Hillbilly Brogue

Every Christmas I create two or three children’s Christmas boxes for charity but due to Covid the usual gift programs did not run this year. I understand why but it made me so sad to not be giving the gift of happiness to any little children. Then I spotted that my friend Letishia from Queen Bee Marketing was putting together some boxes for the kids at Baphumelele Children’s Home under the banner #BoxThatRocks. Queen Bee Hospitality Marketing teamed up with Little But Great and School of Rock Claremont to help the amazing care workers at Baphumelele ease their load a little with a Christmas gift for each child. Their mission was to ensure that 140 orphaned, abandoned and abused babies & children have something special with which to celebrate the festive season.

The website for Baphumelele explains their vision statement as follows: “Khayelitsha is home to one million people and over 14,000 orphans living in 43 square kilometers, many without access to sanitation, water, and electricity. The vision of Baphumelele is to provide a temporary shelter for vulnerable/orphaned children and young adults with chronic diseases and HIV/Aids, and to provide skills development for the unemployed, early childhood care, alleviation of poverty, and healthcare information to the community in Khayelitsha and surroundings, so that the lives of everyone we touch can become more productive and accepted individuals who make a difference within society.”

I was fortunate enough to be able to provide a donation which allowed Letishia to fill the 2 boxes above for 2 of the orphans. If you would like to fund a box or two or fill them yourselves and drop them off then please contact Letishia by direct message on her personal Facebook page or her Instagram account or email her directly at Letishia@queenbeemarketing.co.za. Even if all of the boxes are now accounted for there is always a need for money for a little party for the kids. It is so worthwhile and made me feel so happy to be able to be able to help put joy on an innocent child’s wee face.

Norm and I have not spent Christmas at our home in a long time as we have gone to the US to visit my Mom for the last two years and the year before that we went down to the Garden Route to spend Christmas with my children. Therefore we had not put up a tree in a while. I was in need of a mental boost so we decided to decorate the house last Sunday.

Norm put up the small plastic tree that we have hauled around the world, from Ireland to all over England and then to South Africa. We bought this tree when we were living in Belfast. I had moved to Northern Ireland in November and I was missing my kids and the constant rain and grey skies made me very depressed. The straw that broke the back of my drama llama was that Norm had no tree or decorations so we went down the High Street to Argos and filled in the little paper with the order number of the tree and they brought it to the window and we carried it home and have carried it around the world with us ever since. It is looking tired and 2 of the limbs are broken and we should consider a replacement for next year but this year the familiarity of tradition brings me comfort.

Norm strung the lights on the tree and I decorated both the tree and the house. My hodgepodge of decorations have also been around for decades. When I first moved out of my parent’s house in the early 80’s, first to a little wooden cabin in Cleveland Tennessee and then to Los Angeles, my Mom gave me loads of ornaments. I had a theme of children’s old fashioned toys, tiny stuffed bears, rocking horses, unicorns, little bikes and wagons for the bears and other bits and pieces and some of these are looking a bit threadbare, but we love them.

This Grinch has been a part of our holidays for a very long time as well. Lily got Grinch in a holiday kid’s meal at some fast food place when she was small and the kids were visiting us in the UK for their Christmas holidays. She left Grinch with me when she went home and he comes out every Christmas.

I like doing unconventional decorations. Sort of mixing my cultures all together into a swirling, spicy soupçon of celebration. One of my North African masks always wears the Santa hat.

One of my many buddha heads is wearing a fetching holiday wreath and star combo.

I spent most of last Sunday wrapping all of the presents and I am feeling a bit more festive and less panicky about being prepared when I look at the mound of gifts. Also by wrapping I could take stock and see where my gaps were and I ordered the outstanding bits and pieces this week so I am feeling much less anxious. That is pretty much everyone in our family and their partners all bought for. I did not spend as much as I usually do but everyone will have a few items to open.

The children all discussed the Christmas arrangements and on Monday night they decided that with the increase in infections in the garden route and with both Amber and Jackie being on international and domestic flights just before Christmas they do not want to have a big family get together and risk either their Dad or I getting sick. Their Dad has emphysema and the virus could be very serious for him. With my own underlying health issues I am also not willing to risk it. We have decided to postpone our get together and have a ‘Christmas in July’ celebration instead. It will be colder then and it should feel more festive and hopefully the vaccines should be available in SA. While it makes me very sad to not see Trevor and Lily it is the most sensible thing to do. Caitlin will come and spend Christmas Eve here with us and we will have a small family dinner on Christmas Day, just the 3 of us. Lily and Josh will have Christmas with Jackie and Trevor and Amber will have Christmas with Amber’s family. The kid’s dad will have Christmas with his wife and her daughter. So no one will be alone but no one will be risking exposure outside of the usual circle of their home.

The weather on Tuesday matched my mood.

The weather has been a bit chilly and overcast most of the week with occasional bouts of sunshine and some humidity. This time of year is usually hot, bright and full of sunshine but climate change has made the weather all over the world go awry so you never know what you might get.

