Saturday, 28 September 2019

AIrport assisted travel experience


A while back there was a Facebook post that went something like this (Including the gist - sorry if I got the wording wrong):

“At the airport today I saw a man being pushed in a wheelchair only to see him get out and 
walk away unaided and quite okay. Shame on you.”

I would like to add some clarity to this situation.


I had recently booked an overseas holiday using BA direct from Durban to Heathrow. (Brilliant decision as it turned out.) I was an extremely nervous passenger due to an earlier very bad flying experience. I am prone to anxiety and panic attacks in unknown situations so my daughter and I decided that assisted travel was the way for me to go.

When I checked in they asked if I needed a wheelchair. I said no, assistance was all that I needed. Well the lady assigned to assist me was marvellous she linked arms with me, took my hand luggage and put it on the wheelchair she was steering with her right hand. As I caught sight of the monstrosity that was to transport me my head got light, my breathing got shallow and the tears started gushing. She held onto me and talked constantly in a low, slow manner things like “Breathe, it’s okay, I’ve got you. All is well …” etc.

To my relief I managed to regain control. She took me to the door and spoke to the hostess who took me to my seat and made sure that I was settled comfortably and stressed that I must call for them if I felt panicky.

The trip was a dream and I started to realise that I could do this. But I was booked on assisted travel throughout and had to live with it until I got back to South Africa again.
When I got to Heathrow there were 9 people who needed assistance. They had an electric car and one wheelchair; I assured them I could walk. So again I had linked arms with the lady while she steered the lady in the wheelchair. We were whisked through passport control after meandering up and down, round and about, in lifts, travellators and electric train. I was totally bewildered and so glad I had someone who knew what they were doing. The lady in the wheelchair said she could walk from baggage collection as long as she had a trolley so the two of went through a totally unmanned custom to meet our loved ones.

The night before I travelled to Tel Aviv I had a gastric attack of enormous proportions and probably shouldn’t have travelled but that would have affected too many apple carts. So off to Heathrow feeling very delicate and there they insisted that I use a wheelchair otherwise no assistance. So into the wheelchair the big fraud went. But as I was feeling a bit delicate I must admit I was glad not to face the train, the lifts, passport, customs, and travellators by myself. My bewilderment was extreme even though I had a lovely man taking me through it all. As the trip to the UK had been lovely and uncomplicated I was not panicky or anxious just bewildered.

I got on board and enjoyed the 5 hour trip to Tel Aviv. When I got there a wheelchair chair was waiting at the door of the plane and the young man coerced me to use it as it was a long walk. Still feeling a bit delicate I Okayed his suggestion and was whisked through passport, customs, corridors, baggage, turns, ups and downs to be deposited with my loved ones. So yes I got out of the wheelchair in public and walked to my loved ones – no miracle here just relief that I had made it.

7 days later saw me back in Tel Aviv confronted by a wheelchair and no amount of protestations worked. I had to get in and enjoy the ride to the plane seasoned traveller that I now was but still bewildered by the ups, down, passages, lifts.

At Heathrow I was met by my “carer” and asked if I could walk to the collection point. Yep no problem. We sat in a cordoned off area waiting for our names to be called. Finally 5 of us made it to an electric car. Up lifts, down lifts, dropping two passengers along the way then the three of us went to another “holding area” in the middle of nowhere – 2 of us bound for Durban and one Indian lady with virtually no English who was bound for Canada. After comparing our boarding passes we sat in bewilderment waiting for clarity. We still had about 3 hours in our holding pattern so the two Durbanites sat and chatted and kept on reassuring the Indian lady that all would be well. Soon a trio of wheelchairs arrived when I protested I was kindly assisted in and told enjoy the ride as it is quite far and by gum it was. I walked to the plane and 12 hours later faced the wheelchair again together with 26 others. 
Two electric cars and several wheelchairs arrived and my protestations were ignored with a lovely smile so what the hell if you can’t beat them join them and I enjoyed the seamless ride through customs, passport etc. I did however insist on collecting my bag and walking with a trolley to meet my SA loved ones.

So here was I, a reasonably fit, elderly dance teacher taking advantage of assisted travel and all it entailed.

Oh and heads up for BA! Food, flight, friendliness, helpfulness and humour must take a lot to beat.



