Building Castles in the Sky

Chutzpa, chutspa, chutzpadik – Pronounced KHOOTS-PAH; rattle that kh around with fervour; rhymes with ‘Foot spa’. Do not pronounce the ch as in ‘choo-choo’ or ‘Chippewa’, but as the German ch in Ach! or the Scottish in ‘loch’. Hebrew: ‘insolence’, ‘audacity’. Gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts’; presumption-plus-arrogance such as no other word, and no other language can do justice to.

The Joys of Yiddish By Leo Rosten

Seaside 'cottage' ideasOn Sunday morning I lead prayers at church. It had been an emotionally charged week in London. I dreaded standing in front of the congregation. Over 70 people had recently died in the Grenfell Tower fire not far from where I live, fires raged in Portugal and the news was still full of recent terror attacks.

I now dread my 7am wake-up with BBC Radio 4.

In May I’d readily volunteered to do prayers, but as my turn drew near, I wondered if I really had it in me. What would I say? How would I create the right balance between silence and words?

Fear clawed at me. I should have volunteered to serve coffee.

“I can’t do this,” I thought. “It’s too hard.”

As soon as the thought popped into my head, I recognised it.

It’s too hard – a familiar niggling whisper.

How strong and positive this Nyama can be at the start of a ‘great venture’ – the dreams are big, the imagination strong. But where is my mettle when the rubber hits the road?

Do it afraid!” says speaker Joyce Meyer. Grrrrrrrr. She’s right. I know.

FYI, I survived the prayers.

Now there’s something else … have I mentioned that Hubby and I bought a small piece of Africa last year?

We own a 1028 sqm patch of green grass on a sunny slope in a small Wild Coast village overlooking the Indian ocean. Right now we are making plans to build and talking to an architect. This is a bigger-than-us plan, our next adventure, a terribly grown-up thing, our castle in the sky.

The way I always approach exciting plans, is to sprint forward with enthusiasm.

So … I’ve made sketches, dog-eared pages in books, collected ideas, signed up to ‘Houzz’, consulted my property journalist friend and dreamed of spiral staircases, balconies and hammocks.

And then, predictably, we hit a speed bump.

I chatted to one of my clever engineer/builder cousins and he burst my bubble. This plan is going to cost much more than we anticipated. Suddenly I was counting my obstacles rather than my blessings.

  • Building in South Africa is EXPENSIVE.
  • Stirling no longer promises to be a magic money- tree currency.
  • We had a nightmare experience a couple of years ago building a 3.5 x 3.5m second floor terrace. Can we trust a builder again?
  • Renewable building methods are not as easy or affordable as they should be.
  • Our ‘building savings’ went into our business in March and it’s not flooding back fast.
  • And …. and … and …

Suddenly it all seemed too difficult.

Never at a loss for drama and exaggeration, I announced to Hubby that our plans were impossible.

“Are you giving up so easily, Nyamazela?” he asked me.

“No, but … it’s too hard!” I heard myself say.

That voice again? Seriously? Am I really that predictable? That flappable?

Hubby raised his eyebrows. “It’s just going to take a little longer,” he shrugged.

London heatwaveI walked on to work in silence, disappointed with myself.

It took me most of the day to pick myself up again. Being Nyamazela every day is a struggle.

Thank God for the encouragers in our lives …

In other news, we’ve been experiencing a super heatwave in England – London is a scorcher. I’m not sleeping very well (this doesn’t seem to affect Hubby). Last night I washed all our bedding and remade the bed with wet bedding – that helped.

On the upside I’ve enjoyed using words such as ‘schvitzing’ and ‘schlep’ – leave it to Yiddish to provide the only suitable words for this heat which according to the BBC news, is hotter than Thailand.

Yiddish funSMALL PRINT:
P.s. Occasionally I need reminding that I’m supposed to be Nyamazela – the girl who never gives up. Hubby has appointed himself as my personal reminder.
P.p.s. Houzz is an app, somewhat like Pinterest, but specifically for building ideas, renovations and interiors.

