THE MOLE PEOPLE  by Jennifer Toth


Book Review

Who needs SF/Fantasy when an alternate universe exists right under our noses? Provided you live in New York  City, that is.

An extraordinary book  by an extraordinarily brave young woman: 24 year old Jennifer Toth, who explored the sub-culture living below the streets of Manhattan in disused (but also  in currently operational) subway tunnels, closed/abandoned Metro Stations, in caves and natural caverns underground.  She went into the tunnels for 2 years – a dangerous project, which she stopped when Blade, a tunnel dweller, threatened her life.  Two common threads emerge in the book: drugs as a frequent cause or reason to drop out, and it sounded as if the majority of Tunnel Dwellers (aka The Mole People) were  black – a  big indictment of the American social and educational system.

The Tunnel Dwellers should not be confused with  the street-living homeless, who live aboveground.

Toth interacted with the Metro Transit Police, – often mostly policing search, harassment and eviction operations, down in the tunnels. Other NGOS,  and Social Agencies,  had  projects with the Mole People. But  Toth found them to be ineffectual, or in the case of NGos, sometimes self-surviving. The Metro Transit Police ‘s methods and attitudes she found to be questionable.  Official estimates of the numbers of tunnel dwellers ranged uncertainly between 4 000 – 6 000. In short, nobody really knew.

Below ground are established, organised communities, some with ‘Mayors’ as community leaders.  The Mole People care and look after their own, one community even had a designated nurse, and a teacher!

Apart from the groupings, she found  singles, pairs or trios. Some  dwellers are completely mad (literally chucked out by the Health & Welfare system). There are the drunks, the druggies, plus the plain dis-functional, who are unable to live in ordinary society;  criminals on the run, refugee children , for Heaven’s sake, fleeing abusive families or the awful Child Welfare/Adoption system. And then the Libertarians who reject taxes, Government, and every aspect of society and want to do it “their way.’ Jennifer Toth also met a couple of PhDs, living underground with their small store of treasured books.  Go figure.

Some Mole People even had low grade jobs above ground,  e.g. in the fast-food outlets, or janitorial work, but chose to live rent free underground, because they could not afford the rental on even the most modest accommodation in NYC.

Toth met the Graffitti artists, who choose the tunnels or walls of embankments on which to inscribe their art. Yet another, different semi-underground group.

A darker group were a formal Gang who undertake contract killings (sometimes for as little as $20! How bizarre is that?)

America is  definitely not the land of golden opportunity that we might assume it to be.  The book will feature on my 2015  Top Reads, that’s for sure! Read it if you can. I read it, wide-eyed, counting my blessings.

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THE ORCHID THIEF – Susan Orlean Book Review


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For years I’ve been promising myself that when I’m in my dotage, housebound and no longer able to run around like I do now, I shall grow orchids. It’s something I’ve always fancied doing. However, I’m now having second thoughts, having read Susan Orlean’s account of all things orchid related in Florida, USA. Although, let’s face it, I don’t see orchid growing in Cape Town, South Africa, being one-hundredth as exciting as orchid growing in America.

It’s an extraordinary book.  No wonder it featured on the New York Times Bestseller list – I’ve never read anything like it in the non-fiction category. And by the way, difficult to believe it is non-fiction.  The book is hot, steamy,  lush  and colourful just like the Florida Keys where some of the events (I nearly said ‘action’) takes place. Throw in the  local Florida Seminole Indians who claim rights to anything on their tribal land i.e. the muddy, gator infested swamps, where orchids flourish. Add a band of orchid thieves, smugglers, growers and collectors, add a few adjectives like: manic , obsessive, passionate, and  conniving and you’ve got my  liveliest non-fiction read of 2015.

From early 1800s  to  the close of the 19th century, the heyday of orchid hunting and collecting, the chapter is titled “A Mortal Occupation”,  aptly titled, because the casualties were legion. Orchid hunting in the jungles of South America and Asia was perilous, ruthless, dangerous, life-threatening. If not from tropical disease, dangerous wildlife, hostile inhabitants then there were the  other orchid hunters to contend with. Many of the exploits of the orchid hunters read like episodes from an Indiana Jones adventures.

A Victorian orchid Grower, living in Britain  Frederick Sander, was ruthlessly competitive. He employed professional  orchid hunters who routinely gave up their lives to fuel his passion. His chief adversary was a German collector Carl Robelin, and these two Victorian orchid hunters went to extraordinary lengths to secure rare plants.

