Getting a little vulnerable about Lockdown

I chatted a bit in my previous post about how much everything had changed in a very short time since COVID-19 hit South Africa. I also spoke about the things I miss. But I didn’t really talk much about my feelings.

When this all started, there was a bit of an adrenalin fuelled buzz about going into lockdown. Nervous energy, I guess. Not knowing if the shops would be fully stocked, but trying not to panic buy. Trying to anticipate our needs for things that we might not get in lockdown. A sense of fear as well, as we saw images in the media of army vehicles rolling into town.

Then the proverbial gates were shut. We were in lockdown. It was strangely anti-climactic. There was an eery quiet outside, but our homes felt safe, and we got busy with doing homey things. We baked. We cleaned. We ate. We zoom called and we house partied. We baked some more and we ate some more and we drank the alcohol we had stocked up on.

Anxiety

Sometimes my thoughts go to the surrealness of our situation, but generally, I feel okay when I am at home. Trips out the house are weird though. I feel incredibly anxious when I am confronted with the realities of the COVID-19 world. Seeing people in masks, wearing one myself, queuing to enter the stores. Standing on the red taped lines 1,5 m apart.

A trip to the doctor’s rooms to obtain a repeat script for meds was particularly upsetting. Seeing the medical staff in their protective gear, the drive thru testing station and talking to my friendly GP about what they were experiencing on the “front line”. I couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of my home.

Sadness

We’ve found a new normal. Nick and I get up and go downstairs to our home offices. The kids wake up and do their school work from their desks in their bedrooms. Its not a bad routine – especially the later start in the mornings as winter arrives. But every so often, something catches me off guard and I break down and shed some tears. Sometimes it is hearing the headmaster or headmistress at the kids’ schools talking via video message to the kids.

Tonight it was email from Claire’s school to say that when they are ready to reopen, the girls will be issued with navy blue masks and the teachers will receive face shields. The thought of all the girls in masks being taught by teachers wearing face shields breaks my heart. It is moments like these when I feel profoundly sad for old world that we have lost, possibly forever.

Fear

I’m not particularly scared about contracting COVID-19 myself but I hope that if I do, I will be one of the lucky ones with few symptoms. I am worried about the virus getting into a place like the care home that my mom is currently locked down in. It is scary to imagine what disaster will follow if someone there falls ill.

I am also scared of the long term economic fallout that this lockdown will cause. We are ok for now. Our jobs have carried on. I am acutely aware that we are the lucky ones and many are in a very difficult situation.

I worry that the business I run on behalf of my late dad will not recover from months of little income. The financial repercussions for my mom and the families that their business supports if we don’t survive will be devastating.

Just breathe.

I guess it is safe to say that my head has not been a happy place in recent weeks and I know I am not alone. Meditation helps me, as does journaling. Art is amazing, if I can get being myself to pick up a paintbrush. And when I have been really desperate, I have walked laps around my house. Bring on Level 4, where we can actually go for a proper run on the roads!

How have you been feeling? And what has helped you cope?

Lockdown blues

I’ve been deliberating about this post for days now. Wanting to write, but not being entirely sure what I wanted to share. Could I possibly add anything new interesting to all the noise around COVID-19 and lockdown? The truth is I probably can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said. I can however save my personal thoughts here. A virtual time capsule, if you will.

It is day 30-something of the nationwide lockdown. Some restrictions are to be lifted at the end of this week. I can count on one hand the number of times I have left the house. Once for a doctor’s appointment and the other times to pick up groceries. Each of those trips has left me feeling exceptionally anxious and paranoid.

At first, lockdown was a bit of a novelty. My day job in Communications got super busy as we tried to talk to our customers about plans during lockdown. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t mind the bit of extra time I had gained. I had grand plans for what I might achieve.

Over the last few weeks, the novelty has worn off. The last few days have been tiresome and frustrating. Everyone seems a bit prickly. I can only imagine we’re all over it. Most days, my feeling is best described as meh-ness.

meh/mɛ/INFORMALexclamation

  1. expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm.”meh, I’m not impressed so far”

adjective

  1. uninspiring; unexceptional.”a lot of his movies are … meh”

If you had told me three months ago how much our lives would change, I don’t think I would have believed you.

