Cover_Predator

Social media is fast becoming a stalking ground for predators because of people’s insatiable need to share their private details in the most public of spaces.

I am busy reading Predator by New York Times’ Best Selling Author Terri Blackstock at the moment. It is a chilling fictional tale about a guy who stalks a fourteen-year-old Christian girl through her social media pages, tracks her down, rapes and brutalises her, then buries her alive. He then goes after a college girl who manages to escape after her rape. Unable to track her down, the killer drives to her address (publicised on her social media page), and instead succeeds in raping and killing her roommate.

It is nearly enough to make me rush off and disconnect from social media forever. However, if you follow a few guidelines, you should be able to stay in touch with friends and family and still stay relatively safe.

Tips on how to stay safe in the social media space

  • Use a lot more discretion than you normally would when you post. The whole world doesn’t need a blow-by-blow account of your every waking moment! Predators feed on details of your habits, likes, movements and personality traits.
  • Not everyone is who they seem. Predators can pretend to be someone they are not (create a bogus profile pic and details) to draw you into a friendship with them.
  • Never friend strangers or friends of friends you don’t actually know.
  • Change your privacy settings to the most private status you can – no friends of friends should be able to see your stuff.
  • Check to see that your cell phone number, address, and email address ARE NOT listed on your page. Even the city where you live should not be listed.
  • Never show your location or where you are going in your posts. Stalkers can wait for you at that very spot to lure you (or your children) away – they know what you/your children look like!
  • You can block someone to unfriend them and prevent them from starting conversations with you or seeing things you post on your timeline in Facebook.
  • Don’t accept an invitation of a stranger you’ve met on a social media site to meet.
  • Don’t post pics of your children naked. Dah! Paedophiles can share them across the globe and then come and hunt your children down!
  • Educate your children about stranger danger and about how predators can take advantage of social media.

If you have any more tips, please share here.

Visit Terry Blackstock’s website here: http://www.terriblackstock.com/books/stand-alone-books/#PREDATOR

ImageWhat’s worse than being stressed-off-your-head busy? It’s the waiting for the busyness that you know is going to hit broadside after the quiet-before-the-storm lull.

Hurry up and wait!

In my line of work (publications), it always seems like this: periods of frenetic activity, followed by frustrating periods of no work at all. I can be juggling ten publications at a time, but because all are in various stages of completion and urgency, there can be gaps where I’m just waiting for the scheduled publications to arrive.

Looking at our production schedule for the end of the year push, it is very tempting to feel frazzled, but after twenty years, I’ve learned that deadlines invariably stretch a little, and if they don’t, we somehow meet them with a little teamwork, overtime and extra effort. So, I don’t waste my time stressing about deadlines that are still ahead and publications that are taking longer than expected to hit my desk. I just don’t like anticipating them all hitting me at once!

Christmas wake-up call

Clients suddenly wake up at the end of November and realise that they have a list of publications that they need to distribute before Christmas. They then remember that we close over the holidays and that the printers close even earlier than we do, and voila! We have a recipe for corporate publication pandemonium!

Judging by the discrepancy between the said schedule and the present lull, they are just past the slap-your-forehead in realisation stage and are well into the scrambling-to-get-all-their-information-and-photos-to-us stage.  I’d much rather receive everything later than discussed but in an organised, edited form rather than early but piecemeal and rewritten and corrected all the way through the process (one step forward, two steps back, hair greying and hair pulling on our side!)

I also get nervous when a client leaves their publication to the absolute last minute then insists that their deadline is immovable (Christmas party – now who could argue with that?) and it leaves no time for checking or proofreading. These invariably end up being reprinted in the New Year at huge cost and embarrassment to both us and them.

An anchor in the sea of stress

At these times, it’s great to have a saviour whom you can pray to (whose birthday, incidently, we are hurtling towards at warp speed), the Holy Spirit, whom you can rely on for counsel, strength and truth, and the Word of God to keep your rudder in the right direction.

For this time of year, I especially need this scripture, which by the way, is displayed prominently on a prayer card next to my desk: ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.’ Psalm 50:15.

