Friday, 11 January 2019

The Waters of Life

 In the time before time you floated in your own tiny private swimming pool.

Later on bath times were pleasurable. Sometimes you wanted bubbles and loved it and other times you refused to have bubbles.

Summers brought water fun but the water was contained either by a paddling pool or by a parent's arms.

As you grew the swimming pool gave you a safe shallow end but soon you were ready to explore the deeper waters but still within boundaries.

On the night of the 23rd July you said goodbye to the boundaries of childhood and the strictures that the childhood waters brought. On the morning of 24th you stood on the edge of the ocean which will be your life. You are dabbling your toes in this ocean. Don't rush to plunge in. Take time to savour each and every ripple that life will bring you. Explore each ripple before you decide if you want to follow it to wherever it may lead you or wait for the next ripple.

Enjoy the shallow waters for a few more years. Shallow waters where the people who love you will be standing waiting to give you help if you need it.

I will also be waiting on the sands ready to help in whatever way you need. I will be waiting to see just where the waters of life take you. Choose wisely and you will have a beautiful safe trip.

(Written for my grandaughter on the eve of her 18th birthday   © Vera Alexander)

Monday, 17 December 2018

Cantankerous old age

In my youth (Oh far too long ago!) I knew all about cantankerous old age. It was stereotyped in movies, cartoons etc. The old biddy rushing outside brandishing a walking stick at children who were basically just being children.

I hoped one day, if I reached that age, I would be different. Well first of all the old biddies from my youthful remembrances were a hell of a lot younger than I am now. And secondly, I am cantankerous in a totally different way.

I love young people. I find their views of the world very let them play make a noise and enjoy themselves. (One noise I do object to is screaming as part of play. My opinion is if you scream you had better be hurt or in danger.)

So now as to how being a cantankerous old biddy has affected me. I ask young people to:

Grow up.

 ·        Some people will like you, some people won’t.

·         Words can be hurtful but get over it for your own peace of mind.

·         Don’t worry about what others think

Experience the world

 Put that phone down for a while. (I am now living with my cell phone on silent. It started during my recent teaching stint at Open Air. You can’t use your phone while you are teaching so put it off. And being forgetful I suppose, I forgot to put the sound back on and I found how freeing it was. I could check it when I wanted and return calls and messages in my own time.

·Be open to new experiences, new sounds, new feelings

·Talk to an old person – they are just like you inside, outside is different but inside there is an 18-year-old dying to get out

My personal cantankerousness

It irritates me when I hear the slogan “Black lives matter”. Come on! ALL lives matter, whites, blacks, yellow, cats, dogs, birds and bees. I have a young (white) friend who gets upset when I offer this viewpoint and he says I don’t understand. I do understand dear boy and I have become more compassionate and more understanding the older I get.

I wish I could plonk some of the wisdom that time has given me into the heads of youth without destroying their youth and innocence. And yes I get cantankerous when I see them throwing away this wonderful experience that is life by doing drugs and crime.

I hate to see the state of the world:
·         The rioting
·         The crime
·         The protest marches
·         The lack of moral fibre

I hate the murdering of women and children.

I hate it that the youth are taking over countries without having the knowledge and sensibility to make things work.

I hate it that every day you hear of someone using established methods to commit crimes. The robbing of senior citizens, the robbing of governments. The latest thing that is getting me all cantankerous is that Uber drivers are now on the take to rob you and leave you stranded.

What a sad, crazy world we live in.

Monday, 10 December 2018

How did it happen?

How did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen? Where can we lay the blame? America? Well they seem to be leaders in most things so the blame will normally sit with one of their people. Some say Dr. Spock? I don’t know. I just know that I don’t like where we are right now.

We have to watch our words in case we offend someone. But wait does that apply to all of us? Or only to some? There used to be a phrase – thick-skinned. That had nothing to do with colour or nationality or gender. It meant that we were able to take words and not allow their meaning to disrupt our lives, not to allow them to make us seek retribution either physically or in a court of law.

