Sunday, 12 October 2014

DISPOSABLE YOU....


We are living in extraordinary times.  Everything manufactured today is with a shorter lifespan to increase repeat sales and keep industry turning. Washing machines, fridges, dishwashers... gone are the days where you could buy something that would last you twenty years, like my parents' fridge once did. I don't recall as a child them ever replacing any appliance, and as such everything aged gracefully and still limped along doing its job just fine, albeit a little worn around the edges.  But even age gave it a certain grace, a longevity that today's generation knows nothing about.  The dented toaster, the chipped cup that your father always drinks out of.  It is memories that are made of such things.

Today things are much changed;  things are disposable - everything from paper plates, to mobile phones, to seasonal clothing, and even cars. Everything replaced, dumped, renewed, and kept up to date - either because society says it must be so, or because things just don't last as long as they used to. In Ireland, the first two digits of your car registration denotes the date the car was manufactured, such as 07.... or 09.... or worse still... 01. And this puts pressure on folk when they feel they need to upgrade to keep their belongings fresh and new.  I'll bet top dollar if they took off the registration numbers of cars for sale, you'd be surprised at the year and model of car you'd choose blind.  Then such things as mileage, design, and functionality will come into play, and you will no longer be coerced by status.

Marriages and relationships are far more disposable these days, too.  Gone are the 50th anniversary parties - celebrating long lives shared, memories made, roads travelled, obstacles overcome - to be replaced with "oh, you're divorced?  Shame."  Have we, as a nation, become too fickle and dismissive of our emotions along with our belongings?  Do we walk the walk as well as we talked the talk when we first hooked up together?  Are the pressures of daily existence now no longer conducive to going the distance when it comes to Love?

My mother always said why would you want someone else's leftovers, a terrible way of phrasing things, it has to be said.  But in her day, marriage was for life, relationships weathered the storms, and priorities were in their rightful place, so you can understand that mentality. My parents have been married for 64 years. It's a pity we don't have the same values in each other today.  There is no respect anymore, no tolerance, or understanding, or compassion.  There is only the quick-fix solution of a get-out clause that's never far from anyone's mind.  After all, we are a modern day mish-mash of children that have survived broken homes, broken marriages, and broken dreams, so why should we bother trying to invest in something worthwhile second time around?  

I haven't dated in a long while.  Oh, I've had the occasional coffee, the random meal here and there, but nothing that I thought would amount to much more than a date. I take love very seriously, and I know what suits me and what doesn't. It doesn't revolve around money.  It doesn't revolve around the car they drive.  Nor does it revolve around what he can bring to my table - I have enough to feed myself there, and have provided for myself for a very long time. But what I have discovered - and shoot me down here if you disagree - is that people have started treating others as commodities, sexual objects perhaps used to pass the time of day, and only ever a short skip and a jump away from the exit door.  After all, there are plenty of other de-scaled and gullible fish in the sea, not so?

What happened to old fashioned romance?  Where have the men vanished to, the ones who open doors, who want to protect their woman, provide and care for them, the ones who'd rather head out for a night with their partners rather than get drunk in a local with their mates?   Have women become so self-sufficient that men have become effeminate?  I don't want a mouse.  I want a man's man in the fullest sense of the word, with a heart as big as the ocean.  And I will find him.  I might be seventy by the time I do, but I shall not give up.  Nor compromise.  

It's hard, today's dating world.  Always starting over, getting to know someone, going through the same old "so tell me about yourself"  time and time again, opening oneself up and risking a little more, and coming away with a little less each time.  Negative dating experiences don't teach you a thing; they drain you.  They suck the lifeblood out of you, and create more hermits and recluses than we care to admit, me being one of them. They make you stop bothering.  I wonder is it really worth it in the end?  It sure is exhausting. 

And yet I know there's someone out there looking for someone like me, just as I am looking for him.  Thing is, how will we ever connect?  I've asked the Universe - so far, she hasn't replied, or at least got her wires so badly crossed that what she sent me was worthy only of placing back on the shelf for someone else to take a chance on.  I think Ms Universe has blown a fuse. But I know, too, that she does things in her own time, and perhaps I had lessons to learn along the way, things to experience, trials to overcome, before I'd be ready for the next phase of my life.

We live in a world that is so connected by technology, but we have never been more disconnected as a human race.  That's awfully sad.

There is new life arriving in my family soon - my beautiful, baby granddaughter is due in December.  A Christmas Gift.  A baby angel sent down to learn our ways, and perhaps teach us hers, so that we might not forget that despite it all, the greatest of all things, is Love.  I shall tie a ribbon around her and hang her on my tree.

