( I always try not to use real names in my blog, but for this entry, I must. It pays homage to a Grand Old Dame, one who will live on in the hearts of many people. I cannot write from a perspective of knowing many of the other family members, so the fact that I reference only a few is simply because they are who I know.)
There are legends, and then there are legends. I’m not talking about people like dead presidents, imaginary superheroes that stop the world imploding, or people that started some kind of revolution that brought about a type of good in the world.
I’m talking about regular people that have more life experience than many of us could ever hope to have. One such person is Sylvia Palmer aka Shelagh-Rose’s Granny. I also called her Granny. Aunty Sylvia always sounded wrong to me. She passed away in the early hours of this morning at the ripe old age of 100 years, 8 months and 12 days. How many people to you know are even close to that age?
Shelagh-Rose and I have been friends for thirty-one years already, and through it all, Granny had always been there, guiding her. The bond they had was a close one; something incredibly special and in today’s day and age, extremely hard to find.
What never struck me growing up, is that my maternal side of the family knew the Palmers, so my friendship with Shelagh-Rose is more deep-rooted than I knew. I like to think destined.
My Aunty Cathy would often regale the tale of how she, my cousin, Lorna, Douglas (Shelagh-Rose’s uncle), and their friend David took a bike ride down Park Side West. David was in the saddle, Douglas on the carrier, Lorna (Cathy’s niece, my cousin, Douglas’s girlfriend) on his shoulders and Cathy on the handlebars. Yes – four children on one bicycle. It sounds like a circus act! As if that’s not enough to give any one a mild panic attack, the bike had no brakes! David scuffed his shoes to try and stop the bike, which shot across the Marsh/Church Street intersection, finally losing momentum at the dry cleaners close to The Point. I wondered this morning when I heard the news of Granny’s final breath if she every knew of this specific adventure.
The Bean told me a story about how her interactions with both Sylvia and her husband, Ray. They had a shop in town called Palmers. Every day Mrs. Gogerty (who was The Bean’s senior at the Scheltema offices) would send her to Palmers to buy a packet of biscuits for the office and Granny would write it up – back in the day when people were still honest enough to buy on the book.
There are many stories that I’ve heard from Elizabeth about her mother. All of them depict Granny to be a woman of incredible poise, wisdom, and everlasting love for her late husband. The two were married for only ten days before Ray was called up to train for combat in the Second World War. All through it Granny never doubted that The Love of Her Life, her Beloved Ray would one day return to her.
During the war, just before his return home, his platoon drew straws to be flown home, or sent by ship. Ray drew the short straw, which meant a longer journey home, but a journey home indeed. His fellow brothers in arms weren’t so fortunate; their plane was shot down and there were no survivors.
I was in primary (elementary) school when tragedy struck Granny. She was attacked in her home and sexually assaulted by a young criminal. Despite the horror what no woman ever hopes will ever befall her, Granny survived, exuded more grace, and was resolute in her decision to stay in her home of countless years. Elizabeth had a wedding photo taken on the steps of that very house, and years later so did Shelagh-Rose.
Granny lived on her own until the age of ninety-seven, when a nasty fall resulted in her hurting her hip. Strong as an ox she lay in agony for a few days before finally calling Elizabeth for help. As expected, she needed a hip replacement and the shock of major surgery began to take its toll.
Granny got dementia. There were days when her mind was still sharp, and there were others when she didn’t know her own children. She adamantly fought with Shelagh-Rose one day for having a child, but not being married. This while Schalk, Shelagh-Rose’s husband, was in the room with them.
She knew I cared deeply for a friend that works on the cruise ships and kept asking me if we’d got married. I eventually told her we had, that it was the most beautiful wedding and that he was set to be away for a year. She never asked again. I don’t know if she forgot about my phantom nuptials, or if my answer satisfied her enough not to ask again. Either way, I appreciated that until I gave her an answer, she always asked.
