Thursday, May 28, 2009

Celebrate the "Downing of the Derg"

Today is an Ethiopian Holiday celebrating the downfall of the Derg. 1974 a powerful and radical military group deposed (disposed of too) the emperor and a committee (Derg) took over the running of Ethiopia. A socialist state was declared, banks, businesses were nationalized and by 1977, what had been hailed by the western world as a viable movement to socialism and onwards to democracy turned into the “Red terror”. Brutal massacres took place to suppress all dissident voices and the Derg became increasingly more an arm of the soviets. Drought and famine ravaged the country; unrest grew into organized opposition factions eventually forming the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) that in 1989 began an historic military march towards Addis Ababa. Finally, in 1991, with support from Eastern Europe dwindling, his country in chaos and his rule definitely over, the army colonel Mangiest, fled to Zimbabwe. On May 28 1991, the EPRDF entered Addis and the downfall of the Derg was complete. Cannons booming at daybreak this morning commemorated what was by all accounts a relatively peaceful (at the end) take over and Ethiopia took the road to democracy.

Ethiopia is now a democracy but privately people wonder if the bright minds that “liberated” the country are going the way of other idealists who cannot bear to let go of power once they achieve it. Inflow of information (internet) is definitely limited and there is despair amongst many of the aid workers I talk to about distribution of funds. Same old story I suppose. Still, I do see children in school uniforms and a large middle class.

Annie and I celebrated a day of mercifully quiet traffic by taking Maxine to a playgroup at the Sheraton, opulence and luxury the norm in this massive, manicured and gilded enclave - difficult to reconcile the poverty outside the gate with this sanctuary of all that is elegant and beautiful.

Later this afternoon we go to a BBQ at the home of a British aid worker. It will be a multi-national gathering. Tomorrow we are heading out to the Rift Valley for a few days – rural Ethiopia, or as one Ethiopian told me yesterday – “…you will experience real Ethiopia. Addis in not real”.

Gerry

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Realities of Third World Living

One full week in Ethiopia and even as a seasoned traveler I'm still reeling from culture shock. Read somewhere that it can take upwards of two years to fully adjust to living in a totally new culture - I've got six weeks! I'm full of admiration for the many NGO , USAID and other workers here who live in conditions far substandard to what they are used to, put up with inconveniences like rotating electrical service and a totally anarchical traffic system to work here. There is a strong streak of idealism in all of them – they believe in what they are doing and as one put it to me yesterday, "we push, inch by inch to make a difference; we back off when we think we are going too far with the government. It’s two steps forward sometimes three steps back every week but we keep going". Primary work here is involved with food issues, there is starvation in rural areas and distribution systems are poorly managed. Maternal and infant healthcare is another major issue as is population control. Of course AIDS looms big and female circumcision is still practiced in many areas; I met a retired USN physician yesterday who is giving up retirement to live here for two years specifically to work on the problems of malaria. The majority of the aid organizations have Ethiopian staff working alongside many other nationals, there is a stated goal to involve, train and give Ethiopians leadership in these critical issues. The young Ethiopians I have met are well educated, often in the US and Canada, and are dedicated to making a difference in their own country.

Private sector is very limited here. Entrepreneurship not encouraged. There are no banks other than Ethiopian owned ones; credit almost impossible to secure. There’s been a shortage of fuel in the past week thought to stem from non-payment of oil bills owed to Libya. The government wants to encourage tourism but the infra-structure has a long way to go. I keep harping about the traffic but it really is the most chaotic and terrifying situation I have ever been in. Traffic lights are ignored, signaling a farce and road lanes mean nothing. How different from my quiet, orderly life in Tucson.

Thursday night my daughter-in-law and I went to a modern dance concert at the National Theatre, a huge, aging building built I think in the seventies, with little character other than that provided by a massive marble and bronze entrance hall. Security was tight; the event was sponsored as a cultural exchange by the British Consulate - turned out that I really didn’t care for this Sadlers Wells originated performance, Destino, on the Road. Terribly bleak. The first dance was titled “Journey to Death” and it went downhill from there! One bright spot was a performance by a troupe of Addis youth all with disabilities – it was encouraging to see the opportunity given to them to perform and they did perform, in my opinion, far better than the very self-consciously cutting edge British dancers. Annie and I, along with a good half of the audience, left at intermission.

