As the flagon dries …

May 16, 2015

Looking up!

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 11:44 pm

Exciting times!

Re-reading my previous post, I see there’s no mention of Syntek. Seriously? So here’s a quick catch-up.

October last year was significant in that I finally paid off my “impossible” debt, having been helped by kind friends (by means of a loan) to work my way back into a professional post in government about two years earlier. It took a few months to sink in, but hey, it’s a great feeling! I still have a bit of a bond on my flat, but that’s ‘good debt’ – and I intend to refinance that flat soon to invest in other properties.

Having cleared that weight off my mind, it was time to look ahead. It didn’t take long to figure out that even if I saved half my net salary every month (the half I had been putting into the loan), my accumulated reserves by age 65 (including hefty compulsory contributions to the Government Workers’ Pension Fund) would be a mere sneeze; nowhere near enough to survive on, let alone build a green house on a permaculture plot and be a rest stop on the pilgrim route…

A few months earlier I had signed up for my own business in the fuel industry – or rather the fuel-saving industry – with Syntek Global. With my detail-digging personality, it took me a long time to settle in and start taking it seriously. My day job is quite demanding and inflexible, so adding extra work in the evenings and at weekends was easier in theory than in practice. But when I looked at the figures – pension, years left to earn etc – I realised that real action was needed if I didn’t want to bury my dreams.  I had learnt enough about Syntek by then to know that this was the best opportunity available to me to augment my income, with minimal startup costs, no risk, low overheads – and skills I could learn along the way, given some effort. And as a bonus the business was based on a green product. And I knew that it worked. So right at the end of January  I started taking it more seriously, and my team started growing. At that time I had only two people in my downline (after about 10 months); three and a half months later there are 15 (though not all active).

[At that point I got distracted, and now I need to sleep….  More on Syntek at ]

October 10, 2014

Looking back on a massive shift

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 9:34 pm

Two years since my last post – and what a time it’s been! I look back on 2012 as one of the most difficult years of my life, certainly workwise, and as often happens, other things also went pear-shaped. Like my scooter being injured and then attacked by thieves who tried to dismantle it and took bits of it (battery, indicators, contents of top box) over the wall of the laundry yard where it was parked. If I recall correctly, it took three tubes, a new tyre, three batteries and various other bits & pieces – over a period of weeks as I had to figure out complex logistics each time – to get it going again. The (very) short-term contracts at Groote Schuur continued, sometimes being extended only on the second-last day of the month. I stayed in the staff residence when possible because it was cheap and convenient – but my staying there was dependent on my having a paid post in the hospital, so month-ends were doubly stressful. I moved out in May to stay in Newlands until August, then moved back in until December. By October I knew that there would be no more renewals of the contracts, as the post had to be returned to the department from which it had been “borrowed”, so stress levels increased again as Christmas drew near. I had applied and been interviewed for a post of radiation scientist in the national Department of Health, but no news appeared as the months went on. That was based in the northern suburbs (Bellville), so I figured I might as well find accommodation out that way in case I got it. Even if I did go back to editing, I’d have to live somewhere, and the north seemed to be more reasonably priced than the more familiar south. So I found a rather pleasant, sunny flat in Sonstraalhoogte, near Cape Gate, 13 km beyond Bellville (which turned out not to be the cleverest idea considering the traffic direction at rush hours).

On the morning of Christmas Eve I had a migraine (unsurprisingly) so was in bed at the res when I received a phone call to say I’d got the radiation scientist post. I was extremely grateful (to put it mildly. I hadn’t quite dared to consider what might happen if I didn’t get a post: there was absolutely no way I could pay back the massive loan without a regular and reasonable salary coming in.) I moved to the Sonstraalhoogte flat four days later and started work four days after that, with Christmas and New Year happening somewhere under a flurry of packing and unpacking.

When that lease expired a year later, I moved to a cheaper flat (really a former hotel room with en-suite on the 12th floor of what had once been the Holiday Inn in central Bellville) a stone’s throw from my work. I had meanwhile bought a car and sold my scooter to upgrade slightly to a Bajaj bike, but now I need neither to get to work, as it’s an easy walk from my new home. At the time of writing I am in the process of selling the bike to a colleague – and am less than a week away from the final payment on the loan, including the added cost of the car. So this is a great time to reflect over the past two years with immense gratitude for the change in circumstances.

It certainly hasn’t been easy, but it was possible thanks firstly to the people who took  massive chance lent me the money, and secondly to the post that became available – not in Medical Physics, as I’d expected, but in a related field where I needed to learn only a small part of what I’d have had to learn to become a competent medical physicist again. And frankly, I realised that I’d have hated the unrelenting stress of medical physics, even if I had managed to master the work. So I’m grateful that my vision didn’t materialise quite the way I pictured it – it’s much better this way! So last year (2013) was a lot less stressful work-wise, but was a very painful year in terms of friends who died. I won’t go into that here except to say that one of those losses ripped my life apart for a time in a way that was far more shattering than I could ever have expected. I learnt a lot about myself through that experience and also gained more insight into the effects of deep grief and the preciousness of special friendships.

