Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Prayers & Possitive thoughts needed

Please please think of my friend.

She started having contractions at 28 weeks pregnant on Friday evening. She called me at 08:30 on Saturday morning and I told her to get herself checked. She was admitted to hospital at 11am. I have been with her since she was transferred to a bigger hospital at 16:00 on Saturday (with 2 breaks, one to sleep last night and one for lunch today).

They tried to stop the labour but she finally gave birth via Caesarean at 20:30 tonight (Sunday). Her baby is a tiny boy weighing 1160g.

So far he is strong but very very early.

Please pray, think positive thoughts and what ever else you believe in that he stays strong and pulls through. It is going to be a long road for him.

Welcome to the world precious little guy.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Happy Birthday Angelique

Angelique was born 9 years ago today at about 06:30am.

Happy Birthday precious girl.
Your family think of you often.

We have bought a potted pink Gerbera, at my mother in law's request, to remember her by.

(Quinn asked to take a small photo of her to school today to use for news/show & tell, so that he can tell his class and teacher about her on her birthday. I thought that was sweet.)

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Human Rights Day

Today the 21st of March is Human Rights Day in South Africa.

Quinn's annual school camp-out was scheduled for last night. We went last year and had fun, so I was keen to go again. Of course this year we are sans Richard though, and I hadn't realised quite how accustomed I had got to him packing the car, setting up camp, making the beds (including blowing up air mattresses) and then taking it all down afterwards. God camping is a lot of work! Especially when it's only over night and only from 6pm to 8am!

I decided to take our easiest tent, which is the one the kids use when we go camping properly. It is simple and straight forward and you don't need a manual to figure out how to put it up...

I left the mattresses at home. But since the camp out is held at WPCC which is 2-3kms from home I went back to get one. Luckily I checked before I left, and as I suspected the mattress stoppers were not with them! Why?? Who knows!!?? Gah. I had a slight sense of humour failure over that. At least as mentioned I did check so I got a blanket and decided to make do with that. Once the tent and bed were set up, and as hundreds of other tents accompanied by running, yelling and raging kids arrived and followed suit I decided I would just have to pour myself a drink. The result was a really pleasant evening chatting to some parents, and mellowing out with beer, sparkling wine and Amarula.

I took the easy route dinner-wise and just bought the Nando's Chicken burgers being sold there. Easy and rather tasty. The kids went to bed around 10pm or so, and I followed at about 12am. The night was surprisingly quiet and restful and everyone settled down and were very considerate. I was woken by talking at 6:30am, but the volume was kept down until 7am when there was much more activity and everyone got up.
We munched on bacon and egg rolls and coffee and chatted while the tents dried off a bit from the morning dew, before packing up and heading home.

After unpacking and cleaning up the boys and I collected some flowers and set off across town for Lion's Head. It is Angelique's birthday on Friday, and her memorial White Stinkwood tree is planted on the slopes of Lion's Head, so I like to try to visit it near to the anniversary of her birth/death. She would have been nine years old this year...

I previously took Quinn and Griffin up with me in June last year. We visited Angelique's tree and then decided to press up a bit further. Griffin made it to the 'vench' (bench) overlooking Sea Point - about half way, before being too tired and giving up. I tried again just with Quinn a short while later, and was amazed that he could manage to go the whole way up, with several rests on the way.

So today I told Griffin we'd try and see how much he could manage. No pressure. We set off and despite being a bit tired from the late night he was in good spirits. Even helping me to carry the flowers some of the time.
We got up to Angelique's tree quite easily, but after some recent fires on Lion's Head/Signal Hill we were a bit worried whether it would still be there. In fact I couldn't find it at all, and was starting to think it had been crushed by a large falling tree. but then just when I was losing hope I saw it poking through a bit further down the slope. Griffin braved the bushes with me and we went down to it. He was very sweet and was stroking the tree gently and talking to it etc. We placed the flowers at the bottom of the tree, and I watered it a bit.
Griffin took this photo of me.
When we climbed back up to the main path, Griffin called out to Quinn, 'Quinn I saw Angelique! She is a tree, and she is alive and mommy watered her!' LOL

Both boys were still full of energy, especially after a lollipops I gave them, so we pressed on further and made it to the half way point at the Sea Point bench.
After a snack break they were ready to carry on, which we did right to the 'tippy-top', as Griffin says.

