On my soap box – into week 3

I’m am using this platform to vent and what a perfect platform it is (and really my only one). Maybe it is because we are going to the third week of lockdown and my moods seem to be taking on a life of their own, roller coasting between irritation, acceptance, depression, anger, frustration and tolerance. As I am sure every other person in the world is also feeling – so I am not unique by any manner of means.

Vent 1

Twitter comment “I’m not allowed to walk my dog in a deserted street, but taxis are allowed to load their vehicles with 50% of their normal capacity – not fair” #lockdownSA

Ok  mister twitterer.  You are fortunate to live on a street that can be deserted.  You have a dog. You have a home.  And you more than likely have your own vehicle parked in your garage. Hundreds of thousands do not have this privilege in South Africa and those people who are using these taxis, are your check out staff where you can drive to buy your essential goods. Or maybe the nurse at the hospital.  Or the guys collecting your refuse weekly. They live in overpopulated townships, miles away from their workplace and no option but to catch that taxi, because if you got to your local Pick n Pay to find no one at work then imagine your irritation then.  I am sure they would also rather stay safely at home than risk their own health daily to serve you.

Get a hold of yourself and consider yourself fortunate.

Vent 2

Another common complaint in South Africa. No alcohol, cigarettes or non essential items can be sold at the shopping outlets.  I am sure the government did not sit down and think okay how can we make life as difficult as possible for our citizens.  Maybe just maybe they feel you should be saving your money for really essential items like food, for who knows when your next paycheck is going to be.  It has taken a while for this virus to filter down to the southern tip of Africa and by implementing these really stringent restrictions is the right way to ensure that it does not get a foothold with the resultant thousands of deaths.

Get a hold of yourself and consider yourself fortunate.

Vent 3

People complaining about their situations, when they have a roof over their heads and food on their plates and money in the bank. Wanting life to be normal.  Well life is not normal for any of us, and who knows how long it is going to be until it is.  Life is what we now make it.  It is up to each of us individuals to take responsibility for ourselves, for our own mental well being.  Stop blaming others.  Even though there are restrictive laws in place, you can make your own new normal.

Get a hold of yourself and consider yourself fortunate.

Create your own new normal!

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Rambling into week 2 …….

We have completed our first week of total lockdown and the novelty, if you can call it that, has worn off.  We, the Kylesku family, must be the most well looked after staff anywhere in the world, with meal time get togethers and chefs cooking for us twice daily, basic chores still needing to get done to keep the hotel at a ready for when the green light gets given to reopen, still with a roof over our heads and the management following up on all avenues on how we can still get some form of remuneration during these undecided, uncertain times. Definitely fall into the category of the more fortunate.  And I am rambling.

Yesterday I just did not feel like peopling, and was able to stay in my little hole, dvd’s playing, only venturing out for meal times.  I am eternally grateful being one of the more fortunate. I can still venture outdoors for a run in what can only be one of the most beautiful corners of this globe, where the only lifeform I encounter are the local sheep.  It is always quiet here, but now it is eerily so. This quietness was disturbed this morning by the arrival of a flock of geese who are pre-empting the arrival of spring.  And I feel guilty doing this as I know friends and family around the globe are  not allowed to venture out of their own domain. And I am rambling.

Life as we know it has changed – and I have my doubts that we will ever return to the way it was.  I worry.  Even though I know it is useless to do so as this hidden enemy of the world has an agenda of its own and there is nothing that I personally can do that will change its course. I worry about my children, who are on the other side of the world from me and right now in this point in time, I am not able get back to be with them. I worry about what is happening back in my other home in South Africa, the lack of resources, the economy taking another hit to the groin, the uneducated not understanding the full impact of this virus.  Trying hard not to overthink and sink into a depression, to stay positive  – I am one of the fortunate ones.  Hoping that when I awake in the morning that this is all just a bad dream ….. no, a nightmare.  And I am rambling.

Trying hard to stick to a routine.  Humans are creatures of habit and know that in a crisis, routine and habit can be a life saviour. Knowing that the human race has survived far worse for much longer periods of time, we’ve only been in lockdown for a week after all.  On reading various articles, where we are told not to read too much about news, but at the same time social media is a much needed platform to remain sane, where social distancing are the new buzz words. Using this outlet, my blog, to keep my sanity.  To basically give myself my own therapy by airing my concerns, if not for anyone but myself.  And I am rambling.