What is not disposable to me is my heart.  I will forever stay true to it, because it is the essence of who I am.  I don't care who thinks I'm too soft, too compassionate, too giving, too close to my emotions.  I like my heart just the way it is.  But don't for one minute underestimate the strength I have. For I will surprise you when you least expect it.

So you can keep your random dating, your casual sex, your frivolous frittering, your constant changing of partners.... I'm afraid I'm old-school.  

I am not disposable. 

Are you?


Thursday, 18 September 2014

TEXT ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME....



I am sitting in my kitchen with the Love Zone playing romantically in the background.  Songs about holding, touching, kissing, loving.... and the dog's getting mighty sick of me going over for a hug. She's not that partial to the two-step either.  I haven't tried a Waltz...  She did, however, perk up when I rattled the snack packet.  Sigh.

Tonight I had a long visit from a French friend of mine;  a very attractive one, at that.  And ten years' younger than me.  The only thing we have in common is that we are both single.  She has been single for 8 years, me slightly less but single nonetheless.  And it's not for lack of trying to meet folk, but it seems Ireland has moved very firmly into the 21st century and social chat sites and texting is the new way to date.  Somehow it kind of lacks that personal touch?  Remember that?  When people actually spent time together, and emotions were judged by the eyes, not the punctuation?  Comfort was felt by warm arms, not a smiley face.  God, I hate those smiley faces, I'd like to smash every one of them to smithereens.  Emoticons, they are called.  One to depict every emotion you may be feeling.  In a text.

Is this what new life has evolved to being, or is it our age?  Have we inadvertently become so embroiled in technology that we've forgotten how to be human?

I was training one of the largest technological companies in the world last week.  I had fourteen people sitting in a semi-circle, no more than six inches from their neighbour, yet there was no eye contact.  Instead, they were all tap-tapping away importantly on their laptops, eyes averted, heads down, as I waited patiently for one of them to realise I was ready to start.

"Do me I favour," I started.  "Put those damn things down, put them under your seats."  Guiltily, one by one, they all complied and offered me their attention for the duration of the training.  "Isn't it terrible," I asked them, "that none of you have taken the time to say hello to the person sitting right next to you?"  I then proceeded to make them turn to the person on their left, and introduce themselves. These are people that work together every day, eight hours a day, and actually have never taken the time to get to know more than one or two people around them, this company that houses over 3000 employees on a daily basis.  They have no idea whether the person next to them is happy, sad, struggling, shy, introvert or extrovert.  Whether they have brothers, sisters, partners, wives, husbands, children.  Instead, every ounce of their focus is solely placed upon the electronic device in front of them, the only means of connection to other (human) computers possibly sitting only a few yards from them.  I find that unbelievably sad.

"I have no computer," I said.  "Well, actually I do, but it's here, in my head.  I have no fancy equipment, I have no overhead slides or media aids to change your minds today.  I only have the most powerful and original computer known to man, and I intend to push your buttons today until you wake up your own.  Are you ready?"  Suddenly we had connection - we had human connection and sparked interest, and the electronic devices lay obsolete between their feet for the rest of the day.

I belong to a social networking site;  I am as guilty as everyone else of suffering isolation, of sitting in front of a computer screen "chatting" to like-minded strangers, sharing one-liners, having a laugh, sometimes being bored out of my tree.  And as I was typing yet another retort the other night, I suddenly felt so old.  Here I was, hoping to meet new friends with whom to share good times, perhaps head out to watch a show, or a band, have a meal, see a movie, yet the chances of that happening were sub-zero with the way socialising has gone.  I was never going to meet any of these people.  Some were faceless, preferring rather to interact anonymously. Regardless, the personality will eventually unfold through the written word, whether the author believes that to be true nor not.  Each of these people, like me, were sitting probably on their own, in their homes, in front of a screen, talking to other invisible people and convincing themselves that it was good company, that it whiled away another night where live conversation was not available.  Ridiculous.  And never-ending as long as that "log on" button was being activated.  It is addictive.  It becomes part of your nightly ritual.  You feel you may be missing out on something wonderful if you don't log on for a night.  And that, in itself, is extremely worrying.

So I have stopped.  For now.