That old buccaneering, adventuring attitude to orchid collection appears to live on in the world of orchids.  The 21st century  orchid scene is rife with  burglaries, swindles, and  shenanigans  which would fit well into any of Carl Hiaasen’s Florida crime novels.

Who knew such beautiful flowers generated such passion, such criminality? Who knew that modern orchid shows attract orchid fanatics, some of whom are millionaires; some of whom bankrupt themselves in pursuit of their passion? At its height, in Europe, mid 1800s, the orchid craze surpassed the Dutch tulip craze of centuries ago.

Maybe I’d better start my orchid growing project now, whilst I’m still strong enough to fight off rival collectors?

Don’t miss this book: its hugely entertaining and informative. The book is not that recent, it was published in 1998, but it’s worth hunting down. (In the true spirit of orchid collecting!)

 

 

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Obsessive reading


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I wish I’d saved the blog post. I should have saved the blog post. But I didn’t. So this blog post is a bit hazy on the exact details. Dear blogger: whoever/wherever you are, thanks for inspiring me, and my apologies for not  naming you and your blog, as my source.

These apologies are the preamble to my reaction about an obsessive reader.  The blogger cheerfully told his readers that he had read the play Hamlet  and one of P G Wodehouse’s  Jeeves  novels (and there are fourteen of them, so I’m excused on fudging the exact title) OVER 100 TIMES.  And this, mark you, over a period of a few years, when he was a student. It sounded as if the blogger was in his mid-20s’. Apparently he was studying Hamlet  for academic reasons, but Jeeves?  Perhaps after all the dramatic Scandinavian crime and gloom he needed a bit of a respite? What could be a better tonic that P G Wodehouse’s imperturbable, unflappable butler, the immortal Jeeves? I’m a Jeeves fan myself, so I can understand his affection for the man.

But the point is: imagine reading the same work – makes no maybe what it is: a play, a novel,  an essay – over one hundred times! I’m sure we all have a much-loved book that we’ve read, and re-read many times.  For example, I have re-read one of my all-time favourites, The Last Samurai  by Helen de Witt at least four or five times. It’s a wonderful story, and a great read.  But one hundred times?  No.

The blogger revealed that re-reading Hamlet  so frequently made him aware of  the language, the subtleties, the nuances; the phrase ‘close reading’ which is much in vogue, covers this approach.  I don’t know that the Jeeves novels offer the same depth. PG was a master of the neat phrase, the bon mot, dialogue that required no frills or trimmings to drive the story forward and make his characters immortal. I wish I could write dialogue the way PG did! Mind you, Wodehouse lived into his early 90s and was a prolific writer, almost to the end, so there’s hope yet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._G._Wodehouse

His output was prodigious. Encyclopaedia Brittanica tells us:  He wrote more than 90 books and more than 20 film scripts and collaborated on more than 30 plays and musical comedies.

I wonder if any of my readers have obsessively read one of their favourites over and over again? If so: do tell!

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/PG-Wodehouse-Jeevesbooks-in-order/lm/R1Z4EX9G0UR446

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BOOK REVIEWS FROM MY TO- BE- READ PILE


 

 

I’m making an attempt to read at least one book per month from my TBR pile, which keeps growing, like an alien fungus, in the recesses of my cupboard. I hide my book stash in there, because I’m embarrassed to own up to the number of books I have bought (no wonder I’m always broke) and the number of books I haven’t yet read.  Anyway, here are a couple of reviews generated from my recent foray into the depths of the cupboard:

THE JOB …by Irene  Dischke  : a short little book,  (151 pages ) a curious story about a Kurdish assassin contracted to kill the family of a Turkish businessman living in New York City.  A brilliant portrait of a vain and egotistical man; back in Istanbul he owns 32 pairs of shoes, and – the hitman   –  he’s quite a dandy, preoccupied with growing his moustache in specific styles and shapes; back in Istanbul he wears bespoke suits. Gradually he morphs into someone else entirely by the end of the tale. Certainly not r.o.t.m.*; an unusual story of a hit gone wrong –  depending on your perspective.  Great insight into the psychology of Kurdish men. Based on this book, I hope I never meet one.

