I decided on the spur of the moment to take a trip north when my children left on Monday morning. And today I fly back home having spent three days with my beautiful children.
I really do loving living by the sea and of course I adore my husband and my dogs, I wish I could bring all of that closer to where my children have to live and work.
I spent three wonderful days enjoying their company, went out for meals, was here when the youngest returned from his trip to Cairo and today I return to my home.
Luckily they are able to take long weekends to come to me and during the school holidays which are six weeks long this winter because the schools are closed for the duration of the world cup, my number three son will be visiting for a few days.
Then in August we do a two-week holiday visiting friends and here again before heading off to a game farm where some of them will join us and then November I'll be back here for the birth of my first grandchild.
So although the trips aren't exotic, I'll be able to say that 2010 was one of short, sweet visits and at least I don't go back with a dose of flu this time around.
Internet and dependency
Are we becoming internet-dependent?
Our internet was down today for a long time due to flooding in Johannesburg which is 500 miles away from where I live.
I felt like my hands had been chopped off.
I had to find other things to do today while I waited and waited for it to come back and breathed a sigh of relief when it did.
Am I turning into an addict, or am I already there?
Is this a good thing, should I learn to spend time reading real books rather than chatting away to the many friends I've pricked up around the world.
Imagine what it would be like to live in a world of candlelight and fires made from scratch, unrefrigerated food and having to send messages by runners. Imagine not having even the smallest electrical appliance. I can't even though I grew up in an era of radios that had to warm up before they worked and only three radio stations to choose from. We had a coal-fired stove in the kitchen and my mother was the first person in her family to own a proper refrigerator.
I remember very clearly the first time my mother used an electric stove and when she bought her first electric kettle. I also remember very clearly the day that television made its debut in South Africa in 1976. Were those the good old days or are we better off for our instant messaging and instant connections to people on the other side of the world.
Having lived through all of it, I think I can safely say that this is a wonderful time to be alive and I'm very happy to have lived long enough to be able to chat to people on the other side of the world in an instant.
Our family loves to travel.
I suppose it comes from all the years of when the children were growing up and we used to take a regular annual holiday at the sea and then when they started rowing, camping out wherever the regatta happened to be.
This led to years of taking the caravan out to nearby campsites for weekends whenever the mood was right and visits all around the country including weeks and long weekends at the various game parks.
As the children grew older and were able to take themselves off, overseas travel became a reality with first one going to America for a long visit and then another to Hawaii for a conference and eventually holidays in Europe for the boys and then our own trip to the UK last year.
In December one couple did the same tour we did in the freezing winter weather while another travelled around South America seeing cities, deserts, salt pans and finally Macchu Picchu where one of his tour guides was killed a few weeks later in a mudslide. And then last night he left on his next trip, to Egypt.
While I type this, his flight is about to land at Cairo airport for a very exciting two-week tour of the city and the historical sites around it, including the pyramids naturally then the valley of the kings, the Aswan Dam, Hatshepsut's temple and finally a trip down the Nile back to Cairo and home.
Later in the year, we'll be stopping at various points along the way to Johannesburg from where we'll travel to a little game park close to the city for a week of the bushveld experience. It's not Cape Town which was what my husband wanted to do but which is not a pleasant trip in August, and it's not overseas but I'm looking forward to a week of cool evenings and game viewing.
Does everyone enjoy travel? And do people overseas do as much of it as we seem to do in South Africa. For instance, we are selling our house with the idea that before we settle into a retirement village we are going to store all our belongings and pack up the car, and then just travel wherever the mood takes us in Southern Africa. With our passports in our pocket, we're hoping that we'll be able to see Botswana, Namibia and possibly, Mozambique, before another trip to the UK and Europe.
I love it and I look forward to being able to do more trips before old age and decrepitude force me to travel no further than my front door.
Old Age and memory loss
I want to talk a little about one of the things that happens when we get older.
It starts with forgetting silly things like forgetting where you've left your keys or having to keep a diary, and then losing the diary. You become a little rigid in your routines because it's the only way that you don't lose things or forget to keep appointments.
But then other things start getting lost. Like words, words that you know and because you read a lot you have a reasonable vocabulary but you find yourself having to look up the definition of the word to find the word. Or you forget names of people you know, like film and TV stars and you stop bothering to learn the names of people in your favourite shows and of course having a computer handy when you want to find the artist is easy.
But then it gets worse and even when you know the artist and remember him/her from movies that are current and regular TV shows, but you can't remember their names or the name of their character in the TV show. It's horrifying.
And forget remembering the small details in movies, and TV shows and you are asked a question about something that was the centre of the story line and you can't remember it, and you are even able to watch TV shows, and movies, over and over again, because you can't remember them, but you remember the shows and movies from 30 years ago.
Other things begin to happen, you find yourself typing what looks like a perfectly constructed sentence when you're typing it until you go back to read and find that you've made horrible typos and your sentences simply don't make sense. And what makes it worse, is when people on forums you visit call you out for your errors and you become stressed and it makes your state of mind even worse.
What is the solution? Should old people who are developing short-term memory loss simply abdicate from the world and just spend their days being amused by reruns of shows they've already seen and reading light novels and knitting, or cooking? Or is the continued participation in social networking sites and the outside world a way to keep it becoming a real problem a lot faster?
The US health Reforms
It's really great that the US are going to have some sort of universal health system but I have to wonder why these things have to be so complicated and why there has to be the involvement in insurance companies.
Surely insurance companies should deal directly with clients who want to buy their services and people who don't want to deal with insurance companies should be able to get a basic health service provided for them and paid for them out of the taxes collected from the populace.
And before someone screams in horror about the idea that income tax should be used to provide health care for the unemployed, consider how many people there are who pay enormous insurance premiums for health insurance and never use them.
My opinion is that health care should be available to all who want it, and I'll come to my ideas for funding in a minute without the person making use of the service having to produce anything more than some sort of proof of identity. Now to the details as I think it would work, and work world-wide.
Firstly, there are enormously wealthy people who want the best and who can afford to pay the highest premiums for their health care. These people should be allowed to continue to do this but they should deal individually, I suppose through an insurance broker with their insurer. However, the extent of the cover should be determined by the amount of the premium paid, in the same way that a life insurance policy pays out a benefit according to the benefits, so if you choose the least expensive option, you get to go to a private hospital but have to share accommodation and a bathroom with your roommates. At the top end of the scale, you get a private suite and the most talented and expensive surgeons, all paid for from the funds carried by your insurer and to the limit set by the insurer. And part of this cover is that in order to keep the premiums reasonably low, you pay for your own day-to-day benefits and for regular check-ups and items such as dentures and spectacles and so on. Your insurance will cover you for only the unexpected and unplanned and for pregnancy and childbirth.
If you don't want to pay for private insurance, then you pay into the government fund, as most people do for government pension schemes and unemployment benefits. Again, if you are able to pay for your own day-to-day costs you do so, or accept the most basic generic alternative at a state 'out-patients' clinic, however if you are destitute and ill and need medication, you can get whatever you need at the state hospitals and clinics. This way, ordinary people at the bottom of the earning scale don't have to pay for expensive private insurance but they pay instead into a fund run by the government and that is available to everybody, even the wealthy, as long as their record in the system shows that they are contributing or that they are destitute, in which case their file in the system will reflect that.
My feeling is that giving all health cover to insurance companies is not as economically efficient as a system run by the state would be. Health department employees earn less than insurance company staff do and overheads in government departments are cheaper, so doesn't it figure that these premiums would also be cheaper.
Or do I continue to imagine a sort of governmental utopia of incorrupt people and wonderful service?