Suffer little children…..

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Well draw up a chair.  Light a cigarette and take a deep breath.  This Blog wont be a pretty read… and its nothing new and its been done before, but forgive me if I do it again.

Once, back in the 1970’s I had the mis-fortune ( yes, that’s the right word) to work with some South Africans.  Both white ladies and both ex Brits who had gone out there twenty years before and returned when things got “sticky”.  By the mid 1970’s the Group Areas ( Removal) Act was well under way.  The white man began to sleep with bars and fortified houses and buses were noted by who they carried as opposed to their destination.

http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/index.php

I remember being quite young and very naïve about the situation ( after all it was so very far away..) and hearing them say it was quite appropriate for the Blacks to use a separate Bus and if they didn’t employ them for a few Rand a day, who else would?  They even argued that the Black community needed the White community to feed and clothe them.  Thankfully, we have moved on somewhat…or have we?

I cant keep being cross about the housing situation in South Africa, or can I?  When I go there I usually stay in a delightful and very colonial place called Simon’s Town.  Home of the Navy, or at least the Navy dockyard, it has a very British feel.  Its all rather pleasant and pretty and everyone has time for a chat.  Tourists keep the place buoyant, which is just as well when you remember that the Town, almost overnight, lost a good majority of its population when the Group Removal Act came into force.

The one thing in Simons Town favour and more particularly the Mayor at the time, was that almost without exception, everyone in that town voted for the Black and Coloured people to stay.  Petitions were drawn up; Acts ignored but in the end it was fruitless.  People who had made the town their home were suddenly miles away.  Without cars, it was impossible to get there each day to work.  Public Transport was scant, if at all.  Schools who had happily taught all colours were suddenly two thirds empty and the remaining scholars were white.   Fishermen who used to sell their catch on the Dock had gone; Cape Malays who had farmed in the area for generations had lost their home; their stock and their means of earning a living.   No one won…not even the “Yarpie!”  ( slang  term for White Afrikaners)

However Simon’s Town has a name for being one of the safer neighbourhoods in The Cape and this is put down to the fact that all of the residents fought tooth and nail to keep all “locals” there.   It would appear that on the whole, Black and Coloured people don’t bear a grudge towards the white man here ( fuck knows why! ) and both seem to help each other.  Its just a nice place to be and it all centred on the fight to keep the community together all that time ago.  Its still a bit odd though.  Young people matured and moved away.  Black and Coloureds only return to work.  The old (white) folks of the Town… and that’s all that is left now… walk along the beach each day and meet and drink coffee.  A lot of White Rhodesians having scarpered over the Border have settled here.  Most bemoaning their lot and living in reduced circumstances.  Their Black Zimbabwean neighbours having followed them, settled in Red Hill. No black faces here… almost like a Whites Only Club.  When will they learn?

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The Ex Pats still thinking they are living in Happy Valley and having a Gin Sling.

Meanwhile over on the Beach, the Black kids make a living looking for sharks and putting out shark nets each day.  The net bordered the whole beach and took ages to drag in at the end of each day….but at least the Whites can swim safely.

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How easily would you see a shark coming to you in these waves?

 

It was their final task of the day to drag the nets in and put them away

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However, there was an area called Red Hill and this was one of the many coloured areas.  It was very hard to define ” coloured” in those days and when you look at the photographs in the Link below you would easily think ” white”.  When it was earmarked for ” so called” development, people were moved on to another area and their homes ( many of them humble but secure brick farmsteads) were demolished.  Forty odd years later, the land is still undeveloped  and many say it was a ploy to forcibly removed all Black and Coloured People from the area.  You can read more about it on the link below and it has some rather interesting photographs.  Please note this was the original “Red Hill”  and as you will see, in a better state of repair than the one now called Red Hill.  It was a community, not a Township.  The informal settlement of which I am now writing is actually over the mountain top

http://www.groundup.org.za/media/features/redhill/redhill_2043.html

Now it is what they call an ” informal settlement” or a Township, although it is fairly small by Township standards.  Its quiet and self policing.  Its poor. Its desperate. Its filthy. Its overcrowded.   But it also has a huge sense of community ; of real hope for a better tomorrow and a resignation that this is ” their lot” so just get on with it.  I spoke with this lady.  Look at her eyes.

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Each time I look at this picture I see something different.  Hurt; desperation; confusion; pain.  She looks after 22 children every day.  22 children under 4 years of age whilst their parents go out to work.  She does this with the help of one young girl and not a lot else.  Her shack is 2 rooms.  The back room where she lives and cooks.  The front room is her bedroom.  In the day it is converted to her Nursery.    Can you imagine what she does when it rains and she has 22 children in there, including 5 or 6 babies who don’t have a cot, so she sleeps them widthways on her bed.

