Greetings

Since my Damascus Road doctor’s visit and attendant epiphany over exercise, I am now a devotee of beachfront walks. Being a rather friendly sort, I greet most fellow promenaders and joggers and have been doing my own sea breeze research on passersby: If I smile, will they? If I say good morning, will they return the salute? Are they responding to me or the sweet Lab?

So besides the fact that the pooch wins hands down with children and old ladies, I love watching faces become transformed from grimace to gorgeous. Smiles do that and it’s fun passing on the joy from face to face, like lighting a whole lot of candles. I probably look a bit village-idioty grinning along the path, but it’s fun, and the connection you feel to others in that moment of a shared happy moment makes up for all the grumps who huff past, either avoiding eye contact or ignoring pleasant pedestrians (like me of course).

Life is a bit like this, we pass each other every day on our walk through life. Are we lighting smiles or dousing them?

Bridgerton Review

The Bridgertons are back in the Netflix ton.

Already they are #1 on the streaming channel in South Africa and I have to confess I binged the series this weekend.

In 2020 we had a Covid Christmas with all we girls down with the virus. On Christmas Day, we were visited by our healthy family who didn’t live with us, along with my son and new daughter-in-law who were visiting Cape Town. We sat on the upstairs balcony and ‘visited’ with them as they camped on the lawn downstairs. Then we went back to bed; ordered Nando’s for lunch and caroused on flu meds and watched the first season of Bridgerton, taking fever nap breaks in between episodes.

We survived Covid and the excess of raised heartbeats , not to mention the weirdness of watching raunchy scenes with my children.

So when the second season landed this weekend, my daughters, now living in their own apartment, laid on some food; I bought the chocolate; my sister bought the doughnuts and we dined out on the first four episodes of the Shondra Rimes epic rom-com-meets-Barbara-Cartland, clashing with modernity and strong women.

(Everyone has of course finished the season already on their own by now.)

There was the usual mix of ‘Oh mys!’ (from we genteel ladies) that accompanied the hilarious subtitles which, for some reason, were on, causing much giggling from our audience of four: from ‘[sighs deeply]’ to lots of ‘[hmmns]’ and ‘[moans]’ (including a ‘shuddering moan]’ and my own personal favourite, ‘[exhales sharply].’

As usual, the sumptuous gowns, wigs and sets did not disappoint, making us all wish we were living in that era, forgetting of course that most of us would have been the servants in those times, not the nobility, not to mention the indignity of chamber pots that preceded the glorious luxury of flushing toilets. (Mind you, a large number of our citizens still have to live with those – that is something necessary to check one’s privilege over.)

The show does of course satirize the lunacy of the marriage meat market that was the ‘season’ in society along with the subjugation of women’s roles by marriage and social standards of behaviour in general: from the widow having to give up her home because only a distant male heir may inherit the property (echoes of Jane Austen there – whom many refer to as one of the first ‘feminist writers); to the need for a woman to marry well to be secure in life – and having to wait to be chosen. As Lady Danford says in one scene, ‘The world is not kind to single women.’ Sadly little has changed for many women 200 years later.

Despite some obvious tropes, like the influence of parents’ deaths on children’s fears and phobias (a la Family Stone) and the rather cliched meet-cute of the protagonists (What’s with Viscount Bridgerton’s assumption that a woman galloping on a horse must be in trouble and therefore in need of rescuing?!), there were some interesting take-homes like how depression and grief play out in people’s lives, with Lady Bridgerton’s words, ‘This is my best.’ summing up how those for whom the black dog is a reality get through each aching hour.

It’s a series that offers some fun and intrigue, and of course we are drawn to the glitter and glamour of it all, never mind our awe at Queen’s Charlotte’s neck strength which rivals a grand prix driver’s as she holds up those magnificent hairpieces.

So pour your Pimms and get ready for the spectacle that is Bridgerton.

I’m waiting for the brocaded gowns of Season 3 already.

sleeping together

Not me.

I’m told I snore.

Now as a fine lady, I deny this allegation completely and submit that should I emit any nocturnal sound at all, it is a mere gentle purring, not the bear-like grunts I stand accused of (despite the evidence on my husbands bedside table: a pack of bright orange ear plugs).