Or what about: ‘He keeps those at perfect peace whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in Him.’ Isa 26:3.

Then there’s: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ Phil 4:6.

I could go on spouting scriptures, but you get the picture. I hope I still do by the time I’m in the thick of things.

Otherwise, I could always jump ship – literally, by joining my mom and my sister on the same luxury cruise ship they are boarding at the end of this week. What a way to drift towards Christmas – aaah, a girl can only dream!

This is the actual tube shaped arcus cloud that manifested in Durban yesterday. The Weather Office's Wiseman Dlamini says the phenomenon is usually caused by windy conditions.

This is the actual tube shaped arcus cloud that manifested in Durban two days ago. The Weather Office’s Wiseman Dlamini says the phenomenon is usually caused by windy conditions. Photo courtesy of East Coast Radio.

Although a mini sandstorm was brewing outside two days ago, I ventured out of our offices for a brisk walk around the block. Sandstorms, by the way, are the worst times for wearing a baby doll top in public (think ghecko-white tummy flash) and a freshly applied coat of lipgloss (think chicken nugget lips).

My otherwise positive attributes (tenacity, drive and a disciplined outlook on health) overrode my good judgement, and I blew in the office door twenty minutes later, wiping the grime off my face and crunching through sand particles in my teeth. Why could I not have postponed my walk for a more suitable time?

Timing, or rather, waiting for the right time, is obviously not my strong suit. You would think that a champion Scottish dancer at the age of 6 would not only be aware of but mindful of the importance of timing. Alas, I ditched Scottish dancing for the more expressive, creative modern dancing at age 11. I tend to dance to the beat of my own drum, with my most popular timing of – NOW!

Infuriatingly for me, in my line of work, it is very much a case of hurry up and wait. You design a stunning publication and then twiddle your thumbs for months while your client passes it around and changes most of what made it a brilliant design in the first place, and then demands it back in double-quick time!

So how on earth does a person like me come to terms with everyone else’s timing, especially when most things take an interminable cycle of seasons to manifest? In my vulnerable moments, I remember the lives depicted so honestly in the bible, and realise that God alone is the one who can see the big picture.

Joseph is my favourite biblical character, not only because I relate to getting dealt the worst hand, but I especially treasure him as an example of a life transformed by God’s specific timing and seasons. He spent years and years in prison on a false accusation, had a brief hope of being released, only to have it dashed when he was forgotten by his fellow prisoners. After a few more years, God plucked him out of his dingy dungeon to the pinnacle of power and success: second-in-command of the most powerful nation in the known world – in God’s perfect timing. God’s greater plan was to save the soon-to-be-formed nation of Israel from starvation.

What about Abram? He was a white-haired seventy-five years old when God promised to make him the father of many nations – he who had no children to speak of, and his wife Sarai, a dried up prune. Eleven years on, he and Sarai despaired of anything happening supernaturally, so they cooked up a sordid plan, resulting in Ismael being born. Thirteen years on and a new name later, Abraham had a son, Israel, through Sarai (now Sarah) – twenty-five years after the dream God had originally given him.

Then there’s Jacob, who slogged for seven years for Rachel’s dainty hand, got duped by his father-in-law, and ended up working another seven to marry her. What about David, who was annointed king as a teenager by Samuel and only saw the crown descend upon his once oil-dripped locks when he was in his thirties?

All these examples temper my impatience with the realisation that God’s ways are higher than mine and that He waits for all the right pieces to be in place before He slots the missing piece into the universal puzzle. His timing is perfect (think cosmic conductor and our lives as a seamless symphony).

So when waves appear in the sky, use restraint and wait for the right time!

Ecclesiastes 3: 3-8: There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Aside  —  Posted: November 22, 2013 in A working woman's stressful life, Laying out publications
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two planets touching

I was nineteen, you nine
When our home bonds snapped.
Not our doing, this domestic undoing
Taut wires whipped apart in broken coils,
Unravelling our sisterly ties.

Murky misunderstandings,
Masks and mist
Greyed the colour out
Matting the shine
Of youth’s exuberance.