*r.o.t.m. = run of the mill

 

THE LAST SONG OF DUSK – Siddharth  Dhanvant Shangvi.  I bought this book on a closing down sale when Bargain Books Parklands moved their store – I can’t resist a bargain, and I enjoy Indian novels. The blurb on the back cover was wildly over-stated – no way can this debut novel be compared to Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai or Hari Kunzru’s respective debuts. It’s uneven, swerving between breathless purple passages to a cosmically flavoured ending, which is so different in tone and language that I wonder if his editor (or a ghost writer) wrote it? The book won the 2004 Betty Trask Prize. All I can say is if this novel won the prize, then I’m glad I didn’t  have to read the rest of the entries !

Ah well, you win some, and you lose some. As you can see, my TBR pile is full of surprises. Watch this space.

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A CLASSIC TRAVEL BOOK


 

(Book Review)

While browsing at a Charity Book Sale, I found a battered copy of  A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush  by Eric Newby, which I’d never read, and knowing it was a classic, I bought it. I don’t know why, but somehow I had an ingrained  notion that it was a boring stuffy account by a military man, a leftover from the famous British Raj; and for this reason, I had always passed over the book on sale tables or library shelves. Was I ever mistaken!

Initially the preface put me off : it’s written by Evelyn Waugh and I thought : oh dear, this is going to be about two limp wristed chaps being precious about the scenery.  Wrong again. Which just goes to prove how mis-leading assumptions nearly always are.

Eric Newby received a cable from  his friend Hugh Carless (a career diplomat in the British Foreign Office) stationed at the time in Rio de Janeiro, pithily asking: CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE?  The year was 1956.  Newby – somewhat oddly – was then working in the London haute couture trade. Prior to that he’d been an army officer, and prior to that had lead an adventurous life travelling around the Mediterranean, plus time sailing.  In 1938 when he apprenticed aboard the Finnish windjammer Moshulu and took part in the “Grain Race” from Australia to Europe by way of Cape Horn.

But a mountaineer he wasn’t; so far as I could see, no experience at all, and yet his chum Carless was inviting  him to the wild mountains of the Hindu Kush, north-east of Afghanistan.

I had no idea where Nuristan was, and the maps in the book were hopeless. Whilst they showed the mountain ranges which Newby climbed, they gave no clue as to the whereabouts  of the peaks in Asia. I hauled out my giant Rand McNally Atlas and peered at the maps of North India, Pakistan, Afghanistan to no avail. I did find the words ‘Hindu Kush’ spread out over an area of North eastern Afghanistan, but the area then known as ‘Nuristan’ seems to have vanished.

Once Carless returned to England,  preparation time for the expedition was short. There was equipment and rations to buy, visas to organise, tickets to be bought. Newby’s wife accompanied them as far as Istanbul, and then reluctantly returned home – a good thing, in view of what followed.

Anyway, the two would-be mountaineers managed to squeeze in a 3 day trip to the mountains in Wales, to receive some hasty training by an experienced mountaineer, but that was the extent of their technical knowledge.  At this point I shook my head in disbelief. In the preface Waugh witters on about the charm of British eccentrics and gentleman explorers. He wasn’t wrong. My jaw dropped when I read that Newby had been unable to source proper mountaineering boots prior to departure, so off he went equipped with PLIMSOLLS (a.k.a. takkies) and unbelievably, wore them on the descent. His boots were mailed to him and never reached him. Naturally he suffers terribly from blisters due to the unsuitable boots he does manage to find.

When I think of modern expedition equipment, state of the art clothing and  kit, plus NASA space-style dehydrated foods – these two survived on tinned food, chiefly Irish stew, and on one occasions dined off a one pound tin of strawberry jam, and a tinned baked apple pudding. The mind reels.  Finding provisions en route was difficult. The area was sparsely populated, and the locals lived on very little, without much surplus to offer travellers. And when the mountaineers  did eat local food, the inevitable result was severe diahorrea.

Carless’ old and trusted cook was to have accompanied them up the mountain, but he only remained with the expedition for a short while, due to a commitment to his existing employer. Thereafter catering was a hit and miss affair. Mostly miss. Carless was completely disinterested in rations, food or cooking.

They hired a guide, plus two men, to look after the baggage and horses, (the poor old horses had a dreadful time of it, both animals and men were literally skeletons by the time they staggered out  of the area.)

