Thursday, February 26, 2009

I don’t get it

There is a possibility that Hubby will be transferred to Johannesburg in the next few months and, if it happens, I will be going too.

Obviously, if you are planning to move to another city, the first thing you need to do is find a place to live. This being the era of the internet, we hit the net looking for suitable properties…and came across several that might suit.

Since we found the properties on the net and all of the agents repping the properties have email addresses, I sent them emails asking that they contact me regarding those properties. One would think that in a depressed property market, agents would be answering my emails within minutes of my sending them, right? Agents are hungry right now because the staggering rise in interest rates and a concurrent national tightening of credit-worthiness criteria has put the property market into a severe slump, with houses losing as much as 25% of the value in the last year.

So why, when a live one pops up and says “Please contact me ASAP regarding your listing #2234567890. We are anticipating a transfer to your area and need to find a home,” am I getting no responses”

I seriously don’t get it. If you are selling something expensive for which demand has precipitously fallen off and a buyer says “I want one…contact me!” wouldn’t you burn rubber trying to get in touch? Why don’t these people want to sell those houses?

A possible excuse is that they haven’t checked their email. Well, why not? It has been two days since I last sent mails out…shouldn’t they be checking at least once per day? And since I am out of town, doesn’t it make sense that I will want to conduct business via the net, where I can receive pictures and send details of my needs until such time that we’ve found a couple of places to actually fly up to see?

These people literally have someone coming to them saying “take my money…please!” and are not responding!

What do I have to do to get a pro-active agent who really wants to sell me a house??

Monday, February 23, 2009

I haven’t abandoned you! Really! It’s just that this week has been beyond hectic!

Having a new puppy in the house is a lot like having a new baby, especially in the sleep department. Puddin’ is still getting up in the wee hours, but it seems to be more related to being cold than anything else. She gets out of her bed to go potty and the tile floors are really cold at 5 am, so she comes to the bathroom door and whimpers for rescue. Most mornings she is shivering when I open the door for her, and she snuggles down with me in the bed and goes right back to sleep. But it still interrupts my sleep. So on top of everything else, I am walking around sleep-deprived and not a little punchy!

We live near a vlei, so vermin are a fact of life here. The insects here are huge and more aggressive than I am accustomed to…when was the last time you had a 2 inch long cockroach run AT you in broad daylight?? we have an exterminator come out every six months and spray, which has worked out very well. Since my allergy to cats has gone out of control, we can’t keep a mouser, which is how I kept my mouse population to zero in California, so we occasionally have to deal with mice. Until last week, some Rattex…a kind of poison pellet…in a plastic feeding contraption was working fine. We’d put some out when we found mouse droppings and in a day or two a dead mouse would present itself for disposal. The good news was that they seemed to prefer nesting in my study, which is not actually inside the house, so they never got into the kitchen. The bad news is that they didn’t stay there.

Early last week Thandiswe made a loaf of bread and put it on the counter on a rack to cool, a kitchen towel draped over it. When she came back later to bag the bread, she removed the towel and found the crust on one side had been chewed away! We quickly mobilized and filled and distributed the Rattex feeders, expecting the problem to be resolved quickly. No such luck.

Over the course of the next few days a plastic bread bag was chewed through and more bread eaten, the Rattex feeders pushed around…one flipped up on end, another actually pushed off the kitchen counter…and I actually surprised the creature as it climbed up the cord from behind the refrigerator! I didn’t see it, but the sounds were unmistakeable. I switched to a more serious bait…one feed and death! the packet advertised…but Mr. Mouse simply wouldn’t succumb. Finally, in frustration, I called my bug guy, Han, and asked if he could help. He hurried over and put out some poisoned grain and some little gel cakes, cautioned me to keep the dogs away from it, and then made the pronouncement I, in the back of my mind, was dreading. There were no droppings around, despite nearly a week of infestation and multiple feedings…he thought it was not a mouse, but a rat!

A rat! OMG! My personal take on things is that having mice in your house can be a thing caused by outside circumstances rather than unclean personal habits…drought will drive field mice into nearby neighbourhoods, construction on nearby sites will do the same. But rats are for people who are dirty and low rent and living in decaying neighbourhoods. OK…it’s irrational, I know, but I have a greater horror of harbouring a rat than a mouse, and now I am one of those low-rent people with a rat in her house!!

So, two days later, Thandiswe is cleaning the kitchen and calls me out. The refrigerator badly needed a cleaning…it had that funky “something in the back of the fridge is past its sell-by date” smell, so I set her to work cleaning and deodorizing it. She had finished the cleaning but the smell lingered, She took out the trash but still the smell lingered. She removed the spare oven rack from beside the refrigerator and peered into the narrow gap and called me. Sure enough, there, between the fridge and the cupboard was a dead rat, stinking up the place, Gross! Gross! Gross!

