Can Work Life Flexibility Make You a Better Conversationalist?

Do people consider you shy and quiet? Laid back, chilled out, or the strong silent type?
Ever felt anxious, or maybe just unenthusiastic about conversing in a group? Sometimes, when we’re out mingling, we simply have nothing to say. We can’t talk about the way one of our family members drove us nuts on the phone last night. We don’t want to discuss all that dieting we’ve been doing, or that the gutters need cleaning.

The tense situation at work, and your grim state of financial affairs? Not appropriate for cocktail hour. If you find yourself at a loss for words, it may be a sign of more than just shyness. In fact, maybe you’ve heard the expression “You need to get out more.” Some take that as an insult … but it’s actually excellent advice.

Think about the people you know who really shine in a social setting. They’re great storytellers, and they know how to instantly connect with others. And there’s also something else about them. They’ve got things to talk about! When you hear about their latest adventures, your life seems droll and monotonous in comparison. It’s depressing, right? So then change it!

Here are some activities you can partake in that are guaranteed to whet your appetite for conversation… and for living!

Fit a weekly movie into your schedule.
You don’t have to spring for a full-price ticket or the latest blockbuster. There’s plenty showing on cable, not to mention movie rentals and DVDs that you can add to your permanent collection. When was the last time you sat down (not fell asleep!) and really lost yourself in a great film? Or, how about a little variety? If you’re a comedy person, switch it up and watch whatever’s playing on the Independent Film Channel this week. Even if the movie turns out to be a bomb, you’ll have an opinion to express.

Hop in the car and just GO.
You don’t have to battle traffic into the big city… chances are there’s probably at least one quaint little town within a ten-mile radius that’s worth seeing. If the weather is nice, why not play hooky and just spend your day taking in the local culture? Even “Podunk” towns have historic landmarks and museums, curious folklore and other weird-isms that might make for good party chatter.

Attend a concert or show.
How many times have you sat next to someone who’s all about the latest broadway show, and you have no idea what they’re talking about? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Even if you think that something like opera wouldn’t be your cup of tea, it never hurts to just venture off the beaten path every now and again. You might pick up a new pastime… or, you might decide to tell everyone “I never want to hear another show tune for the rest of my life!” The point is, you won’t know until you try it out.

Jet off to another country for a week.
Have you always wanted to run barefoot through the rolling hills of Ireland? Dine in an outdoor cafe in Venice? Or, if going abroad is just too much to think about… how about Maryland or Cape Cod during the summer, California wine country, Las Vegas or the Deep South? Still too much? How about bed and breakfast down the shore or up in the mountains, any time of year? You can always find a deal online for air travel or lodging. Check out Travelocity or venture into your local travel agent’s office to find out what kind of rates you can get.

Do something you wouldn’t normally do.
Think that kayaking and river rafting is “over the top?” Or is sky diving the next step up for you? Figure out what you’d like to try out. Spelunking? Rock climbing? (Even if it’s the wall at the gym!) Find a buddy or bring together a small group and head out for a weekend adventure. Or even if you’re not the daredevil or nature buff type… just do something out of the ordinary like refurbishing an old, antique piece of furniture or fixing up a classic car. Who knows… your dabbling effort might just become a cherished hobby one day.

Not wanting to talk because you’re introverted is one thing. But have you ever thought that you’d have more to say if you learned to balance your life better? Work/life flexibilty is a challenge for most people. Our jobs and families take up the majority of our time, with social and personal responsibilities close on their heels. But when life becomes so monotonous that we have absolutely nothing to say… take that as a sign. It’s time to get out more!

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That Sinking Feeling

I have a confession to make. I’m a recovering boatasexual. You don’t know what that is? That’s when your most significant other is a boat. Trust me, folks – this is a toxic relationship!

It is said that the happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day she buys a boat, and the day she sells it. Truer words were never spoken. It has also been said that owning a boat is like standing in a cold shower tearing up $20 bills. This is not true. You’re tearing up $100 bills, at least.

All my friends were shopping madly, all over town, buying clothes, shoes, furniture. I was at Home Depot melting my Visa card on stuff like stainless steel piano hinge. Wood plugs. Router bits. I do have every power tool known to God and Bob Vila, so Tim Allen, kiss my…keel. I was committed to this relationship. Committed? I was certifiable – I lived on my boat. And what a harsh house-mother she was, too.

As you read this, raise your arms so your hands are close together, right over your head. Keep them there for four hours. Every spring, I was forced to do this for days at a time. Holding a ten pound grinder. Carpal tunnel? I had the entire carpal subway system.

Every task I undertook involved a toxic chemical. My life became an EPA Superfund site. Most of the containers had a warning label that said – “A brain tumor in every can” – now that’s what I call a warning label!