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I asked her when she could expect some sort of permanent housing.  She tells me, without any malice, that she has been waiting 20 years, so maybe some day soon!  She doesn’t complain.  Who can she complain to?  There are too many people like her.  You truly are pissing into the wind if you think building a few thousand small single story houses is knocking any fraction off the housing situation

When we went there we took some supplies.  When we arrived and got out of the car she looked at me.  ” I have been blessed by God, ” was all she said.  It made me cry.   She didn’t want my tears and I hurriedly wiped them away.  How can you believe in God if he allows you to live like that?  But she did…..   She was just grateful that someone had brought her some nappies; some Vaseline and those all important wet wipes.   We added to the list a sack of maize so that she could make some stew and soup for the children to have a hot lunch each day.  She looked at me and said she would make a huge stew for all of her neighbours to share this weekend.  That is what I mean, a real community.     What they don’t have in material things, they have shedloads of in terms of what is important.  ” Love thy neighbour and share and share alike”   On her list she asked for wet wipes.  I admit to being a bit surprised thinking them somewhat of a luxury.  She explained they didn’t have any running water.  Someone had cut the water supply six weeks ago to sell the piping and no one had been to them to reconnect the water with new piping.  So the only water these people have, is what they carry home on their heads, or by walking to the standpipe at the entrance to the Settlement, just off the main road. Wet Wipes meant she could at least clean the babies’ bottoms.     She also said that she was looking after 2 babies who were sick.  She didn’t have any paracetamol or anything like it to give them to soothe their temperatures.  It was hot inside and out.  Flies hovered around them and slept alongside the babies.  Right outside her shack ( please don’t think I am being disrespectful, its the term they use for their home) were two chemical toilets.  Almost full.  No shelter; no privacy.  If you wanted to use it, you did so in full view of the community.  I asked what she did.  She said the kids used it, but she tries to wait until she can go to the Town….its more private!

I glanced across and saw a Clinic.  Upon closer inspection I saw it was closed and stripped bare.  “Its been closed for 2 years now.  We used to get a Nurse every Saturday but they closed it and we have to walk now to Ocean View ( another Township but more established with shops and a school) if we want the doctor.   She looked at me as if I had a magic wand.  I looked at the floor, suddenly mindful of the dreadful imbalance.

I didn’t outstay my welcome.  The kids are curious about ” white people” but already know not to bite the hand that visits them.  The adults go about their daily business; acknowledge you politely but nothing more.  They probably think another white person come to look; stare; gasp and then go away.

I left there determined to try to help.  I returned to the Office and galvanised staff into action.  We are trying to raise 2000 GBP to prepare a porch and a concrete path around the Nursery before the rain comes.

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You can see from the picture that the road outside is mud.  The kids play in the mud and the dirty carpet is the only thing that stops the dust coming into the shack.  You can imagine, it doesn’t really do anything and when it rains, it becomes a soggy mass of fibre.   The concrete path will enable them to walk without getting filthy and the porch will keep some of them dry when they are forced to sit outside and eat.  I already have 5 people pledged to go there in June and do the work.  I just need to raise the money for the materials

We are contacting pharmaceutical giants to ask them to donate a basic First Aid Box.  They don’t have a Clinic but we are trying to get them a Medical Box of bandages; aspirin; TCP and things like that.  Even these basic things will stop the 45 minute walk to Ocean View.

And our Volunteering Project for University Kids means they will go there for up to 2 months and help the kids speak English.  Their language is Xhosa and is spoken when at home.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xhosa_language

Although they can speak English, its their second language and is often stilted .  If you cant speak English, schooling is hard.  The school in Simons Town now is 80% black.  We went to meet the Headmistress as we wanted to send some European kids there.  She was bemused by this request!  She has been one of the children removed from the area in the 1970’s and she returns as Headmistress to a school she was once removed from.  Ironical, eh? Its true to say there is an element of “ fuck you” in her but this makes me like her all the more.

What she has achieved with those kids in that school is nothing short of a miracle.  The Pass rate is now 97%.  She has encouraged them all to achieve things and points at the disadvantage she had when she was younger.   The conversation with her gave me hope and we decided to send our ” rich white European kids there” for an African experience.  We both exchanged a look.  I don’t think for one minute they will be unsafe but I do think it will be a wonderful lesson in life.  Their parents, surprisingly agreed with me.  Interestingly, all kids have to wear a Uniform and if you don’t have the Uniform, you cant attend school.  That’s right across the board.  So what do you choose?  Food for your family or school uniform so you can educate your child.  What a Catch 22 situation?