This year I treated myself to two road trips: one through the Northern Cape to Augrabies and Kuruman, then Johannesburg for the Anglicans Ablaze conference, and another, for my birthday week, to Plettenberg Bay on the southern Cape coast, where I had one last week of timeshare (having finally dumped the points I “invested” in about 30 years ago). That was one of my best holidays ever, and gave me a chance to consider where I might locate my dream of “a permaculture smallholding somewhere along the Garden Route, living sustainably off-grid and offering accommodation to pilgrims on the Indlela yoBuntu pilgrim route from Grahamstown to Cape Town”. And then there’s the Green Building College dream too, but all that is recorded elsewhere.

With my move into the middle of Bellville, I gave myself permission to head to the southern suburbs at weekends (in addition to regular Wednesday meetings), both to nurture friend and family relationships  there and to provide “soul space” and revive my energies by walking on my favourite beach or in the mountains. It’s quite a long drive (50 km round trip to Fish Hoek), but feels like a mini-holiday and is very much worthwhile. Enough for now.

If anyone’s reading this and waiting for me to get to the point, sorry! 🙂

September 27, 2012

Three months!

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 7:09 pm

It’s a long time – more than a year – since I was last in a position to say that I had both a  job and accommodation for the next three months. But today I can indeed say that: yippeee!  My job was extended by three months (to year-end)  at the end of last week, and today I heard that I could stay on at Rochester House, the Groote Schuur staff /UCT student residence here in Observatory, very near the hospital.  After all the to-ing and fro-ing of the past year, and since February in particular (five moves from March to September), three months of ‘certainty’ feels almost like permanent tenure, and I’m hugely grateful. I’m really hoping that I’ll have secured a permanent job by the time the year ends.

Last night I watched the DVD  “Thrive”. All I can say is get it; watch it. Make sure you watch on a day when you have time (just over two hours) to watch the whole thing:  if you stop about two-thirds along you may find it too scary/ depressing, but it does end on a much more positive note.  (I can say that without spoiling the plot, ’cause it’s a documentary, not a whodunnit.) There are some parts you may disagree with, or think they’re totally off the wall, and that’s fine. Just keep watching and consider the possibility that there’s truth there…  The movie covers a whole lot of not-necessarily-related topics. I found it fascinating and quite a mind-opener.  It ties in with a lot of thoughts I’ve been having lately – including some arising from another DVD I received by mail from a friend today.

“Thrive” is showing at the Labia cinema (Cape Town)  at a brief film festival next month (October) – I think it’s just one day, and I hope that’s a Saturday, as I want to see all three movies on offer.


September 23, 2012

Still working … still temporary

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 7:22 pm

Seven months later, and I’m still at Groote Schuur. I’m glad to say that things improved a month or two after my February post, when the department managed to “lend” me a short-term PAID post for the month of April – and later another for two months, which was then extended by another two months. And I’ve just heard that it’s been extended again (for the  last time though),  this time for three months, i.e. to the end of the year. By this stage, I’ve got so used to playing things by ear, even a week at a time, that three months sounds like a looong time! So I am very grateful for this relative ‘job security’, though most of my friends get the heebies on my behalf whenever a contract approaches its end.  There’s been no real news from the applications I mentioned earlier: The process in Durban got stuck, and Pretoria is staying mum, so I figured that I didn’t get that job, though they wouldn’t confirm one way or the other. I have since applied to two places near here (i.e. Cape Town) and am hoping that one of them will come through before my job at Groote Schuur expires. 

I have moved house/accommodation at least half a dozen times since February, and am hoping that I won’t have to move again next week.  But I’m learning to take even that in my stride – just don’t  like inconveniencing my friends, which I have to do with every move, as I don’t have a car.  But basically I’ve learned to live without many of the things I used to consider important or essential, and have realised that I can get rid of much of my ‘stuff’. The main difficulty is in physically getting rid of it – i.e. sorting through boxes in a garage several suburbs away and then transporting boxes to charity shops or whatever during hours when they are open, or arranging for them to collect at a time when I can be there. For now, it’s been easier to let sleeping dogs lie – or leave packed boxes packed.  Just for good measure, the garage in which I’ve stored them had a series of substantial holes in the roof… and the rain came down, as it does in a Cape winter.  So I spent a day or two unpacking, drying out and repacking things, especially my precious books and photos. And completely muddling up my carefully sorted and recorded packing lists in the process.

It’s now just over a year since I left SAFCEI and returned to Medical Physics. It’s been a very stretching year and I’ve learned a lot – not only, and not even mainly, about Medical Physics.  I hope that I have become a kinder and more tolerant person.

The student computer lab I’m using is closing soon, and I have some work to finish, so I must fly. Hope to be back before another half a year passes – but no promises!

February 17, 2012

Running on the spot

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 10:50 am

Oy vey. I’ve just re-read my last post – from November! – and find I’m still in the same place, asking the same questions, though it’s now several months later and my loan is that much closer to having to be repaid.  (Note to self: Don’t panic, breathe deeply now….) OK, on the other hand, I have gained confidence that I can make it as a physicist, though I’m under no illusions about how much I still have to learn. One post came up – in Pretoria. I got as far as the interview – by telephone with a panel of four unknown people, which was rather unnerving. Nothing since then, and that was about a  month ago, so I guess that’s also an answer.

