Category Archives: PRESENT & FUTURE

SOUTH AFRICA NEEDS MADAM SECRETARY!


 

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I’m a huge fan of the award winning TV series Madam Secretary.
Not only do I enjoy the plots, which are always up to date and compelling, but the chief focus is on the fictional female incumbent of the USA Secretary of State Ms Elizabeth McCord. The fact that the series promotes a feisty, fearless woman in one of the world’s most challenging political roles, cheers me immensely. Especially in the current period of Trump turmoil in the White House.

 
I recall that in Series One, an episode showed Madeleine Albright  mentoring her fictional counterpart with sage advice based on her own experience in the position. How’s that for authenticity? Ms Albright occupied the powerful and demanding position during from 1997 to 2001. She was the first woman to hold the cabinet post of U.S. secretary of state.

 
I’m well aware that TV series stretch and embellish fact, for the sake of dramatic impact. I know that TV stations/movie production companies all have a particular agenda they want to promote. I’m also  well aware that I’m watching fictional events play out on my TV screen. This said, I am struck over and over again, by the frequent reference in the dialogue to the importance of upholding a democracy, and how Madam Secretary often says things like: It’s a privilege to uphold or contribute Public Service. OMG. I can’t imagine any South African politician saying anything remotely like that.

 
South African politicians, I am very sorry to say, seem to enter politics for one reason and one reason only: to enrich themselves. Public Service and democratic principle are a foreign concept to them so far as one can see. Our country has gone through a black period of corruption and maladministration for 9 years. At the moment we are gingerly creeping out of the stinking swamp and scrabbling for dry land and a public service driven by ideals, hard work and recognition that the citizens of South Africa have a right to a better life and clean governance.

 

Reference is often made to our Constitution , very recently composed in the late 1990s, and held up as the best Constitution in the world. Maybe it is, on paper, but in the real world our politicians flout it at every turn.

 
Elizabeth Mc Cord: please pay us a visit – we desperately need you!

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HOLO-MARRIAGE or is it a HOLLOW MARRIAGE?


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At my age, thought I’d heard everything, but no.

 
Heard on radio today: A man in Japan threw a standard wedding party bash when he married a hologram. Apparently his family refused to attend. Now, why ever would that be do you suppose ?

 
The man, a mid-level manager, stated that he’d been disappointed by women, so he was marrying his perfect woman who just happens to be a hologram. A singer, I think they said, with those round saucer eyes that the Japanese love so much, and blue hair or skin – I was so stunned that some of the details didn’t penetrate my brain. The hologram apparently says goodbye dear, every day as he leaves for work. Isn’t that nice?

 
Which brings me to the much darker topic of the Incel Movement , an on-line sub-culture populated by misogynistic young-ish men, not only disappointed by women/girls but now actively hating them. When I saw the pictures, I could well believe that the pudgy, pasty-faced Goth style geeks wouldn’t be that attractive to many girls. Aaarggghhh …. A disturbing social trend? Movement ? manifestation? Too much on-line fantasy clashing with reality ? I don’t know. Items like this make me wonder if I’ve fallen on to an alien planet during the night, or blundered into a time-warp.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incel

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THE LAST BUNCH OF INCA LILIES


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My friend E visited me on Wednesday. She walked in, carrying a generous bunch of Inca Lilies, freshly cut from her garden. As ever, she apologised for the mess they will make, and as ever, I replied “I don’t care, they’re lovely!” Which they are. Deep red, with yellow highlights. En masse the flowers produce a light, frilly effect, but day by day the papery petals fall off, until the tall glass vase is surrounded by a halo of drying petals. I could care less – the flowers are so beautiful, and it takes but a few moments to pick up the fallen petals and bin them.

 

 
I always enjoy her visits. E’s passion in life is to travel. I listen with envy to her planned trips for 2019. Her equal passion is photography, and she take hundreds (and on occasion, literally thousands) of photos on her journeys , which she puts into visual presentations and photo-books, and shares with friends. I’m an armchair traveller, but she is a modern female Marco Polo.

 

 
Two days later she texted me to say she was in hospital, and the prognosis was not good.
I’m looking at my vase of Inca Lilies, and know that this may well be the last bunch of Inca Lilies I will receive from E’s garden.