Two orbs in opposite orbit
Hurtled rocky debris
Punctured and reeling
In tumultuous flight –
Dead air in between.

But an otherworldly magnetic pull
Coaxes and cajoles
Tugging a twenty-one-year tussle
To reckoning,
To reconciliation.

© shimmerbutterfly
(For my sister’s 30th birthday, my first poem after a 20-year drought!)

worrying woman

“Worry, why do I worry?
Why do I doubt Thee?
What do I do it for?
I’m gonna trust You, and this time I mean it
I’m gonna leave it – at Your door.”
Cindy Morgan – Worry (Hymns & Spirituals)
(written by Cindy Morgan and J Bose)

What is remarkable/tragic about the words of this brilliant song is not that women worry – that’s a given; it is that they do it incessantly and daily have to repent and promise God that they really mean it this time.

A worry epidemic in women

Why does worry seem to have such a stranglehold on the ‘fairer’ sex? Is it because we have been socialised to believe that we must be concerned about everybody and everything and if we don’t, we are not being the model mother, wife, sister, daughter etc.? We behave under the deception that we are being irresponsible if we don’t worry!

Is it because we feel that we don’t have power over our lives (not as much as men, anyway) and so by worrying, we cling to a measure of influence and control? Do we receive a good return on our time and effort? No! Worry changes nothing, or rather it doesn’t profit anything.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

An art form or olympic sport

Some women have crafted the practice into an art form or an olympic sport. The more visible examples have frazzled hair (from incessant twirling and pulling), dark rings under the baggy eyes (through lack of sleep), the foot that won’t stop tapping/pacing, the shifty eyes and spaced out look when you speak to them (they’re not listening to a word you are saying, by the way! They’re on to the next concern/issue/problem/major meltdown.)

But because worry is cerebral, it is mostly warfare well hidden. The majority of women are masterful at disguising what’s within until their bodies rebel in order to save themselves from imploding. When a women becomes the one I described, it’s high time she gets some help!

When I went for Christian counselling some years ago (yes, I confess to having become that woman!), my counsellor would ask every session: so what if the worst thing you are worrying about came true, then what? This question would stop me cold every time because I would realise that worry was holding me captive in a deadly limbo between truth and lies, and that if the worst happened, I would still be God’s child, taken care of by Him, and – lightbulb moment – I would ultimately survive.

What it did was rip the floor out from underneath the premise of my worry: what if? It erased the uncertainties with the certainty of God – His constancy, immutability, sovereignty and power over everything, both seen and unseen.

The consummate coward

Terror is debilitating, but at least it is grounded on fact (think gun to the head/hurricane/accident etc.). Worry, however, is the consummate coward; it is debilitating without the facts to back it up. Don’t we have enough stress as it is? Do we have to add to it by lighting the other end of the candle so that we can extinguish ourselves in double-quick time?

Worry is never satisfied either: it bleeds from one subject to another. If something is resolved or the fear squashed by the truth, then we look for other things to latch our worry hook into.  That’s because worry is such a habit that it is like snatching a bone from a dog – he will just dig up another one to gnaw on. (Is it any wonder that this phrase exists: worrying a bone?)

We have to recognise worry for what it is: it may be legitimate in our eyes, but in God’s, it is plain, old sin. Every time a worrying thought comes knocking, we have to meet it at the door with God’s word, which affirms the opposite. Which word are you going to trust: God’s or yours/someone else’s/an official document/news report? I’m preaching to myself here…

Kick worry to the kerb

Worry is defined as allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulties or troubles. Dwell is the key word here, as in move in and bring all your furniture, pay the rent and lights – permanence! (I know it is the figurative version, but humour me here!) As we all are so good at this already (socialised to be homemakers from tiny tots), why don’t we just do the same thing, but change our address? Let’s evict worry as it never pays the rent, and instead meditate, dwell in God’s word. Get some faith scriptures and stick them all over where our eyes will be arrested and our hearts convicted.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Check out the song on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCVLh4ASo6Q

Award-winning Christian singer-songwriter Cindy Morgan, whose song I referenced, commented on this post on Facebook – such an honour!

