A new life at 67.Can a woman start all over again?

Archive for November, 2007

Men in the Kitchen

Tomorrow is one of the highlights in my year.

The Cookery Club will hold it’s Annual Dinner.

Nothing blinding in that perhaps,except the Cookery Club is solely for men,and tomorrow their wives or partners are invited to sample what they cook.

My husband doesn’t really like to cook, he prefers the eating part of it, but he does know how, which enables me to take off to far away places now and again.

I don’t really know why he started. Maybe his Mother thought it was an added precaution when he decided to marry an Englishwoman. It was well before Jamie Oliver, and we did have a bit of a bad reputation at that time.

The Club meet in the Secondary Schools’ kitchen once a month. Four tables each with four men. The members at each table represent a certain “species” in our small town.
So there is a table with four council members, four teachers, four from the medical profession, and the last is not categorised but is generally made up of notorious citizens. My husband works on the last.

We women always enjoy the meal,which the men have usually spent more time in planning than cooking. But then the whole thing has more to do with sociability than cooking, as the choosing (and sampling) of the fitting wine does play an important role for them.

For us the washing up is the real eyeopener. Each table has it’s own sink and cooker,but no washing up machine.

We certainly love to sit back at the end of the meal and watch them go about clearing the mess up.

What is interesting of course is the way the different groups go about it all.

For the politicians the order of importance is never the same as the logical thinking of the everyday housewife.

The small things and detail seem to come first for the medics.

The uncategorised and notorious are sitting down with their wives almost before the others have started.

But it’s the schoolteachers that are the sad and sorrowful bunch. They are just never finished, probably because they don’t seem to know how to start. Considering they have all been practising for many years they really should be better.

Of course the last group might be writing a thesis on it.But I know which group I would like in my kitchen.

I don’t mind the cooking,in fact I love it at times-providing I can find somebody to clean up after me, and believe me I do tend to make rather a mess.

On the Goddesses and Giants of the Seas

“May God bless this ship,and all who sail in her”

The families of my parents lived in and around Portsmouth, in England. I suppose I grew up with salt water in my nose. I was born under Pisces which might too have had some influence for my love and respect for the seas.

As a child I would stand on the shingle beach near my Grandmothers house and watch them steaming up and down the Solent. I knew them all,-the old dames of the Cunard Line,”The United States”, and the beautiful “France ”

I knew which held the Blue Riband, and I dreamed of the day when I would sail in one.

My first real encounter with such a ship was when my Fathers’ big brother Jim went back to Cape Town on the “Union Castle”. POSH it was in those days, PortOut, StarboardHome. The position of the sun in relation to the cabin was particularly important on that route. No air conditioned cabins then.
We were invited on board for lunch which impressed me incredibly, almost as much as when I saw how Uncle Jim ripped a bank note of the size I had never set eyes on before in half and gave one bit to their Steward,with the words that the other half would come in Cape Town if they were satisfied.
They played Gracie Fields’ “Now is the hour” as the streamer bedecked liner sailed out of Southampton,and if there were any eyes not wet with tears before there certainly weren’t after. Why they always played music that made the occasion worse than it already was I never could quite understand.The Germans did it too,there you got “Muss idenn” which is almost as bad.

I had to wait till I was twentyfive before my dream came true. Then I stood on the deck of Italy’s pride, the “Raffaelo”

and looked down at the quay in Genoa on my way to New York. I never got to sail out of Southampton.

Like many things the days of those magnificent passenger ships are gone. There are now “cruise” ships and the latest left dry dock in Turku ,Finland a few days ago. It is called the “Independence of the Seas”, belongs to the Royal Caribbean International Line. It will be “Christened” at it’s base in Southampton next May.