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SAUDADE


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For some reason, I’m thinking about the Brazilian Portuguese word saudade. I’ve never been to a live performance, but my exposure to saudade music goes way way back.

 
I’m remembering my radio listening days in the 1950s, when the dial was firmly stuck on LM Radio – or, to give it the full title: Radio Club de Mozambique – please aurally visualize a heavy Portuguese accent. In those years the station was unashamedly Portuguese orientated; today, hardly at all, with the target audience living in South Africa.

 
Back then, I would have heard the melancholy, oh so wistful slow tones of an obviously heartbroken woman pouring out of my tinny radio, despite the poor reception. I say “tinny radio” deliberately, because way back then, many radios did come enclosed in a thin metal (tin?) casing.
The definition of saudade is: Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. Thank you Wikipedia!

 

 

Later in my life I made the happy discovery of the Cape Verde singer, Cesare Evora and bought her CDs. Which reminds me: I should haul them out and give them a spin, just for old times sake. If you’ve never listened to Cesare Evora LINK then now would be a good time to explore the romantic, emotional saudade songs . I’ve put in a YouTube link. But if you’re currently suffering from a broken heart, then maybe not!

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

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200 YEAR OLDS ?


centenarian-clipart-3Do I want to celebrate my 200th birthday? No: I don’t think so.

I’m about to see my 77th anniversary of arrival on this earth, and thus far a mixed bag of good and bad times, illness and health, success and failure, amazement and boredom. In short: life, in all its shades from brilliant gold to desperate black. Could I face? Enjoy? Withstand? another 123 years of the process?

Again: I don’t think so. And what about the planet? Many, if not most of our current ecological and social ills are due to one factor and one factor alone: overcrowding. Our world is over-populated. Just imagine: if we had the ability to prolong life up to 200 years, and the current birth rate continued, we’d be one gigantic seething mass, living under terrible conditions, short of every natural resource and fighting for survival. Shades of the Bladerunner movie  Pretty much how many live today in Third World countries.

Currently on my local radio station there’s an ad confidently announcing that the people who will live up to 200 years have already been born, and what are the listeners doing to adjust their financial planning accordingly? Good question. And only one of the many questions that the scenario generates. Prudent financial planning will be the least of our worries when the Two-Hundreds start multiplying. Our needs will be a great deal more basic. Food. Water. Shelter. Survival.

Just maybe that sonorous phrase to live three-score years and ten was excellent advice.

 

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MEMOIR : LIFE MAGAZINE & LEON TROTSKY –by A M Smith ©


 

Browsing through Old Friends from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg, sparked several thoughts in me. While eating my breakfast this morning I was reflecting how, when you’re a kid, you seldom understand the context of events. And when I was young nobody ever explained context to us – we were supposed to be seen and not heard, and constant questions were not welcomed or tolerated.
Continuing this train of thought I remember reading LIFE magazine and an article on the death of Leon Trotsky. Somehow the blurry black and white photos remain a fading memory to this day. Quite why the article made such an impression on me, I can’t explain. Perhaps because the man was murdered, and my Dad’s murder mysteries were my reading resource.
Considering I lived in a remote backwater of the dying British Empire, it was a miracle I even had a copy of LIFE magazine in my hands at all. There were no bookstores in the country. Granted, the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland had bookstores, but they stocked only religious or educational materials.
The expat community subscribed to a wide range of British and American magazines , which trundled slowly over the ocean, via the post, and fell into our eager hands many months after publication. The magazines were greedily consumed and then circulated around the district on a rota. Each magazine had a list pinned to the cover, with the names of the recipients. You were honour bound to read the magazine quickly, and then send it on to the next name, perhaps with a few magazines from your own hoard. If the next recipient lived fairly close by, you sent your gardener with the precious bundle – on his bicycle if he owned such a luxury, or on his feet if he didn’t.
But if the next recipient lived on a far distant tea estate, you would take your bundle up to the Sports Club on your weekly visit, and pass it over to the next person. Or ask another member to do you a favour and act as go-between and postman. Everybody obliged. The magazines were a link to the outside world, to civilization, to HOME. That mythical , longed-for Paradise, over the ocean. Far, far away from Nyasaland*, in tropical Africa.
So: when I read about the death of Leon Trotsky in Mexico all those years ago, the news was not by any means fresh, given the magazine circulation system. Our family didn’t subscribe to LIFE, we were merely on the rota. I had absolutely no idea who Leon Trotsky was, or his political importance. I probably knew where Mexico was, because I collected stamps and often used my small atlas to locate mysterious, faraway countries.
I’ve resisted Googling the death of Leon Trotsky, because I want this to be a memoir. One detail I do recall: he was stabbed to death with an ice-pick. Of course, I’d never seen such an item. It wasn’t common in tropical Africa. Ice cubes – yes, we had those. But ice-picks? No.
Neither was Communism – in the early 1950s which was when I probably read the article, mentioned in colonial Africa. Adults in my tiny world generally didn’t talk about world politics and events. Cut-off as we were from the rest of the world, our only source of news was the crackly, wavering broadcast news from the BBC in London, which tended to focus on the Home Counties plus a little international news. Most of which I ignored anyway. Assuming I could hear anything at all. The radio reception varied from poor to terrible.
I grew up in a vacuum so far as news and culture was concerned. Boarding school didn’t help much in this regard either. Sequestered as we were, and listening to our portable radios being (a) strictly controlled and (b) tuned to the Hit Parade from Lourenco Marques Radio in Portuguese East Africa*, I was a complete ignoramus. Youngsters today have an enormous exposure to global events and global culture. When I think how little I knew about anything as a young adult, it’s amazing I have survived this long, from such a scanty launch pad.
Yet here I am, in my senescence, surrounded by the digital, electronic world. It’s nothing short of astounding how much the world has changed in sixty five years in terms of communications and life-style. And you know what? I love living in the early 21st century!

