Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Canvas Of My Life


I am a man. Why can no one see it? Why am I a number? Sexless? Existing not living? Unsure of my goals, meandering along a path that has been trod so many times before by equally faceless people. Trudging along, seemingly achieving nothing. Without a face without hope, aspiring to nothing. How did this happen?
I was once a vibrant, enthusiastic student at a varsity of my choice, studying art which gave me so much satisfaction. My parents had tried their hardest to convince me to take a business course as a backup. But who needs a backup if you know what you want to do and you have a conviction that you were meant to succeed?
Almost from an early age I can remember grabbing paper and pencil or crayon and drawing my own things. Colouring in books bored me. They belonged to someone else. Colour fascinated me. A blank page was a white sheet crying out for colour. When I started preschool no other activity gave me the satisfaction that I got from drawing. Where other children drew items that were meaningful to them my “art” was just colours radiating out from an inner point in my soul. When I was in High School I was fortunate to have an art teacher who recognised that I had something that I wanted to express and colour was my medium. She encouraged me, gave me purpose and directed me to make the colours function in a way that others could benefit from and interpret and understand. She encouraged me to continue with my studies.
I excelled at art school. I walked away with numerous awards and a coveted bursary that would pay for me to go to Paris to study with the artist of my dreams.
My family were gradually coming around to understand what I was meant to do and it was with great excitement that the time finally came for me to make that trip to Paris – to the city that had nurtured so many artists in its prime.
It was with trepidation that I attended the first session at the Paris Art Institute. There were many classes to be got through before my first meeting with “HIM”.
He had a preconceived notion of how we were to be seated in the room and we were each directed to the position of his choice. I was in the middle row next to the wall. My neighbour was an intense young lady who didn’t take her eyes off her art, the teacher or the subject.
I attempted a shy greeting and was met with a blank wall of contempt.  She was here to study and not to socialise.  That was the beginning of my destruction. Now and then her contemptuous glance summed up what she thought of my so-called talent.
The Master was a good teacher and brought out what was best in all of us, however she never seemed to consider anything that I did was worthy of her attention.
As the days went by it became a burning desire to see some warmth, some encouragement in her face. When I was out of the class I could think clearly and could realise that her commendation was worthless but there in class all I longed for was some praise, some acknowledgement that I had what it takes.
I was stupid to let it become an all-encompassing desire to win her approval. Nothing else mattered. It did not matter that the Master approved of me. I had to have her recognition.
This slowly began to eat away at me, eat away at my confidence and yes, eat away at my talent until I was producing work that was barely good enough for crediting me with a pass and so I came to fail at the one thing that I loved.
I came home like a dog with its tail between its legs. I walled myself up in my room and negated any attempts by my parents to get me functional again.
In desperation my mother called in someone who I might listen to – my high school art teacher. We sat in silence for a while until she broke the silence with the one question that I was dreading.
“What happened?”
The dam wall broke. I’m ashamed to say that I cried. Me, a man, broke down and sobbed. I still could not explain what had happened, how I could have let someone who was relatively so unimportant to have such a huge effect on my life.
I just kept on saying “My talent has gone. I am nothing.”
After she had gone I heard my parents whispering and soon I was shipped off to a rehab centre where it was hoped that I could regain some sense of who I was. It was assumed that I had suffered a break down. In a way I had, my resolve, my talent, my dreams had all been broken down. Broken down by one insignificant woman whose commendation I craved, I did not understand why I had craved it but there it was, an undeniable fact.
During this time I was encouraged to express myself in any way that was meaningful to me. I was not drawn to the palette and brushes that were dangled enticingly in front of me.
The doctors became despairing of me and finally gave up. I moved back home still spiritless. My father arranged a job for me. He felt I needed something for direction so here I am in a mindless, repetitive, boring job. I walk in in the morning, my body takes over, I do my work and I walk out at the end of the day. My mind is locked. My spirit is dead. I am without hope.
My life has been taken away by an uncaring individual.
~~~~~~
One day as I trudged home I became aware of someone else who was walking the same route as me. I was trudging but she was walking as if on air. There was an air of expectancy in her, wonder of what she may find at the next step.
As the days went by I noticed that she was there every day, travelling the same route but definitely not in the same way.
One day the inevitable happened.
“Hi” she said. “You and I walk the same route every day. My name is Elsa. What is yours?”
“Fred” I mumbled.
“Hello Fred” she said and we continued the walk in silence.
Each evening she would greet me with a “Hello Fred” and then there would be silence. Gradually I came to enjoy the silent passage of time. I realised that she understood I needed my space. A soon as that realisation kicked in I lost some of my trepidation and one evening I got the words in before she could.
“Hello Elsa”
“Why hello Fred. Nice to see you again.”
And then we walked on in silence. Gradually we conversed a bit more each day until I began to look forward to our walks.
Maybe there is hope for me after all. Well, let’s wait and see.

© Vera Alexander

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Trolls


When I was little I remember hearing and then reading the story of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. They had to cross a bridge to get to their grazing pasture. A troll lived under the bridge and wanted to eat them. The story, though a bit gory, was a message of good flouting evil as the troll was bested by the goats.

Trolls were normally pictured as weird, ugly, misshapen beings who wanted to eat everything in sight. They were prevalent in Norwegian fairy tales as far as I can remember.

Let us now take a step forward in history to the present day. As with a lot of things in life the computer age has taken over words and given them new meaning so why should the word “troll” escape?

