"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

the art of laughing

As you know Gill and I share an office.  We have been through the mill together (and a tumble drier at times) and have that kind of understanding that a quick head around the computer at exactly the same time is all that is needed.  Gill has an amazing ability to laugh which I wish that I had also been blessed with.  Not a normal giggle or snuffled chuckle that I will have if I find something funny. She laughs so hard at times that I worry she is going to stop breathing or fall off her chair.  I also know what makes her laugh.  I am not a funny person and I can make her laugh.  She laughs well and she laughs easily.  She does not only laugh at happy funny stuff.  Her best is laughing at other people's misfortune.  You know those YouTube videos where fat ladies fall out of boats, old men nod off to sleep and fall off their seats, brides fall off ramps and into lakes, birds peck at little boys winkies through their short pants - that kind of thing.  Whenever I get one of those emails I immediately forward it to Gill and then wait.  Only once she opens it and starts laughing, can I start laughing.

My children could not believe it when, years ago, I watched an entire Jim Carey movie without laughing once.  I think it was that Dumb and Dumber movie - whole movie and not even one smile with three little faces (who had seen the movie 5 times) watching me watch the movie.  I don't have much of a sense of humour.  

So back to what makes one person find something so funny and another to struggle to give a small smile.  I love John Cleese and Fawlty Towers always manages to make me laugh.  Michael McIntyre on a Tuesday night is pretty funny as is Ricky Gervais.  I also laugh at Graham Norton.  So, if I had to list things that I do find funny, I am not such a misery after all.   

Cyanide and Happiness are one of those cartoons that I don't really get every time (but I am getting better). These I found the other day and they made me chuckle (a little):-

cyanide and happiness - drawing boobs
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic

Well on further investigation I realise that there is help at hand for people like me.  People who have difficulty really letting go and laughing.   All that it needs is a trip to New York.  Like any other craft that you can take lessons in and learn to do, you can also learn to laugh.  Please read this article.

Imagine heading off to Laughing Lessons.  I have a cheaper idea.  Take Lesley to a yoga class.

I am reminded me of the time, about 25 years ago when I started yoga lessons at this proper sufi temple in Rondebosch East.  I was going 3 times a week and was starting to feel the benefits and look like Cindy Crawford (sans the mole).  I begged Lesley, who lived a couple of doors away from me to come and join me.  Well, this was another mistake in my life.   We entered the room filled with burning incense.  Lesley found herself a mat directly in front of me (second mistake).  The "umm ummmm ummmming" was fine and we got through that.  Clearing the sinuses was next and I could see Lesley's face looking at this rather round (very fat), dirty footed hippie next to her as the hippie chick made sure that her sinuses emptied completely and would never block again.  Next, lying flat on your back on your mat, came the instruction for the proper pelvic tilt (I think it is position 251 of the Karma Sutra).  The yogi turned to Lesley and said (in a very polite and gentle way) - "As a first timer, I just want to warn you that expelling air through your vagina is perfectly healthy and normal and also good for you".  With that I saw Lesley's body start shaking.  Not just a giggling shoulder shake but her body started convulsing without a sound coming out of her mouth.  How she does that, I do not know (she still does it) but it set me off.  The fat, now snot-free lady next to her was just getting herself in the "expelling air from the vagina" position and we decided it was time to evacuate the building.  We raced out of the temple and ran all the way home.  That was the end of yoga for me, forever and I was never to return to the sacred temple.

Yoga positions vector
Top centre is the one!!

Close up view

Then on an even lighter note:-

Cartoon: Library (medium) by Alexei Talimonov tagged library,yoga,humor,books,literature
I don't really get this one but it fitted the topic for today!!!
(Please explain)

Bedtime now, and to close I found a list of dangerous side effects of what may happen if you abuse the "best medicine"
  1. Peeing in Your Pants — common and inconvenient; can be remedied with Kegel exercises that strengthen the pubococcus muscle. (OR PROBABLY THE YOGA PELVIC TILT)
  2. Pooping in Your Pants — less common, but almost unavoidable if you have a bug and the laugh contractions loosen your abdomen. (DON'T WANT TO GO THERE)
  3. Vomiting Through Your Nose — painful, anti-social, and often leads to emetophobia. (THIS HAPPENS TO ME OFTEN WITH WINE BUT NEVER VOMIT - THANK GOODNESS)
  4. Death — in 1989 Ole Bentzen was killed in a movie theater by John Cleese’s antics in A Fish Called Wanda. The Dane’s happy heart was destroyed when his pulse neared 500 bpm. (I WAS BEING SENSIBLE WHEN WATCHING DUMB AND DUMBER, NOT ENTIRELY HUMOURLESS)

Monday, 29 August 2011

putting words to pictures

The weekend did not start off  well.  I arrived home on Friday after having Sydney (the sweetest gardener ever, who works like a trojan when you are with him, who I don't really have a job for but find him work at the office once a month).  He came into our office, tidied up a bit, washed a car or two and was done by lunchtime.  I thought it would be a great idea if he could help put down some compost and clean up a bit at St Denis Road for the rest of the day.  Therein lies a big mistake, not being there, asking him to dig in some compost and remove some weeds from the grass.   When I arrived home my paved area looked like this:-

After previously looking like this:-

(Not really as good as this, the above picture was taken in summer but
 gives you the general idea)

Saturday morning also turned into a disaster when I (together with 20 000 others) headed to Makro to buy a new bar fridge and some stationery for the office.  Things at the office have been getting a bit testy with stationery supplies low (amazing how possessive people get over the last white A4 envelope) and our milk going sour as our very old and frosting up fridge was given away to Janey (she needed it more than we did).  I was there by 9.30 and plans to meet Wendy and Dalene at Rondebosch for the rugby at 11.30.  No such luck.  I managed to get out of Makro alive (did have some fun there -  in the bottle store (you could have guessed that, hey?) where Poncho's Coffee Tequila was on special, I found miniatures of scotch whisky and Amarula to show Lucie, Hansa was also on special as was a very palatable Californian Pinio Gringo - a very quick R560) but then proceeded to get stuck in an horrendous traffic jam on Rosmead Avenue.  I missed the rugby at Rondebosch (apparently quite a good move, we lost) and as I was leaving for UCT to watch Nic play, I received an sms (SOS) from Dalene  "Freezing cold, bring coat and Old Brown".  I was on my way out of the door, we are out of Old Brown and the second best thing I could find was Poncho's Coffee Tequila (quickly decanted into an Old Brown bottle (luckily we recycle)).  Nic's game was starting at 1.30 and I then proceed to get stuck in my second traffic jam of the day.  This time the traffic from the Bishops/Bosch derby (that will teach me).

