Writing

No Ninnies Allowed

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I am most thankful to my friends, not only for all of your kind words, but also for not forgetting me during my latest disappearance. Booting up my old desk dinosaur this morning and seeing all your tweets, shares and mentions, when you really didn’t have to, has warmed my old heart, and made me come over all slooshy now. Thank you for being most cool my friends. I will get all of you right back.

It’s not easy to flatten me. This particular dose of malaria is a doozy. Going by my own track record, I should be feeling a lot better than I am today, so I’ll have to take a course of antibiotics too, and hope that that does the trick. I reckon that I recognised the symptoms just a tad late this time. Yesterday I was flattened. Today is better only in that my eyes are open, and I can sit on my chair without falling off it. The fever’s still hanging in there though, and I’m far from steady on my pins. Shake, rattle, and roll it is. I have the whole Morticia Adams look going on, and my kidneys feel like they’ve already done the steak and kidney pie route, and just been reinserted. Actually, the mention of any sort of food is really not a good idea. I’m not the best patient in the world anyway. I also have a terrible aversion to needles in veins. A good old injection that doesn’t involve arteries is no problem at all, and I tend to doze off at the dentist – so I’m not an actual ninny. It’s just the thought of the whole needle, vein intrusion thing that I don’t like.

As soon as I could focus my eyes after my first caesarean section, way back in the mists of time, I really just couldn’t deal with looking at the drip attached to my hand. It gave me the willies. The nurses refused to remove it, as did the doctor, so I took it out myself, waddled off to the loo, and refused to come out until they promised to leave my veins totally unprobed for the duration of my stay there. I think that the speed that I zoomed off with so soon after major surgery must have convinced them of my indestructibility so they reluctantly agreed. Having a blood test for me is always epic. Even though the prick of the needle doesn’t bother me at all, I always have to cover my eyes. There is no way I could look at that vial filling redly. I have been conned in multiple ways, because I never go willingly. It takes a heart of gold and much patience to be my physician, so I generally forgive all the doctorly laughter and snide remarks about my cowardice, and the pillow on my face. Not so sure about bedside manners around here.

I’m one of those people most hated by medical practitioners the world over. When I’m confronted by any sort of illness or injury, I tend to research it first, and head off to my MD armed with my Google obtained knowledge. Actually, I also have my very own copy of the Merck Manual, which has over the years often convinced me that I’ve had everything from botulism to heart disease. I haven’t found and trained a new doctor yet since we moved here last year. I should probably get on to that, considering my current state. Some of them get quite beady though, point out all their certificates on the walls, and bang on about the years of study, internship, and sleepless weeks tending to the ailing and infirm. Well. I’ve read Sydney Sheldon, so I know what you lot really get up to. I’m missing my old doctor quite a bit right now. He was very sweet, and always listened patiently to my arguments for and against his own professional diagnoses. My medical chest is filled with all sorts of tablets that I bought only so as not to hurt his feelings. My suspicion of any medication other than vitamin c is huge, and I will indeed bite any hand that tries to force anything into my beak if I suffer infirmity when I get old. I doubt the infirmity thing though. I’m far too stubborn. I reckon I’ll be one of those tough old nuts that zooms around until one day they just fall over.

I’m back on track now, albeit very slowly for a bit. My feathered flock have relaxed too. Yesterday, every time I opened a fevered lid, I found myself eyeball to eyeball with a concerned parrot or weaver. The weaver was mainly intent on pecking my eyeball I think though. I wonder about our little Jelly sometimes. So now, before I begin to find out all that I’ve been missing, I invite you all to join our community of lovely warm people, talented authors, bloggers, and poets, for chats about anything at all.

https://plus.google.com/communities/115573021758683598908

Also, check out this little book I found on Amazon. I’m not sure if it’s always free, but it is today. Grab it for the basics on navigating Google+.
g
http://www.amazon.com/Google-Plus-Quick-Start-ebook/dp/B00AQABVSE/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1357888632&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=google+plus+quick+start+by+nick+kizirnis

Till next time friends. xxx

doctor

Review – The Treasures of Suleiman by Kevin Ashman

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This is a book that I have been eagerly anticipating.  After reading and loving The Dead Virgins, the first book of the India Summers murder mystery series, I opened the pages of the Treasures of Suleiman with relish, and was not disappointed.  Once again Kevin Ashman had me neglecting work and family because I could not stop reading.

India and Brandon reunite to solve the murder of an old acquaintance.  So begins their quest to find the Piris Reis map, which should lead them to a treasure like no other, and they are off on a journey of danger and intrigue, from the palace of Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent to exotic Istanbul and over the Caribbean to an island filled with danger from the earth, as well as danger from a man that wants them dead, and an ending that had me wanting to find this place and hunt for the treasure myself.

