Christmas 2017

spChristmas in Hogsback is extra special for a number of reasons. Firstly, our little village is far, far away from the materialistic chaos of malls, shopping and towns. This means that you can really focus on what is important without the stress of “jingle bells” urging you to spend money which you do not have. I, for one, have for the last few years, instituted a “Kaggel Kakkie” Christmas, which means that everything and anything (un)useful or fun gets wrapped into a big pile of presents underneath my “real” (as in a branch from one of my pine trees) Christmas tree, to be distributed in a fun way on Christmas eve, by Christmas father himself!

Secondly, there is a holiday vibe of happiness that permeate the village and surrounds, echoes through the forests and spills down the waterfalls. The sense of peace and tranquility even extends to the visitors, who seems to go with the flow, happy to let go of their troubles and stresses.

Thirdly, in all the time that I have been “living” in Hogsback, most of the Christmases have been cool, even cold at times, with rain and mist. This adds to the mystique of an almost snowy Christmas, with everybody huddling around a warm fire, sipping sherry, talking, playing games and just being. This year was no exception.

The most important reason for being in Hogsback over this time is the Christmas services. The evening before Christmas, families gathers at the little chapel, St Patrick on the Hill, where the children gets a chance to build the nativity scene and we sing all our favourite Christmas songs. This year we all wore Christmas hats and the little chapel was filled to overflowing with happy faces and hearts, big and small. As we trickled out of the church, we were filled with awe as we listen to a young man from Grahamstown, playing joyful songs on his bagpipe with mist swirling around him. Very special indeed!

We celebrate the Christmas meal and present sharing on the night before Christmas. This year I had the pleasure of having my mother, my sister Ellie and her family with me. It is truly a great blessing to be surrounded by family over Christmas. As always the kaggel kakkie present ceremony went down well. At the end of the day we know who our real present is and He is not wrappable.

We usually have our Christmas day service in the arboretum under the canopy of trees, but this year that was not to be. I was initially upset about this and tried to think how we could capture the forest feel somewhere else in Hogsback. We ended up having our Christmas sermon in our little Chapel and what a wondrous occasion it was! The chapel was, again, filled to the rafters with happy faces gleaming with the joy of Jesus! Margaret was back in top form and assured us that peace for the world start with each of us- we are the peaces!

We were again lead out of the church with joyous bagpipe music and I could feel God smiling down at us with streaks of sunshine through the mist. Joy to the world! Christmas in Hogsback is really a place to rediscover God’s gift to us!

How blessed are we to celebrate christmas in this blessed place!!

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Happy Birthday Ellie

ellie“For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather, to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.”  Christina G. Rossetti quotes (English Poet. 1830-1894)

“A sister is one who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.”

“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”  Marion C. Garretty quotes

“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” Margaret Mead

“We are sisters. We will always be sisters.Our differences may never go away, but neither, for me, will our song.” Elizabeth Fishel

“A sister is both your mirror – and your opposite.”

“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.”  Alice Walker quotes (American writer, b.1944)

“There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me.”  Mary Worley Montagu

You can kid the world. But not your sister. – Charlotte Gray

There is no better friend than a sister.  And there is no better sister than you. – Author Unknown

To have a loving relationship with a sister is not simply to have a buddy or a confident — it is to have a soulmate for life. – Victoria Secunda

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Mother’s day blues

mothersEvery year my sister and I have been plagued by mother’s day blues. And, oh no, that dreaded day is approaching again! So I have decided to take time out to think about, first of all, why it depresses me, and secondly, to slay the dragon!

Why does it depress me?

I really do not know actually. And after all, like all other special days, it has been unscrupulously high-jacked by commerce to make money and exploit already economically challenged individuals to part with hard earned cash to buy unsuitable presents (see post on how to buy gifts) in order to give mothers worldwide the false sense that children and husbands actually give a damn. Or maybe it has something to do with my children normally completely forgetting to “honour thy mother” and omit to shower me with adoration and presents. Little critters, I say. Or is it the fact that my husband one year (and I will never let him forget it, oh no) declared that I am not his mother. Or maybe it is the fact that I do feel that most of those lovely articles in Mr Price will make eminently suitable gifts for me 😉 Very depressing indeed!