Three months ago…

I was arranging a trip to London. I would have been there now, if this hadn’t happened.

We were waiting to hear if Ewan was accepted as a Rotary exchange student. He was accepted and a assigned to spend 6 weeks in France at the end of the year. Now it seems unlikely that he will go.

I was probably whining about the traffic on the way to of from work. Right now, I work from home, and probably will be doing so from now on. Yay for no long commutes but I do miss my solo drives where I get to listen to podcasts and just be alone in my head.

I have never imagined homeschooling as an option for my kids. Now they have full school days in front of their screens using a combination of Google Classroom, MS Teams and Whatsapp groups. Their schools have been remarkably agile and I am so impressed. Also a big shout out to my kids who have adapted to their new school arrangements like champions.

I could go on and on with the comparisons between then and now. A few good things have come from this, but there is so much more that I miss about our old life. Being able to visit my mom. Walks in the suburbs. Takeaways and restaurants. My housekeeper. Cappuccinos with my colleagues and lunches with my girls. Friday night – family night. Saturday evening braais with friends. My hair stylist. Going to the mall.

The thing is, my lockdown woes are really petty in comparison to the many, many people who have lost their livelihoods from this! These people are the victims of this goddamn virus lockdown. The irony is that the numbers of these people far outweigh the numbers of the sick and dying. I think of these people all the time and I feel quite helpless.

Whether the insanely strict lockdown that we have going on here in SA is the right decision – I guess that is a debate best left for Twitter.

I keep reminding myself that the only way out is through. Good luck friends.

Never enough (Short Story #3)

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Warning: Mental health

So, all you need is organic kale and banana and…

The celebrity chef was rattling off a list of ingredients, pointing to each in turn. The new moms around me listened in rapt attention. I heard nothing. My gaze was on the long-haired boy in the black t-shirt working with cameras off to the side of the set.

There was something about the boy that took me out of the television studio.

Back to a house party where I had locked eyes with Matthew for the first time. The music had been loud, and so was the laughter. Matthew was different from the other boys. There was a hint of vulnerable in his masculine bravado.

One night together and I had found my soulmate. My forever. We were inseparable after that. All we needed was each other. Endless days and nights of talking, lovemaking, wine and pizza. Sometimes our loved ones rudely dragged us from our makeshift cocoon, reminding us that the outside world still existed. For the most part, we managed to ignore them.

It felt magical at first. But then I realized that I needed to get back to class if I wanted to finish my degree. He reluctantly let me go each morning and was sullen while I worked on my portfolio at night. The more I tried to grow, the more he withdrew.

Matthew wasn’t always down. Some tequila and he’d be great for a few hours. I disregarded the nagging feeling that things weren’t right with him. With us. Until I couldn’t anymore.

All he needed was therapy and a good antidepressant. I begged him to speak to someone, and he sulked for days afterwards. The medication went untouched. He said he didn’t want to not feel. Apparently he needed to feel to make art. But no art was made. His canvases were as unspoiled as the pack of medication the doctor had prescribed for him.

All he needed was his family and space. It was what I needed too. I called his mother in tears, desperate for her help. He was drowning in his sadness and self-destructive behaviour and taking me down with him. She arrived soon after and packed him and his belongings in her car. Not long after, I left our cocoon too. My old bedroom in my parent’s home was welcoming and warm.

When I checked on him,  the reports were good. It sounded like he was making progress. I reassured myself that I had done the right thing. I was graduating and he was getting help.

Years later, I saw the messages about Matthew’s death from mutual friends on social media. In the end, apparently, all he needed was a razor blade.

By making your own homemade baby food, you can adjust the flavours based on your little one’s palates.

The chef finished up and the dark-haired boy was gone. I could go home and cuddle my sweet little Mattie. All Mattie needed was love and organic homemade baby food.

