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What do you really want out of life? Now what's stopping you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Memories

Less than a month till Christmas. Surprisingly I have not heard one Christmas jingle in the shops in Ziimbabwe yet, a flash of decoration here and there, but no music. Maybe someone lost all the recordings or possibly it is just a symptom of the state of our nation. What is your favourite Christmas memory? The Christmas ritual for my family often included listening to the 'Nine Lessons and Carols' from Kings College on Christmas Eve, so even now the sound of a soprano singing the opening verse of 'Once in Royal David's City' stirs emotion deep inside. Other memories include decorating the Christmas tree on my parents' wedding anniversary, eating the first mince pie in silence and watching my mother conduct a childrens' choir.

Why the sudden interst in memories? Well positive ones can help you feel better. If you are feeling down, pull out a few positive memories of events, achievements and successes. We can't dwell in the past, but we can at least enjoy the present.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Break of the Movie Curse

Finally, with suave, sophistication and thought-provoking brilliance, the curse of hopeless movies was broken this weekend. ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘The History Boys’ elevated the status of ones weekend from drab to dazzling with a combination of clever English, action and controversial themes. ‘V’ raises the moral question concerning the justification of the violent overthrow of the state when you face an oppressive system that leaves you no other option for expression, while the ‘French Lesson’ in ‘History’ will be long remembered for it’s humour.

Looking back over the last week I seem to have engaged in a variety of new or unusual activities. First there was the hiring of the German prostitute-just joking, my virtue is still intact. I made jam (a first), constructed a model plane (last done when I was 10), managed a 10kn walk(walk, what’s walking), was involved in a video shoot, and had coffee with people I don’t usually speak to. All of the above without panic, fear or the thought that I was out of my depth. Why the changes? Well, why not? If only it were that simple. As humans we are locked firmly in the grasp of the routine and familiar, and any deviation from the normal pattern is often an anxious process (go on, step into the restroom of the opposite sex). ‘Different becomes dangerous’ as ‘V’ aptly put it. We resent being pushed out of our comfort zones and eagerly desire to return to the safety of the familiar. There is nothing wrong with the familiar, it keeps us stress free and sane, until it limits our potential and causes us to make excuses not to venture forward. Then we need to make a new familiar, elevating our comfort zones through imagination and intelligent rationalisation and flow into it. The jam did not boil over, I did not stick my fingers together, my feet didn’t hurt, the make-up was bearable and the conversation stimulating. All in all, upon reflection, a brilliant week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Memories of Jam

Jam. A simple word, only three letters, yet it conveys a sense of endless bottles of curds, spreads, jellies and confits glistening in the light and imparting a multitude of textures and flavours when spread over warm, buttered toast. Growing up on the farm, we made our own jam. When my grandparents first settled in a remote part of Zimbabwe they had the wisdom to plant a variety of fruit trees. Such actions were necessitated by being 70km from the nearest trading post and a further 100km from the closest town. My grandmother was an adept at jam manufacture, a skill she passed onto my parents. Memories of a pot of chunky marmalade simmering on the stove, filling the atmosphere with sticky citrus, while she prepared the bottles that would hold the precious substance, still invoke tears. We would spend endless, innocent hours foraging through the berry patch, after which, with the evidence of stolen morsels still smeared over our lips, our treasure would be turned into the king of all preserves-strawberry jam.

Somewhere along the way we lost the innocence and traded flavour for the convenience of bulk-manufactured, shop-brought jam, although in Zimbabwe this is currently a rare commodity. It was therefore, with great trepidation mingled with equal quantities of excitement that last night I embarked on the mission to create my own. Memories of boyhood flooded back as I gently stirred the mix of fruit (gooseberries are in season and relatively cheap), marvelling at how such a simple recipe can produce such amazing results.

Buying a bottle from the store is easier and saves much time that can be well spent elsewhere, and I am very pro the idea of ‘buying time’ (e.g. I have a maid to do my housework). Once in while though, its worth doing things the old way, even if for a mouthful of flavour-filled memories.