Now I spend most of my time alone, so technology has allowed me to remain in virtual contact with people, in the vain hope that it will fill a void.  But it cannot, how can it?  How can pushing a few buttons and adding a smiley face replace live chat with a real human being who likes being in your company?  It's like trying to fill a bucket that has a perpetual hole in it - a fruitless, pointless waste of your time.

Perhaps you are lucky.  Perhaps you venture out and meet one of these people, and you become friends.  On opposite sides of the country.  And so your textual relationship begins.  "Hello, how's things?"  "What are you up to?"  "How was your day?"  "What did you have for dinner?"

Who gives a shit.  How is answering these mundane questions ever going to give you what you really seek : a real, live human being with whom to share everyday mundane things, but at least they will be real, like cutting the grass.  Doing the dishes.  Cooking.  Snuggling up in front of the fire.  Chatting.  Oh my God, remember chatting?  Laughing?  For real, not online.

I have a 3x4 keypad on my phone, but it has a mind of its own and often replaces letters with numbers I have not asked for, or predicted what I want to say - how dare it do that?  It's rarely right anyway, as I found out recently when I texted a client to say that I would leave documents for collection in my car, before realising my car has autolock.  So I quickly rectified the message and pressed send. The next day, said client texted me to say he had never laughed as much as he did at my text.  What did I say?

"My ass locks automatically;  I'll leave it at the front door instead."  My ass.  Locks.  Automatically.  Oh. My. God.

Have we lost the ability to interact with each other on a meaningful level?  Has texting replaced a genuine smile, a warm body to snuggle up to, a comforting hand on your shoulder after a bad day? I'm afraid on a lot of levels, it has.  You have to watch the tone of your words - yes, the tone - because you no longer have a voice to judge it by.  So many messages can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood, ending in arguments, and hurt (virtual) feelings.  Emphasised with an emoticon.  :-)

Even Facebook, people have taken to writing what they've had for breakfast, how they're feeling, what they're doing - who the hell cares?  Yet there we are, checking our pages daily just in case, just in case, we miss breaking world news.  I used to love getting a handwritten letter in through the door when postie arrived.  Making a cup of tea and settling down to read what a friend had written, taken the time to do, sat down and thought of me specially, and written - by hand - a lovely, long, newsy letter bringing me up to speed on their lives because we were separated by oceans and continents away from each other.  Now?  Now I get hurriedly sent emails telling me how busy they are and they'll get to me eventually.  Thanks for that.  Nice to know I am on someone's list, albeit at the bottom of the pile.

I have a few letters in my collection box, which one day will be collectors' items and probably worth a fortune.  I have a handwritten note, dated 1945, written as a reference about my father, by his school Principal.  The writing is beautiful, cursive, in fountain pen ink, the letters uniform and flowing, showing a little personality, a little care.  I have a love letter written by my first boyfriend when I was about twenty, that is so poetic and beautiful coming from such a manly man, and it is a treasure.  It still evokes tears when I read it, because it transports me back to the very moments we shared, and all the feelings are evoked all over again.  Real life.  Real people.  Today, when you apply for a job, you don't even get an electronic response.  What the hell has happened to society?

So do you find yourself involved in a virtual relationship with a virtual man sharing virtual conversations?  Do you listen to love songs on the radio and send a text to let them know you are thinking of them when you do?  It's funny that no songs have been written about textual love yet.  I am surprised, and am sure that it will come.  Am not so sure, however, that it will catch on.

"Text me, baby, one more time"?

"I love the way you text me"?

"I can't help falling in text with you"?

"I'm getting texted in the morning"?

People these days make out via text.  They have arguments by text.  They make up by text.  And they break up by text.  Possibly without ever having met.  I understand that long-distance relationships are hard;  both parties are busy with their own lives in their own region.  But surely, if you are after the same thing, there will come a time when phones need to be pushed aside and plans made to close the gap between you?  Or will it continue to be textual, with an occasional live visit just to make sure all the working parts are still in order?  Every time you meet will be like the first time, if there's large gaps between visits.  It's like a treadmill relationship, on the spot, going nowhere in a hurry.

There have always been jokes made about women and batteries.  How we keep a spare set in our drawers for when those lonely nights come a-calling.  Be that as it may, at least batteries still let you feel something, pardon the pun.  I spend more money on charging my phone these days, running to the sound of a beep, and being disappointed time and time again by the content.  Need I remind you: "Hey, how are you?"  "How's your day going?"  "What are you up to?"  Like I said before, who gives a shit, really.