Wednesday, 3 July 2019

My natural environment


22 years ago almost to the day, I came to view this property. It was fine until I went and stood on the balcony which is off the lounge. The lounge is both the first and second floor. You enter on the first and the bedrooms are downstairs. So the other side of the lounge is now the second floor. Complicated I know! But back to the issue.

Place was fine and then I opened the balcony door. I was surrounded by trees and looking, not at the trunks, but at the tree tops. I could hear the birds twittering. How magnificent! From here I was fully ensconced in nature. I couldn’t see anything of my neighbours’ homes except for their gardens. As far as I looked I saw nature. We had fortunately had some rain and I could hear the flow of water. Yes, there was a stream as our one boundary. I was blown away and asked where could I sign?

Well 22 years later I am sorry to say. Not much has changed – the trees are bigger, Nature still surrounds me, I still cannot see much sign of life BUT I am too busy to appreciate it.
When I moved in I would sit outside for hours at night. We have a tree frog colony which was magic to listen to, we have owls hooting but I could never see them. And now Netflix and Facebook has taken over.

I eat breakfast, lunch and supper at the computer keyboard most days. Today I decided to take a proper lunch break. I sat and drank a cup of my homemade lemon and ginger ‘flu fighting potion and listened. At first all I could hear was the occasional Hadedah, kid’s voices, an electric saw, cars in the distance and then my consciousness took over, there were the chirping birds, a butterfly and a bee buzzing around me. Such beauty.

We are so fortunate to have a family of hornbills nesting on the property. I delight to the sound of the “crying child”. We have at least two Lorie in the complex and every now and then you can catch sight of them as they flitter from branch to branch.

Sunset is mind-blowing with sound as the birds – so many types – settle down for the night with Berri sitting “Ack-acking” away with not a hope in the world that she can make the attack.

This evening I must go out at sunset. I must make time in my day to appreciate the wonders around me but I am so afraid that I will let life happen again and I will forget to take those few minutes to enjoy what I have included in my levy – a wonder that has no price.
View from the balcony in March

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Muse vs Cat

It has taken me forever to get back into writing. Today my muse woke up and I was well into my “centre” when enter Cat from right. I am really not sure why she decided to launch the attack but first the back of my chair had a good clawing. Then slowly two ears were followed by two staring eyes as her mischief gained ground. These were soon followed by a paw (Claws out). The left sleeve of my jersey bore the brunt of the attack. All body parts disappeared to launch a fresh attack on the back of my chair then ears, eyes, head and claws appeared on the other side of the chair.

When all of this didn’t gain the response she wanted, she changed her tactics. Semi claws into right hand leg. Attack warded off bravely by my slacks.

When this attack was unsuccessful we tried the pitiful meow. By this time I was wondering if her food dish was empty. This thought was confirmed when a paw tried to pull my right hand off the keyboard.

CAT 1 – MUSE 0

I gave up and went to inspect the full bowl of pellets with her looking very expectantly at me. Water – fresh, snack – untouched.

We exchanged a few glances after which she went and happily started on her bowl of pellets.

Cats just hate competition.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The haves and the have nots


Just watched a short movie. It highlights the difference between the have and the have nots and indicates how monies received to help the poor of a country never gets to them. It is absorbed into palatial residences of the leaders and no this was not in South Africa. It appears that the leaders of most of the modern world are purely there to feather their own nests.

Corruption is alive and well in most countries of the world.

Leaders make their subjects commit atrocities of war and the women and children of the countries come off worst. One leader suggested (figuratively one hopes) that the bodies of women and children be used to form barriers of war.

Let us pray for all the leaders of the world to become honest, incorruptible citizens.
Let us give all leaders who want to challenge other leaders the right to do so BY THEMSLEVS with no help from their subjects. Lets see if the tune changes once they are the ones taking up arms.

I side with the innocents  - the people who just want to be able to live their lives in peace.

I almost want to say I spit on those who incite youth and unstable members of their country to take up arms against another country.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Can Happiness Breed Deception?


Sheldon sat by himself and watched the other children playing outside. His mother was obsessive about neatness, tidiness, cleanliness and order. She refused to let him be a little boy, doing little boy's things. Roy, her ex-husband had finally rebelled after years of trying to get her to seek help for her obsessive disorder. He had finally realised that he had a life to live and he needed to disconnect from her.

Sheldon loved the weekends that he spent with his father and only wished that the judge had given his father custody but his social worker had explained that this seldom happened. It was a decision that an 8-year-old boy could not fight. So every second weekend he got to live. One school holiday a year his father would have sole custody for two weeks and those were the times that Sheldon lived for. Those were the times that gave life meaning. 