In the fairy stories trolls were always pictured as mean, horrible creatures. In computers a troll is just that. It is a mean, horrible person who is looking for a fight.

A troll’s modus operandi is to visit social sites and post inflammatory comments to a post. The sole purpose of this seems to be to get a rise out of the followers of the post.

I’m sure you know some people like that. Many years ago a member of our social group would introduce a controversial topic with seemingly no agenda. As the conversation around the topic developed it usually became clear that all were united in their opinion either for or against. As soon as that happened this guy would fling in a comment that was the exact opposite of the common trend. His purpose? To get a rise out of the group, to cause disharmony while he sat back with a satisfied smile and watched the ensuing fiasco.

© Vera Alexander

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Cap


When I saw the title for today’s writing prompt I did not think of the cloth type. Being a computer teacher my mind went to bandwidth cap. The thing that puzzles me is why is it called cap?

My imagination conjures up a picture of an unidentifiable mass of something with a cloth cap sitting where its head should be. As all minds go, mine wandered off a little from this picture and thought of the saying “Put a sock in it.” Could I rather say “Put a cap on it?” This would then signify that is it – the discussion is over; the top of the discussion has been reached.

Ah! This begins to clarify the word cap. Cap signifies the end of something – the end of your head has a cap on it. The conversation has reached its end so put a cap on it. Your data has reached an end so put a cap on it!

The horror of it! In this day and age when we are cut off from our Internet of Things our world seems to grind to a halt. When we have reached our cap and there are still days to go before it is renewed we can no longer use the internet and all the doors that it opens.

Facebook! Oh no! Who is having birthdays? Who is sharing what? Who is saying what about whatever? Where are the jokes? The pictures of cute animals? The wise saying? How can I live?

Showmax? Netflix? No movies – my entertainment gone!

WhatsApp! No messages, no cancellations, no invitations!

Instagram! Pinterest!

Google! How can I find things out? Use books you say? How? Why?

Our lives have become so immersed in this digital source of everything that we shudder to have to come to a grinding halt. So we strive to never run out of our Internet Cap. We hold on to each and every last Megabyte and breathe a sigh of relief when our data is renewed.

© Vera Alexander

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Style


I have my own fashion style. I am not one to be dictated by common trends and I have never been.
Now that I am old I can see through all this hype about style and the latest fashion trends. All you are doing when you follow this style is to line someone else’s pockets while possibly making a fool of yourself.
Todays trends seem to be manipulated by supposed big name in show business. It seems hedged in by crudity – the more skin you show the better it is - but woe betide any man who gets turned on by it and attempts to take it a step further.
And men what is this with prancing down a runway in some scrappy clothing that a few years ago would have had you the laughing stock of the whole community – all in deference to fashion.
Style is something innate. Style is something you are born with or not. Style is something that makes you stand out no matter what you are wearing. Style can be learned but can never be imitated.
I have honed in on one meaning of style. The website www.thefreedictionery.com  gives 19 definitions – knock yourself out and learn some new meanings of he word style.
© Vera Alexander

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Unseen Disabilities



I teach at the Open Air School in Durban. This is a very special place where children with all sorts of disabilities can be educated within (or to) their limitations. While most of the disabilities can be seen – the wheelchair, the white cane, the walker, the crutches etc. there are many disabilities that cannot be seen. These are the children who have Aspergers, diabetes or cancer to name a few.


Recently I have become reacquainted with an ex-pupil from way back. She has posted many items on Facebook where her spelling and grammar have been suspect. During one of her recent posts, she confessed to be a victim of Dyslexia – yet another unseen disability. I applaud her for her ability to look her disability in the face, publicly acknowledge it and tackle it. Immediately her lack of supposed writing skill became very unimportant and I was able to see a remarkable lady who has a keen perception of life and its vagaries.


She is appalled that people judge her and others like her because of a preconceived notion of what is acceptable in the written word. But yes we do and it is up to you, Amada, and others like you to make us understand what your condition means.


Personally, I cannot conceive what it means to have any disability. I suppose for us to understand what a person is about we would have to walk a mile in their shoes.

While I can’t conceive what it is like to live with their problem I am empathetic about it. I can empathise with them and the more I learn about their problem the greater my understanding and empathy will be. In order for this to happen, I need to have a broad mind and be ready to accept whatever knowledge I can and the person with the disability needs to do all they can to make us aware of what it is like to live with it.


Fortunately, in our age and time, there is more knowledge and there are many things that can be done for a person with a disability. Just look at what the late Stephen Hawkin achieved – things that would have been unheard of in another time.


Nowadays Dyslexics can write – there are spell and grammar checks that help them overcome this condition and free them to be as expressive as their inner being is screaming for them to be.

I salute all with disabilities – “You are a better man than I am. Gunga Din!” (Rudyard Kipling)

© Vera Alexander

Friday, 6 April 2018

And now there are no more tomorrows…



Our children grew up together, you were there for me when it mattered. We did many things together – you helped me in so many ways and now…
As the children grew up their paths diverged and as happens in life, our paths diverged. I often saw your name on my phone and thought  “I must contact you… tomorrow, next week, next month, next holidays…”
The time drifted until we reached today. You are sitting looking into the light and I am sitting here full of regrets.
Why do we postpone things? Why is there this procrastination in life? Why are we always too busy so it will have to wait until tomorrow? Well now for you and me there can be no tomorrow.
© Vera Alexander