The Meld (Short story 2)

The police left Sam to take stock of her loss. They promised to do all they could to catch the perpetrators. What was missing? Some small appliances, linen, a painting. And her jewellery. She was most upset about losing the jewellery. One piece in particular – her treasured turquoise ring. A delicate gold band set with an oval turquoise stone. It didn’t have much monetary value, but sentimentally, it was worth everything. The only tangible link to her past. And now it was gone.

***

It was dark when Tony entered his apartment. He didn’t bother to switch lights on as he made his way through to his bedroom. He wasn’t planning to do anything but shower and collapse on his bed. A day like he had needed to end as quickly as possible. He took off his jacket, loosened his tie. That was when he realized he had lost a cufflink. He cursed silently. His bad day had just gotten worse.

***

“This will do”, he muttered, “This will do.” Amos stood up slowly and examined his work with a critical eye. He could find no fault. He slipped his creation into the pocket of his apron, switched off his lamp and shuffled to the kitchen to pour himself a whiskey. Whiskey, a pipe and sitting on his veranda to watch the sun go down. These had become part of the ritual of the Meld. He never left anything out of the formula.

He tapped his pipe pensively, wondering how he would explain the ritual to Zach when he arrived the following day. What if he doesn’t believe? What if he refuses to follow all the steps? Too many questions running through his head.

He finished his pipe and emptied his tumbler as the sun disappeared. Amos reached into his apron, retrieving the ring and inspecting it one last time before placing it in the window display with his other creations. It was ready to work its magic. He noticed that his Meld was gone – just the same as the previous night, and the many nights before that. He smiled, knowingly.

The next morning, Amos was woken by a persistent knocking on the door. He squinted at the bright sunlight assaulting his eyes. Just as he watched the sunset each evening, he watched the sunrise every morning. He grumbled to himself as he made his way to the front door, annoyed that he had overslept on this important day.

“Hello Mr Amos, sir! How are you?”, Zach greeted the old man, offering a friendly hand. Amos shook hands with the young man and smiled. He noticed the difference in skin elasticity and energy. It is time, he thought. Bringing Zach in is the right decision.

“You can leave your things over there”, he said, pointing to a table in the corner of the sitting room. “Put the kettle on the stove, while I get dressed”

When Amos returned, he was pleased to see that Zach did as he was told. He imagined how his old home looked through Zach’s young eyes. He was sure that most folks did not boil water in a cast-iron kettle on an ancient gas burner these days. The boy was peeking into the workshop. He’s probably thinking about what he will change.

Zach had ticked almost all the boxes for an apprentice. He was bright, eager, responsible, creative and good with his hands. That’s what the people in town had said. But how will Zach react I give him all the details? The only thing Amos couldn’t establish was whether Zach would believe. He didn’t fear a wrong decision but there had rarely been as much riding on his decision as there was on this occasion.

“Let’s get to it boy”, he spoke decisively as he handed Zach an apron. Fortified by sugary tea, he was determined to make things work. Zach put the well-worn garment over his jeans and t-shirt and followed the old man to the workshop.

“We’ll start with the basics”, Amos said. He showed Zachery the furnace, the crucible. He emphasised the safety equipment, showing the boy his faded burn scars from when he had been a young and careless apprentice.

He opened his antique safe, allowing Zach to examine the supply of the raw materials for himself. Zach’s eyes sparkled almost as much as the gems he gently rolled in the palm of his hand. Amos could see that Zach felt the energy within the stones and his spirits lifted. Maybe? He was tempted to open the secret compartment but resisted the urge. Not yet, Amos, not yet, he told himself silently.

They worked side by side for most of the day, with Amos showing and Zach doing. Amos was pleased with their progress but around mid-afternoon, he halted their work and sent Zach home for the day, armed with graph paper and instructions for drawings. The youngster didn’t argue. He was relieved to go out into the fresh air, stretch his youthful legs and reflect on the day.

Once Zach was out of sight, Amos opened the secret compartment in his safe. Somehow, there were always two new items there, despite having cleared the space the day before. The articles were always different. Sometimes a cufflink and a single earring, or a tie pin and an heirloom ring. There had been bangles and bracelets.