P.p.p.s. I welcome ANY advice on facing the daunting task of a full new build project – things to look out for, hidden costs, problems to anticipate?
P.p.p.p.s. Ref the popcorn and architectural sketch photo, sometimes when I work from home I treat myself to a bowl of popcorn. If it’s evening, I’ll accompany it with a glass of wine. A note to hubby, popcorn IS a perfectly acceptable meal.
P.p.p.p.p.s. Incidentally, South African everyday English is rich with Yiddish words – Kugel, schnozz, klutz, plotz (pronounced platz), spiel, schmuck, glitch … if you want to be a Nyamazela, you may need a little chutzpah, but beware to throw in some good sense says WSC.


Leaf by Niggle

“The bicycle was rolling along over a marvellous turf. It was green and close; and yet he could see every blade distinctly. He seemed to remember having seen or dreamed of that sweep of grass somewhere or other. The curves of the land were familiar somehow. Yes: the ground was becoming level, as it should, and now, of course, it was beginning to rise again. A great green shadow came between him and the sun. Niggle looked up, and fell off his bicycle. Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished.”

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R.Tolkien

J.R.R. TOLKEINA funny little tale. Just 43 pages.

At the beginning of the Second World War J.R.R.Tolkien was called into active service. He’d been writing one book for some years. Now, he despaired of ever fully realising his work, The Lord of the Rings.

His characters and storyline were so grand. Worm-holes of plots and sub-plots had developed in his imagination, creatures and landscapes so ambitious, so intricate, he wondered if he could ever really put it all down on paper – or when even? Continue reading Leaf by Niggle

En Train de

“Q: Where shall we go? A: To the railway.”

The Railway Children by E Nesbit

In French grammar we learn a present progressive form of the verb to be, describing an action you are doing, an action on-going: en train de.

I’m sitting on a Virgin Train rushing headlong in a northerly direction, bound for Kingston upon Hull – UK City of Culture 2017. I’m going to see my little East Yorkshire family. Continue reading En Train de

Plodding along

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps on this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.”

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

London winter sunsets

Oh, Shakespeare! You had me at tomorrow.

You’ve heard me say your first draft has permission to suck.  That’s still true even though our first draft of 2017 has been unexpectedly fractious and gruelling. Call it seasonal affective disorder, call it one problem after another, call it what you like. So far, 2017 is not the post-2016-solve-all that it promised to be (promised as in the promise communicated to me over a glass of Champagne on New Years Eve). Continue reading Plodding along

Asking the difficult questions

“I’m busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest!”

Dolly Parton in Straight Talk (1992)

Honesty time.

When you’ve managed to stay super busy for some months and people around you need your help, family needs you, you travel, learn a language, plan and dream – it can all be hugely rewarding. Probably almost enough to fill another void. Continue reading Asking the difficult questions

Coffee: the opiate of the masses?

Lopez and Sons Coffee
Lopez and Sons Coffee

Joe Fox: Do you know what? We are going to seduce them. We’re going to seduce them with our square footage, and our discounts, and our deep armchairs, and…
Kevin: Our cappuccinos!
Joe Fox: That’s right. They’re going to hate us at the beginning, but…
Kevin: … we’ll get ’em in the end.
Joe Fox: Do you know why?
Kevin: Why?
Joe Fox: Because we’re going to sell them cheap books and legal addictive stimulants. 

You’ve Got Mail screenplay by Nora Ephron Continue reading Coffee: the opiate of the masses?

Lessons from Eddie the Eagle who never gave up

“What is courage?

As Ordinary discovered, courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it’s choosing to act in spite of the fear. You could say that without fear, you can’t have genuine courage.”

The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson

Eddie the EagleI come from a running family. My father, uncle, brother, mother, sister and many cousins run – some are serious runners, tackling marathons and off-road trail runs, some dabble in short and medium distance running. For my family, running has always been the best way to a sense of achievement in fitness, a good sweat and an endorphin injection. Continue reading Lessons from Eddie the Eagle who never gave up