An absolute triumph of a story as far as I am concerned.  It all came alive for me, as did the first story in the series.  Kevin Ashman combines history, mystery, and a fantastic modern tale that makes you believe that it all happened, and has you gripping the sides of your kindle when the action starts.

I recommend it as highly as I can.  It stands alone, but having read book one I can’t wait to see what happens in the third.

 

 

Review – The Dead Virgins by Kevin Ashman

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From the first pages of The Dead Virgins, I felt the warm fuzzy glow of a new friendship.  Much as I did when I read my first Jean M Aueul, or Wilbur Smith, I knew that I had found an author whose new releases I would always eagerly anticipate.

Kevin Ashman’s masterful interweaving of historical fact and exciting fiction, as well as his brilliant descriptive ability, had me hooked until the very end, already clamouring for more.

The story moves between the ancient and modern worlds of Italy, Greece, and England.  A gruesome murder in the London Underground is somehow connected to Nero’s Rome, and a beautiful priestess.  Kevin Ashman effortlessly takes you back through the mists of time, into the mystical world of the Vestal Virgins, the treasures of their Goddess, secrets lost in legend, and then brings you rushing back to the present, with intrigue, humour, some seriously exciting action, and characters so likeable, that you know you have to meet India and Brandon again.

This is what a book is supposed to do, take you into the story, and The Dead Virgins does exactly that, in high definition, and with surround sound.  Of course I recommend it.  Bring on the next India Summers adventure.

Christopher’s Diary – 21 March 1960

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Something big always happens on my birthday.  Usually something bad.  This morning when I went to the bus stop, a guy came up to me.  He said he was Pan African Congress.  He said that I should not go to work, today was a stayaway.  He said we had to fight the pass laws.  He said that we had to fight for our liberation, and for the freedom of our leaders in jail.  We had to stop the aggression against the sons and daughters of Africa, that had begun with the theft of our country three hundred years ago.  He said that we should not be called kaffirs and be spat upon as we stood on the soil of our own land.  The ANC was too soft, he shouted, we must heed the words of Robert Sobukwe.  All men were to leave their passes at home and go to prison.

I had no wish to fight.  I never have, so I walked back to the centre of town, where I found Terry.  He was excited.

He said, “It’s time man, it’s time!”

People were chanting “Izwe Lethu – Our Land”.  We ended up at the back of a large crowd, and followed them towards the police station.

Jets flew overhead.  Everyone cheered and waved their hats.  It was exhilerating, until a terrible thing happened.  The fence around the police station was pushed over.  It was not intentional, but people at the back of the crowd were pushing so that they could see what was happening.

The police begun to shoot.  I turned and ran.  Terry ran too.  I ran as fast as I could.  I looked back over my shoulder, and I saw people falling.  They were being shot in their backs as they ran away.  I saw the sparks from the muzzle of the sten gun on the saracen as it swung around, firing everywhere.

I ran into a house, threw myself to the floor, and covered my head with my hands.  I have never been so afraid.  When I realised that the shooting had stopped, I got up.  I was shaking so much that I could not walk properly.  I went outside.

Bodies lay all around.  Men, women, children.  People were crying.  Most of the bodies were quite still, blood was everywhere.  I went home.  Terry was standing at my gate.

We sat on the couch for hours, listening to the wailing outside.  We heard sirens come and go, and then there was silence.

I heard that sixty nine people were killed, many of them children, most of them shot in their backs as they ran.

Apparently some were armed.  They had small stones in their hands.

I turned nineteen today.

© Jo Robinson 2012

Christopher – The Diarist

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Do you wonder how a Zulu boy came to be writing in a diary, while his friends played in the sun, and pushed their wire cars through the dry grass?

In 1953 we lived in Sharpeville.  It was new then.  My mother worked as a maid in Ventersdorp, and my father worked on the mines in Johannesburg.  He was a proud man, but uneducated.  The only lie he ever told me, that I knew about, was that he could read.  I knew he could not.  He blamed poor vision, and always had me read the newspapers he bought out loud.

He came home once a month after payday, smelling of the big city and exciting journeys on Putco buses.  My mother and I were eager for these homecomings.  He would bring a big parcel of meat with him, some small gift for her, and a packet of hard lemon sweets for me to suck.  If I was very careful, I could make this packet last until his next return.

After our feast of meat, my mother would go to sleep, and I would sit at his feet, and listen to the exciting tales of the doings in Johannesburg.  The great new music of Snowy Radebe, and stories of miners getting drunk on home-brewed skokiaan and stabbing each other to death in the shebeens of the townships.  I loved to listen to my father.