But by rambling I am off loading my concerns.  Taking each day as it comes and making the most of this enforced down time.  Not to feel guilty when I am out running, or hibernating in my room.  These are my own survival mechanisms.  And each individual will develop their own. And we will come out stronger at the other side of this.

We are survivors.

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Adventures during lockdown

I look up, the sky is crystal clear, a dark moonless night but at the same time filled with never ending stars. It is 1 am, there is not a soul around to disturb my musings.

Earlier in the evening it had been announced that all hospitality outlets in the United Kingdom are to closed with immediate effect.  We, the Kylesku family, are the fortunate ones.  For the enforced lockdown, there are 25 of us, all fit and healthy with no threat of the dreaded virus in our midst.  We have sufficient means to see us through the upcoming weeks and drink to our health and survival out in this remote little corner of the Scottish Highlands. We will play games, garden, write, entertain each other, while at the same time being well aware of what is transpiring in the ‘outside’ world. Our evening of merriment has an almost festive feel to it, but at the same time a feeling of underlying uncertainty.

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Corona virus – cheers !

Way too much alcohol is consumed and I feel that for me personally, it is time to call it a night. My recollection of the rest of the evening is as follows.

Walking haphazardly up the silent road towards my room, I decide to take a short stroll.  Seeing road markings I try and balance myself along the painted stripes – to no avail – to which I laugh quietly (I think) to myself.  Getting to the path way which leads away from any street lights, I ponder the possibility of seeing the northern lights on such a clear night and make my way up the uneven pathway into total darkness.  Getting through the first stile was no problem, stumbling further up the path and walking blind, I get to the second stile and some sanity prevails and I realise maybe not such a good idea to go any further.  This is when I look up and think how small we are, how insignificant in the bigger scheme of things, how uncertain every day is, how good life is. I talk to my loved ones watching over me from up above, more than likely with a shake of their heads.

Time to head back and I try and get my bearings, through the mist of a couple of bottles of wine, only to find myself falling headfirst into a hole. I untangle myself and think now might be a good time to use the torch on my phone, only to find it has fallen out my pocket somewhere amongst the overgrown heather.  A seriously sobering thought – my life is on that phone.  I try and feel around and realise this is a pointless exercise, as it is pitch black. Stumbling back down, getting caught in barbed wire fences along the way, I try and keep my footing and find the path and a look for possible identifying landmarks, to return to find my phone.

I eventually reached the road and trotted back to the hotel with an icy wind blowing my face sober, to get my headtorch. I make my way back, torch in hand.  I am not finding this so funny anymore.  My guardian angels must have been watching out for me, as it took me less than 5 minutes to find my phone caught up in a bramble and lying next to it my reading glasses which I did not even know had been lost as well.  I slept well that night.

My lesson from this adventure – and it was an adventure – is never go walking on the moors by yourself at 1 am in the morning when you are 2 sheets to the wind!

And this was Day 1 of the lockdown.

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The guilty but innocuous pathway in broad daylight

To Limbo …. Or To Life ?

The road is open, quite deserted actually.  Cloudy dark skies which match my mood.  Feeling dark and heavy and in a sort of limbo. It is very easy to socially distance yourself as per the government’s of the world suggestions,  in the remote Scottish Highlands.  Not knowing what is going to happen to life as we know it from hour to hour.  I am looking inward and need to get out.  Life is not definite.

I turn on my playlist and somehow it picks all the songs I need to lift my spirits.  Song after song, until I feel my mood lifting, together with the clouds, a bird is soaring the thermals above me as I wind my way through the heather clad rolling hills and still slightly snow capped mountains. One sound track that sits with me is the ever inspiring one from Fiddler on the Roof.

To Life. To life.  L’chaim!

Which got me thinking.  These abjectly poor people survived life in a pre-revolutionary Russia.  Mankind have survived world wars, plagues and worse.  We will survive this. We need to stop looking inward and imagining the worst, life goes on.  We are all fiddlers on the roof right now, balancing.

The universe has got tired, so is now forcing us to slow down.  Stop this frantic destructive living of instantaneous gratification, take stock of our lives, catch up and take a breath.  Mother nature is rejoicing and this slowing down is giving her a chance to heal.