“Hi Gaylene,

I just read your blog. First, I am honored that you used the song Worry. I am so with you. Love your writing and your perspective on all of this. It’s like you were reading my mail. I will look forward to seeing what your readers have to say about their worries. It is such a drain on our good life and our good energy. Lord, help us to lay that down. Thank you for reaching out, Gaylene.  🙂

Cindy

What have been your experiences, or can you add to the topic?

Get off the hamster wheel

Remember the image of the corner newspaper seller shouting: ‘Hurry, hurry, hurry!’ He’s the brother to the voice inside my head telling me to rush around getting things done before the final invisible deadline pulls the plug on life as I know it.

My driving instructor repeatedly asked me: “Why are you in such a hurry? Slow down! You may get there faster but you might just have an accident getting there!” This got me thinking about the deceptive seduction of haste.

Most of the time I feel like I’m on an out of control merry-go-round – going nowhere fast. I’m almost convinced that someone drugged me and pushed my brain’s fast forward button and now I can’t seem to get it unstuck. I feel like I’m expending volumes of energy to run on the spot. And yet, I continue unabated like a frantic mouse on her wheel… What makes me behave this way?

Haste’s subtle shove

I’ve observed a cultural push in the West to get things done quickly these days. Are you aware of its subtle shove every now and again? People want fast food, quick solutions and have the attention span of a midge. Children need to absorb more knowledge in a shorter time frame. Farmers pump hormones into animals to make them mature faster. There is an obsession with time records in sport (has anyone ever entered the record books for doing something the slowest? I think not!)

Perhaps the reason for this harried pace is because technology has sped things up into near time-warp mode. We have instant connections to people across the globe. Heck, we can travel a few hours to physically be across the globe! We have live TV, cell phone and real-time Internet connectivity, Skype, email etc. Don’t get me wrong – it sure beats the horse and cart, the telegram, snail mail and wiling the night away playing Rummy, but I think we have lost something precious in the ‘process’, excuse the pun.

Have you watched an old movie lately? Do you find yourself nearly falling asleep at the snail’s pace of the plot? That’s because people used to take their time to develop relationships, ideas, formulate plans, pray and wait on the Lord for direction, ask advice from many advisers, or just stop and ‘smell the roses’ as my step-mom would say.

It is the same for books. We yawn and put a novel down in disgust if the opening scene is flowery and descriptive (and more than a paragraph long!) And gone are the days of having screeds of text in a publication – it is now packaged in bite-sized chunks with tons of pictures because people don’t have time or inclination to digest more than a sound-bite of information at a time.

A deadline-driven job

I think my malady may have been caused by a deadline-driven job. I was trained early on to be the speed-queen of publication layout by a frazzled boss and unforgiving clients. Day-by-day slavery to fixed target dates will surely change your demeanour to one akin to a gibbering, wild-hair/wild-eyed gerbil. Thankfully, I don’t look like that (that’s because I hide it well!)

I think I need to learn to ‘wait on the Lord’ as the bible advises. Easier said than done. As a mother, full-time employee and wife, there is always something commanding my immediate attention.  ‘There’s no time like the present’ is a family litany that has morphed into a whip to thrash me every time I try to put something off to slow down.

A journey, not a sprint

I was a sprinter at school, not a cross-country runner. But I’m thinking lately that I need to view my life as a long journey with regular rest stops along the way, not a sprint that will burn out as fast as the pace it is set at. I know a mindset change is necessary, and what better way than to meditate on scriptures. Just thinking of the prodigal son can be an eye opener to the consequences of rushing off on a short cut to your destination…

I think it all boils down to resting in the fact that if you have your life truly placed in God’s hands, you have to trust that a) He knows what He’s doing and that b) He will bring things to pass in your life in His own sweet time.

“Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honour our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him.” ~ Matthew Henry

What are your views or experiences on the topic?

magazine spread

Professionally taken and well-chosen pictures can transform a boring publication into one that grabs the reader’s attention and draws them in to read more. Here are a few tips on picture choice to make your next publication sizzle!

