Tuesday 26 July 2011

People Watching

As a writer, one of my favourite pass times is "people watching". So during the recent school hoildays, I took myself off to the local Mall, notebook in hand, and found a vacant bench on the ground floor, fairly near the lifts and escalators. What I saw was indeed a complete eye-opener! From babies in prams, completely covered by blankets, so that no one could see that baby and the baby could not look out; to mothers hurrying along, with children trailing behind, often in a crowd. I saw crying children; rude and cross children, whining and begging children and very few who looked as though they were actually enjoying themselves or the outing. Often the teenagers had sort of disowned their parents, which is probably to be expected! The whole scene reminded me of  a project I did with my class years ago.

Of course, during the 25 years of my teaching experience, shopping, as such and shopping projects changed with the times and no longer did we set up quaint little grocery stores in a corner of the classroom. Instead, we had real cake or cookie sales; or used real stationery, pencils, erasers, etc, or hand made crafts, or even the children's own paintings to be sold, to teach the concept of buying and selling and the value of coins.

One day, during a class discussion, a child said, "Mrs Kahn, do you know that I HATE going shopping? It is NOT a treat."

When I asked her to explain in more detail, she said this, and I have never forgotten it.

"Just think of us for a moment. We are shorter than adults, sometimes much smaller. We get bashed by other people's parcels and handbags and all we can see are legs!"

Rosemary  - July 2011.

All we will have left are memories and hopefully they cannot be changed.

9 Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime

Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come. 

1.  The Post Office

Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills. 

The Cheque

Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

The Newspaper 

The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services. 

The Book 

You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

 The Land Line Telephone 

Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes


This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies." 


Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix. 

 The "Things" That You Own 

Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert. 


If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and theGoogle Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.

What do you think or feel of the list above? Please share your comment on the blog below. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday 25 July 2011

Keeping your figure

"If you want to keep your figure, dear," said my Piano Tuner's mother, who lived round the corner, "don't ever stop skipping!" Well somewhere along the line I did, (stop skipping) and my figure suffered. We moved house and with all the stresses and diversions a move like that brings, my rope was never found - that is, until about a week ago!
I was searching in my children's game box which had been carefully packed away for over 30 years, (the contents of which was hopefully to be enjoyed one day by any future grandchildren I might have.) I wanted to send my grand daughter, who lives with her family in Australia, a certain game I had been telling her about. As I lifted out each box, I could clearly picture my own family, years ago, sitting round a table or on the floor, usually shrieking with laughter ( or sometimes sulking), as we played first the easier games, like "Snakes & Ladders" or "Ludo", (remember them? ), and then of course "Monopoly"; "Rich Uncle" or "WHOT"., to mention but a few.

At the very bottom of the box, when the last jig saw puzzle had been unpacked, lay my old rope, with its lovely wooden handles. Yay, yay and double yay!

Guess who is skipping her heart out every day on the lawn, in preparation for summer? MOI, and I am loving it!  

Why Unicorns Eat Lavender Receives Another Compliment

Dear Rosemary

Thank you for your book, "Why Unicorns Eat Lavender"

It is a wonderful book and my son loves it. Just yesterday he quoted it, saying he wanted to keep a secret that would keep him warm in summer and cool in winter. 

I had to correct him about the actual quote, e.g. cool in summer and warm in winter, but nonetheless, the book clearly made an impression on him.


A grateful mother
(From USA)

Saturday 23 July 2011

The Demise of Handwriting as we have known it.

When I was about 32 and teaching a class of very active 6/7 year olds, one of my pupils shouted out during a writing lesson, "Mrs Kahn, when you were young, did you write with a feather?" The rest of the class burst out laughing and so did I. It was funny, although the children could not have really known that. At that stage of their lives they had no real concept of educational progress or of the passage of time.  
I have always felt that it is vital for children to be taught to write legibly and neatly and I am most certainly not ready to give up that idea, not quite yet, anyway.
I do concede, however, that learning to type quickly and accurately is just as essential these days. So my question is, why can't children be taught both skills, perhaps in a new and imaginative way?  They serve  different purposes after all but I do I believe that learning to write is a very important  skill for the general development of the child. I do not intend to go into details here, but many studies have indicated this.

Therefore, I find it immensely dissatisfying and indeed very worrying, that in America, 41 of their States have already declared that it is no longer a requirement to teach children handwriting, although each individual school is at liberty to decide that for themselves! I would like to think that most schools will continue to do so as part of their regular curriculum, slotted in somewhere, perhaps in Arts and Crafts lessons, should those lessons still exist. When the current batch of teachers retire and new younger ones step in, I am sure the age of technology will take over completely. Perhaps then the only writing that will be required of children will be the ability to sign their names, and we all know that most signatures are entirely illegible in any case, so any old squiggle will do!  I should imagine that practically anyone can do that, without resorting to the good old "X", which would be a giant step backwards. 

What do you think?
Do send your comments!


Thursday 21 July 2011

Feedback From Tampa, Florida USA

Hello Rosemary!

I wanted to let you know that Joseph (my son) loves "Why Unicorns Eat Lavender."
We have read it every night for the past week. Seriously. He is very intrigued by the Ice Queen and the King of Fire.
It is a wonderful book.
Such a great story with elments of myth and legend. I like it very much also.


Sighting Space Shuttle Atlantis on her final voyage.

I happened to turn on the radio in time to catch the announcer reading out the exact time and place to view this exciting event, on Tuesday night, 19th July. I remembered the hype when this space shuttle was first launched, and determined to watch its final voyage and wave goodbye!

It was a clear dark night in Cape Town, not a speck of cloud about anywhere. A few stars were visible as I went outside, with my Dad's old binoculars, just after 7.00 p.m. At exactly 7.08, as announced, a bright light appeared to the west, just over the tip of Table Mountain and I was able to follow it for at least 3 minutes as it moved towards the east, trailed by another equally bright object. For some reason, I was really excited! As it disappeared from sight, I waited a few more minutes, thrilled to have witnessed this special event!

Below we include for you, video clips of:
1) The final take off of Space Shuttle Atlantis

2) A sighting of Space Shuttle Atlantis as seen from an aeroplane

3) Some thought provoking background into why this important work is coming to an end and the implications to others of this final event.

P.S.. Space Shuttle Atlantis has just touched down safely in Florida USA, (at 12 noon RSA time, 21 July 2011)  closing the chapter of 30 years of successful space travel - I think that is amazing!
Well done to all concerned!


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