Levitating under stress

I think I’ll write about levitating.

I have levitated twice in my long life, both times under extreme stress. I have tried to levitate in normal conditions but it doesn’t work! I do have a witness for both times that I did rise up and forward.

The first time I levitated was many years ago in Africa. It was just before Christmas. We were looking for a particular prickly fern that grows wild in the bush. We used it as a Christmas decoration. The long tendrils draped nicely over pictures, doorways and window pelmets.

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climbing asparagus fern – a weed in Australia

A few of the farm dogs were with us as we walked down the gravel track leading from the main road into the farm. Among the dogs was my mother’s fox terrier, Kleintjie. Roughly translated, Kleintjie is ‘little one’. In fact, all my mother’s foxies were called Kleintjie. As one departed this life another Kleintjie took her place.

Walking back to the Big House, Kath – who had recently learned to walk – ran a little way ahead perhaps thirty metres. I noticed movement next to her on the gravel. Dear God, my heart leapt into my mouth. The movement was a banded cobra rising up to strike directly into my daughter’s face. So, I levitated from where I was standing to Kath. As I landed, Kleintjie ran between the striking cobra and Kath drawing its attention away from her. Even as I write this I can feel the hairs on my neck prickle. Death was so close. Kleintjie evaded the snake, which then slithered off the track and into the bush.

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photo by Peter Wright

The second time I levitated was in Cape Town. I think it was in 1977. We were living in a flat in Camp’s Bay on the side of the mountain. Because of the angle of the ground, the block of flats was perched atop tall pillars and we were on the top (third) floor. We were more or less level with the ground at the back but had the most astonishing views over Camp’s Bay and the ocean from the front windows.

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Twelve Apostles. Camps Bay. Photo by FromJoanne on Flickr

Anyway, early one morning I was standing in the kitchen looking up at The Twelve Apostles through the kitchen window. I heard an extraordinary sound, like a massive pantechnicon that seemed to come from the street behind us. I couldn’t see one and wondered to myself what was a pantechnicon doing up on the mountain at this hour? Then I realised that the stove was moving and rattling. Objects were falling off the shelves. The floor was shaking too. Shit, an earthquake! So, without further ado, I levitated from the kitchen to the bedroom and into the bed. I pulled the blankets over my head although, under the circumstances, that may not have been the wisest thing to do.

If you don’t believe me, ask Roland!

Levitating under stress

Monkey’s Wedding

Liana and I are standing in the doorway of the hall looking out at the rain. The sun shines through the rain and the rain keeps falling. I say, “Monkey’s wedding”. Liana looks at me, “I haven’t heard that expression before?”
“It is something we say in Africa when the sun is shining the same time the rain is falling.”

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Saying, “Monkey’s wedding” is a quaint memory from my childhood. It is something I taught my own daughter and my granddaughters too. It isn’t something one deliberately sets out to ‘teach’ but one of those sayings that children pick up because you use it in a certain identifiable situation. It is a colourful phrase that appeals to children – that appeals to people of all ages. The image of a monkey bridal couple complete with fluffy white dress and flowers, top hat and tails, sparks the imagination.

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It has never entered my head that Australians don’t say, “Monkey’s wedding” when the sun shines through the rain. We have so many expressions in common but this one has slipped past the keeper. I wonder if it is because there are no monkeys native to Australia? I’ve had a look at Google and Wiki. It seems that the original phrase comes from the Zulu language – “… a loan translation of the Zulu umshado wezinkawu, a wedding for monkeys”. There is also a link to Portuguese casamento de rapôsa – vixen’s wedding – which then changed to casamento de macaco – monkey’s wedding.

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The term ‘Sunshower’ seems to be the most commonly used expression in various parts of the world. Topically, The Word Detective says that in “In New York we used to say, “The Donald is fixing his hair”. Whether that is the POTUS Donald or not is a moot point!