What do I like about Addis? Superb coffee! amazing resilience, hope.
Gerry

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Friday, May 22, 2009

We're not in Kansas anymore,Toto



Addis Ababa, May 21 2009


Made it! Will try not to fly BMI again. First impressions - my granddaughter is adorable and I'm definitely in the third world. Addis ,a city of dramatic contrasts - high rise building, shacks all jostling for space. OSHA would have a field day - scaffoldings are made of skinny logs knotted together with ropes. Embassies are pushed in amongst residential houses - all behind high walls and locked gates. The regular folk simply have a guard who holds the key to the gate - important people have gun toting federal police guarding entrances. Clusters of people in the unpaved lanes that seem to have no plan end wall or open onto the bustling main Bole Rod. Street stalls holding piles of vegetables and fruit. Forget the "pretty" market ready displays we're used to in the US; Melons, cauliflowers, peppers, apples, mangoes, eggplant, avocados- not polished and pretty but certainly good. Coffee is the primary export, scent of roasting beans throughout the neighborhood. Clematis, honeysuckle, bougainvilla - all super-sized cover the walls, Asian and cala lilies pop up like weds, roses thrive.

We've no electricity right now - apparently standard as the grid is small and struggles to supply the country. We’re on a power every other day rotation. This is going to be a real adventure and I invite you to come along with me as I explore Addis and more of Ethiopia. Plans call for a trip to Kenya and Rwanda. Just delighted now to be with my son and daughter-in-law and able to get unlimited hugs from 20 month old Maxine who mixes in Amara (sp?) words with her English. Went to the gym yesterday – as well equipped as my home based place – was strange to look out from the treadmill over chaotic streets and to have exercise accompanied by a full decibel techno rock version of “Country Roads.” Five days here now and I’m feeling less jittery and more aclimatized…actually walked past the goat heads littering the street on way to a coffee shop this morning without wincing or shrieking! Can’t say the same for being a passenger in a car – simply terrifying. Heading out of Addis tomorrow (Saturday morning) for a crater lake hike. It’s amazing how quickly you can be out of this teeming city and in breathtakingly beautiful mountain country.

Gerry


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Addis Ababa- first impressions



Addis Ababa – First Impressions. May 18 2009.

Less than 24 hours in Addis Ababa and I find myself on the side of a mountain looking down into a lush green valley – the sort of view that sells picture postcards – and watching rag tag group of boys playing soccer; from somewhere in the distance a church megaphone bellows in opposition to the call from a mosque; a herd of goats skitters down the trail ahead of me; my hiking boots are so encrusted with thick, red mud that they have lost all traction. Pinch me!
I arrived early hours of Sunday morning. My son met me and apart from a few minutes in line to get a visa, we were out of the airport in record time. Passport duly stamped, re-stamped and then stamped again – the Ethiopians love stamps! – I was officially in Africa. Apparently I was meant to fill in an entry statement – none was given to me.
Sunday was a blur of re-acquainting with adorable granddaughter, Maxine, walking to a grocery store and in general feeling very dislocated. Monday morning another blur followed by a hair-raising ride through the streets of Addis to the hillside I found myself on. My son belongs to a multi-national and international running/social group Hash Harriers and we are on the hike component of a regular Monday evening run. The runners have long headed into the hills and the hiking group comprised of two young women beside myself, daughter-in-law and, Maxine. Sweep for the hikers was a very distinguished and urbane Ethiopian man. Must say that I had not anticipated a hike at 7,800 ft. elevation still suffering from jet lag.
First impressions of Addis are a kaleidoscope of noise, color and crowds. This is the place that old Toyota Corollas come to die and it must surely boast the bulk of all Lada’s produced in Russia. These along with the Blue Donkeys – small mini vans crammed with passengers - take over the roads along with the hefty SUV’s of the diplomatic corps, massive trucks, goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, oxen and people. There is no civil order to the traffic system; traffic lights are turned off, stop signs do not exist. Rather than direct traffic, neatly uniformed traffic police cluster in the shade to smoke, drink coffee and occasionally stroll into the midst of chaos and attempt to untangle the mess. And it is a mess. I have never, in all my travels, seen such turmoil. Accidents are frequent as are breakdowns and forget move it off the road common sense. Repairs are made where the vehicle stops. At one intersection the size of a football field (not exaggerating) traffic hurtled in from all directions, not one driver willing to give way. I simply held onto the safety strap (gave it a less polite name) and closed my eyes.
Addis is the HQ for the African Union and embassies from the entire continent are wedged in behind massive walls, compounds that are guarded by blue uniformed soldiers. It’s a hub of diplomatic and economic activity for African nations and the lobby of the Hilton was jammed yesterday with a contingent from someplace all dressed in stunning batik printed robes and suits.
My son and his family live in an area that is home to several embassies and private homes. As is the norm here, all residential buildings are secured behind compound walls, accessible through impenetrable gates opened by the compulsory and necessary guard. Inside the walls houses are either modest or grand but they have one thing in common – a riot of vines, blooms and greenery in gardens. My son’s house is modest and a bizarre mix of Ethiopia chic from 20 years ago (think lots of gilded light fixtures and veneer built ins) parquet flooring and enormous, solid wood doors. Verandahs open off most rooms to the small, riotous garden; electricity is an iffy thing, usually off for two days out of the week and the wall outlets testimony to the variety of foreign nationals who have lived here and retrofitted according to the needs of their appliances.