In the event they didn’t succeed in reaching their goal, the summit of Mt Samir. 700 feet below the summit of 19 000-plus feet , they took the wise decision to descend, whilst they had sufficient light. And even then, it was perilous. So near, and yet so far.

En route they encountered wild tribesmen, bandits, mullahs, primitive shepherds none of whom could speak the Farsi (Persian) or Urdu spoken by the  climbers. All the local inhabitants spoke ancient  tribal dialects, and the tale is sprinkled with historical graffiti about Timur (Tamerlane) and Alexander the Great. This mind you, only 70 years ago! Nuristan at that time was beyond remote, and I suspect that the passing of time has not brought much by way of modernisation to the Hindu Kush.

When the climbers were not traversing rocky slopes or treacherous windy roads bordered by precipices, they were descending the cliffs to river valleys, watered by icy rivers , bordered by willow trees.  Apricot and mulberry trees provided fruit, wheat was grown. There were cattle, also flocks of sheep. The Nuristanis were renowned makers of butter, and bartered quantities of butter for other goods, but this meant  their men had  to cross mighty mountain passes, carrying enormous goatskin bags of butter to trade.

Reading Newby’s account is like taking a giant step back in time, maybe as distant as the Middle Ages, so far as his account of the land and its peoples is concerned. As for it being an account of an expedition, a journey of exploration, well, I’m not so sure. Part of the blurb on the back jacket says : Impossible to read this book without laughing aloud … the funniest travel book I have ever read.  (The Observer). I didn’t find the book hugely funny – most of the time I was aghast at their foolhardiness, their unpreparedness!

Maybe The Times Literary Supplement sums it up best: A notable addition to the literature of unorthodox travel … tough, extrovert, humorous and immensely literate.’

I’m definitely keeping the book, I like the fact that is battered and worn – kind of like the two men who walked over the Afghanistan Mountains.

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MY TAKE ON 50 SHADES OF GREY


 

Welcome to my Electronic Soapbox   

Despite the furore over the book and the movie, I still haven’t read 50SoG. Why not? I hear you ask.  You’re a literary snob, yells someone from the back row. Well, yes, a little.  You’re a prude, shouts someone from the front row. No way – not me. I just watched the movie Don Jon which deals very graphically  with a New Jersey young guy’s addiction to on-line porn !

So why haven’t I?  My understanding of the book – and I may well be horribly wrong – is that it is about domination of a young woman by an older man, sexually and psychologically. Wikipedia informed me that 50SoG dealt with :   sexual practices involving bondage/discipline,dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

These days the notion of bondage sex, or the  whip cracking dominatrix , scarcely raise a ripple. They might raise a lot of other things, but on the whole, they’ve  been relegated into the ho-hum category. Anything goes –  consenting adult’s right to make choices in regard to their intimate lives etc. etc. All very true.  Where are the boundaries? What was once considered as taboo, or scandalous, is now mainstream.

I am baffled why the book has been so popular. Do women really want to be dominated and subdued?

For so many years women across the globe have struggled for political and economic freedom, for the right to education and adequate healthcare. Very recently the young Pakistani teenager, Malala, bravely stood up for her rights, in the face of violence and aggression. She’s been hailed as a heroine. Quite right, too!

Yet here in the West we have the 50SoG phenomenon. Are we so jaded that  we look to books/movies like 50SoG in an attempt to find something new? More tittilating? Maybe Western society really is decadent, degenerate, and morally corrupt, as some Asian and Islamic countries judge us to be. Perhaps they have a point.

Finally, and very close to home, I have an elderly woman friend who has been reduced to a nervous wreck – in the literal sense – by her domineering, control-freak husband. Recently she plucked up courage and fled to a safe haven. But she’s non-functional and penniless, after years of psychological abuse. Is this how women should be treated? Of course it isn’t.

And yet FSG is a publishing and movie phenomenal success. What’s the matter with us?  Think about it. We’re buying into FSG as entertainment ?  Hello? Reality check required here.

And that’s why I won’t read 50 Shades of Grey. You can keep it. Not for me.

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: SHADOW by Karin Alvtegen


BOOK REVIEW: SHADOW  by Karin Alvtegen

 

I don’t read many crime novels, but this novel was pressed upon me by a member of my Book Club, who  insisted I read it. Which I dutifully did.  Having done so, I’m yet again reminded why – on the whole – I try to avoid Scandinavian crime novels. They are irredeemably bleak and this one is no exception.