So, chasing after a puppy and trying to paper train it is a full time job. Hubby, dear man that he is, allows me free reign in training and disciplining Puddin’ while he takes a strong hand in entertaining her, For Valentine’s Day he decided to take us both out to dinner at our favourite tapas restaurant, as they have outside seating in a lovely courtyard with a fountain. I dressed her in the new harness I had made for her, packed her in her puppy purse, and we headed out for our 7 pm…just dusk…reservation. She was a little darling! She slept through most of it but when she was awake, she sat in my lap and took little bites of chicken from my fingers.

We got home about 9:15 and while Hubby prepared to pill the old dog (who is now on a daily dose of Prednisone), I headed for the bathroom to put Puddin’ down on her puddle pad. She is very good about not going in her tote bag. I put my purse on the kitchen counter, took two steps towards the bedroom and stopped, Something was amiss. Suddenly, I realized that I was looking at the back of our big screen TV standing in the hallway leading to the bedroom! We were interrupting a burglary!!

They didn’t get away with much…two watches, a camera, two laptops, and some gold and silver hoop earrings, a few other small items. They didn’t get the TVs or entertainment system, sound system, or the expensive jewellery. But they totally ransacked the house…we don’t think they had gotten to the kitchen yet, as it looked normal…dumping out the contents of all the cupboards and closets in what we think was a search for a safe. Sorry, dudes…that was pried out of the wall by the 2005 thieves and never replaced.

We called our security company and the police, but we couldn’t figure out how they got in! We have burglar bars over every window in the house that can be opened, The patio is surrounded by decorative iron fencing, making it look like a gazebo, but protecting the vulnerable sets of French doors. None of the bars were damaged, none of the doors were broken in…we could not figure out how they got into the house.

Hubby walked around outside with the security people, torches (flashlights) in hand while I went upstairs to figure out how they got to the big TV…there is a heavy-duty decorative iron gate at the top of the stairs and I was afraid I might have forgotten to close it last time I was up there. Our discoveries were shocking.

Hubby and the security guard found the point of entry…the thieves had actually removed a fixed window pane from the frame by chipping out the putty holding the glass in place. They removed the glass and set it aside and then crawled into the house (the window was at ground level, one of several in a column of windows from floor to ceiling) on their bellies like the snakes they are. Through this window they were able to hand out small items like the laptops, but they couldn’t get the big screen TV out this way. There is evidence that they tried to break the burglar bars on the window immediately above their access point, as the metal is slightly bent and there are gouge marks on the window frame. We suspect their intent was to remove those bars, break the wood crossbar, and create an opening through which the big screen could pass.

My discovery was that I had, indeed, closed and locked the upstairs gate: they had broken the lock. When my ironmonger, Davey, came the next day to survey the damage and measure us up for new, improved burglar bars, he took the lock out of its case and took it to a locksmith to get a replacement. The locksmith said that the thieves could only have done this damage to the lock with a chisel and heavy hammer, and that they had obviously worked on it for quite some time. So, these guys came with house breaking tools…not a couple of kids just getting into mischief.

We obviously interrupted them…the bedroom TV was unplugged and removed from its armoire and standing on the bedroom floor next to the breached window, its remote apparently pocketed as we cannot find it. The big screen was on the floor in the downstairs hallway rather than on its stand in the upstairs lounge: its remote was found in our downstairs bedroom, on the bookcase near the bed. My guess is that one of them was working on a way to get the bars off the bedroom window to permit egress of the big screen, the other one was sitting on Hubby’s side of the bed (the remote was found on the bookcase there) rifling through the odds and ends of stuff he keeps there, looking for valuables.

Interestingly, they opened his jewellery box and took two watches, but left four behind: two old collectable watches (one an Omega), a Citizen and a Seiko. They also ignored two pairs of cufflinks, one of them Mont Blanc. The didn’t touch a drawer full of DVDs or a stack of CDs. They took cheap ($7 to $90 in value) earrings and left behind a charm bracelet watch with a diamond set in the face and trendy, chunky sterling silver jewellery. We believe we interrupted them, as they were obviously still working on a way to get the big screen out, but I find myself wondering if they were pros or just chancers…they had pro tools and got in like pros, but obviously did not recognize items of significant value and took stuff of little or no value.

We have numerous windows that do not have bars over them because they are fixed windows…now Hubby is nervous that these guys will come back to finish the job we interrupted. They know what is in here, they know where it is, and they know how to get in. Until Davey gets the new bars installed (which will protect those windows as well) and new, improved locks for the security gates, the house has to be occupied at all times. So, I’ve been a little preoccupied these last few days and not paying proper attention to the blog.