  • renamed Malawi
  • renamed Mozambique

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THAT MARKLE SPARKLE !


 

 

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Like many of my friends I have been enjoying the splendid spectacle of the Royal Wedding. Brilliant sunshine, pomp, ceremony, glamour, the rich and famous, and of course, a genuine love story. How refreshing to be witness (even if only via the medium of the TV screen) to a heart warming, joyful event.

 
And yet there are the naysayers: the nasty comments on social media about the relevance of the monarchy, the racial aspect, etc. etc. Really people! Can’t we just for one brief day focus on a bright, happy celebration and wish the couple well for the future?
Daily we face an onslaught of political and economic woes, globally and nationally. Our local news has been detailing the judgement in a particularly horrific family murder case. So gruesome that I don’t want to say anything more about it.
Just for a couple of days can’t we chorus: Don’t worry, be happy! Sounds good to me!

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*JAP* BRICS BANANAS ??


 

 

Really? Bananas from Ecuador, for crying out loud? Now I realise why it cost me R6-77 in Cape Town for two bananas. What a crazy price. But I suppose if the fruit has been air freighted from the north-east of South America to the very tip of Africa in the South , the price is bound to rise. South Africa produces bananas  on our southern coast in Kwa Zulu Natal; as does our neighbour Mozambique to the North of us. Not to mention Malawi  even further North.  South Africa joined the trading bloc BRICS  – BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs“), before the induction of South Africa in 2010. BRICS – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRICS

Thanks Wikipedia. What would we do without you? Global info is wonderful but I’m not so sure about global trade deals . They  certainly wreck the price of bananas.

 

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

 

 

 

 

 

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

 

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MY NEW BOOK-THEMED BLOG


 

I subscribe to a number of WordPress blogs about books and reading,  and after enjoying them for several years, it finally dawned on me that maybe I should identify the book-related material in my  own blog  and start a second blog, devoted to books. Ping! Lightbulb flash.

So: I’m happy to announce the launch of THE BOOKSMITH BLOG  http://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com .  Thanks again to WordPress.com for their blogging platform.  They really do make blogging easy for  wrinkly writers like yours truly. I hope you visit my new blog, even if you’re not an official Booknut like me.  If all else fails, it has quite a funny header pic.

Despatches from Timbuktu  will continue to act as my electronic soapbox where I comment on modern life, South Africa, social trends, my travels around the Western Cape and Cape Town, plus  anything else that might  attract my butterfly attention.

And not to overlook the fact that Despatches From Timbuktu  is  the one place where Chocolat can express her displeasure at my poor performance as her Personal Assistant. Sorry, Chocolat,  but you have no idea how much work building a new blog entails . I promise there’ll be fish for supper tonight. How’s that for an apology?