My poor partner suffers from insomnia rather badly though and is often prowling around the house at 03:28, (Why is it that insomniacs always waken at the same time?) having woken up and not been able to fall back asleep. He is also mosquito averse and will always be the one to be bitten, and I do sometimes get pulled out of my dream where I am meeting Brad Pitt in a Cadbury’s factory, to find my beloved balancing on the bed with a T-shirt in hand as he bounces around trying to swipe at the kamikazi insects, who leave little bloodstained epitaphs on our ceiling as they gasp their final farewell whines.

I confess that I have no such problems and if I do get disturbed, I can easily drift off again after responding to the inner calling of an abdomen that has survived five children pounding on its bladder with their little Irish Dancing womb-booties. But I can empathize with his nightly struggles.

Ironically, it is the Maestro in fact who introduced me to the habit of listening to YouTube as I fall asleep. We used to have QI on and enjoyed both the knowledge and humour of it before dozing off. Now, I just hear that music anytime of the night and I’m Pavlovian asleep again. It no longer helps him though, so being disturbed by my soft snuffling must be really difficult for him.

When I was a newly separated young single parent (before the Maestro had the joy of my gentle murmurs beside him) I played the radio all night as company – it made me feel less afraid. So I am comfortable with voices as a soporific aid. I do not need to be a sheep accountant. He has that kind of brain though that once he is awake, he starts to obsess about the next teaching day’s challenges… and… and… and…

The Maestro is tolerant of my musical mouth-breathing up to a point. I know he has reached the moment of considering a migration to the spare room when he sits up and demands I roll over onto my side, insisting, ‘That’s enough now!’ But I have done several things to make it better, like puffing on Vicks inhalers before bed, sleeping on my side, and even using hideous tasting drops; I don’t smoke or drink. To no avail: I continue to saw logs with the artistry of a seasoned lumberjack. They say one should lose weight as well.

So, I may have to give up chocolates.

But that would be admitting I snore.

From the ashes of disaster…?

A Reflection on the UCT Fire

Watch | Cape Town fire: Dreadful scenes as UCT Library goes up in flames
photo by Gift of the Givers

The Library of Alexandria in 48BC, The Ahmed Baba Institute of Timbuktu in 2013 and now the Special Collections housed in the Jagger Reading Room at UCT – all that knowledge and heritage destroyed by fire!

Whether such collections are lost through the power of nature, arson or a Kristallnacht type of book burning, the loss of scholarship is tragic. I went down a Google rabbit hole when looking up dates of the these fires and was horrified to realize just how many such fires have destroyed archives of learning over the centuries around the world, most maliciously done.

This photograph of people standing helplessly by as the Jagger Building burned is etched in my mind – It sums up the impotence so many Ikeys felt as part of our alma mater was ripped away by Nature and we were forced to watch it on Instagram or YouTube.

It seems as though some of the collection at UCT may have been protected by fireproof roller doors which were activated timeously but countless pieces were lost, and the Reading Room is gone.  Herbert Baker’s grand pillars seem to have survived though – read into that what you will!

My mother was a librarian. For her, books and the worlds embodied in them were sacrosanct: God help one of us who was caught writing in a book – If it was in pen, not even God would help you – such an act of sheer blasphemy was likely to damn us to hell (but not always heeded by herself as I was to discover recently on opening her copy of the Combined Works of Shakespeare. However, we’ll forgive her brief hypocrisy because it was a treat to see her writing again after 26 years without her in my life.)

She is the one who taught me to read when I was five and the magic of stories, with their worlds of excitement. I remember asking her if she regretted never having been able to travel the world, and she replied that she had been to all the ends of the earth and under it, in her precious books.

She was offered the position of setting up the first library at the new Koeberg Nuclear Plant in the seventies and was really excited at the prospect of being the guardian of research and scholarship there. However, she turned them down in the end. It was only as a parent myself, that I realized the incredible sacrifice she made for my sister and I in accepting a lowly clerical job in a bank (but which paid more) so we could attend the school of her choice, a prestigious girls’ school in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, closer to where we lived. She would have beggared herself in order to ensure we achieved the private school education she had never had.

It was the same when the time came for me to go to university. If I had not been fortunate to be offered a bursary to study at the University of Cape Town, she would have made a plan – she told me she had already contacted the bank manager about it, when my funding came through.