I was so impressed with Griffin, not only that he made it all the way up and down, but stayed cheerful, helpful and jovial throughout without moaning once. Incredible.

After we got to the bottom we went to Woolworths to buy some chocolate cake and brownies etc. Since the boys though Angelique needed a birthday cake. We took them to a friend's house where we had coffee, cake and a good chat, before heading home for much needed baths and hair washing. It was a good day.


Well it's been a while since my last confession, I mean since I last posted, so here's a bit of a catch-up...

I had a bit of a bad week last week, emotion-wise. A lot happened and it culminated in a migraine from hell, warning me that all was not right. Seriously I need to disown/renounce whatever a person in my family (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!). this person brings me no good at all, and has just added a huge amount of grief and issues to my life. I do need it to stop now!!! Right moving on, now that I am able to...

Quinn had his Big Swim at school I was able to sneak some time off work to go watch, and to help officiate. he did well, although he had his snorkelling gear and tired himself out a bit by swimming along the bottom of the pool a lot of the time, instead of staying on the surface and breathing. It was fun to watch though. I missed it last year.
Richard was back from his tri-country trip to Italy-UK-Belguim last week Friday. He got in at 11pm, after being delayed a full day due to some KLM strike etc. He was registered to do the Argus Cycle Tour (along with 35 000 other people including Lindy), but after really not training at all (unless 2-3 20 minute cruises and one long ride 9 months ago qualifies?) and having been travelling with quite a few flights in just 2 weeks I didn't think he'd be up to it. But he was still keen. He went for a ride at 11:30pm on Friday night (just an hour after a major trans-continental flight). He came back in 15mins - flat tyre! LOL.

On Sat he finally went to register at about 12:30pm. After a few hours he came back with a new tube, and settled in to watch rugby, only to find that the tube was wrong. By which time almost all cycle shops were closed.

I asked him what he was going to do, and he said 'I'll get one at the start...' !!! The planner in me was freaking out. I told him he had to go get one right then and there, at 8pm, so I packed him off the City Cycles in Canal Walk. he came back after 9pm and then decided maybe he should actually get ready. So he sewed his number on the front of his shirt. Then read that it needed to be on the back! etc etc. I did manage to get him to eat a small bowl of spaghetti. It felt like a mandatory thing to do...

On Sunday we put him on the train at Rondebosch station 9am. He started somewhere close to 11am. We saw him at 11:20 or so, about 8km into the race going up Edinburgh Drive. Looking fine.
We chased him to Constantia - missed him. Chased to the end of the M3 in Muizenberg missed him again. So we gave up and went on our way.
We heard from friends at about 14:30 that he'd just left them at Imhoff's Gift after getting a beer over the wall from them. He finished close to 17:00, and said he only got off to walk once, up Suikerbossie - the last long and mean hill at almost 100km in.. He did it in 5:58mins officially, but he said he actually finished about 5 mins earlier, but stopped before the timing line, not realising you had to go past that point...

Honestly I can't believe he finished, and is already keen to do it again next year! Damn he is fit, and without even trying! *mutter* *mutter* I am impressed! Well done :)
This last week end went by in a blur of blah-ness. There was one interesting part where I went for a run/walk and wanted to cut through Rondebosch Boys' High to meet Quinn at cubs. I found the school gate closed at the bottom of the fields, and instead of turning back and going around the long way (like a normal person would) I decided to keep trying to get to where I wanted to go. I considered balancing on a pipe over the canal, but it was wrapped in razor wire and that guaranteed that I would fall of and shred myself, so I quickly abandoned that idea. Instead I scaled a fence, to get further along the canal in the hopes that I'd find a non-razor wire garbed pipe or something. After scaling said fence and jumping over a section of razor wire on the other side (wouldn't a normal person realise this meant they DIDN'T want people climbing on and fiddling with it?) I realised I was trapped in an enclosure. Fence with razor wire the direction I had come from, deep canal on one sire and 8 foot steel fencing on the 2 other sides. Er. Oops.