We have to be careful as there are too many people around who have no respect for the law and the safety of the normal person. We can’t even really trust our police force – the people who are supposed to be there for our protection.

The criminal and law breaker has become immune – crimes are committed in full view of witnesses. Often the criminal will not even bother to cover their face. You can no longer be safe if you are careful you may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I feel sorry for the children who are led into crime by their caregivers – they don’t stand a chance.

I feel sorry for the youth growing up in this day and age. I feel sorry for parents who have to have a vigilance that I never had to have.

I congratulate the people who can grow up and grow normal in this crazy world of ours and I hope that somehow somewhere they will lift their voices and help set this world straight again.

I'm glad that my youth took place in a safe, warm, nourishing environment.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

The forest

At first there is a silence and as the silence becomes deafening a tiny sound starts to reverberate. The heart of the forest is responding to the stillness of the sound. The trees realise that there are no humans around. No one to disturb the sound of silence or the sound of life. Just as the trees grow used to their inner silence other sounds start to awaken. The wind blows gently and the leaves of the fir trees start quietly swishing together.

A bird flies down onto a branch and quietly begins to chirrup. As there is no disturbance from anyone he lifts his voice higher and higher until it reaches the flock flying silently overhead. The flock almost come to a shrieking halt as the sound floats up to them. This is joyous, this is freedom. One by one the birds fly down to alight on branches and join their voices to the voice of the lone swallow. The night birds ruffle their feathers in their sleeping foliage and lazily add their sound to the rising melody.

The brook which flows on the edge of the forest seeps in the happiness around it and beginnings to chortle and bubble its way to the stream ahead. The frogs realise that the time has come to join in and they time their croaks to meld in with the general melody. The tree frogs slither out the water, creeping along like Gollum. They find a spot on the trunk of the trees and join in with their unique song. Squirrels pop out of their sleeping areas and become a silent audience to this midnight madness of the forest. Little dassies, feral cats and abandoned dogs slink closer hoping to be accepted. As they see that all are beginning to harmonise in song, sounds and life they relax and become glad to join the circle. Even the snakes slithering out of their homes realise that this is different. It is safer. This is what they have dreamed of.

Soon the jubilations start to quieten as the animals drift off to sleep exactly where they came to rest and the forest slumbers and is stronger for the peace it has experienced even if only for one brief night. As dawn arises, the birds start their morning chorus, the animals look around and are surprised to still be possessed of that beautiful relaxed feeling of the night before. Something has happened, there has been one small change, almost imperceptible but there has been a change.

As the daylight gets stronger the animals look around and wonder when they need to take cover from the hunters and loggers who daily spoil their homes and their harmony. But nothing happens. The wise owl thinks he knows the answer and sings amidst his hoots to tell his thoughts.

“Tawoo… It is the barbarian’s day of rest.” He nods wisely as he says “They will be back tomorrow so let’s enjoy one more day of possession of our forest.”

The other animals decide to accept the owl’s wise words and go about their business and play undisturbed by the fact that they have let their guard down and man may come at any moment to break it up. As the sun goes down the forest folk realise that they have been given a fabulous gift of one undisturbed day and all raise their voices in thanks for this blessing and then slowly doze off. Some are twitching with thoughts of what tomorrow might bring.

But joy of joys tomorrow dawns and the beauty of the day before is repeated. Soon the animals and birds and trees begin to hope that the new life has indeed begun. But none of them had ventured to the outskirts of the forest. If they had they would have been surprised to see small primitive homes being built to surround and protect the forest. They would have seen an elderly kind looking man (let’s call him John) who had at last won his fight against the marauders. Yes! He and his family had pooled their resources to protect this the last surviving forest on earth in the hopes of educating the greedy that humans cannot just go on their path of destruction, they need to protect what little resources are left. 

Man needs oxygen; trees need carbon dioxide so we can live in a symbiotic system and grow.

© Vera Alexander

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


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


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