More than anything here, culture shock hits hard when out on the streets. Begging is universal and persistent; it’s tough to see the physical disabilities, outright poverty and filth that come with it. The government has no safety net for the mentally and physically disabled. There is certainly a middle and upper middle class – men and women working for the government and aid agencies, impeccably turned out and sophisticated. The contrast is difficult to take. My daughter-in-law, working for a foundation here tells me of the grim determination of these native Ethiopians, many educated in the US or UK, who could have cushy lives someplace else but who have chosen to come “home “ wanting to “make a difference”.
Gerry
Photos: my dughter-in-law (I love her) and granddaughter, Maxine - what's not to love! The jet lag hike into a valley that could have come from central casting.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tactical Error and politically incorrect baggage

Well, leg one of the great trek to sub Saharan Africa is under way. Pretty much uneventful flight from Phoenix to Heathrow yesterday if you discount the packed plane and problems with the cooling system. I've mentioned before that I'm the queen of the traveling light tribe - not this trip! family, and especially 20 month old Maxine, had shopping lists to be filled with essential items not available in Ethiopia (was surprised to find a cocktail shaker on the essential list) so I've gone from a one bag and my small backpack to three creeping in at the weight limit bags to check plus my carry on. Since I'm breaking this outbound trip with a visit to my brother in England BA would not/could not check the heavy stuff onto Addis Ababa so I'm stuck with an excess baggage bill for each leg of the trip. Furthermore had the schlepp the whole load to left luggage at Heathrow and face a bill close to $100 to retrieve it on Saturday when I continue the journey - that and I checked it at terminal five but leave from terminal one. Woe is me but I'll figure it out.
Took a mini bus that I pre-booked from Heathrow to Kings cross station on a glorious early summer afternoon. ( www.dot2.com - really good a reasonably priced door to airport services throughout the greater metropolitan London area.) London looked beautiful; great views of Parliament, The London Eye and the Thames. Traffic was much lighter too now that a lot of vehicles are deterred from central city by the "congestion" tax. Also got an earful from the driver on the hot topic here - namely members of parliament abusing the system to claim for all sorts of housing expenses not really related to their need to live in London. Seems politicians look out for themselves world wide!
Ran afoul of the mysterious pricing system for rail tickets at Kings Cross. I had a choice - leave within 45 minutes for Grantham at a cost in excess of $100 or wait an additional 45 minutes and travel for $40. I waited and was pleased to find a spotlessly clean and guarded (?) waiting room. The ticket seller advised me that I could apply for a 'rail card" that would give me a senior discount. Great, I thought - "how long will that take?" - "about six weeks" was the response.

It's light until about 9 p.m. here now and the train ride was through lovely rural countryside...great patches of yellow blooming rape creating a brilliant contrast to green fields ...a genuine feast for the eyes of a desert dweller. The English countryside is truly beautiful. Long walk with brother and dog planned for later this afternoon. It feels good to be here with family.

Gerry
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's day


Happy day ladies. Moms, grandmoms, honorary moms - wishing you all treasured memories and love from your families and friends. I wonder how many children are whipping up something delicious for breakfast. One of my fondest memories is of my boys (the oldest was the instigator) "boiling" eggs in the microwave. One of my least fond memories is of my daughter (around 14 at the time) organising her young brothers and me for a breakfast at a local pancake hot spot. We stood 3 hours in a queue waiting to be seated and finally quit, went home and they made "eggy bread" - french toast - and saved the day.
However you are celebrated, don't resist the celebration , don't fuss about kitchen clean-up and treasure those hand made cards.

