Grind to a halt

100 years ago, inventions and innovations were in full swing.  Think of all the major steps in flying, driving, technology, household goods and office machines etc that happened then - there was simply a gigantic surge in stuff being discovered, made, tweaked, and lightbulb moments.

100 years later, we seem to have ground to a halt.  Every now and then someone comes up with a brilliant new invention or discovery, but most of the new stuff today is merely reworking things that are already discovered, shining them up, and adapting them for a slightly different market.

So where have all our inventions gone?  Why are we not making leaps and bounds, given the incredible wealth of info, collaboration, networking and knowledge every single one of us has access to?

I think it's because we've literally ground to a halt.

When was the last time you were so UN-busy that you had time to sit down in peace and quiet, and finish a thought train.  Or endless hours available to experiment, create, try, or mistakenly blow something up?

Nope, we don't have that luxury anymore.  Instead of all our inventions giving us more time to expand our horizons and delve into becoming richer human beings (both materially and in depth of person), we spend our time running around after the numbers required to keep up with the Joneses, or simply keep bread on the table.  We herd ourselves into cramped accommodation and follow the crowds hither and yon.

A lack of invention?  The daily grind has ground us to a halt.  There are no science labs included in your hours-long commute, there are no libraries and a comfy chair at the office.  Kids are kept running from one extramural thing to another instead of being left to wonder, explore and discover where they fit in to the universe for themselves.  Adults work, sleep and eat.  Leisure time is spent in collapse or distraction, not doing something profoundly meaningful or important.  And that leisure time is limited to mere minutes, hours, or a day on a weekend.

I wonder what would happen if we collectively claimed back our time and our lives ...


I must be getting old.

I don't see the point of Virtual Reality, when you can have Real Reality instead.

I start raising an eyebrow when the majority of the population spends all their time on their devices, oblivious to the world around them.  I don't get the quest for the latest upgrade, the brag-right wars of brands, or the bigger and better (or smaller and better).  I especially don't get their price tags.

I look at our neighbouring "professional gamer" and wonder why anyone would want to spend their days sleeping / do a 3am Burger King every night / live in a virtual hole with a computer and a bed but not much else.

Neighbours having a party?  By 11 I'm hoping they shut up and go to bed.

Reckless driving?  Nope, I'm becoming the speed-limit-sticker-to, who gives you the evil eye if you drive like a doos.  (Though I do ensure I get up to that speed limit at a respectable pace, with due consideration for others on the road)

Night out?  Less noise please, more quiet eclectic experiences - no doef-doef or dragging yourself home drunk as the birds start chirping.

Night in?  Preferable.

I'm watching my health, what I eat, what I drink, how much I sleep.  I'm choosing natural over artificial, whether food, medicine or just living.  Dumbing down my preferences to the purest and simplest forms available.  

I'm getting more and more cynical about the whoring habits of one of our friends, the religious habits of many of our friends, and the quest of most of the planet to integrate themselves with things that track them, call them, watch them, and do stuff they should bloody well be doing for themselves.

I'm valuing the handcrafted, the lasting, the lost-art living skills more and more.

I'm increasingly concerned about our planet, our resources, and how to be self-sufficient.  I may just hit a stranger one of these days for littering or leaving the water running.

I'm developing strong opions on things that didn't used to matter - but have also learnt to keep my mouth shut.

And I'm really looking forward to retirement.

Age - not just a number

You've seen them - the old folk moving their book closer and further, trying to find that focal point where they can read, and hoping it's not somewhere beyond arm's length.

This morning, that was me.  Not a book, but an attempt to re-thread my sewing machine needle.  And realising that it wasn't as easy today as it was a few months ago.

Quite frankly, it's scary.

But I'm starting to understand that there are some things creeping up on me as I grow older that I may not necessarily be able to do anything about.  And that these things can effectively kill stuff I wanted to do when I "retire".