PS The basic jam recipe is mix equal quantities of fruit and sugar in a pot. Simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally and removing any scum from the top. When tacky remove from heat and place in sterilised jars. Some fruit may require a little added pectin to help thicken ( a tablespoon of lemon juice will suffice).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reading up

A well written article is the literary equivalent of a five-star gastronomic delight, where each flavourful phrase is rolled around the mouth and savoured to the full. There is a pleasant satisfaction at the end, unlike the hollowness left by the rushed devouring of a big-mac type article hastily swallowed from the pages of some cheap tabloid. Your brain, wit, and command of English have been fully engaged in thoughtful deliberation and you have been enriched by ideas and vocabulary that roll off the tongue like dark, velveteen, chocolate. Ah, the sheer pleasure.

There are good books, and then there are masterpieces with favourite paragraphs that simply demand to be re-read from well-thumbed pages handled with the reverence due to a sacred icon.

Which begs the question, what are you reading at the moment? I am going back over John Maxwell’s ‘Today Matters’, as well as enjoying the thought provoking articles in a ‘Best Life’ magazine. It’s not just about what you read, but why you read. If for pleasure then enjoy any book, if to learn then I don’t recommend sticking with fiction. One of the articles dealt with the effect of muscle bulk and the aging process and has encouraged me to do a bit more research through the scientific literature on the topic, not just for my own benefit, but for that of my patients.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The throes of justice

The normally well-oiled cogs of the justice system are slowly grinding to a halt here in Zimbabwe, well maybe not a halt, rather a grating on the ears and mental tolerance of all concerned. I had to attend court today. Actually I didn't need to be there, it was a remand hearing which does not require my physical presence as complainant. The police required a lift to court today, along with the gentleman who tried to build a wall in my head. He behaved himself all the way to court and didn't seem to mind my driving. I gave him plenty of opportunity to try escape in the hope that I could reverse over him, but no such luck.

The court building in Harare was designed to be a landmark, something that stands out from other architecture. Unfortunaly, years of neglect have left it a pale shade of its former glory. There is an ongoing strike by one of the groups working in the building that left only one court running today, but noone tels you that till you ask. So I was let a merry trail from office to office to court room looking for my case. It was finally heard and my assailant remanded till later this month. Justice may not be blind here in Zimbabwe, but could do with a pair of spectacles and maybe a Zimmer frame.

Friday, November 02, 2007


What can I say? It’s been an interesting week. Tuesday morning I was cycling along to work, nearing my destination when I get a blow to my head and fall off my bike. My first thought was that the world’s worst driver had run me down. Alas not so, some mad man(as in literal lunatic with little hold on reality, not just a figure of speech) had for some reason taken a dislike to me and thrown a well aimed brick. Not content with one hard rectangular object, he proceeded to throw a few more at me-at least 3 hit me, but I can’t be too sure as I was a little disoriented by then. Thankfully Joe Public responded in the form of multiple rescuers who happened to minister the fist of god (and boot) to my assailant. I was taken to my original destination, with the miscreant, from where I departed in an ambulance and he in a security van (after the security team, who know me well, inflicted a little justice).

I was by that stage a bloody mess-literally, and have a new red shirt in my wardrobe. The doc dutifully stitched up my head and I was admitted for a night. My ear still feels like it is plugged with blood and I have a perforated eardrum. I will be wearing a beanie for a while as what little hair I had has since departed under the scalpel.

What can I say? Nothing much really, it could have been a lot worse. I have no broken bones and only a few other bruises to mark me as worse for wear. I am alive and unlikely to incur long term damage. The idiot didn’t try steal anything either so I have all my belongings. If anything the hospital bills did more damage to my net worth than he did. I know often when you try step into a new direction in life you can face opposition, but this was a little ridiculous. I was on my way to set up some meetings to get a few plans in motion, but they’ll have to wait till next week. Maybe next time I’ll drive.