Saturday, February 17, 2018

Do You See a Moral in This True New York Story?


The other night Barbara and I had dinner with old friends at a trendy, upscale French restaurant on the Upper Eastside.  Let’s call him Jack, and her Jill.  That’s not their names, but it adds an alliterative touch to the tale.  

I’ve known Jack for forty years. I respect him, admire him, and trust him completely.  He’s one of the smartest, genuinely well-informed people I know. He also has views on some subjects quite different from my own. Over the years, that’s led to lively debates, and I expected our dinner to be no different.  Sort of like what we each wished the US Senate still experienced.

We sat at a table in the middle of the main dining room, with Jack seated directly across from me.  As a seeming harbinger of things to come, an elegant woman in a red, white and blue sequined jacket reminiscent of the US flag, sat with her companion at a banquette directly behind Jack.  To give proper credit to flag lady’s fashion taste, her choice of couture was several quantum levels higher than that employed by Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, in choosing the flag-inspired outfit she wore to her boss’s inauguration.

We were humming along nicely, talking about family and careers, when Jill raised an accelerant subject. Her political views are often far different from Jack’s, and our conversation soon moved on to the myriad of issues polarizing our country today.  At times with voices reaching a level turning heads at nearby tables.  Frankly, I paid no attention to any table other than flag lady’s, for she’d become my secret canary in the mine, signaling any impact our overheard conversation might be having on others in the room.

Things got particularly heated over the subject of President Trump, his policies, and his behavior’s threat to the Republic.  That led to a detailed back and forth over whether Hillary Clinton was the worst of candidates the Democrats could have chosen.  Of course, her husband’s philandering got some attention, too, in juxtaposition to that of #45. 

All the while, flag lady’s eyes kept bouncing from our table to others in the room.  I assumed she and her dinner companion were enjoying this bit of polarized American dinner theater.

Midway through dessert, during a particularly heated exchange on the subject of Hillary, an ashen-faced Jill abruptly whispered, “Shhhh.”  

The conversation paused, and Jill leaned in toward the middle of the table.

“The four at the next table have been listening to us all evening.” 

That did not surprise me, but what she said next did, for I’d been focusing on the wrong canary.  Flag lady’s attention had been centered on a far grander show playing out in the room, involving a larger cast than those at our table.

Jill bit at her lip.  “I just realized who’s sitting at the table next to us.  Chelsea Clinton.”

Dead silence.

Recovery effort on Jack’s part: “I voted for her father twice.” 

My approach: “Check please.”


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Ramsay Theory Of Nothing In Particular

A friend was telling me that my mother had a small crushed red flower in the back of her drawer. She added that the flower had been on board a ship, and that my dad had had it in his lapel at dinner and it had fallen into some soup. Brown soup she said.
There’s nothing very odd about any of that other than the fact that my father has been dead for over a year and this woman has no communication with my mother. I had no idea about the soup or the flower until I asked my mother and she said it was quite true. They had been on a cruise about five years ago and the weather was very rough so the boat had put on crafting classes and my mother had made my dad a red rose from tissue paper and chicken wire. Knowing my mother it wouldn't have been very good.
For a joke my dad put it on the jacket he was wearing at dinner that night. The only bit that wasn’t true was the flower did not fall off into brown soup. It fell in the gravy.
But still not bad for a story that comes from beyond the grave. Or did it?
My mum had been cleaning out a drawer and found the crushed little rose the week before. She had  fluffed it up a little and placed it in a vase on the window ledge.
My friend is a professional medium. She spends her life talking to dead people and can just give you a throwaway comment about something that she cannot possibly know. She does admit however, that she might not be talking to dead people at all - there might be something totally different going on.
To this end she is often wired up by Glasgow University but not by the theological department, she’s wired up by the physics department. She has had her  head MRI’d whilst she’s doing the 'thing'. But as she says talking to the dead can be like hearing a gentle whisper in Glasgow Central Train Station during the rush hour I presume its even more difficult when there’s the noise of a scanner grinding and bumping in your ears as well.

I have a theory, it's bit bonks but it's one I so wish to be true. I've even been stacking up little bits of evidence. My psychic friend tends to come away with things that have recently been on someone’s mind. She was asking me why my dad was particularly proud of a small trophy (bearing in mind he was a champion cyclist and had lots of trophies) why was he so proud of this wee one? And then she came away with a startling fact – one of those weird things that are famous within a family that no one else would know; that he was 10 stone 2 pounds when he did his national service and ended up in the champion tug o war team, winning the small trophy my friend was referring to. Very specific and a just a wee bit weird. So when I related that to my mother she said 'that’s funny, I was polishing that trophy just last week.' 

Now my theory is that it’s the thoughts that are transferring from one brain  to another brain that has trained itself to be receptive.

In moments great sadness or great danger, do our brains increase the speed of the 'WIFI' in the signals we send out? Do these signals spread out across the globe until it stumbles upon a listening brain?
If we think hard enough, can we make someone phone us? Can you know that a friend is in trouble because we are picking up on  their brains WIFI distress call?  How often do we say when stumbling across a pal we've not seen for a while, “funny I was just thinking about you”.