The first summer I had the boat I was determined to practice safe boating – I wore a TyVek suit when I was painting her. Have you ever worn a TyVek suit? When it was 100 degrees? It’s like being locked in a sauna for hours at a time. I did lose 10 pounds that summer, though – in addition to about a billion brain cells from the paint fumes.

The entire relationship was co-dependent. The boat wanted to dissolve like an aspirin, and I had to prevent it from dissolving like an aspirin. Bit by bit, the boat was winning. The teak decks leaked no matter how many times I re-caulked them. The engine developed multiple personality disorder. The lines would fray even if they were coiled up in the rope locker. The fenders deflated. Then she tried to throw me overboard – the lifeline stanchions on the starboard side all broke at the same time.

This was a fight to the finish.

It was that old relationship conundrum – divorce? Never! Murder? Quite possibly. The boat did have reason to wish me harm – I HAD grounded her within fifteen minutes of our first voyage together. And there were the groundings in the Piankatank River, Boston Harbor, Rockaway Bay, and Sandy Hook.

She harbored a grudge.

And after everything I did for her, too.

I gave her a complete makeover from top to bottom – I rewired and painted her mast, I replaced her batteries and rewired the cabin, I completely redid her hull with the BEST isophthalic polyester-resin (say that three times fast) – I gave her all of my spare time and more than all of my spare cash. I even bought her jewelry – new rudder fittings made of silicon bronze that cost over $2,000. I’ve never spent that much on jewelry for myself!

We had wonderful adventures together – trips to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod. We sailed up the Hudson River and down the coast to Cape May.

But it was never enough. She always needed, demanded more.

The end finally came one day in November of 2000 – I’d given all I could give. I’d reached the end of my rope, and my checkbook.

I’d reached the second happiest day of my life – I sold her to a family that fell in love with her at first sight.

The poor slobs.

As I watched her sail away, I felt a twinge of sadness. Then I thought of my checkbook, which now had a positive balance. A VERY positive balance!

I’ve heard that my former significant other is still up to her old tricks – it took her new owners almost a month to get her from Long Island Sound to Gaylesville, Maryland. The engine’s multiple personality disorder kicked in, and the mainsail did its “look at me! I’m shredding!” trick – but her new owners are determined to keep her happy. I hope they have a fat checkbook – she’s a hungry old girl.

So I’m single again – but I’m a hopeless romantic. I’m eyeing charter boats in the Caribbean.

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California B and B’s Offer Many Choices

Some people hear “bed and breakfast” and they think of an ornate historic home; others have been disappointed to find their bed-and-breakfast was no more than an average, mundane house in the suburbs that was like staying with relatives.

The truth is bed-and-breakfast inns vary wildly from house to house and from inn to inn, and it makes good sense to do some research on the property you’ll be visiting. We all have our preferences and it’s not hard to find a bed-and-breakfast that will suit your particular tastes. In our case, we’ve always preferred the bed-and-breakfast that is more inn than house, more private than communal. And here are a few of the bed-and-breakfast stays we have enjoyed the most:

Casa Tropicana Inn

If you want to tie in a beautiful Southern California beach with your bed-and-breakfast experience, the Casa Tropicana Inn in San Clemente is the place to go. Situated across the road from a gorgeous beach and San Clemente Pier, Casa Tropicana really couldn’t be in a better location if the main purpose of your getaway is relaxation.

Known as the beach community where former president Richard Nixon had his Western White House, San Clemente is an oceanfront city of red-tile-roof Spanish style homes built with commanding views of the Pacific on land that almost seems like it was created to provide homeowners the best panoramic views on the Southern California coast. Spanish-named streets wind and weave their way down to the waterfront below where one of the most charming areas is the tiny enclave of shops, restaurants and vacation properties next to the San Clemente Pier.

It’s there that you find the Casa Tropicana Inn, a five-story inn that is ideal for couples and fits right in with the Mediterranean motif of this quaint beachfront area. Each of the eight guest rooms is designed with many special attributes that include romantic touches like fireplaces, over-size Jacuzzi tubs, the highest quality linens and bed treatments and cozy robes, as well as more practical amenities such as refrigerators, flat screen televisions, DVD players and high-speed internet. Beyond that, the rooms each have individual amenities such as the ocean views and four-poster bed in the room we enjoyed called the Casita Arena.

It was especially nice to have a second-floor terrace — footsteps from our room — where we could enjoy a cocktail or read a good book with a wonderful beach view in the background.

Although the service in general was excellent, the Casa Tropicana is not where you go to have your innkeeper prepare a gourmet breakfast. In fact, the inn’s breakfast is continental style with pastries, yogurt, orange juice and various snacks available for you anytime in the room. Even wine and champagne were available for us anytime and, unlike most mini-bars, these came at no extra charge.