In the early years, he tried to find out how the pieces came to be in the secret space, but eventually, he gave up. He knew instinctively that these items always held history within them. They were often part of a pair or a set. He could sense that their appearance in his safe represented a loss to their respective owners. The metals and stones that the items were made from were often different, but somehow always complimentary.

Back then, he was new to the art of jewellery making. He struggled to afford the supplies to make the stock he would sell. Despite wondering where the items had come from, he was eager to fill his display window, so he chose not to question anything and quickly set to work, removing the stones and melting down the metals to make something new from the old. He was delighted with the result and didn’t hesitate to give it pride of place in his display window. It didn’t stay there long. The beautiful new ring had vanished from the display the next morning. All that was left was a scrap of paper. Two names were scribbled on the scrap paper.

Amos put the scrap away in a wooden box and went about his day as before. For reasons even he couldn’t explain, he didn’t investigate further. He went about his business, designing, making and selling beautiful jewellery pieces. Each day, he checked the secret compartment and two lost pieces mysteriously arrived. At the end of the day, he would put the ring he had created by combining the two old items, and each morning, it would be gone and a scrap of paper in its place. He called these pieces his Melds.

At some point, he realised that the names on the bits of paper were the same names he saw in wedding announcements in the local newspaper a few months later. The rings he created were inexplicably linked to the joining of two lovers. A few times, he had made the effort to meet the new couples. He realised that each of them had lost something important and not long after, had met their soulmate. The strangest thing was that none of the couples ever knew anything about the Meld that Amos had created using their lost jewellery.

After he sent Zach home for the day, he worked later than usual on his daily Meld. Not only had he missed the sunrise that day, but he also missed the sun setting. He enjoyed his whiskey and pipe in dark, wondering if the change in the order of events would affect the magic of the Meld.

Amos set an alarm for the next morning. He was feeling wearier than ever, but he was determined not to allow his age to get the better of him yet. He wasn’t ready. Just before Zach arrived, he checked the window, and the Meld was gone. He put the scrap of paper which appeared in its place with the others in the box, relieved that the magic still worked.

Certainly, it’s not the sunrise or sunset that made the meld work. Amos decided not to share the secret of the Meld with Zach just yet. He had no proof that any of the steps were of key importance to the success of the charm. Maybe he could use the coming months to toy with the rituals he had created? Perhaps it would help him understand the magic before he left?

Days turned into weeks and weeks became months. Zach and Amos worked side by side companionably. Amos grew slower and his body was frail. Zach became more confident and proficient. He developed a reputation for his beautiful work and Amos was pleased with his progress. After a year of dedicated apprenticeship, Amos finally decided to tell Zach about the Meld. Zach didn’t seem at all surprised. He was excited. He loved the idea of a touch of magic in their work.

Together, they would check the secret compartment, marvel at the lost pieces and ideate the Melds. The magic remained unchanged. The Meld would go into the display each night and be gone the next morning. in time, he stopped going into the workshop. He trusted Zach with everything. The boy had become like a son to him.

Amos grew weaker as the months wore on. He left the world peacefully, knowing that he had passed the mantle to a worthy successor. Zach was doing wonderful work.

In the months after Amos passed, Zach began to make small changes to the business. Although he continued Amos’s tradition of making a Meld each day, he decided change was necessary for growth. A fresh coat of paint and bold signage brought new life to the old business. A new furnace and new tools made his job easier. He even began using a computer for some of his design work. But he never touched the antique safe with its secret compartment. He knew better than to mess with magic.

Zach was as excited as a child on Christmas morning on the day that the new workbench arrived. Amos’s old bench had seen its day and was fit for nothing but the bonfire that Zach had built in the backyard.

The next morning, sugary tea in hand, he opened the old safe. He was always excited to see what challenge lay within the secret compartment. It was empty.

The Difference between Boys and Girls by Hilary Green (Short story 1)

“The difference between boys and girls, is that boys are big bullies!” I stop washing dishes to hear what Sarah says next, but the crash of the Jenga blocks and Jack’s giggles prevent further sage words from my five-year-old.