Well,  I arrived about 5 minutes late for the game, the sun was shining brightly but boy was there a freezing wind blowing.  I smiled at the disappointment in Dalene's eyes when I told her that we were out of Old Brown, then smiled again at the delight in her eyes when I pulled out a bottle of the precious liquid out of my bag (thank goodness for big bags).  I poured her the first shot glass (also in my bag) full and then watched in delight and amusement at her face after her first big gulp (a bit like thinking wasabi is avocado).  I wish I had thought to take my camera out:-

(Highly recommended new drink - with ice - thanks to a tip from daughter Caroline)

Unfortunately Nic's side did not win (but the 1st team did).  I then left UCT (and the girls and the "Old Brown") for the office to sell a car (I do this in my spare time - joking - but sometimes a mother's job is never done).  And I did sell it - R3 000 less than I (Gareth) was asking but a sale to a very nice military policeman with his wife, child and dog in his very fancy, black, personal number-plated car.  His wife had just got her learners licence and she was not allowed to drive his new pride and joy.  I would not have argued with him either but he was a gentle giant (with a vicious dog), his wife did not seem too happy with the car but he was and today the money is in the bank.  Amazing tool Gumtree.

Then for the rest of the weekend (in a nutshell):-

Clivia flowering in August??
(the whole garden is confused)

Yesterday I had lots of fun playing with flowers and bottles and jam jars
(We have a very important wedding in November, remember?)

This very pretty (alien, sorry Ginny) plant (Pride of Madeira) is starting to bud
and going to be beautiful in a couple of weeks

This very pretty (sorry Tom) young lady (Amy) is starting to blossom
and we don't really have to wait a couple of weeks because she is
already beautiful

Then we wrapped her in some draping and pretended she was a bride and made her
hold the mock bouquet we were experimenting with

Another tick on my "to do list" this weekend was my canvas pictures which I finally hung in my passage:-

Now I need to invest in 6 more canvasses to fill the wall properly, buy another bottle of Poncho's on special at Makro, head to the nursery to get some more wonderlawn, spend a day working with Sydney and showing him how to re-plant the wonderlawn (otherwise, how is he ever going to understand that that is the way I like it?).

And before I get accused of losing my sense of humour:-

Friday, 26 August 2011

gewurtztraminer and nasturtiums

I have a friend
who is back from a long holiday
visiting friends and wonderful places
with big lakes and waterfalls
Who attended a reunion in France where she
arranged flowers for a party of 300 guests
and ate goats cheese and macaroons

I have a friend who arrived to visit me yesterday
at my office,
only for a hug
because she has just heard the sad news
and she is so sad,
sad that she did not know
and sad that she was away and having fun
while I was not

I have a friend who
later, the same day
arrived for a longer visit
armed with a fusion of
nasturtiums, poppadoms and a 20 year old bottle of
expensive looking Gewurztraminer

She arranged the flowers
beautifully and carefully
while I opened her aged bottle of wine,
the cork crumbled
I strained out the crumbles of cork and poured out the
dark yellow syrupy liquid
We tasted it
and quickly poured it down the drain

A new bottle was opened
with a modern label
and a screw-top cap
It did not look nearly as historic
or romantic
but we drank it
and ate poppadoms
without curry
and talked and laughed and
she cried some more
and we laughed some more

She left with her aged wine
(it was a wonderful bottle)
and a collection of bottle tops for someone who makes
magic out of them
and our dried garden leaves for her compost
(which Michael collects for her)

And as she took off down the road
(at speed)
in her car filled with treasures
I realised how lucky I am to have a someone like her
in my life
who cares
and is not afraid to be different
She says what she feels
and it does not matter whether she is in France
arranging expensive flowers
and drinking expensive wines
or in my kitchen
placing hand picked nasturtiums in a jug
while throwing expensive foreign wine down the drain
and then enjoying
the local supermarket blend
with a friend

Thursday, 25 August 2011

mixing it up again

I have been on a bit of a "romantic trip" of late and have been listening to lots of different music.  One of my sons (Nic won't admit to it, but I think it was his) made me a mixed CD which included a song called "Deeper" by Ezio (Nic does not enjoy Ezio, although I have printed the chords and lyrics for him to learn to play, he can be stubborn like that).  It is on in the car at the moment (Track 10 on CD 5) and I keep pushing the repeat button (I can't help, I can be funny like that).  Parts of the words of the song are perhaps a bit rude (if you mind thinks that way) but I don't think it is written in a rude way.  I love his turn of phrase and how the song tells a story. 

However, to me there should be more to the story, I want to know what happened in the beginning, so I decided that this will be my task for the night - to write a short story about the song.   So here is my short story, followed by the lyrics and then the song for you to listen to (don't think you will like the song (or the lyrics) Mom and Aunty Norma) but here goes:-


Janni was a painfully shy 19 year old.    He should have been finishing off at school, he was not stupid, he had the marks and the ability but he had no option now but to work, full time, at the local diner.  He was the only child of Monica and never knew his father.  The only answer he got from his mother, when he once had a chance to ask her about his father was “I loved him but he used my love up”.  This did not explain where his father was now, why he’d “up’ed and left” (when Janni was a year old), or what he did for a living.   It became an unspoken between mother and son.  Janni loved his mother (she was all he had) but she was fragile.  She drank too much and smoked non-stop and never left their caravan since her parents died.  It was now up to him to work so that they could survive (and she could drink her cheap wine and smoke her hand-rolled cigarettes).

Janni dropped out of school during June last year after his grandparents died.  They had died in an horrific fire at the caravan park where they lived, across the road from each other.  Janni was at school, Monica had tried to save them but could not.  Six people lost their lives that day and many more their homes.  Although his home was untouched he had lost everything in that fire, Grandma Esther and Grandpa Joe, his youth, his education, the only two stable people in his life.  He was on his own with Monica.  She was now his responsibility.  He had an uncle who was living with his family, on a small farm in the coldest part of Canada (somewhere close to Nova Scotia).  Uncle Albert had come back to Iowa after the fire and wanted Janni to move to Canada and live with him, his wife and two young cousins.  No mention was made of Monica and as much as he wanted to go and leave his sad life behind, he could not do it.  He had to care for Monica, he loved her, she was his mother after all.