Fortunately, his mother had to go out to work to help make it to the month end. His father had been ordered to pay maintenance – something his father was happy to do because it meant that his beloved boy would be looked after. But it was only a small amount that his father could afford to give them

Very soon Sheldon learnt how to use the washing machine. He had asked his mom to show him so that he could make this one of his chores. In this way his mother never knew that he often came home from school with muddy, dirty clothes but with a smile on his face.

As he sat watching the other children in the road playing he counted his blessings.

One blessing was that there was always enough food in the place.

The second but probably biggest blessing was his friend Noah. Noah came from a pastor’s family but his family knew that little boys needed to get out and sometimes get rough and dirty. Noah lived two doors away so there was never any need for his mom to take him to Noah’s for “play dates”. He was also grateful that Noah’s home was sheltered by a very tall wall so even if his mom did just happen by she couldn’t see him playing in the back yard. Noah’s mom hated the deception but realised that she was providing a huge opportunity for a boy to be a boy.

As Sheldon sat watching he often caught Noah’s eye as he played hide and seek with the other children in the neighbourhood. Noah would often give him a small, almost hidden “thumbs up” and Sheldon knew that this meant that soon, the next day in fact, Sheldon would be with the gang.

Now why the archaic name Sheldon? Well, Sheldon’s mom had one little vice. She was a huge fan of the Big Bang Theory and her one hope was that the little baby that she held in her arms the day he was born would grow up to be a fastidious scientist so the choice of name, for her, was obvious. Roy had tried his level best to dissuade her but realised that small battles had to be surrendered if he wished to win the bigger battles. He just knew that he would do all in his power to make his little boy happy, no matter what it took.

And so Sheldon sat watching and waiting.

Waiting for school days when his friends would scoop him up and they could be boys together and he would answer to the name Don.

Waiting for the two weekends a month that he could enjoy a rough and tumble with his dad.

Waiting for the school holidays when he could run wild during the day, rush home and put his clothes in the machine while he had a bath and waited for his mom to get home to her pristine home and little, clean, angelic boy all nicely washed and scrubbed - waiting and looking out the window. She thought he was waiting to catch sight of her.

Sheldon gave a little smile when he realised that he had discovered a perfect way to live his life as a boy and yet make his mom happy. No thought entered his little 8-year-old mind that he was in training for a dual existence.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Archaic Times


Muriel stood up and brushed the crumbs from her apron. She had just finished her tea and was dreading the moment when her charge would wake up. But today felt different.

It seemed that Muriel had always been in service but now that her charge‘s finances had all but diminished she had become mistress of all trades in the enormous house that had once seen such splendour.


Muriel could remember the very first day she had arrived there. She was sixteen years old and her eyes were wide with wonder and fear. She had never seen a house that big or furnishings that expensive. She pulled herself into herself and scarcely heard her mother talking to the housekeeper, Mrs. Hawkins. She was petrified. She had just come out of the minimal schooling that her parents could afford and she was forced into work to help support her family. Her father was not well. He had worked in the coal mines in Johannesburg and had been taken over by “miner’s sickness”. He sat in a huddle in the tiny kitchen coughing until Muriel was sure he would either cough his lungs out or die of a stroke or heart attack. She didn’t really know her father – he had left for work before the household got up and came home dirty and tired and could not be bothered with the many children he had fathered.


Muriel was very scared. She clutched her little cotton bag that held all her worldly possessions close to her chest.


“Now Muriel, I want you to be a good girl and show Mrs. Hawkins that even though we are poor, you were brought up to have manners. Remember I told you that you would sleep in and be home on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning?”


“Yes mommy,” she had replied biting back the tears.


It had been virtually unknown for a white girl to enter “service” in Johannesburg but the lady of the house was from England and looked disparagingly at any who did not share her skin colour. Muriel found this odd and yes, distasteful. Surely we are all the same? The aspect of apartheid had never made sense to her.


Well, the years had rolled by and yes she had been a good girl and had slowly risen through the ranks and as the money diminished newer members of staff had lost their jobs until only Muriel was left.


Mrs. Abbot, the boss lady, was now very old, fragile and forgetful and her son, Colin, had been trying to get her to realise that she could no longer stay in this mammoth of a house. It was too much to expect Muriel to care for her and the house so he had instructed Muriel to close up and not worry about cleaning any room that was not essential.