As I am driving I can’t wait to get back and put my thoughts down on paper (or blog) . I have been to Ullapool for my fortnightly shop, with some of the food aisles emptied and the lines at the tills busier than I have ever seen.  Everyone surreptitiously eyeing each others’ baskets. All with the same thoughts on their minds.  I am hoping I am not being judged for the 4 squares of fudge  and Lindt chocolate bars that I have in my basket (my weakness) – no I am not stockpiling, that is what I need to get me through 2 weeks till my next shop.

Sitting here now, with a steaming cup of tea, in the hotel restaurant, which still has patrons.  Not everyone is hiding. Off over the loch, the mussel men are out servicing their mussel beds with the weather raging around them.  Life goes on. Just at a slower pace – so relax and enjoy.

So to hell with Limbo – I choose Life!

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Living in the back of beyond aka the “Gumadulas”

 

The “Gumadulas” – with the G pronounced with the guttural Afrikaans G. (Not found in any dictionary). And this is where I am now living – far from the birthplace of Afrikaans – which accordingly to my Scottish father,  is not a language but a dialect.  Being of Gaelic descent – his perception of what a language is, is questionable.  But this is not about my dad – this is about the pros and cons of living in the back of beyond.

The closest ‘decent’ shop is an hour drive away, which can be challenging when living day to day, so careful planning is required, but pennies are then saved as there are less opportunities to spend.  But enter amazon, which after sending to your shopping basket, delivery is just one click to payment and two days away.

As a newcomer to the area you soon find out there are so many people in the area who offer all services required, from hairdressers, delivery of fresh vegetables, free range eggs – the Scots are a versatile bunch.

Politics and world wide drama – somehow this is all on the periphery. With the worldwide panic about the coronavirus – we are aware of the possible repercussions and are adhering to the NHS guidelines – and here maybe I am being that eternal ostrich with my head in the sand and erring on the side of optimism – but don’t think it will affect us out here in the back of beyond – ditto terrorism and crime.

Entertainment – here it is slightly harder and one has to make your own as there are not an abundance of restaurants and coffee shops to pop into for a quick bite, no movie houses or theatres, but again if you keep your ear to the ground, there are music evenings planned in surrounding villages and who needs a movie house when you can buy the latest movie on DVD, delivered within 2 days, on line.

This helps you slow down and appreciate life as there is no instant gratification.  Cell phone signal and wifi is erratic – so bearing just this one point in mind – adds 100 pro points to the quality of life in the Gumadulas.  It gives you time – and with the old age adage – to smell the roses. There is a peace in living out here, with none of the fast paced rat race.  I have just been given a book to read called “The Kerracher Man” of a family who moved to the West Highlands to a croft, accessible either by boat or 1.5 mile foot path. Now they are really in the Gumadulas.

On moving here, I know family and friends, were concerned about how I would adjust to the remoteness and isolation.  There is no isolation, you have a choice to join in or not – the community spirit is strong. The harshness of the climate draws people together in a way I have not seen elsewhere. I will get my urban chaos fix when I visit loved ones, and with social media the world is really a very small place, but the Gumadulas will always be calling.

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Insomnia …..

The official definition of the word

/ɪnˈsɒmnɪə/ – noun – habitual sleeplessness; inability to sleep.

My definition

/@#$%&/ – swear word – the inability to turn the brain onto mute.

Why after sleeping like a baby – all of a sudden it is twisted sheets and desperation at ungodly hours of the night?

As a child when we complained that we couldn’t get to sleep, my dad used to sit at our beside and talk us through the process of letting your foot go to sleep and working your way up the body – invariably he never had to get further than the knees, but somehow as an adult this no longer seems to work. The brain kicks and fights against itself – it does not want to go to sleep.

I have also been advised to use reverse psychology – instead of lying there in angst trying to fall into dreamland,  lie there and be determined to stay awake.  But this gets boring and then the electronic device holds a pull and that, as we all know, would make any future ideas of sleep die a slow death.

But lying there in the wee dark hours one morning, with a tumultuous storm thrashing about outside, got me thinking.  How many beds have I lain in during my lifetime? Trying to run through my life and remember everywhere I have laid my head and then mentally teleporting myself to that actual bed – and eureka I was asleep!  It was quite an uncanny feeling of imagining oneself in the actual bed, the feel of the sheets, the noises outside, where the windows are, the doors, the colour of the curtains and literally feeling yourself lying physically in that bed again.