So what is it actually about?

I decided to go in search of some history to illuminate the issue. A good overview of what mother’s day is all about can be found here: . It is interesting to note from this article that modern day Mother’s day has actually been invented by woman. So we could argue that it is actually all a conspiracy? The article does give a basic workable definition:

Millions of people across the globe take the day as an opportunity to honor their mothers, thank them for their efforts in giving them life, raising them and being their constant support and well wisher.”

  • Let’s break this down. “Giving them life” now stretches far beyond the actual birth ritual (picture here screaming and swearing and sweaty hair) it also go as far as step mothers and adoptive mothers (picture here screaming and swearing and sweaty hair).
  • Raising them” also do not only mean feed them, dress them (you can only try), drive them around endlessly (endlessly), get them to do their homework (or do their homework), break up their cigarettes into a million pieces and let them eat it, ground them (you can only try) ban their cell phone use (you can only try), it means worry, worry, worry (and worry some more). In this day and age, and looking at it from a teachers point of view, teachers ends up being mothers to their learners as well. So this whole “raising them” scenario definitely extends beyond the traditional outlook of who is you mother exactly. (maybe I should stop here…..) But then “raising them” means that it is not only a pain in the arse kind of exercise (Mmmmm lots of exercise), it is also a spiritually uplifting experience in a kind of “up and down” kind of way.
  • Being their constant support and well wisher” – This part tends to be far easier to execute than the previous part. We do wish our children well and all we want to do is to support them. Telling this to teenagers is of course totally a waste of valuable breath and energy. But alas, they too, become adults and down the line they are punished for ever doubting us by having children of their own. And so the cycle continues.

This mother’s day is going to be different!

So what is going to be so different? This year, instead of feeling all unappreciated and ignored, I am going to chill and enjoy. I am silently going to embrace a new kind of mother’s day. One where it is not about presents (I have already conned hubby into giving me a book), attributions (will someone please remind my kids it is mother’s day) and commercial hype (chocolates makes you fat anyway), but one where I can revel in just being a mother. Thinking about all the mothers (starting with my own), who have raised me (up), supported me and wished me well. Also thinking about my children, those who have wondered in and out of my house over the years (smelly and raiding the food cupboards) and those whom I have taught. And I think I am going to stay in bed in my pyjamas, watch TV all day and read a book.

Mother’s that need’s to be mentioned with accolade:

  • My mother. She has always been there for me, worrying for me, and I have not always been the best daughter.
  • My sister: She is a mother extraordinaire and have always been an inspiration to me of how a mother should be. She could also sell her “evil eye” as a marvellous disciplinary tool.
  • Hanlie: Hang on in there, teenagers are never easy but remember- they grow up eventually!
  • Nomakeme: Thank you for being such a rock for my children. I applaud you!

“Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all. (Oliver Wendell Holmes, physician and poet )

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How to buy your wife a present

I have been fortunate to have had another birthday and another anniversary within 2 weeks of each other. As always I have a rather opportunistic view on both and believe in making the most if it rather than seeing it as downhill road. And in any case, downhill is better for me as I sweat less! Which brings me to the issue of presents….

Husbands and presents are mutually irreconcilable concepts. No, ladies, they cannot read your mind. And they will never know you well enough to buy the perfect present. And if they know you well enough, they will buy the wrong brand.  Guaranteed. And we can keep on telling ourselves that it is the thought that counts, but, my darlings, on a primal wife level, it does not do it for us! Be serious now.

