I am a contented camper these days. In a simple “got-what-I-need” kind of way. I work on gratitude every day: reminding myself about the heaven that is a hot bath, the new issue of Living etc UK, the marshmallow Easter egg found at the back of the food cupboard, dipped in a cup of rooibos until it melted … the look on Jack’s face when I rub him dry with a rough towel after he has rolled in duck poop (bliss followed by more bliss as far as he is concerned). Nothing spectacular – but all, you know: nice.
Last week I bought an outdoor umbrella for the McG house. Good price (happy), in good nick (result) and a pale creamy canvas (nice). All I had to do was to figure out how to get it from where it was, to our house, until I can figure out how to get it to McG. Bringing my new acquisition home would mean carrying it up 70 something steps – no mean feat when you consider it is 8 foot high, and that the cement base weighs 30 kilograms or so. As much as I like being independent – this wasn’t something I could do on my own.
I looked at a couple of delivery alternatives: all of which effectively doubled the original cost (not going to happen) and then asked my sister if she would be willing to loan me her car as the vehicle. “Absolutely” she said, “And the kids and I are in to help”. sofabrother had a day off, so he was co-opted, and after a breakfast of French Toast and crisp bacon we all set off.
So far so mundane – but here’s where the lovely came in: the sight of the kids’ faces as they sat in the back of the car was a treat. My sister had folded down the seats and added a blanket to prevent the umbrella from tearing the upholstery and this simple change in seating arrangements had turned the ordinary into an adventure; they were having a blast. There was the usual chaos of shouted directions and u-turns and where to park instruction confusion – but we got there. Just in time to see the fog lift over Clifton and The Seven Apostles: one of the world’s great views.
Blessing the Gardener met us at the house and shouldered the cement stand, everyone else grabbed a bit of the umbrella and 10-minutes later we were on our way home. Loudly blaming each other for the fart that had stinkily garlanded the car – as only a family can.
My go-to-guru of simple and smart – Kurt V nailed the way I felt, as we drove home: “My Uncle Alex Vonnegut, an insurance salesman who lived at 5033 North Pennsylvania, taught me something very important. He said that when things are going really well we should be sure to notice it. He was talking about very simple occasions, not great victories. Maybe drinking lemonade under a shade tree, or smelling the aroma of a bakery, or fishing, or listening to music coming from a concert hall while standing in the dark outside, or, dare I say, after a kiss. He told me it was important at such times to say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”
Later Jack and I went shopping for a bedside table, part of my bedroom redo. Our fruitless search took us through various parts of Cape Town until we ended up in Woodstock – at the Neighbourhood Goods Market. It was rammed: noisy and chaotic and my instinct was to run away. But then I remembered the kids’ faces in the back of that smelly car: so I bought a clutch of homemade chocolates, commissioned an Americano from the artisan barista and plonked myself on a straw bale: “I’m going to let this work”. As I sat down, the music changed from unrecognisable din to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”. I looked over at the DJ – ready to mouth thank-you to him, maybe he taken pity on this middle-aged lady with her dog and her coffee. But he hadn’t seen me, he was too busy waltzing around with a little girl in his arms.
So I sang along, drank my perfectly pulled coffee and munched my chocolates, and I said out loud: “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Thanks Uncle Alex.
(Image of sunset found on Facebook, credited to Annie Lennox who I am sure wouldn’t mind me sharing it. Image of Chocolate from cocofair’s website. Image of flowers copyright campari&sofa)