If enough people think the same thing, can it be made to happen? Can that explain the power of prayer or the collective consciousness? 

And I know who I credit with no scientific basis whatsoever.  I think it's these wee neutrino guys. They seem to be very busy, zooming around with no useful purpose. I was told by a physicist that I am talking rubbish as they are nothing but energy, but surely all energy does something.
Even the laziest of teenagers does something. Eventually.
So why can these neutrinos not be in some kind of pattern that the human race is too stupid to understand?  Why can it not be a Morse code outwith our conscious cognition or a sub atomic Aldis lamp.

I ask you to puruse my theory over a nice coffee. It might explain why different groups of animals with no method of communication will all start a learned behaviour simultaneously – the picking off of the tin foil tops of milk bottles by birds 500 miles apart being a famous example.
It also explains why psychics can never tell you next week's winning lottery numbers....
Sorry about that...

Caro Ramsay

Thursday, February 15, 2018

From fire into fire

Stanley – Thursday

Two weeks ago, I reported on the dire state Cape Town was in with respect to water, or lack thereof.  At that time, Day Zero – the day our taps were to be turned off – was around April 16.  That dreaded day has been pushed back now to the middle of May, largely for two reasons.  First, Capetownians have been taking the situation very seriously and have made dramatic cuts in their water usage.  Everyday, people post innovative ways of saving water.I such as directing the outlet hose of the washing machine into a large bucket rather than into a drain.  (By the way, if you decide to do this, ensure the outlet hose is tethered, otherwise it will jump out of the bucket and spew water everywhere!)

Second, a number of farmers in the Grabouw district (about 100 kms from Cape Town) gifted 10 billion litres of water they had in storage in their dam to Cape Town.

And there have been a couple of rain showers, barely enough to wet the ground, but enough for people to harvest.  For example, last Friday I collected 120 litres from the downspout from my roof.  That’s nearly a week’s worth of toilet flushes.

I’ve been looking forward for weeks to getting to the bush.  My favorite place.  Mette and I are planning to spend three weeks there.  I have a deadline at the end of the month for our stand-alone thriller, DEAD OF NIGHT.  Mette has a new Tree app and will soon be teaching me about the flora of the region.

So, getting out of drought-stricken Cape Town to the bush was something to look forward to.

Except . . .

I developed an enervating, hacking cough that is still with me after ten days.  And I broke a tooth the day before heading north.

And . . .

There is a vicious drought in the bush also.  In fact, overall the drought is so severe that the government declared a national emergency.  In January, Ingwelala, where we are staying, had 1.5 mm of rain (25 mm = 1 inch).  The average is 89.4 mm.  There is no grass anywhere, so game is scarce.  However, birds are still plentiful.

Ingwelala grasslands

Wilting leaves

Nothing for the grazers

Waterhole, normally surrounded by grass 
Crowned lapwing looking for something to eat


We have a small pond in front of our bungalow, which we filled with water.  All we had to do was sit and watch as we ate our pawpaws, and the game and the birds came to us.

Delicious pawpaw

Here are the photos from Day 1.

Grey go-away bird.  Played a big role as Kweh in THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU

Arrow-marked babbler
Officially, the crested barbet.  I call it the committee bird since it looks as though that's how it was designed.
Red-billed hornbill

Female nyala
This mama warthog had four little ones
Cape glossy starling was delighted with our little pond 
This Natal spur fowl was more interested in our crumbs

As was this red-billed hornbill

One of the few animals we saw - of course, they don't eat grass

"I can see you, but you can't see me!"
Three-banded plover

Impala - or the McDonald's of the bush (from the M on the bum)

How can one not fall in love with the lilac-breasted roller?

PS.  There is good news, of course.  President Zuma has resigned.  And, as one of the Black mechanics here in Ingwelala whom I know well just said: "Now it will rain!" 

If it does, I’ll go outside, dance, and enjoy getting soaked.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Snow and sun and blue bears

I've been so jealous of all the pictures my friends send me from Paris - gorgeous thick white snow blanketing the sloping rooftops, frosting the mansard windows and trees in the Jardin de Tuillieres...a fairytale quality. Not so jealous though when I landed in Denver this weekend. The light snow fell and piled on the already dense white snow encrusted landscape in a grey blur. The nice Lyft driver apologised - he didn't need to - that he was sorry I couldn't see the snow capped mountains ringing Denver. Good thing I'd worn my boots and heavy weather coat from the Marais! The mid-winter American Library Association meeting wasn't even a block away but there was a bear in the way.
A big blue snow shouldered bear by some blue trees.

It seemed the blue bear guarded the convention centre. Never fear my editor Juliet came to the rescue
Inside I signed 150 galley copies of Murder on the Left Bank and met lots of librarians and Naomi Hirohara. I picked up lots of galley's too!
We went to dinner at a farm to table Denver resto - amazing veggie dish!
We also felt obligated to sample every dessert on the menu.
 The next dawned sunny and brisk. I got to see the mountains at the airport and from the plane finally.
I came home to find sun and the almond trees in blossom. Everyone is saying the almond trees are feeling confused at blossoming so early.

Cara - Tuesday