None of the central characters are happy – in fact, they are downright miserable, unhappy, desperate and/or drunk all of the time. Five of the main protagonists are writers of one sort or another – novelists, a playwright and a poet. Success and fame has not brought them the fullfilment and happiness you might reasonably expect. If I were hunting for a book which acts as a dreadful warning to wannabe writers, this is the book I would shove into their hands in the certain knowledge that it would prevent them from even contemplating  writing as a career, let alone putting fingers to keyboard!

Let me add that one of the secondary characters is also a writer, and he commits suicide in an attempt to publicise his forthcoming first novel!  See what I mean about undiluted angst, snot and trane? I don’t expect a crime novel to be filled with sunshine and light – how can they be, given the subject matter? But, hey! enough is enough.  And this novel lays it on by the shovelful.

As the book progresses, the tale grows darker and darker.  About one-third of the way through there was no apparent crime, but by the end there are plenty, in every direction. At the outset I was puzzled by the lack of bodies (or bank heists and the like) and there was no detective or process of solving whodunit;  the novel does not follow this formulaic path. The crimes and the truth – murky and convoluted –   are slowly revealed as we trudge onwards and downwards.

Karin Alvtegen is a well-know Swedish crime writer, her work has been translated into 27 languages, and she has written three other novels. Shadow was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger 2009. I have to say I won’t be reading another of her novels. Too black and bleak for me.

  • A footnote: Lest you think I am anti-crime novels, I’m not. I thoroughly enjoyed all  Deon Meyer’s South African crime novels; ditto all Carl Hiaasen’s romps through the crimes, pecadilloes and characters of the Florida Keys; and I gobbled up every page of JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith’s two Cormorant Strike novels. I’m eagerly awaiting #3.

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FACING UP TO FACEBOOK


 

 

 

Facebook: you either love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.  Youngsters are embryonically attached to it, parents peer at their  kids’ friends and activities, while  the elderly regard it with suspicion or disdain. Take your pick.

Personally, I find it very useful . I like Facebook. It’s mighty useful, to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family, not to mention displaying your photos, and to share the odd article, or joke, or WordPress blog, or – even – dare I admit to this: LOL Cats.  Ahem.  Can’t resist anything kitty related. None of us are perfect, so get over it.

But my approach to Facebook is stringent. I set the timer for ten minutes – and that’s it.  When I log in, I pay attention to the first ten items on the news feed page, and click ‘like’ or make a comment. I’ve picked up useful household hints on the Newsfeed page, plus info on crime in my area. Plus more positive things like triumphs  and travels  in  my friends’ lives that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Then I whizz over to my personal page info bar at the top of the page, click on the little globe, up pop the notifications and I click on the blue tag at the bottom ‘See all’ . This gives you a compressed printed list  – no pics or text – which you can quickly scan to see if there’s anything that you want/need to look at..

And then you’re done! Otherwise Facebook can gobble up hours of precious time. We both know this, so no further discussion necessary.

And so ends my three part series on taming the electronic tentacles.

Next week I have a couple of juicy book reviews for you. No, not 50 Shades of Grey. I haven’t read it, don’t intend to, not because of the explicit content, but because it’s badly written.

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CHAPTER 2 :  MORE ADVENTURESWITH OUR INBOXES


My faithful readers have asked for more  tips to help them stem the inexorable tide of e-mails.

The following hints won’t stem the tide, but suggest what you  can do to the deposited flood.

*Strap on your heavy duty protective gear, select your biggest, sharpest scythe, and plunge to the bottom, the very bottom, the first item (i.e. the oldest) of your InBox. Start wielding your scythe.  If item #1 has been lurking at the bottom this long, does it really need any attention now? I thought not: weeessssh, snick! Off with its head! Continue in this mode, until you can begin to see daylight in the mid-section of your Box. Wipe off your scythe blade, and have a cup of coffee. Now back to the task.

 

  • Simply delete mail without even opening it. I have friends who love to share their political opinions, or hoary old jokes : I press that magic button marked DELETE.  Best button on the keyboard, wisely used.

 

  • Under no circumstances take part in those irritating On-line Scrabble e-mails : they are total time wasters. You know what to do: press the magic button!

 

  • The heart-rending appeals for lost kids, dying patients, starving animals: harden your heart, most are phishing scams: Magic Button – yes, again!