On any other day, the sound of Jack giggling would make me laugh, but today I want him to be quiet. I need to know if Sarah has anything else to say. Did she hear us last night? Maybe she heard the thud? God, I hope she thought we were playing Jenga!

Jack crashes through the swing doors and into my legs. I wince on impact but can’t resist ruffling his blonde curls with my wet hand. He wriggles with delight at the sensation. I instinctively bend down to take him in my arms and wince again. Please don’t let him notice my pain.

He runs back to Sarah and their game begins again. All talk of boys, girls and bullies is forgotten. Had Jack been listening to his big sister when she shared her wisdom? Maybe I had misheard her. Was she talking about something else? She has a busy social life now that she is in school.

I shake my head, as if the movement will clear my thoughts. I grab a stemless glass from the drying rack and the bottle of Sauv Blanc from the fridge. It doesn’t feel like day drinking if there isn’t a stem. I pour a glass. I glance at the kitchen clock. Not much time. A swig. Another. One more for luck. I rinse the glass in the lukewarm water and return it to the drying rack.

I hear keys rattle in the front door. Shrieks of delight from the kids, happy barking from the dogs. I breathe deeply and I brace myself.

  • Wordcount: 300
  • Prompt: Men and women
  • Genre: Family, drama
  • Warning: Domestic violence

12 Short Stories and other creative pursuits

I’ve been a lucky girl over the last few months. Also a busy girl. I finished my degree, starting a new job, celebrated my graduation, and most importantly, worked on a bunch of cool creative projects.

Instastory – obvs!

I’ve had the opportunity to attend two fantastic writing courses facilitated by Mia Botha from Writer’s Write. I’ve always loved playing with words, but doing these courses has helped to give me some of the validation I need to pursue my writing. Yes – I am needy like that.

Mia runs a very cool forum for writer’s called 12 Short Stories. The idea is that you sign up to the challenge and write a short story each month. There is a specific word limit for each story and I need to use the prompt that Mia provides as the inspiration.

I also have attended a few wonderful art workshops with Gerda from O’Griet. I have discovered that I love illustration style artwork and I have found a new love for watercolour paints – a medium I had last tried in primary school.

In light of all of this creative activity – I think it’s time to revive my little blog and start sharing some of my work here. What say you? Would you like to read my short stories? Please say yes. Remember, I am needy 🙂

Making time

It’s been a quiet few weeks from me over the last few weeks!

For the last three years, April/May and September/October have been exam season for me. It is always a stressful time. I don’t study nearly as much as I should, but every waking moment is consumed with thoughts of what I should be doing. During these months, especially May and October aka crunch time, I feel the need to limit my outside interests, so as to really focus on what I should be doing. Even the little obligations and commitments that don’t take up loads of my time sometimes feel like they are too much.

I really am grateful to my friends and family during this time for being patient, checking in regularly and just being super-supportive of my academic endeavours. 

Exams are over for now and it’s a good few weeks before I get my results and enrol for what will hopefully be my final semester. 

Over the last few days, as I wishing away the exams, I was thinking about what I really wanted to be doing instead of cramming information on financial forecasting and cost-benefit analyses.

What I desperately wanted to do was to be creating. And with creating, I wanted to be sharing my creations. I love the making and the creating, but I also really do love the sharing part. It’s a big part of what inspires me. 

Having said that, I have a little idea brewing about some things I want to create. And there are even some little clues in there as to what my creations may turn out to be. Follow me on my social media pages for more. 

And in the next few weeks hopefully, I’ll be catching up on some long overdue blogging.

Till next time! 

Hil. xxx

Coffee or Tea?

If you had to pick one only hot beverage to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be? Coffee or tea? I wouldn’t want to have to choose!

Coffee is easy.

Coffee is go go go.

Coffee is wake me up and keep me going.

Coffee isn’t fussy. Coffee does her job in mugs, flasks and paper cups.

Coffee can be black, white, frothy, cheap or real. Sweet or bitter.

She is a dance partner for vanilla, cream, chocolate, toffee and ice cream.

She loves a dunk. A rusk or just buttery bread.

Coffee is quick, moving, grab on the go.