Music was the one light in his life.  Music, Monica and an old battered guitar.  In his mind he hoped the guitar had belonged to his father.  He made up stories in his head about songs that his father would have written and sung to Monica (he was certain his dad loved Dylan, The Doors and perhaps The Eagles).  He really hoped that he did not like country and western stuff. Monica did and she played the same Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton music, all day, every day.  He did not want to ask his mother about the guitar or the music his father played in case the guitar had belonged to someone else and it would spoil everything in his head if his father shared Monica’s love of cheesy country music.  Another unspoken between them.

Janni taught himself to play the guitar from an old manual which he found in a pile of cast off’s in the rubbish at the caravan park.   He picked up some amazing stuff on the dump.  People would move on and leave the stuff that they could not fit into their backpacks behind.  He never needed to buy books, clothes (he had his pick).  However, he would never wear second hand shoes.  He had to wear a uniform at the diner, so there was no worry there.  He did not need much.

With his first pay check he invested in a small iPod from the second hand computer store.  He treated himself to new earphones (he was fussy about things like clean ears, nails and feet). The earphones were permanently in his ears and the $25 dollars he spent on the iPod was his best investment ever.  He was able to download his favourite songs at the diner (one of the few perks of his job).  The other perk was Lisa.

Lisa, with the bright blue eyes, who did not know that he existed.  Lisa who never made eye contact with him (heavens knows what he would have done, if she did) in all the 76 days that she had been coming into the diner.  He knew every outfit in her wardrobe, every magazine she bought, how she wiped her mouth after finishing the third cup of her “bottomless cup of black filter coffee” (no sugar).  All he wanted her to do was meet his eyes, but she never did.

He had thought constantly of following her out of the diner one day.  Just to see where she lived, what she did with the rest of her day, watch her walk,  see where she shopped (she looked like she shopped a lot), just to observe and see talking on her phone.  But he did not have the courage (and he thought that it would be creepy) and what if she saw him and never came back to the diner?   He lived for the 45 minutes she spent at the diner every morning (except weekends).  Lisa was the reason that he would never swap shifts with anyone else, Lisa was the reason he came to work everyday.  He wrote songs for Lisa (many songs), mostly happy songs.  Once Monica had gone to bed at night he played the old battered guitar and sang his songs to Lisa (and to his father).

He was completely in love with her and she did not know or care.


Lyrics of the song:-

Lisa picks her coffee up
And takes a small sip from her cup
She flashes with her blue eyes
Over at the counter
Where the Spanish boys are talking loud
And hiking up their trousers proud
She feels herself expiring
Like the ticket on her windscreen
While Janni sits there all alone
All alone with his Walkman on
And he taps the rhythm gently
With his fingers on the table
And he's trying not to sing along
Sing along to his favourite song
He doesn't want to be play like that
He just wants to make her eyes see
That he can make her body tremble
He's sure she'd make his fingers tingle
Every time they touched her skin
He just wants to be with her
He just wants to lay down next to her
He just wants to go deeper
Deeper than any boy has been
Then she pads her lips with a serviette
Christ knows why they're never wet
And anyway he knows
She'd be back again tomorrow
And there's one thing wrong with the afternoon
It always comes around too soon
He sees her slip her magazine away
Walk over to the door
But he knows how to keep his cool
And he knows how to make it
He can stop himself from falling
But he has had to learn to fake it
Anyway, she's made today
A better day than yesterday
At least he feels alive today
And he could do the same for her
If he could make her eyes see
That he can make her body tremble
He's sure she'd make his fingers tingle
Every time they touched her skin
He just wants to be with her
He just wants to lay down next to her
He just wants to go deeper
Deeper than any boy has been
He knows how to keep his cool
And he knows how to make it
He can stop himself from falling
But he has had to learn to fake it
Anyway, she's made today
A better day than yesterday
At least he feels alive
And he could do the same for her
If he could make her eyes see
that he can make her body tremble
He's sure she'd make his fingers tingle
Every time they touched her skin
And he just wants to be with her
He just wants to lay down next to her
He just wants to go deeper
Deeper than any boy has been

Anyway, she's made today
A better day than yesterday
At least he feels alive today
And he could do the same for her

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

time to get our bok gees going?

Did you watch the Bok team selection live last night?  I did - a pretty amusing presentation.  How silly are those caps?  Which way is the tassel supposed to fall?   Surely each player had to get properly measured for his jacket.  The jackets were perfect fits for every shape and size.  Why could they not put the tape measures around their heads as well? (however, removing the tape measure out of Francois Steyn's hair could have been a problem).  Having 3 sons (2 with large heads) it is a pretty much a standard family joke as to who can find a cap / hat / cricket helmet to fit Gareth and Nic.  My mom has got it right by knitting Nic his own personally measured beanies but I think if Gareth ever wants one she will have to find longer knitting needles for all the stitches.  Last night Michael and I ended up playing a game to gues whose cap would fit and whose would not?  That one huge lock, Johan Muller (had forgotten about him) has a surprising small peanut head for a big man.

I then went off to do some blogwork and heard Ard Matthew's slip up with the anthem.  I love Just Jinger and love his voice.  You could see he was pretty damn nervous for the first song and I ran through to the lounge but missed his mess up with the anthem.  However, this was not missed by Aden Thomas on Cape Talk this morning (he must have played it at least twice) and then tortured the poor chap in a cringe-worthy interview.  I hate getting that feeling when someone is being unfairly victimised ("Don't you know the words?  Have you heard a replay?  Do you want to hear a replay?"). I felt so bad for poor Ard, when his battery cut out, I sent Aden an sms telling him to back off.  Do they really think the poor guy would have done it on purpose?  At least he has a decent voice unlike that other Rasta rendition in France.  Anyway, Aden was big enough to say after the second call with Ard that he had received angry sms's from listeners telling him to "back off" and "not be so bolshy" (my words exactly)

Here is Gareth's article in Sports Illustrated today. 

Read it
(just click the underlined link above, Mom). 

The excitement is catchy.  Another World Cup with lots of celebrations and getting together with friends to watch on big screens (and drink shots of coffee tequila).  Kelly will have to teach us how to dance again and work will be something you do in your spare time.  The matches are going to be at around 10 in the morning (oops some as early as 5 in the morning) which does kind of distrupt the rest of the working day (and drinking shots of coffee tequila).  From the fixture list I note that Mondays and Tuesdays are the only days without rugby for September.  October moves on to more friendly weekend fixtures.  It is going to be strange to party in the mornings but I am sure we will adapt. My brother-in-law, Tom at the Mowbray will have to organise a breakfast vibe with egg and bacon rolls and almond croissants (to followed by coffee tequila).