The “Independence”will be the largest cruiser with a home port in Europe. She will fly the Bahamian Flag,and will be one of the three biggest cruise ships of the day.
A few facts:

– Stood on it’s bug with her 339 meters in length, the “Indepedence”would be taller than the Chrysler Building in NYC (319m) and the Eiffel Tower (300m)

-With her 56m width she is broader than The White House is long (51m)

-She weighs 158,000 tons

-The ships theater can seat 1350 people

-The fitness center only has one boxing ring,but that can fit into it 62 times.

-The Royal Promenade in the center of the ship is longer than a football field

-Passengers will be able to ride their surf boards hundreds of miles out to sea on a10m wide and12m long Surf Simulator with a wavelike water current functioning with a capacity of 129,000 liters of water/min.

-Unfortunately the ice rink stadium only seats 760 people

-It has 15 passenger decks,with 14 lifts

-It travels at 21.6 knots.

-The “Independence” carries 4375 passengers,and has a crew of1360.

It is small compared to the next ship that has already been ordered at the Aker-Finnyards Wharf and which should be sea worthy in 2009.

My Little Friend Kobi

Yesterday was Kobis’ Birthday. No that’s not quite true, his Birthday was actually on Monday the 19th, but he celebrated it yesterday because his Agenda was already full.

It was a special Birthday for him and we felt honoured to be invited. You see Kobi is our neighbour and he is now one year old.

Kobi isn’t his proper name of course,his name is Jakob, but somehow it doesn’t fit into these times and he now answers to Kobi for short, or Kobili, as the Swiss like to put li on the end of words to form the diminutive.

Other friends had been invited of his own age group,the youngest was six monthes old and twice as heavy.But it seemed Kobi preferred older friends who would pick his little toys up when he threw them down. He always rewarded them with a joyous squeak,and the smile of a heartbreaker in the making.

It took me back a good thirty years to when Kobis’ Mother and Uncle were sat on the floor at our house picking things up and eating some of our first one year olds’ Birthday Cake.

How time goes by, it seemed like yesterday.

What will the future hold for Kobi.?

Alas,regardless of their doom,

The little victims play!

No sense have they of ills to come,

No care beyond today.

Thomas Gray; 1716-71 -Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eaton College (1747)

Prinsengracht 263, last home of Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank

Amsterdam, 23 February 1944

“From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare Chestnut tree on whose branches little raindrops shine,appearing like silver,and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.

As long as this exists I thought and I may live to see it,this sunshine,the cloudless skies,while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”


The fourteen year old Jewish girl wrote these words in her now world famous diary. Daily she would look out of the attic window in the Prinsengracht.It was the only one that wasn’t blacked out in the tiny warehouse hiding place of her family and four friends, on to the Chestnut tree. It gave her strength through the twenty five monthes confinement during the German occupation of the Netherlands by just being there.

Anne would look at it and note the changing foliage from season to season.
It was bare when they came for her in February 1945.

She died early March of Typhoid Fever in the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, a few days after her sister. She was fifteen.

The Chestnut tree lived, and is still there so many years after. But it was sentenced to die on the 21st of November 2007. Some experts said it was old and sick and couldn’t be saved. Others said it could but they had little weight in the matter.

I don’t know what has happened to Anne’s tree.

Photo:Peter Dejong

Do you want to learn to Ski?

I got my first introduction to the joys of skiing outside of Charring Cross station in London. Invariably one doesn’t live next door to a ski lift so it means transporting whatever you may need with you, and believe me you are going to need a lot.

On that cold February morning I was waiting with a case full of warm clothes for my fellow travellers.

I had seen an ad. in a London evening paper about a holiday in Leysin in Switzerland, organised by an army ski instructor.It was cheap,- and that was the first priority for students like myself,- so I toddled along to the orientation meeting.

We were to travel in a mini bus and stay two weeks at the Club Vagabond,which as I learned later said all.

I happened to be sitting next to a young woman teacher, who unlike the rest of us had her own car and was willing to drive it, as the trip with the mini bus had proved to be very much in demand. Being a nice sort of person who also tends to like comfort I offered to go with her, and it wouldn’t have been England if two Gentleman hadn’t insisted on accompanying us. To protect us from the Heathens en route of course.

