the journey of a budding author

A river in France.


What does one do, when an adventurous husband decides that on our next trip we would hire a river boat and sail ( read chug) down a river in France, a river with locks. What does one do when husband says cheerfully, ‘I’ll manage the lock gates, you’ll have to steer the boat through the locks.’ I can tell you what this one’s heart does and this one’s heart sank to her boots.

It was high summer when we went to France in 2010. We were met in Paris by my sister who is now naturalised French and after a few days sightseeing we  found ourselves rushing at high speed through the French countryside, along with thousands of European tourists, heading west.

late on Saturday afternoon  we arrived at the boat base at the tiny village of Sireuil. Fortunately my sister  stayed with us to translate while the base manager explained ( in rapid French) how to navigate the Charente. By this time I was almost numb with worry. I can drive a motor car and have done successfully for forty years, without crashing into anyone, except maybe for the odd scape against various inanimate objects that jumped in my way. But a boat? Never!  The boat manager must have sensed my fear because he took us out on the river for a quick lesson in steering and then promoted me to captain! My husband protested, but that word of confidence in me gave me courage to get behind that wheel and head for the first lock. Yes. It was scary, but I didn’t hit anything and I found to my amazement that it was really easy! All that fuss for nothing.

We camped on a small island just past the lock because it was getting late and we took chairs up on the roof of the cabin and sat in the gloaming drinking in the beauty of the evening and toasted the week ahead on the Charente with cheap red wine.


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One Lovely Blog Award

To my amazement and delight I have been nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award by my new friend Lynne Mayhew of  On the Go with Lynne. I have to say I am honoured as a new and shiny blogger to be thus recognised ! Thank you so much Travelerlynne, I  have been so encouraged by your kind comments.  I appreciate your support and am thrilled to be nominated for this award by a fellow  blogger!

As part of the rules of the award we need to tell you seven things about me:

1. The most important thing about me is that I love and trust God. Without Him, I would be nothing. He met me when my life was in a tailspin and He set my feet on a Rock!

2.I love my family and I love having them all under my roof as they are at the moment. They are adults, one is married and I appreciate these fleeting times with them all around the dinner table together, having interesting discussions about any and everything. Also hanging out with my only daughter is very special and I treasure the times we have together.

3. I love laughing, I love funny movies, funny stories, funny situations. And the funny side of life. Laughter is good for the soul and I’m told it massages the insides, so I do it often.

4. I have called my blog Booksdefineme for a reason, because Book Define Me! I love reading and I love writing and I am so glad I was recently introduced to blogging.

5. I enjoy travelling. We as a family have criss-crossed our homeland, South Africa. And I have travelled in Israel and Egypt and  quite a bit in Europe over the years. But those were mere tastes of what the world holds.  It’s all out there, waiting for me.

6. I was given a beautiful camera in 2006, and since then I have probably taken thousands of photographs of people, places and things. The changing seasons the beautiful countries and cities I’ve been privileged to see, all recorded and hoarded. And many of my photos have been taken at 120kms per hour from the car! Some of those actually came out quite well, considering!

7. Although my home is full of second hand everything, and all my married life I have sacrificed so much to raise my children, now at 67 one of my few indulgences is high thread-count cotton sheets. They have become my new best friend. I love the luxurious feeling of slipping between delicious thick crunchy cotton sheets when I get into bed at night. I’m sure I sleep better too!

Here are my nominees for the Lovely Blog Award: (in no particular order)

Cristian Mahai

24/7 in FRANCE


The Great American Landscape


Fading Meta

Musings of a librarian



You emerged

A defenceless butterfly,

Into this harsh world.



You stretched your wings

Rose high in the sky

Dazzling all with your beauty

Ready to love

And be loved.

The world’s darling with a gentle


You flashed across the azure vault

Searching, flitting,


Tattered wings,

To end,

Cruelly crumpled

In the darkness

Of A Parisian tunnel.











Written August 1997

edited 23 August 2012

This gallery contains 6 photos

A Day in the Life…


Mornings in my home are noisy. Five thirty AM and duty, in the guise of an alarm clock, drags me inexorably from the comfort of my bed to start the day. The sun has not yet reached into the kitchen when I put the kettle on. I stare unseeing out into the mist- wreathed street, taking this quiet moment to brace myself for the rush The next couple of hours are a blur of packing sandwiches and making breakfast. The radio keeps me in touch with the world and the weather and the traffic situation; all noises that are over ridden by that of the increasing traffic outside, the loud rushing of water as the washing machine fills up and the drone of the vacuum cleaner being moved from room to room. Curtains are flung back to let the day stream in.