  • The resolution of pictures is crucial to a professional looking publication. What is acceptable for web is DEFINITELY not acceptable for print. Resolution needs to range between 240 to 300 dpi – a web pic is 72 dpi! And DON’T artificially bring it up to 300 dpi – it will still look pixelised!
  • The cropping of a pic is very important. You can change entire slant/focus of a publication by cropping out unnecessary people or objects. Cropping often improves a pic tremendously, but it can also remove the context. An unspoken rule I’ve come across for mug shots is that you can crop off the top of someone’s head, but never their chin (don’t ask me why!) DON’T crop off people’s feet in a wide-angle shot if you can help it.
  • DON’T choose mug shots that have a busy background (if possible). If the client only has these available, rather deep etch them. Also deep etch mug shots that have a shadow on the wall/screen behind the subject.
  • A note on deep etching – if you haven’t mastered the technique, give the pic to someone else in your agency who knows how to not make the person looks otherworldly!
  • Clean and lighten/brighten your pics in Photoshop. There’s nothing worse than a black face that is unrecognisable or scratches and dust marks on a pristine landscape.
  • Be careful when you replace cleaned/lightened pics that they don’t move around in their frames.
  • Please use pics that are in focus. You don’t want readers to think they need to increase the prescription on their glasses !
  • Choose pics with different angles to add interest eg. a shot from above or below the subjects.
  • The best pics are the ones taken with the sun behind the photographer. The worst ones are taken at midday, where the sun casts dark shadows, especially around people’s eyes, or in overcast weather. If you plan to use a silhouette for effect, that’s fine, but as a rule, stay away from pics shot into the sun.
  • When choosing pics of a function or event, go for an establishing shot (a wide shot of the venue). This will capture the mood. Then also include shots of the decor, food, speakers and other interesting details. The same goes for site visits.
  • Captions should tell the reader more than what they can already see in the pic (that is so patronising!) Give them some interesting titbit about the person or place, or something which happened there.
  • Calibrate your screen. Screens are deceptive – pictures may look perfect on-screen but print out like mud.
  • Don’t trust your printout. If you are working on a high-end, glossy publication and there is a budget, ask to get sherpers made of the pages you are worried about. It will save on a reprint later.
  • Do a machine pass at the printers, especially if there are reoccurring adverts in your magazine. There are always variables such humidity, choice of ink and paper, which will drastically affect your picture quality.
  • Choose paper depending on what you want your pics to do. High gloss, white paper will accentuate fashion and art, and matt looks great for corporate publications. Laminate individual pics to give them an extra wow factor.
  • Steer away from editing blemishes to the point where your subject looks like a humanoid/child model/alien life form. Similarly, be careful of editing out – or in – aspects of a pic. We once placed hair on a bald guy! Avoid the morally reprehensible!
  • Be aware of picture trends. There was a time where every publication we produced had to have a picture collage in it! Nowadays, it seems that blocks are back! I find that these trends tend to mirror the latest Photoshop capabilities.
  • Don’t discredit Black and white and duotone pics. They can lend a certain mood, historic/old world feel to a publication.

Do you have any tips and tricks to share with the rest of us?

typefaces-lady

With 20 years of experience in laying out various publications to my credit, I thought I’d share a few pearls of wisdom with those just starting out in the industry – and maybe a few veterans will pick up some valuable info too!  This will be the first in a series on difference layout elements…

TYPEFACES/FONTS

(This is the style/appearance/design of the characters/letters)