 

  • Petitions: I delete them instantly. I read an article, written by a reliable source, that conclusively proved the info goes nowhere and changes nothing.

 

 

  • I enjoy gorgeous photography, clever puns, or informative articles sent to me by friends scattered around the globe, but I only send a very short one or two line acknowledgement if the content is superlative or warrants a comment. Not every mail needs a response. I enjoy and delete. Occasionally I forward items, but I’m trying to forward only the crème de la crème this year.

 

  • Buy a cheap kitchen timer. I bought a boring white mechanical timer, and it was a well spent R27.00 . Set it for half an hour, and attack your InBox. When that buzzer sounds, get up and walk away – go and do something else, either virtuous (dishes?) or pleasurable ( go for a walk , read a book). Whatever you choose to do, it’s taken you away from the keyboard. Knowing that you only have half-an-hour or whatever time you opt for, sharpens your focus. You need to get cracking! No time for dawdling or fiddling.

 

  • Beware of traps labelled Wikipaedia, and the like. Clicking on links to websites leads you to the quick-sands of distraction …you may get lost for hours. That distant buzzing sound is your timer: hellooo? hello? Yoohoo! Climb out, and resume your task.

 

  • Open a HOLD or PEND Folder in your Folders column. I stick mail in there that is un-resolved, or likely to be on-going and may take weeks or even months to finalise. Diarise one hour, once a month, to go through your HOLD Folder, and ask the question: why am I keeping this?  Delete anything that has grown mouldy green whiskers … or action it smartly. Feels good, huh?

 

  • For that matter, open loads of Folders, according to your needs, and heave mail into them –including out of your SENT Box. The point is, by filing mail into your Folders, you get it out of the dreaded, catch-all InBox.  I prune my Sent Box daily, keeping only immediate, un-resolved items in there. This way, it’s a kind of built-in Diary system. Works for me.

 

And now, having absorbed all this wisdom, you have  earned happy free hours to nip back on line and play Mahjong, or Poker, or Scrabble, whatever blows your hair back.  I won’t tell anyone if you don’t!

 

 

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TAMING THAT INBOX


 

I sort of, kind of, made a mini-New Year’s Rez:  Keep that InBox under control!

Whilst I didn’t put a Post-It note on my desktop monitor with the words: TAME THE BEAST!  PRUNE, &HACK!  that’s what I’ve been doing, ever since early January. It started when I had a few blessed, un-busy weeks in early January, and I strapped on my scythe and waded into my InBox.  It took me a couple of days, to read, action, or delete the undergrowth.  I un-subscribed from redundant sites, or organisations which no longer interested me, and this helped to stem the waves of drek flooding into my InBox. How many news letters/bulletins and blog posts do we really need to read?

I’ve also adopted the stratagem of using one of my alternate e-mail addresses on another server for my subscriptions to news services, and newspapers and magazines. Once or twice a week I settle down with my ASUS notebook and have a cosy browse through the Huffington Post, or The Millions, selectively reading articles, and deleting – you’ve gotta be ruthless! – as I go.

One happy morning, I had only 14 items popping up on the InBox screen.  Wow! This was a First Ever Moment.  And I liked it.  Such an empty, easy to read InBox. Neither my eyeballs nor my soggy brain were being assaulted on all sides. It was liberating. Since then I’ve made valiant attempts to keep the number under 20, but now that the year has gathered momentum, and Committees and Groups are rolling onwards, it’s proving difficult. I’ve hit 30 recently, even after my slashing and deleting.

One of the contributory  problems is that we’re suffering from the aftermath of a prolonged Postal Strike, during which period  – in desperation, and very unwillingly – I agreed to have my monthly utility bills sent electronically, because the bills were simply never reaching me, due to the Postal Strike.  Just to exacerbate matters, we now have routine rolling blackouts on a daily basis – our national power grid is reeling, but that’s another story – so we still don’t always get our mail, because the power is off. Let me tell you, South Africa is not an easy place in which to live. The current buzzword is ‘challenging’, but I can think of more descriptive ones that will be either blasphemous or obscene, possibly both.

Anyway, I was bragging about my InBox purge to my friend Dawn, who told me that it’s her practice to ensure that her InBox is EMPTY, every day before she leaves the office. Fortunately she’s a good friend, and I can forgive her for being perfect.

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