Hopefully, things will be back on an even keel again soon.

Oh…in the midst of all of this Hubby announced that we may have to move to Johannesburg in the next few months, so I also have had estate agents and rental agents out to look at our house, and been poring over the web looking for suitable accommodation in Joburg.

Life is never boring in this place!!

I cannot post

It says my HTML is bad. Any suggestions? I am trying to copy and paste from Word...I don't do HTML.



I was trying to post from Firefox. As soon as I switched to IE7, the problem went away.

I hate Firefox even more than ever, now. It crashed my old computer and on this computer, it makes Blogger crazy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

She is just SO sweet!

No, I don't mean Puddin' the Yorkie,...although she is sweet...I mean my maid, Thandiswe.

The minibus taxis are on strike today, so the people who depend on them for transportation...virtually every domestic worker in South Africa...are without transport to work. When 8:00 arrived and Thandiswe did not, I assumed she wouldn't be coming in.

So, imagine my surprise when she rocked up at 8:25...half an hour late, but here!

"How did you get here?" I asked her. "The taxis are on strike."

"I walked," she said. Walked? that is a distance of at least 3 miles!

"Oh, dear!" I said, embracing her. "You don't have to do that! If this happens again, just call me, I'll come pick you up."

"No! No!" she exclaimed. "The taxi drivers are very mean today. They might hit your car. I don't want that to happen! Where will I ever find another madam as good as you?"

I didn't know what to say, so I just hugged her. What a sweetheart she is, walking all that distance rather than subject me to possible danger!

She really is a treasure.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Puddin’s First Day

Well, she’s here and if she isn’t the cutest thing you have ever seen, I will just eat my hat!

She arrived at about 9:30 and I have to say I am impressed with the way the breeder did things. The process of registering your KUSA (South Africa’s answer to the AKC) puppy is very different from the way AKC pups are registered. In America, the breeder registers the litter, receives individual slips from the AKC for the pups, which are then given to the buyer: no intelligent buyer would walk away with a pup without the registration slip. Here in South Africa, it is the breeder who does all of the registration…which means the breeder must submit names for the pups…and the buyer has to wait for KUSA to issue the paperwork---and trust that the seller is legitimate. This breeder provided me with photocopies of the pedigrees of both parents and copies of both his and his wife’s KUSA membership cards. We also got a health book from the vet with her immunization and worming information, and she was microchipped…all very professionally handled.

Puddin’ hasn’t made a sound all day…not even a squeak. But she’s sampled her bowls, explored her crate and her sleeping basket, played with her toys, and used her puddle pad.

She has discovered that it is warm under my Tshirt and the fuzzy toy dog makes a pretty good substitute for another dog to snuggle up to. One of the first things she learned was that wandering off the waterproof pad on Mama and Papa’s bed was how you found a place to piddle…on the duvet, of course!

She’s tiny and like all young babies, she sleeps a lot. She had a busy day, as we had to visit a couple of pet stores to find a harness tiny enough for her, and we took her to our favourite restaurant which, because she was in her basket and covered up, allowed up to bring her in. Not that it did any good…within ten minutes both the manager and the owner had peeked into the basket and swooned over her cuteness and then she was out and being cuddled and fussed over.

She likes to play with fingers, wags her little (undocked) tail enthusiastically and is quickly learning the “kisses” command! I’ll post more pics as soon as I get batteries for my camera…Murphy’s law being what it is, today is the day they had to go dead!

How glad am I that I spent the last couple of weeks at the sewing machine and with a crochet hook in my hand? The basket is perfect, with a liner to keep her from chewing the wicker and fleece blankets to keep away the chill of the air conditioning. The crocheted blanket made a good basket cover when carrying her out in the hot South African summer sun…it provided both shade and ventilation. The fitted pad and cover for the crate have given her a comfy “cave” that she already likes. The time and effort was well spent…and it was cheap since I used an old cotton window scarf (about 5 yards of fabric) for the material and a old mattress pad for the innards of the basket and crate pad. I already had the pink yarn, left over from a previous project…all I had to do was buy a couple of inexpensive fleece throws, cut them to size, and stitch the edges…about $10 worth or materials total, since I already had the dog crate and the wicker basket!

So enjoy the pics and please forgive me if, for the next few weeks, I sound like a besotted fool…having this puppy in the house feels just like have a brand new baby!
Take a look at the hottest new ezine for women---by women. Click the angel wings in the right-hand column for interesting, enlightening reading!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pictures of Puddin'

She won't be here until Saturday, but the breeder sent me some pictures of Puddin' and she is so cute, I just had to share!