So, for me to see the Jagger building and its African Studies collections so easily obliterated, I can imagine Sylvia Markey groaning in despair and my own soul echoes her moans.

I remember my time in the eighties there: the burgeoning political awareness I experienced immersed in studying isiXhosa and Sesotho; realizing my own privilege and the power entrusted in me to make a difference in our nation; of standing alongside my friend, Xoliswa on Jammy steps as she declared, ‘Look! Bonteheuwel is burning’; of teargas and riot police swaggering along the freeway; of Xoliswa’s rich alto over the megaphone, as she stood outside the Jagger Library as it was known then, singing the haunting struggle songs. ‘We shall Overcome.’

And we did…

… until perhaps we didn’t.

If this fire has jolted anything from my middle-aged heart, it’s a need to do a Mister Chips (I know that’s really dating myself, but I like to think I am in the ‘noontime, not the evening of myself) type of reflection of how I’m doing on changing the world. As I grieve the loss of the writing treasures in Jagger, and the library there that nourished me, as well as the lecturers like Sam Mbiza across the road who educated me and inspired in me a love of the beauty of isiXhosa, and a respect for its cadences, I must ask myself whether I have done enough to promote the study of African literature across my teaching career, which ended up being mainly sharing my own mother tongue with others. Have I filled the world with love – of reading; have I filled the world with hope through education?

It is my hope that another such reckoning closer to the end of my life (a long time away of course, because I still plan to live long enough to be a problem to my own children) will allow me to rejoice in the scholarly works of those whose studies in African Languages started in schools where I have introduced the language to study; that someone I have taught will translate nuclear physics textbooks into isiXhosa; that someone I have taught will win a Nobel prize for literature, and that someone I have inspired is the guardian of the African Studies books at UCT… or the library at Koeberg. I must try harder.

We shall overcome.

We must.

Just no more fires.

Touch not, lest ye sicken…

An Elbow Bump is Not a Hug – Here for Life

Social Distancing is an oxymoron.

Humans find it impossible to avoid close contact and touching. We are just not wired to stay far apart from each other. As much as I wished, in pre-lockdown days, that I could insist that shoppers behind me in the line would stand behind floor decals 2 metres away from me, or imagined ramming my trolley back onto the toes of halitotic queue creepers, such violent fantasies are no longer necessary. And we are struggling without the contact now.

The Maestro and I enjoyed a breakfast at Mugg &Bean this morning and while he enjoyed tasteless and tediously titivating TikTok after his sausages and eggs, I people-watched:

Besides the responsible types who remain masked and greeted their friends from across the wasteland of a coffee shop table (amazing how clean the tables are mind you – sprayed and wiped between each sitting) with an elbow bump, the majority of patrons meeting family and acquaintances, could not resist a hug of greeting. I witnessed hand-patting, arm-stroking and kissing. Shocking.

So much for social distancing.

But it’s not their fault. We humans need touch. According to Professor Robin Dunbar who is an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford, primates are reliant on the endorphins and oxtytocins (the good hormones, not the street drugs) that are released when we touch each other. It’s part of being ‘social.’ That’s why, when you add ‘distant,’ it seems so impossible for us to maintain.

It’s one of the things so hard to control at school, or any workplace. It’s why it is so concerning that the nation’s children were sent ‘home’ from school to avoid contracting the virus; yet have been roaming the malls and streets, in packs, unprotected by masks and hanging onto each other. Expect a spike in the stats when they return to school and infect each other and their teachers some more.And it must be really hard for those who live alone or are confined to care homes during the pandemic.

The effects of touch are physiological, bioelectrical and biochemical,” agrees Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute at Miami Medical School. “Moving the skin (as, for example, in hugging, massaging and exercise) stimulates pressure receptors which are transmitted to the vagus nerve, the largest cranial nerve that has many branches in the body. Increased vagal activity calms the nervous system (e.g. slows heart rate and leads to EEG patterns that accompany relaxation). It also reduces cortisol – the culprit stress hormone – that then saves natural killer cells that kill viral, bacterial and cancer cells.”

Helen Coffey, quoted in The Independent

So, tactile stimulation heals us; losing it can reduce our ability to fight disease.