Wouldn't it be nice to at least see, "Hi, would you like to go out for a bite to eat tonight?  Catch a movie?  Go for a walk?  Have a coffee?"  Any one of those would surely beat another night sitting at home either in front of a screen, or staring at your phone wondering when, if ever, the time will come when we can happily use it again for what it was originally intended : to make contact so that further plans can be put in place for real life to continue.

I hate virtual reality.  My heart beats.  I am woman.  And I need man.  Not an Iphone.  And if I am to be at the bottom of anyone's list of to-do's, then he'd better keep texting virtual women, because I won't be around for too long.

I am worth a lot more than that.  I hope.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

LITTLE BOXES, LITTLE BOXES....


What makes us successful in Life?  Is it the owning of a small, medium or large property, filled with one, two or ten cars?  Does size matter?  Location?  Value of said property?  Value of said assets?  Does ownership of great wealth make us better people - at least in our own minds - or does it merely offer us a sense of superiority over our less-successful counterparts?  Or does it make us feel more secure, less vulnerable, in the trials and tribulations of everyday life?

After all, we came into this world with nothing, and we most certainly will depart from it the same way.

I was pondering this as I visit with my daughter and her beau in their beautiful but bijou new home;  and it reminds me so of my first little home way back when in my twenties when I, too, was starting out.  Compact. Functional.  Pretty. In a good neighbourhood.  Surrounded by bigger and better houses just tempting enough to keep them striving onwards and upwards, like the rest of us.  Seeing "SOLD!" signs and wishing for the day when they, too, can say they have successfully climbed onto the property ladder.  Like the steps running alongside the Niesen Railway, it's a very long way to the top.  11,674 steps, to be precise.

We have all been there : starting small, but wanting more.  Needing more room, more garden, more space. Working harder, ploughing our hard-earned cash month after month into a never-depleting mortgage for the next thirty years or more.  But feeling a sense of achievement knowing that it is "ours", that no Landlord can evict us, and that, as long as we continue to pay Mr Bank, we can safely curl up inside our four walls at night and watch another repeat on TV.  

And so the routine of living in our boxes begins, for most of us.  Rising early each morning, shoving a hastily prepared breakfast down our throats only to dash out to the car to sit for an hour in traffic, to reach our destination of work so that we might earn the money we need to pay for the house we so proudly own, yet spend so little time enjoying.  We will enjoy it.  One day.  But for now, it's nose to the grindstone, budgeting, paying all the bills, cooking, washing, sleeping, and repeating this cyclic rotation of time day in and day out.

Then lo, the big day arrives, you marry, you become a two-unit family that quickly multiplies into three, four, five... and days are filled with longer working hours, more work, exhaustion, only this time intermittently dotted with sunshine days in the garden, squealing children's parties, waiting patiently for the daffodils to bloom that you planted last Spring, barbecues with friends, good times roll.  

And still, you strive for more.  A better car, a designer couch, fancy tables that you cover with cloth, or that cannot take a cup without a matching coaster, lest it be marked.  Saving like mad for one week away in Spain or Portugal because we are so exhausted and depleted that we need this, need it, to feel like all our work is paying off dividends.  Preserve, preserve, preserve.  

I know a man who has told me he is very wealthy.  He has a stable block at the back of his house converted to home, I think, about ten or eleven vintage vehicles - which he has to polish and maintain, and perhaps take out three or four times a year on a rally.  He has a plane.  He has motorcycles.  He has a watch so valuable he cannot take it out the safe for fear it will be stolen or lost.  What?  He has houses scattered all over the country.  And no time to enjoy any of them, because, by his own admittance, he is a self-professed work-a-holic.  In his own words, he told me, "If I take off half a day, I feel so guilty that I punish myself by working harder."  "But why?" I asked him.  "To make more money!" he replied.  "For what?"  I asked.  "I don't bloody know."  Ain't that the truth.

When there is family, when you are at the bottom row of Life looking forwards, it makes sense to drive yourself onwards and upwards.  We are all guilty of it.  But tonight I spent time with the other side of the spectrum, one I now find myself in, too.  A beautiful house filled with memories of the past, photographs, happy days, a stunning kitchen with every device necessary to run a small restaurant, a comfortable sitting room with a huge television, bathrooms galore, bedrooms abundant, a lovely garden that once housed laughing children which is now empty and unnecessary, other than to give the dogs somewhere to shit.  A house that had hopes and dreams and love and laughter, but which due to a cruel twist of fate, now is empty and echoes only of broken dreams and the ongoing passage of time.  