Coffee works.

 

But tea – ah… tea.

Tea is pure.

Tea is ritual.

Tea is soothing.

She is specific. Ceylon and China only.

Tea is same. A drizzle of cold milk, less than a teaspoon of sugar. Hot and strong. Always the same.

She is soul. She is calm.

Tea fixes. Just putting the kettle on for tea is the beginning of the solution.

Tea is slow and calm.

Ah… tea.

And Rooibos – never ever!

 

When last did you go on a Soul Date?

In Julia Cameron’s wonderfully inspirational book The Artist’s Way, she recommends having a a regular “Artist’s Date”. You can listen to her describe it here. Essentially, an artist’s date is an hour or two, dedicated to feeding your creativity and doing something that nourishes your soul.

I like to think of it as a Soul Date.

soul
səʊl/
noun
1. the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal
2. emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance.
date1
deɪt/
noun
2. social or romantic appointment or engagement.

I’m not particularly regular with my Soul Dates – they’re more impromptu than organised. I really need to make an effort to be more intentional about taking this time out. Playing with beauty, art and design gets my creativity going and makes me a happier person.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

Over the long weekend, I had a soul date with with my friend Jeanette and my sister, Jessica and our kids. As we head into autumn, Cosmos flowers are making Jozi look particularly pretty and a public holiday seemed like the perfect opportunity for some beautiful photos of the flowers. And our girls do so love a photo shoot. Connor loved it too – he’s all about outrageously funny faces and photobombing!

Jeanette is a professional photographer  and Jess and I love to fiddle around with our cameras as a hobby. We had the best afternoon, traipsing through the veld, searching for good photo spots, and experimenting with the light and poses as the kids came up with ideas for shots. Of course, their ideas included tree climbing and some action gymnastic shots.  My nieces tried throwing little bouquets of Cosmos that they collected into the air, and trying to catch the moment as they fell to the ground. I didn’t get great shots, but it was fun trying to time the moment.

I love taking photos on my iPhone, and I am still learning to play with my new toy, a Canon EOS mirrorless camera. The pics I took with the Canon haven’t been downloaded yet (lazy me) but in the meantime, here are a couple of my iPhone pics.

I’d like my next Soul Date to be a First Thursday at the Keyes Art Mile. What will yours be?

 

Touching base with your team

How is it almost April?  This year seems to be flying by at a ridiculous pace and we are almost a quarter of the year down!

At the speed that we have become accustomed to working at, it is so very easy to get caught up in the urgency of the daily running of our businesses.

The important, but less urgent tasks sometimes fall by the wayside, with all our good intentions of dealing with them later. When they are looked at, it is in a rush and perhaps without the care and attention that they deserve.

One of the tasks that I am thinking of is internal communication, particularly written internal communication.

Keeping your team updated on developments, events, industry news and progress is essential!

The advantages of excellent internal communication

• Encourages trust and ends the rumour mill

• Maintains staff engagement and decreases staff turnover

• Boosts morale

• Builds company culture

• Ensures that your customer has the best possible experience with your brand, through your informed and well trained front-line staff

And most importantly:

It is key to achieving your organisation’s purpose!

Think for a moment about social media. We have become used to receiving a constant, bite size flow of information and feedback. Social media engages us and keeps us coming back for more. Similarly, your team want to know what is happening, why and how they are contributing. Your regular communication with them keeps them engaged and motivated.

But… regular, positive internal communication is tricky and time consuming.

How I can help?

Let me do the writing for you!

I have years of experience in working with various organisations, from the very small to the very large corporates. I have studied strategic business management, so I understand what goes into making a successful business tick! This experience, together with my flair for the written word and my natural ability to adapt to tone and audience means that I can easily and effectively help you communicate with your team.

How do we do this?

I can write your staff newsletters, informational displays, resource documents, event updates and even scripting of oral communication.

I can work with you on an ad hoc project basis, or on an hourly or per word rate, or we can do this on a contract basis, for a reasonable monthly fee.

Let me know what you want to your people to know, and let me figure out the rest!

Contact me now and we can set up a time to discuss your needs.