But gourmet food is not very far away: On the first floor of the inn you’ll find the White Horses Restaurant and Bar which boasts numerous dining awards, including being named the best gourmet restaurant in Orange County. Based on our dinner, we completely agree with the judges.

Our time spent in this beautiful beachfront environment was a feast for the senses – unbelievable views, small markets, sidewalk cafes, long beach walks and upscale shopping only minutes away in downtown San Clemente. Friends who joined us on this getaway also pronounced the Casa Tropicana the ideal couples getaway.

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Wicker Patio Set – Create A Seaside Retreat

Anyone who has visited the coast has experienced something special that they would love to take with them. Since not all of us can pack up and move to the nearest bayside town, must we leave the tranquility of vacation behind until the next voyage? Not at all. The space behind our home is one where we can be as creative as we wish. Creating a personal retreat with all of the feel of the coast is within reach. A space made beautiful by using wicker furniture as the starting point of a backyard décor will be so rich in Cape Cod flair that you will almost smell the salty air and regal in breezes that feel straight from the sea on a warm day.

Covered patios can start with a naturally appealing seagrass rug under foot. This sets the tone for an elegant area, whether you choose dining furniture or wicker lounging chairs and sofas. Be sure to check the limitations of rugs before choosing the right one. Many natural material rugs do better in dry areas. Atop of a rug, consider placing a wicker rocking chair or two, such as the Richmond Rocker from NCI Wicker. A marvelous thing about resin wicker is that it has weather resistant qualities, and also that the colors won’t fade from exposure to the elements. Cushions for your new rocker come in weather resistant fabrics and colors that will fit perfectly within the color palette of coastal living. Blues, yellows and whites in cushions contrast nicely to a white resin or even a walnut resin wicker if you prefer the look of natural wood. If extra seating is required, there is also a matching loveseat made of the same sturdy materials that will give you just what you need.

Wicker is such a good option for outdoor living rooms because it is also a type of furniture that can be used indoors; therefore it has a quality and timelessness to it that other patio furniture simply cannot match. The appeal of wicker is comprehensive, lending a vibe that is ultra inviting to the weary homeowner at the end of a long day. The characteristics of this type of furniture allow for it to be completely low maintenance, leaving your time to remain free for you to just spend time resting on the patio, not working on it.

Around your new outdoor sitting area, placing clear bowls filled with shells atop wicker side tables or a tea cart will enhance the coastal air without overdoing the theme. Should you have a covered patio near the exterior wall of your home, you could even place a picture of the shore on the wall to bring the beach to you every single day. Lanterns with tea light candles can either hang from the patio overhang, or sit all around the patio for subtle lighting on warm moonlit evenings. Plants nearby the patio such as Pampas grass, ferns, and lavender can provide life to the area that is flowing and airy.

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The Difficulties Of A Bride

And for every matchstick house in the burbs of the Northern Areas there’s a father and a mother. There’s a family in ganglands. Symbolic of apartheid. Symbolic of ethnic cleansing. Symbolic of the divide between wealth and poverty, the disenfranchised marginalised youth who have no skills. Only unemployment staring them in the face, and in the shadows. Foreshadowing every glimpse of their identity, lock, stock, and barrel. Ammunition has become like Braille is for the blind. All youth well they must be initiated into the gang. They must know how to knife, how to stab, how to make a knife, a knife that can go in for the kill. For every wedding, there’s a bridal bouquet, the bride, and her wedding feast sometimes in a Methodist church hall or sometimes not. For every Baptist, Protestant, Presbyterian, Mormon, Muslim, there’s an agnostic. I was lucky that I just escaped that lifestyle by the skin of my teeth while growing up in South End before we were forcibly removed by police and by the government of the day.

My son when he talks sometimes it’s hard for me to follow (he has so many ideas, you see). It’s hard to understand what he is talking about. He talks fast. He uses wild hand gestures a lot when he is making a point. I wish they would all come to church with me. I wish they could all be saved, baptised. But we all worship the same God. For some of us he’s right here with us on this planet, beside us, walking beside us in our hour or time of need. For others like my wife God is on an astral plane. I try and understand her. Love has a delicate smell. There was a time when we had good times. We’d eat out. There’d be movie night. We’d leave the children at home and go and watch a film. But now it’s different. She’s a grandmother. I’m a grandfather. Overnight we’ve become different people. It’s as if the ordinary madness that other people call reality has possessed both of us. Times were good. Times are still good.

I remember my mother was a domestic worker. Ouma. Oupa. Both fervently borderline-religious.

I remember so many things now about my childhood with such a clarity of vision. Thought patterns come in waves. Their crests are beautiful, magnificent, electrifying, Cheshire cat magical.