Which makes me think of my own home back in Ireland - too big for one, pointless to sell due to the pothole of a recession we find ourselves in, but too dear to run it in the comfort to which I was once accustomed, and it makes me think.  For all these young people starting out, their time, too, will come, when there are no more toys to pack away, or little children's games to play, when tiny folk have grown and flown, when you find yourself back on your own (could have made a poem there...).  So what's it all about, Alfie?  

It becomes even more apparent from the air, flying into countries and seeing the little and large boxes designed neatly in rows, or fenced plots, the only differences being in what lies within.  Are they happy? Sad? Celebrating anniversaries? Discussing divorce?  Is the pretty woman down the road hiding the bruises of a broken heart or worse still, a broken nose?  Is the old lady alongside you in pain, lonely, and sad?  Do we smile through our tears so as to protect our standing in society?  It's a survival instinct, I know - in nature, the weakest animal in a pack will very often be ostracised by the rest, or killed, for fear of holding the rest of them back.  In nature, too, baring of one's teeth denotes danger.  In our world?  We call it smiling, meaning, "Hey, all is right with my world."  When very often, it is not.

And it is unbelievably sad, this urge we have to own, to possess, killing ourselves to meet the demands that modern-day living has imposed upon us, and losing sight of what is most important along the way.  Suffering worry, depression, anxiety, fear.... of losing a job, of not being able to pay the bills, of not being able to let little Johnny go on the school trip.  

So as I lay myself down in what is soon to be the nursery for my daughter and her man's new baby girl, it makes me realise how far we all walk in our lives, from beginning to end.  But when you have raised your family, set them free, tidied the house one last time, and settled into your Autumn years, you realise it was all rather pointless worrying about the coffee stain, or complaining about the state of a bedroom, or moaning about another load of washing, or having to ask about homework, because it is these things you will miss the most when there is nothing left for you to do except find something to busy yourself with to fill another day.

The final little box we will all be investing in is one I'd rather not think about right now.  I still have Winter to get through...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

THE PERFECT MAN


Cinderella has a lot to answer for.  The perfect prince, wealthy, handsome, swooping in to rescue a poor damsel in tatty clothes, giving her the life she has always dreamed of.....  huh.

How about an update?  Cinderella got pregnant, had twins, then gained forty pounds. Charming went bald, drank a keg of beer every week and developed a huge beer gut. Cinderella divorced Charming, kept the kids, the castle and ALL of the money. The step sisters and step mother were kicked out of the house right after Cinderella and the prince were married. Step mother drank herself into an early grave at the local poor house and the step sisters became crack-whores and died of over-doses. Prince Charming was left penniless and had to move in with his parents and get a job cleaning stables. Cinderella ballooned to 360 pounds and choked to death on a turkey leg at the age of 49.
They all lived terribly ever after.
Ain't that the truth.  Aren't we all geared up from a young age to find our "perfect man" (or woman), only to discover your life careering out of control on the motorway, smashing head-first into the barriers, only to be rescued by tow trucks trying to pull you back to reality.  We KNOW this.  In particular, I am talking about the likes of me who has been around a while, and has had a few crashes in her time.  To the ones happily married still, fair play to you, well done, I am envious of you all.  But for those of us heading for second time around (or third, fourth, fifth...) the realities of modern-day dating is a mine field. 
Take baggage - no one in their forties comes clean.  And if they do, the question I would ask is what are they not telling us?  Everyone has history, and their histories affect them, change them into the people they have now become : Cautious.  Untrusting.  Wary.  Fearful of commitment.  Less caring.  Most importantly, they have forgotten how to dream.
If you could take the nice pieces of all the men you've known in your life, could you not potato-head the perfect man for yourself?  The intelligence of one, the passion of another, the loving heart, the comforting cuddles, the sky-soaring kisses, the good job, the hot body, oh, if I were able to piece together bits of everyone I surely would get it right.
But it doesn't work that way, does it?  Us women are damaged goods, too. We have been broken, and stomped on, and betrayed, and let down, and bandaged up again to go one more round. Some women have done the damaging, the hurting, the breaking of men's souls.  So are we setting our standards too high?  Would we, in our forties, be made to settle for that which is simply ok, rather than waiting for our Prince?  (Who, in reality, is probably slothing on a couch, unemployed, and waiting for his Princess to appear?)
I think the answer lies within us all.  We have to first know ourselves well, be aware of what we DON'T want rather than have a list of must-have's.  For example, I can't sleep next to a snorer.  I just can't.  It keeps me awake, makes me angry, frustrated, tired, and resentful.  So to choose someone whom you KNOW is a raucous train-wreck in the sleeping department, is surely setting yourself up for inevitable failure before you even start?  Snoring, at the base of it all, ended my marriage.  Because along with that came separate bedrooms, resentment, feeling unloved, and the inevitable "This isn't working for me anymore."  It had nothing to do with my husband, per se.  He is a good man, kind, honest, loyal, hardworking, I can find no fault with him as a person.  But as a partner, he drove me stark-raving mad.  Passing out on the couch as soon as he fell in the door from his other lover (work), and snoring his head off, disturbing television, leaving both myself and the daughter alone - it's the start of a slow slide to hell.  So a snoring man is out, before I even start.
I dated a man briefly once who had sleep apnea.  Again, a lovely man, but my God, it was like trying to sleep on a construction site.  Plus he'd stop breathing every two or three breaths, right through the night, and then give one huge HEAVE of oxygen intake.  So not only was I not sleeping, I was vigilant all night to make sure I didn't end up with a corpse in my bed.  And he was oblivious to it all.  Need I tell you that one didn't work out for me?  In the end, had I continued down this road, it would have been separate bedrooms, and the inevitable "This isn't working for me anymore."
Then I had a lovely sleeper - omg, the best sleeper in bed by far.  So peaceful, quiet, cuddly, and SILENT.  We slept together very well, and I woke up happy and refreshed.   So that box was ticked.
But then there's compromise, isn't there?  He was also cranky as hell, worse than a woman with PMS at times, and as his sister said, he'd fight with his toenails given half the chance.  And she was right.  One wrong word and he'd be off again, and that in itself is stressful; too much like hard work.  You never know where you actually stand. Is he in this for good?  Til he grows tired of you?  Til someone else tickles his ever-so-fickle fancy?

