Sunday, 4 January 2009

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

It was an epic journey from Edinburgh in the icy north to the heat of the southern hemisphere, and involved planes (14 hours), buses (nine hours) and automobiles (two hours) – plus the requisite waiting and queuing etc (approximately 24 hours, all told)– but here I am, at home and hot. And very happy.

My children and animals and household survived very nicely in my absence (about which I’m pleased for them, obviously – but I can’t help harbouring the tiniest bit of resentment over how my personal planet kept on turning without me on it?!), for which Dean, the Indestructible Wife, Johann and my sister can take full credit. And I have brought them tourist tat to express my thanks.

I know this is going to sound wussy, so please forgive me, but I did get homesick – and, embarrassingly, it didn’t even take that long. After about a week of constant travelling, law-abiding behaviour and never really being properly warm, I began hankering very seriously after warmth and anarchy. I’m hoping that this is only because I was in a cold climate (given a choice, I’d rather be burnt to death than frozen alive), because for many years I’ve been waiting for my children to leave home so I can ‘go travelling’. If the temperature isn’t the reason, I’m going to have to redesign my retirement plans and open a pet hotel or something.

2 recollections in tranquillity:

* In Edinburgh, down the road from Donald’s house, was a house that was being refitted/refurbished by its owners. All inside had been tossed outside into the front garden, victims of the elements (ice, rain, mist, etc), with the eventual aim being for it to be dumped somewhere as rubbish. Among the ‘trash’ waiting in this front yard to be consigned to nowhere were two beds and one sofa (both in evidently perfectly usable condition) and a stove (ditto). I was really upset by this – there are so many people in South Africa in need of such basic stuff, and without the means to secure it. The ultimate evidence of what an affluent society the UK actually is (at least in contrast with South Africa) was an aunt-by-marriage’s admiring take on a UK website called ‘freecycling’, on which you can post things (like usable secondhand beds, sofas, cookers, etc) that you don’t want any more and someone else might have a use for. ‘The great thing is,’ she said, ‘is that someone will come and take it away for you – you don’t have to pay the council to get rid of it.’ It was on the tip of my tongue to point out that in South Africa, such a website wouldn’t be much use – there would be no point in posting secondhand goods on a website, because you could just put them out on the pavement (in the very unlikely event you didn’t actually know someone first-hand who might need them) and within minutes they would be gone, and you could be fairly confident in the knowledge that they’d be furnishing someone-in-need’s home.

* Everywhere I went, throughout the wintry UK, I saw lost single gloves – a child’s mitten abandoned on the road; a woman’s woollen glove lying on a pavement; once, in a graveyard (I love graveyards and make a point of visiting them), a man’s leather glove, its fingers curled inwards, a small mound of ice in its palm. I mentioned this to friends I stayed with and they pointed out how easy it is, in this freezing climate, to lose one glove: you are, after all, forever putting on and taking off hats, coats, scarves, gloves, etc, and mislaying a glove is understandably easy. So I was thrilled, on our walk on New Year’s Day in an Edinburgh suburb, to come across this collection on a fence. (Note to South Africans: people don't pick up and keep these gloves; they post them somewhere their owners might find them if they ever bother to come looking!)
(Enlarge the picture and you'll see a notice on the board behind the single-glove colelction headed 'Bad People'. In South Africa, 'Bad People' rape, pillage and murder; in the UK, they don't bag and bin their dog's leavings. It really is a different world.)

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