One month he came home with an extra parcel, and a very angry face.  He handed me a paper to read for him.  I never forgot those words.  The words of Hendrick Verwoerd.

“Natives must be taught from an early age that equality with Europeans is not for them”.

At the time those words merely confirmed to me that I was inferior to white people.  The few that I had seen till then had been smiling and happy, well dressed, and always driving beautiful shiny cars.  I was very impressed as well, by the fact that all white children had shoes.  To my twelve year old brain it was very simple, I had seen their superiority with my own eyes.  I nodded in agreement.

For the first and only time in my life my father smacked my face.  Beatings on the backside were acceptable, but being struck in the face was something else.  I looked up at him in shock, and I saw the strange mixture of shame and anger on his face.

“Christopher,” he said softly.  “I am sorry.”

We remained silent for a long time, and then he said.

“I cannot change my life.  I am too old.  Our ancestors were warriors.  They must look on me now in shame, as I sweat and slave in the bowels of the earth, for the gold of Africa to make the white man rich.  But not you, my son.  You will not shame our ancestors.”

He handed me the extra parcel he had brought, and I opened it.  I was surprised to see books.  They where very old and tattered.  Then he pulled another book from his satchel.  This one was brand new.  It was a very bright pink with a picture of a laughing purple horse on it.  I took it from his hand and read the inscription on the cover, “My Diary”.

“You will write in this every day, and show it to me when I come home.  You will also learn all that is in these books I have bought for you.  Every word.  You will tell me what you have learned from these books, and I will know if you lie to me.  I have found a shop that sells these old books very cheaply, so I will bring you more to study from.”

My strange education begun on that day, and the beating I received with the sjambok the next month for not filling every page of that pink book, instilled in me the habit of my life to come.

I pulled the books towards me, and examined the titles.  The Life and Times of Henry VIII, Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, A Treatise on White Magic, and Brought To Bed, the memory of which is enough to bring a blush to the cheeks of even a ghost.

And so I learned of all of these things, and because of my father’s inability to read, I learned of many more strange and wonderful things in the years to follow.

© Jo Robinson 2012

Christopher – The March That Was Not

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They are sitting on the verandah now, my diaries scattered around the remains of their lunch.  Princess feeds them too much.  They are laughing.  Except for Sam.  Samson, my son, the son that was taken from me.  He is not laughing.  He is filled with rage.  Even as his hatred for Suzette Hertzog consumes him, he is silent as she reads aloud from my diary, and the hair on their heads touches as they lean over my writing.  Hers the colour of the moonlight, and his black as a starless night.

Aah, they are amused about the march that we lost heart for.  There was nothing amusing about our struggle for our freedom, our dignity, and the return of that which was taken from us, but sometimes there were moments that stood out, moments where white and black recognised their mutual humanity.

I remember that day so well.  We had planned a march in Soweto.  It was hot, we were hungry, and we were angry.  Then the ratels came, and the saracens, those terrifying death-dealing vehicles.  We expected death on that day, of course, our marches seldom ended without such.  We did not care.  Our eyes were red with the light of battle.  We roared, and raised our fists.  The noise was powerful.

The young white boys of the army and police cocked their weapons, fear etched into the faces of these children, forced to fight a war which most of them never really understood.

And then a police vehicle drove in fast, and pulled up so suddenly that it slewed sideways, raising a cloud of grey dust from the road.  In the small silence that followed, the drivers door was flung open, and we briefly saw the scowling face of a high ranking officer, before it dissapeared completely.

Of course we are a superstitious people, and I am sure that the blood of each man turned to ice at the complete vanishing of this person.  We stared as the dust settled, until one of the white policemen begun to laugh hysterically, and there at his feet, chin level with the ground, was the still scowling face of the officer, who in his haste had failed to see the ditch that he had stopped beside.

Our laughter grew loud, and mingled, black and white, which is as it should be.

I watch Suzette wipe the tears that begun with her laughter, and now creep down her face in sadness.  I wish I could give her comfort, this daughter, this soul that entwined with mine, at the end of my life.

© Jo Robinson 2012

Princess

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Madam said to me, “When you write your cookbook Princess, maybe it would be better if you don’t call it Africolonial Cuisine.”

She does not like that word.  Colonial.  She is much ashamed of what her ancestors did to us, here in Africa.  Of course, I understand her shame, I have met her parents after all.

My book is not of those things, those times of great suffering, or indeed of the sufferings of today.  It is of cooking.  My cooking.  My Africolonial Cooking.  That is what it is after all, and I will not be as the ostrich, and hide my face beneath the soft sand, believing that if you cannot see it, it is not so.

I must look now, and see, which dish we shall serve first.

© Jo Robinson 2012