Except with COVID-19.

Prof Dunbar reckons we’ll be ok in the long run, but in the meantime, many of us are struggling to stay connected… laughter is apparently good for producing the happy hormones as does visual stimulus, so keep those video calls going with family members in old age homes or those who live alone.

Perhaps there is method in my husband’s weird social media tastes after all.

…naah TikTok is still silly.

Also read:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/touch-skin-hunger-hugs-coronavirus-lockdown-isolation-ctactile-afferent-nerve-a9501676.html

https://www.medicinanarrativa.eu/human-contact-during-social-distancing-interview-with-robin-dunbar

The sting of death during a plague

Woman wearing a face mask looking out window

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”

William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 3

Several people I know have lost loved ones during the Age of Corona to both the virus and other causes. Our particular lockdown levels have strict limits on mourning though: funerals are limited to fifty persons, wakes and night vigils are prohibited even under Level 3. You can’t hug the bereaved or cross provincial borders unless you are close family. I have not attended funerals of a few people I might otherwise have gone to to pay my respects.

It is bad enough to face the sudden or even expected death of someone you have loved, but not to be able to celebrate their lives and be comforted is especially hard.

Two deaths of famous people this week brought home to me how difficult it must be to grieve in the middle of a pandemic, as well as how sad it is that the lives of two people who spent their whole lives dedicated to our country should not be commemorated with appropriate ceremony at their passing.

Both Zindziswa Mandela and Andrew Mlangeni have passed away this month and I am moved by the fact that both have lost out on the kind of farewell that would be fitting – because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wrote about them in this week’s school newsletter:

I have often wondered about the childhood Zindzi endured as her parents sacrificed so much for the freedom of the nation. Yet she proved her mettle time and time again, missing out on her schooling in the struggle, advocating for her mother to the United Nations (when she was just 12!) and boldly defying PW Botha on her father’s behalf.

Mr Mlangeni stood at Madiba’s side at the Rivonia trial and suffered with him on Robben Island for over twenty years. Our flags at school are flying at half-mast until Wednesday to honour his quiet strength and life of sacrifice for us all. But it doesn’t seem enough.

Our children can learn so much from his wisdom:

“One of the biggest prisons we were afraid of being locked up in though, was the jail of ignorance.”

Andrew Mlangeni, ‘The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story

What power there is in learning from the great people who gave up so much for freedom. To our learners I say, respect the education that comes so easily to you now. Those who made it possible studied sporadically, far from home and, in many cases, in prison.

How small these deaths (and their lives) make me feel about moaning about corona-stress; and how sad I am that neither of these two leaders who fought for us with such courage and wisdom can be publicly celebrated as they deserve because of the enemy-virus.

But I take from their lives the knowledge that a life relinquishing selfish goals and focused on the greater good will make a difference; will have an impact and will change the world.

“We need to live in a world that is ego-free and humble ourselves to talent, wisdom, and courage, when it reveals itself.”

Zindzi Mandela, activist, diplomat, poet, daughter, mother

Mourners have only the comfort that Cicero referred to when he said that the life of a person is implanted in the memory of those left behind, and the knowledge that their passing changes us and becomes part of us too.

There is hope in that.

A Good Constitutional and a Mask

Dolphin Inn Blouberg in Bloubergstrand, Cape Town — Best Price ...

The Maestro and I had a delightful over-fifties (his comment) stroll along the beachfront today. (Well, he ambled, while I jogged to keep up – it sucks to be short.)

What we noticed on our route march was how many good citizens of Bloubergstrand are not wearing masks in public at all. (And I’m not talking about just pulling it down to defog your Armani Sunglasses, or when you are dying of heat behind it, when no one is close) It’s a bit scary especially with the wave of new infections washing over our country. Beds are filling up around the country’s field hospitals and ministers are whispering about reversing lockdown levels. Yet ordinary Joe Soaps are tired of it all, perhaps because the invisible virus doesn’t seem realistic to most folks, or we’re just bored of the regimentation caused by COVID regulations.