Once upon a time long ago, more years than I care to remember I decided not to return to university to complete my teacher’s diploma but rather to complete my B.Sc. Honours in Botany at the University of the Western Cape. I was refused admission due to my political past. I decided to teach and bank my salary in order to repay the government loan I had received in order to complete my degree. I got a teaching degree at my alma mater South End High School in January 1965. I was excited and looked forward to the challenge although my teaching roster was very loaded. For the standard sixes I had social studies and general science. I took the standard sevens for history and taught another class history in Afrikaans and then there were my standard nine classes. I taught physiology and hygiene. This was one of the main reasons which militated against me making a success of my teaching career. Many of the pupils were older than myself and I found myself teaching in the medium of Afrikaans even though I never had a teaching certificate. The students were difficult. I felt frustrated as if I could not get through to them. Of course I didn’t realise I could not relate to them and they could not relate to me. For the large part they were undisciplined. Large classes made circumstances for effective teaching impossible.

For the first three months I managed to cope however come to April I started to slow down. I could not concentrate on my lesson plans and found it easier to give up. I frequently fell into fits of depression and spells of self-pity. I found it difficult to teach. I was completely disinterested and demotivated. I found myself withdrawing from social interaction at school and at home. I left for school in the morning and stayed in the classroom for the rest of the school day. There was no discipline in the classes as I said before. This made things even tougher for me. I was disorganised. The pupils carried on acting out. They did just as they pleased. Pupils ran riot all over me, I virtually dragged myself through a school day. I had no assistance or support from my colleagues or people who I considered to be my friends. I also had no appetite and could not fall asleep at night. I was like a zombie from Hollywood B-movie dragging myself to school and home and back again. The doctor diagnosed me with having a vitamin deficiency. Anxiety overwhelmed me as I fell more and more behind with my lessons. I was overtaken by guilt of the injustice I was doing my pupils. I asked myself questions like who would be responsible if the pupils had to fail their examinations. Could I blame the principal, parents, learners or myself? I now felt like I was in a bottomless pit and in a dark tunnel. This was what always wavered on my mind those days. A feeling of gloom began to overwhelm me and suicide seemed to be the only way out. My thought process slowed down almost until it came to a standstill. My mind was completely clouded with negativity. After school I would spend the majority of my time in my bedroom. I vividly remember putting a plastic bag over my head. It burst before I suffocated. My mother was the only one who stood by me during this difficult time of my life. She prayed for me and saw that I had something to eat, had clean clothing. If that was hell what was to follow was even a greater hell.

The viciousness of depression lifted and symptoms in direct contrast to the previous phase prevailed. I became talkative, loud, agitated. I walk around the whole school and the vicinity where I lived. I visited and spoke to people I never knew before. Within two weeks I spent all my savings which I religiously accumulated over a period of six months on useless items like antiques, liquor, old music records. Gifts were brought for people I met for the first time and I spent no time of the person. I did not sleep at night. I had no concern for my welfare. I did not listen to the people who had my best interests at heart. I could not bring myself to eat anything and walked long distances. Up streets and down streets. I decided to walk along the National Road to Cape Town. The road was pitch dark. This did not matter since I had a lot of energy. I got a lift in a furniture truck as far as Swellendam and then proceeded to the Meyer family in Bellville South. Two ministers of the United Congregational Church had me admitted as a voluntary patient at the Valkenburg Psychiatric Hospital in Pinelands Cape Town. For the first time I realised that I was in a mental institution when on admission I was given a polo jersey, khaki shorts and a pair of sandals. I was placed in a locked up ward. The patients came from all walks of life and suffered from all forms of mental illness. I was not diagnosed with any mental illness however I was not released from the locked up ward. However I must admit that it was therapeutic to be among other mentally ill sufferers. However I missed Port Elizabeth and my family. After a month at Valkenburg Psychiatric Hospital I took my leave to the medical school at Groote Schuur where I wanted to be in the first place. I then meandered through District Six where I found families dismantling their homes and belongings as a result of the forced removals of 1965.These residents were being moved to the Cape Flats and areas like Mitchell’s Plan, Lavenderhill. These are now the centres of gang warfare. I sought help from the social worker at Groote Schuur Hospital. They supplied me with cigarettes, pocket money, and a third class railways ticket to Port Elizabeth. On the train I discovered that I had left the ticket in the jacket I had loaned while in Cape Town. Therefore I had no ticket on the train with the result that the guard and the policeman wanted to put me off the train at the next station. They were reluctant to believe my explanation. When reaching Port Elizabeth they handed me over to the police where I had to sign an undertaking that I would pay the cost of the ticket as I began teaching again.