I'm in a complete tizzy - normally the most intrepid of travelers and the certifiable queen of the packing light tribe, I'm overwhelmed with excess baggage (literal - I've dumped most of the metaphorical) and at the mercy of something in airline speak called 'codeshare' - booked on one airline but they have transferred me to another carrier for the last and longest leg of my journey to Ethiopia and there is major confusion about baggage allowances. My bags are heavy because my children over there have taken the opportunity to order all sorts of 'essentials' not readily available in sub-saharan Africa and I'm the wagon train so to speak. Ah well, can't control what I don't know so I've decided to stop agonizing and enjoy this beautiful day in Tucson. My son, son-in-law and grandsons are making brunch for my daughter and I and I look forward to the gathering.

Breaking my outbound journey to Addis with three days in England. Shall visit my youngest brother and his wife and go to my parent's grave. I'll pay tribute there to a mother who did her very best with the skills she had and who, in retrospect, taught me so much. Some gifts are simply not immediately recognized as such.
Gerry



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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stand by your man

Is anyone else curious about what motivates men in high positions with power, often wealth and certainly authority, to throw it all to the wind and take up an extramarital affair or two? I was a little disturbed yesterday to hear Elizabeth Edwards blame it on the woman. Seems to me that's a cop-out. I find the partners of men whose affairs make headlines tend to stand by their man (at least in public) in a way that sets a very poor example for other mortals and leans to the "boys will be boys, wink, wink" type of thinking that drives me bats.

Sexual fidelity (monogamy) in marriage or a committed relationship should be expected. It's not negotiable. It digs down into the most essential of elements in a relationship - trust. Break that trust and someone's world is shattered. Elizabeth Edwards spoke of "screaming, throwing up" as an immediate reaction to her husband's confession. I shared that reaction when my first husband told of his infidelity. I left the house in my nightie during a monsoon rain and drove aimlessly around the neighborhood screaming. And then my reaction was one of total disbelief, fear and rage. I have never experienced such a raw, primitive, overwhelming sense of betrayal as I did that night and I never want to experience it again. And then what did I do? I begged him to put an end to the affair, to get rid of that 'awful woman'. But as the weeks and months wore on I realized that I was incapable of forgiving him; that the trust was gone, never to be repaired and I ended up seeking a divorce.

For years it was easier for me to blame the other woman rather than look at the state of the marriage. "She", that "horrible witch", that "cow", that "bitch" - yep, all those labels - was the cause. Still have little ability to empathize with or even want to understand a woman who targets a married man and knowingly embarks on a relationship with him but as a rather caustic older woman told me when I was struggling with this situation , "honey, it takes two to tango".

It sure does take two to tango so placing blame on a scheming, manipulative woman does nothing but infer that men- "boys"- are helpless to resist these charms; almost implies that we love them just for that reason, "the poor dears". Baloney!

Personally I'm tired of the parade of high placed men rolled out to breast-beat in public , heads down, eyes lowered, bravely confronting their flaws and confessing to a moment of "weakness". Professing deep, abject sorrow to the woman they have betrayed, and she stands by her man, perhaps a little to one side, her eyes masked in pain, putting a brave face on it for the children, his career. Enough!

Interesting isn't it - you rarely read of a high-profile woman in this situation and you certainly don't see her betrayed spouse standing by her side and excusing her infidelities.

Read recently that a study showed that women look upon a man having an affair as a physical thing, not a connection of the heart - something akin to scratching an itch; whereas men see woman as only embarking on infidelity because of a deep emotional connection. Conclusion was that for men it's part of their nature to "stray", the darlings can't help it so women should be prepared to write it off as part of his being; pretty much like his need to play golf, tinker with the car and BBQ! Men on the other hand are to be excused for not being able to forgive an unfaithful partner because she is not "made' to be unfaithful and so her affair is a deliberate choice - makes you wonder who writes this stuff.
Gerry (on a high horse today!)