Take the eye thing.  I recently invested in a 2m length of fine silver wire to play around with, to make something delicate and cool out of.  Delicate and cool means it's going to be small, intricate work.  And I fear that I actually won't be able to see to do it.  Which means all the other small, intricate work I had looked forward to doing is also going to fly out the window.  And that'll I'll instead have to learn to crochet like Granny did.  At least you can do it without having to see clearly :-)

Then there are the increasing aches and pains, loss of flexibilty, and tendancy to start a day with good intentions - but tire out by lunchtime.

Yesterday, that was me.  Beautiful Spring day, full of potential.  Got going at a decent hour, worked enthusiastically through the first few tasks, and then started petering out around lunchtime, and ended up feeling so tired and ill by 2pm that I had to go have a lie-down.  I guess I get to look foward to afternoon naps as an elderly.

The aches and pains?  I'm still trying to do everything I did 10 years ago, but finding it a little harder.  I have wrecked veins in one leg thanks to work position, work boots and work activities.  That leads to the kind of varicose veins that burn, ache, and cause you to get out of bed instead of sleeping in on a weekend.  Arthritis.  Yup.  Have worn my hands out and am now on "chronic medication" with a bit of help from natural ingredients. 

OK, I'm not ancient.  I'm somewhere around 46-ish (after 40 it's difficult to remember exactly how old you are without having to calculate it..).  Maybe I'm just worn out?  Maybe when I "retire" and live a bit more gently, eat properly and get enough sleep, these will all go away?

Hell, I hope so.


When you fly, the first thing you encounter is the Safety Speech.  Exits there and there, lifejacket under the seat, oxygen mask above.  And please put on your own mask before assisting other passengers.

For most of my life I've been putting on the other passenger's masks first.

I think perhaps it stems from my Christian upbringing (I'm not faulting it, merely observing).  There's a distinct servant-ministry thought pattern underlying all Christian actions.  Serve others before yourself, put others first, turn the other cheek, wash their feet.  All good intentions, but it's ingrained at times to a point of self-detriment.  More so if you're the "weaker sex", who is subject to the Biblical interpretations of "submit yourself to your husband" and other random verses that give clear advantage to males, husband or not.

Add in a set-in-stone patriarchial society.  From day one as an employee in a male-dominated work environment, I very quickly realized that women are still in a "seen, not heard" position.  Opinions don't matter, pay is lower, and how dare you attempt to change anything!  Instead, your place should be in the kitchen - but we'll tolerate you in the workplace as a secretary or something if you don't make any waves... In the meantime, there's the kettle - go make coffee.

Even in my mid-40s, as owner of two companies, many customers will ask to speak to the men and ignore me.  I even recently had a female customer call in a male to check my work...

These factors have probably built up the habit of putting on other people's masks first I mentioned above.  I find myself giving up my own comfort, my own opinions, my own plans so that others can go first.  I spent many years basically starving myself so the rest of the household could eat when times were tough.  And it's a mentality that is very very hard to shake.

But something changed recently... 

I caught myself reading about an old friend's ambitions online and wondering how I could help to make them happen.

And then I realized that they're old enough to bloody well make their own dreams happen. 

For that matter, I've been helping too many people make things happen over the years and in the process I'm shrivelling up, losing out, weaing out.

It's time to become just a bit more selfish.  To get my own oxygen before I give it away to others.

Will it change overnight?  No.  Will I still spend a lot of time being a people-pleaser?  Probably.

But it's a start.

Survival instincts

I'm truly thankful for the way I grew up.  I wouldn't have known half the stuff I do today if it were not for the circumstances that shaped me.

I grew up in Rhodesia during the "war years".  Spent my first 12 years of life there, then we moved to South Africa.  I probably experienced things many kids today in your average civilized society wouldn't.  The death of my friend's parents in a hacked-by-terrorists attack.  The warning siren going off for anti-terrorist drills in primary school - so scary to a kid that small that I'd be frozen in place by fear and have to be dragged off to the safety of the walls under the windows where we were made to hide, or the inside passages of the buildings out of sight.  The sounds of mortar attacks in the hills near our home at night.  Finding spent (and not so spent) bullets in the bush.  Other friends who narrowly missed being blown up, because they got up to get something from the bedroom instead of staying sitting in the lounge - and on whose cotton farm we rode around in armoured vehicles.  Yet I saw the "tame" bits of that time compared to many I know.