I have a few problems, though.  Firstly, I don't wear green (actually not really big on any colour but green must be bottom of the list) and I hate synthetic, lycra fabrics so the whole Friday vibe of dressing up in a Springbok shirt is not for me.  This leaves me in black or grey (as usual) with a South African scarf (good enough, I think).  Oh and not the green and gold scarf, the flag one!! Secondly, as most people close to me know, I am a great English rugby and cricket supporter.  There is a possibility that England and SA could meet in the final. (Some may not think so but I have my ear close to the ground).  Who am I going to watch that game with?  Who am I going to support? Am I getting ahead of myself?

Silly to ask a question when you know the answer and what the reaction is going to be.  Do I want company or don't I?  Should have been the question.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

great love song lyrics, a song and patti boyd envy

I have had a couple of music snippets stored under "drafts" for quite a while now.  Not quite knowing what to do with the love songs and lyrics, I thought using them this evening would not be a bad idea.  Off the top of my head I have made a quick list of my favourite love songs and their lyrics.  Please bear in mind that these are love songs that woman want to hear.   I would like to have had more time to compile the list but I have been hooked on the penultimate episode of Masterchef, trying to watch the announcement of the Springbok team and also get this post up this evening.  So here goes:-

10.  VAN MORRISON - Have I told you lately

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there's no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that's what you do
Oh the morning sun in all its glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
And you fill my life with laughter
You can make it better
Ease my troubles that's what you do
There's a love that's divine
And it's yours and it's mine
Like the sun at the end of the day

Something about the saxophone, his voice and the words of this song that always hits the spot.
9.  AEROSMITH - I don't want to miss a thing

Lying close to you
Feeling your heart beating
And I'm wondering what you're dreaming
Wondering if it's me you're seeing
Then I kiss your eyes and thank God we're together
And I just wanna stay with you
In this moment forever, forever and ever

I don't wanna close my eyes
I don't wanna fall asleep
'Cause I'd miss you, babe
And I don't wanna miss a thing

Probably a controversial choice.  Lyrics are all important to me and whenever I hear this song, I think "Oh my word, imagine not wanting to fall asleep because you are going to miss your "babe"."  The "babe" word does not really do it for me either as I always have thoughts of that cute little pig, but each to his own.  But the romantic side of having a man watching you sleep is pretty awesome (and pretty unbelievable).  The thought of waking up and seeing Steve Tyler (he is the lead singer, Mom) watching over you is also awesomely, unbelievably scary.

8. BILLY JOEL - Just the way you are

Don't go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you anymore
I wouldn't leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times
I'll take you just the way you are

Don't go trying some new fashion
Don't change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

You can't go wrong with this one. 

7.  NAT KING COLE - Unforgettable

Unforgettable, that's what you are
Unforgettable though near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me
Never before has someone been more

Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that's how you'll stay
That's why, darling, it's incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too

Again, the voice together with his incredible timing when singing the lyrics makes this one "stand the test of time".

6.  THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS - Unchained Melody

Oh my love my darling
I've hungered for your touch
A long lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Lonely rivers flow to the sea to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh wait for me wait for me
I'll be coming home wait for me

Problem with this one is that every time I hear it I cannot get Patrick Swayze's face out of my mind.  How did they ever cast him in Ghost?  It had the makings of an amazing movie.  Great song though. RIP Patrick (no offence)

5.   LONESTAR - Amazed

I don't know how you do what you do
I'm so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I want to spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby, I'm amazed by you

The smell of your skin
The taste of your kiss
The way you whisper in the dark
Your hair all around me
Baby you surround me
You touch every place in my heart
Oh, it feels like the first time, every time
I want to spend the whole night in your eyes

Every little thing that you do
I'm so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I want to spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby, I'm amazed by

I am leaving myself wide open now for some serious abuse from my sons.  But herein lies a lesson for them.  These words are what 97% of woman would like to hear.  What ever happened to Lonestar?

4.  SOMETHING - George Harrison

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me

I don't want to leave her now
You know I believe her now

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don't need no other lover
Something in her style that shows me

Don't want to leave her now
You know I believe her now

You're asking me will my love grow
I don't know, I don't know
You stick around now it may show
I don't know, I don't know

I have always loved this song.  As much as I love the Beatles for their melodies the words of most of their songs do not really tug at my heart strings.

3.   BOB DYLAN - Love minus Zero
 My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can't buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall.
Some speak of the future,
My love she speaks softly,
She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.

The cloak and dagger dangles,
Madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.
Statues made of match sticks,
Crumble into one another,
My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.

The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.
The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

Sorry had to print all the words.  This song is right up there for me.  I love the harmonica and it is so pure and simple and at the same time so typically Dylan (who was not pure and simple)

"Some speak of the future, My love she speaks softly"

Greatest line ever

2.   STING - Fields of Gold

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold

See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold

I have always loved Sting.  I had an enormous wall poster of him once upon a time (like the one below).  No list of mine would be complete without including a song of his.

1.  ERIC CLAPTON - Wonderful tonight

This one you have to listen to as well.  I found this gem recorded live with Mark Knopfler and I am sure you will love it.


It's late in the evening; she's wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair.
And then she asks me, "Do I look all right?"
And I say, "Yes, you look wonderful tonight."

We go to a party and everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady that's walking around with me.
And then she asks me, "Do you feel all right?"
And I say, "Yes, I feel wonderful tonight."

I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don't realize how much I love you.

It's time to go home now and I've got an aching head,
So I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed.
And then I tell her, as I turn out the light,
I say, "My darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight."

Pattie Boyd recalled to The Guardian December 13, 2008 that Clapton "was sitting round playing his guitar while I was trying on dresses upstairs. I was taking so long and I was panicking about my hair, my clothes, everything, and I came downstairs expecting him to really berate me but he said, 'Listen to this!'" In the time she had taken to get ready Clapton had written this song.
This brings me back to the title of this post.  How did Patti Boyd get it right.  Married to George Harrison who wrote "For you Blue" and "Something" (see above) for her.  She then moved on to Eric Clapton and he wrote "Layla" and "Wonderful tonight" about her.  Clapton and Harrison remained good friends, and Harrison even played at their wedding in 1979.  Mick Jagger also tried to make a move on her and she had a brief liaison  with Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood.  Not really jealous of the men in her life but how did she get it right to inspire such wonderful love songs.