Yet anyone who has been to a doctor’s room recently will have noticed how different everything is. My son, Michael, suffers from regular, intense migraines and last week had to be rushed to the emergency room at our local hospital. He arrived while the migraine aura was just starting, normally plenty of time to get heavy painkillers and sleep it off. This time though, in the middle of a work day, the queue to be triaged was out the door. So, poor Michael, while not dying, certainly suffered a great deal standing outside in the sun, and reached the vomit stage of his attack before being allowed in, fortunately making it to the loo and not the flowerbed.

The problem is not just corona cases, it’s the protocols requiring complete decontamination of every emergency room cubicle before the next patient can be taken. But what Michael said afterwards, resonated with me: He said he didn’t mind having to wait, even though it was horrible for him) because at least two people bypassing the queue were a small child who couldn’t breathe and a cyanotic, old man … (or 2 COVID-19 patients?) neither of whom could have their family in with them, because of the new rules…and the nature of the disease.

The World Health Organisation says this pandemic is still in its infancy. Yesterday marked 6 months since the WHO was first alerted to a cluster of COVID-19 cases in China and now, with over 10 million cases worldwide and 500 000 deaths, they are saying it is far from over.

I’m just not sure that the good people of the Blouberg quite get it. It’s insulting that people don’t wear their masks to protect other individuals. My mask protects you; your mask protects me. So will you please flippin’ protect me!

My sister says that people are crazy to go to restaurants during this time – I didn’t dare tell her that we visited our home-away-from-home, News Café after our beachfront dash. But they are being conscientious about hygiene that’s for sure:  Patrons are screened, tables are sterilized and marked as such, and staff are masked and gloved.  Eateries the world over are trying creative ways of controlling social distancing like this Parisian restaurant which is using giant teddy bears to occupy banned seats:

Image Source: https://mymodernmet.com/paris-cafe-giant-teddy-bears-social-distancing/

This German establishment also decided to have some fun to remind people to keep apart:

A Dutch diner is using robots to do screening checks and serve customers:

Image Source: https://www.businessinsider.co.za/robot-serves-food-takes-temperatures-covid-19-in-the-netherlands-2020-6

This restaurant, also in the Netherlands designed little cabanas for each table:

Image Source: https://mymodernmet.com/paris-cafe-giant-teddy-bears-social-distancing/

And clever masks are also being designed: Gotta love this one which allows you to open it when you want to eat:

It seems that restaurants are really trying to protect patrons as they begin their post-lockdown life.

The question is: what are Jo and Jozi Public doing to protect themselves?

According to health officials, this virus is quite a wuss when it comes to Jik and sanitizers. And masks work. But the WHO reminds us that the pandemic is speeding up. It is not even close to being over, so we need to get over our boredom with the rules, suck it up and think about each other. Because next time it could be one of us in the queue at the hospital.

So wear a damn mask. Please.

Misunderstandings

‘Beware of the half-truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.’

Author Unknown
How to Avoid Misunderstandings And Conflicts Through The Right ...

The Western Cape is no longer testing patients who present with flu-like symptoms. So sick people have to assume they have COVID-19 until they are well and are often quarantined for up to 14 days, even though they only have normal flu, because those other nasty germs haven’t gone away because Big Brother Corona is on the rampage.

Consequently, a week or so ago, we had so many facilities staff members absent and booked off for a significant period that we were forced to contract with a cleaning company for a few days, for additional staff to ensure the school was clean, given all the additional hygiene routines that are required with the new protocols connected to protecting our school community from the COVID-19 virus.

Although this was mentioned to a small group of staff, the reasons behind the move were not understood or properly explained (I realise now) to the staff in all three schools on campus. The next week we began hearing rumours that our facilities staff were looking into signing up with unions and there appeared to be general unrest on the staff, which surprised me because we have had a peaceable, open relationship with our staff in the time I have been at the school. It was only at a routine meeting a few days later that one employee eventually spoke up and asked, ‘What is this with these other cleaners?’

In a moment of clarity, I saw the cause of the misconception. The staff thought we were planning to outsource our cleaning function permanently. Fortunately, I was able to explain the misunderstanding easily enough and reassure them that their jobs were safe, and our institution’s relationships returned to normal. However, I realized then how a simple misunderstanding can have massive consequences whether at work or at home. Trust takes ages to build up and one miscommunication or misunderstanding can destroy it.