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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Be Prepared - Heimlich Maneuver

The following is from my daughter, a memo she wrote to the manager of the snack bar at the local baseball field. She didn't protest learning CPR and Heimlich when she was sixteen and it paid off on Saturday 24 years later. Just boggles my mind that a candy marketed to kids comes with eating instructions! I ask, how many of us look for directions on packaging before we eat something?....and to expect a kid to read a label before eating candy - the mind boggles.
Gerry

Wonka Giant Chewy Sweettarts
I wanted to let you know that Henry purchased Giant Chewy Sweettarts from the snackbar with his team “ticket” after his 10am game on Saturday.

He was eating them in the car as we drove south on Grant. He started choking; it started as a normal water-down -the–wrong-hole-kind of choking noise and then turned to no noise at all – I made an emergency stop, yelled to Ben to run towards the McDonalds to see if there was a doctor anywhere in the Basha’s center, wrenched the car door open (against the sliding door mechanism – I think I could have lifted the car with one hand at that point)….yanked Henry from the back seat and immediately started to administer the Heimlich Maneuver on him. He was not breathing at all. His color was changing and his eyes were wide as saucers – it took three attempts to dislodge the candy which was propelled several feet. Henry was limp in my arms and I was prepared to start CPR – I started to do chest compressions when he lifted his head and whispered, “I’m okay.” (the best two words this mom has ever heard)

At this point, a stranger had pulled over to help me. Henry slowly regained his color. We were all left very shaken, but Henry is doing fine.

In reviewing the package of candy I noted that it reads “BREAK IT! Before unwrapping, strike against hard object and break into bite-size pieces.” In other words, it would seem that Nestle is aware that this product is dangerous, otherwise they wouldn’t have “eating” and “chewing” instructions on it. Many people choke on items that they simply don’t chew, but if a product is designed to be difficult to chew, then it seems that it is inherently dangerous.

I reported this matter to Nestle company today. They required that I advise where I purchased the candy. They offered the profuse apologies, but also asked, “Did your son read the eating instructions?” My answer was “No, I seriously doubt he did as he’s 7 years old... And I can’t believe that very many, if any, children read the instructions on their candy wrappers.” The Nestle representative did not disagree!

In short, I have learned my lesson (it will be a long time before the kids can eat while I’m driving, and I thank my mom for making me do CPR class when I was 16), and we won’t be purchasing this candy ever again. I wonder if you might consider pulling it from the snack bar. I would hate for any child to choke on this candy and suffer brain damage or death. I have never before been in such an urgent medical situation – one in which I thought that my child was going to literally die in my arms. I would be remiss in trying to prevent it from happening to any other children.

The snack bar manager responded appropriately.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Halley's Comet - Heads Up!

METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, May 6th, with as many as 85 meteors per hour over the southern hemisphere. Rates in the northern hemisphere will be less, 20 to 30 per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hour before local sunrise on Wednesday morning. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and details.

Gosh, remember heading out to Colossal Cave in 1986 to see Halley's Comet - outing was arranged by Flandrau Planetarium at the University of Arizona. Overheard a woman comment to her husband "not much to look at, just a fuzzy ball". I was besides myself with excitement. We had a great naked eye view. Dragged along the teenage son of a friend (my kids were way to young...we were out at midnight) and thinking to myself that when the comet is next visible (July 2061) this kid (now a Navy SEAL) will be 90 something and will tell his grandkids, "I remember this crazy lady hauling me off to see this when I was your age." Certainly hope you remember Morgan.

Gerry

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Forget Winnie - Meet Hamish the Stink

Winnie the Pooh, famously self-described as "a bear with a very small brain", has competition in that field. Meet Hamish, a dog with an even smaller brain!

Cancellation of dinner plans yesterday morning motivated me to a spur of the moment drive up north to the cabin - something I intended doing prior to leaving for Africa. Wanted to pick up a favorite cardigan and some well-worn in hiking boots left here after my last visit. Dog and I plus a cousin dog made the 254 mile drive in record time and splendid weather.

First thing Hamish does when he gets here is to recreate the great migration - he races off, vanishing in a cloud of dust to: 1. roll in either elk or goose poop - which ever is older and: 2. to continue running in unfettered joy until he figures out that there might be food at home, at which point he heads back across the valley. This was the procedure yesterday and both dogs enjoyed a run around followed by early dinner.