The things I'm thankful for though were interwoven with this existance.  War led to scarcity and sanctions, things you couldn't find in the shops, creative determination and alternative plans.  Which is why I know how to make peanut butter from scratch.  Flavour flavourless TVP (textured vegetable protien) granules into something edible. And that a certain garden flower's stems taste exactly like rhubarb when cooked.

I was the daughter of a pastor who regularly ran large evangelistic campaigns.  So I know how to silkscreen, how to make a meltable film template for the screen with a craft knife, how to create the screens for each layer of colour, and how to blend colours when you squeegie it.  Also not to breathe in the fumes for too long in an enclosed space.  I know how to operate a slide projector, and somewhere in the back of my brain are instructions for weaving film into a reel-to-reel projector.

I helped my uncle work a manual printing press once or twice - I know how to ink it up and place letters, then turn the paper through it to create the magic of words on a page.  In late primary school I worked holidays at a publishing house - I've handled ticker tape messages (though they were phasing out rapidly while I was there) and sorted more printing letters.  Another holiday job was at a pharmacy - I've done sales and cashier work.  A third was stacking shelves in a supermarket - I know about stock levels and rotation.

My mom taught primary school in an age before photocopiers.  I know how to make a gelatin copy template in a baking tray that will give you at least 10 pages of slightly purple writing before you have to craft a new one.

I know how to make a foofie slide.  A teepee.  A rope and tyre swing.  A fort from elephant grass. I know that some reflective silver paint on water pipes rubs off on you when you use them as climbing apparatus and bridges through the veld.  And that always carrying a rope and a pocket knife on your 12-speed bike will get you places others can't go.

I know that you can run into a pack of hyenas and not be eaten.  I've learnt not to let a gas stove explode (repeatedly) next to your one-man tent, and that running from buffalo bare-foot through patches of duiweltjies is not a good idea.  Nor is leaving tomatoes within reach of the monkeys while out.

I know that wild waterberries are edible.  What Marula fruit tastes like fresh off the ground.  I know how to cast a rhino footprint in plaster of Paris, and that one should not get too close to such beasts..  

I know how to hide a tea-chest of semi-precious stones into the cavities of a car (watched a man do it in our back yard, then leave for parts unknown).  I know that tourmaline, marble, vast slabs of mica, quartz, emeralds and tigerseye could be picked up by just walking around in certain areas on a friend's property.  That the driveway of my great-aunt's house was perfect for picking out copper slag.  And that there was a stream in the Drakensberg where you could grab fistfuls of agates.

I know how to make a conglomeration of vases and containers out of bamboo, decorated by burning patterns into it.  I know how to do "one stroke" flowers and leaves, how to make chalk glow in the dark, and how to paint with copper powder and glue on black velvet to create this:

I can track animals in the bush, I can whistle on an acorn lid.  I can shoot a crab at a reasonable distance with a pellet gun.  I can ride a horse and milk a cow.  Row a kayak and drive a 4x4.

I know how to grow food, I know how to read the weather.  I can bake bread from scratch, make pasta from scratch (thanks to a real live Italian lady and a half-length of broomstick), turn most fruits into jam, cure olives, make cheese, I'm even qualified to can a tuna. 

I can operate a microscope, manipulate an agar plate, and mix chemicals without killing anyone (came close once).

I can do basic woodwork and own both a sewing machine and overlocker - yes, I can use them. I can solder and if pushed I could weld - just not as beautifully as my grandfather has for longer than I've been alive.  I can wield an angle grinder (under supervision apparently).  I've seen buildings built, foundations propped up, walls stacked in stone.

I have written for a magazine, for a business or two.  I can play the piano (thanks dad, and church song services..).  I used to be able to sing.  I used to be able to langarm (dance).  Some things are better left to youth...

More recently I've become skilled in climbing towers, terminating network cables, securing and aiming antennas and splicing fibre optic strands.