But back to me. I am blessed with an extraordinary husband. He is kind, loving, generous, and a real mensch, but his ability to buy me a present is akin to the Lions winning the Super 14 this year (to relate it to something husbands will be able to understand). Not going to happen. I, on the other hand has been raised in a home where giving and getting a present is a whole sacred process. Lots of time is spend on who the person is, what would make him/her happy and, more important, what present would make him/her remember you by that mere token that you have bestowed upon the recipient. This concept is totally alien to husbands on the whole. My husband has therefore, over the years, developed a grave fear of “happenings” , understandably, as he is sure to fail miserably! So what to do?????

So I decided to put a guideline together to assist hubbies to do more or less, the right thing.

Suggestion number 1:

Get wife to make a list of things she would like to have that will make her happy as well as things that will make her more comfortable across a range of price options. Also, do not ask her to do it a day/week before the happening- we need time to go and explore for some ideas (and check prices). And believe it or not, we are aware of budgetary constraints, so don’t be restrictive, tell us to dream and be practical in compiling the list (we can multitask). We are good with lists. Also, ask us to number lists according to

  • Must haves (1)
  • Would like (2)
  • Would like to have, but know it is a bit on the pricey side and will be great for special happenings. (3)
  • Suitable ideas for the sponsored children presents (4)

Then look at what you can afford, add 20% to that, move on to suggestion number two

Suggestion no 2:
Give the aforementioned list to a good friend or family member who is close to your wife. Remember, that even if you are armed with a fail- prove list, you might still be tempted to buy the wrong brand at the wrong shop for slightly cheaper, or whatever! So the input of a confidante will be priceless, like the MasterCard advert says!  If you do not want to go the list way, the friend-of-wife route can also be advantageous in doing a more subtle investigation of needs. Friends usually shop together, talk together and mention things which are stored in our memory bank for retrieval for just such an occasion as a present. Go on, ask a friend.

Suggestion no 3: (ode to Lanie)

A secretary who values her boss’s wife’s “happening” calendar, is a prize beyond riches. Make sure that you make that part of the job requirement. Here I just have to mention Lanie. She kept her own list and made sure to ask me on a regular basis for ideas and hints. Then she added her own flair and made sure that my husband remembers to buy the gift or got it herself (I never knew).  So if you are blessed with one such a secretary, go ahead, leave it in her good hands. She will guide you through the process.

Suggestion no 4
If you are really stumped for ideas or time (bad boy), a wonderful redeeming safety valve idea is to outsource the gift process. You can either contact Lanie (see suggestion no 3) or have the professionals do it for you. This year husband made use of one such a service which specialise in facilitating gifts in South Africa and the UK, called the Giftlady ( She delivered a beautifully wrapped large box via courier, filled with all kinds of my favourite goodies (chocolates, candles and jewellery) on the day, just as I thought that he has forgotten!

Suggestion no 5 (for the wives)

Get over yourself -I know I have had to on occasion- with pleasant consequences!. Stop striving for that telepathic connection, stop living in the hope that husbands catch hints and come right out and tell him what you want. Even if it means that you have to buy the present yourself- just as long as you have his credit card. For our 10th anniversary I “gifted” myself with a very expensive computer bag on wheels, from him of course. And every time I run across the tarmac with my bag flying gracefully behind me, I think of him and smile. This year I will be visiting the day spa at Mangwanani (My favourite He is happy and I am happy- very much so! So, speak up woman!

Suggestion no 6 (for tough economic times)
If your budget is straining in these tight times, don’t worry, wives are actually not that hard to please. Essentially we want to know that you love us and if you put in that extra bit of thought, effort and caring, no expensive gift can compete! So some quick ideas….