A man who can't say what he feels is a difficult one - more so if he says he doesn't know what he feels, if anything at all.  And some men really say, and believe, that they don't feel anything at all - this I can't understand.  My brain and my heart are connected;  if I don't feel, I can't do.  Simple as.  So to match myself with someone who takes pride in being able to switch off and feel absolutely nothing, is not a worthwhile investment, surely?  Like travelling down a cul-de-sac looking for Route 66.

I want my mate, not a part-time lover that leaves you wondering WTF?  So many questions.  Perhaps women should write a manual to pass on to the next woman, so that she is enlightened.  
So.  In our forties, are we looking for love in all the wrong places?  Do we judge on looks, clothing, cars, jobs, and fail to see what lies beneath?  Do we go with how they make us feel - which is a good place to start - and if we don't feel great, should we not stop denying that to ourselves in the hope that things will improve?  They won't.  What you see these days is most certainly what you're gonna get. And if it started off mediocre, it most certainly won't improve to fantastic.  Nothing is a greater turn-on than the man who makes it clear he wants the woman;  and vice versa.  Not the one who can take or leave you.
Men and women of a more mature age are well-moulded into the people they have become.  They have quirks, and fears, and reservations.  But I believe in the power of love, and I believe that if you keep your eyes peeled, know yourself well, and stop waiting for the man (or woman) to complete you, then you've a fair chance of meeting someone who fits, someone who is company, funny, loving, loyal and kind with whom to share the rest of your life with.  Just because you are separated or divorced, does not make you obsolete.  It makes you wiser, and probably more respectful and thankful than you might have been first time around, and that's no bad thing.  
The list of don't wants is very important, because it helps you filter through inevitable trouble ahead.  I don't want a drinker, a gambler, a womaniser.  I don't want to be a detective in my own life trying to find out what he's been up to.  I don't want a snorer, that's a given.  I don't want a selfish person, or a lazy one.  I don't want an obese person, sorry, no matter what lies beneath, the eyes always eat first. Gluttony is a turn-off. And I most definitely don't want a cruel person or someone without empathy for others.  And it's when I notice the absence of the above, that my interest is piqued.  
Everyone is looking for love, I don't care how much they profess not to be.  Everyone needs someone. Cinderella may have set the bar too high, and Sleeping Beauty at the end of the day had seven midgets. But the man, a simple real man, who takes the time to share himself with me, and treats me right, and makes my heart a-flutter, that's the one I'll take.
Because after all, at the end of time, it's not the face that you will remember, but the heart.  


SCENTS AND SENSIBILITIES

Isn't this a taboo subject, bad odours?