She's <b>Pattie Boyd</b>

Early Days

With George Harrison
<b>Pattie boyd today</b> images
Some years later

Go Patti. Very surprised she has not released her signature fragrance.

Good night. 


Monday, 22 August 2011

in celebration of the juniper berry

At a guess it must have been about 19 years ago - hells bells that is a long time ago - when Kathy and I started taking lessons in drinking.   It was Justin's birthday and she had a crowd of little boys coming over to her lovely flat at Montebello.  Lucky for her it was a lovely April's day and she had about 20 little boys running wild on the grass while mothers sipped tea (can you believe it?) and ate cake on picnic blankets under the trees.  I was the only "Bosch Mom" amongst practically the whole of the SACS Sub A class.  Nic (my middle son) and Justin have been mates since nappy and dummy days so Nic was having a ball with the SACS boys.  It was the first time that I was meeting most of these moms so I was not quite as at home in this new crowd as Nicholas James was.  (This was all to change in later years when I went to watch Justin play waterpolo for SACS. His captain's mom was chatting to Kathy and, in conversation reminded me to please to bring a green salad to the evening function).   Back to this particular 6th (or 7th) birthday party.  I am always one to know someone in a group and met up with a friend from college days. A very proper mother with an angelic looking child in a superman outfit (who was actually a monster in disguise).  Chit, chat about this and that, where I lived, who I married, how many times a day (sorry week) I had sex (joking) and then she asked me "So which one is your little boy?"  As I looked up across the rolling lawns I spied Nic (in his ninja outfit) pinning the angelic child against the tree and giving him a couple of good punches.  At this stage I did not know that the superman little sh*t belonged to her.  "There he is, the blonde ninja sorting out that impossible little Superman".  With that she took off, at speed, to rescue her little darling and I ducked off upstairs to hide and eat popcorn and fizzers with the older "unsociable" boys.

The mothers eventually left and we started tidying up.  Kathy poked her head out of the kitchen and gleefully showed me a bottle of gin which she had bought as a "birthday treat".  Now at this stage we were not hardened drinkers (believe it or not).  A beer or five on a hot day and a glass of Bellingham Grand Cru when we went out for supper (to look more sophisticated) was about it for us.  She asked for help pouring this foreign (and pretty expensive for us) liquid.  She opened the bottle and proceeded to use the cap of the Gordon's bottle as a tot measure.  This I knew was not correct so taught her that you needed to measure 2 sideways fingers at the bottom of the glass - this equalled a single tot (my grandfather taught me well).  All was fine and we enjoyed a couple of gentle gins while the boys had a bubble bath upstairs.  A good and civilised end to a long day.  When the bubbles started cascading down the open wooden staircase, I realised that it was time to take my 3 angelic ninja's home.

Gordons Gin

That was our introduction to gin, tonic and a slice a lemon.

A couple of months later and things suddenly progressed to another level.  A week night and brother-in-law Sam was in Cape Town on business.  Kathy and Dalene were visiting and, as he was the only man in the house at the time, he offered to pour our drinks.   Beautifully poured gin and tonics with ice and lemon (our new favourite drink).  At one stage he mentioned that we were a bit low on tonic but we did not notice any difference and they were going down very well.  Sam eventually had to leave and the children started crying for their supper.  Do you think that the 3 of us could get out of our chairs? Something had happened to our legs. We sat there giggling like real Gin Gerties (as my grandmother used to call her friends who "drank").  On further inspection in the kitchen everything became clear(er).  The previously unopened bottle of gin had not even 2 small tots left in it.  Could the four of us have finished nearly a whole bottle of gin with just one litre of tonic?

How Sam managed that, we still do not know.  The fact that he left us in our armchairs and sneakily disappeared,  led us to believe that he was drinking water with ice and lemon and that the gin and tonics had been poured at a half/half ratios between the 3 of us.

We salute you Colonel General!!  When next you are in Cape Town and feeling brave and strong,  please pop in for a drink - we may surprise you at just how much we have learned in 19 years!!  Best you bring a driver too.

Nothing is more pleasurable than to sit in the shade,
 sip gin and contemplate other people`s adulteries,
and while the wormy apple of marriage still lives, the novel will not die.



Sunday, 21 August 2011

when i was five....

Isn't it weird what we remember from our past and what we don't?  What is your earliest memory?  I have a memory of being picked up by my grandfather in our kitchen in Rosebank, twisting around and putting my hand flat onto the hot plate of the stove.  However, I am not sure whether this is an actual memory or whether I only remember it because the story was retold to me many times. My poor, long-suffering Pa Carlson was in terrible trouble from Granny for being so negligent and I don't think he was ever forgiven for it.

I have another memory of being small and sitting in my highchair painting.  This I am sure is my first memory because nobody else was present to re-tell the story. (My mother had gone off to attend to Dalene, who was a small baby).  I would have been about 3 years old (quite big for a highchair).  I remember looking at my tumbler of water and realising that the water was too dirty needed to be changed.  I climbed out of my highchair and went to the fridge (the fridge because I could reach it) and not the taps because they were too high.  However, the fridge was on a stand and had a lever type handle which you had to pull (it was the "olden days" remember).  I tugged at the handle and the door would not budge, so I pulled harder (I was strong even then).  I remember the entire fridge tumbling down on top of me.  Lucky for me the door had opened and formed a V (so I was not crushed to death) but the sound was deafening and hundreds of bottles and jars and leftovers fell on top of me.  I don't remember much more of the incident.  I was uninjured and my mother was hysterical and cross with me.  ("Don't you ever do that again, Jennifer")

I remember my father having a scooter and taking me around the corner to nursery school (Mrs Goddard's nursery school in Rosebank) standing on the runner board of the scooter (how careless and dangerous Dad).  I remember the nursery school and the day they built the new wooden jungle gym.  The smell of the tar poles and stickiness of them when we touched them.  I remember horrible nannies forcing us to sleep on stretchers after lunch and throwing shoes at us if we moved or spoke.

I remember crying at my first day at Rosebank Junior School.  It was then a tiny school on the Common opposite the Rondebosch Cottage Hospital.   I remember that we used to have to walk to our classroom in Sub B which was at the orphanage down the road (now Teen Centre).  Miss Maarsh was my Sub B teacher and she was beautiful and had lovely nails.  There are certain events I remember from Junior School and then, of course, high schools memories are that much clearer.

I often wish that we could have clear dreams (that you would remember in colour and in full detail in the morning) of one full day in our past.  Which day would I choose?  When I was 5, 15 or 25?  As much as I would love to observe what I was like as an awkward 15 year old at "that school" on the Main Road and as much as I would love to re-run a day in my life when I had babies, I think I would choose to be 5 again. 