You may look at me and think there's not a whole lot to me.  That I'm just another human trundling along on the surface of this rolling planet, a boring middle-aged chick.  But I got skillz!  And somehow I know if you dumped me in the middle of nowhere, many of those will kick in (probably quite randomly) to make me a pretty damn good survivor.


Many of my posts here are fluffy and insubstantial, surface stuff or random weird thoughts.

This one not so much.

When I was around 19 / 20 my mom and I had a falling out.  Many do during the growing years - but ours lasted for the rest of our lives.  It wasn't an all-out fight, but simply that I lost the ability to trust her and things just went downhill from there.  Where some women find their greatest confidants in their mothers, mine knew very little about what was going on in my head.  We existed in the same space, that was about it.

17 December 2005.  The day cancer finally took her.  Nearly 12 years ago.  We made one final two week trip to see her earlier that year as her body wore down - and although I knew it would be the last time, things were still not right between us.  By the end of two weeks we were grating on each other's nerves, too far apart over too many years to find our way back.  We made one last phone attempt a week before she was gone, which was just as unsuccessful.  Although I admired what she had accomplished in life and who she was (and I understand more and more of her as I get older), there were many others who I fear loved her more completely than her own daughter did.

Her ashes rest 2km from my home in a wall of rememberence.  I have not been back to that wall since they were interred.  I have never experienced the profound sense of loss everyone has expected me to have.

But last night's dreams were all about mom, for the first time ever.  She was struggling and fighting to live again, doing everything in her power and knowledge to beat the disease - from juicing to chemo.  The dream was interspersed with so many random weird scenarios - as dreams are.  And through it all I had the one possible option that could cure her, but couldn't figure out how to convince her to use it. 

I wonder now, knowing what I do 12 years later - with the body of research and personal experiences behind it - if there was a very simple change that may have made a very big difference, if I could have convinced her to just try it. 

I wonder if I could have saved her life.

Retro adopters

Read an article today regarding the "new" Nokia 3310 release and how products are appealing to Retro Adopters.  Got me thinking...  am I one?

I'm now (horrifyingly) in my mid-to-late 40's.  I grew up in an era where things were still made to last, tech was not common - your telephone was attached to a point in the house and had a dial, microwaves were basically unknown, not everyone had a TV - and the world was a whole lot simpler.

Perhaps I'm reacting to the incredible rush, noise and fake-ness of our Facebook-lived lives today, ruled by chimes and alarms and "notice me!"s, surrounded by things that actually don't matter in the greater scheme of things, chasing numbers in a bank and ratings online.  We've sampled the latest and greatest, and it's not as advertised.  I'm kicking back against it, and so are many of my generation.  Each of us in different ways.

We want the good old days, and now most of us have the means to pay for it - or an updated replica of it if you're of the retro adopter hipster variety.

Anything that reminds us of when we were kids and life was good.

So I find myself with an original set or two of wire furniture like this:

With a growing number of board games - and no computer games.

With 100kg of home cured olives in my garage, and more home-made goods in the pipelines once time allows.

A collection of old crafts and methods I'm learning or re-learning.   Stuff you do with your hands, and not an app.

I aspire to a proper veg garden - and even have dreams of being a housewife instead of a "career woman".

There's a Pineware manual meat/bread slicer lurking in the kitchen.  I'm after a traditional chest freezer next.  A Phillips electric knife sharpener is on the shelf, just like the one we had to leave behind when we moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa when I was a kid.  A can opener like gran had in the drawers.  A few cast iron casseroles in the cupboards, and mom's Tupperware jug for summer juices.

I'm living in an old-fashioned house with vinyl flooring and flowered tiles in the kitchen, peach coloured bathrooms, an entire room for a laundry, a seperate dining room - and I own a dining room table, chairs and a server.  With a set of proper heritage silverware in it's own oak cabinet.

Given half a chance, I'd probably have a ball and claw hall table...

And I actually still have an original working Nokia 3310 lurking somewhere with its charger - or one of its close relatives.

I'm not your traditional retro adopter.  I'm something much worse.  I've got the originals!