  • There are serif and non-serif typefaces. The serifs have little curly bits on them, and the non-serif ones are straight up and down. This changes the appearance of words and publications considerably!
  • If you cannot read a word or a sentence in a certain font, DON’T use it. There is nothing more frustrating for a reader than having to decipher a name or brand amidst curls, squiggles or zagged edges. Aaargh!
  • Size is important! If you make your font too big, people will feel condescended to. If it is too small, people will give up reading it before they even try!
  • If you choose a serif font for the body copy, try to use a non-serif for the headlines/crossheads, and vice-versa. It is not a hard and fast rule, but it certainly looks better!
  • Try not to squash your typeface if you can help it (by applying horizontal scaling) as it was designed with a certain ‘look’ in mind, and this gets distorted – quite frankly, this looks a little weird most of the time to readers. It also makes the text harder to read.
  • Err on the conservative side if you want a document to have a sophisticated look and have a long shelf life. What I mean by this is, stick with the well-known classics, like Helvetica, Arial, Univers, Garamond etc. All the latest funky fonts tend to give your layout a comical look which most readers will have a hard time taking seriously.
  • If you want an austere, corporate look, choose serious-looking fonts that have stood the test of time. This might seem obvious, but it is amazing what amateur designers will do to show their lack of experience! This is the most glaring way to do it!
  • Limit your choice of fonts per publication to two or three at the most. Too many fonts will confuse and irritate the reader, and again, make it look like an amateur’s work.
  • Most big corporates have designed their own fonts (think Coca-Cola) – that’s how important they are in conveying a brand, so take note: fonts are very important!

[I decided to update a magazine by changing the font throughout. I decided to reflect this change on the magazine masthead as well. The response from readers and the editor (after three issues) was that the brand was well-recognised, it communicated a trusted and well-known source of information in the industry, and that they wanted it back to what it was (when it was first designed in the 70s!)]

  • Fonts are a matter of taste most of the time. Be sensitive to your client’s needs and preferences – give them two different options from which to choose. Too much choice is debilitating! If they don’t know what they are looking for, ask them to bring in a publication with a font they like.
  • Design sidebar text and table text in a slightly different font or a version of the font you are using for your body copy. This acts as a further visual cue that the text is different from the main text.
  • Make sure that the font you choose has all the elements you need in a publication: italics, bold, bold italic, etc. A lot of them, especially the newer ones, only have the regular version.
  • Once you have chosen all your fonts for the various elements on a page, print it out! Don’t trust what you see on your screen. Work is often magnified in the programme’s page view, so designers tend to misjudge font size and cannot see how elements relate properly to one other until they see a printout.
  • Insert placeholder text for the body copy if you haven’t received the text yet, and try to read the page. It is amazing how many times designers go for the look, but forget the readability – this is just as, if not more, important!
  • Be careful of always turning to the same fonts for different publications and different clients – you could be pigeon-holing your business or agency into a recognisable ‘look’ of its own, and taking your clients along for a branding ride that they won’t appreciate down the line!
  • DON’T use your body copy in a percentage of black throughout the publication to tone down a heavy typeface. I once made that mistake and the document just looked off. The words ended up being so hard to read as well.
  • Use scripty fonts very sparingly! These are fonts that look like cursive writing. Need I say more…

Do you have any tips and tricks to share with the rest of us?

my grandfather

It is the first anniversary of my Grandfather’s death today. Derek Templeton Hamilton was the same age as our country’s ailing icon, Madiba, and fittingly displayed a lot of his characteristics: he was a descendant of Scottish kings, after all…

I was saddened that he wasn’t given a memorial where people could stand up and talk a bit about his long and fruitful life, although it was perhaps fitting as he was humble and didn’t enjoy the limelight much. All I have now is the ability to tell people, through my writing, how much he affected my life.

The adoration of a little girl

I adored my grandfather as a youngster. He was the epitome of strength, kindness, patience and integrity. I remember his brilliant eyesight, his deep, rich singing voice, his crinkly eyed, infectious laugh, and vigorous rubbing of his hands when excited, an endearing practice that I adopted.

I remember him writing lists for everything, living by the motto that preparedness averts most disasters. He was thorough, meticulous and had an incredible attention to detail which was borne out in his crafts: woodwork, pewter work, calligraphy and paintings. His patience and kindness as a teacher touched many a life, including Sunday School children, his peers at TAFTA (where he gave classes on his crafts) and most of all, mine. I think my love of crafts, teaching and keen eye for detail sprang from him.

During the war years and beyond

My grandfather was a man of great courage, tenacity and an ingrained compulsion to do what was right. He led a team of men in the Transvaal Scottish during the Second World War, then served a second term when the war ended. He had the strength of character to wait until the war was over to marry my grandmother as he didn’t want her to become a widow during the war. He fathered three children (two became directors of large companies without a tertiary education and one became a successful entrepreneur), and he was married to my grandmother for sixty-six years.