In other news, my child who shall remain anonymous, was instructed last week to give away packets of old clothes I’d collected from the early days of lockdown when I was gung ho about tidying. ‘But not the coats and evening dresses in the cupboard,’ I said (several times). Needless to say, I got home on Friday to find the entire cupboard bare of not just the old clothes but all my winter and evening wear.

What I learned from these two experiences were the following three things:

  1. Communication is so important – and, as leaders we should consider in advance how decisions may appear, in order to forestall possible panic (not to mention losing one’s coats).
  2. Honesty and transparency are essential for trust.
  3. Get the whole story.
  4. Fact check everything – surely Trump’s aversion to the truth has taught us that!
  5. Apologise when you break rules one to three.
  6. And forgive others when they get things wrong.

If only characters like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Othello, to name but a few of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes had had the benefit of hindsight and an opportunity to make good. Then again, what the appearance-reality theme illustrates in so many of his plays is precisely how ruinous misunderstandings can be.

The magnitude of Shakepeare’s genius is in his depiction of the genuine human condition. Unfortunately, we often react (and overreact too) before checking whether we have been properly informed. It’s not necessarily the equivocations of our enemies which cause such misunderstandings, it has also happened that major events in history have resulted from misinterpretations caused by mistranslations:

Did you know that the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II, because of a mistranslation of the Japanese word ‘mokusatu’ (‘We withhold comment’) as ‘We are treating your message with contempt’ (in response to ‘Will you surrender?’). You’d think they would have checked such a thing, but President Truman essentially ordered the deaths of a quarter of a million people because of that!

 History is littered with such poor translations, from Krushchev’s Russian as more threatening than he was being, to the Maori’s being shafted at Waitangi by the Brits. Mars was identified as potentially having intelligent life after the ‘canali’ (which an Italian astronomer mapping the planet’s ‘seas, channels, continents’ called them) were translated into English as ‘canals.’

We all know about the concept of ‘broken telephones’ where hearers repeat a story slightly differently each time in the retelling, sometimes to the point that the original meaning is completely distorted. It’s how rumours spread and very few check with the original speaker to corroborate the accuracy of what has been quoted.

‘Nice guys finish last’ is a misrepresentation of what a baseball manager (Leo Durocher) actually said and Sherlock Holmes never said, ‘Elementary, dear Watson.’ Nobody says, ‘Play it again, Sam’ in Casablanca. The much-maligned Marie Antoinette probably never said ‘Let them eat cake (‘gateau’)’ although the person who did, used the word ‘brioche’ which is a type of bread enriched with butter and eggs so the intention was the same, but still.

One has to ask how many men have felt encouraged to explore their baser instincts because of that inaccurate reflection of Leo Durocher, who was not encouraging negative behaviour when he pondered aloud that an opposing team had really ‘nice guys in it.’ How many patronising mansplainings or putdowns have concluded with ‘Elementary, my dear Watson?’ I wonder how many wannabe seduction moments have included the faux quote from Casablanca.

Sometimes of course misunderstandings are just incorrect use of grammar: Neil Armstrong’s famous ‘one small step for man; a giant leap for mankind’ is nonsensical and should have been ‘one small step for A man; a giant leap for mankind.’

Computer algorithms are not exempt. The Mariner 1 crash in 1962 was caused by a missing overbar (a small line placed above script). I wonder if that’s what happens to the bank code when I use my card at the grocery store?…

One of the problems facing educators in this Age of Corona teaching is the inability to read the faces of our students, because of the mandatory, ubiquitous masks. Unless a person has extremely expressive eyebrows, has expressive forehead furrows, or crinkles their eyes up when they smile, it’s really hard to know what they are thinking and we cannot tell how they are feeling. Since relationships are so important to us in education, I think it’s time we encourage bushy eyebrow exercises in Life Orientation classes to accommodate the need to project and interpret brow gymnastics.

Life is so fraught with miscommunication, one could be forgiven for feeling paralysed by indecision at times. Take marriage for instance, where we often end up in arguments over silly misunderstandings. But there is another way to look at it: in the words of Oscar Wilde,

‘The proper basis for marriage is mutual misunderstanding.’