In typing this I realise that some beds you may not want to remember, so for the purpose of this exercise – don’t!

Have I unwittingly stumbled across a possible remedy for insomnia instead of the common counting of sheep?

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Lets talk about the weather ……..

Weather, global warming, climate change, carbon footprints – all catch phrases which are guaranteed to open up many a debate at dinner tables around the globe.

Starting a conversation about the weather has been used universally as an icebreaker – or to fill in an awkward silence – “So what about this weather?”

And this was brought starkly home yesterday whilst standing at the checkout at the local Tesco’s, where the opening gambit from the assistant was “Och today is a bonny one after the winds we have had the past week, isn’t it?”  I look outside, nod my head in agreement as there is a sliver of fleeting blue sky daring to show its face through the heavy snow laden clouds that are scudding crazily across the sky. “Oh yes, much better, not so much rain about either.” Behind me another customer was engaged in a long conversation in the soft lilting Scottish accent, expounding on how treacherous the last week had been.

The western shores of Scotland had been receiving a beating from the edges of 2 massive storms, Ciara and Denis.  Not sure when storms A and B hit, but have it from the horse’s mouths – local residents in the area for many years “we have never seen weather like this before!”  And from my short personal experience, the Scottish weather is not for the faint of heart.  The force of the rain, hail, sleet and wind bring an energy of their own which can be terrifying but at the same time totally invigorating.

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But there is a big difference between weather and climate – a lesson here for the President of the United States.  It is about a measure of time.  Weather is what conditions are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

Decades ago, back in sunny South Africa, we were being warned about skin cancer becoming more prevalent due to the hole in the ozone layer – and as naïve laymen were told one of the causes was from the use of spray deodorants.  As the years have passed, people as a whole are living on a more eco friendly basis and appears that the term “hole in the ozone layer” has morphed into global warming and carbon footprints.  Same difference.  Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about young Gretha – she is correct – the world is in trouble.

Even with the doom and gloom, we still need to go on with our everyday lives and this I see daily here in this remote corner of the highlands where the fishermen go out religiously, their little boats fighting the waves being whipped up by gale-force winds on the usually tranquil loch, dressed in their oilskins – which always seem to be yellow – beanies, wellies and thick gloves, braving nature and all that she throws at them.  We also – go about our daily business – but need to be mindful of the impact our lifestyles have on this amazing beautiful planet we call home.

Running in the Scottish Highlands

The rain is slashing down, the wind is howling causing massive waves to crash against the heathered shores of the usually tranquil loch and anything that is remotely loose is slating viciously, adding to the cacophony of sound that awakens me before my pre-set alarm goes off.  This is a signal enough to encourage a roll over and a deep snuggle under the blankets – there will be no early morning run that day. It was not meant to be.

Since my return back to the highlands after 2 months of lazy summer days around pool sides sipping never ending cocktails, I had decided to optimistically check the weather report each evening to gauge the likelihood of being able to get my endorphin fix the next morning.  And this morning the Highlands turned out in full force and put on a magical majestic show.

As I was jogging up the road, my only wish was to be able to capture the atmosphere and bottle it, Obviously, this was impossible so my blog started to form in my mind.

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It is cold, with the high crags of Quinag covered with winter snow, the air is crisp and clear after the lashings of rain from the day before, and the sun is just starting to shed a few rays of light over the silhouetted mountains. Not a soul in sight.  A seagull swoops overhead and calls, diving into the glass topped loch to catch an early breakfast. Up ahead a small flock of woolly sheep, with red and blue painted crosses on their backs, idly graze and amble without a worry in the world across the road to find slightly greener pastures. As I get closer, they keep their distance and watch me warily.

I look up and get a start, as there standing silently watching from a rocky outcrop are a herd of reindeer horned deer, they do not move knowing they are safe.  My heart feels full. It is at times like this that I wish I could carry a better camera with me as my phone just does not do the scene justice.