Then I had a manic episode in Kimberly. My services had terminated at the South End High School. In January 1966 I was offered a temporary post at a high school in Square Hill Park in Kimberly. I made a grave mistake by not checking on my medication. There was no psychiatrist or doctor who could describe mood stabilising drugs. I arrived in Kimberly on the 1st of February. The first month went okay. I gave my lessons clearly and meaningfully then all hell broke loose. I experienced a major episode of mania. I could not stop myself from making grave errors in judgement. I took myself to teach on a Saturday morning. During which time I consumed excessive amounts of whiskey and milk. I spend long hours at school disturbing other teachers in the classrooms. I was creating complete mayhem in the school. I was not prepared to listen to the advice of well-meaning individuals. I also took to drinking alcohol. My meagre salary militating it becoming an uncomfortable habit. I spent a daily visit to the Kemo Hotel. I shudder to reflect on my manic state during the inter-Provincial swimming tournament of the Swimming Federation of South Africa. All the provinces from all over South Africa took part. I took charge of all the arrangements of the tournament, although I had no knowledge of competitive swimming. It was a disaster from the start. Without anybody’s permission I appointed myself the manager of the Griqua Team. This was extremely embarrassing to the rest of the Griqua officials. I placed myself in charge of the bus which was going to transport teams and officials to a holiday resort along the Vaal River. I waded into the children’s swimming pool in my pants and vest vainly trying much to the amusement of the crowd. I visited a family in Kimberly and was attracted by their son’s toy gun which resembled a real gun. I went around the area and scared people as if it was a real gun. People began to avoid me as the stigma of mental illness was pronounced. I spent a night with a homosexual.

There’s nothing sexy about having a recurring mental illness like it’s portrayed in American films. Some people you can trace its origins along your family tree. Some say it’s in the nucleic acid of the ladders of your genes, your biochemistry. Maybe your dendrites are just out of sync with the dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain for that cycle, or season, or day. Maybe you were just having a stressful day. Mental illness is governed by equal measures of loss, feeling shattered, truth feels sharp, you become aware of the isolation you might feel from time to time, acutely aware of the environments and the landscape you find yourself in, and intense mourning that can startle you out of your reverie. Mind you, it is not who you. And it does not define who you are as a person, your character, or your personality. It doesn’t matter what ‘they’ say. They don’t have your psychiatrist’s degree behind their name. You’re human. Pain is what comes along with the territory of humanity. Understand it, learn from it, navigate those ‘shark-infested’ (or should I say stigma-busting) dangerous waters with your moral compass. This earth is damaged. We are damaged. Damaged people. Shattered. As I’ve said before we live in a traumatised country. The entire fabric of society is traumatised. The nuclear family as a unit is traumatised.

So now we have to learn how to survive. How do the mentally ill, the most displaced, the most embarrassed, largely the most ridiculed, and humiliated respond to survival? Instinct. From my perspective we all have to rely on it at some point in our lives. And it works every time. Just remember you have to swim before you begin to tread upon land. And if at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again. You can mourn the fact that now that you are aging, this also means becoming more comfortable with your principles, more in tune with virtuous qualities as you grow older, you are also becoming wiser, more understanding of your mental illness, your relapses, your recovery. Yes, some people who are mentally ill hear voices. That is as scary for them as it is for you. Some people see things, have hallucinations, and it is very real for them. That is as scary for them as it is for you. Some men, though mostly women who are mentally ill can became promiscuous seeing it as a replacement for real intimacy and unconditional love that they should have received from their parents in the first place. Know that you belong in this word whether you have a disability, mental illness, or have refugee status. Know that having a mental illness doesn’t mean self-punishment, or self-imposed exile. You have one life to live. It is precious. So why not start now. Don’t let your mental illness feed you, scar you, wound you intrinsically speaking, sate you, starve you. If you are mentally ill you have the right not to hurt yourself, but you do have the right to accept yourself, love all of who you are unconditionally. People might think you’re not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, but that is just an opinion. Determining if the glass is half full (positive vibrations switch on), or of its half empty (negative vibes switch off). Your conscious mind speaks to your subconsciousness mind all the time.

In April 1966 I returned to Port Elizabeth. My mania had abated and I obtained a temporary teaching post at the Gelvandale Secondary School. It was located in Helenvale which was a sub economic area and was established as a result of the slum clearance scheme of the municipality and the government. The area was soon overcrowded three primary and one secondary school was built in the space of three years. Ten people had to use one outside toilet. The streets were scattered with litter and dirt. The pupils came mainly barefoot to school and without any lunch. My class had more than 60 children. There were insufficient desks and writing materials. These circumstances made my teaching days in the beginning difficult, sad and depressing.

I had taken Zoology as one of my degree subjects. I collected stray cats. I placed one on a glass sheet which I covered with a bell jar and placed chloroform on wadding and placed it under the bell jar. I had underestimated the strength of the drugged cat.

