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My mother died over ten years ago, and according to her wishes was cremated and a small cross marks where her ashes were placed next to her sister's in Barnstaple Crematorium. There is a large book which the family signed on the occasion of her being interred or whatever the right phrase is. I have never been back to visit the crematorium, partly because I live on the other side of the world now, but even if I did still live in England, I would not go, as my mother's memory and spirit is not in that box, it is in me and lives on in my daughter. I know my sister finds some peace by going to the crematorium occasionally, and I fully respect her needs and wishes to do that, but it is not for me.
Now the crematorium is asking £190 pounds for the upkeep of the page on which my mother's details are inscribed. Why do they need £190 for a page? It's not as if anybody has to look after a page! It's not like paying somebody to care for a headstone in a graveyard, and even then, £190 is bloody expensive. I actually think it is OUTRAGEOUS, and I personally don't think Mum would want her kids to pay it. However there are now all sorts of ugly issues raising their heads. If I don't pay my share my brothers and sisters (2 of each) will have to pay more. Does refusing to pay it make it look like I love my mother less than them? Or don't care about her at all?
I think the crematorium is playing on exactly those kind of emotions to make money.
When I die, no-one is to be out of pocket. Burn me in a bonfire and have a party. If there is any life insurance available, everybody who cares about me must use it to go on a safari.
Bloody hell I'm cross.

5th Aug, 2008

So I'm back home after an amazing trip to UK to be Em's birthday present - thanks to her awesome friends! I can't tell you how much it meant to me to see her, and even though the trip was short I saw enough of the UK to remind me of how lucky I was to spend most of my life there, and how lucky I am to be living where I do now! (If that makes sense)Thank you again to Em's friends. And also to Transformer Man, Mr Tickle and Nightmare - your costumes were indescribably stunning!
Back to the humdrum routine: we have an MI5 spy and his family staying with us at the moment, who have gone quad biking in the mountains today. I have spent part of the morning dodging Cape Cobras up at a local farm which is to be the venue for the next Swellendam Horse Show. The three students are busy 'working' in our Study Centre - though teech (me) has niftily intercepted a few Facebook shenanigans.
I don't have many photos of my trip as I thought I had burned them all to CD, but in fact had only managed to put one photo on the CD, before cleverly wiping my card. But here are a few:




We took my brother and his kids into Nyanga township yesterday (one of the most disadvantaged areas in SA) and went to visit the Primary School for whom we have been raising funds - we have, working with a school travel company from UK, given them Drums, Marimbas and a violin. We were just expecting to 'pop in' and look around, but we were greeted with a full scale dance and drama performance - photos to follow when camera battery has charged. It was AMAZING! Then we had lunch at a roadside takeaway and went to visit the secondary school who we work with when the students from UK come on their Drama trips. There is a group of kids there for whom we are raising funds to bring over to UK next summer - I hadn't met them before, but they all knew who I was and called me Queen Amanda! Most of them are parentless and/or living with HIV positive families, but they seem so well adjusted - one recited a poem she had written about how proud she was to be an African, it was a beautiful poem, mature and well crafted. Afterwards I discovered that she has no family at all and lives in a hostel with a government grant - no primary carer at all. She is thirteen.
My next challenge is to sort out their passports and ID numbers, which is going to be no easy task.
Brother Richard is enjoying his stay: daughter Alex has fallen in love with one of our local teenage boys, so is happy to stay at home and not go sight seeing, which also suits nephew James, who is happy to play on his computer all day. So we are left entertaining Richard. Ho Hum.
Big brother has departed for a few days with his kids - he has practically no spending money, so we have sorted out a trip for him pulling in a few favours - they are spending two days in Oudsthoorn - better known as the Ostrich Capital of the World. Then they are going to stay at Buffalo Hills http://www.buffalohills.co.za/ game lodge - can you imagine - two days safari, all meals, liqueur tasting etc etc, and all he has to pay is the equivalent of 180 pounds for the three of them!
We have heaved a sigh of relief at his temporary departure, as he likes to be entertained, and we are enjoying the peace, but the snag is he has had to borrow our car, as he cannot afford to hire one. So we are car-less - which doesn't bother me too much, but Dave's visits to the pub have been curtailed somewhat, and poor Beauty has to slog up the hill to work.
With the exception of the money shortage, his stay hasn't been nearly as bad as I was expecting. I realised much of the hassle between us has been caused by my over-sensitivity, and also by a habit of his of roaring with laughter at his own jokes - plus if he makes a joke or says something at your expense, and you reply with a sharp witticism, he is too busy saying loudly "I'm only joking" to hear what you are saying.
His children, with whom I have become reacquainted after ten years, are lovely. James (17) is very shy, but has made a real effort and has bonded very well with the sudden influx of teenage boys who arrived when they saw Alex (nearly 16) who is stunningly pretty. We had a party for which Beauty cooked Xhosa food, and the kids 'bonded' over a hubbly bubbly pipe!



