excited and curious to see what I do in front of an audience. Okay, one part of me could still hear my car call me away, but I ignored it.

The evening starts and I sit with the other speakers at the back and I notice the most experienced one of us all, fidget a bit. He’s sitting beside me, so of course I ask if he’s nervous. He admits that there is a touch of nerves and I can literally feel my shoulders drop with relief. I am still internally trying to locate my speech in my mind, but it kept me in suspense.

My turn comes very quickly. As I approach my position behind the mic, I feel my arms punch down and I hear a strange voice say ‘let’s do this’. I take a deep breath and look out at the large crowd of expectant eyes. I don’t hear my voice quiver, and I see people nodding their heads, laughing when I intended. I can’t really remember everything I said, perhaps I had a ‘walk-in’ lol. The slides fly by, my mouth keeps moving… and I must be making sense because I still see heads nod.

The last slide appears and I realise that I made it. Relieved but loving the human eyes on the chairs, I realise that I respond well to an audience. I like the feedback, much like the Comrades marathon, people naturally seem to want others to succeed. I feed off that. So this year I am not running the 87km and I doubt a 6 minute chit chat can compare to the magnitude of the race from city to city, but I did have a great experience and I learned something new about myself. I didn’t back down from the possibility of disaster and I dove right in… just to see how I would handle it.

Isn’t life such an awesome adventure?

Jozi- the city of gems

A crisp Autumn morning saw me summoned to the big water mass in the landlocked city. Emmerentia Lake which was named after one of the Randlord Farmers wives, was ‘gifted’ to the city.
And what a gift it remains.
The interesting terraces and different areas make for a lovely wander.

On arrival at the gate, I saw a wedding procession arriving opposite a mass group of Tai Chi-ers. I was greeted by the eccentric but fascinating bookshop owner who rushed me along to the quiet martial arts display. I saw early morning picnic-ers, while kids scooted around on their bikes, while solo book readers lost themselves within pages of their books.

The summer leaves have started falling, exhausted from the unusually hot summer, but  the trees still look rather full. Some swallows seem to be hanging behind on their migration north, while bulbuls screeched some morning tunes.

I lingered in the rose gardens and took my time to smell as many as I could and thought of my mum. Unusual butterflies didn’t allow me to take a photo but flitted their way as I made my way to the water. I was surprised how quiet it was, being a perfect morning for a paddle. I quizzed a remote boat handler and learned some interesting things.

Remote boats cost about R4000- so the sport is becoming less popular. There is a competition once a month  (?) With about 18 ‘leaguers’ meeting to test their skills. One chap is good enough to compete internationally. When asked how his skills differed, I was told maybe he can read the water and wind better.  I also learned that some people meet on the water at weekends to do yoga on standing paddle boards!!! I still had loads of questions but realised that he might be there for some peace and quiet -which I was ‘taking’ from him, so I thanked him and went off to check out the geese. Hundreds of them. All rather quiet, and some looking rather injured, I wondered if it was because of ‘inbreeding ‘ or other reasons.

The walk back to my car, saw me stop in the eccentric bookshop, which has marvellous books but somehow I resisted my temptations and they can remain there for future purchase.  The wedding party had grown considerably but there was no sign of the bride and groom as yet. Pity, because their guests all looked gorgeous, so I wanted to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds.

The great outdoors called.
I think I might be missing my morning runs. But a long walk helped.