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MY SURVIVAL STRATEGY FOR CHRISTMAS 2017


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I can hear my readers screaming: Gag that woman! Christmas 2017? Noooooo – we’ve just staggered away from December 2016. Please!  Enough already!

Keep calm. Don’t panic. Make a nice cuppa tea and when you’re feeling calmer, continue reading. Okay. Everybody  take a slow deep breath and we’ll  analyze what makes (most) Festive Seasons less than ideal.

There’s so much to do isn’t there?  The shopping, the  decorations, the enormous lunch, the gifts, the hordes of relatives; the washing up; the clean-up; the family rows that sometimes last for decades. And, last but not least, Uncle George. Every family has one. I can see you nodding your heads. The awkward relative  your conscience prods you to include. And then you wish you hadn’t.

Where to begin?  Here’s my #1 tip:

  1. Shopping: start now in January at the January Sales. I’m pretty sure every country has them. Big money-saver. Bung your bargains into a plazzie bag, write the names of the recipients on the plastic with Magic Marker, and stow in a dedicated, secret  carton in your garage.
  2. Failing the January Sales, make a big diary note around September to start attending monthly Craft Markets and keep a sharp eye out for Church Bazaars. You will discover unique handmade items, often at very reasonable prices.
  3. Immediately after Christmas scoop up markdowns of  gift wrap, tags and bags . Pop into that box in the Garage. Ka Ching! Saving money!

#2 tip : Decorations.  Buy a Christmas wreath, attach to the front door and when somebody moans about the lack of decorations, tell them firmly that if they want more decorations, then they’d better get cracking and provide some, because this is the year you’re on strike. Trust me, the world will keep on turning without tinsel.

#3 tip:  The Enormous Lunch.  Announce around October that this is the last year you will be hosting The Christmas Lunch, and furthermore, this year,  it will be a Bring & Share Banquet.  Circulate  the menu and insist that the diners commit , in writing, to one major item e.g. the turkey. You will provide the venue, crockery, cutlery, one edible item,  plus  coffee/liqueurs/choccies afterwards.

AND, the cherry on top – once assembled around the festive board, hold a lucky draw , the winner of which will be the host of next year’s Bring & Share Banquet. Propose an enthusiastic toast to the lucky winner.

#4 tip: Buy a dishwasher.  Yes, you do need one. Don’t listen to anybody telling you they use a colossal amount of water, they don’t. Or that they will ruin the family silver : actually, yes, they will, which is why you will use perfectly good stainless steel cutlery. Ditto the same dire effects on the bone china. Take that heirloom 60 piece Royal Albert dinner service to the nearest antique shop and flog it. You have other crockery, for goodness sake.  The proceeds will help pay for the dishwasher.

#5 tip: Secret Santa : Hold a draw around October where your Xmas Lunch  guests will draw the name of one person, for whom they will bring one gift, to the value of …  Fill in the magic number:  not more than X.  End of story. Your garage trove of gift bargains is for your nearest & dearest, or people like your hairdresser. You cannot live without a good hairdresser. So give him/her a prezzie.

#6 tip:  Uncle George/Aunty Maud:  Using part of your loot from flogging the heirloom silver and the  EPNS gravy boat, cunningly book a table for the old fossil for a slap-up Christmas dinner at a local hotel. Naturally you will book taxi transport. You will of course break the good news in the form of a fictitious Raffle prize? Anonymous Benefactor?   This way he/she  can’t possibly totter through your front door on December 25th. Fingers crossed.

#7 tip: Buy a large diary now, yes, on 2 January, and map out your Defense Plan for the next Christmas jollies. Work out your strategy, diarise, execute, and relax. Oh, and a P.S. Don’t think you can get away with running your diary system on your mobile phone. Bad idea. They tend to get lost, stolen, dropped and broken. But your hardcover diary stays safely at home, and the Magic Strategy is preserved.

#8 tip: One last essential pointer. At the next mammoth bottle store sale, stock up on a couple of bottles of your favourite relaxant – sherry? (very seasonal), brandy? (warming and cheering) gin? (good for  cooling G&Ts for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) . Hide your haul in the Garage Box, and start medicating around 15 November.  You should be in a relaxed frame of mind for the upcoming festivities.

Finally: for mercy’s sake,  do not lose that Diary!

 

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