In November 1966, the year mark for General Science and Social Studies had to be prepared for moderation by the Inspector of Education. At that time I fell into another deep episode. I slowed down, demotivated to do the simplest of tasks. I felt deep exhaustive depression. In the absence of the principal the deputy showed no sympathy for my depression. The day before the Inspector arrived my work was not yet complete yet the Inspector Mr Swanepoel ordered me to leave the school immediately despite the explanation of my depression. Fortunately for me the principal had just arrived from Cape Town. He assessed the situation, told me to see a doctor and to return to teaching when I felt well again. As I left the school to board the bus I was overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts. I had a strong desire for the bus to crash. This was not to be. I was alone at home and decided to take an overdose of tablets. It turned out to have the opposite effect. It didn’t even make me drowsy or sleepy. The tablets that I did take turned out to be too few to have a serious effect. I got to the Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society where I received help.

Suicide was uppermost in my mind to the extent that I was continually thinking about taking an overdose of tablets. Fortunately my mother’s early return from work removed these negative thoughts from my mind.

I was taken to the humble offices of the Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society in Brassell Street in North End where the social workers in particular Jann Hollingshead spent almost three hours of therapy with me so I could realise that suicide was not the only way out in a crisis situation. The next day I had an appointment with the psychiatrist in the outpatient department of the Livingstone hospital. He diagnosed me with manic depression also known as bipolar mood disorder. The seriousness of my condition necessitated five sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. A white patch had to applied to both sides of my head which got me the nickname of the Western actor Jack Palance. I felt very sore and hurt when I heard these remarks made by people who I thought were my friends. I was also very young. I had never heard of electroconvulsive therapy before. Since I was not aware of what it was I was very apprehensive at every occasion when I had to receive the treatment. However the white doctor who was in his fifties explained to me that the seriousness of my major depressive episode necessitated this treatment. He also gave me the assurance that the treatment wasn’t a guarantee that I was to recover. I didn’t know what the hell was going on the day I left the hospital that day. I was twenty years old. I don’t know when I fell in love with Jann. She was vivacious. But I knew that nothing would ever come of it. She died of throat cancer. August died of stomach cancer. Jean died of breast cancer. Cancer riddled bodies. Cancer riddled cells. I imagined the white bloods cells putting up a fight, while the cancer cells still got through floating by them like free radicals to attack the golden cells of organs and tissue. People die every day. Every Saturday churches are packed. Parking lots filled with cars. People coming to pay their respects. And sometimes I was one of them. Shaking people’s hands firmly. Looking them in the eye and saying, ‘My condolences to you and your family. I am really sorry for your loss.’ And I really meant it. I really did.

Present day. Keep up or you’ll get lost. Jann’s loss. I never quite got over that. She was still so young. She could have had that sunny road. I could have met her on that sunny road. Perhaps we could have had those kids, a family, raised them in England. Perhaps she asked for me when she was in the hospital. If I had gone it would have meant a sense of closure on both of parts. I don’t think I have ever loved a woman, known a woman like Jann Hollingshead so intimately just from our conversations. Love has a delicate smell. Hospitals smelled of furniture polish, nail polish remover, something antiseptic, and sanitary. I know standing next to her bed watching while she slept, or drift in and out of consciousness, I would have perhaps lost all sense of self-control, my belief in God, or perhaps we both would have found closure. But I wanted to remember her smile, handing over the ‘contraband’, my favourite brand of cigarettes (how did she remember), and us tucking into the purest pub lunch you could find in England, and meeting Jann’s sister and computer programmer husband in their lovely home. The feeling of being invited, this grand gesture, how excited I was to explore the city of London. I felt like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. From the beginning of childhood I always felt cast out of society. But in London town I was a new man (Jann’s man? No. I had decided. I had made up my mind that Gerda was the only woman for me. And if it wasn’t for her, for Abigail, for short stop, for Ambrose, for Cody, for Ethan, for Lauren, I wouldn’t be the man that I am today if it wasn’t for my angels). But sometimes I think to myself of Columbia University. I would have been a unique ‘Christopher Columbus’-type don’t you think striding not sprinting? Sometimes I think of that sunny road. Sometimes I think a lot of Jann. How I let her go without even saying goodbye. That wasn’t very gentlemanly of me because I had thought very highly off her, and she of me.