Around 5:30 while I was loading the log carrier they romped in the meadow, occasionally checking in with me. Rana (the dog with greater than pea sized brain) alerted me to elk and I called both dogs up onto the deck and we watched a parade of around fifty elk move along the north side of the lake. For whatever reason (and I am grateful) Hamish does not chase elk - snakes are another matter. He went to rattlesnake aversion training last year and now he does chase snakes. Obviously I'm not signing him up for any other aversion training! (My daughter did sign up her afghan hound for chicken aversion training years ago - a sight hound, he would lunge on hind legs at anything feathered flying by, somewhat disconcerting when you had him on a leash - he wasn't especially bright and also attempted to catch planes).

One notch was loose in my brain - I forgot to latch the deck gate and went inside to start preparing dinner - was messing with a recipe for curried, roasted cauliflower - the curry part being important in the scheme of things as the evening wore on.

Long story short - front door burst open and Hamish raced in along with a blast of skunk - yes, the critter had been skunked! Oh, totally gross. I wrangled him into the bath tub and lacking any tomato juice (one small V8) I gave him a pineapple juice rinse followed by a ginger white tea conditioner. I will add that wrestling a water averse 42 lb all guy mostly terrier dog into the equivalent of a girly smelling spa bath is not easy, nor is it pleasant. Desperate to diminish the smell I ended his treatment with a gin rub down ( in the recess of my mind I recalled something about spirits cutting the smell - maybe they meant of the ethereal kind because I assure you gin doesn't work) .

Not to mince words, the entire place has that delicate after skunk scent cut with curry and as for my favorite Eileen Fisher cardigan - he slept on it last night! Adding insult to injury, I'm now facing a 5 hour drive home with him.
Photo from this morning when he was peering round a door wondering if he was going to be once again assaulted in the tub!
Gerry

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Friday, May 1, 2009

He done me wrong - again

In general I would say that I am open, receptive and non judgmental - but all that goes out the window when confronted by chronic complainers. I confess to there being one or two (three to be exact) people in this whole wide world who I go out of my way to avoid - even to the extent of hiding behind the fruit display in the local supermarket that I tried yesterday.

I heard her voice first; considered ditching my basket and making a run for it but instead moved rapidly behind a mound of pineapples hoping to wait it out. No such luck. "Gerry" and I cringed as she advanced on me. (this same woman once told me that I looked younger now that I had gained some weight and had lost "cheekbones" ...the "fat" she added, "helps erase lines"! How's that for a compliment? ) The acquaintance is from another time in my life when we were both members of the same country club. I divorced, left the club and moved on with my life. She stayed well and truly stuck in a black hole of grievances. I can usually manage a year, sometimes two without crossing her path but no matter how long the time the greeting assault is always the same. She launches into a rant about men being lower than gooey-ducks on the evolutionary scale and then into a "do you know what he's done now" soliloquy about her ex-husband. And I do mean ex. They have been divorced 37 years! My role in all this is that I used to play doubles with him when single and remain on nodding terms occasionally running him into him at the theatre or wine tasting - you know, those completely random events that you neither seek out nor avoid.

I do know that the divorce was at her instigation; that he was exceptionally generous and to this day , at least in my hearing, has never uttered a negative word abut her. True, he did re-marry - 23 years after the divorce - a "conniving, money grubbing widow" according to "M"; to the rest of us a supportive, funny and recently retired teacher.

Why is it that some people, men and women both, are incapable of letting go of the past? Surely time creates a chasm over which you no-longer choose to do a balancing act. I had ample reason to be royally p/o'd at my ex-husband but fairly soon came to realise that grudges, anger - they do nothing but take the bounce out of your step. Really old friends of mine who first met me when I was part of the original marriage were somewhat astounded recently when I said how he and I now correspond civilly and with some warmth. "Hey", I told them, "the battles over. Sure, he did do me wrong but it's in the past now".

But not "M". For 37 years she has failed to bury the hatchet; not only that, she takes it out and sharpens it. She re-married and drove that poor man to the brink of despair and he too is included in the litany of "he done me wrong" that is her only talking point. My patience snapped yesterday when after three minutes of this routine I plonked a pineapple into my basket and announced I had to go. "You know" she said "I'm disappointed in you as a friend, you never have time for me". We are not friends I muttered under my breath and then summoned the courage to say it out loud and made a run for it. I've decided I'm not going to even pretend when we run into each other again next year! and now I've got to wrestle that pineapple out of it's skin and into a bowl.
Gerry

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