Friday, January 19, 2007

AND SHE’S ONLY JUST FIFTY…..A tribute to the best friend a girl could have. Updated Saturday 20th

I have known Moira for sixteen years. This weekend, she is celebrating her fiftieth birthday in Johannesburg. Okay, she’s not my childhood friend and we were never even fellow students, but we’ve had as much laughter and as many tears together as it is possible for two friends to have. I have been remembering some of those occasions.

When we met back in the bad old days of good old CAMAF, the health insurance company where we both worked. Moira was the supervisor of the Financial department, while I was in Customer Services. I used to pass her office on the way to my desk every day, and at first I thought she was one of ‘them’ – you know, ‘them the Management’. That meant, of course, that she didn’t talk to lowly and insignificant minions like me, and I thought she was oh so terribly posh! In due course, I would step into her office to ask about problems with members, and I slowly discovered that that she was neither lofty or a snob as I had at first thought. Mind you, she had thought that I was rather intimidating much to my horror, so we were both happy to discover we were both mistaken. And it was good.

Our friendship went from strength to strength, and before long, we were sharing the usual confidences about the usual female things, and of course about our bosses, which was always great for forging ever closer ties. Moi will well remember our weekly Squash sessions when we pretended the balls were various members of CAMAF’s management, or indeed anyone we had the miffs with that week.

My first real memory of getting into the thick of things with Moi was at one Christmas party. I seem to recall we went to an Italian restaurant, not that far from the office. It was a good lunch. The wine was even better. In fact it was so good that when the time came to go, we were both too sloshed to walk. But as Moi was feeling seriously sick, it was quite clear that I should be the one to drive. Naturally. Nowadays, it seems shameful to laugh at being so potted; standards and opinions have changed for the better, but every time I think of that day I start chuckling. There we were in Moi’s little ‘shitty’ brown Escort, driving with exaggerated care back up the road. She was keeping an eye on the distance that I was keeping from the kerb; meanwhile I clutched the wheel feverishly and tried to focus on what was up ahead. A difficult task when you can see two of everything. Then suddenly, she screamed at me to stop, which of course, I did, thinking something dire had happened. Moi flung the door open and leaning out, deposited her wonderful lunch copiously in the gutter. That was definitely a sobering experience, I don’t remember too much more about the ride home, but we managed to get there as we both lived to tell the tale over many another Christmas party.

Another special occasion I love to remember came much later, in fact in 2000 after we had both left CAMAF. It was on that memorable pony trekking trip to Lesotho. Moi, Les and I had what was one of the best weekends of my life, made so partly by Moi’s unintentional, but hilarious antics. Now most of us know Moi as the lady. When we used to go shopping together, Moi would go and look at the lovely, soft and elegant fashions, while I went and pored over power tools. It goes without saying then that while Les and I were equipped to deal with the rough and ready conditions of an overnight stay on a Lesotho kraal, Moi wasn’t.

The great Trek
After a six hour ride and a five kilometre hike to a waterfall, we were all exhausted. Neither Moi nor I had ridden ponies in years and Les, bless him, had never been on horseback before. I still cry with laughter when I recall the blue air surrounding Les’s expletives as the horses picked their way down the sheer sides of a particularly rocky gorge, but he was so game. He just kept going. Anyway, we collapsed into a rondavel on our arrival like a bunch of zombies.

Moi and I looking wasted in the Rondavel..yes that is me with the dark hair...;-)

Then the fun began. The village residents had kindly supplied us with the basics. There were mattresses to sleep on, a gas ring to cook on and a single bucket of water for all our needs. Let me stress that. ALL our needs. There was also the famous ‘long drop’ for the toilet, amounting to a shed surrounding a deep hole in the ground with a toilet seat sitting over it.