9th Jul, 2008

As I write this my brother and his two teenage children, who are leaving what I believe is a very wet and windy UK to come to stay with us in an equally wet and windy South Africa.
Family background:
My brother, who is eighteen months older, and I have never really been friends. We both went to different boarding schools from a young age, and when we were at home in the holidays suffered a pretty awful childhood - (alcoholic stepfather, abuse, beatings etc etc) I always felt annoyed with my brother for not being 'My Protector', and also resented sharing him with my mother. I never really allowed for the fact that he too was suffering, I just blamed him.
I always did very well at school without trying, (although naughty and always in trouble) and he struggled more than I did.
Our real father was a well known actor, who lived a 'glamorous' life in London, and visits to him revealed an unfamiliar (and to me, terrifying) way of life. I think we both disappointed my father, who would introduce us his 'pretty son and his clever daughter' which did NOT help!
So we grew up not really knowing each other. When we were together we always argued, driving my poor mother crazy. It was one of her deepest wishes that somehow we would find a way to get on. As we grew older, I decided I really was not interested in trying to 'sort it', and after my mother died, made no effort at all.
Moving to SA two and a half years ago definitely meant I would never have to try.
Now, he is on his way with the children who are 18 and 16 - I haven't seen them since they were 8 and 6, and then only for a few hours. And he is staying for THREE WEEKS.
I have come out in a skin rash. My stomach sinks when I wake up in the morning. I am not a happy bunny.

9th Jul, 2008

anybody out there? anybody still read this?
I am recovering from a brilliant week in Cape Town looking after 50 girls from Langley Park School, who came to work on a Dance / Drama / Music project with kids from the township of Langa.
Photos here: http://picasaweb.google.com/impangele/LangleyParkCapeTown08
The girls were really moved by the living conditions and the family backgrounds of the children they worked with, and have all sworn to raise money to support them. I hope the tears turn into real action. This country has such a power to move, to amaze, to sadden, to despair, to hope.... every day I have to adjust preconceptions and judgements.
So, back in Swellendam, I suddenly find myself on the management committee of the Swellendam Horse Show Association - I only know one end of a horse from the other by the fact that things go in one end and out of other - and also find myself in charge of raising press interest and sponsorship. Sort of like what Em is doing for LRGS, except with hooves not skates, and much less of a clue about what is going on!
Yesterday Dave phoned from the pub to say he would be late home as the Kombi had been swarmed by bees - the car was no longer visible, just one almighty massive heaving black mass. Yeh, yeh, said I, but as I swept ten tons of bee debris out of the car this morning, I reckon it may have been the truth.

eeugh

WAKE UP EVERYBODY! WE'VE BEEN UP FOR HOURS MAKING BREAKFAST FOR MAD CYCLISTS WITH ELASTOPLAST ON THEIR NIPPLES. Not nice at 4:30 a.m.