In the afternoon, the light in the room darkens and becomes shadowy. As I sit at my writing table next to the windows in the lounge, I can hear the bubbling of the fountain as it spills endlessly into the swimming pool The sun is slanting towards the west and it highlights the lemon-patterned cloth on the patio table. Faithful Thandi, plump and kind, comes through with her arms full of freshly ironed clothes, her slippered feet whispering on the carpet as she passes me. Little freckles of sunlight escape through the trees on the west of the house and run across the carpet with dust dancing in their rays. It is time for tea and chocolate cake.

Evening comes, “with smell of steak in passage ways”. As I put the dinner on, my husband’s cheery hello from the front door prompts me to put the kettle on for tea while supper’s aromas waft through the house. The television can be heard speaking to no one in particular in the next room. Curtains are drawn against the gathering dark as we sit in the peace of the sitting room discussing the day’s events.  I love this room with its deep yellow walls and standard lamps casting light and shade onto the richly-coloured paintings on the walls When all is done, quiet descends as bedtime comes. All that can be heard is the loud ticking of the railway clock in the dining room, as if it were the very heartbeat of the home.

I have often thought of what the house must be like when we are out. I have the sense of suspended animation; a breathless waiting for its humans to return and give the contents meaning.

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Have you ever watched someone doing something that looks simple and you decide to try it and you sit down at the piano after watching a virtuoso and you place your fingers on the keys and play and all you hear is Bing Bang Plunk Boing and your fingers feel like lead. You hope no-one heard you making a fool of yourself.

Or you watch someone doing the high dive and think it looks easy and you climb up the high steps of the highest diving board and you walk to the end of the board… When your friend has peeled your fingers off the railing and you look down miles to the surface of the pool and you feel sick in your stomach and you freeze and then shuffle ignominiously back to safety, averting your eyes from the grinning professionals as you creep down to the ground and cover yourself with your towel and rush off to the change rooms. You’ll never try that again.

One day when we were in high school my best friend invited me to go ice skating. I must explain that Charlene went for figure skating lessons every Saturday and had her own sparkling white boots and little flared skirt and tights and everything. I had never been ice skating before

We arrived at the old Wembley Ice rink one glorious Saturday morning. The air in the rink was chilly and we had jerseys and gloves on too, I will never forget the cold smell of the place. I had to hire skates as I didn’t have any kit like tights and short skirt and….OK. You get the picture. I probably wore my gym skirt and shirt. In those days they didn’t have the rigid plastic boots they have now; they had ancient leather boots that were so worn and soft and wobbly you had to also hire an ankle guard, which made the hiree look like a polio victim. And you still wobbled along looking more knock-kneed than you really were. Charlene helped me to tie the boots on as tightly as was comfortable, then the ankle guards, and then she helped me stagger out to arena. I was so exhausted by the time I got out there, I opted to sit and watch for a bit. Fat excuse. I was terrified.

Charlene was a real expert. She could skate backwards and twirl and glide on one foot. And do fancy little jumps .It looked like magic. Finally I was ready to brave the ice. With ankles twisting painfully, I lurched to the gate onto the ice and held tightly to the barrier as I stepped out onto the ice. My feet promptly slipped out from under me and I clutched the barrier like grim death! That was the story of the rest of the morning. I clung desperately to the edge, slipping and sliding and hanging when I couldn’t control my feet. Each time I came around to the little entrance onto the ice, which looked and felt like a chasm which I could not bring my self to skate across. I climbed off and tottered across the meter space to the next leg of the journey around the rink. It was the bing bang plunk boing again, but on the ice.

What a relief when they had a speed skating session. And then they spent time scraping the ice with their huge machine, which was also a welcome respite. I could sit nonchalantly pretending I was an old hand at this. Then it was back onto the ice.

At the end of the morning when I took off the boots, I could hardly walk. My feet, and especially my ankles felt as though they were broken. My knees and bottom felt badly bruised and I was quite sure that my arms were at least 20 cms longer than they should be. But I was smitten.