Although it is fair to say that there are now local Charities which raise money so that black kids can have a uniform to go to school.  Otherwise the cycle would never end.  No education…no progression.

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Simons Town’s hope for the future!

 

On a final dismal note to this rather depressing Dispatch and one which may help you understand why I feel so useless as well as so angry, I said to the lady at the Nursery…

” Have you thought about asking the Supermarkets to give you the food they throw out each day”

“Yes, but I have to register as a Charity before they give me any food, although they know we live here”

” Can I help you do this” I asked,

“No.  we tried” she replied

“What happened?”

” We cant register as a Charity whilst we are in an informal settlement.  We have to wait until we are in permanent housing.  We have waited 20 years, it cant be long now”

So the crux of this conversation was that the local government and huge supermarket giants know these people are hungry.  They know they need the food.  They know this informal settlement has been in existence for more than 25 years and yet because no one will acknowledge its presence, the red tape means they will continue to go hungry and Supermarkets will continue to throw food out in front of their eyes. So she continues to wait until they are re-housed and she can then register as a Charity, until then, as Marie Antoinette would have said ” let them eat cake”

Meanwhile back at the Beach.. no longer for Whites only, but during all my morning walks, I didn’t see one face other than a white one use it.  The answer is easy of course, the Beach is in a wealthy white area and difficult for Black and Coloured people to access.  Its a strange sort of inequality and part of the division is still there.

South Africa is a beautiful stunning country with some of the most vibrant and engaging people I have met.  During all my times I have been there, not once have I encountered malice; rudeness or indifference from Black or Coloureds. Only courtesy; helpfulness and a smile.   As you can imagine, with the Whites, they have an imperious streak of their own making.  Maybe that is unfair, many are pleasant and friendly it is true.  And many do their best to raise awareness and funds,  but I cant understand why change doesn’t move faster and how most White people can sleep at night.  If nothing else, its downright embarrassing.

As I was told I don’t live there and I don’t know the Policy! But what I do know is what is right and what isn’t… and currently…. Red Hill isn’t…

I make no apology for my feelings….. sleep well !

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61 thoughts on “Suffer little children…..

  1. Oh, how all of this resonates, Jackie! Where to begin? Your comment at the end reminds me so much of India; after all that happened there in colonial times, I have only ever encountered courtesy and kindness when I have visited. And from my time living in an ex-pat community, I recognise only too well the ‘imperious streak’ of the whites – an arrogance allied with a sneering disrespect for all the ‘locals’.

    No, it does make you weep, the dreadfulness of the inequality and the unfairness of it all. Well done for actually getting stuck in and doing something about it. I hope to hear more!

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  2. Hi Mick, thanks for your comments. You are right about the imperious streak, tinged with a huge dollop of arrogance and disrespect. Why is that? its almost embarrassing this ” right of passage” they have adopted. BTW I haven’t forgotten your blogs, I have read them (via Google +) and so enjoyed the photographs. There is a real serene air to a lot of them. Lovely to look at, thank you

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  3. Great article, Jackie, well done for that, but far better still all you do in SA on behalf of these folk. The world has so many injustices, doesn’t it, and how unthinkingly we accept our privileges of peace, and warm shelter, and ready access to food, and free healthcare, and the protections of the state (such as they now are)? I once was offered a position in SA and sometimes wonder how different my life would have been had I accepted it. That was back in the mid-eighties, but I had ties here, so stayed put. It was a fantastic opportunity, in fact, or so it seemed at the time.

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    • Dear Hariold, Thank you for your kind words. What I did was totally ineffective but I hope to keep it going, albeit in a small way. Interestingly, I was in a restaurant there and saw a group of 6 people, all ” our age!” and I looked at them and thought… ” would I be like you if I had grown up here?” They were those Yarpie types ( sorry to generalise) who sniff at Waiters and speak disparagingly . Of course there are many lovely South Africans and so it is wrong to generalise, but I do feel its almost like a parallel universe.