Now remember Moi is a lady. Moi does not use a long drop to do her deeds. Moi refuses to even have a ladylike pee in a long drop. Coaxing and persuading her does no good at all. She is simply not going to do it. A few hours and a cup of tea later, however, and she was facing a problem. Where exactly was she going to do her deed. Another couple of hours and a good level of desperation further on and she finally conceded that she would have to try. Somewhere, and sadly I don’t have it, there is a photo of Moi hovering over the long drop with an expression of utter disdain on her face. We captured the moment as proof that in fact Moi is more courageous than any of us. She did it. She used that long drop against a whole heap of her better judgments.

Going back to the rondavel, though, we managed to cook, make hot drinks and wash dishes with sparing use of our bucket of water, carefully leaving about half of it for teeth cleaning, face washing and most importantly, coffee and tea in the morning. Later on, just before turning in, Les and I were dutifully cleaning our teeth with mugs filled from the bucket, when suddenly I heard Les positively shriek. “MOIRA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Turning round I saw Moi frozen in mid action. She had a bar of soap in her hands. But it was too late. She’d already done it. She’d soapily washed her face in our precious bucket of water. The one that was for ALL our needs. The tea and coffee next morning had an extremely interesting flavour.
What a trip, what a friend!

Happy Birthday, my friend. I should have been with you at your party, but as you now know, the forces were against me, and we were cruelly prevented from catching that plane. May you have another fifty wonderful years, Moi and I promise...we will see each other soon xxx.


  1. VAL is that you on the left!??...
    moi sound great fun..and fabulous times you two had together..i laughed at both your
    happy 50th moi!..have a great weekend where ever it is your going mysterious val...

  2. Val,
    I love you with the dark hair! Tres chic.

    Moi sounds fantastically fun- Happy Birthday, Moi! I see she was the inventor of Earl Grey tea, which to me, tastes like soap!

    P.S. Chapter six up for you, seven coming tomorrow or Saturday.

  3. Lovey post! What a good friend! It reminded me of what it is like to be saddle-sore!

  4. Hi Val,
    What a scary title. In first glance I thought someone had passed away (again). Glad it turned out to be a nice story.
    How did the barges survive yesterday's storm?
    Love Erik-Jan.

  5. Happy Birthday Moira. I hope you both survived the storm yesterday.

  6. Happy 50th - and may I say 50th in capital letters - Moira!!

    I can relate to this.
    No, I will pee over a drop, a forest floor or a snow covered ledge...

    But I have taken an acquaintance for the proverbial 'tea party' in order to coax her to use the outhouse...

    As for pony trekking, poor Moira may have suffered from extreme soreness in her extremities and was not able to suffer the drop...


    Here's to Best Friends!


  7. Yay Gypsy, that really is me...luckily the picture is very rough, because so was I ;-)

    Anne Marie, thanks...but the quantities of hair dye I had to use to keep it that way were a cause for serious international water grey tea is definitely the outcome of that expedition, I agree ;-) I'll be reading Chapter 6 today.

    String, it was the most wonderful be riding in the mountains of Mordor (Lesotho was the inspiration for Lord of the Rings) was magical.And Moi was the best!

    Erik Jan, yes it was a happy story, I'm glad to say. The storm was indeed a bit scary but we all survived intact.

    Stu, you've written a fabbie post about the storm, which I can recommend everyone who sees this to read! I bow to the master ;-)

    Dale, our moorings are safe, thank goodness. One good thing about boats is that we move with the wind, so there is less resistance. the only risk is losing things off the deck! Funnily enough, my latest post on my Watery Ways blog describes the results of a similar storm...and I wrote it a day before this one...hmmm....creepy!

    The sad footnote to this whole story is that we were going to Moira's birthday party this weekend - as a surpirse, whirlwind visit. We booked it months ago, and I had made a real book for her of my African Ways, and this blog was part of a speech I was going to give. I am still devastated to say that on the train to the airport yesterday my bag was stolen with everything in it - tickets, passport, purse, phone, camera, even my we are now back home. I so wanted to be with my friend on her birthday too...;-(

  8. Oh Val, I'm so sorry about the stolen bag. How dreadful! I hope you let the authorities know about the passport because that is soooo serious. What a dreadful disappointment. I guess somethings are not meant to be.

