Sunday, 13 August 2017

A special relationship

"Don't keep holding that door open. Come on, let's go! Hurry up will you. We haven't got all day!" This is the conversation I heard as I walked down the stairs in our apartment building. As I approached ground level where the lift is, I saw my elderly neighbours. She, in the lift giving orders- with a voice that accepts no arguing against. He, frail and polite holding the lift door open. " But there is someone coming. They may also want to take the lift," says he also determined. Always the gentleman - correct in manners, dress and language. Sort of posh but down to earth. The gentleman who holds doors open for women. Letting them and others go first. Whether entering a building, lift or home or just outside walking along the footpath. He wears a hat. A gentleman's hat. Not a cap, not a beret but proper gentleman's headwear. In one hand generally a walking stick. " To ward off the dogs you know. They tend to jump up and if I don't ward them off I'll fall over." The thing is, he is frail, and old and still a regular stroller around the park.

"Shut the door and hurry. I can't stand here all day. My legs hurt. We will send the lift back down." The lift door shuts. She, tall, 7 years his junior but also frail. Her spine has decided to slowly decline. She walks bent over and shuffles her feet over the flooring. No real shoes but those moccasins, rough leather slippers with a sort sheepskin inner. Even though she sounds stronger than she looks, her determination is as strong as ever. It pains her that she has recently had to succumb to the pressure. No more cooking. Her back and legs just can't stand the pressure anymore. Frozen meals are brought once a week for 4 evenings. Once a week it's soup brought by a neighbour, one night left overs and one night Chinese 'from that lovely lady next to the supermarket'. Pity. She LOVED to cook. I believe she was a real whizz in the kitchen all those years ago.

It is 6:15am. The doorbell goes. We both are wide awake within seconds. A doorbell at that time of day can't be good news. She, is a right state, " so sorry to wake you but he has fallen while leaving the toilet. Hurt his back. I can't lift him. Can you please help." How sad. At approx 4 am he went to the toilet, while leaving, the door gave way and he fell. Apparently he must have fallen backwards onto the rim of the toilet bowl. Crawling back to his room and bed- he tried lifting himself up. Didn't work. Too much pain. She, propping a pillow under his head, duvet over his shivering body- kept vigil. Too early to wake the neighbours.

The doctor was called- who in turn decided an ambulance was in order. Admission to hospital. Total confusion. She was in a right state. No children, never married- always friends. Have grown so dependent on each other to give form to their day. Both their own routines -  23 years to date. They niggle and nag each other. They mumble and mutter. They hold hands, they reminisce. They laugh and they share concerns. Now what- how will this end?

It has been 3 weeks of to-ing and fro-ing to hospital. She, no longer coping behind the wheel finally allowing the niece and nephew to dispose of the car. Having to ask, to depend on others for all their wishes and needs. Home help and other necessary organisations have been given the green light. They shrug their shoulders and look sip and sad. She, not now understanding her role in this whole affair - he, wondering how long his body will cope.

I know I'll be keeping a sharper ear and eye open. I know many in our building will do too. We all ask ourselves- how long, what next, will they cope.

He, 94 and counting - she 87 and losing track.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The travel bug - a new lifestyle

Many years ago, while living in NZ, there was a trend amongst youngsters to travel (O E= Overseas Experience). Many had roots in the UK or Europe and the urge to discover and experience cultural aspects of their heritage was one of the driving forces behind this upsurge in young world travellers. Intention being- 2 years OE and then come 'home' to pick up the threads of life and build up something new. The results, new thinking youth, young adults reshaping their world due to their adventures and discoveries.

I don't know whether that has any bearing on the resulting restrictions, rules and other red tape that followed. One would wonder though. Seems to me that more knowledge of other cultures including those in one's own DNA profile might help bring about more unity, understanding and bond between nations. Still, that's another story.

This story is about a young couple adapting their lifestyle to today's opportunities. Where as 'in my time' one completed school, got a job, relationship, home, family. Couples worked towards paying off the mortgage, looked forward to retirement and the pension. A crowning feast celebrating 50 years of marriage as a show of love, stamina and for some possibly endurance. I know, a simple sketch and not so for everyone- but here I am generalising. Just painting a broad picture. We had no car or phone. Not for years. Tv programmes were extremely thin on the ground and even the thought of internet wasn't even imaginable to most.

Times, they are a changing. We don't leave our doors unlocked anymore. Our jobs aren't as safe as they were, golden handshakes and silver watches aren't the norm, again generally speaking. Our pension age has been raised only we aren't 'popular' on the job market, the youth struggle for permanent contracts. Working from home to ease congestion on the roads very appealing and in some instances financially rewarded by corporates.