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  4. Yes, you are an angry woman and that is a force to be reckoned with! I know so little about South Africa and hope to learn more from your past posts and your visits there in the future. I know how much you love it. I, too, am amazed at the patience these people show in the midst of great need. They do not have that sense of entitlement becoming so common here in the US, even among our young people. I agree that if people just searched their souls and did what’s right as opposed to what they are told is the thing to do, this world would be a much better and a much more caring place. It took me a bit of a while to comment because I was reading the links in this post. I am getting my education from someone I know cares about doing the right thing because she is following her heart. Thanks, Jackie. 🌹

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    • Thank you, Clare, for your very generous comment. I don’t do as much as I should or could. Its a fascinating story and I love the photographs of the old Red Hill, which is still visible. I am just amazed that rich and poor live side by side and both seem to accept it. Anyway, be that as it may, it would appear that Hariod is still keen on the spelling side ( sigh **) and has taken me to task over the correct spelling of his name. He mentioned your pet name for him ” Hairdo” and I have to agree, it does seem to suit him rather nicely. 🙂

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      • You’re welcome, Jackie. You have a big heart and it shines through in your writing, whether you are aware or not. Photos! I want photos of H! Then I can decide if my original spell check error was right on! 😨

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      • Clare. As you are the originator of Hairdo moniker I feel you should persuade him to show a picture of himself. He has such an advantage over us and I feel you are his Achilles heel. He will refuse you nothing!

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      • Jackie, I don’t think I’ll ever live done my spell check checking (or lack of) error. Now, I actually thought it was you who was his Achilles heel. Methinks we could possibly coax him together, but I fear that a price will be exacted, so be prepared. 💲

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      • What can be more exciting to a man, and a man like Hairdo, to have two ladies coaxing him into submission. I fear he may go up in a puff of smoke! Hairdo – Picture please – and make it genuine..haha 🙂

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      • Now, think about this. Hariod has a real tinge of mischief in his makeup. Do you truly think we could get him to post an actual photo of himself? I’m betting it will be one of the myriad Dr. Who actors (most likely the handsomest with the wildest hairdo) he’ll publish with his name underneath! Anyone for placing bets on which one?

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      • Christopher Lloyd played Professor Emmett Brown. Lloyd also played Jim in the television series “Taxi”. He’s hilarious in both. Yes, I know Hariod will come up with something wild. Maybe he’ll commission a modern art piece or do his own self-study ? Now, I’m curious…

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      • Uh, oh. I was thinking more in the area of snapping my fingers! Perhaps pursing my lips in a whistle ala Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not?

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      • I was just checking out the Bacall scene on YouTube and editing it a bit” “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve (Hariod)? You just put your lips together and blow.” Somehow, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to carry this off without giggling.

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  5. Thank you for writing so honestly and with such passion Jackie. It has taken me a while to read it all because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just skim read. Of course it is heart breaking to read of such injustice, inequality, and to a great extent hopelessness (you say that this has been going on for over 20 years), but I think that change will come even though it is at a snail’s pace. The amazing and selfless work that you do is a credit to you and all those who work towards righting these injustices. It may seem small and ineffectual in terms of just how much can be achieved. But these small steps won’t go unnoticed and that wonderful woman in charge of those children regards you as an angel (sent by God) – and I must say that after reading this I agree with her. My heart goes out to those people suffering for so long and why? Because they are not considered to be worthy of being treated like human beings – for not being born white. Your anger is completely justified, and at least you are trying to do something about the situation which is admirable.

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    • When she said ” I have been blessed by God!” – she meant the Vaseline and Nappies ( not me!). I don’t understand how they all live alongside each other with a smile and a joke and no one gets hacked off. I would be embarrassed living in a large house and having a black lady do my cleaning when she returns to a home without electricity or water. How did these ” black people” fall so much under the Radar. It isn’t like that in other countries…do you think apartheid has something to do with it?

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      • Jackie yes, that might have been part of the blessing – but who brought them? YOU! Stop being so humble! You were the blessing that arrived with all the things she wanted that day. Unless of course they just materialised in front of her?
        Where do we start with how did these people fall under the radar…?

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      • hahahahahahaha!!!!! Why do you want to recruit me so bad? Suppose I come down there and upset Farhad and Mr Wuwu …. 🙂

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      • I like an eclectic mix in the office and anyway I have had to stand Farhad down(!) if you get my meaning…so we have a spare desk. (really, you would make me laugh )

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      • I’d love to work with you, but it’s too far to travel. And besides just because we’re mates on WP, doesn’t mean you’ll like me if you meet me. You might regret asking me, if I ever agreed …
        What’ve you done with Farhad – I thought he was banned from Persia? Where will he live?

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      • Farhad turned up ” unwell” one day and I was very cross with him. Self inflicted. He will still live in Worthing, he only works with me, not live with me! I think liking people on here is a good indication, but I wont be offended. sob sob PS I love Housewives of Orange County

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      • I’ve never watched that. I might take a peek at it when I finish reading Tolstoy. tee hee
        Go easy on Farhad – these foreigners* need to feel as if they belong. 🙂
        (*apologies to anyone reading this – Jackie and I are teasing each other).