There are so many places I could go with this blog entry. For example, Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens and the instinct of play that nourishes so much of our philosophy. But that will turn this into a Sociology essay and bore most people witless. So, I’ll leave it here and just say … Next time you see the sun shining through the rain try saying, “Monkey’s wedding” – it’s guaranteed to make you smile.

Monkey’s Wedding

Stockings and suspender belts

Today at the shops, I saw a young woman with a tattoo that brought back a few memories. The tat was of seams up (or down) the back of her legs finishing at her ankles in a pretty scroll.

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In the days when women wore nylon stockings with seams, it was a battle to get the seam to run straight up and down (or down and up) one’s legs. Add to this the likelihood of snagging the sheer nylon fabric – usually on a rough nail thereby starting a ladder. Quickly, out with the colourless nail-varnish to stop the run from ruining the stocking. Do you remember?

One benefit of stockings was, if you did ladder one, you only had to replace one. That was if you happened to have one in the same denier and the same shade. Nylon stockings were expensive so this was seldom the case – hence the use of nail-varnish at both ends of the run. Naturally, the nail-varnish went through the stocking and the stocking then stuck to your leg.

Stockings stayed up, most of the time, because of a suspender belt. I’ve just Googled ‘suspender belts, images’ and I have to say the modern suspender belt looks nothing like the chastity belt style that we used to wear! The fashionable suspender belt now is, possibly, only available from an Adult Store. They still don’t look very comfortable and the feminist in me says they are more for the “male gaze” (as per John Berger, Ways of Seeing.) Nevertheless, I found this image and if you can extrapolate a thick, unattractive cotton instead of the rather fetching lacy garment pictured, you’ll get the idea.

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At the girls-only Anglican Church school that I attended in the 1950s, we were required to wear thick lisle stockings, the colour of toffee, especially on a Sunday. Lisle stockings are not particularly suited to the subtropical climate of Africa. They were decidedly uncomfortable and invariably sagged and bagged around the ankles. Indeed, these were not the ‘sexy’ fashionable nylon stockings beloved by the women during the Second World War. Neither were the suspender belts attractive or even comfortable. They were inconvenient and, for the most part, we loathed and detested having to wear them. Add to this the regulation school bloomers, made from a thick, unforgiving cloth and, if memory serves, dark brown in colour. Tight elastic at the waist and at the top of the legs didn’t help either. If you happened to have your periods, and being an all-girls-school most of us menstruated at the same time, you then had the belt that held your sanitary napkin in place under your suspender belt and your bloomers over the top. There is no way the bloomers would fit under the suspender belt! The strategically placed hooks, front and back, on the sanitary belt were incredibly uncomfortable.

Lisle stockings also had to have the seams straight. Many times, lining up for chapel, a student would be pulled out of line by an officious prefect because the seams of her stockings were crooked. Somewhere between 1957 and 1961 we were allowed to ditch the lisle stockings and wear nylons instead. Of course the seams still had to be straight. Rules were easily breached and punishment often followed – usually out of all proportion to the misdemeanour. Punishment ranged from demerit points, writing lines, learning by heart the most boring chapters in the King James Bible to whatever else the prefect could think of to humiliate you.

Once, I was caught reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover – although carefully covered in brown paper, I was sprung. At that time the book was banned in Rhodesia but I had somehow managed to get a copy. My punishment was to read one of the chapters aloud to a group of prefects. I do believe, in retrospect, that they were more embarrassed than I was. I’m not sure why the book was not confiscated but it wasn’t and I still have it to this day!

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Stockings and suspender belts

Astrology, fortune telling and real life

Blogging is quite difficult. Short blogs seem better than longer ones but sometimes longer blogs are required.

Next week I will have been married to the same man for 53 years. In anyone’s book this is a long time. A life time. I could witter on for quite a long blog but I’m not going to. Here’s a photo of the bride and groom. So young, so callow …

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Years ago, in Australia, I went to a Chinese astrologer. This dear old man told me that, because in Chinese astrology I was a monkey and Roland was a tiger, there was no hope for our marriage. He then asked for our Western astrological signs – a bull and a scorpion. Even worse! He was flabbergasted when I told him how long we had been married. I think at that stage we had been married about 25 years. Oh well, you can’t be right every time.