The Maestro thinks I’m beautiful – I’m going with that…

Read More on this subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305887589_Thats_Not_What_I_Meant_How_Misunderstanding_Is_Related_to_Channel_and_Perspective-Taking

https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-times-miscommunication-had-awful-consequences.php

https://www.scribendi.com/advice/expensive_grammar_mistake.en.html

8 Things that have changed since the dawn of The Age of Corona

How to Break Bad Habits, According to Science | Time

Aristotle believed that there are seven causes for the changes in human behaviour.

  • Chance
  • Nature
  • Compulsions
  • Habit
  • Reason
  • Passion
  • Desire

COVID-19 has certainly been a major disrupter. I saw a TED Talk once about how to form positive habits in just 30 days. So, I thought, ‘Ok I shall make some positive changes while we’re incarcerated at home.’ Some have been good changes; others… through no fault of mine, I declare… not so much.

This is what has changed since lockdown for me:

1. I’m writing

On the plus side, I am writing again every day, which is for me like going to gym…without the gym. I feel rejuvenated afterwards, and it’s fun.

2. Me-time

I have ring-fenced me-time slightly better, although I can see this resolution slipping since the return to school process has started. I have enjoyed getting more sleep than usual and hope that I can try to limit the number of nights I burn the midnight oil.

3. Traffic

Traffic is better -I am hoping that more companies have realized that they can in fact trust their administrators to work from home. Please. I’d like to be able to sail through as we are able to do now – gives me an extra 15 minutes sleep every morning.

4. Reading

Unfortunately, I have given up reading books temporarily. Well of course that’s because the library is closed and I just cannot do online books. Not with our wifi. Just when you get to the end of a page or an exciting part of the narrative, damned if it freezes and then when it finally reloads it’s back at the point you were when you picked it up. And it’s hard to get quality books for free on the internet, and I just can’t get myself to spend money on a book which I am only going to read once. I’m tightfisted like that. Having said that, If I can solve my data issues, this could be a revolutionary change in my life.

5. My car is dirty

This is a sad story. Car washes are not yet open so picture my excitement when the oil change light came on. ‘Oh good,’ I thought, ’I can get my car cleaned at last.’ Not so lucky: the service centre was operating on skeleton staff and so no non-essential stuff (like car valeting apparently) was happening. 

I got even though.  Unintentionally I swear…

After dropping off my car and having to rope in my husband to transport me further, I received a call informing me I’d been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 (Fortunately all is now well with said-person, so I can tell this story). As a good citizen, I now needed to inform the garage that there was a chance that I had contracted the virus and that I’d send in my husband to collect my car later. Well they weren’t having any of that – they delivered the car, hooted and left the keys on the roof… It was a little disconcerting I must say, although I can totally understand their temerity to come anywhere near me, but it did make me think I should buy a bell while I was out having a COVID test so I could yell ‘unclean’ as I walked. Of course, I didn’t need to …I was driving for one, and secondly my car was also still ‘unclean.’

Not even all this rain has sorted it out.

I guess I could wash the car myself; but, well…perish the thought.

6. Heaters

Spending so much time at home has made me realise how inhospitably cold it is in our house, so I have allowed the heaters to go on. We’re spending a fortune on electricity, but it is so cosy – at least we shall be warm and poor.

7. Grocery Shopping

… because we are going to be poor. Has anyone else found they are spending so much more on food? My grocery bill has skyrocketed with all of us at home constantly. I used to be able to buy clothes every month. No more. I’m barely breaking even. Now it’s biscuits and chocolate and other exotic snacks I don’t usually buy, along with fancy juices and lots of everything in case we need to hunker down again… And that darling little suit I nipped into Zara to purchase just before lockdown, is never going to fit me now!

8. Education

Education will never be the same again. There will be a clear BC (before Corona) and AV (After Vaccine) in the timelines of every organization. At this stage, at my school, we are adjusting to a hybrid form of teaching and learning with some learners and others logging onto our livestreams from home. With no gatherings in the immediate future, events like valedictory and matric dances present real challenges, which we shall have to meet with some creativity. The coronavirus has single celled dragged us into the 21st century technology-wise and that’s a good thing, but I am sad to see us reverting to industrial-age rows in an effort to social-distance and losing the collaborate hubs we were using. We have to be creative about that too going forward.