He was something very big in the world of finance, Muriel did not understand all that but knew that his job took him all over the world and he and his family had been forced to relocate to Switzerland as the main part of his company functioned there.


Muriel knew how to get hold of him at any given moment and she knew how to get hold of the doctor and Mr. Smithy who was a friend of the now deceased Mr. Abbott and she thought that he was a lawyer but couldn’t be sure.


So day in and day out Muriel would wake up wash, dress and start preparations for Mrs. Abbott's breakfast which she insisted on eating in the huge dining room. She would then go up to the only bedroom that was not shut off and help Mrs. Abbot to bathe and dress. She would then help the old lady down the stairs, seat her at the table, rush into the kitchen put the finishing touches to the breakfast, wait for the tinkle of the little bell that Mrs. Abbott still insisted on using. She would stand behind the chair while madam ate her breakfast. She would then whisk the dishes away and help Mrs. Abbott on her walk around the garden, listening politely to the old lady’s chatter.


Once she had settled her in the drawing room with her newspaper, Muriel would then rush upstairs tidy and clean the bedroom and bathroom, rush downstairs and prepare the morning tea which had to be served on a tray with a delicate tray cloth. She would again stand unobtrusively while Mrs. Abbott finished her tea. She would then bring her her needlepoint before taking the tray to the kitchen where she would wash the breakfast and tea things and tidy the kitchen. She would then have a brief respite before starting on the lunch preparations which had to be eaten in the dining room at the huge table which could seat 16. After lunch, she would help Mrs. Abbott up the stairs again and settle her for her afternoon nap.


Once she was settled it was skedaddle to the drawing room and give it a clean and then to the dining room for a clean-up. Mrs. Abbott had sharp eyes for all her years. Everything had to be just so. Then and only then could Muriel sit down and have her tea. This was a meal which bundled lunch, tea and a bit of dinner. Tidy the kitchen again and start dinner preparations.


The days seemed to stretch to infinity following the same procedure day after day, week after week, year after year.


Mrs. Abbott was a kind but exacting mistress. When she had finished her nap she would ring for Muriel to come up and help her down for afternoon tea which was followed by a little bit of television viewing and then dinner – almost the same procedure as the other two meals.

After dinner Mrs. Abbott would either read, watch TV or play solitaire before being helped up and helped to get ready for bed.


Muriel would then go down, set the house to rights, clean the kitchen again, sit down to a late supper and crash into bed.


But somehow Muriel felt that today was different. She felt it while having her tea. Somehow she knew she had to keep the phone handy, somehow she knew that she had to have doctor’s number ready to activate and so Muriel stood up, brushed the crumbs from her apron, picked up the phone and activated the doctor’s number. Her last thoughts were “49 year’s old! Where did my life go? Surely this is not it….”


* * * *


The doctor grew agitated as he heard nothing on the other side. Mrs. Abbott’s bell was tinkling and Muriel was greeting her father and mother as they waited to welcome her to the other side.

© Vera Alexander

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Homework vs Life


I came across this in a Facebook post and it got me thinking. In essence I agree with it BUT…
We do not live in a perfect world. The world that is depicted in American 1950’s media. The world where the mom is at home preparing the evening meal for her family and the dad arrives home to find the children neat and tidy sitting waiting for their evening meal. And that evening meal is a time where views are exchanged and families get to know each other.
In our modern world everyone is inflicted with many distractions. Meals are more often than not consumed in front of the TV. Both mom and dad work so all too often meals are quick take away type meals.
Cell phones are a distraction that we can’t get away from. Life has changed and not in a good way. We are constantly feeling naked if our cell phone is not close by – the need to “be in touch” has become ludicrously anti-social. How many times have we seen people more involved with their phone than with the person sitting next to them?
Family values are changing – does this equate to the rise in gangsterism? Are kids getting more attention from their peers than from their families? We know that most kids seek attention – in any form. Good deeds or bad deeds bring recognition and peers exert so much more fascination than elders.
In series aimed at youngsters there always has to be that one kid who is bad and the screenwriters write their parts in such a way that elicits admiration.
There is so much in the modern world that interferes with good family morals so stopping homework (which I entirely support) is really not going to wipe away the degradation of general family life. We have to delve much deeper.
I remember a cartoon of St Peter and God surveying the world and St Peter’s speech bubble read “Time for a reboot?”