I would love to go back to our house in Rosebank, with the huge Morning Glory hedge and, visit the lovely wendy house called Jendal (that is what you called houses in those days) at the bottom of our back garden which Pa Carlson built and decorated for Dalene and I (with perfectly made-to-scale wooden furniture); wear the beautiful hand knitted dresses my Granny Housego used to make for me;  eat Granny Jonas's condensed milk cocunut cookies until I was sick;  slide up and down the railings of the 15 steps going down from the road to our house (I had the shiney pole in the sun and Dalene the rusty one on the shady side - big sisters had priviledges in those days); sit on the toilet (seat down) and watch my mother putting on her make-up before getting ready to go out but most of all I would love to stand on the runner board of my Dad's scooter while he took me for a ride.  Feeling safe and protected standing between his very hairy blonde-haired arms.  I would feel the wind blow my long hair all around my face and even into my mouth.  I would get to school and smell the Old Spice from his face on my hair the whole day.  And everything was good.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

dear miranda

Photo - Donald Leetch

Dear Miranda

I loved your article "I have lived over half my life" published in The Observer on 14 August 2011. I, now aged 52 - 8 whole years older than you, would never have, in the past, have had the audacity to write this letter to you.  The reason I feel the need to write, is firstly, to compliment you on the article.  I have started writing a book, which I have been struggling with, and also write a daily blog.  I know how important and encouraging feedback can be.  You write so well and are so wise. Secondly, because around 10 years ago, I felt almost exactly as you do now.

My 30th birthday was quite an emotional time for me. I felt sad to leave my 20's.  I was a mother of 3 young sons, and whilst half of me wanted to go wild and celebrate with my cleverer, more worldly, more wealthy friends and the other half realised that I should now be more responsible as I was now a mother.  Many of my friends and my sister had not started their families yet and I felt isolated and alone at times.  The entire decade of my 30's was a roller coaster ride with many ups and unfortunately downs as well.  Trying to be the best mother I could be, immersing myself in my children and their school lives and doing all the things that I wished that my mother was able to do but never did because her circumstances were different.  I was the class rep for their junior classes. I organised outings and was the secretary on the PTA. Don't get me wrong, I loved doing what I was doing.  I made wonderful friends with other moms and our afternoons were full.   Many of "the husbands" were similar, there for the glory and the sporting stuff but not the day to day stuff. "Hobby Dads" I remember one friend calling them. Of course there were single mothers who I admired for the job they were doing but I never wanted to be in that position because I knew how hard it had been for my mother. I tried very hard to paint the perfect picture of a perfect marriage with perfect children but inside I was crumbling.

My 40th birthday party was for all my lady friends, and because I was in a bad space as far as my marriage was concerned, I thought it was best that I share the evening with my old school friends and the many new friends I had made through my sons. Within 2 weeks of my 40th birthday I left my husband and my home with my 3 sons and moved into a friend's small flat and started divorce proceedings. 

So, like you, but for different reasons my 40's became a time of reflection, of concern about what had happened to the free spirit I used to be while at the same time trying to find the energy to start re-building my life. I, too, started worrying (and losing sleep) over things that had never worried me before, of dying and what would happen to my children, of the financial hole that I was caught in and, of course, of now being "middle aged" and having "lived half my life".

I can almost pinpoint the exact date, soon after I had turned 45 that I started rediscovering myself.  I am not sure if it was because I was now the divorced, single mother that friends started turning to me for advice and support and, for once, the focus was off me and my problems.  Friends, who in my 30's, I had envied because they had wonderful houses (with gardens) in the right areas, fancy 4X4 cars, overseas skiing holidays and husbands with high powered jobs. Little did I know then just how unhappy some of these friends were. I became the brave warrior even although I was no such thing. I did what I had to do and the time was right. I did not want to be brave although I often pretended to be.  The fact that at around 46, I fell in love with an older, wonderful caring man was probably also a huge factor in my new found happiness.

Your husband is right, Miranda.  If I could give you any advice now it would be to keep doing exactly what you are doing. Don't put any financial pressure on yourselves or your marriage. Your children are only too happy to have parents who are happy to be together and who love each other and them.  It does not matter where they live. Use any extra money to take them to music concerts, on holidays, not necessarily expensive holidays but spend quality time with them making memories. The park is as wonderful a playground as their own garden.

Don't be scared of waking up in 10 years time, when you turn 54, feeling the way you do now. Don't be scared. Don't be frightened. You will achieve what you want and find a way of balancing working and mothering.

Turning 50 is wonderful. My 50th birthday was big party where I invited everyone who was important to me.   I spoke, my sons spoke, my friends danced for me.  We drank fancy cocktails.  It was a great night.  I was surrounded and protected by my family and friends. 

Your family are always there for you and I have learned to never neglect my friends.  Like you, I too lost a special friend who died too young. More than likely you will lose a parent too, as I did.  You will hurt for your children when their hearts are broken and cry with your friends when they become sick or face a crisis. I have become more spiritual and less materialistic.

You will feel loss when your uterus no longer functions as it used to but you will find a way to get through "the  menopause".  You will not be alone. We are so lucky to have been able to have children and to watch them grow. The 50's has liberated me in a way that I feel that I can express myself better, I tell my family and friends that I love them and try to be as kind as I can be.

You seem to have so many funny and clever friends who are there to advise and support you. I thoroughly agree with Phillipa - forget about all the "if only's" and live and enjoy each day.  You have music in your life to keep you young.  We learn so much from music and the joy of sharing it.  Only last month I went on a road trip with my sons.  They quickly removed my old cd's from the cd shuttle and introduced me to Frightened Rabbit and Fleet Foxes.  It was a long trip and we reminisced about when I took them to their first concert, Counting Crows, the wonder of listening to Dire Straits at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005 and just listening in a sad silence to Bob Dylan, Jim Croce and Cat Stevens.

I am going to look out for the book, The Death of Ivan Ilyich when I am next at the bookshop - I have never heard of it before.   I would love to get to meet Oliver James, share a bottle of wine with him and listen to his philosophy of life. I would also love to sit on the pavement with you after a night out "talking rubbish" because I know we would have much in common (and not necessarily "constellations").

I hope that this does not sound like that silly "Wear Sunscreen" song (on re-reading it, it does)but your article really touched me.  We cannot spend energy worrying about what the second half of our life is going to be like and when we are going to die. You are spot on:-

"These are the days of our lives, let's live them!!"