One afternoon while she was still staying on the farm with Elizabeth, before her move to the ACVV home where she was well looked after, she told me a story about a woman in the district who would come to fetch her to take her to town to have her hair done. She also told me about the nurse who would visit. Both these people turned out to be Elizabeth. Some much change in such a short time was tough on Granny.
During her stay at the farm, Granny had a need to unpack and repack her cupboards every day. Try as she might, Elizabeth couldn’t convince her mom to stop doing it. Maybe in Granny’s addled mind it brought order, although to Elizabeth it brought some chaos. As short as Granny was, she also always managed to get stuff off the high shelves, but she had to get Schalk to put things back. These things seemed silly and frustrating at the time, but now they won’t ever happen again.
Even though I never visited the home where Granny spent the last few years of her life, and even though I’m not family, I feel incredible gratitude to the staff. From what I’ve heard from Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose, they cared for Granny with compassion and patience – two characteristics that are often difficult to maintain when working with anyone, particularly an elderly person who for so long was independent, and towards the end was almost as fragile as a newborn baby.
I was privileged to be at Granny’s centenary birthday celebrations last October. I got the job of capturing the moments, not that I’m much good with the camera, but Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose seemed pleased with the results, so all’s well that ends well. It was a momentous occasion, with Granny as the guest of honour (completely unaware of the celebration). All her family and friends that could be there, were in attendance, including her brother, Robert, who himself is in his seventies. Granny was lucid that day – something which I think her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were happy about. For many, including myself, that is how I will remember her.
On the walls at the party, there were photos of Granny’s life – from the age of knee-high to a grasshopper, to her wedding, and so on. When she saw her wedding photo, she cried. Oh how, she missed her Beloved Ray. It was such a poignant moment. How many of us ever find love, especially a true, everlasting love that not even death can overcome?
Sylvia Palmer, you’ve run a great race. You’ve been a beacon of hope, a shining light, and a pillar of strength to those around you. The wait is over… you are now with Your Beloved Ray. We mourn your departure, but we celebrate your incredible life. Rest in Peace – you’ve earned it!
It’s been a while since I’ve written a grocery list, let alone a blog post. A friend sent me a message on Friday telling me she misses me – and my blog.Continue reading
If for nothing else, this lockdown has taught me to utilise my kitchen. I am not going to lie – if The Cave didn’t come with a dishwasher included in the rent, I would be living in PB&J sammies, served on paper plates and drinking my coffee out of a paper cup.Continue reading
I’ve lost count; I think it’s day 76 of the lockdown, or as I’ve come to realize, the new normal. It’s been challenging, but slowly I am beginning to get used to it. I’ve pretty much given up wearing my specs when I go out because they constantly fog up when I wear my mask.
My cooking skills continue to improve. I made an amazing Thai green chicken curry a while back which was beyond delicious. As I become more confident, I will experiment with spice mixtures myself, rather than the readymade ones. The Amish apple loaf is something I can make with my eyes closed and it is an absolute hit.
I also tried my hand at making a vegan tropical rice pudding. Oh my word! It was so delicious, I at the entire pot all by myself.
Tomorrow I plan to make chicken a’la king and somewhere in between then and Monday, I want to try a Jamaican banana bread. Yes, I’m finally climbing on the bandwagon. I also want to try making pizza dough in the breadmaker.
Staying in the kitchen, I finally used my juicer. I made an amazing mix of beetroot, cucumber, apple, pineapple, and orange juice. I stored it in a Douw Egberts coffee bottle, but it didn’t last. I drank it all. I felt spritely afterwards. My body must not have known what hit it – such freshness! I made some for Elizabeth and when II went into work, I took some for Carla and Rowena too. Carla is quite keen to try anything that comes out of my kitchen. I feel bad for all the pulp that goes to waste, but I will freeze it next time and use it in waffles, soup, cakes, or even try to make vegetarian patties of some sort.