In South Africa, a Greek lady once read my fortune in coffee grounds. She was quite accurate about my history – possibly because her daughter was a friend of mine. I can’t really remember what she had to say about my future and, in the event, it would all happen as it happened anyway.

Even further back I had a reading done by a strange man who was more concerned with how I pulled faces when I spoke (I do, I know I do). He was also concerned that I should pay him immediately. I remember nothing that he said but I do remember that he was pretty creepy.

There was one astrologer I visited annually, here in Western Australia. She would draw up my star charts and her readings were usually excellent. She would tape the reading and give me the tape. Her readings for the year ahead were quite specific and accurate. I was sorry when she stopped her work as an astrologer and went to uni to do a psych degree. I imagine she would have excelled as a clinical psychologist.

Many of the times I visited soothsayers, astrologists, fortune tellers and the like was when I was in a state of flux. When I was at the crossroads, so to speak. I can remember sending a friend a cartoon of myself standing at the crossroads with signs pointing north, south, east and west. This last weekend when I was at a mindfulness retreat I drew a picture of myself with many pathways leading who knows where. In my drawing I’m heading off the page following a magpie. You’d know it was me because of my purple top and dark sunnies.

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I’ve learned now that life keeps on whoever I consult. I make decisions which may be right and may be faulty but I do what I do.

Astrology, fortune telling and real life

Digging into memory isn’t easy: Being there

This is really difficult, digging back in memory to find the holiday. Wendy remembers the young guide and ghillie but my memory of him is dim. I have no recollection of any of planning for the trip and rather think that Cliff and Wendy did all the organising. I do tend to be a ‘passenger’ even to this day.

Be that as it may, the cabins where we stayed were (I think) the only buildings at the north end of the island, right on the beach. We never ventured as far as the south end of the island (about 37kms away) but I recall that there were some wealthy South African dentists camped there on their annual fishing junket. The cabins were double storey and so stuffy we all slept outside under mosquito nets. There was funny smell inside, too. Rats, definitely a rat stink. There was no electricity and no cooking facilities either. Glifford did a magnificent job cooking all our meals outside on a primitive barbecue.

The first night in the camp I heard a curious rustling noise from inside the cabin. Roland wasn’t budging so I had to go and find out for myself what was going on. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of gigantic cockroaches in the shower, frantically hustling and rustling. “How can this be?” I thought. In retrospect, the insects must’ve been after water – although I have no recollection of any piped water into the chalet. After a couple of nights I got used to the rustling noise and ignored it. I doubt if we used the shower anyway, maybe to wash the salt off after swimming or maybe we just chose not to wash.

Swimming in front of the cabins was not an attractive proposition. When the tide was out it was just mud (and sea cucumbers) as far as the eye could see. When the tide was in, I knew the worms were underfoot. The swimming beach was a short walk over the dunes, on the ocean side of the island. Each day Roland and Cliff would make a shelter for Kath on the beach. They broke branches from the casuarina trees that grew a short distance back and made a tepee to keep the sun off her. She would play in it and when she was tired she’d make a little sand pillow under her towel and sleep.

Wendy and I would take turns to snorkel on the coral reef. Always, there had to be someone to keep an eye out for sharks. Sometimes we would swim together while Roland and Cliff kept watch. They spent a lot of time  in Cliff’s boat, out fishing and we ate a lot of fish. Roland remembers some of the fish he and Cliff caught but I don’t. I did find a beautiful shell which I kept for years as a darning aid. It looked a lot like the one in the illustration but a darker brown.

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Next time (and I hope I can keep this up) I’ll tell you about the good witch, Agapanthus. I made up the story to keep Kath amused and it went on for many episodes. Then, there was the terrifying trip back to the mainland where we were caught in the tailend of a tropical cyclone.

Digging into memory isn’t easy: Being there