    I loved reading your post. The recollections you have of some of the grand and everyday occasions with her speak of true friendship. The type of friendship that is all too rare these days. I'm sure she is disappointed and concerned for you - as good friends should be.

    The nice thing about true friends tho is that no matter how many miles separate you - they are always close in spirit. A small concilation on a day like today, but oh so real.

  9. Oh Val, how devastating!
    I feel so sorry for you...I wish I could help.

    It is such a personal travesty to have beloved and, not to mention, important belongings stolen.
    It is such a cold-hearted act.

    As a result, you've missed spending time with a dear friend.
    That time will now have to be spent notifying all the proper authorities (god forbid - the Dutch beauraucracy...) and replacing all your important papers, etc.

    I cringe to think about it...but was the African Ways book in that bag?

    You seem to have a corner on the ESP market this week...

    If nothing else, I will send you my thoughts (which you well and should be able to read with your newly discovered clairvoyancy...)
    And lots of those eternally ephemeral cyberhugs.


  10. Thank you, Lannio and Dale. Bless your kind hearts. You've helped just by taking the time to show your empathy.

    Lannio, you are so right, distance makes no difference to my friendship with Moi. I spoke to her this morning and although we were both a bit weepy, I know there will be another time, and the ties remain as strong.

    Dale, the cyberhugs are warmly and gratefully received. Sadly, African Ways was in the bag, but on the upside, I can still make will just take a bit of time, lots of paper and a new printer cartridge ;-).

    The missed pleasure of being with my friend and my daughter, and the prospect of all that bureaucracy are infinitely worse. xxx

  11. Oh Val,
    I'm so sorry about what happened to you- I wish I could help, if only to slap the thief around a bit. It's terrible that the biggest losses when you are robbed are the sentimental ones, things you can't always replace easily.
    I hope you'll get a chance to see your friend very soon.


  12. Hi Val, wonderfull & heartfelt post! What's interesting is I did a post yesterday about a friend also!

    There goes that 'telapathy' again!

    Best Regards & Thanks for your continued participation on my humble, little Blog.

  13. Sorry about the anonymous comment.

    Forgot to choose an 'identity' & wasn't quick enough to stop it from going through.

    :0) Ed

  14. Thanks Val! Left a message for you on my blog.

  15. Hi Val,
    Moi sounds like a true friend. This is a very nice tribute to her, very funny stories!

    Happy Birthday to Moi!

  16. Wonderful post mum and I hope Moira gets to read it!

    You know where I am if there's anything I can do!


  17. HI Val,

    What wonderful stories!! I was in stitches as I read. There is nothing like having a good friend like that. Happy birthday, Moira!

    Oh yes, and 'oh-la-la' on your dark hair! :)

  18. Hi Val,
    Terrible story about the bag.
    What a dissapointment.
    Do not understand really that is still impossible to arrange anything at the airport in this computerized age. In your case it still does seem to depend on some lousy papers in a handbag.
    And then the folks who do this just for a few Euro's. Actually they don't know what they are doing and if the do they do not even care.
    I hate them!!!
    And then, as mentioned, the time consuming bureaucracy to get part of your belongings back.
    The missed trip is the worst of-course.

  19. Bless you Anne Marie. If I'd seen the thief, I think I would have been tempted to slap hem/her around a bit too. It seems mine was the third incident on the same train, so there was someone or even a pair casting their misery about on that particular train. On the trip home, we were warned about pickpockets over the loud speakers, but by then it was too late!

    Metalchick, many thanks. Yes, Moi is a very special friend, and we've had so many fun times together I couldn't write them all blog would turn into a book!

    Thanks to you too Ed...but then I've commented on your blog too!