Puddin' at 3 weeks

Puddin' (bottom, nosing the camera) and sibs

Puddin' last Saturday
Also on Saturday

Monday, February 02, 2009

I will never grow old…

Well, I’ve discussed it with my husband and we’ve agreed: I’m not going to get old, I’m going to stay middle aged until I die.

You see, in six weeks, I turn 62. This is an age where women are presumed to have acquired a full set of wrinkles and a crop of white hair. We are referred to as “senior citizens” and “pensioners” and, by the cheeky young crowd, “old people.” And therein lies the problem.

I don’t have wrinkles…oh, the middle-aged phenomena of deepening naso-labial folds and creases between the eyebrows have arrived, but it hasn’t gone beyond that. I don’t have any visible grey hair and my hairdresser reliably informs me that she blondes only a dozen or fewer at each visit.

I don’t have a dowager’s hump, no liver spots, and the skin on my arms and hands have just this past year started to lose its plump moistness and show the damage wrought by years of driving convertibles and riding horses in the hot afternoon sun. Okay, the knees are creaky and the spine isn’t what it used to be…but in truth, the knees started to go when I was in my teens, and the back has been a problem since I was rear-ended on the freeway when I was just 28. Getting tossed from a horse ten years later didn’t help it any, either.

When I look in the mirror I don’t see a 60+ gramma…and apparently nobody else does either. I don’t have the money…or inclination…for cosmetic surgery, although I will admit to using high-quality moisturizing creams. What I thought was a blessing in my teens…sufficiently dry skin to ward off all but the most detremined pimple attacks…has become my curse in aging: dandruff of the face…skin so dry it literally flakes off. But still, none of the facial skin crevasses and roadmaps we ordinarily associate with advanced age.

Some of this has to be genetic. My maternal grandfather died at 79 and was less than half grey. My paternal grandmother died at 89 and, while she had the prosaic head of white fluff, the lines on her face were so few that she literally had the stereotypical visage of a woman twenty years younger. My genes are good so, despite years of abusing my skin with cheap make up and too much sun, I could lie and say I was 45 and probably get away with it. Young people still call me “tannie” here (“auntie,” a term of respect for a woman a generation above you)…so far no one has called me “ouma” (“grandmother”).

So, what is the issue? Well, for one thing, people perceived as being old are often dismissed. In this peculiar world of ours where substance is subordinate to the superficial and dumbness has become a virtue, the accumulated knowledge, experience and wisdom of the elder has become valueless. And the older you get, the more you seem to be disdained…and disrespected.

This has always been a curious thing to me, as I have long been a person to like and admire the older generations. As a kid I loved hearing about my grandparents’ childhoods on farms out in the Great Plains…farms with no electricity or running water, farms where horsepower was actually provided by horses. My grandparents were repositories of fabulous tales and storied skills and abilities…how to make sauerkraut, bake bread, butcher a hog, draw a boil, darn a sock, grow tomatoes, can cherries, make plum jelly or a berry cobbler.

Aside from the ancient skills, old people always seemed to know stuff. My grandparents had a contemporary, Millie, whose hobby was cake decorating. Whenever we went to her house there was always a plate of cupcakes so beautifully decorated it was almost a sin to destroy their beauty with eager teeth and tongue! The best lemon meringue pies, the finest homemade sausages, the most beautiful examples of the needle arts all seemed to come from their contemporaries. Younger people, like my mother, who actually had less to do thanks to such things as canned vegetables, automatic washers, vacuum cleaners, and other modern conveniences, always seemed to be more pressed for time…which manifested in slapdash meals and careless housekeeping…and a complete disinterest in practicing many of the old skills and passing them on.

Personally, I think old people are cool. They not only know lots of practical stuff, but their years of experience have given them not just experience and knowledge, but wisdom as well. It is nigh unto impossible to develop wisdom absent the experiences that teach one lessons, but somehow, in today’s world, wisdom is less favoured than brainless, mindless, flinging oneself into something and learning nothing from the outcome.

Privately speaking, I like the age I have achieved, but I dislike being dismissed for irrelevant reasons. If I were to offer my opinion on string theory, I wouldn’t fret at all about being dismissed because, after all, I know nothing about it. But to be dismissed for no more reason than I have achieved a venerable number of years, to have my accumulated experience and wisdom deemed invalid simply because it comes from a person above a certain age, is simply unacceptable.

I know I can’t change the world, and it is not possible to change the minds of people who are certain that they know everything there is to know of value. So rather than fling myself pointlessly against the barricades of prematurely shuttered minds, I’ve decided to make an end run around the biases of the witless young know-it-alls and just lie about my age.

Besides, isn’t it better if people think I am just 9 years older than my husband instead of 25?