It was all I could do to get back to the ice rink the next Saturday. When Charlene didn’t go, I went on my own, which meant a long journey across town to Turffontein by bus. And I repeated my performance, getting covered in bruises, and clinging to the barrier and walking across the chasm….etc etc.

Finally when my mother realised I was really serious about this, she bought me a shabby pair of second hand skates. Dilapidated as they were, they were far better than the hire skates. I began to get my confidence and soon I was able to skate across the meter gate to the other barrier. Then I skated across the middle. What a day that was. As time went by, I bought a beautiful pair of white boots, and a little flared skirt. I started taking lessons and was able to skate backwards and twirl and glide on one leg; and more. The ice-rink became my second home and I made some wonderful friends. Perseverance won in the end. The freedom to be able to skate properly was amazing.

Where to from here? Flying lessons? High diving? Piano lessons? Who knew. The world was my oyster. I had proved to myself that I could overcome anything .




I lost my job today

And no-one cares

They shrug and turn away

With smug indifference.

You’ll get over it, they neigh

Accept your Voluntary Severance,

You know there’s nothing left called


It’s nothing personal, they say

Just Good Business Sense, they say.

As if Negotiated Departure

Is for the Greater Common Good

And the thought of it should warm me

In the dark night of my melancholy

Hike to Gudu Falls


Hike to Gudu Falls

As I walk out of the midday sunshine, I am swallowed up in the dim green shadow of the indigenous forest. I am confused by the darkness and I stand still, unsure  of where the path is. The closeness of the trees deadens all sound. It is as though I have stumbled into another world. That momentary pause gives my overworked muscles a chance to be felt and I become aware of the excruciating agony in my legs. I remove my hat and blink as perspiration pours down my face, through my eyebrows and lashes over throbbing  cheeks and into my dry mouth. I have followed the others up the sunny mountain trail carried along by momentum rather than will and now I stand, aware of the tearing in my lungs as my breathing slowly returns to normal. The blood is drumming in my ears, my face, my whole body pulses with the surging of it. My eyes adjust and I see to my dismay the path to Gudu Falls turns into a natural stair of large black rocks, leading upwards at a sharp angle. I can go no further.

Then I see another path, level, leading off to my left. I furl my red umbrella as the chill of the deep humid shade envelops me, clings to my moist skin and I shiver. I can hear the muted voices of the others and I am not sure where they are, but at least they are not on the black rock stair. Gratefully and slowly I walk step by painful step towards the sound. This  is a well-trodden path, but still, large tree roots snake along as if intentionally to trip my faltering steps. My laboured breathing has slowed and I am able to look about me at gnarled and ancient trees of the indigenous bush which arch over me and I marvel at the casual beds of wild pelargoniums in the undergrowth. In the peaceful twilight, I vaguely hear a pair of Crested Barbets strike up their mechanical warble and I think of Keats’s Nightingale ‘In some melodious plot of beechen green, and shadows numberless, singest of summer in full-throated ease’.

I become aware of another sound; a rushing torrential roar ahead. As I come around a bend in the path, I am dazzled by the spectacle of the narrow cataract, cascading, thundering into a sunlit pool. The air is sodden and the trees drip with the mist that is generated by the waterfall. All the others are on a rock on the far side of the pool and the children have already stripped down the swimming gear and are wading into the water. There is nothing for it but to remove my boots and wade across too, as there is no way around. It’s through the pool or nothing.

I sit down gingerly on a wet rock and remove my steaming, aching feet from my boots and plunge them into the icy water, cringing with shock. The bottom of the pool is lined with beautiful coloured pebbles and the children are in thigh-deep in order to scoop up handfuls of agates, the bounty of the Drakensberg. All I can do is concentrate on getting to the other side without falling in, my tender feet tortured by the sharp stones. Finally I am able to sit on a broad rock in the sunlight and enjoy the splendid sight, fortified by tea and sandwiches from Paul’s pack. How delicious the simplest food tastes after a long arduous trek. I could lie here at ease, for hours. All the effort has been worth it after all and my eyelids droop involuntarily. I daydream of climbing on the wings of a friendly eagle and being wafted effortlessly down to the campsite.

Suddenly thunder growls quite close. It can be deadly on the mountain in a thunderstorm, and we are galvanised into action. Hastily pull half-dry socks onto damp feet; fumble with recalcitrant laces, pack up the remains of the picnic and rush headlong down the mountain again as the storm begins.

Copyright Elaine Young 2012

This gallery contains 6 photos