Norm shopped for groceries on Monday so we had fillet steaks for dinner that night. We never plan our menus for the week, Norm just goes and buys whatever catches his eye so it can be a challenge to decide what to cook, it is usually driven by expiration dates!

Norm cooked the steaks and I fried sliced mushrooms in garlic and butter then added cream to make a sauce. I roasted chunks of sweet potato and fried sliced cabbage.

On Tuesday I had chicken to do something with so I fried an onion, mushroom slices and the cut up chicken breast pieces and once it was all browned I added in a bit of stock, a bag of baby spinach and let it simmer a bit. Instead of having my cream go odd in the heat of the oven again I added it towards the end of the process then topped it all with some mozzarella and put it under the grill briefly. I roasted sweet potato chunks and parboiled brussel sprouts in chicken stock and then fried them off in butter until brown. The cream did not separate so my friend Hila was right about the excessive heat making it go weird, thanks Hila!

On Wednesday night I had mince and cauliflower so I decided to do a cottage pie with cauliflower mash. I put the sauce on at lunch time, first frying chopped celery, red pepper, onion and carrot until browned. I then added sliced mushrooms and the beef mince and fried that until it was done. I then added some tomato passata, beef stock, garlic, a tiny bit of chili and some other seasoning and let it all simmer for a bit. After work I steamed the cauliflower, added an egg yolk, butter, salt and pepper and puréed it all. I then layered the meat sauce, the cauliflower and a mix of mature cheddar and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses on top and baked it. I served it with a simple salad of gem lettuce, baby tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and avocado.

By Thursday I was out of vegetables and only had salad ingredients. I had kassler chops and halloumi cheese so I opted for a big salad served with fried halloumi and kassler chops. These chops are so quick and easy to cook, I just put them in a hot pan with a splash of olive oil and fried them for 5 minutes each side. Norm fried the halloumi while I made the salad.

Friday was our treat night and as it was a bit chilly I wanted something warm but also fancied sushi so I chose Blue Lotus for my take away. I ordered crispy chili chicken, prawn roses and bamboo rolls. I made an error in judgment with the bamboo rolls as I was thinking bamboo roses, so when it came with seaweed all wrapped up in the mix I was not happy about my error in judgement. I deconstructed those pieces and removed the seaweed and awkwardly wolfed the rest down.

This week Norm and I watched a film on Netflix called ‘Hillbilly Elegy‘. It is the true story of the life of J.D. Vance. J.D. was from a family which had originated in Kentucky and he wrote about his Appalachian roots and the generational challenges his family had due to poverty, addiction and dysfunction.

His grandmother was played brilliantly by Glenn Close. At the end of the film there were real home videos of J.D.’s childhood and you could see how closely the make up team managed to get Glenn to resemble Mamaw’s appearance and how well Glenn mastered the mannerisms of his Mamaw (pronounced ‘Maam-aww). J.D.’s mother Bev was played by the beautiful and talented Amy Adams. Bev was an addict who had lost her nursing license and her dignity through drugs and poor choices in men throughout J.D.’s childhood and was still struggling with her demons after J.D. was an adult trying to better himself.

In addition to ‘Mamaw’ there were several words which Norm was baffled by that are so familiar to me, some of which I realised I pronounce the same as they did in the film. For example, what is the liquid you put on your pancakes? I pronounce it ‘surup’, not ‘seerup’. It is a ‘dawwg’ not a ‘dog’ and when that dawg is being a nuisance we tell him to ‘git’ not to ‘get away’. While we lengthen most words especially when they contain vowels, we also shorten some words such as ‘come on’ which gets clipped and brief, sounding more like ‘moan’. I am surprised the poor dogs and cats can decipher both Norm and his Scottish brogue and me and my Southern drawl.

Memaw reminded me so much of my own Grandmother Rena who was orphaned and sent to a cotton mill to work at the age of 6. She was a hard working, harder talking, strong woman whom I adored. Much like Mamaw, if my Grandma did not like your friends she would throw them out of her house with her derisive words stinging their ears and you did not dare bring them around again or even mention them. She was a good judge of character.

It was a sad film but was still inspiring in how J.D. managed to rise above his upbringing and make a success of himself: attending Harvard law school, creating a loving family and building a prosperous career. I give it 5 Kitten Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I would not be surprised to see Glenn Close and Amy Adams taking home some awards for their performances. Many people strongly criticised the film as ‘poverty porn‘ and said it was a terrible movie but I guess if you have lived it even tangentially maybe it makes a difference in your perspective?