Retirement

My grandfather was a hard worker, building boats for a living. This part of his life is hazy for me, as I only knew him as retired, and thus with a lot of time to listen, play and teach my siblings and I.  He and my grandmother were always embarking on some wondrous overseas holiday: Australia, America, New Zealand, Europe, the UK, the Far East. How I envied their stamina, sense of adventure and commitment to each other.

My grandfather enjoyed the outdoors and sports immensely. He loved to take long walks in the veld (when we were still in Johannesburg) and then later on the beaches of Durban. Yachting as well as swimming in the sea were also on his list of pastimes, all of which cost him dearly in the form of skin cancer. He loved music and singing whole-heartedly to it. He loved a good game on TV, a clean joke, a board game and a challenge. He hated dishonesty, disrespect, laziness and cruelty.

A legacy of faith

The thing, however, that I am most grateful for passing on to me, is his faith in Jesus Christ. When he came to faith, he bought my brother and I both a bible, which he lovingly addressed to us in his characteristic calligraphy, tabbed every book and attached a bookmark for easy reference. Then he prayed long and hard, counselled us and gave us tracts explaining the way of salvation. I believe that it was his prayers, mentorship and the tract he gave me which I read one day alone at home, that were pivotal in birthing my spiritual awakening at the tender age of 16.

I am forever indebted to him for this, as I believe that I will one day be reunited with him in heaven because of the time and dedication he displayed in ensuring that I knew the way ‘home’. My brother took a while longer, but has also since come to a saving faith as well, and all, I believe because of the seed of faith and prayer planted by our patriarch.

On this, the first anniversary of your passing, you are remembered, appreciated, and memorialised in this piece of writing. I know that you were human and had as many flaws as the next man, but you will always be my hero, my friend and my spiritual mentor.

Till we meet again in the sweet by and by…

right-left–brain2

I’m finding it difficult to write again as my logical, rational left brain constantly cracks the whip over my knuckles, telling me that I cannot possibly write about something because of political correctness or it is too close to home or I have to look after my personal brand, blah, blah, blah!

Weeding and watering

Writing a blog is a little like tending a garden. If you don’t plant, weed and water, it begins to die off – if you don’t write and respond, your traffic dwindles and support wanes.

Maybe I should resort to poetry or song writing every once in a while, just to be able to vent about what I’m experiencing in a vague, looking through a rainy/misted up window kinda way.

I’m busy laying out a poetry catalogue at the moment, hence the musings about poetry. I used to be pretty good at poetry as a youngster. Now, I hardly ever go there in my mind: let it wander and trip rhythmically on a windy road of prose and promise. I only tend to think this way when on holiday, when my mind is sufficiently ‘loose’ enough to allow such meanderings and ‘fanciful expressions of foolishness’.

Self-censorship is an occupational hazard

I think this self-censoring is a particularly annoying occupational hazard of editors. Even as I write, I have to go back and edit as I go along. Aaaargh! I have an image of my left brain as a stuck-up, tie-and-suit-wearing bully (yes, it’s a muscle-bound, intimidating male), pointing a pencil in the face of my right brain, who is a gypsy-like whip of a girl, twirling her hair round her pencil, lost in her inner garden while humming a whimsical tune.

Sometimes, playing music seems to help free up the highway between the right and left brain, but it has to be wordless, otherwise I cannot concentrate. Annoyingly, just before my head hits the pillow, my right brain awakens to amazing story ideas and creative flights of fancy. Such bad timing, however (gypsies don’t wear watches, obviously!)

Restraining the gypsy

What I think this all means is that most of the time, of necessity, I have tight reigns pulling on the mane of my gypsy, who just wants to run, fly and twirl with abandon. It is necessary, unfortunately, to pay bills, be responsible, be realistic (can you hear the gypsy gagging and my writing dreams dissipating like the early morning mist?)

I think I need more holidays to loosen up. It is good for my right brain, and thus my writing.

Now, where’s the map to that garden?