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Its is only my breathing in my ears and the footfall of my feet that seem to break the total silence that surrounds me. I stop to just breathe in the stillness and take in the majestic beauty around me, and to listen.  The sounds of the gently chewing sheep, the occasional call of a far-off seagull and in the distance, the sound of waterfalls which can be seen like never ending silver snakes meandering against the darkness of the surrounding rocks, finding their way into the cold waters of the loch below. Here the water shimmers and offers up mirror like reflections of the lightening sky above.

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I can almost feel the history of the area in my soul and my imagination starts going off on a tangent of its own, with images of Vikings and similar movie scenes from Braveheart and can now understand why my father yearned to come back to his homeland.

My musings are broken as I am forced to jump off the lonely empty road as a car comes careening around the bend, “why would anyone want to be in such a hurry when surrounded by so much beauty?” This is a sign that the normal world is awakening and time to head back home.  And I feel I am home.  I am content.

When you feel guilty even though you know you have done nothing wrong

I am not sure if it is just human nature and if everyone feels the same way or not, but what is that whenever I go through customs, airport security or even going through a speed trap I feel guilty, even though I know that I have done nothing wrong.  That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you get pulled over by the traffic cops.  It can’t be conscience as I have done nothing wrong and anally obey all the road rules.

But it is at the airport that this feeling really rears its ugly head – Every! Single! Time!  I consider myself a seasoned traveller and know exactly what I can or can’t take on board with me, the size and weight allowance of my hand luggage. Maybe it is that I have been profiled (not exactly sure what for) a few times on international flights and have been pulled aside to get searched more thoroughly, my hands dusted for reside of who knows what and all my electronic devices scanned under infra red lights – searching for residue again of who knows what.  I don’t think I look like a user or a drug mule of any type.  But my heart goes into my mouth each time – but I know that no one else has packed my bags for me and I am innocent.  So what am I scared they will find??

Also going through customs, I am legally allowed to travel on 2 passports (thank heavens – or actually thank you dad), but I have this sense of guilt when I swap my passports out after clearing SA customs.  Is it the inbred catholic upbringing and schooling where you are taught the wrath of god will come down on you for stepping out of line in any way?  Do others feel the same way?

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When you can’t see the wood for the trees

Wow – 2020 certainly has started off in everyone’s faces.

The pope slapping a believer, Trump starting WWIII, Australia is burning, another attack in Paris, mysterious disease in China killing hundreds, manhunt in Johannesburg for Melville killers and the swear word on South Africa “load shedding” taking place and it is only the 6th day of the year.

After having spent a few days with family on holiday where my brother-in-law is a conspiracy theorist – it got me thinking.  Are we all being fed news based on what big brother considers to be click bait for our own individual likes and dislikes. How do we get to see the wood through the trees. And ….. “Who is big brother?”  Around the dinner table with lots of friendly banter and frivolous conversation taking place, siri decided to have her two pennies worth with an answer to a question – without being asked!!!!. My phone had not been used or touched when she gave her opinion.  So who is listening and why?   and how? ……….

For me personally it doesn’t really bother me as my life is an open book and if someone wants to know where I am or what I am doing, it is really not that important in the bigger scheme of things as I have nothing to hide.  But how much of this information is being used to persuade us to think and behave in certain ways.  I remember many years back hearing how Coca Cola had paid to have nano second flashes of adverts in the middle of shows to subliminally persuade us to buy their product – whether this was true or not I don’t know. So what can we believe in the media that is force fed to us on a daily basis – what is true, what is not, who is telling the truth, who is lying.  How do we sort out the wood from the trees.

There is so much outrage at everything, so much anger, it seems that mankind is hell bent on destroying each other.  Me being the eternal optimist have believed that at the end of the day 95% of people, just want to have a roof over their head, food to eat, warm bed and a happy family. Which means that it is the 5% left that controls the world and all its oneupmanship, negativity and hatred. And “they” ( we always refer to them and they) are the ones who have an ulterior motive.

I want to tune out of this vicious cycle of negative news and energy. Driving in Johannesburg and complaining about the ever increasing number of potholes and the hazards it causes, my daughter commented, “at least our country is not on fire and our president hasn’t opened up a pandoras box in the Middle East, we can live with a few potholes”, which is true and I love her sentiment,  but what is happening in the world has an impact on all of us. I want to be able to see through all the bullshit, read between the lines. Working hard at trying to see the wood through the trees!

“…and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
― Herman Melville – Moby Dick 

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