I looked around and found a homeless man sitting on a chair, settling in for the evening. There wasn't much I could do so I walked up to him and said, 'Um, excuse me how do you get out of here?' he was quite astounded at seeing me and just said, 'How did you get IN here??' When I told him, he said I'd have to use his ladder to get out. So I used his ladder to climb up the 8 foot steel fence and jumped down the other side... all in a days work for me. LOL ;)

I got to cubs (still alive YAY) to find that they'd made fires and were cooking 'stok brood' wow that brings back memories! (stok brood = stick bread = bread dough twirled around a stick and cooked over a fire.)

I needed some time out over the week-end (due to said emotional state) and I went to see Marie Antoinette, with Kirsten Dunst. I thought it was well done.

On Saturday afternoon Griffin had his school's Sports Day. It was kind of fun, but I still don;t understand why the school insists on holding all events on their postage stamp sized patch of lawn. it would make so much more sense to use a nearby field... *shrug* Still I did my duty supporting the school and bought and ate too many doughnuts :)

Richard left again on Sunday (before the sparrows started farting) and is now in Abuja, Nigeria. I don;t know why, but it's some work thing involving several African presidents, and presumably with something to do with Education ...

At a more sane hour on Sunday the boys and I got up and went to the Newlands Fire Base, where we joined the Cubs group for a Fire Base talk by the Fire Chief. It was really interesting and we got to see the Fire Fighting Helicopters too.
After that we went for a nice long walk in Newlands Forest.
My Birth Arts doula course book arrived, so I started reading that and doing the required Activities. it looks like it will be fun...

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Nurse - always been in the stars...?

I remembered about my first Nurse encounters/dablings last night... and decided to dig out a photo.

Now I never did Boy Scouts/Cubs or Girl Guides/ Brownies. No, not me. I was a St John's Ambulance cadet! And the youngest by far in our brigade (the 14th Northcliff Brigade as I recall). I was all of about 9 years old at the time.

I can tie a reef and other knots, dress a wound several ways, do CPR, mix up a poultice, clean bed sores, change a bed (with or without a person in it) compete with 'hospital corners', and even make fake wounds for demonstration purposes (tissue paper and Vaseline can make a mean fake blister; and putty, chicken bones and Mercurochrome make convincing wrist wounds!*

I think I did a full 2 years of St John's, and even did a fair amount of community service involving volunteering at marathons and rubbing Vaseline into grown men's sweaty and stiff thighs (remember I was 9 years old). Actually it explains quite a lot....

Like my recent debaucherous foray into nursing...

* bet you didn't know that about me!

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Not here much atm

I haven't had much time to post here recently, as I am spending most of my free time doing doula reading and studies and writing articles for and editing my Birth Buddies Doula site.

Somehow I manage to stay up far too late each night, but I am enjoying it.

Now I need to attend some more actual births!

2 friends have taken up my offer of providing doula services for them for my certification births. they are due in May and June respectively. I have also contacted my midwife who has said she is happy to help me with fulfilling the rest of the practical requirements.

So things are hotting up. :)

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Tenants - heaven & hell

After Lindy's recent post on the ordeals of having a rented out investment property, I thought I'd share my experience too.

I bought a Harfield Village cottage as in investment at the beginning of 2004. I had no retirement or any other investments to speak of, and decided a property was the best thing to put money into. It is in my name and I rent it out and run it as a business. I briefly considered getting a letting agent to manage it, and then decided it was a waste of money as I know what needs to be done, I have a good contract, and any serious problems will still be mine to worry about, and pay for, even if a letting agent is involved. Plus the place is close enough for me to keep an eye on it myself.

So I advertised and surprisingly quickly I found my first tenant. He was a Chinese man, working for a Chinese parastatal company here in SA. He stayed for 27 months, and he was great. I invoiced his company each month and they paid his rent and utility bills directly. Further than that I never really heard from him. We had a bit of a language barrier, but we managed to make ourselves understood so it was fine.
He eventually left and went back to China. He had left the place quite dirty - as he never really cleaned, but other than that I had no problem with him at all. Even though I had a 2-month notice period I allowed him to leave with 2 weeks notice as he forfeited his deposit and left the fridge, washing machine, microwave, double bed, 2x single beds, 72cm TV, curtains and dining table behind for me. So I really couldn't complain about him, or that I had to get the place cleaned thoroughly and replace a piece of carpet. It was a good first experience as a landlord.