I will keep looking out for your articles in The Observer, online, from Cape Town, South Africa. It is comforting to know that we, woman, wives and mothers, are never alone and we all have the same fears and dreams.

Take care

Friday, 19 August 2011

sorry, some homework for friday

Nicholas forwarded the article below to me earlier in the week to read.  His email to me was brief "mid-life crisis and dying - well written".  (We don't use capital letters when we "speak" to each other).  His message was clear, concise and mystical enough to make me read it straight away. Now I am passing it on to for homework tonight (sorry it is Friday, I know).   I was moved enough to sit up on Tuesday night write a reply to Miranda.  She, however, has not yet replied to my email and letter (hopefully she will).  

As much as this article hit home on so many fronts what has lifted my spirits is the fact that Nic could read an article like this, identify with it and get me to read it because he knew it would strike a cord.

Here it is:-

'I have lived over half of my life'

Writer Miranda Sawyer on the quiet desperation of a midlife crisis…
Miranda Sawyer 
I don't know what to call it, really. Midlife crisis sounds so flamboyant, so ridiculous, so… exciting. And I haven't run off with a builder, or moved to Thailand to find my real self, or embarked on a brand-new drug habit, or taken up free rock climbing. I've just become aware, at 44, that I'm about halfway through. That there is less time to go than I have already had. This, I have to say, feels different from turning 40. That was fun: I had a party with two friends, danced a lot, drank a lot, sat on the pavement afterwards talking rubbish about constellations while waiting for a cab. To be honest, turning 40 was much like when I turned 30, though I felt a bit more grown-up (meaning I drank fizzy wine and said, "No thanks", as opposed to "Hooray", when a stranger tried to shove an unidentified pill into my mouth). There was a moment of panic, a short-breathed time when I wondered what I had done with the previous 10 years, but then I went to see Jarvis Cocker at the Roundhouse. He was fantastic, and I thought: "He's older than you, you idiot, so what's your problem?" And resolved that my 40s would be my best decade yet.
And then, and then… what? I had my second child at 43, which made me feel simultaneously young and old, and I carried on as I usually did, and gradually, gradually, I realised that something inside me was uneasy. I was struggling a little. Mourning a bit. I felt like I had the wrong coat on – too hot, too heavy – and I felt like something beautiful was rushing at me, moving past and around me at breakneck speed, and I couldn't gather it in and I didn't want to see it go. It's not important, I know that. It doesn't matter. But at some point soon, along with many of my friends, I will pass an unmarked, uncelebrated central life point. You turn 40, and if you're healthy, and optimistic, you imagine you will have more than 40 years to go. Get into your mid-40s, and past that… and you know you don't. Say it again. Try to comprehend it. I have lived over half of my life.

Hey ho, the midlife crisis. It's a Jeremy Clarkson state of mind. I always imagine Clarkson to be in a fugue state of midlife crisis: scrabbling forever in a heart-palpitating search for flashier cars to drive, younger women to hang out with, weaker people to bully, just because he doesn't want to admit that he's not only over 25, but over 50. Is that what I'm becoming? No, because it's not what Clarkson is either. He shows the world what he wants it to see. He shows it the crisis and makes it funny. But, like the difference between a wedding (the gaudy manifestation) and a marriage (the everyday reality) with a midlife crisis it's not the crisis that matters. The crisis is just the bit that other people witness. What's actually important is the midlife part, and living with that.

On the Today programme I hear Simon Armitage read his poem Knowing What We Know Now. It's about a man, Kevin, who is visited by an elf. The elf tells Kevin that, at 44, he's reached the midpoint of his life and he has a choice: he can carry on living as normal, until his death at 88 – or the elf can turn the clock back and Kevin will live the rest of his years in reverse. Reliving what he's done so far, getting younger all the time, until he dies a newborn baby.

I phone Simon, who is 48. "When you write a poem," he says, "you don't always know what's provoking it until it's finished. But you don't need to be a psychoanalyst to guess that I'm in that slot that the elf's describing and, if I'm honest, I thought that point would never come. Just in terms of the privilege of being alive, there's less of it available and it feels abrupt when you realise it." We talk about how strange it is when people around you develop grown-up illnesses – slipped discs, cancer – and about whether we should do things to try to recapture our youth. "Maybe not recapture it," he says, "but when you're young, you don't have a plan, and there's probably some value in approaching the future like that when you're older. Even though getting older makes you think you need a plan. You have to stay awake to possibilities. The crisis is a recalibration," says Simon. "It's not necessarily a comedic performance."

Perhaps part of my midlife angst is caused by my liking pop music. Should I, in my 40s, be allowed to write about an art form that is traditionally aimed at the young? I thought I would have been pensioned off by now; but I'm still asked to interview musicians, and I'm still interested. Music critic Paul Morley once told me that he thought he should retire in his 30s, and did, in fact, for a few years. But then he saw that none of his contemporaries had, so he thought: "Sod it", and returned to the fray. Simon loves music, too – so much that he formed his own band, the Scaremongers, a few years ago – and he says this: "You could say we've slightly kidded ourselves. We're the Peter Pan generation, and I think music is partly to blame. We watched older generations put music aside and start doing serious things, and we didn't – we unashamedly stayed very close to it. So we have some sense that we're still part of it and therefore young and trendy and knowledgeable. But there's a discrepancy between what we think we are and the way we actually look. Hence forming a band aged 44!"

That discrepancy is interesting, I think. I don't lie about how old I am (why would you, really? Anyhow, your kids always announce it to the world), but whatever age you are brings assumptions with it. People think you are a certain way because you are a certain age: a stroppy teenager, an adventurous 20-something, a person who should settle down in their 30s and so on. I talk to my friend Sam, who is in his early 60s, and he says that he is happier now than he has ever been, but that people who don't know him think he can't be, and treat him accordingly. "Which is extremely dull," he says. Sam is never dull. Maybe that's it. I'm making assumptions about my 40-something self that aren't true and don't fit, and that's part of my unease.
I have a conversation with my husband. He says: "We can't afford it" over and over, and: "Don't be mad."
I am 44 and becoming obsessed with buying a house (we live in a nice flat, but it has no garden). My husband is pointing out, veeerrryy slowly, as if to a simpleton, that this would involve us trebling our current mortgage. As both of us are freelance and working in industries that pay less than they used to, this is a stupid idea. "We'd both have to work our nuts off; we'd never see each other, or the kids," he says. And I think: if we were a decade younger, we could move, because we'd have 10 more years to pay off the loan. Oh no! I have got too old to have a garden!