In 1974 I won a scholarship by the British Council to complete a study of the mentally and physically handicapped in England and Wales and implement it in the position in South Africa. It was a very valuable scholarship since it covered a return plane ticket, tuition fees, books, warm clothing and even a maintenance grant. I was very happy, excited and content to undertake the scholarship and complete the relevant study. All went well up to the Christmas recess when the English students went home for the holidays. I with my friend, Jones Mceke and other African students was left behind to make provision for ourselves. I took the opportunity to organise a trip via Cosmos travel agency to visit five or six of the European countries. This was a dream come true for me since I visited Brussels in Belgium, Cologne and Frankfurt in Germany, Florence, the Vatican, Rome, Paris and then back via Dover. One of the most remarkable incidents happened to me at the customs at Dover. I was placed in a room with my luggage where I was asked to open my cases so that the customs officials could search my clothing. They also asked me a number of questions concerning my place of origin, why I had come to London and when I was going to return to South Africa again. After about two hours I was allowed to go. I then bordered the train to Euston Station which was not far from the residence. I was very, very down, depressed and sad at the happening at Dover. And I just wanted to go home to South Africa, however my friend Jones was waiting for me. He helped me with my luggage and got me to my room. I realised that a major episode of depression was on its way. I had no appetite. I was exhaustibly tired. I couldn’t fall asleep and I didn’t know what to do because just before I left a young black student from Kenya who was manic depressive was sent home without getting suitable treatment. I thought that the same fate would face me. I couldn’t get up out of bed in the morning. And I only responded to persistent knocking of my friend Jones. He got me out of bed. He saw to it that I got dressed and washed and virtually forced me to go to a nearby restaurant where I could enjoy some breakfast. I felt much better after that but not good enough. He took me back to my room where he sorted my clothing and placed the dirty clothing in a bag and took me to a Laundromat where he saw to it that I washed my clothing.

Jones saved me. I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today, surrounded by a loving and supportive family and my first grandchild, my son’s son if it wasn’t for Jones Mceke. Jones not only saw to my physical needs but was always encouraging and motivating me to allow the dark clouds of negativity and depression to lift. Fortunately when the university reopened I felt much better and could take my meals in the canteen and attend lectures as well as school visit in the English countryside. I must emphasise that I really enjoyed the greenery of the countryside. I will never forget my trip from London to Glasgow on the Express that travelled from the one end of England to the rest of Glasgow in Scotland. For the first time I could appreciate where English literary figures and poets could get their inspiration. London. Walking up streets, and down streets. The young man who had the dorm room next to mine always invited his friends over for coffee but I was never invited. He was a minister, what they call a pastor now. He never talked to me. Never once looked in my direction. But there were people who were kind. Kinder to me I think because they see I was depressed. Michelle, Sue, Jan, my memories of madness, my education at the school of life, religion, Bush University, and eventually I found that perpetual balance I had been searching for my whole life. I found that balance in my community work, my bright faith, the respect, loyalty and love I had for my wife, the affection I had for my children. The memories of my family coming to visit me at Hunterscraig Psychiatric Clinic are bright in my mind. My children were still very small. My wife and I would whisper to each other while they played, so innocent on the far side of the garden. They would hug and kiss me before they left. It broke my heart to see their heads at the back of the car waving madly goodbye to me. My son, my son, his hair dark and curly, already his mother’s favourite. The girls would cling to each other waiting for me to get up grass stains on my pants, helping my wife get up who put her best smile, her best foot forward. My oldest, oh-so-serious in the seat in front with her mother and the middle child with a Cheshire cat smile saying, ‘We’ll see you soon daddy. See you tomorrow.’ Every year or so this was repeated. Hospitalisation followed by recovery, then a relapse, and very soon my children grew up and they weren’t affectionate children anymore. Instead they became rebellious, anxious teenagers who often could not find the words to describe what they were feeling and thinking. I missed the days of their innocence like I missed my years at the Bush University.

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The Cape Route 62

Towns to be found on this wonderful wine route:

Prince Albert

The Cape route 62 is famous for being South Africa’s longest wine route. But this route; and all the towns one can find to be bound to the other through splendrous vineyards, also have other elements of wonder and beauty, only to be found when one diggs just a tad deeper into the colorful history of each town.

This magnificent stretch of route combines three of South Africa’s greatest sceneries:
Klein Karoo, Winelands, Bree River Valley.

Now, we revise a few hints of what awaits all who are pulled magneticaly by its majestic wines and scenery..

This town, nestled between the great, mysterious mountains, was named after the Marquis of Worcester, who was coincidentaly the eldest brother of the Governor of the Cape in 1820, Lord Charles Somerset.
Worcester became a municipality in 1842.

The first magistrate of Worcester was captain Charles Trappes, and it became quite fitting that the centre of the town was a magistary.

The oldest building to survive from that early Worcester, is Kleinplasie. Built in 1800, Kleinplasie was the homestead of the farm Roodedraai.
Kleinplasie was restored in 1977, and is now an office..

The town has an open-air museum, named after this austere-looking farmhouse.
The Kleinplasie open-air museum is home to many traditional industries, all of which are carried out in the museum.
Bread baking by flour ground by the watermill,
Witblitz making, etc.