Last July I had to find a new tenant which proved to be quite difficult. I kept advertising and taking people to see the place, but they had all sorts of reasons why it wasn't the place for them. It also didn't help that is was now less pristine, and only partially furnished (neither furnished nor unfurnished really) with the bits and pieces that the Chinese man had left.

Finally a lovely Korean couple asked if they could rent the pace for a month in August, because they had 3 nephews coming to try their luck and see if they could make their fortunes in SA. They duly arrived and although they didn't speak a word of English they were very sweet and polite and formal young men. The Korean lady was looking after them and cooking for them etc. They were not sure if they would be staying on longer, but in the end they decided to go back after 5 weeks. So that was a short, but good second experience as a landlord.

Now I had to go through the whole advertising and show-house thing again. It was getting a bit tedious, and I was seriously thinking about getting a letting agent to just take it. I found myself rushing through to the house almost every evening to show it to people, and would eventually ask them to just look at photos and drive past alone and THEN let me know if they really want to look at it. *sighe*

Nearly a month went by with the place standing empty, when the Korean family phoned again one evening and said they were looking for a place for another month. I had lined up a few people to look at the place, so I told them to come past when the other were there, and if no one took it that evening they could have it again.
I arrived at the house and this guy arrived, all body-builder-esque, with his cousin and 'friend'. The tanned and buff guy was all sweet and charming and told me how his cousin and friend had been staying with him and his wife, but they need their own space, so he was renting a place for them. He said all the right things and as a plumber/handyman asked if I would mind if he fixed and improved a few things? (Hell no, go right ahead!) He basically seemed perfect and signed a 6-month lease right there and then, and took the keys so they could start moving in asap.

I had to turn the poor Koreans away who were waiting outside.

The new tenant, didn't move in immediately in the end, because he said they had to go away for a few days, so I agreed to charge them from the start of the next month only, since it was only a week anyway. He paid a 1.5 month deposit and the rent for October and I was just happy to have such a great tenant. He assured me the cousin and friend would be on their best behaviour.

Then one 30 October 2006 he phoned me with a long story about how his cousin’s friend had disappeared and stolen R90 000 worth of money and goods from the house, and had caused a whole family feud etc etc. He said they would therefore not be able to continue with the lease, and did not have the means to continue the rental, so he wanted to give notice.

So I sent an e-mail message to him noting the relevant contract clauses in our rental agreement relating to terminating the lease, and advising him on the procedure should he wish to give notice. I told him that I was sympathetic to his problems and would be prepared to shorten his 2-month notice period to 1-month if I could find a replacement tenant, but that they would need to at least honour their November rental. I immediately booked newspaper advertisements to find a new tenant. I also sent the November invoice to him.

The next day I received another call from him saying that they had now decided to stay after all. Making his story a bit suspicious, but none the less, I was prepared to accept this. In the mean time I still had to cover the cost of the advertising I had placed, and take calls from 20+ prospective tenants telling them the place was no longer available.
He then phoned me and we discussed various maintenance needs at the property including the roof which needed to be cleaned and painted, the kitchen tap mixer which needed replacement and the chimney which was rusted, and a toilet needing servicing. The tenant told me he was able to provide the repairs through his company, and assured me it would be done for as close to cost price as he could manage. I agreed and said he could start with the repairs. He sounded convincing and trustworthy, and the place was looking cleaner and neater since they had moved in. His estimated quote was no more than R9000.

I thought the prices sounded a bit high, but he still seemed to be a nice and trustworthy guy. He kept saying ' Go get another quote if you like' so confidently that I decided to just believe him. Also because I would be able to leave him to get on with it, and would not have to supervise or worry about strangers having access to the property, I was willing to accept that he carry out the work.

The November rent remained unpaid. I contacted him again and he said he wanted to cover the November invoice with the cost of the repairs. While I was not happy with this idea, I decided to accept it, as I was feeling sympathetic about his financial issues after the ‘theft’ incident.

On 29 November 2006 I invoiced for the December rental and sent this to him explicitly stating that he should pay the December rental and that we would settle the repair invoice separately. I also asked him to confirm the final cost of the repairs carried out and reiterated his previous assertion that the costs should amount to around R9000.