I just hope that all the positive changes that have taken place in our society, like appreciating medical staff more than celebrities, lower data costs, families revelling in their home activities and banks being kinder on debt repayments, will remain, but I fear that once things return to some semblance of normalcy I fear that selfishness and sloth will return… just as the urge to exercise has diminished now that it is no longer forbidden fruit to jog.   

I’ll leave you to decide which of the above changes fall under each of Aristotle’s headings. But, no matter the cause behind the positive changes at least, it is definitely time to turn some into excellence:

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.”

―Aristotle

The Storms in our Lives

We’ve had a hectic few years but at least we’ve learnt some science and a few new words.

Have you ever watched a storm?

How I have loved the storms of the last couple of days! As a Capetonian, there is nothing quite like snuggling down in your warm bed as the tempest rages beyond. Hearing the rain lashing the windows when you are warm and safe indoors heightens the sanctity of your haven. At last we are having the winter storms again that I remember from my childhood, with thunder and lightning, and driving rain .

At home, where I sit at my desk, I look out onto our front garden and the road beyond it. Yesterday as I worked on my laptop in the late afternoon, the storm winds were propelling the deluge across the balcony and the road was flooding from the many sudden downpours that had already dumped more rain in one day than we had the whole year in 2017 when we had such a drought in Cape Town.

Remember when ‘Prevent Day Zero’ was the rallying cry to save our province from running out of potable water and we came within a month or two of doing that? We had to change the way we did things at school then too. Who remembers having to work out how to wash all those aftercare dishes without covering the earth in the plastic and disposables we’d been avoiding up until then, (because we’d always ensured we ‘re-used’ rather than chucked); or figuring out where to sink a borehole; learning words like ‘reticulation’ and learning how dams are made. We showered with a bucket (we still do, good citizen teachers that we are); and of course we didn’t flush! But we got used to it. And we survived to stand in delight under the first showers which broke the drought.

Then came that euphemism to beat all others; ‘loadshedding’ (It’s a ‘power failure‘ damnit!’) And we learnt terms like ‘grid’ and ‘overloaded;’ we tried switching off the geysers to save power and got into trouble with the landlord for damaging the switch. We discovered the horrors of the Eskom financials and at school we installed solar lights in our driveway and sourced generators to ensure we could run a school dependent on technology, not to mention examinations. That is what I was busy with when COVID-19 sashayed across the globe.

And suddenly, we were thrust into a world of epidemiology and virology and have learnt about face masks and what the correct concentration of alcohol in hand sanitizer should be (70%); and terms like ‘social-distancing,’ ‘flattening the curve,’ ‘floor decals ‘and ‘lockdown,’ not to mention my own worst one: SOPs.

What do these crises all have in common? Us. People that’s who. Humans over-farm; crooks rob our state-owned entities blind and if we didn’t invade animals territories we wouldn’t have viruses jumping species (We won’t get into that the little corona bug could have been manufactured, because there’s just no way someone would do that… is there?… is there?)

It’s one thing to have these crises in successive year, but since we’re talking about storms (well I was, but became horrible sidetracked), what it happened that a perfect storm of events resulted in

What do these crises all have in common? Us. People that’s who. Humans over-farm; crooks rob our state-owned entities blind and if we didn’t invade animals’ territories we wouldn’t have viruses jumping species (We won’t get into that the little corona bug could have been manufactured, because there’s just no way someone would do that… is there?… is there?)

It’s one thing to have these crises in successive years, but since we’re talking about storms (well I was, but became horrible sidetracked), what if it happened that a perfect storm of events resulted in all of these things happening at the same time: you know a deadly virus, running rampant around the country, in the midst of a drought and then we run out of electricity…You think it can’t happen?

Well almost exactly one year ago we were watching Notre Dame burn; then three major reports published in journals “Nature” and “Nature Geoscience” declared that global warming is the fastest it’s been in 2,000 years and scientific consensus that humans are the cause is at 99%; exactly a year ago, tens of thousands of people began to riot in Hong Kong; just six months ago the majority of Brits voted for Boris Johnson. And you think it’s not all our own fault?

We’ve brought it all on ourselves.

For now I’m just happy to have a good old Cape squall. How much worse can 2020 get?… Perhaps I shouldn’t ask. But then again:

‘Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.’

Chuck Palachniuk