So there I was waiting apprehensively for I had never been skiing before.
The car proved to be an old Ford Anglia! There were already three pairs of skis fastened the wrong way round on the roof.

This is the first problem with packing for a ski holiday,the ski and sticks have to be fastened to the car roof so that;

a) It doesn’t take off on the motorway

b) By a sudden stop the points don’t go through the rear window of the vehicle in front.

c) They are not scattered along the way causing devastation without you even realising it.

Nowadays there are of course good ski racks, but they don’t entirely eliminate the problems.

In the boot of the Anglia was of course already the luggage and ski shoes of the other three. How the hell was I supposed to get mine in.

Naturally everything had to come out and we had to figure a way of fitting it all back in again.

This is the second problem when going on a ski holiday, it involves taking a load of stuff with you. This problem increases of course if children are with you. Then you will also need to pack their sledge or (help) sledges,along with everything else from ice skates to diving gear for the indoor swimming pool. My husband drove a stationwagon for years because of winter holidays.

Much later the four of us, plus a guitar,were packed tight in the little Anglia and off to the Continent. We were of course later than scheduled and because of the heavy traffic in the Blackwall tunnel missed the car ferry at Dover and the mini bus which we should have been following to Switzerland. It was the start of quite an adventure.
It was the beginning of my skiing career.

My advice to anybody considering starting too, is, unless you can live with the unexpected, the discomforts, the wet, the cold, the pain and the expense

DON’T

Divas

I like lots of animals,domestic and otherwise.

I like dogs,providing they are not too big and slobber all over me.

I think I like cats more, so elusive.

But my absolute favourite animal is a CAMEL.

It certainly isn’t my favourite to ride, and they usually smell pretty bad. But they are so haughty and disdainful, ever-knowing and with a look wiser and older than the desert itself.

I thought I was probably the only person of non Bedouin blood to love camels, but I read today that the Swiss rock and blues singer Vera Kaa loves them too.

“I find them overwhelmingly elegant.” she says “So arrogant and zickig (Difficult to translate,-could be used to describe a certain U.S hoteliers daughter) can no Diva in the world look down her nose”

Oh I do so agree.

Snow and Sports in Switzerland

It snowed here last night,and this morning there is four centimeters of light snow on the last of the summer roses.

This is when we definitely know Autumn has gone and it is time for the thoughts of the Swiss in a certain age bracket to be centred on one thing, Winter Sport.

This love of snow starts at an early age. Babies who can barely sit in a push chair are parcelled on to a “Davoser”and to their usual delight pulled through the snow masses . Later they get to slide down the next hills on them .

Midday meals will be late or burnt at the weekend because Mum and Dad have to watch the televised ski races,at least until all the top placed Austrians are down.

Children will be given skis for Christmas with the idea if they can walk they can ski.

Newspapers will be full of pictures and articles on the Ski Stars, and answers to why our neighbours won again.

At weekends roads to the mountains will have traffic jams miles long,and in January the mass exodus will begin with the two week school sports holiday,which depending on where you live goes on till March.

Mountain sport is an expensive business,especially with growing children. Nothing fits from one season to another,and skis and boots have to be continually exchanged.

In large families the” hand-me-down ” principle works. Most areas organise Sport Banks where you can bring unwanted clothes and equipment and usually find bargains for the coming winter.

Schools organise Ski Camps in the mountains for children who can’t for some reason have winter holidays with their parents. There is hardly a Swiss child that cannot ski,or at least snow board.

In the south of England we hardly had snow in Winter,and if we did there was total chaos everywhere so I grew up with the idea it was just nice to have at Christmas.

Then I settled down in Switzerland.

My attitude to snow had to change, and I soon saw that you can’t beat them so you had better join them.

I will keep you posted on how I suffered .

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