Worcester also features the KWV brandy cellar, the largest in the world1 There are 120 copper pot stills in the giant distillery and the aroma of Brandy is rich in the air.

A fertile piece of land, perfect in every way to produce rich, lively wines.
The Robertson banks of the Bree River are packed with rich, alluvial soil. This, and the shales further from the river provide excellent soil for Robertson’s famous Muscadel grapes. These superb desert wines grown from Robertson’s vines include the Red Muscadel, and the Muscad d’ Alexandre (Hanepoot).

It is for this reason that we can well understand Communion wine for the Dutch Reformed Church originated from this area.
Robertson is also home to another defined favourite, as it has the largest Brandy distillery in South Africa!

This small, beautiful mountain pass town was named after John Montagu, the colonial secretary in 1851. Greatly illuminating the warmth of this town is the hotspring nearby, with a temperature of 35,5C.
Montagu is also loved for its apricots and is a fruit and wine centre.

The Montagu Museum is agriculturaly themed and features rather outlandish antique stink-wood furniture.

Montagu also features South Africa’s greatest Mesembyanthemum flowers.

Barrydale was established in 1882, by the Family of John Joseph Barry. This town is renowned for its apples, peaches, apricots, and Brandy.
A Famous site just outside of Barrydale is the Anna Roux Wild Flower Garden.

And so we find the list of extraordinary little wine-making towns along the Cape Route 62 to grow ever longer….

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Cape Town Must See-VOC Castle Built In 1666

The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa. Built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, better known as the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie), this pentagonal fortification replaced a small clay and timber fort built in 1652 by Commander Jan van Riebeeck, founder of the maritime replenishment station at the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1664 there were renewed rumours of war between Britain and the Netherlands and they feared a British attack on the Cape. During that same year Commander Zacharius Wagenaer was instructed to build a five-pointed stone castle. On 26 April 1679 the five bastions were named after the main titles of Willem, the Prince of Orange. The western bastion was named Leerdam; followed in clockwise order by Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje.

In 1682 the gateway replaced the old entrance, which faced the sea. The bell tower, situated above the main entrance was built in 1684. The original bell – the oldest in South Africa – was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 by Claude Frémy and weighs 670 lbs. It was used to tell the hours and warn citizens of danger and it could be heard about 10 km away. It was also rung to call residents and soldiers to the Castle for important announcements.

Inside the walls of the Castle there were among others a church, bakery, workshops, living quarters, offices, cells and numerous other facilities. The yellow paint on the walls was chosen because of its ability to reduce heat and glare from sunlight. A wall divides the inner courtyard of the Castle. The division was initially intended to provide protection to the inhabitants of the Castle in the event of an attack. The well-known Kat Balcony is an outstanding feature of the dividing wall.

The original balcony was built in 1695, then rebuilt in its present form by the VOC between 1786 and 1790. From this balcony proclamations and announcements were made to the soldiers, slaves and civilians at the Cape. This balcony leads to the famous William Fehr Collection of historical paintings and period furniture, which have a special relevance to the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1936 the Castle of Good Hope was declared a national monument. As a result of an extensive, ongoing restoration programme launched in the 1980s, the Castle of Good Hope remains the best preserved fortification of its kind built by the VOC in regions where it had interests.

The Castle of Good Hope was the regional headquarters of the South African Army in the Western Cape, and houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for traditional Cape Regiments.

“The Castle of Good Hope was not built in consecutive order, so you will jump around from one time of history to another as you explore the Castle…”
Jay Heale

Inside the Castle:
The Castle Military Museum depicts the military history of the Cape, the Castle and Cape Regiments.

The Willian Fehr collection consists of artwork reflecting many aspects of cultural life at the Cape from the early VOC days until the middle of the 19th century. Exhibitions of a contemporary nature are occasionally presented.

During the restoration of the inner courtyard, the foundations of the early 18th century bakery and pool were discovered. The building, currently known as Het Bakhuys, has been reconstructed on these foundations. The original Dolphin pool was named after the impressive fountain in the form of a dolphin in the middle of the pool. Het Bakhuys also caters for functions and conferences.

The Castle forge is located in the earliest blacksmith workshop in South Africa. The Castle’s forge was initially built for the upkeep and maintenance of the Castle’s hardware and steel goods.

In her letters Lady Anne Barnard describes balls held at the Castle during her stay here at the end of the 18th century. These letters written from the Cape, describing many of the facets of the life of that time, have made her a legendary figure. The ballroom, over 180 feet in length, was originally divided into many smaller rooms of which one was occupied as her bed chamber. Since then the beamed ceilings have been covered with plaster and the room in its presence state is used as a Banqueting Room.

Visit the notorious dungeon. As a result of rising damp, the dungeon was not fit to store gun powder as intended and was later used as a prison for the accused awaiting trial.

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