  • A box filled with poems (print off internet ) combined with chocolates and a smelly (powder/ soaps… for husbands that do not know what ”smelly” stand for- or maybe they do!)
  • A box filled with vouchers
    • I will do a……back massage/ foot tickle/ head message for ½ hour (the lenght of their attention span)
    • I will wash your car/feed the dog/give the kids a hiding
    • No sex tonight/sex please – vouchers (depending on her needs)
    • No sport voucher (No exeptions- a show of real love)
  • Don’t forget about “money-for-honey” stowed away in your e-bucks or credit card loyalty system!
  • If you know about something that she really want, but cannot afford it, club together with kids, friends and family and buy a collective gift of value (ps I need a new laptop)

Lastly, do not and I repeatedly say, DO NOT:

  • Buy perfume unless you know her favourites and it is finished
    (check her dressing table)
  • Buy handbags (forget it- you are not that talented)
  • Buy appliances (even if she needs them) or furniture or anything for the house
  • Buy a big screen TV for her to better watch the sport with you!
  • Tell her you will get a present later (translated: you do not give a flying …banana)

So wives, what do you say? Any other suggestions?

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When a dog dies…

“The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.”

Ben Hur Lampman

PJ a dog to be missed

I say goodbye to PJ my beloved dog and shadow. He was always there for me, fathered close to 25 amazing puppies, and was husband to Ploggie and Tootsie, and companion to my family. He died at the age of 14, which in dog years make him 98- not bad for a dog!

So what can I say about PJ? I got him when we moved into our house in Randpark Ridge and can clearly remember the day I brought him home. He vomited all over my car and by the time we got home it was clear that he was more than just car sick! It turned out that he had biliri and I had to make the choice of having him put down and get another dog (which was my first choice) or spend quite a few hundred Rands to get blood transfusions (my children’s insistence) So he had a auspicious start in our household! The amazing thing is that since then, apart from the odd inoculations, he has been an extremely healthy dog, never sick.

He was the soul mate of Ploggie, his first wife, and I have never experienced dogs to be so closely connected. They were always by each other side, touching, licking and loving. Ploggie was kind of a wild dog and PJ was her gentler side. Then she died unexpectedly of cancer and he was heartbroken. He did not eat and slumped around miserably for months. One of the boys friends then decided to find him another sexy wife and came up with Tootsie, a Chaw. He did not want to know her case, but somewhat un-ignored her when she was in season. He also did not take kindly to his puppies and became a kind of a loner dog.

He then attached himself to my side. Where ever I went (in my house) he went, even to the toilet (which demonstrates real love). He was only allowed in the house when I was there (very strict housekeeper) and formed a good relationship with my cat, Snoekie. As I mostly work from home, the 3 of us were the office team. Cat on the printer, me on the laptop and PJ by my feet.

He never said much and we also figured that he would probably hide if burglars were to visit. He was also an extreme gentleman and always allowed the other 2 dogs to eat first before he tucked in, apart from bones, where he had first debs! He was cool with children but not so cool with adults.

He was terrified of lightning and bad weather! Summer months were excruciating for him and he insisted on sitting on top of me and dribbling in fear. So somehow I take solace in the fact that he is being spared the lightning season this year.

So, my friend, PJ, I know I had to let you go, to be kind to you as you have been kind to me. But I miss you so much, my shadow! Go well, and may you be the lightning in heaven!

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Tannie Nelie is 90 jaar jonk!

Ons was vandag bevooreg om tannie Nelie le Grange se 90 ste verjaarsdag vieringe by te woon.

Tannie Nelie is my man se “tweede ma” van sy kleindae af en sy kleuterskool maatjie, Pieter, se ma. Sy is ‘n dierbare mens, bright en sparkling, en het altyd ‘n vriendelike woord gereed vir almal. Al haar kinders en kleinkinders was daar om haar spesiale dag saam met haar te geniet.

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Wedding bliss

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The Verster family is really into a wedding thing for the last year. First Jean Pierre tied the knot and now his dad Lannie has caught the wedding bug.

Finally we convinced him that he need to settle down and yesterday he did just that! His lovely bride Theonie, of course, was radiant. The seremony was inspirational. The guests charming. The reception raucous….and the food absolutely incredible.

Some high points were the dominee renaming the groom to Mr Vorster and the groom forgetting his speech…but then we did catch him writing it only 10 minutes before he was due to deliver it…

The rest of the photos can be seen here

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