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      • Yes we know she wants to top up her suntan and calls it business and then writes a political blog – with some sound points I hasten to add – and then wonders the staff rebel! She loves cracking the whip and white and black arses she punishes them the same!

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      • Hello birdiestweets! I’m glad you said it and not me. The last thing I want to be accused of is racism.:)))

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      • Gobsmacked?? hahahahahhaaaaa
        Listen here honky tonk woman, my black arse is stopping right where it is. On a nice comfy chair, telly blaring in the back ground, reading a nice mills and boon romance. You go and sort out SA on your own love. Imperialist!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahaha

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      • I admit to being gobsmacked, but not by your comment ( have sex and travel!) but that you have TB blaring in the background. Honestly, anyone would think you were a Chav in a Tracksuit listening to Jeremy Kyle. Don’t try to fool me. I know you are a Learned Lady churning out your own literature and probably reading Mills and Boon for information on how ” NOT” TO WRITE. I am sorry about being an Imperialist, but it does mean I get to travel and spread largesse about the World. On a final note, do you know how much I have to spend on Sun Tan Lotion just to look half as good as you. its ok for you. !
        ( ouch, I did duck! 🙂 )

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      • Oh what a shame we don’t live in the same county. You are such a laugh!!!! I’ve been giggling away here – the neighbours know I’m in alone, so they must be thinking: wtf??
        I am actually still in a very stylish faux fur dressing gown, with antique slippers to match. The telly is off and I’m reading ‘an ocean of tears’ written by some lunatic who pops over to SA every so often on the pretext of business, but really to top up her tan. hahahahaa
        My aim’s getting better as it says in that post you wrote with the woman pointing the gun – so don’t get too complacent honky!!! hahahhahaa

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    • Birdiestweets, I was going to ask how you knew she loves using the whip. I was wondering if your arse had caught the sharp end of it. But I see you are apportioning blame to ‘the pilot’ from the past. How do you know about those scars? Mmmm methinks you are arseing about and I want to get to the bottom of it!!!! haha

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  6. Jackie, where are you? Croydon? Eating meatballs? Tottenham? Eating cakes? How come you haven’t said anything about H’s latest post where he mentions my name? Not jealous are you?? :))))))) I know there’s a bit of rivalry for his affections – well that’s putting it politely.LOL

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    • Has Hairdo done a Blog.? I didn’t know. I was not informed. I must be off the list and so can’t come in. I will hasten over to his page immediately if not sooner. Thank you for the heads up….(keeping within a theme. Heads up…Hairdo )

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      • Hairdo has indeed done his February blog. Yes the hairdo/heads up theme has got to be a no-brainer – sorry that’s the best I could do.:)

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      • That’s terrible. I think I need to keep my ” eye” on you. Otherwise, its going to get all “high brow” and who ” nose” where it could lead to.

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      • C’mon now! Headsup, Hairdo, no-brainer are all to do with the head so to speak. I think that was a gem! haha
        If you keep your eye on me, and get all ‘highbrow’ does that mean I can accuse you of being ‘nosey’? I’m not sure that that would ‘sit well’ with me regarding your earlier ‘arse’ comment in the week, bossy boots! hahaha
        (I’ve managed to mention at least most of the body here – ner ner ner ner ner)

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    • You obviously are having a slow afternoon ( and so am I , as I am answering work emails) . Yes, arse and arsk… very good. I need you on my word search page. I went to Hairdos story and wrote a reply. Of course he moderates everything so it could be ages before my words are in print, and then of course its always edited…..

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      • Not exactly a slow afternoon. I am supposed to be reading a book for a book club that I have joined. The book is not the kind that you can’t put down, so I should be reading and not procrastinating like I am doing.
        Yes that must be the one annoying thing about H. I write things and he changes them or omits them completely. At first I thought I was going a bit looney (get it??), but then after seeing a comment from you a little while ago asking him not to change stuff, I saw what he was doing. So annoying! 🙂
        I’m going over there now to see if he’s modified it yet, and how much of it he has deemed worthy of being read …lol

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  7. Oh its all worthy of being read – just not of being viewed, ( she replied dryly ) H is the dearest of souls but if he keeps changing comments, then that’s not what we said. Obviously a control freak, which means you need to get in there and cause some dis order to his life. Book Club sounds fun. Good for you

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    • Jackie, I have not been ignoring you hun. I just came here to find out why I hadn’t heard from you in aagggeeesssss….. Then I saw this comment which had not appeared in my notifications. Anyway, I went over to H to read your comment and very saucy it was too! Orgasms – you’ve never had one?? hahaha

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