How many times have you spoken with someone only to be blasted with a waft of breath so putrid it makes your toes curl?  How does one approach that subject, especially if it's someone close to you? And what if they come in for a kiss?  Aargh

My dog has halitosis.  Seriously.  The kind that would floor an elephant.  And she pants relentlessly in my face when we're driving, God love her.  I know of another dog that suffered the same problem.  The owner bought a toothbrush, toothpaste, dog chews, and even resorted to sticking a tic tac down its throat, until finally admitting defeat and heading for the vet.  Who told her the dog had too many teeth for its mouth, and food was lodging itself and causing bacteria - and so proceeded to remove TWELVE teeth.  "How many teeth did it have to begin with?" I asked.  Forty two.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  So now the dog has twelve less teeth, the breath problem has cleared up, and it has trouble keeping its tongue in its mouth.  I guess my baby girl will be heading for doggy dental, too, because it's really, really bad.

But what if it's a person?  A dog you can manipulate and do what you like with.  I don't think someone would be happy if they were told they'd have to have a few teeth removed to clear the problem. Perhaps a gift for teeth cleaning might do the trick.  Or casually leave floss and mouthwash on every conceivable shelf.

Isn't it funny how smells affect us?  If you like someone, their smell is attractive, gets the ol' hormones going.  Yet you can hug someone and be repelled by their scent.  Pheromones are naturally occurring substances that the fertile body excretes externally, conveying an airborne signal that provides information to, and triggers responses from, the opposite sex.  So can we sniff out our perfect mate?  I love the smell of a man fresh out the shower, possibly enhanced by carefully manufactured body gels that waft gently from his heated body.  Hmmmm.  Then again, I wonder what I smell like?  I'm often told I smell lovely, but then again, I always use perfume.  So is it me they are attracted to, or the Dior or the Chanel?

And houses, each has its own scent, doesn't it?  I can't smell my own house, it's my smells, but I wonder what other people smell when they come in the front door?  Dog?  I hope not.  My daughter always says it smells like home, which is a lovely thing to say, and again, indicative of how scents trigger memories.  If we'd not had a happy home, I think she would not have the same reaction when coming through the front door because the scent would then trigger bad memories.

My mother is 84 now, and whenever she smells 4711 she is reminded of her mother.  When her mother was ill, and dying of cancer, she would often use 4711 on a hanky to cool her brow, and that memory is forever embedded in my mother's mind.

I think my scent will always be either Hugo Boss Woman, or Chanel Allure, both lovely fragrances and ones that my daughter now associates with me.  Best keep it stocked up lest she forgets who I am.  Or as someone once said: "Hmm, this smells nice, Hugo Boss Namow.  Never heard of it."  "Turn the bottle around, you wally," I replied - she was reading it backwards.

And what about clothing?  Washing powders are a science unto themselves, and other people's washing always seems to smell way nicer than my own, regardless of what I use.  My  man uses softeners with "essential oils of Jasmine and Lavender" or something like that, and says he's turning gay because he gets a kick out of sniffing his own washing.  Are we being duped?  Are the available scents on the market today affecting our own instinctual ability to sniff out our mates?  Are we falling in love with the washing or the man that lies beneath?

I remember my brother, God rest his soul, who, after a hard day's work, would come home and say, "I need to shower, I can smell my body!".  There's nothing better than being clean, is there?  And scents affect us all, in memories both good and bad.  It just takes a whiff of something familiar to stir up emotions long forgotten.

I like a man who smells nice.  Artificial or not.  It signifies that he gives a hoot, and wants to be attractive to you.  And takes pride in himself.  No matter the face, a lingering, appealing scent will always make me look twice.  It says a lot about a person.  It says I give a shit about myself.  And that's nice, because if he gives a shit about himself, chances are he'll have some left over to give a shit about you.

So I shall continue with my smelly candles, my incense, my shampoos, my perfumes, and my room sprays, albeit to temporarily alter the air that I breathe.  And I shall floss, and rinse, and make sure I am not offensive to anyone as far as that is possible, both in hygiene and behaviour.  It's best to be neutral, and natural, in both areas.  But a little perfume to titillate the senses goes a long way.

As I write, my dog has just yawned in my face.  Oh dear God.  Even Ghandi's flip flop would have a hard time beating that.








Tuesday, 24 June 2014

EULOGY FOR TONY

My Angels and my faith in all that is good gave me the strength, the courage and the will to read this tribute to my brother, Tony, at his funeral mass.  My strength comes from my belief in mankind, in my trust that there is kindness left in the world, and my hope that we shall all find Eternal Peace.  I thank the heavenly beings who gave to me a voice with which to speak, and a heart with which to feel.  For the unbelievers, may you find your reason, your core, your souls. 