I try to think like my husband. Why do we need a garden? We spend all our time in the park with the kids anyway: since when was I so tediously materialistic? Why am I flipping through interior mags and longing for a warehouse to convert? It's not as though our flat is a contender for Elle Deco. I clearly don't really care about the exquisiteness of my surrounding environment or I would have hung up those pictures months ago.
My midlife uncertainty is making me clutch at the attitudes and concerns that I think 40-somethings should have. It makes me look at how I live and think: You're not doing it right. You should have achieved more. You should be better at this by now – or you should be somewhere better, at least.

Ach. I have caught affluenza! So I talk to Oliver James, who coined the term and wrote a book about it. He is refreshingly brusque, telling me to "cut the crap" and to "concentrate on looking downwards rather than upwards. The media encourages us to always feed our aspirations, to look at people who have more than we have, when we should look at people who have less and feel lucky."  But it's not just the media. The recession is bringing money worries to the surface. People are losing their jobs, and those in work are working harder than they used to in order to earn the same amount. It's like running as hard as you can just to keep in the same spot. You've been told all your life that you need to progress, but the credit crunch makes that impossible. "Think back to when you were a student," says Oliver. "Imagine how your teenage self would feel about what you have now. You would be delighted to have all the amenities you have."
Actually, I tell him, I think my student self would sneer. When I was young, I relished knowing that everything I owned would fit into two black bin bags, that life was portable and I was free. And now, though I appear to be jonesing for a patio, if I'm honest I don't even understand how I became the co-owner of a fridge freezer. How I acquired all this… stuff. Responsibilities. An estate car. "Yes, well, a lot of people have a problem with understanding that they are no longer a teenager," Oliver says. "Especially if they have children. It takes time to get your head around the fact that you can't spend your life as you used to, that you can't go out and party whenever you like. You're no longer a free agent. And it's important to understand the difference between being childlike and being childish. Be playful and vivacious, but lose the teenage fantasy that you don't depend on anyone and they don't depend on you."  Or you really will run off with someone younger, someone less wrapped around and through your life than your husband. And I don't want to.
What do I want my midlife to be like? What about the rest of my life, that diminishing resource? I try to think, but I'm so often distracted: by working to deadlines, by going out, but especially by my children. They are young, so they are fun but relentless. That unremitting routine that kids need: up at the same time, bed at the same time, breakfast, dinner, tea, every day every day. It makes life pass so quickly, and that makes me panic.

I don't want to wake up in 10 years' time, when I'm 54, and feel the same way I do now. I'm scared of that. I'm frightened. Because I only have 20 years of working life left, and I have to combine those years with bringing up my kids. There is no way I can achieve what I want. Whatever that is (I don't know).
Simon Armitage says to me: "You grow up with the sense that the best years are ahead of you, and in your mid-40s that becomes questionable. You wonder whether you've peaked on all sorts of levels, certainly in terms of income and output. For writers, poets, the clear evidence is that the majority do their best work when they're young. Why is that? Do you just get fed up? Frustrated or bored? I don't feel those things."

Psychotherapist Philippa Perry gave a talk at the ICA earlier this year, entitled "How To Be Happy". I email her and say that I feel as though I'm at the top of a mountain and it's downhill from now on. She replies that this isn't a very helpful metaphor, that I should try changing it. "Habits of thinking get more ingrained as we think them more," she writes. "Literally: neural pathways get more established. But habits of thinking can be changed. Your brain remains plastic throughout your life. That means it's never too late to learn new things, thus giving yourself new experiences. "When people torment themselves with: 'If only I had… or if only I were…'," she writes, "I like to bring them to their actual felt experience of being alive in the present. People can suddenly find themselves alone, or jobless, at midlife and panic that they need another person or job in order to be alive. But that is only an idea. I like to keep things experience-based rather than idea-based. When they really experience the different relationships and occupations they actually have, they find that they are thriving."

I'm trying to remember the title of a book. Oliver James told me that Tolstoy wrote a brilliant book about a man going through a midlife crisis, but I can't read my notes. I go on Twitter and ask if anyone knows what it might be. Ed Simons from the Chemical Brothers, among others, tells me it's The Death of Ivan Ilyich: about a man who, at 45, has a minor accident which kills him over a period of weeks. While he's dying, he realises that throughout his life he's been trying to avoid the notion of death through his obsessions with status, appearance and money.

Ed also sends me a link to a discussion of Ivan Ilyich in another book called Staring at the Sun by psychotherapist Irvin Yalom. Yalom argues that we need to be properly conscious that we are going to die in order to live meaningful, purposeful lives. Too many of us believe we are special, that we will somehow cheat death, or that there is an afterlife, or that our "immortality projects" matter more than, for instance, spending time with our family.

Online, I find an interview with Yalom. He's 65 and says that he doesn't have unlimited years left so he tries not to do anything that feels repetitious. He's changed his work (from teaching to writing), he turns down lunch invitations "from a lot of people that I just don't want to be with", and he's very tender to his wife. None of which stops him from waking up in a state of dread at the thought of dying. "It's harder for me to dispel the anxiety at night. Whereas when I think about it later on, when I wake up in the morning, then I do experience real joy at being alive."

The Observer sends a photographer to take my picture, and she comments on my tattoo. "Who's Gavin?" she asks. It stops me in my tracks. Gavin is – was – Gavin Hills, a friend and fellow journalist who worked at The Face during the 1990s, at the same time I did. He drowned off the coast of Cornwall on 20 May 1997, three days after his 31st birthday. When I got the tattoo, soon after, I almost laughed: the pain of it was so minor compared to the appalling, churning gut-wrench of his sudden death. Gavin never had any problem with a midlife crisis. He didn't live long enough.  I think: you can live until you're 31, like Gavin. You can live until you're 101, like my granny. You can live three score years and 10; or less, or more. My midlife point could have been when I was 24, not 44. I don't know.

But: how lucky to have lasted so long! To have lived long enough to have the luxury of contemplating – of properly fearing – your own death. Rather than it just arrive too early for you to do what you wanted, for you to appreciate what you have, to enjoy the wonder, and the love, and the panic.

Midlife or not, in the end, or in the middle, these are the days of my life. These are the days of your life. And the thing to do – is live them.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow I will post my reply for you to read.  Not often I am moved enough to write a long letter in reply to something I have read and perhaps she will never get it but I will let you read it tomorrow.