The December rent was also not paid.

On 8 December 2006, I received an invoice from him for R12 535! The invoice had no date, company number or VAT registration number and was WAY more than was quoted. I spoke to him and we agreed to meet to discuss this. We met and I was happy that the place was looking clean and well looked after, but was still uncomfortable about the excessive charges on the invoice, but decided it was not really worth arguing over. He mentioned other items needing to be repaired, such as the lounge door which had a crack in the wood, and front security gate (which was now broken) allegedly after an attempted break-in, and the dripping geyser.

I told him that I would review these in January after the holidays, which he agreed to as he said they would be away anyway. I also told him that I would need to receive some rental income before embarking on further expensive improvements though. He acknowledged this, and said if the further repairs were done he'd be happy to sign for a full year. Fair enough.

On The morning of 11 January 2007, I received a call from him, he told me that the property had been burgled and ‘everything taken’. He told me the house was dangerous and not suitable for occupation, and that 'there is a rock in the middle of the room' which had been thrown through the window. Etc etc. After some time I enquired about my belongings, at which time he told me my things are all still there because ‘they are too big to fit through the window’. He said, ‘The microwave was on the floor covered in finger prints, but I put it back’. He cited that the microwave was left as it wouldn’t fit out the window. He then said that my TV was fine as he had kept it at his house, but he had now put it back in the house. Realising that his story was starting to sound suspicious, I asked him why he would pick up the microwave if it was on the floor with finger prints on it. He got defensive and asked if I thought he was lying. I told him I was just trying to establish what had actually happened. I also asked why he thought taking the TV BACK was a good idea if the house was so insecure. He had no answer but just stated that they couldn’t stay as the house could not be lived in it was far too ‘dangerous’.

So I sent him an e-mail and fax again reiterating the procedure to be followed should he wish to terminate his lease. I also followed up with another rental agent as to what the protocol is should a property be broken into while occupied by a tenant, and I was assured that it is not grounds for cancellation of the rental agreement. I made arrangements to meet him to discuss this and inspect the property. He cancelled the appointment when I called to confirm it an hour before and asked to reschedule for the Sunday at 2pm. I agreed to this.

In the mean time I phoned Claremont police station and spoke to a Constable there. He confirmed that Harfield Village did not have any escalated crime incidents in the past few months. He also verified that NO crimes had been reported in that Road at all in the preceding few weeks. Hrm...

When I tried to confirm the Sunday appointment his phone was off. I tried several times and then went to the house anyway. He did not arrive.

I went onto the property (he has left the front gate unlocked). Incidentally the Harfield/Claremont area does have a fair amount of pedestrian/walk-by crime, and each time I visited the house I noticed that the tenant kept the sliding gate open, I warned them several times that it was better to keep it closed and preferably locked to avoid any walk-in access to the property. This advice was never heeded.

Looking around I could see that the tenants had vacated the property. The second bedroom had a hole in the window and a half-brick lying inside on the carpet.

After looking around I contacted the next door neighbour, who has lived in the area for over 3 years. She confirmed that she has not had any incidents of crime recently or in the time she has lived in the house. Furthermore she reported that the tenants were loud and uncouth and used to swear and curse loudly, making a noise late into the night. I also spoke to other neighbours and they strongly suspected that a brothel was being operated there as there were fancy cars coming and going at all hours of the night and young girls hanging around etc. Not to mention all the swearing and shouting.

I kept trying to contact the tenant. If I phoned from my mobile phone he wouldn't answer, so I tired using another phone and got hold of him. He refused to honour his lease, and even though he still had the keys he told me I'd have to 'go after' him to 'get anything out of him' and slammed the phone down and again refused to answer.

So I decided I was not going to take this lying down, and I found the Rental Housing Tribunal, who mediates disputes between Tenants and Landlords and I lodged a complaint. I really didn't want to go the legal route, but this guy is a boorish thug and seems to get his own way by intimidating and threatening people.

I swung into pseudo-legal mode and scribed the most formal and legal-lingo e-mails I could muster. This went on for some time, with him often phoning me to yell at me and then slamming the phone down several times.