On June 1st, the ban on alcohol was lifted. People queued for hours to get booze. I waited until Tuesday, went to Woolies and bought a bottle of Diemersfontein Chocolate Shiraz there. In and out in under ten minutes. Elizabeth and I drank it on Friday night while sitting a great social distance apart from each other.
There are rumours doing the rounds that some MEC’s are requesting a reinstatement of the ban because abuse cases are on the rise, as are accidents. Just last week, someone posted on a local Facebook group that a visibly drunk man knocked her son over – this while the inebriated prat had three children in his own vehicle. Apparently, he was let go, because under COVID-19 regulations, he couldn’t be breathalyzed. The question begs, why wasn’t he detained and taken to hospital to have his blood drawn? What if the child he hit had sustained serious injuries? The mind boggles…
On the subject of blood, I went to donate a pint yesterday. It’s been over a decade since I last made a donation. Turns out my details were still on record after the extended hiatus, and yesterday was a milestone donation: number 25. I got a nifty picnic blanket to mark the occasion. My hope is that when a modicum of normality returns to life, I can convince our management to host a clinic once every two months. I broached the subject in March, but then lockdown happened.
Last Wednesday, Lily-Rose celebrated her crown birthday. I could unfortunately not spend the day with her, her parents and her Nanna because I had work but took a drive out to the farm on Saturday. The great thing about the farm is the wide-open spaces, so visiting with social distancing in place is easy.
They have a few orphaned lambs that are bottle-fed which is always a highlight to me. I can confirm that Ba-Ba Black Sheep is indeed real. And he is a glutton for milk. If I didn’t have a tight grip on the bottle, he would have pulled the teat clean off.
I also got better acquainted with the chickens.
One thing I love about going to the farm is t a drive down to the river. The reflections on the water are always magnicient.
Rachel the Rocket continues to grow, giving me hope that I might be able to cultivate other edible indoor plants after all. I don’t have the right set-up at The Cave to grow plants outside, and with the way the wind has been destroying things of late, even if I could, I wouldn’t.
Tonight, a ridiculous wind storm is expected, bringing with it a cold front and freezing temperatures. I fortunately still have some Cape Ruby Port left from last year, and The Bean gave me a pair of warm slippers to wear, on the proviso that I buy her another pair that simply slips on.
The one thing I do enjoy about the winter is the sunsets (I just hate that the sun is down by 17:30 already).
Work continues at a reasonable pace. The lockdown has changed many things and there is a ripple effect as a result. It can be extremely frustrating at times, but I’m still fortunate to have a job, and even more so, to still be able to work remotely. On cold days, I’m extra grateful because I can work while sitting under a blanket, with an unlimited supply of coffee.
That’s all for now. I promise my next post won’t be weeks away.
Until next time, stay safe and keep warm! And remember:
It’s been a quiet day on the work front. I’m looking forward to going into the office for a bit tomorrow. I have managed to rig up a small table so that I can bring my work PC home because my Mac and our server are still not talking to each other. All the surfaces in The Cave are too high for me to sit at and work. When I first moved in here, I had to stand on a chair to see inside my pots when I cooked. I found my little el-cheapo kitchen island in storage and brought it back home, making cooking a little easier, although I still stand on tippy-toes to see inside my larger pots.Continue reading
I’ve not blogged for a while. I know I should, but I’ve been feeling so meh the past few days.
There have been days when the only time I’ve got out of bed has been to get a glass of water or to pee. I’ve even worked from my bed. I’m emotionally exhausted from lockdown. Fortunately, I still have work to do every day which helps keep the sanity levels just short of the red.Continue reading
I’ve been plagued with nightmares the past few nights. I’m not sure if coronavirus lockdown is getting to me, or if I’m receiving a message from a Higher Power.
Sometimes I wake up shivering yet drenched in perspiration. It means having to take a shower, change my pajamas and bedclothes in the middle of the night. It’s not a fun task, but as I stand under the often-almost-cold water (because I don’t run the hot water cylinder all day, every day), I don’t remember the dreams, I just know they were unpleasant.Continue reading