Eternal Rest
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

SUNRISE 2/8/58 - SUNSET 17/6/14

My brother was born deaf.  Not slight of hearing, but stone deaf.  Never in his 55 years has he heard a sound, or a bird twittering, or someone singing, or even the wind in the trees on a stormy night.  To live in that kind of silence brings its own penance, for he was ostracised by a society that did not understand, or who were too afraid to try.  Communication was difficult, because he had not heard the sound of Words, and therefore his own interpretation of them needed a careful ear to listen, something not everyone was willing to give.

Before his accident, Tony was training to become a plumber – and he was always a diligent and hard worker.  When he was an apprentice and working for a large construction firm, there were those who would tie tin cans onto his overalls unbeknownst to him, and laugh as he walked around dragging them behind him.  There were those who did not tell him when the lunch siren had sounded, and so he missed meals on many occasions.  The only times Tony had so-called friends was on payday, when he was generous with his money and willing to buy a round so that he might have the company of fair-weathered fiends.

He was not lucky with the women, either.  And so Tony lived with many emotions – there was anger, hurt, and frustration.  There was a feeling of not belonging, of not being normal, of being the odd one out in a sometimes cruel and difficult world.  But he loved one thing, and that was Karate.  He adored Bruce Lee, his all-time hero, right until the very end.  And so he would practice his karate skills on anyone silly enough to stand close to him.  Sadly, I was not clever enough in those days to escape a couple of chops or kicks, but I learnt pretty quickly to be light on my feet where he was concerned.  As did we all, because all of us were used as targets from time to time.

After his tragic accident, and after being subjected to diabolical treatment in hospital, my father signed X on the card and brought his son home.  I will never forget the day my father carried my broken brother into our sitting room in South Africa.  Brain-damaged, they said.  A vegetable, they said.  No life there, they said.  Yet my brother cried when my father placed him in the sitting room, and his tears mingled with our own.  Real tears borne of a memory so damaged, but still functioning at some level – he knew enough to recognise Home.  I was thirteen years old when this happened, and from that day forth, all of our lives, every single one of us, was forever changed.

A funny thing happened, though.  My brother found peace in his tormented state.  He found God.  Each morning when we woke we would hear him shout “Good Morning, God!” in his guttural way.  With the irreversible damage to his brain, Tony could not remember yesterday let alone last week.  But there was one story he told, for 35 years, over and over again, that has never wavered, never changed.  He told of his accident, of being in the hospital, of floating outside himself and seeing people who visited him – people he had no possibility of knowing about, because not only was he deaf, but he was in a coma.  He told of a white light that pulled him, and that he was happy, ad that he saw a man in white with a long beard, and a silver thread connecting them both.  When Tony tried to reach him, this man told him “Go back, Go Back”.  And despite his best efforts, Tony could not reach the light.  This from a boy whose brain capacity was severely damaged by brain trauma.

He was sent back – that much we know.  For 35 more years.  For what?  Tony should have died in that accident, so severe was the trauma to his head and his body.  There was no reason, no purpose for him to survive.  And yet he did.  And the reason?  In my opinion, the Lord sent him back to us to teach us all lessons we had to learn.  Not one member of our family has been unaffected or unchanged by his accident.  We have each had the opportunity to reach deep inside ourselves to find compassion, kindness, empathy, love.  We have learnt that true joy lies not in material wealth, but in a smile, or a laugh, or a warm hug, or an honest kiss. 

For me personally, Tony taught me to be grateful, and humble, and above all else, he taught me to be kind.  Because he lead from the front.  Grateful for his meals, for the sun shining, for the dog coming in to see him, for the drives my father took him on, for the barbecues they had in summer.  Things most of us never stop to think about;  things we all take for granted.

And today we are returning Tony to his home, where perhaps he should have been sent 35 years ago.  But his work here is finally done.  He has brought laughter, tears, and heartache along the way, but above all else, he has found Love – in God, in his parents, in his siblings, and in himself.  May his suffering give us all a sign of what it’s truly like to be honest, pure, kind, and innocent.

May you travel safely, Tony, now that your time has come.  You are surrounded by the love you have taught all of us during your damaged life;  may you now transition home in peace, and may all the pain you have endured during your days on earth,  be worthy of the place to which we all seek to return : Home.

May you rest in peace.