He finally paid a small portion of what he owed me, and was refusing to pay more. Part of me wanted to just let him go and be rid of him, but I really didn't want this ass wipe to get away with it, and I refused to be intimidated by him.

I responded with this:
"Thank-you for your payment of xyz received on 30 January 2006. This is acknowledged and received as part payment of your outstanding debt to me, and has been reflected on my records accordingly.

I am unsure how you managed to calculate the figure you have in the document provided - as it makes no sense. (I can only hope that someone with more accounting acumen manages your business finances.)

Please find attached my spreadsheet, detailing exactly which amounts are owing and which have been paid to date. Note that this excludes the early cancellation penalty which I had been willing to waive - and still reflects that you owe a further xyz.

Note further, that this amount is notwithstanding the additional expenses I have incurred repairing damages to the property resulting from your tenancy. To date these amount to R370.00 in locksmith fees, and R420.00 for replacing the window and burglar bars. I will still need to repair and repaint the sliding gate - which I already spent R1800.00 repairing less than 9 months ago - after it was recently knocked off the rails and into the road by a car parked in the driveway, as witnessed by at least 3 of the surrounding neighbours. The lounge door has also sustained further damage under your tenancy. It is clear that undue and extreme force was used on all the locks and doors, the locksmith was astounded at how bent the iron rod inside the lounge door lock was - consistent with rough and careless handling.

Although you claim to have vacated the property before 8 January 2007, you only handed over the keys to the property on the evening of 26 January 2007, this despite several attempts by myself to both contact you and arrange to meet resolve our dealings in a mature and responsible fashion.

Please be assured that I have recorded all our dealings, and since you have declined to settle as per our agreement last week, and have not signed the Termination of Lease Agreement, my Rental Housing Tribunal arbitration case is still proceeding.

I have secured agreement from at least 3 of the neighbours in the road that they are prepared and willing to supply testimony, should it be required, as to the events which took place at the house. As well as their suspicions of what was going on there at night. Furthermore I found evidence of drug use on the premises, on Friday evening, including an ashtray filled with smoked marijuana joints under the bed. I have retained this as evidence should it be required.

Additionally, you were also witnessed by one of the neighbours being apprehended in town by the police several weeks ago, while you were allegedly accosting someone on the street. They are willing to testify to this fact too.

As far as character references go, yours is not looking good.

I have been assured that I have a good case which is worth pursuing, so really it's up to you now.

Either settle your debt as agreed, and we can wipe our hands of each other. Alternately you can take your chances in a legal case.

I would prefer not to have to take the time and hassle that a full legal undertaking will cost us both, but will have no other choice if you insist on changing your mind as to what is agreed, and refusing to reach a mutually agreed settlement in an adult fashion."

I had almost zero intention of actually taking him to court, but he is an uneducated thug, and I was sick of him, and decided to keep pursuing him as a matter of principle.

His intelligent response was:
"Re-phrase from your accusations against me, regarding drug use etc, As i will take a drug test and sue you for defemation of character. You knew very well that my cousins were staying in the house, I cannot be held liable for their actions. I want fingerprints taken on the drugs that you found in the house. Regarding me acousting someone in the road in town, you should get your facts straight as my wife was brutally attacked. Would you like a photo of that? And police record?

My personal life has nothing to do with you or your sources.
I am very shocked that you could stoop to this level regarding our agreement. "

Bwahahaha er ok, whatever, see he clearly has no clue!

My last response was; 'You'll be hearing from my lawyer'
2 days later quietly he paid up in full, and got his wife to e-mail the deposit slip. Yeah! It was a moral victory for me and has hopefully taught him a lesson. Brains can win over brawn.

(Admittedly I had actually started being afraid of being murdered in my sleep, or run off the road etc.)

I placed an ad and immediately found my current tenant who is a sweetheart. She is a single mother of 2. She paid 1.5 months deposit, the remainder of that month AND the next month's rent and has kept thanking me for allowing her to rent my house. After signing the lease I worked out that I knew her from years ago, as she worked in the Pam Golding Letting Department as a PA, when I worked there in the IT Dept, so she knows the lease well ;) So far she seems perfect. Fingers crossed.

Never a dull moment as a landlord!