In the last week or so I’ve become too restless to focus properly and have decided to take on editing work as it is offered. I had been turning down quite a few jobs.

At that point I stopped blogging to call a client  whose job I turned down a week or two ago. And checked my work email. (I’m at home today; it’s St Catchup’s Day.) And updated my Facebook status as follows:  As they say: you shake the apple tree, and pears drop from the next tree. So just as soon as I tell my editing clients I’m taking on jobs again, Addington Hospital (Durban) manages to get a medical physics post approved. No guarantees, of course, but yes, I’m definitely applying!

Yippeeee! The requirements look a bit intimidating, but as I’ve discovered, every new job needs – and includes – training; so I’ll just focus on on area at a time and learn the rest as I go. So is Durban my next home?

November 19, 2011

Update on work – internship and re-registration

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 1:16 pm

Since mid-September I’ve been working as a volunteer physicist in the Medical Physics Department at Groote Schuur Hospital (Cape Town), which is also a department of UCT. Initially I thought I was required to do a 6-month very intensive internship, with presentations, assessments and a portfolio of evidence at the end of it all.

Then I had a letter from the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) saying they had decided I should do three years of supervised practice. Volunteering for six months was one thing (and a friend had helped me find a way to finance that) … but living on a loan for years was way beyond the scope of possibility. So I tried not to panic and carried on for a day or two – only to receive another letter saying the HPCSA had now restored my registration as a Medical Physicist – in the category of ‘practice under supervision’.

So it turns out I don’t have to do the internship after all, but I do have to work with another medical physicist for the next three years – and it has to be in the public service, not a private oncology company (which is where the jobs currently are).  So now I’m still volunteering and learning all I can, but with much less pressure; and I’m looking for jobs all around the country. So far there appear to be possible posts in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and East London … though probably not until the next financial year. And with no guarantees that I’ll get any of those posts, if they do materialise.

The next question is whether I can afford to continue volunteering until March with no guarantees of a job at the end of it. The loan is to be paid back from April2012. Or do I return to editing and earn what I can, then go back into physics when there’s a post? That seems like the logical thing to do, now that I look at it, but I am also keen to learn what I can before I accept a post, so that at least I know what I’m doing when I get there. In the meanwhile I also need to pack up my flat and move to some cheap staff/student quarters for which I appear to be eligible – so as to be ready to move up-country if a job appears.

The Bloemfontein option is interesting as the department there is keen to get Master’s students working on specific projects in diagnostic radiology or nuclear medicine (– while earning?). I had given up on the idea of studying further in the next year or two (thinking I’d have that high-pressure internship), but this looks interesting.  I’m not sure of the financial implications and need to check that out before I get too optimistic.

Excuse me while I do that …

Accommodation available in Durban November-December – COP17 time!

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 12:27 pm

I have a self-catering unit (fully furnished, equipped & serviced) ) available on Addington Beach for two weeks (available by the week). It’s at Silversands III, very near Shaka Marine World, Durban, and has one main bedroom and two double sleeper couches in the lounge area, so it up to sleeps six.
For the week of 19 to 26 Nov 2011, the cost is R5250 for the week, i.e. R750 per night, irrespective of number of people staying there – but not more than six allowed. (In view of short notice, I’ll consider a booking for part of the week.)

The following week – 26 Nov to 3 Dec – is also available, at R6300 for the 7 nights, i.e. R900 per night. This is ideal for people coming to COP17 and wanting to be comfortable without paying high hotel rates.

Please call/SMS 084 587 1191 or email me at, stating which week you’re interested in.

This info  is also available at .

August 22, 2011

Coming a full circle

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 9:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

I do hope nobody is actually following this blog thus far – it really has the most peculiarly meandering plot and seems to have been going nowhere, though at times with much enthusiasm!

Eventually, and quite sensibly, I think, I became weary of all the meanderings – and particularly of the financial stress attached to constantly having to find new freelance jobs on the one hand and doing what is basically unskilled work as a part-time PA on the other. (more…)

January 11, 2011

What’s it like to turn 1 on 11-1-11, I wonder?

Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 7:55 pm

That’s what my great-niece (or is she a grand-niece?) did today, but she’s not telling …  Happy birthday, Riley! (Yes, I know she doesn’t read blogs, so that’s purely for my enjoyment. Because  I can.)

Makes me wonder what the world will be like when she turns 21 – in 2031.


Filed under: Uncategorized — flagondry @ 12:36 pm

Yup – I’m certainly learning new things – one of which today was how to post a table in a WordPress blog, with pic and all. (I popped that into the bee blog post below, from 9 Jan.) Admittedly, I lifted the table etc etc from Avaaz’s email; it wasn’t my own creation. And I trust they don’t mind, as I’m merely spreading the word for them.

I just have a bee in my bonnet about this petition …

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