I noticed that another season of ‘Virgin River‘ is now available on Netflix as well. I was happy as I had really enjoyed series 1 of the show and was sad that it had ended. It is about Mel Monroe, a nurse practitioner and midwife who moves to a remote area in Northern California called ‘Virgin River’. Alexandra Breckenridge plays the part of Mel and is a recognisable face from many other shows, in particular most recently as ‘Sophie’ from ‘This is Us‘. It also stars Tim Matheson as Doc Mullens, the old fashioned local physician whom Mel works for and Annette O’Toole as Hope, the good doctor’s ornery wife. Doc and Hope fought the entire 1st series but are back in love in series 2 but the actors kiss very oddly and there is obviously no passion or sexual tension between them. They just sort of smash faces. Even though I am old I do not want to watch other old people snog, and I can imagine it does not entice the younger viewers either.

The show is predominately a love story between Mel and Jack, the handsome local bar owner played by Martin Henderson whom you may recognise from Grey’s Anatomy. I like this show and recommend it (other than the geriatric love scenes).

Now for the scores on the doors for Covid. In SA 5,779,544 people have been tested. The statistics are:

Despite being in our 2nd wave, we are still improving on a global scale. Is that because we are compared to the US and Europe which are doing so poorly at containing the spread? We have dropped to 18th globally for total cases. We were at 16th globally for a month prior to this week.

For a 2nd week we are still at 44th globally for total deaths per 1 million population, prior to last week we were at 42nd.

The USA is still 1st in both total cases and total deaths globally and there have been 302,762 deaths. Trump has spent his time on frivolous lawsuits and trying to blag that the vaccine should be called the ‘Trump Vaccine’. The US government did not order enough of the vaccine to supply the needs of the US and now Trump has signed an Executive Order that America must be supplied first, however he only has jurisdiction over US based manufacturers and all of the manufacturers have international locations so it is just a show of impotent power. America is certainly not first as the UK is starting to get inoculated as are other countries. Once again his incompetency is leading to a detriment to the American people. Not only that, many people are now saying they do not have confidence in the vaccine and refuse to get inoculated so this will just delay the roll out and suppression of the pandemic.

Meanwhile Trump has spent his time creating dissent and division by attempting to destroy the democracy and disenfranchise millions of voters. He is still claiming that the election was ‘stolen’ because he did not win. His supporters continue to pour money into his PAC and the last tally I saw was that he has now stored $200 million in his fat little cheeks for his winter of discontent. He will need all of this money to defend himself once he is no longer a sitting president as the courts are coming after him and his family on so many areas of illegality.

One of these areas of investigation is the granting of pardons for cash and other favours. The Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who was leading the long-shot lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election for Trump is in hot water and is doing favours for Trump in the hopes of a pardon. He is currently under indictment over securities fraud and the FBI has subpoenaed Paxton as part of its investigation into abuse of office and bribery allegations. Seven senior lawyers in Paxton’s office as well as the agency’s head of law enforcement raised these allegations and all eight have since resigned, been put on leave or been fired since reporting on Paxton.

The lawsuit that Paxton attempted has been squashed by the Supreme Court. The lawsuit sought to get the Supreme Court to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia — four key states that Trump lost, saying that their votes were “tainted.” Kevin McCarthy, the top ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, attached his name to 125 fellow House Republicans who supported Trump’s longshot bid. McCarthy was the most notable congressman to back the suit.

Unfortunately Trump has made history in another area which highlights his lack of humanity. He is the first Administration to oversee executions during a lame-duck period in 130 years. Brandon Bernard was executed this week, after the US supreme court denied a last-minute request to delay his killing. Bernard’s execution is one of six that the Trump administration is rushing through before Joe Biden takes office. Brandon’s execution was the ninth federal execution since July, when Donald Trump ended a 17-year hiatus in federal executions. The first series of federal executions over the summer were of white men, which critics said seemed calculated to make them less controversial amid summer protests over racial discrimination. Four of the five inmates set to die before Biden’s 20 January inauguration are black men. The fifth is a white woman who would be the first female prisoner executed by the federal government in nearly six decades.

Another of Trump’s cruel legacies is the plan to revive gallows, electric chair, gas chamber and firing squad as a means to do these executions.

His lack of empathy and basic humanity appears to have no bounds. He sickens me.

Monday is the Electoral College vote and hopefully that will put an end to this ridiculousness.

Trying to lift the mood, for my musical section I have included yet another of the brilliant NPR Tiny Desk concerts. The first is by Dua Lipa. Her setlist is “Levitating”, “Pretty Please”, “Love Again”, “Don’t Start Now”. Dua is both beautiful and talented.

The second artist is 23 year old Mac Ayres. Mac is a very versatile, soulful musician and performs vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboard on all of these songs. His setlist is “She Won’t Stay Long”, “Walking Home”, “Sometimes”, and “Easy”.

And finally, as a bonus I provide a bit of holiday spirit to boost those of us who are struggling to get into the mood. This is Pentatonix performing ‘Amazing Grace’ from their ‘We Need A Little Christmas‘ Album.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading and that you manage to stay safe. If you can stay home please do. If you have to go out then wear a mask, sanitise frequently and avoid crowded spaces.

Until next time, socially distant Kisses from the Kitten xoxoxoxoxox

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