    Jojo bless you, pet. There's nothing to be done now but endure the bureaucratic nightmare, but if I need you, be sure I'll call ;-)

    Mary Beth, thanks for visiting. I know you're a busy girl these days! I used to miss my dark hair, but as I said to Anne Marie, it became such a pain to keep dying it, I gave up and in to my white hair with the occasional blonde tint! I've actually been grey since I was thirty, but started off life as a brunette like you ;-)

    Eric Jan, thanks so much for the real sympathy in your words. I was pretty upset on Friday and even yesterday I was snivelling into my tissues, but life goes on hey? Losing my camera and glasses were awful, but losing my passport meant the end of our trip and the prospect of seeing both my friend and my daughter. That's what hurt the most. Ah well, off to the police tomorrow to do my aangifte!

  20. Val,

    What an awful thing to happen! I'm so sorry you missed seeing your friend. Just maybe there's an outside chance that you'll get some of your personal items back. I hope so - that's the incurable optimist in me, I guess.

    Definitely do be sure to report your passport and any credit cards stolen. Someone can steal your identity very quickly if you don't take precautions.

    Anyway, your friend sounds wonderful and I hope you get to see her soon.

    Also, your last post made me LOL. Revolting cloggies...too funny!


  21. God i'm so sad to hear what happened..mad aswell..grrr expletives abound!!!!!!
    3 words for the person who stole your stuff...

  22. This was a wonderful remembrance...

    I also have "a childhood friend" that I never met until my mid-twenties... lol

    Friends, good ones, are a rare and blessed privilege.

    Happy birthday Moira - life begins at fifty!

    Love and joy to you and yours dear Val

  23. I've heard somewhere that 50 is the new 30...

  24. Thanks so much Rache. It was all a bit traumatic and depressing too. You are right about reporting it though. I went straight to the police and stopped all my cards, but I still have to contact the British Consulate to report my missing passport. Sigh!

    Gyspy, I just hope the saying 'what goes around comes around' is true, cos the thief will really get it !!!

    Thanks for visiting Angel. I haven't been a very good visitor in your direction lately, but I will improve soon...I promise. Just too many things to pre-occupy me at the moment, but your comments are always so very kind. Thank you dear.

  25. If 50 is the new 30, then I'm only 29! Rock on!

  26. *L* I've always thought about going blonde, but I hear too much opposition when I mention it! I don't know - I think it would be fun to be blonde for awhile. *L*

  27. I sure think it will be a lot of fun to be blond for a while.
    Like Rod Stewart said: "Blondes have more fun". I used to be black and now i'm grey (almost) but if 50 is the new 30 then, spot on....i'm 30 :-)))

  28. I've always been blonde, but now I'm getting the chance to try out my new colour - grey...

  29. they will get theirs day it will bite them in the bum..
    dale grey is great for high lightning colours such as red..

  30. I can vouch for the 50 going on 30 thing all of fact I'm even younger now...I'm only

    Erik Jan, have you had a birthday lately by any chance?? If so, I wish I'd known, and I hope it was a great one;-) You make a fab fifty something!!

    Rache, you too! But you're not there yet...neith ar you Dale...or Gypsy. You'll all have to wait to find out how good it is just a tad longer..;-)

  31. Mary Beth! Don't do it! Your lovely dark hair is so glossy that it would be a crime to turn it blonde. Wait until you have

  32. Maybe our cryptic post will cheer you up...mmmmwhahhaha

  33. Val!

    I heard on the news this morning that a woman in Holland has developed a beer for her dog...

    Was that you?

    Will we soon find Sindy in a bin at the abattoir?

    S'not fair...

  34. Only 2 weeks and 1 day, Val...

    then it's official

  35. Hi Val,
    The birthday was the 27th. of october. (1956)
    As you know, birthday parties in the Netherlands are so boring... so i just had a diner with Katinka and that was it.

  36. Hello my dear,
    thanks for your comments on the EG blog. I added two chapters just for you.

  37. Hi Dale, I never heard that story on the news!! Sindy'll be round there like a shot if she gets hold of shhhh ;-)

    Erik Jan, happy belated one. I'll bet your celebration was much more fun than the traditional style birthday! anyway, i'm glad you've finally joined the ranks of the thirty somethings ;-)

    Thanks Anne Marie, I'll go take a look now!

    Momo, you HAVEN'T!!!!! YES YOU HAVE ;-)


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