Angela and Tino are a young dutch couple ( Dutch Nomad Couple) grabbing the new age opportunities with both hands. Leaving behind the 'humdrum' of a permanent residence. Away from the considered norm everyday life. They aren't running away. They are in fact, consciously walking towards a healthier ( for them) lifestyle. Responsibilities can be carried out no matter where you live. Earning a living is no longer dependent on a permanent position behind a desk, in a store, office of factory. The challenges and opportunities have changed.

Months of planning, researching, acting out the steps very concisely they waved their permanent status goodbye in September 2016 and embarked on a world wide adventure. They make use of all the modern facilities, possibilities and allow us homestayers to follow their antics, listen to their stories and not have to leave our armchairs. I listen, look and learn about places and people I never dreamt possible I would visit. Their enthusiasm is catchy. Their awe at what they discover is endearing and worth every respect.

I can go on and on about what I think about this change in lifestyle but I invite you to check it out for yourselves. Angela and Tino love to share their experiences with as many people as possible, hoping they bring some light relief, valuable experiences and insights they encounter on their travels.

Follow Angela and Tino ( Dutch Nomad Couple) on either Facebook or Youtube, or both! You will be most welcome.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Life is all about...

( I was cleaning up some files when I found this unposted blog and am now trying to recapture it's essence. Seems a pity to not finish what I started a few months ago.)

.. yes, life is about what exactly?
I have mentioned my thoughts on the subject before and it appears to be a reoccurring theme: Why are we here, how are we meant to 'be', to live, to behave?

Life, as we know it. We are born, spend a number of years on this planet and then, the only certainty that we have in life, is that we die. We don't have, wel at least not in general terms, a timetable or schedule of events as for when they are to happen. There isn't a clear timetable. We are but mere dots on a very long historical and eventful timeline.

We experience our childhood, grow into adults, select a path as adults to travel as either single or married person. We have/ or don't have children. We work towards retirement ( hopefully) and some of us look forward to the (possible) grandchildren.

Our working experiences, which enables us to finance our lives, also equips us with life's lessons and other talents.

Some write a 'Bucket List' - you know, about the things one still wants to do before one 'kicks' that proverbiaal bucket. I am not a 'bucket list' type of person. I hope my every day is one worthy of a listing on it's own.

Some burn all boats, sell up and live a nomadic existence so as to purge oneself of all possessions and be 'free' of all burdens. My personality needs stability. A place to rest and feel safe and familiar in.

Some just live from day to day, following a pattern of work, eat sleep - occasional play and repeat that pattern which gives regularity to their existence. Not doing anyone, or anything for that matter, any harm. Live a sheltered life, being of no nuisance to anyone, at the same time not having any connection either with those around them. During my early childhood I was quiet and in the background. I did need people though so found my voice. In a crowd or at a large gatehring, I tend to shuffle to the background. Best in the kitchen!

And then there are those with a mission- a mission in life that gives them their sense of purpose. Those who give unselfishly of their time- the time they have been given to BE someone to someone. Those who serve - in any way or form in society to help those less fortunate in either or both physical or emotional means. They have analysed, discovered or identified a just cause or personal quest to fulfill. These people captivate me. I have an immense respect and admiration for the go-getter, the do-er. Find them inspiring and motivating. My contributions however are tiny and in no way match the 'missionaries' amongst them.

In my circle of friends, people I know and mix with, I recognise all these described personalities. Some are even combinations of the afore mentioned. A colourful, interesting and valuable asset which brings in turn, colour to my life.

Life, daily routines, unexpected surprises, adventures to be had, solutions to find, memories to make. Is our road predestined? Is our future already designed and waiting to be lived? Do our challenges match our abilities even before we meet them?

I guess we can all analyse and explain ( or not) what life means to us individually. The outcome may be as diverse as the one I've painted above. Maybe we aren't meant to define life at all- but live it to the best of our ability, grow, learn, improve, challenge, enjoy, achieve, fall, stand tall and be grateful.

I guess the story about the seed says it all. If we choose to grow we need to place ourselves in positions in life to do just that. The experiences and learning moments add fertilizer to our lives enabling us to grow some more.

Should we choose anonymity, a quiet withdrawn and colourless life- we will not achieve the heights we may have been destined for. We may wither away, or be that beautiful flower hidden behind that lush green bush.

A bit deep for a Sunday afternoon, while the sun is creeping in onto my desk...caressing my arm and begging me to come outside and enjoy the fresh air.

I will take this invitation to enjoy those rays. Leaving you, my blog reader, to ponder on how you see your life and to what purpose you may or may not be called. I love life, find it enthralling, challenging and most enjoyable. I wish the same for you.